Animals, Environment and Climate

Primary sources

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Comparison of water use
Original source:

Worldwatch Institute study
In this study factory farms account for 51% greenhouse gas emissions, globally.

United Nations endorsed study – “Livestock’s Long Shadow”
In this study factory farms account for 18% greenhouse gas emissions, globally.

Of the two studies — Worldwatch and U.N. — the U.N. study is more widely accepted.

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February 24th, 2011 at 10:55 am

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Debating David Suzuki and grass-fed beef

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A Facebook discussion on animals and climate change …

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
The climate change and “food justice” activists who eat meat, knowing that it causes global warming, are like chainsmokers protesting cancer. There is now an environment movement around sustainable food which will not even bring up the elimination or reduction of meat from diets as an issue. They say “you can’t tell people what to do.” I say “you can educate, and you can live by example.”

Linda Townson
I agree Paul and David Suzuki is a culprit.

suzuki's fish picks

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
A new group, Green Education Council, will not even discuss it. This is what upset me a little. Virtually the entire climate change and food justice movements have chosen not to discuss it. It’s not on the table. They plan to tackle climate change and food issues but will not bring up the number one cause of climate change and food injustice in the world. It’s astounding. The emperor is wearing no clothes.

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
Suzuki is not alone; there are literally millions of people concerned with climate change and food issues who are deliberately staying silent on this issue. Millions. Entire movements of people.

Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen
David Suzuki told people to reduce meet from their diets, I heard him say that in a talk in Halifax a decade ago.

Linda Townson
Perhaps but he does not advocate veganism at all.

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
That is true, I heard this too. It was part of the Suzuki challenge: do not eat meat once a week (same as McCartney’s Meat Free Monday). So he is off the hook. I think the criticism is that he eats fish. Most of the environmental NGOs don’t even talk about it, though. What really irks me is the local food and food justice movements.

Linda Townson
If he advocated veganism in a stronger manner he would have a huge influence. I can’t help feeling he’s politically motivated. He’s a disappointment to me anyway.

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
18% to 51% of all greenhouse gases caused by factory farms, depending on your source, massive water consumption, massive water contamination, massive waste of arable land for growing grain for feed, massive pesticide use, endless needless suffering of billions of animals the scale of what’s happening is just off the map. To not even discuss it, to pretend that it’s not even an issue, is mind-boggling. I am just astounded that millions of people can claim to care about the environment and about social justice and ignore of the most easily preventable causes of environmental destruction and social injustice on earth. It makes me despair of any chance that humanity will redeem itself, when the supposed vanguard of the movement to reform us is itself ethically blind.

Linda Townson
I doubt we will ever reform, and then when we’re almost wiped out we’ll start again, memory loss intact.

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
A vegan diet is 7x as effective at reducing GHGs as a meat-eater’s diet.

Linda Townson
What’s the problem with these “green” organisations then? WHY are they being reticent about the truth and hesitating, which is so detrimental to our future? There’s something very deep and very wierd going on.

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
About 1.5 yrs ago I would have agreed with you that we’ll start over again, but that was before I became aware of Hansen’s Venus Syndrome theory. Basically, if we burn all the coal, oil and gas there is – and it looks like we will – and if this is enough to releae the huge underwater methan pockets – which it could – then the computer modelling Hansen did shows that the global temperatures go up and up and up until nothing living can exist on earth anymore. It is an inferno, like Venus. There is no second awakening of life, in this scenario: all life is eradicated on this particular planet forever.

Gary Loewenthal
“They say “‘you can’t tell people what to do.’” If that’s what they really think, then why does the group even exist? Do they never make recommendations to anyone on what to do? Do they never advocate a position that would require action on someone’s part? What a ridiculous argument. Just to remove any doubt about what I’m saying. I mean what a ridiculous argument on THEIR part.

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
This was a conversation I had with my roommate, who started the Green Education Council. He is a meat-eater. He was the one who said “you can’t tell people what to do.” His position on this is typical. Millions and millions of environmenta, global warming and food justice activists feel the same way. Entire movements of people who absolutely refuse to discuss it or who, if they do discuss it, do not so sincerely, but dismiss the issue — and yet at 18% it is the single largest industrial industry for causing greenhouse gases, ahead of transportation and building. Silence.

Other groups that have failed on this front:

- Green Party of Ontario
- World Wildlife Federationl
- Toronto Climate Campaign
- Climate Action Network
- Stop Community Food Centrel
- Toronto Food Policy Council
- Science for Peace
- University of Toronto Students Union
- Greenpeace Canada

These are just a few. There are literaly tens of thousands of such groups and organizations focused on food and climate change and environment that have failed. Millions of people. And against that a relative handful of animal rights activists and serious environmentalists not afraid to tell the truth. That’s what I see happening.

Ruby Stubbings
So totally in agreement with you!!! Well said!

Cam Pyper
Again, your criticisms are valid for all industrial agriculture, whether plant or animal based. I would again remind you, as a practicing farmer, building on 10,000 years of sordid history, that plant based arable agriculture is not sustainable. Bring any FAO suit into a room full of farmers and they will tell him this is so. Why do you continue with these useless figures from feedlots. It is as though you are condemning sex because some people have been sexually abused. I am not condoning people eating meat as such, but again, on enviornmental grounds animals are not a problem but an asset. These groups likely don’t discuss it because a qualified discussion requires greater expertise than they have or appreciate that it is more complex than a sound bite allows.

grassfed ad

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
While it is true that any agriculture destroys wilderness lands, locally growing plants for human consumption is the least harmful in this respect, and in terms of global warming and water use. Of the four options we are talking about here: industrial animal agriculture, industrial agriculture for growth of plants for human consumption, local animal agriculture and local agriculture for growth of plants for human consumption, the last one is the most environmentally friendly.

George Wuerthner provides a lot of evidence for the argument that grass-fed cows are more environmentally destructive than feedlot cows in some important respects. As for plant agriculture the ideal for minium impact is locally grown organic food.

Some good excerpts from this article:

“Just because raising cows in factory farms on grains is bad for the Earth, does not mean that cows grazing on pasture or hay are better for the Earth. Indeed, as a generalization, almost all the negatives associated with Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) exist with grass-fed beef.”

On GHGs …

“Researcher, Nathan Pelletier of Nova Scotia has found that GHG are 50 percent higher in grass-fed beef. If somehow magically we could convert all factory grown cattle to free range grass-fed animals, our global warming situation would be greatly accelerated.”

Soil compaction …

“Beyond the GHG issue, free ranging cattle present other problems that CAFO raised animals do not. For instance, one of the major consequences of having cattle roaming the range is soil compaction. There’s not a single study that demonstrates that having a thousand pound cow trample soil is good for the land. Soil compaction reduces water penetration, creating more run-off and erosion. Because water cannot percolate into the soil easily, soil compaction from cattle creates more arid conditions—a significant problem in the already arid West, but also an issue in the East since the soils are often moister for a longer period of time.”

Biodiversity …

“Every blade of grass going into a cow’s belly is that much less forage for native animals, from grasshoppers to elk.”

[one thinks also of deforestation for cattle grazing land]

I think the case against Suzuki or any high-profile environmentalist who is not a vegan (Al Gore, Elizabeth May, George Monbiot, and others) is that they know the environmental costs and ethical arguments against eating animals and do so anyway, out of self-interest, but they are taken to task for doing this because they are — in the minds of many people — supposed to represent the hightest ethical standards.

They are ethical archetypes, role-models, and if they can succumb to self-interest, by meat-eating, living in big houses, frequent flying, and driving SUVs, then why should anyone listen to what they have to say? This is not take away from what they have done, but it is a sticking point for many people. Suzuki, for instance, says that he eats fish because he’s Japanese; the cultural argument is a poor one, always, since it can also be used to justify slavery or genital mutilation, and since he writes about the perils of overfishing.

But his point of view is consistently not about the harm that is done other animals, but about the environmental costs — and one has to wonder what the point of saving the environment is, if it is not for the benefit of the creatures that inhabit the Earth. It is only for the benefit of human beings? Or does water and rocks and air have some inherent value but animals do not? My guess is that Suzuki has never given a great deal of thought to the eating of animals — that is, what it means for them — or he would not do it or give a cultural excuse.

As for Gore and Monbiot I admire what they’ve done, but I also know that on a personal level, there is more they could do, at least with respect to leading by example in terms of diet. Both have been very weak on this point.

Michael Goguen

Gloria Gilmore
We eat meat and dairy for one reason: Worldwide industrial Capitalist lobbying. In the states we CANNOT defeat the meat and dairy lobbyists–however, that is nor the root of the problem since every industrialized leader (presidents, prime ministers, etc.) take their marching orders from the international business complex. I majored in Economics and I know this has been going on for well over 50 years. So my friends, if we want to eliminate animal abuse, global warming, starvation, we must start with the root–WORLDWIDE INDUSTRIALIZED CAPITALIST COMPLEX.

Darcy Higgins
Hey Paul – keep pushing the envelope on this. I was thinking about it last night, and how to do more education on the animal side of the food system. Most of the environmental movement has disregarded food entirely, except for some foray into GMOs and “local”.

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
Thank you Darcy! I would like to collaborate with you on figuring out how to present this in a palatable way. The original comment above was just an expression of frustration on my part because Pieter, my roommate — whom you know — and I discussed his Green Education Council, which is working on food isses, and he admitted that he has no intention of bringing up the idea of reducing meat consumption, for political reasons.

Again, I was just astounded that entire movements on sustainable food could be formed which fail to address this fundamental point, and take the arguments for grass-fed beef at face value, without addressing the methane issue. So my comments above seem judgmental, but they are just frustration at the veil of silence. I would like to open the discussion, and have conversations about it. Funny part is that Pieter, in his defense, invoked your name and said Darcy Higgins is doing work on food issues — as though to validate his (Pieter’s) own position on it. I love Pieter as a friend, but we have this argument occasionally. Thank you for the comment above. Much appreciated.

Gary Loewenthal
Independent groups who have studied the issue, such as the UN, Worldwatch Institute, Pew Charitable Trust, Carnegie-Mellon, and others have all come to the same conclusion: We must significantly curtail our consumption of meat – and animal products generally – so that we can use fewer resources, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and feed more people.

At current levels of demand for animal products, factory farms are practically a given. The amount of grain, water, fertilizer, and other resources required to support the raising and killing of billions of animals is phenomenal. Most of the grain and half the water in the US is used for livestock. The amount of land needed to grow plant-based food directly for people is much less – this is what virtually every independent study shows. And no, it’s not a question of “we can only grow livestock feed on this land.” In fact, much land would probably be able to revert back to much-needed wilderness if everyone sharply reduced their meat and dairy intake.

If meat and dairy production at current levels were to all be truly “free range” – a highy unlikely scenario – the amount of land used would be devastating, as would the displacement of native flora and fauna. Lynn Jacobs in “Waste of The West” has thoroughly documented the decrease in biodiversity in the Western US when land is used for grazing. The UN and Wordwatch Institute have identified meat production as one of the top causes of all major forms of environmental destruction. The writing’s all over the wall.

Enviromentalists avoid talking about going vegan or even sharply reducing meat intake because they like it too much, don’t want to give up that privilege, don’t want to incriminate themselves, and have irrational fears about a meatless diet. I see this ALL THE TIME when I do vegan outreach. I talk to a ton of people who are involved in environmental action, and their defense mechanisms about their meat-eating are like everyone else’s.

Yes, it’s a complicated subject, but environmental groups takcle plenty of complicated subjets, and the main conclusion actually can be encapsulated in a sound byte: Eat less meat.

And just to give context, the environmental costs of eating animals are in addition to the widespread moral crimes in animal agriculture: breeding animals to grossly overproduce flesh, milk and eggs; denying them a mother or separating them from their mothers far too early; confining animals; amputating animals’ body parts without any painkillers; transporting animals long distances in cramped, hot or freezing cold conditions; brutally killing animals, mostly at very young ages, in slaiughterhouses in which repeatedly we discover extreme suffering and gratutious abuse – basically creating animals just to abuse and kill them as soon as possble, for maximum profit. This is morally repugnant and should compel us to find more peaceful alternatives as quickly as possible – and the most straightforward way to do this is to quit eating them.

Gore and othes have done plenty to raise environmental awareness. I’ve praised them and so have many other, for years. But right now we’re identifying key failures. We can’t always be giving accolades; sometimes we need to constructively criticize if there is a massive problem and solutions are being ignored.

Darcy Higgins
I appreciate your frustration, and also glad you can keep good friendship and still have these arguments. I think education and more options for reduced animal diets are always a good start. TVA [Toronto Vegetarian Association] works on this. Food Forward could be. What I haven’t really figured out is how to bring less animal-based food into any sort of policy framework at different levels. I wonder if this has been considered in other places. I think everyone working on all these issues at least ‘understands’ that we must reduce animal consumption for environmental reasons.

The policy is harder because of this ‘choice’ thing. And to be honest there hasn’t even been much policy and advocacy success even in simply creating more humane animal standards for factory farms. That might be a policy start on the animal welfare side – though not specifically “animal rights” or climate change.

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
This is a very good discussion, because I am seeing entrenched positions on both sides, and collaborative / bridging positions being taken. This illustrates the variety of positions.

I am for a collaborative discussion taking place across multiple movements. One of the complexities I’ve noted in recent years is that the climate change and food movements are largely not biocentric, despite the widespread impression that they are all environmentalist.

In fact, most people in them think anthropocentrically — that is, they are human-centered in their approach. Even if they are not, they pragmatically tailor the messaging to be anthropocentric, believing that altruistic or biocentric messaging won’t sell.

Appealing to individual or collective self-interest to sell an idea in the marketplace of ideas is a certain approach, but I think the wrong one when we’re talking about climate change, because that is the penultimate issue for moving us beyond our narrow interests to a wider understanding of life, one that includes others — whether they be future generations, poor people in developing nations or animals (wild and domestic).

If we cannot move beyond some sort of collective self-interst towards a true moral concern for others then our species is beyond redemption. But I don’t think it is. We still have the opportunity to rise above this narcisstic culture; it’s not just about “solving” climate change for the sake of survival; this crisis presents us with an opportunity to become more human by learning to care about and take responsibility for non-humanity.

Gary Loewenthal
While I may not bring up “animal rights” per se, I’ve found that I usually get agreement from people of all stripes about the cruelty in factory farms, and that they’re generaly receptive to learning about some vegan foods that can help reduce their dependency on meat and dairy in their diet. If I can offer them some food, that is often powerful; it helps melt away misperceptions about taste and enjoyment of foods made without animal ingredients.

I appreciate people working to craft policy changes and agree that that’s important, but don’t underestimate the power of working the problem from the consumer demand side. It’s something that can be done on weekends and on a relatively small budget – will fund many vegan food outreach events. Industries will fight regulations with everything they’ve got but will be highly responsive to shifts in demand.

Cam Pyper
‎@ Gloria. I would point out that, in northern climbs, man has always eaten animals.

Without agriculture, which for better or worse is relatively recent, there is nothing else to eat much of the year, so the issue of whether we should or shouldn’t is fairly recent. The notion that capitalism is the sole cause of modern consumption is odd at best, given it predates said system.

I read the Weurthner article and, like the previous article your recommended last week he totally ignores the carbon offset provided by carbon storage in the soil. He makes the usual references to GHG emissions (UN) but fails to consider the emissions caused by ploughing the fields to produce grain, regardless of whether it is fed to animals of people.

The notion that animals ranging on grass cause soil compaction is rubbish. Did the great herds of bison compact the once 12′ deep soils of the Great Plaines? They built them, fixing carbon from the air. Ploughing has reduced these soils to less than a foot in little over a hundred years. Try sustaining that for another generation. I have yet to find the Pelletier article but I will look.

Remember, the UN FAO and their like may know what I am telling you about the biology of soils but they are not in the business of undermining industrial perspectives. An industrial plant based diet serves them just as well as any other industrial diet. The last thing they want is for you to look elsewhere for solutions.

Find anyone in this electronic debate, or anyone in the articles you’ve quoted, and see if there is one farmer who is honest and cares, and I will debate him on these points. I would love to be wrong.

I am working on perennial plant based systems, permaculture if you will, but the most productive of these is grass, and only animals can eat it.

Gary Loewenthal
Studies from Carnegie Mellon et al have shown that it is more efficient to import vegan food than to eat meat. We don’t have the transportation constraints of the past.

Much of that ploughing is feed crops for livestock.

Half the water in the US goes to animal agriculture. And the exrement from industrial hog, chicken, beef cattle, and dairy farms – a result of demand for meat and dairy – is choking the diminishing amount of water we have left. Water is our most precious resource.

Bison are suited for the great plains; cattle are not. Their hooves, waste, habits, and diet are different and they do indeed wreak havoc on the ecosystems into which they’re imported. They’re an invasive species. Waste of the West thoroughly documentats this, and much of the info comes from government sources, which are biased in favor of meat and dairy.

I’m vegan for ethical reasons first, environmental reasons second, and health reasons third.

I support efforts to improve permaculture, vertical farming, veganic farming. Not just in theory but with my dollars to the extent I can. Let’s build a sustainable, peacefu future. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

Cam Pyper
I will check the study you mention. A reference would be appreciated.

The fact that cattle are fed much of the produce of ploughing does not make ploughing for people any more sustainable. Raising animal protein on human grade food is foolish and inefficient. Traditionally farmers raised only enough non-grass eaters as waste from their farm would support. Pigs and chickens only to consume waste products.

Excrement is not waste, it is vital to fertility. Referring to it as waste either means you don’t know its potential or their is more profit in handling it incorrectly. That industry seeks short term profit elsewhere is because they can.

Animals are part of our biology. They do not waste water, they cycle it. If the result is toxic, natures rules are being ignored. People talk of water as if it disappears. Where do they think it goes? All industries will poison water because they can profit from doing so. Concentrated cattle in feedlots produce run off, on grass they do not.

I will check Waste of the West. The grain you eat today is largely the result of fertility they built.

Traditional breeds of cattle have a synergistic relationship with grasslands as do bison. They evolved together. Their confirmation is little different. I have no doubt they could damage an environment into which they were not native. Who was suggesting that?

My ethics require that I not see these relationships in isolation.

Trashing the earth because I shun my roll out of fear is not helpful.

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
Re: northern climes: man has always raped and murdered too. The fact that we have always done something, or that it is considered ‘natural’ doesn’t make it right.

Eating animals is a moral issue, above all. If it’s unnecessary to do so, we ought not to do so, for the same reason that we ought not to rape and murder: it’s wrong to harm others. Now, if we live in a post-carbon world, in which commerce is relegated to the local, and there is not enough plant food for all, would it be necessary?

One could argue that in an extreme climate, like the far north, that it would be for, for subsistence, perhaps — but how many people live in the far north, on a susbsistence diet at present? A few thousand.

With our ingenuity and creativity and know-how, Europeans and Canadians and Russians are entirely capable of creating a local plant-based agriculture that is sufficient for all, I believe.

The problem is that there is no interest in doing so because human being have infinite power over animals and this affects their moral judgement: absolute power corrupts.

Gary Loewenthal
I’ll get the Carnegie-Mellon reference.

Every study I’ve read concludes that it requires less land to feed Western citizens a vegan diet instead of a meat and dairy-centered diet. So – less ploughing, more sustainable.

Waste is a common term, not mine. The problem is the amount and the concentratons. Are you not familiar with the myriad pollution and health problems from factory farm runoff? And then there is the e coli that spreads to spinach from upstream feedlots. Even when chicken manure from the Delmarva Peninsula is used in crops, there is far too much of it.

Concentrated animal feeding operations are practically inevitable at today’s demand. And it is unlikely that we will disperse the billions of animal in factory farms to true free-range operations.

It’s a fantasy to talk about getting rid of factory farms without a sharp decrease in condumption of animal products. Huge amounts of fish are also used as animal feed, which is contributing to depletion of fish populations.

No cows are native to the US so I guess we agree at least roughly on their negative evironmental impact when brought here. For instance, cows’ eating habits are much different than those of bison. They eat tree saplings, leaves, and twigs which promotes desertiifcation and decreases bird habitat. I could go on and on.

I fully agree that one should try to discern relationships and view things holistically to connect the dots. Drug companies sell more antibiotics to livestock than to humans, fueling the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Grain fed to cattle makes their stomachs more alkaliine which promotes novel types of bacteria including new strains of e coli. The oldest known word for war has to do with cattle. Cattle and chattel have the same root. Foraging cultures tend to be more peaceful than herding cultures. Veal – a horrid practice – is a byproduct of dairy. Diabetes is rare among vegans.

Cheese consumption jumped amost a thousand percent over the last century and animal protein in relative dollars has never been cheaper. Government subsidies and lack of animal welfare laws – a result of meat and dairy lobbying – makes a hamburger more expensive than a salad.

Diabetes is at an all time high. Only a quarter of Americans eat the minimum recommended servings of vegetables each day. When there’s a report of e coli in spinach, all spinach is removed from the shelves; when there’s a report of e coli in hamburger, that doesn’t happen. Michael Pollan, who loves meat and seems to despise vegetarianism, explains: the hamburger lobby is stronger.

The Orwellian-named “Willdlife Services” government agency kills dozens of species of willife at the behest of ranchers. They use poisons, aerial gunning, and the hideous practice of setting fire to dens with pups in them. The negative impacts from animal agriculture spread far and wide.

breakdown of emissions from cattle

Paul AndBaby York-Vegan
The argument over these issues arises because ethical veganism attacks well-entrenched cultural habits, upon which many people base their identities and incomes, and because the victims themselves are not capable of objecting to subjugation in a language that those in power understand or respect. Cows, for example, are just regarded as chattel, property, and it has always been thus.

It is such a deep-seated cultural practice to regard them as property, as mere things to be used, that suggesting otherwise is viewed as a threat, as an attack, and ethical veganism is often scapegoated as unrealistic, self-righteous, mistaken, insane, racist, etc.

I am certain that if laws were passed against animal agriuculture that there would be a widespread revolt against it, even though CAFOs are ruining the life systems of Earth. The best that governments can do is suggest a reduction in meat-consumption.

The idea of eliminating it one day per week has been around at least since WWII, when they had “meat-free Tuesdays” – for rationing purposes. Now McCartney advances “meat-free Mondays” and some European cities have advocated that, and China is considering it as well. The IPCC chairman promotes that as well.

As oil prices rise and water becomes scarcer, meat and dairy consumption will decrease dramatically, until eventually it is only for the rich. That is where our society is headed. Ethical veganism wish to get a head start on that. They are not wrong for doing so. Ultimately it is best thing for human societies.

Paul York AndBabyVegan

The following article verifies that grass-fed cows produce four times more methane than feedlot cows.

Journal of Animal Science, Vol 77, Issue 6 1392-1401, Copyright © 1999 by American Society of Animal Science

Direct measurements of methane emissions from grazing and feedlot cattle

L. A. Harper, O. T. Denmead, J. R. Freney and F. M. Byers
Southern Piedmont Conservation Research Unit, JPCSNRCC-USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Watkinsville, GA 30677, USA.

Methane (CH4) emissions from animals represent a significant contribution to anthropogenically produced radiatively active trace gases. Global and national CH4 budgets currently use predictive models based on emission data from laboratory experiments to estimate the magnitude of the animal source. This paper presents a method for measuring CH4 from animals under undisturbed field conditions and examines the performance of common models used to simulate field conditions. A micrometeorological mass difference technique was developed to measure CH4 production by cattle in pasture and feedlot conditions. Measurements were made continuously under field conditions, semiautomatically for several days, and the technique was virtually nonintrusive. The method permits a relatively large number of cattle to be sampled. Limitations include light winds (less than approximately 2 m/s), rapid wind direction changes, and high-precision CH4 gas concentration measurement. Methane production showed a marked periodicity, with greater emissions during periods of rumination as opposed to grazing. When the cattle were grazed on pasture, they produced .23 kg CH4 x animal(-1) x d(-1), which corresponded to the conversion of 7.7 to 8.4% of gross energy into CH4. When the same cattle were fed a highly digestible, high-grain diet, they produced .07 kg CH4 x animal(-1) x d(-1), corresponding to a conversion of only 1.9 to 2.2% of the feed energy to CH4. These measurements clearly document higher CH4 production (about four times) for cattle receiving low-quality, high-fiber diets than for cattle fed high-grain diets. The mass difference method provides a useful tool for “undisturbed” measurements on the influence of feedstuffs and nutritional management practices on CH4 production from animals and for developing improved management practice for enhanced environmental quality.

Written by admin

February 23rd, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Climate change and animal rights ethics: non-consequentialism

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I recently gave a speech on climate change to students. It was inadequate insofar as I could not leave them with a despairing assessment of the situation (that we are headed towards almost certain disaster), but nor could I promise a false hope that all will be well (when I know it will not), so I wavered somewhere between the two.

The same answers I present below, with regard to climate change, also applies to animal rights, as I will explain.


However, perhaps what I should have done, in retrospect, was explain the deontological and non-consequentialist position, which locates meaning in the virtue of actions regardless of the outcome. I did not do so as I was still working it out in my mind. Deontology is just a fancy word for an ethics based on rules one gives oneself in order to conform to some absolute sense of right and wrong. This is what I’ve come to so far:

Two good illustrations of the deontological philosophy are the Parable of the Widow’s Mite (in the Gospels) and the choice of the conscientous objector in war not to kill, despite the fact that war entails killing everywhere one turns.

To explain: the parable locates meaning in the purity of the intention of action, not in the consequence of the action. The purity of the will, intentionality, matters, not the end result. So too with war resisters: they cannot stop the war, but they refrain from causing harm themselves, which is meaningful to them. In the same way way, we can say that murders occur every second of the day, but we do not commit themselves ourselves, as it is morally wrong to do so. I will not stop all murders from happening, but I will not cause any more to occur either. This matters.

Saving a few still counts

Another good example is the famous story of saving starfish on the beach, the less on which is that one cannot save them all, but for the ones that are saved, that means the whole world to them. A boy who is throwing them back says as much to the man who questions his actions. Schindler’s list also comes to mind: not all were saved, but it meant everything for those who were. Schindler’s actions were ultimately meanginful. In the same way, even if we don’t stop global warming our efforts, trying to do so still count. Another way of looking at it: it is not the length of one’s life that matters, but the meaningfulness of it, the degree to which one does one’s duty, trying to be a good person, to do good in the world. Good, in this sense, simply means not harming others, and respecting them.

Ethical pitfalls

A more consquentialist view of the worst case scenarios of climate change will lead some people to unethical shortcuts (e.g. nuclear energy, which produces radioactive waste), or “the last man standing” hoarding mentality (kill everyone, save yourself), or hedonism (dance band on the deck of the Titanic), and lastly despair and cynicism and hopelessness. All are ethical pitfalls to be avoided.

In the animal rights sphere of thought and action, short cuts could be violent solutions to the crisis. This is very controversial becaue not all animal rights activists agree on tactics or what is “violent” or “non-violent” — but I think it’s safe to say that killing a human being is violent. Resucing animals is not. Burning down property is debatable, if no sentient being is hurt in the process — but many people would say it is violent. Again, this has been debated, so I won’t get into it here.

Death with dignity

In previous centuries, prior to modern hospitals, people died at home and were attended to by their families and loved ones. Death was a meaningful ritual, not something to be feared and shunned and avoided. There was dignity in death. If our civilization is to end, eventually, this is an attitude that we might adopt, as a society, in case the worst case scenario of climate change comes to pass and the world is plunged into chaos and war and privation from which we will never emerge. This will come later for Canada than other places, but even the fact that it has started in other places, should be of concern to us if we view the fate of humanity and other species as being of importance.

With regard to animals: we cannot save them all. We know that. But we also know that saving those we can does matter. The effort has moral value.

Mitigation and adaptation

One way of articulating this is through the idea of duty. One has a duty to try to change things for the better, for the whole of Creation, for at least as long as the opportunity exists. That is the duty of mitigation, to try to stop global warming from happening, or slow it down. One has a second duty to one’s immediate kin and community, which is the duty of adaptation, which is trying to survive the coming negative effects of global warming.

These duties do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe they are complimentary. Global mitigation efforts and local adaptation efforts can be consistent with one another, if one’s efforts at adaptation are just and sufficiently sustainable. I believe this is a practical prescription reflecting a deontolgoical, and also universally inclusive religious worldview. At least, this is how I intend to proceed, for now, in my own life.

Local food movement

I think others feel the same way and that is why a local food movement is forming right now. The food movement appears to be the strongest vehicle for collective community transformation, at a local level right now. It is many local movements all over the globe. Articulating a vision for the food movement is important, as Wendell Berry tries to do in “Bringing it to the Table.”

The food movement needs to include a discussion of and acknowledgement of animal rights. They are part of this. They must not be relegated to the status of things, of food or food producers for humans. Their lives matter to them, so they should also matter to us.

Animal matter, individuals matter

Bringing animal rights to the food movement is important, so that all Earthlings are included, and it does not become another exercise in human arrogance and speciesism — worldviews which are in large part responsible for the climate crisis. All of Creation must be included in any ethical response to the crisis, for the response to have moral worth.

If it is only about some species (or one species) and not the majority, it has no moral worth. Individual rights are important too: if it’s only about a group, a collective, and individuals are sacrificed when they need not be (following a utilitarian ethics), that solution also has no moral worth.

A solution which is universally inclusive, and takes into consideration the well-being of all species and all individuals in all species has the greatest moral value.

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February 3rd, 2011 at 1:50 am

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Is meat-eating natural? Or are we naturally vegetarians? Is this even a relevant question?

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I used to be of the opinion that we are naturally omnivores. I am not so sure anymore. There is both archeological and physiological evidence to the contrary.

It may actually be the case that our omnivorous nature has been acculterated — meaning that we developed it as our species created civilization, and it is not therefore “natural” any more than the tar sands or nuclear weapons is “natural” (that is, occuring in nature).

Archeological evidence

We know that we evolved in what is now Tanzania roughly 1.2 million years ago, and were primarily plant-eaters then, as the other great apes are now — they eat over 95% plants, and the rest is grubs and maggots and small animals.

Here is reference to the scientific evidence that human beings — like the other great apes — are primarily vegetarians, not primarily omniovores, as we have been led to think:

Physiological evidence

Our bodies still reflect these largely vegetarian origins. Our bodies are simply not meant to digest meat. See this entertaining video, which makes this case:

See some more evidence to this effect, from Nick Dalzell, below.

Is this even a relevant question?

But whether this is true or not is itself not an argument for or against a practice, because naturally we also murderers, so the “naturalistic” argument is not the clincher. Rather, the moral and environmental and health arguments are most convincing.

From a health perspective, our bodies are not built for it (it causes heart disease and infects us with pathogens), and now the planet cannot absorb the costs either.

The more compelling arguments: health, environment, ethics

Factory farms are a leading cause of climate change and water waste and contamination and soil erosion.

If we can do without animal products, which we can, easily, there is a very strong moral argument against it, just as there is against murder of other human beings, because human beings are animals and in nature there is no “higher or lower” in evolution, no moral superiority (as evolutionary biologists, from Darwin onward remind us).

Indigenous peoples

But what of indigenous / aboriginal peoples, you may ask? Hunting is a relatively new invention for humans, in our history. It goes back tens of thousands of years, but human history goes back over 1 million years to whatever we were before we became the species we are now. Hunting, on this time scale, is a new invention.

Subsistence hunting is not necessary any longer in most places in the world, to survive. If we who live in cities and towns, close to agricultural food sources, have a choice, it is only logical that we opt for the more environmentally friendly, morally good and healthier option: a plant-based diet.

Many people persist in thinking that meat-eating is “natural” because our ancestors hunted. Hunting is the product of technology and culture. Spears and knifes are not natural to any other animals. We acquired them over time and created civilization and culture.


Farm animals are, through genetic selection, also the result of technology. But these farm animals, of course, are living feeling individuals, and not cars or houses, and thus it is morally wrong to harm them. The manipulation of their bodies is the unfortunate by-products of our civilization, but their lives and minds and feelings are their own. To rob them of basic comforts and communion with their offspring, and to take their lives violently and to make them into slaves for our uses, is wrong — just as it would be to do it other human beings.

Morality and biology

And what is the moral case based on? Against, science: biologically we are no different than other animals and there is no rational basis for claiming superiority over them. Evolution does not mean there is a hierarchy of superior and inferior; as Stephen Jay Gould notes, it means we are equal to other animals, not better or worse. If we would not harm one another, we ought not to harm them either.

The social contract

In a civil society, we do not harm others — this is called a social contract. Animals needs to be part of that contract, as passive moral agents, like children are, because they can be harmed by us, and because they are individuals who deserve respect and have rights.

This is why I consider the question of whether we are naturally vegetarians or not, irrelevant, or at least of secondary importance to the ethical question. We are naturally murderers and rapists too, if you want to put it that way, but in a civil society we choose not to do that to one another. There is no good moral argument for doing the same to non-human animals. The entire practice of killing them and consuming them rests on assumptions of privilege and power, not what is morally right. That is the strongest argument of all.


More from Nick Dalzell (from FB) re: the physiological evidence:

The human abdomen, ovaries and testes completely exposed and, potentially, fatally vulnerable. Whereas standing and walking are very energy-efficient for humans, running is not.

We are extremely slow runners and have very poor stamina. We have a carbohydrate-digesting enzyme in our saliva called salivary amylase.

The human esophagus does not handle poorly chewed food very well. Over 90% of the people who choke to death each year choke on meat.

Human body length (head to tail bone) is typically 2.5 to 3 feet. Thus, at >25-30 feet in length, the human small intestine is clearly designed for digesting plant material.

Only herbivores have an appendix. No matter how much fat and cholesterol you feed carnivores like dogs and cats, they NEVER develop coronary artery disease.

In places where people eat a high fiber, whole food diet, appendicitis and diverticulosis are unknown.

Studies in western countries have shown that on average, vegetarians have smarter children, suffer significantly lower rates of chronic disease, obesity and dementia, and live longer than their meat-eating counterparts.

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January 6th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

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Animal rights musings – volume 1

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These are random thoughts on animal rights, environmentalism and social justice. They were originally posted on Facebook, so some of them may refer to Facebook. Not all of them are just on animal rights, but the majority of them, or on climate change, or on the connection between the two. I have not yet gone through them, to edit out the ones that don’t really fit, so what you are getting is a picture of my daily thoughts for a year.


In the Japanese research lab, Unity 731, in Manchuria during WWII, human beings were experimented on while alive, without anaesthesia. Researchers dehumanized them, thinking of them as mere objects, literally “wood” (丸太, maruta). Similarly, millions of animals in labs are called “experimental models.” Like the human test subjects, they are highly evolved sentient beings, held and tortured against their will.

“If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we are backing our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the same reasons.” ~C.S. Lewis.

The idea of “rights” is being questioned these days – because it has been wrongly used as a pretext for colonialism – but what viable practical ideal is there to replace it, to protect the most marginalized persons in the world? It is a powerful idea for lending value to individuals (human, animal) who need protection from violence, and until there is another ideal that can be used to protect them, we must use it.

Every 20 minutes another species becomes extinct. 80% of all species will be gone by 2100. Eventually human beings will become extinct too, but not before destroying most of life on Earth. Either a great spiritual awakening must happen, to wake us out of the collective stupor of consumerism. It is dreadful to consider how violent this century will become, as finite resources diminish and human populations grow.

Re: the avoidance of discussion of factory farms by many of those who advocate for “food justice” and environmental sustainability. Why do so many activists side-step the issue of animal rights as a legitimate question within the context of social and environmental justice? Why is the plight of those who suffer the greatest injustice (imprisonment, abuse, murder) not included in the discussion?

Herve Kempf theorizes, in the wake of repressive post-9/11 tactics used by police and security agents in western nations, that capitalism no longer needs democracy. We are experiencing the transition to corporate led totalitarianism. The general populace, immobilized by consumerism, allows it to happen because they feel their self-interest is served by institutional violence. We are seeing this especially in the labelling of animal rights and environmental direct action activism as “domestic terrorism.”

I have been in many movements (peace, housing, anti-poverty, human rights, environment) and so far AR is the most consistently altruistic and compassionate. It’s hard to understand why they get scapegoated and ridiculed; the fault lies with the dominant culture, not AR activists.

Humans need to recognize that they are animals, not better than or above other animals we share the planet with, and also that animals are individual persons, not merely members of a species, or objects to be used. Both man’s inhumanity to man (and woman) and the environmental crisis have their psychological roots in our species’ false conception of nature and animals as separate and inferior.

A paradox: good people do harmful things that are culturally acceptable. We cannot say they/we are bad people – yet they/we harm the environment, or people those in developing nations (indirectly), or animals (indirectly), or future generations. We are all trapped within the structures of institutional violence, because none of us can avoid being consumers. No one is exempt since we’re all dependant on industrial society to some extent, yet we also know such harm is avoidable, with effort, and don’t always make the effort.

A seemingly irresolvable paradox: social justice, environmental and animal rights groups are fragmented and divided, and thus fail to gain enough collective momentum to make needed social, legal, and political changes to bring about a just and sustainable society. But, if they unite under one banner, they become autocratic, lose their diversity, are undemocratic, and their leaders become corrupt and sell out.

Novelist write the truth; journalists write fiction – paraphrase of thought by Grahame Greene. Newspapers & tv slant stories though lies of omission (Chomsky). The lie is not so much what is said, as what’s not said. Good novelists & directors try to expose sordid truths but through fiction, because such truths are unpalatable as non-fiction, and their nuances difficult to express except through narrative. Few people wish or see what goes in slaughterhouses; it is banal, like the operation of death camps, as Hannah Arrendt showed. So artists must come to the rescue, to show why these injustices are worthy of our attention.

Fatima Pereira wrote “Tant que les hommes massacreront les animaux, ils s’ entre-tueront. Celui qui séme le meurtre et la douleur ne peut récolter la joie et l’amour.” Meaning that “So long as men massacre animals, they are among those killed. The one who sows murder and pain can not reap joy and love.”

Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Meat, Big 3 (auto), GMOs, pesticides, open-pit mining, clearcut logging, industrial fishing, Big Coal. All these industries should be outlawed, for the social and environmental destruction they cause. Instead, they are taxpayer funded with billion$, better spent on renewable energy, disease prevention, local organic cruelty-free food, recycling minerals, nature conservation, green jobs.

“Humane animal slaughter” is an oxymoron, just as humane concentration camp would be, or as “sustainable” tar sands and oil industry is. Some practices are inherently inhumane and unsustainable; they cannot be reformed. Versus the idea that humane killining and emissions reductions and increased efficiency of the tar sands are step in the right direction. But what if the next step is not taken?

Two major ways in which animals and environment intersect: 1) biodiversity – they are part of nature, and have intrinsic and not merely instrumental value; 2) factory farm GHG emissions, excessive water &land use. Another, less obvious way: how we think about animals, as “the other” against whom we define ourselves. But we are animals too. By harming non-humans we dehumanize ourselves, leading to our own end.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – commonly attributed to Edmund Burke

I organized a lecture on animals in experimentation. All speakers were very compelling and the Q & A was excellent. I just wish more researchers and science and medical students had been in attendance. Most of them have cut themselves off from the truth, which is that animal models are bad science and ethically wrong. It is curious how most people will not open their minds to other points of view which might undermine their the worldview they have adopted. There is a lack of courage in this narrow-mindedness. But can anyone honestly say that he or she is entirely free from such biases?

My posting for the lecture against animal experimentation, on the wall of Toronto Life Science page (life science students at University of Toronto), was removed. Many posters in the Medical Science building were taken down. Many students simply do not want to know why their use of animals is scientifically problematic and ethically wrong and they are willing to infringe on free speech to prevent others from knowing.

According to Thomas Berry, universities are one of the four major social institutions that have a responsiblity to change the world for the better (others are government, business corporations, and church). However, they are increasingly being taken over by those corporations which have a narrow and self-interested agenda. This undermines their raison d’etre and impovrishes society as a whole.

“And if [through vivisection] the knowledge of physiology has been somewhat increased, he surely buys knowledge dear, who acquires it at the expense of his humanity. It is time that universal resentment should arise against these horrid operations, which tend to harden the heart …” – 18th century writer Samuel Johnson on vivisection

Should we critisize China for cruelty to animals there when in the west we have not managed to end institutionalized animal abuse and slaughter? If we are to be morally consistent we must critisize both. Animal abuse in China it is not hidden from public view, whereas here it occurs in labs and in warehouses and slaughterhouses. So it is easier to point fingers at China, but the crimes are no less egregious. However, one could also say “yes, critisize east and west, all humans are equally guilty!” In other words apply a universal ethic. And that is a good answer too.

Sometimes it seems as though academia teaches you to be stupid and immoral, but with fancy language. I say that after a report of a conference of grad students on mining and tar sands at U of T. Presenters ignored or glossed over the real impacts, and (unwittingly?) helped legitimize extraction industries. Here is where the danger of academia lies: in masking moral indifference and ignorance as intelligence.

It was not until 1998, after the collapse of the Soviet regime, that Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists responsible for sending the dog, Laika, into space, expressed regret for allowing her to die: “Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it.”

Person A: “You don’t have much faith in humanity, do you?” Person B: “None whatsoever … As a species we’re fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion.” – lines from the film The Mist

“I’ve observed the seal hunt at close range for seven years. I’ve routinely witnessed conscious seals dragged across the ice with boat hooks, wounded seals left to choke on their own blood, and seals being skinned alive. The commercial seal hunt is inherently cruel. It is a national disgrace.” – Rebecca Aldworth, HSUS director of Canadian Wildlife Issues

All member of the Animal Kingdom possess four basic drives, which inform everything they do: 1) to eat; 2) to not be eaten; 3) to have shelter; 4) to reproduce. Humans are only unique in that they confuse reality with the products of their imaginations: a capacity developed through some quirk of evolution, much like the peacock’s tail or the baboon’s behind, and which now endangers their long-term survival.

The claim that animal rights activists are “racists” is often motivated by a disingenuous desire to side-step the moral culpability of the accuser. The ethical foundation that informs those who care for animals is the self-same that informs the views of the anti-racist: the desire for peace and love over hatred and prejudice.

If you become an advocate for animals in a society that does extreme violence to them, be prepared to sacrifice your social status among those who don’t care. Be prepared to be looked down as a fanatic, even by your own family and friends. Learn to suffer silences, excuses, arguments. But know also that you are on the right path, standing up for what is right, as a voice for those who have no voice.

A response to the “humane” argument I keep hearing: the treatement of animals on local organic farms is to the treatment of them in industrial factory farms as the treatment of slaves on small plantations is to treatment of slaves in industrial concentration camps. A gentler degree of subjugation is still subjugation.

Are people who believe strongly in animal rights and the rights of nature merely crazy people in a sane and rational society, or perhaps the only sane and sensible people in an otherwise insane, sadistic society? Or is this dichotomy too simplistic? How can so many people, who are otherwise good decent folk, go along unthinkingly with practices that when exposed appear to be the height of evil?

We need “laws so that all human beings may spread appreciation for the Earth’s natural love of health and love of life.” – Tawainese vegetarian and environmental group posting, roughly translated. I find this inspiring. We need such laws in the West too!

Next time you wonder if your good actions amount to anything, here is a verse to help you remember that individual lives do matter: “Whosover destroys a single soul is as guilty as though he destroyed the whole world. And whoseover saves a single soul, it is as he had saved the whole world.” – parahrase of Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a

Aside from the fact that factory farms cause global warming and deplete fresh water, what is another major connection between animal rights and the environment? Denial: the vast majory of humanity is in denial about about both crises, preferring not to think about such unpleasant things and feeling powerless to change them if they did. The unwillingness to face up to reality shapes reality.

How do we explain the popularity of Avatar at the same time that it is used to sell McDonald’s food which destroys rainforests? This dissonance or psychic split enables those in industrial society to exploit nature which fetishizing it. Sam Gill alludes to this in his analysis and history of the idea of Mother Earth, commonly attributed to First Nations, but (he says) actually a response to extraction industries.

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” ~ William James

Moral relativism – the idea that right and wrong is just “your opinion” or defined entirely by culture or history. This is contrary to a universal ethic of non-harm, affirming the idea of inalienable rights. If right and wrong do not exist in an absolute sense, then _anything_ is morally permissable (e.g. rape, murder). No one will admit that, so it stands to reason that morality must be established on something more than culture.

Is the use of bees for honey wrong? At the University of Toronto (Food Services) they are starting a bee colony. They argue that it is for cross-pollination of plants. Yes, if that’s all they were used for. But if they’re used for honey, that is the same as using cows for milk. This may seem like a crazy notion to some, since most people don’t think of insects should have rights. But technically speaking honey production is animal exploitation – done in the name of the environment – and for that reason it is what Tom Regan called “environmental fascism.”

“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” – Abraham Lincoln. The same can be said of animal experimentation – if the research is so important, let the researchers perform it on themselves! You would quickly find that 99% of all experiments are not that necessary after all.

Swiss animal rights activists raise 100,000 signatures to force a referendum on whether animals should have lawyers, to protect them from cruelty, but Swiss people vote against it, saying existing welfare laws are sufficient. It’s an important idea – that animals, who the world over, have no voice – should be appointed legal council. Even though defeated, the idea has great merit.

“The more I know about men, the more I like dogs.” – Gloria Allred

Most people are surprised to learn that according the U.N. 18% of all greenhouse gases come from factory farming, or 5% more than the entire transportation sector. And yet a detailed analysis and criticism of factory farms is conspicuously missing from the lexicon of most environmentalists. Even the “food justice” movement notably omits mention of animal rights, revealing an anthropocentric bias.

“I realized that If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” – Charles Lindbergh. The irony is that now we do have to choose: by flying we exacerbate global warming and the end of most bird species (and 80% of all species, globally). But if one person does not fly, it makes no difference. The whole world would have to stop flying, which it won’t. Only the impending end of the oil age holds promise. But we have the problem of coal to contend with: it is plentiful in supply, as compared to oil, and its use is predicted for many centuries yet.

“The despoiling of the earth and the subjugation of women are intimately connected. It is not a coincidence that when women are raped, the land becomes parched and desolate, and when ‘feminine’ qualities are oppressed, the human mind is cut off from participation in mystery and left with a disenchanted world. “ – Mary Gome, eco-feminist

Why is that the climate, food and water justice movements are not concerned with animals, even though they are as adversely affected by climate change, and in the case of food are more adversely affected (i.e. factory farms)? It would be like a slave owning culture planning a conference for social justice but neglecting to mention the emancipation of slaves as part of the program.

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”— Gaylord Nelson former governor of Wisconsin, co-founder of Earth Day

If everyone in the world were responsible for the well-being of one animal, I think it would solve most of the world’s problem, because it would force people to step outside the bounds of self-interest, and teach them to love better. This would in turn create better local communities. It is love, not power, that can liberate us and save the world.

One of the biggest dangers of this age is not climate change denial (which no one takes credibly) but greenwash – the pretense of sustainability. Extraction industries hire public relations experts and give money to NGOs (such as World Vision, Rotary Club, WWF) to cover up their crimes against humanity and nature. Pretending that something is being done when it is not poses a very grave danger.

While Canadians indulge in self-congratulation, over-consumption, and pseudo-patriotism, much of the rest of the world despises Canada because of the Harper government’s obstruction of climate talks, the Alberta tar sands, human rights abuses and environmental destruction by Canadian mining companies in developing nations. Animals figure least of all in this country: from the seal slaughter to factory farms to clear-cut logging and mining and loss of biodiversity the Canadian people are like Nazis to animals.

It is tragic that Canadians will agree to spending $6 billion on the Olympics that could be better spent on renewable energy or something important, and will revel in the excesses of nationalism but fail to be moved by truly urgent matters, such as peak oil and climate change. Harper will use this nationalism to justify more war and military spending and tar sands expansions. Are Canadians dumb or corrupt or both?

The case studies of climate injustice provide us with working examples of “environmental fascism” (sacrificing individuals or communities for a supposed environmental good). For example, nuclear waste dumping on indigenous lands – supposedly a good because nuclear energy emits less CO2 than coal. As the climate crisis worsens, we will increasingly hear of such cases. Environmental fascism is a phrase coined by Tom Regan in the context of animal rights, but it is equally applicable to human rights, since – after all – humans are animals and thus human rights equal animal rights.

NOW magazine, this week, promotes grassland fed cattle as an environmental good. Good for whom? The cattle are slaughtered at the end the process, which I’m sure is not their wish. The grassland solution, while reducing some greenhouse gases, still does not address the excessive water consumption of cows. While far better than factory farms, environmentally it is still more detrimental than a vegan diet.

“When nothing is valued for what it is, everything is destined to be wasted. Once the values of things refer only to their future usefulness, then an infinite withdrawal of value from the living present has begun. Nothing (and nobody) can then exist that is not theoretically replaceable by something (or somebody) more valuable … no place or task or person is worth a lifetime’s devotion.” – Wendell Berry

“Was the earth made to preserve a few covetous, proud men to live at ease, and for them to bag and barn up the treasures of the Earth from others, that these may beg or starve in a fruitful land; or was it made to preserve all her children?” – Gerrard Winstanley The New Law of Righteousness, 1649

My dog turned me into an animal rights activist when I realized that if I loved her, then all animals are worthy of love. But most suffer horribly for reasons that are essentially trivial and avoidable: human beings can survive and thrive very well without using animals for meat or milk. In fact if we continue to use them this way, we destroy ourselves, since 18% of global warming is caused by factory farms.

I find it sad that so many Mexicans and Muslims suffer race and class discrimination in North American in the 21st century. The same thing that makes people discriminate against other people also makes them hard-hearted against animals. An open heart embraces all living beings as sacred.

The documentary Food Inc. – an expose of the industrial food system – advocates for consumers, farmers and factory farm workers, but not animals. This reflects Michael Pollan’s bias in The Omnivore’s Dillema: it is a vote for local organic food, and a rejection of fast food and GMOs, but turns a blind eye to animal suffering.

No one would dispute that people should not be owned, that slavery is wrong. Gary Francione argues that non-human animals should not be owned either. Centuries ago Gerrard Winstanley argued that land could not be owned either, but respected and its resources shared by all; his ideas take on a new importance today, in light of the mess made by corporate destruction of the Earth.

We are up to about 6.8 billion people in the world (yes, it’s right, I checked) Demographer say we’ll reach 9 billion by 2050. Check out the clock to see how fast it’s happening:

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, became a vegetarian, largely for environmental reasons: “It’s a ready and quick way in which we can cut down on emissions, particularly when a lower meat diet has much greater health benefits than eating anything else. As I always tell people, if you eat less meat you will be healthier and so will the planet.”

“You only have to look at the terrible things in our history, which everyone regrets now: massacres, the Holocaust etc, and a lot of that was just going along with what was the predominant thinking at the time.” – from the film The Age of Stupid, describing why we continue using fossil fuels, even though we know they cause climate change. The same could be said of eating meat: 18% of all GHGs caused by factory farms.

If you see one film this week, let it be “Age of Stupid” (now out on DVD): “We could have saved ourselves, but we didn’t. It’s amazing. What state of mind were we in, to face extinction and simply shrug it off? [In our age- the oil age - it is though everyone is] running around in circles, fixated on the small area of sand beneath their feet, as a tsunami races towards them.” And let us not forget the 80% of all species – and all domestic animals (billions of them) – who will perish if and when human civilization collapes.

This is such a great way to measure the worth of a religion or a culture: “I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.” – A. Lincoln. How many religions and cultures would actually pass this test if, in addition to dogs and cats, we included all other sentient beings with central nervous systems? I can’t think of any, except the Jains (in theory).

There are several connections between environmental concern and concern for animals. They include the necessity to get rid of factory farms, which cause climate change and deplete fresh water, the need to protect biodiversity, and the fact that extending our concern beyond the desires of humanity both makes us better human beings and better ensures the survival of all life on earth (including our own species).

At University of Toronto we are handing out flyers that advise medical and life science students that they have the right not to use animals in research and education, if they so choose. It is their human right to opt out of animal use and the school can be fined for denying them that right, though most of them don’t know that. Not many students took the flyers however. We are fighting a kind of collective denial in this society, a widespread indifference to the suffering of others. It is so commonplace, to point it out seems almost banal. But it is an important question to ask: we do we not care? It is in part because of “psychic splitting” and individualism – the phenomenon of cutting ourselves off from the world and one another. Others can be dehumanized, made into objects as a result. Animals routinely are objectified, their subject-hood and individuality and their importance denied. But as Thomas Berry reminds us “the universe is not a collection of objects, it is a communion of subjects.”

About 250 years ago, Scots-Irish folk settled in the Smoky Mountains and pioneered a variety of methods for living off the land, some of which they learned from the Cherokee. They grew their own food, made their own housing, clothes, etc. Life was hard but they lived well, better than many modern city dwellers. As oil runs out, people will return to those ways to survive, and they’ll be the better for it. They had chickens and cows and pigs and killed and ate them, but overall the welfare of animals was better off than it is in an industrial society, where billions of them crowded, diseased, lacking fresh air or space. Not even those who defend eating meat will agree that factory farms are defensible.

Child abuse and animal abuse are equally repulsive, because both are crimes against the innocent and vulnerable. But our society punishes one and permits the other. At one time in western societies children were exploited and abused systematically (child labour); now they are protected here. It is my hope that our collective consciousness will evolve to be more inclusive and humane.

My definition of hell: where animal abusers, CEOs of fossil fuel companies, warmongers, murderers, rapists and evil people go. Heaven: where people with good hearts who have tried to make the world a better place, and animals (who are innocent) go. This eschatology (concept of an afterlife) makes as much sense as any other. And it is far more emotionally satisfying than saying there is nothing after death. Rationally, it is more plausible to say there is nothing after death (though none of us know one way or the other), so if we indulge in after-life fantasies, we must do so provisionally, knowing they are no more than symbols of the emotional desire for justice or to be reunited with loved ones.

“Prejudices die hard, all the more so when … they are insulated by widespread secular customs and religious beliefs, sustained by large and powerful economic interests, and protected by the common law. To overcome the collective entropy of these forces-against-change will not be easy. The animal rights movement is not for the faint of heart.” – Tom Regan

In the Rouge Valley Park, east Toronto, men with crossbows hunt deer illegally (’poaching’) and cruelly (the deer are often found alive, with arrows in the bodies, suffering pain). Toronto police, RCMP, Conservation officials, and various other government bodies have known about this for years and done nothing. This is changing, due to the activism of one man, Andy Taylor, who organized a group of volunteers to protect the park and the animals in it.

It is said that Nietzche, the philosopher, went literally insane when he saw a horse being whipped by a cruel man. He threw his arms around the horse’s neck and started weeping. From that day forward he was no longer a productive writer. The violence of the society he lived in was too much for him. It destroyed him psychologically.

Does the Bible apply to animal rights? Yes, starting with Genesis, where God in Her wisdom creates animals, which are sacred, to be protected, and then also in terms of the social gospel: “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute.” (Proverbs 31:8) / “Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

“Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13) Love is often turns human beings to animal rights – because they love a particular cat or dog. Not all people who love an animal believe in their rights; only a few see that it is morally inconsistent to “love one and eat the other” (PETA). So why do some people act in response to moral inconsistency while most do not? In other words, what distinguishes those who act on matters of conscience, when confronted with them, from those who do not? More especially, how do we explain people who become activists for one cause but do not extend it to another (e.g. environmentalists who do not care for animal rights, or anti-racist activists who care for neither)?

“They (farm animals) are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined and, despite having been bred as domestic slaves, they are individual beings in their own right. As such, they deserve our respect. And our help. Who will plead for them if we are silent?” ~ Dr. Jane Goodall

I saw a dog last night who was scrawny, mangy, cold and hungry. She was lost and alone, in the bush, alongside a big highway. She’d had pups at some point. This was incredibly sad – I was ten feet from her but she didn’t trust me enough to come over, so I had to leave her. There are hundreds of thousands of dogs like this, but every single one counts and deserves love and a home.

Every animal is an individual; he or she has not only a biology but also a biography. He or she has a “life-world”: existing in space and time, in bodies of flesh and blood, awareness of the world, feeling pain and joy. May humanity will become aware enough to extend its circle of concern to all beings. We cannot truly find our way if we are not concerned with the well-being of those who are most vulnerable.

I would like to extend a prayer for the well-being of all the innocent animals in the world. May they be safe and well-fed and not lost or abandoned or abused in any way. Thinking of the animal I love allows me to feel strongly for all the countless millions who need homes, who are being hurt by humans in some way … may God bless them and free them and deliver them home.

The most revolutionary and life-changing act is love someone else deeply. Loving my dog (and being loved by her) fundamentally changed my life. Loving an animal makes you a much better human being – it enlarges your world so much. You are not the same after. But losing the one you love also changes your life forever, as I am discovering. Only someone who had gone through it would know I mean.

CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) “aren’t about the free market, because they can’t compete without committing criminal acts every single day. Their whole system is built on being able to disable or capture government agencies.” – Bobby Kennedy Jr. president of Waterkeeper Alliance

Some good Buddhist words: dukkha = discontentedness, translated as suffering; metta = compassion; nibbana = enlightenment (seeing things clearly, devoid of attachment and desires); samsara = realm of illusion (the one we inhabit most of the time); maya = ignorance; ahimsa = non-violence towards all beings; buddha = can refer to the spirit of truth indwelling in all of us; sangha = spiritual community, fellowship.

The bonobo, a type of ape which lives in the Congo rainforest, lives in matriarchal groups. Unlike chimps, bonobos are peaceful, due to female solidarity, which deters aggressive males. The bonobos, researchers say, are similar to the peaceful loving side of humanity and the chimps more resemble our war-like nature. The bonobos have been murdered for “bush meat” in recent years. Biologists are trying to save them.

“The worth of education must be measured against the standards of decency and human survival” – David Orr, in ‘Earth in Mind: on Education, Environment and the Human Prospect’ (2004). Our current education systems do not sufficiently meet that standard; they must be reformed.

“carrying capacity” and “ecological overshoot” – references to the rational acknowledgement that continued economic growth and overconsumption in a world of finite resources is untenable – it is high time that the religion of unlimited growth (capitalism) be reigned in … a healthier, safer, more sustainable no-growth economy is possible and necessary

“We are all salmon” – Herve Kemp’s way of explaining how the on average 300+ toxins in our bloodstreams, due to industrial pollutants and pesticides, are contaminating human offspring through mother’s milk. The salmon concentrate PCBs, accumulated from toxic plastics in the ocean, and bring them to the spawning grounds, contaminating their offspring. See his book ‘How the Rich Are Destroying The Earth’ (2007).

The income of the world’s 500 richest people exceeds that of the 416 million poorest people. This wealth was obtained largely through tax evasion and extreme exploitation of workers. Extreme environmental destruction continues because the middle-classes emulate the overconsumption of the hyper-rich. The solution is to cap maximum incomes. – Herve Kemp’s How the Rich Are Destroying The Earth.

It irks me that some people get away killing animals or defending speciesism by crying ‘racism’ every time they are called on it. The fact that killing animals is part of a culture does not excuse it. Those within the culture (e.g. China, Turkey) have a moral obligation to object, but if they do not object, then those outside the culture should not be called racists for saying that the culture is in need of reform.

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Rousseu. The new order of thing, due to the climate crisis, is environmental awareness, and this necessarily also means consideration of non-human species. Taking into account other species involves represents a new beginning for humanity (potentially).

“The society created in the belief that people are incapable of rising above narrow self-interest will differ from the one in which other assumptions [such as the ability act for the common good] prevail … our beliefs about our nature become self-fulfilling prophecies which produce the behavior they purport only to describe.” – David Orr

E. O. Wilson argues that we must save other species so “they can be understood and employed in the fullest sense for human benefit” (”Is Humanity Suicidal?”). [but] what is needed, instead, is to see human beings merely as one part of the whole earth system – as that part whose job is to bring about healing, where previously we have caused destruction and degradation. Eleanor Rae, Ridgefield, Conn. letter to NY Times

Richard Heinberg in ‘Powerdown’ talks about “lifeboat communities” forming in response to the converging economic and environmental crises (water shortage, peak oil, climate change, rising food prices). Already, many new ‘intentional communities’ are springing up. Learning to live off the grid and growing your own food seems to be good skills to know, to ensure future survival and a minimal standard of decent living.

There is small army of very angry men madly typing cynical climate change denial comments and comments against animal rights defenders, scapegoating them, online. They buy into an unsustainable status quo for the same reason brownshirt recruits bought into rhetoric in the Munich beer halls: a sense of frustrated entitlement which requires force and bullying and angry rhetoric in response. It is disturbing to see people who believe in something larger than themselves – whether it is ecological integrity, human or animal rights – to be scapegoated so much.

“A religious perspective on climate change” by Stephen Scharper. Viewing the Earth and its inhabitants as sacred, the Word Council of Churches has been ringing the alarm bell on climate change for 3 decades. The denialist comments at the bottom denigrate both climate science and religion, but provide nothing in place of either except cynicism and greed and stupidity.

Biodiversity and REDD at Copenhagen … “reducing carbon emissions through slowing deforestation can benefit biodiversity best if countries implement sensible policies.” … [from an AR p.o.v preventing deforestation saves lives by saving ecosystems on which those lives depend]

Is putting an end to factory farming and the tar sands a priority at Copenhagen, and if not, why not? Factory farms account for 18% to 51% of global GHGs and the tar sands is the number one supplier of oil to the U.S. and the largest environmental disaster in the world. Political reforms and public campaigns to end these evils are good, but if they’re ineffective, should we be ‘monkeywrenching’ them?

In the last week there have been 3 different sit-ins at Tory MPs offices to non-violently protest Harper’s obstruction at climate talks. Canada is condemned internationally as a climate criminal for the tar sands (which Ignatieff endores), yet most Canadians are oblivious. We are behind even the U.S. when it comes to the environment? Why? Tuning out real issues, watching TV, shopping. Very sad. This must be resisted.

“CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.” – James Hansen, climate scientist, testifying before Congress

There was a good turnout for the lecture on alternatives to the use of animals in experimentation and education at University of Toronto, but most in attendance were not science students. This indicates a high level indoctrination and/or fear at U of T. We also experienced censorship online (on Craigslist). However, we’ll continue to present this information as it will save both human and animal lives.

To animals all people are Nazis – Isaac B. Singer. Tyrrany over bees in the name of ecology. Tom Regan calls this “environmental fascism.” Should insects have rights? I wonder this on camping trips as mosquitoes bite me. If we don’t know if they feel pain, then perhaps it is wisest to not kill them. E.O.Wilson says that if they were our size we’d have much greater respect for them.

No one likes factory farms. They are like the oil or mining industry – true evil. But they continue in business as long as people buy their products.

“I don’t hold animals superior or even equal to humans. The whole case for behaving decently to animals rests on the fact that we are the superior species. We are the species uniquely capable of imagination, rationality and moral choice – and that is precisely why we are under an obligation to recognise and respect the rights of animals.” – Brigid Brophy

“The standard diet of a meat-eater is blood, flesh, veins, muscles, tendons, cow secretions, hen periods and bee vomit. And once a year during a certain holiday in November, meat-eaters use the hollowed out rectum of a dead bird as a pressure cooker for stuffing. And people think vegans are weird because we eat tofu?” – John Robbins (gracias to Ken Butland for posting it)

The environmental impact of factory farming is finding its way in the discussion of environmentally conscious people, in spite a strong aversion to admitting that meat-eating is wrong by many of them. There is an interesting parallel with environmentalism here: people who did not identify themselves as such had to admit environmentalists were right, but were quick to put down environmentalists at the same time.

I find the recent discussion of the carbon footprint of animals a bit specieist. The idea is that because a cat has the footprint of a small car it should not exist, for the sake of human beings born in the future. I would rather get rid of the world’s cars than kill the world’s cats. The cat problem can be fixed by spaying and the car problem by decommissioning them all and relying on public transit and bikes.

To everyone who wants to know where Baby the activist dog is: she is still in North Carolina with my mother. She went for a short visit, to lose weight, but my mother has neglected to bring her back for six months and I have missed her a lot. She is the best dog I have every known. I love her beyond word. She is scheduled to return in January.

Extractive industries (oil, mining, logging) have been getting away with murder (literally) in ‘developing’ nations because they bribe the local governments to gain land concessions and then violate human rights of ‘trespassers’ (local farmers). The IMF & WorldBank force those nations to accept the deal if they wish to get aid $. Local farmers want access to the land and water they’ve always used, not development.

If we are very possibly to be witnesses to end of this civilization in this century (if the climate goes to 4 degree C and above) then ought we not to address the meaning of this life and this species (our own) while still here? If we did this with humility we might find that we are not complete without concern for other species, and this – as it turns out – is what was needed all along to avoid the climate crisis.

I had a chance to watch television recently (wisely do not have it at home) and was astounded at how stupid and evil the commericals were: for diamonds, steak, cars, etc. All the things that are destroying the world. Unabashed, sold to millions of viewers. No wonder things as vile the tar sands and factory farms exist, virtually unopposed: people are oblivious consumer drones, due to television.

Home needed for 80 huskies (yes 80!) who “have been in a very bad condition but fortunately have been rescued. They’re in good spirits though and are in need of a home. They will be coming to Toronto from Quebec.” Anyone want to adopt some or all of them?

We hear reports global warming will be 4 to 6 degrees this century. This spells the end of industrial civilization. Several popular responses: 1) deny it entirely, 2) acknowledge it but go about your life and believe it doesn’t affect you, 3) think about it, do nothing and be depressed, 4) think about it, engage in social & political reform, 5) give up on society, make plans to be part of alternative community.

We must also think about cow overpopulatin and car overpopulation and computer overpopualtion. The cows suffer and create greenhouse gases, the cars pollute and destroy wilderness areas and kill people, and computers – while useful – do more harm than good, creating e-waste, using of water and energy (in production) and changing the way we think and interact, reducing life to keystrokes and bandwidths.

Overpopulation: it’s important to discuss it openly, despite the taboo against doing so. Why? We are headed for 9 billion by 2050 AD. We need to both curb per capita consumption and emissions and pop. growth through contraception (a voluntary and non-coersive method). It is the single least expensive way to prevent future environmental and social catastrophe.

Toronto just saw a nuclear weapons forum. Many great speakers. Still tens of thousands of nuclear weapons in the world – if detonated would annihilate all life on Earth. The “deterance” position is not feasible. Deterance against whom? So why do we still have nuclear weapons and how can we get rid of them? This is a question as important as economic recession, water scarcity or climate change – and must be addressed.

Why does violence happen? “A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.” – Simone Weil. / “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” -Gandhi / “Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.” – Jung

The idea of a no-growth sustainable economy with green jobs for all and local food and energy production is the greatest social innovation in recent years, in my view. It still hasn’t caught on, but it will, as climate change and peak oil take their toll. The lot of animals will (one hopes) improves as well, as factory farms go out of business.

How the men on Wall Street and Bay Street justify to themselves the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars per year income while most of the world lives on less than $2 per day (or less) and works as hard (or more) is disturbing and perplexing. They believe in their own entitlement and superiority, like whites believed themselves superior to blacks, and humans still believes themselves superior to non-humans.

Many environmentalists focus on renewable energy. This is important, but equally important is thinking about cows: methane from them is a major source of greenhouse gases, their manure is good for soil (i.e. not pesticides), mass producing them uses up water and land that could be better used, treatment of them is cruel, eating them is bad for human health, and loving them is good for the soul and the planet!

A few things Canada (as a nation) does wrong: taking the side of fossil fuel giants in supporting the tar sands; obstructing international climate negotiations; supporting open-pit mining, clear-cut logging and oil companies; propping up fascist dictatorships; waging war abroad ( not peacekeeping); failing to come up a national energy policy; supporting factory farms; opposing democracy.

I wish that Obama would do the things he signed up to do! Better health care, an end to fossil fuel use and the start of a truly sustainable economy and green jobs, an end to the war in Iraq, and so on. On the other hand, I never had much faith in the American political system, which seems iredeemably corrupt. Is it any surprise that people turn to anarchism or socialism?

All over the world Canadian, Australian and Chinese mining companies are buying concessions from corrupt governments, abusing human rights, dividing communities, and destroying river and ecosystems and agricultural lands – all to produce minerals that no one really needs and which produce mountains of toxic waste (e.g. gold, uranium). Bill C300, if passed, would be a step in the right direction.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth – 1 Corinthians / “Look how he abused me and hurt me, How he threw me down and robbed me.” Abandon such thoughts, and live in love. – Dhammapada

“… that the whole of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – if not quite beyond dispute, is yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects it can hope to stand. Only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s salvation henceforth be safely built.” – B. Russell

Many mineral items in this society – from the minerals that conduct electricity in computers to the gold and diamonds on people’s hands and around their necks to the copper piping that brings water to homes to the uranium that powers homes – are stolen from Africa. The story behind these items is one of slavery, environmental destruction, and social devastation by mining companies, many of them located in Canada.

The hostility and ridicule that AR activists sometime suffer, and which makes most of them keep silent around their non-veg friends, stems from the mistaken view that they are trying to assert their moral superiority. Perhaps this view issues from repressed emotions in response to systematic violence against animals. Instead of facing these horrors, it is easier to demonize those who say it is wrong.

I know 2 people who became vegans but could not sustain it because they did not have the time & resources to acquire veg. protein sources, and their bodies suffered. The structures of society are not in place to accommodate vegans, which is really a kind of systematic discrimination against this diet choice, and serves to punish those who try to live by ethical standards in relation to non-human animals.

Water privatization deprives poor people of water and kills them. Water is a human right, yet around the world water privatization is being promoted, just economic growth is being promoted, supposedly to alleviate poverty. In fact, this kind of avaricious capitalism creates poverty.

I just saw a talk with 2 gentlemen representing communities fighting climate change and open-pit mining in Guatamala and Tanzania respectively. The Canadian government is woefully, criminally negligent and counterproductive on both fronts, and is complicit in mass murder. We Canadians have a moral responsibility to change this sad state of affairs and bring about much-needed justice for humanity and the Earth.

The 3 most common exceptions for most people who are otherwise environmentally conscious: 1) flying, 2)meat-eating, 3) overpopulation. Why? They all perceived as requiring big personal sacrifices which are too unreasonable to ask. But one can live a very good life not flying, eating meat or reproducing. The last, reproduction, is considered most sacred and inviolable. But there are so many people. Why produce more?

What we’ve done to ourselves and other species makes me physically and spiritually ill, but the infinite potential of life and the fact that love does exist, despite these great problems, makes me glad and appreciative, and gives me hope.

A lot of you might be sick of the chicken thoughts by now, but I will tell you you what happened. She fell asleep in my arms. She was so tired from being lost and scared. I could not help but love her at that moment. It made me see things from her perspective. Paul Watson had this feeling when a whale was dying and it looked at him. He knew the insanity we as a species have made on this Earth and decided to fight it.

The best activism is motivated by love, not rational decision-making. To take up the cause of the other’s right to exist and be free is basic. We all have a basic right to be, to live, to have space, food, shelter, water, kindness. No one deserves to be used or abused or exploited. The Jewish philosopher Levinas called this “responsibility for the other” which is activated by looking into “the face of the other.”

Some people get really upset when the issue of eating meat comes up. Why is that? From their p.o.v., they are being judged and put down. To acknowledge that non-humans might have a right to life and freedom is offensive to them. The first thing they do is bring up plants to illustrate the absurdity of AR. Repressed violence and defensiveness is triggered, similar to road rage. I don’t talk to people about it anymore.

Farm sanctuaries are the only safe place for chickens, where they can live out their days in peace. Factory farms are hell on Earth for them. At free-range small farms they live a better life but are killed. The new trend is to keep chickens in the city, in basements & garages, without sunlight or yards to peck in, held captive for their eggs. It is more humane than factory farms, but still a form of slavery.

I am happy in my new yard. At dawn I give a song of thanks, stretch my wings and start pecking. I take break at mid-morning to go to my nest and lay an egg. Once that is done I go back to exploring. I get to run around, talk with my friends, and scratch at the dirt. It feels so good! The farmer gives us some corn. So yummy. At the end of my day I sit on my perch with my sisters and go to sleep. This is a good place.

I cannot move. I cannot spread my wings. This cage hurts my feet. My feathers are falling out and I am bleeding. I am afraid. I want to be in a yard, with space, with sunlight, where I can stretch my legs and my wings and ruffle my feathers, and peck for food. This place is horrible. Let me out! Can anyone hear me? Let me out! I am so tired. I will go to sleep now and dream of a better place.

It is important to be part of a good community that has strong values. In my experience, over 20 years of activism, the animal rights community is the most altruistic and mutually supportive of all social justice or environmental activist communities and most likely to come to the aid of one another in the mutual cause. This is not true universally, in every case, of course, but in my experience it is true.

Saving one life may seem unimportant compared to billions not saved, but it means everything for that one life. I have to remember this next time I despair about being unable to stop climate change or the rape of the Congo or factory farming. My small effort is not in vain if even one person or animal is the better for it. The true worth of this life lies in small moments of kindness, not in glory or honours.

The adventure with the hen is at a close: she is in a farm sanctuary now, in the company of other chickens, goats, ducks, turkeys, with a huge yard to run around in. She will live there the rest of her days. Sadly, this place is next to a factory farm with thousands of battery hens. My hen is very lucky. Thank you to Juli Kaiss for driving her there and to Jamie Rivet for offering.

All this reminds me of the Zen parable in which a master gives chickens to 3 students and says ‘go where no one can see you and kill the chicken, then return.’ 2 students return with dead chickens, but the third has a live chicken. The master asks ‘why is the chicken still alive?’ The student replies, ‘I could not kill it because wherever I went the chicken saw me.’

If you lived with a chicken, even for 12 hours, you would never eat one again because you see, right away, that they are somebodys, not somethings. They feel, live, breath, eat, defecate – everything we do. We are not very much different than them. I love this chicken I found (or who found me). We get along very well. However, she is going to a farm sanctuary tomorrow to live out her days doing chicken things.

I rescued a chicken today. She was running around the neighbourhood. I am looking for a farm sanctuary near Toronto to give her to. She is quite beautiful and friendly.

“I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.” – Abraham Lincoln. “… he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men.” – Kant. Animals “too [in addition to humans] must be viewed as the experiencing subjects of a life, with inherent value of their own” – Tom Regan.

Calling environmentalists and animal rights activists ‘terrorists’ – especially after they’ve not actually killed a single person – is beyond absurd. Yet that is what the Bush and now Harper governments have done. Why? Because they protect the right of real terrorists (fossil fuel, factory farming) to continue to operate unimpeded.

‘Cruelty to animals is one of the most significant vices of a low and ignoble people. Wherever one notices them, they constitute a sure sign of ignorance and brutality which cannot be painted over even by all the evidence of wealth and luxury. Cruelty to animals cannot exist together with true education and true learning.’ – Alexander von Humboldt

Why is it that people bristle when one compares specieism to racism? Morally they are the same, and the results – harming others for fun or profit – is the same. Any “othering” that causes suffering to the other is wrong and animals can and do suffer, just as we (humans) do.

In its recent report “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options,” the United Nations determined that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.

“The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” – Wm. Faulkner. This sums up the fact that colonialism is not past; it is still going on, as we speak, through clear-cutting in Canada, coltan and gold mining in the Congo, and many other examples of extraction industries usurping indigenous populations and destroying their landbase and cultures.

Who is your favourite AR thinker and why?

“I abhor vivisection. It should at least be curbed. Better, it should be abolished.I know of no achievement through vivisection, no scientific discovery, that could not have been obtained without such barbarism and cruelty.” Dr. Charles Mayo, Mayo Clinic

You know that you should be doing something else other than Facebook at this moment! :)

It’s interesting that most ENGOs – even the best of them, such as Greenpeace – generally ignore or given less emphasis to 3 major contributors to climate change: flying, eating meat, and overpopulation. This is because travel, food and family are within the private sphere, considered untouchable. They don’t want to turn away potential donors. BUT these are the areas where individuals can do the most.

We do not necessarily get wiser with age – just better able to discern patterns in human behavior and make rational choices based on them, or at least know with reasonable certainty that if we make foolish choices it will catch up with us eventually.

Congo Week starts on Monday. Mon. Oct. 19th, 12 noon, Film: Lumumba, followed by talk on Building the capacity of Congolese civil society to resist imperialism & neo-colonialism w/ Ajamu Nangwaya, OISE 4420 / Mon. 6 pm Film: The Greatest Silence, followed by talk on Summary of social justice issues in the Congo w/ Alex Henry Moore & Belinda Mbala. BA 1230

Best thought of the week: we are most free and happy when we do not identify with our gender but simply exist apart from these limiting roles, such as the moment of real friendship or doing an art project or just breathing deeply or doing nothing in a meaningful way. If I live in fear of what may happen to me in the future or if I don’t do XYX, or if I try to conform to some role, I limit myself somehow.

The dog on the left is Baby, who is one of the most loving creatures on Earth.

Biggest threats to the survival of the human species: 1) climate change, 2) nuclear war, 3) flu pandemic. Biggest threat to non-human species: the human species.

Helen Caldicott is coming to University of Toronto to speak, about the threat of nuclear weapons. It is often assumed (wrongly) that with the end of the Cold War these weapons do not pose a risk. They still post the same risk they did for decades – in fact moreso because they are now in hands of small volatile states. We might very well see nuclear warfar this century, unless there is a worldwide movement to disarm.

“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite” (Tolstoy) And it is remarkable how many rationalizations people can come up with to justify their appetites! Human beings are a violent, irascible lot. Why do we wish to save ourselves from ourselves? Is it even possible to do so?

Do you ever feel like just giving up?

Of course from a misanthropic point of view wiping out humanity might be a good thing for the Earth’s other creatures who suffer what Isaac B. Singer called “an eternal Treblinka” under the heel of man, and for Mother Earth herself, for whom humanity must something like a bad case of the flu. But from a humanist perspective the flu pandemic is the one of the biggest threats to our existence.

H1N1 has a more than 50% rate of lethality and it is airborne. A strain of it killed tens of millions in 1918. This strain was created in factory farms, due to overcrowding. It could easily wipe out most of the people on the planet. Factory farms are opposed by every major health organization in the world. Six U.S. states have already passed laws against overcrowding. The choice: factory farms go or we do.

Greenhouse gas emissions produced to make one 1/4 pound hamburger = driving 30 km. A cow is worse than an SUV for the Earth (in terms of GHGs, water). The best thing you can do for Mother Earth and humanity: stop eating meat. The swine flu, a supervirus produced in factory farms, could wipe out most of humanity in a short time. We need to stop factory farming: it is cruel and a global health threat.

“Man is the only animal who blushes or needs to” – Mark Twain.

I wonder if Mother Earth will breath a huge sigh of relief when she finally shakes us off her tortured polluted (and once-beautiful pristine) surface? It is said that all species go extinct eventually. Why would we be any different? What legacy will we have left, aside from nuclear waste dumps and tar sand sludge? Will the sounds of Bach be carried on radio waves to some distant species, or will they be lost forever?

I am still digesting the implication of the new report on the worst-case scenario of unabated global warming to 4 degrees. It effectively puts a date on the demise of modern industrial civilizations (2060), the rise of fascism, war, anarchy and mass famine – provided the status quo continues. But we cannot let that happen. We must radically re-invent the world, to usher in what T.Berry calls the “Ecozoic Age.”

Why is it that mainstream ENGOs (enviro non-proifts) that otherwise do great work tend not to focus on the approx. 18% of the global emissions from factory farming and the need to stop eating meat? Also, no one focuses on aviation. Meat and flying are major sources of an individual’s GHGs but they are overlooked / ignored. I find this interesting.

A friend of mine, now dead, said “there are two types of love: ‘God love’ and and ‘need love.’ God love is giving to others. Need love comes from receiving it.” We are all in both positions at various times of our lives. There is a need to both give and receive love. It may sound trite to say this, but the more we give the more we receive. For a good definition of love see 1 Corinthians 13.

I use FB to advertise social & environmental justice events and to post comments on pressing issues such as climate change, human & animal rights, etc. Some people love these comments and engage with them. Others hate them and tell me so. It’s important to reflect on important issues, even if unpleasant: it serves a social good. But if you dislike these messages, I will not be offended if you de-friend me.

An interesting point of contradiction in environmental ethics: some people promote the rights of animals and nature and others promote the idea of a holistic biotic community in which individual rights are subsumed under a group identity. Do they really contradict and if so, which one is right? Or are these two seemingly (but not actually) contradictory ways of expressing the same thing?

The tar sands is to Canada as Auswitschz is to Germany. Both are responsible for mass death (in the case of the tar sands, the death of the whole Earth and its inhabitants), both operate through the complicity of yes-men who take no personal responsibility, in both cases the general population turns a blind eye. Biocide (Earth murder) the moral equivalent of genocide.

Here is a video everyone should watch, from National Geographic, which show what happens to the world if it warms by 4 degrees Celsius – the temperature rise predicted for 50 years from now by many reputable climate scientists.

Many of those in their twenties at University of Toronto do not discuss climate change at all. Do they believe that they or their kids, if they have any, will be spared from its effects? I honestly think they believe it won’t affect them, or that technology will save them, that they will be insulated from it somehow. Or they simply do not think about it at all. But in other countries youth are very active on this.

A confession: I am playing on Facebook to avoid schoolwork.

Variant of actual Egyptian curse, to be used on animal abusers. Light a fire and recite: “I invoke those in the spirit world to punish __ who has tortured innocent and helpless beings. Enter his soul, and remain in his heart. Burn his guts, his chest, his liver, his breath, his bones. Let him not sleep. Torment him. Turn his guts inside out. Let him feel the pain of his victims a million fold. I invoke you now.”

The planet Earth cannot sustain more than one billion human beings, at the current rates of consumption of the average middle class North American. The humane, sensible solution is a massive family planning program to reverse population growth, a massive program of renewable energy and conservation, and a switch to local, organic plant-based diets. All the solutions exist; only the political will is lacking.

Environment Week at University of Toronto is now concluded. The highlights for me were the lectures on corporatization of universities, on the psychological barriers to action on climate change, the eco-tour of UofT, and the film clips on biodiversity. Not as many students attended as there should have been, but on the plus side, those who did attend (again, mostly people over 30) were engaged and appreciative.

James Hansen’s comment on Canada:

Quick connections between animal rights and environmental concern: 1) Food. Eating meat and factory farms are bad for the environment, from greenhouse gases to water use to pesticide use to waste. 2) Biocentric philosophy. The AR philosophy, against specieism, is related to concern for biodiversity. 3) Ethics. Enviro. concern and AR are both predicated on moral concern for the other.

Do bad people get away with doing evil against animals, nature and other human beings, or is there some sort of justice in the universe we do not see but which visits them in their dying moment, like the angel of death, or an afterlife? And do the souls of innocent victims of evil find peace in the next life if there is one? Or is this all there is? Is there a pure part of the soul that no evil can touch?

The inner conflict between self-interest and concern for ‘the other’ is at the heart of the human condition, and is reflected in our culture in countless ways. Good institutions and structures can be corrupted by self-interest and bad structures can be reformed by selfless concern, so it is not the structures that matter as much as the will that informs them.

A solution to the theodicy problem: First, redefine the question. It’s not important whether or not God exists. Rather, the real question is “why does suffering and injustice occur and can there be said to be any kind of justice for the oppressed?” An answer of sorts: there is no reprieve from suffering and injustice but there is a responsibility to help alleviate it nonetheless.

Congo Week is coming up (October 16 onward). In the Congo, between 5.4 million and 6 million people have been murdered in 15 years, largely for the benefit of foreign mining interests, to mine gold, coltan, and other minerals the west consumes but does not really need, for jewellery and cell phones (recycling minerals could occur instead). It is thus called “blood coltan.” I will soon post a list of events.

A persistent prejudice among people who consider themselves progressive and socially enlightened is that a universal worldview is automatically wrong, based on the sad history of colonizers. But in this day and age, where human and animal rights are under siege, and instrumental reason excuses mass violence, we need an ethic of non-violence and respect of all peoples and others species. This is basic.

For some reason I have a very poor opinion of environmentalists who eat meat and defend that practice, far more so than for people who do so and do not claim to be environmentalists. I guess I hold them to a higher standard, based on what they say they believe in. I think they ought to know better. Yes, this is being judgemental, but it irks me because it’s like a Christian killing his neighbour (eg George Bush)

The reason I dont’ vote Green or NDP: The Greens are against rent control and in Canada for capitalism. Some, like Frank DeJong, are for “sustainable mining.” The NDP could be much stronger on the environment, which explains why they would support unions that have a poor environmental record. However, I like Jack Layton’s stand against the tar sands. The only reason to vote for them: Libs and PCs are far worse.

All around are examples of dogma and ideology excusing harm based on wealth, education, class, nationality, or other arbitrary, sometimes imaginary boundaries (e.g. race). We also see dogmatic thinking that excuses harm to others based on species. There are many people who believe themselves to be virtuous but who unthinkingly cause harm. Violence is built into the fabric of our society.

Everyone has ethical blindspots. Many social justice activists care nothing for animal rights, many animal rights activists care only for certain animals and ignore others, some good people eat meat, some environmentalists fly regularly despite the environmental damage it causes, some people care only what happens to their own family. Can any of us rightly sit in judgment? “He who is without sin cast the first stone”

The Earthcycle schedule is jam-packed with event for Sept. 21-26 at University of Toronto. For a full description of all events see

I met with Sandy Hudson and Adam Awad of UTSU this evening. We have had some fights over environmental issues, but we came to firm understanding that it was now necessary to work together for climate justice at UofT. I apologize for speaking ill of them, am encouraged by their commitment to Earthcycle, and applaud UTSU’s diplomacy and bridge-building efforts.

Earthcycle / UofT Environment Week – lots of lectures, film and fun stuff for biodiversity, climate justice and planet Earth – Sept. 21-16

My cat is fat.

“Why can we all just get along?” – Rodney King

Reasons to write a letter of protest to the Star re: warplanes over Toronto: 1) noise pollution; 2) frightens animals; 3) unnecessary Co2 emissions; 4) promotes militarism and expenditures on military at the expense of more important things such as health care or environment; 5) glorifies war, makes it into entertainment; 6) disconcerting for refugees who have lived through warplane strafings where they come from.

A key person in the Centre for Environment told student environmentalists they didn’t have to get involved in Earthcycle / Environment Week. In essence, an authority figure letting them off the hook. Now the university Administration is weighing in on the mandate of UTERN, UofT’s most visible student environmental group. It is a tug of war for the soul of students: should they be climate change activists or not?

The film Sisters on the Planet show a woman from the countryside in Mozambique and her two children. Their community is dying from drought, caused by man-made climate change. She asked “how do I end this thirst?” They certainly did not cause this problem but they’re dying from it. The World Heath Org. estimates that about 300,000 die from water stress and heat exhaustion and famine due to c.c. every year.

“Increased consumption does not lead to an increase in happiness because happiness associated with consumption largely depends on one’s wealth relative to other people. Since it is impossible to make everyone wealthier relative to everyone else, it is impossible to increase overall happiness by pursuing greater GDP per person, yet such pursuit is a prime driver of environ. destruction and increasing GHG emissions”

Most of the kids who run for office at Univ. of Toronto want to be popular. Changing the world for the better is the least of their concerns. That’s why the enviro. movement on this campus is failing. If concern for the issues beyond one’s own popularity were foremost (if the motive for getting involved were not selfish) we could change the world. The same problem (self-interest) is at the heart of the enviro. crisis

It seems like most (not all) of the supposed activists under 30 in Toronto at zoned out and mentally absent, running from one party to another, while quite a few over 30 are serious, show up, get things done and act professionally. Why is this? Of course there are exceptions, but I am getting frustrated with kids in their 20s who think activism is a big party and won’t do any serious work.

UTSU continues to obfuscate regarding the deal with tar sands financier RBC, saying they needed the money. In the greater scheme of things, this may seem like nothing, but it is a sad day for students in Canada when the largest student union sells out and becomes indistinguishable from the corporate university Administration they criticize.

It is surprising to me that the student unions (namely UTSU) have not jumped on the climate justice bandwagon. They are already into race issues – it is natural for them to focus on climate justice. But for two years they have missed this important opportunity, which I find shocking. At York U. they are all over this issue.

“There has to be a very different role for the media in this world we are in, where such dramatic change is happening to us and we need to get action.” – Barbara Stocking, Oxfam, Great Britain. The change she refers to is climate change, peak oil, finite resource depletion, mass extinction, overpopulation, mass industrialization, etc. Part of the Global Humanitarian Forum, Geneva, 2008.

I was asked, “isn’t UTSU against corporatization of the campus?” No, apparently not. Rogers was hawking cell phones on the UTSU lawn two days ago. They accept money from RBC, main financier of the tar sands (and subject of Rainforest Action Network’s boycott).The last thing students and the world needs is more cell phones and credit cards. Morally UTSU is no better than Naylor’s corporate-run administration.

“the team that made the film The Age of Stupid is launching the 10:10 campaign: which aims for a 10% cut in the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. This seems to be roughly the trajectory needed to deliver a good chance of averting two degrees of warming. By encouraging people and businesses and institutions to sign up, the campaign hopes to shame the UK gvmt into adopting this as a national target” –

I am just generally disappointed with humanity as a whole. We seem to be antagonistic, selfish, petty and hurtful to one another and to non-humans. Yes, there is good in us too, but it is in a constant and seemingly irresolvable struggle with the bad. It will not end until we as a species end. In the meantime we must live with ourselves and other species must live with us too – a sorry fate for most of them.

I am also dissapointed that UTSU (University of Toronto Students Union) has weakened its environmental policy to allow meat at BBQs. Meat accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Allowing it at BBQs, as well as taking funds from RBC, sends a statement that UTSU is not serious about solving the climate crisis but is using it for PR, to get re-elected in a year.

UTSU (University of Toronto Students Union) is in bed with RBC, the main Canadian financier of the tar sands – they took $ from RBC and have allowed them to have a booth at the UTSU bbq. I took it up with them and they did not commit to undoing it, saying they already took the money. They could give it back. I am disappointed because if anyone should stand up against corporate corruption of the campus it is UTSU.

We have about 15 volunteers for Earthcycle right now. If you want to join this fun / important effort, contact Pieter Basedow, on FB or We will hand out flyers to students to let them know about and get them involved in environmentalism at Canada’s largest university.

EarthCycle needs volunteers for outreach, specifically on Friday, September 4th at Clubs Day at U of T. Please respond if you have a bit of time on that Friday to help us put out 10,000 flyers or in general if you have some time leading up to September 21st to help with outreach. Thanks so much! See

If you live somewhere in the country in Ontario and want an outdoor cat, please contact me. A few months ago I inherited a stray, who is determined to escape the confines of my apartment. She is a natural born hunter, very territorial and dominant, and brings home mice and birds frequently / unfortunately. She has all her shots, is in excellent health, and is spayed. One year old. She will be happy in the country.

See “Sisters on the Planet” about the impact of climate change on women. Thurs. Sept. 3, 7pm, Hart House, University of Toronto. And many more great films and events on climate change during Environment Week in Sept:

Community and environmental organizing is a labour of love. It is priceless, but like art, it is important to recognize the efforts of organizers with the one thing our society deems valuable: money – in the form of honorariums. It is not the money, …it is the message of respect that it imparts, because organizers typically do not get respect, though they are willing to sacrifice everything to do what is needed.

We live in what scientist Paul Crutzen calls the Anthropocene Epoch, begun with the industrial revolution and the steam engine in the 18th century. It is so named not because mankind is above nature (though that conceit is at the heart of the environmental crisis) but because we’ve so badly damaged the Earth the results will last millions of years.

One of the most famous and contested definitions of religion: “(1) A system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in [human beings] by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.” – Clifford Geertz

In the storm last week three birds fell out of the tree near my house. One died from the fall, one died from injuries from a cat who found it, but the third one was nursed by a neighbour and the mother found him/her and they flew away together and survived.

University of Toronto’s Earthcycle has many good events in it. It is organized by a small handful of people – more organizers are needed. Why is the number of volunteers for environmentalism shrinking at a time when the climate crisis has never been worse? Volunteerism in general is suffering due to longer work hours, stress, financial woes, the rise of cynicism and decline in hope … we need to reverse this trend.

Right now the (human) world needs some Old Testament Prophets to wake it up and take it to task for destroying the planet, waging war and creating inequity. Liberation theologians Guittierez and Segundo have made the case that the Prophets’ voices were a cry against social injustice. Where and who are our Prophets? Al Gore? James Hansen? Richard Heinberg? Or must prophets convey an explicitly religious message?

University of Toronto’s student movement is, unfortunately, corrupt: three different groups (UTSU, UTERN, OPIRG) all get money from student levies (taken from students when they pay tuition) and all three give money to their own execs and friends. There is no accountability, no transparency, and quite a lot of nepotism. The Administration is worse: it is run by corporate CEOs who have corporatized UofT and sold it.

This anthropological lecture is quite amazing – he manages to relate the various ways in which some human cultures still retain a sense of the sacred … quite profound. Thank you to Jason Hirsch for sharing this.

On marriage: “Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished” – Geothe. “To marry a second time is the triumph of hope over experience.” – Samuel Johnson. “My wife and I were happy for twenty years; then we met.” – Rodney Dangerfield.

Why climate change and the environment are low priorities at University of Toronto: 1) Governing Council represent the interests of major corporations. They consistently refuse to address climate change or to invest in necessary building retrofit and energy efficiency measures. 2) UTERN, OPIRG and UTSU do not work together and are largely inactive on these issues due apathy, division, ignorance and careerism.

“Any religion is idolatry in a practical sense which conceives of the highest being as having properties [which do not require] morality of human beings.” – I. Kant. Thus a religion which calls on followers to murder or otherwise harm is idolatrous, not a “true pure relgion” which is “practical” because it teaches us how to be considerate of others. If it does not do this, the religion is worthless, in Kant’s view.

Deep thoughts: “What profit has a man of all his labour? … Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was” (Eccles.) BUT “he who knows how to live can walk without fear [because] he has no place for death to enter” (Tao te Ch…ing, 50) THUS “Watchfulness is the path of immortality … Those who are watchful never die” (Dhammapada) … “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinth 15)

“October 14, 1970, Survival Day. In the hope that this time capsule will be found by a civilization wiser than our own, we have buried here a record of man’s folly on the planet he has outgrown. Pollution Probe” – words written on a plague outside Robarts library, University of Toronto. In 1970 they knew. Has our society grown wiser in 40 years? The answer is obvious.

“Young, intoxicated by my own lovely skin, my figure, my gorgeous looks, and famous too, I despised other women … Today, head shaved, robed, alms-wanderer, I, my same self, sit at the tree’s foot, no thought. All ties untied. I have cut men and gods out of my life.” – Vimala, former prostitute and later renunciate and early convert to Buddhism, approx. 2nd c. BC, India. “The First Buddhist Women” by Susan Murcott

Two good books on the same subject from vastly different perspectives: The Ontology of Trash by Greg Kennedy – a doctoral dissertation using Heideggerian theory to explore our disconnection from our waste – has both spiritual and environmental implications. The Ethics of Waste by Gay Hawkins – part revisionist history, part sociology, part reflection, it explores the deeper dimension of plastic, shit, old cars, worms

“Power over nature” has become practically identical with civilization. – Herber Marcuse, Eros and Civilization, 1955.

“The most direct strategy for halting the growth in global carbon emissions is to impose a carbon cost on emitters at home, then impose the same standard on imports. As simple as that. Save the world and beat your [trade] rivals while …doing it – can there be a more satisfying win-win than that? There is already growing talk in Europe of going this route since 2004.” – from Jeff Rubin’s new book

Peak oil and climate change, the runaway consumption of remaining resources (principally water, oil, natural gas), loss of biodiversity and collapse of the oceans – this convergence of crises represents the great challenge facing humanity – one which our species may not survive – and yet for the majority of human beings – including those who run the media, governments, corporations – these things do not matter.

The charge of “anthropomorphism” is anthropocentric and thus specieist: when critics of animal rights say we are trying to anthropomorphize animals (when we say they have emotions, feel pain, and should have rights), this charge is actually anthropocentric, because it postulates man as central when he is not. Rights are applicable beyond our species; to deny this is discriminatory, just as it is to deny human rights.

All the world’s great religions can be understood as condoning good ethical conduct to animals: “Wth factory farming torturing animals on a unprecedented scale and the growing environmental crisis, the wisdom of the world’s religions to respect nature and all its inhabitants has become much more than an expression of ideal behavior. It has become a global imperative.”

How do you get a young cat to stop fighting with other cats and being territorial? She is a fixed female but still quite aggressive. Is there a way to make her less so?

Geoengineering is problematic for the reason that it trades off one kind of environmental destruction against another and in the eyes of critics forstalls needed action on climate change, such as widespread implementation of renewable energy and ending high-emissions agro-business. But schemes such as “biochar” are needed – in the view of proponents – because the needed reforms have not materialized in time.

The Mining Awareness Coalition Toronto is seeking volunteers to help canvass key riding’s in Toronto to raise awareness about Canada’s role in the mining industry, as well as to support an important piece of legislation, Bill C-300. PLEASE JOIN US: Wed, Aug 19th at 6:30 pm at the Hart House, University of Toronto (Room TBA) OR Thurs, Aug 20th at 6:30 pm at the Hart House. or Ellen ellenshifrin64@yahoo

By reducing non-human animals to things to eat or entertain or experiment on, we rob ourselves of the love and splendour and beauty of relationship with them, as well as robbing them of life, and we diminish ourselves through complicity in violence. It is an old thought (and true) that to hurt animals is to hurt ourselves by becoming numb to the suffering of others; in turn, this leads to violence between humans.

If we cast aside their supernatural meanings and look at the essence of what they say, the Third Noble Truth of the Buddha (that the cessation of suffering is possible), the Good New of Christian faith (that He is Risen) and the Tao all have the same meaning: that all life has a great purpose and meaning that is so simple and basic that it is a mystery to us, and to appreciate this requires humility and reverence.

My cat is very demanding at times but I love her because there is no one else in the universe who is quite like her. She is unique in her mannerisms, her personality, her small habits. I may love others but there is none like her. What is love if not a deep appreciation of the uniqueness of a being, the fact that he or she is irreplacable?

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13

Many people feel that they cannot make a difference anyway, so why should they go through the trouble of doing anything? That attitude is common; it is a convenient excuse for inaction that ignores that we all determine our lives together. Our millions of daily actions and decisions determine the direction of society. – from summary of recent psychological report on why people are inactive on climate change

Friendships and relationships that fail can be very hurtful. One of life’s greatest challenges is learn to be dispassionate, to rise above such injury, but not become hard-hearted in response to it, to continue to love but without attachment, and to appreciate life despite the suffering that is in it. This is difficult path. Emotional hardship can be a good teacher.

Is there anything to be learned from the bad things of this world? “Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil. Therefore having and not having arise together. Difficult and easy complement each other. High and low rest upon each other; Front and back follow one another.” – Tao te Ching

wishes to be rid of all the mind / noise pollution in this society: Internet ads, popups, spam email, noisy small motors destroying the silence in the morning, fighter plans overhead, obnoxious pseudo-music in public places and “on hold” on the phone, brand names everywhere on everything, inane banter and constant ads on the radio … it would nice to go one day without the assault on our senses.

Politically progressive (i.e. left-wing) people often are for the decriminalization and liberalization of prostitution and pornography (for the sake of ’sex-workers’ whose rights are infringed) but there is another, neglected side to this that they ignore: that decriminalization helps men who wrongly profit from the misery, exploitation and slavery of women and children. Sex trafficking and slavery is a terrible evil

Do we have the daring and courage to build a society that is just and sustainable, that takes into account the well-being of other species, which abolishes weapons, pesticides, fossil fuels, factory farms, etc? “When there is daring and courage there is the possibility of failure. And in every act of faith this possibility is present. The risk must be taken.” -Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith.

Excerpt, The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan. ed. T. Regan and P. Singer. This is the ultimate ethics text on AR, in my view.

In one climate change scenario, Canada will be invaded by about 2 billion people from the global south, seeking a moderate climate and water and escape from flooding and heat and water scarcity in equitorial nations. Will we be heartless or altruistic when they come? Can any of us (except First Nations) really lay rightful claim to this land? U.S. corporations have already started damming and draining Canada’s rivers

How do you respond to climate change and cruelty to animals? (A) Don’t think about it; think about happier things. (B) Worried sick but feel powerless to do anything; feel despair over these things. (C) Taking action, trying to do something even if it’s an uphill battle and things seem bleak. (D) Optimistic that things will improve in time. (E) God / karma / higher power will deal with it. (F) Other.

When human beings do to one another what they do to non-human animals it is called “a crime against humanity” and considered depraved, sadistic. The Japanese vivisectors in Unit 731 called victims “maruta” (logs) to dehumanize them. Similarily, non-human victims are thought of not as individuals with histories and personalities, but as mere things, all of the same kind. Cruelty starts with this loss of individuality.

Exxon Mobil has gone from funding climate change denial to greenwash: they define “progress” as pursuing “economic progress while promoting the development of technologies necessary to generate and use energy more efficiently.” In other words, the status quo rather than energy conservation via a no-growth economy. They are the world’s largest oil producer.

Climate change is worse than predicted by the IPCC. We will exceed the 2 degree Celsius “tipping point” and the planet will experience “positive feedbacks” and “runaway climate change.” How bad this becomes depends on many factors we don’t know yet. It could be that within 200 years 9/10ths of the planet is unliveable, 80% of all species extinct, and human civilization gone.

“What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving …how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god.” But what of war, genocide, torture, greed, rape, environmental destruction? “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more:it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing”

Pieter Basedow and I today successfully booked spaces for EarthCycle (environment week) at University of Toronto late September. This was not easy to do, as several obstacles stood in the way. The next job is to advertise these eco-events (films, lectures

This little homemade video poses some profound issues in a beautiful manner: why we are here, that humble recognition of our smallness and vulnerability in this vast universe, the necessity of mutual respect and concern for one another, awe at the beauty

How would you respond to the news that this universe, which at 14 billion years is relatively young (compared to it future duration) will eventually end in a “slow heat death” of super massive black holes which eat up all matter and leave nothing but danc

Rick Mercer tags bears in Algonguin Park. Worth watching. The bear cubs are very cute.

I saw this film, expecting something like Spinal Tap. Instead it was a deeply moving story about two sons of Jewish immigrants who spend thirty years pursuing their common dream together, eking out a living in a menial jobs and suffering the slings and ar

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you do also to me.” – Jesus, Matthew 25:40. Who are the “least”? The poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the socially ostracized, the beaten, human and non-human, ma

In Temagami I saw, heard and felt the following: loons singing in the mist at dawn, trout who leapt out of the water to catch insects, a family of otters, blue heron, hundreds of beautiful dragonflies, symphonies of birdsong, frogs and mushrooms everywher

People ask “what can I do to stop global warming?” Support one of the many ENGOs and activist groups working on it with your time or money: Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Polaris Institute (, Toronto Climate Campaign (www.torontoc

“Carbon offsetting makes sense if you are seeking a global cut of 5% between now and forever. It is the cheapest and quickest way of achieving an insignificant reduction. But as soon as you seek substantial cuts, it becomes an unfair, impossible nonsense,

is delayed from canoeing, ufortunately. The demands of civilization are incessant.


is off to Temagami for one week to canoe. Temagami is where Bob Rae got arrested for protesting clear-cut logging of old growth forest, before he became a politician. Now, as a Liberal MP, he supports extraction industries. Fascinating to what degree powe

Concern for an individual’s well-being is the beginning of ethics. A persona cannot act ethically based on mere principles. It requires looking into “the face of the other” (Levinas) On this foundation the foundation of any successful environmental or ani

“GDP per capita has been used [by economists] as a proxy for human happiness, but growth in GDP has become a goal in and of itself … there is growing evidence [that] increasing GDP per capita does not increase human happiness, and in many cases, leads t

“The need to get elected takes precedence over life itself” – in the To. Star. James Hansen’s letter to Obama: “It is still feasible to avert climactic disasters, but only if policies are consistent with what science indicates to be required.” The G8 emis

“The ratio of phytomass energy input to the agricultural system to food energy output is about 1:1 for fresh fruits and vegetables … and over 200:1 for beef. Meat-based diets thus require vastly greater amounts of land than a vegetarian diet. This land

Given the state of climate change, the only hope for humanity, biodiversity and the Earth as a whole is for the world’s economy to go into a deep and permanent recession, which would drastically reduce production and consumption. If the economy rebounds t

Why some sort of population control, although politically controversial, is needed: “Energy savings acheived through improved energy efficiency, if unaccompanied by measures to limit overall demand for energy services, tend to be eroded by increased energ

“Because its skin is so permeable, the frog is also sensitive to air, water, and soil pollutants. Dying frogs may indicate that the worldwide concentration of pollutants has reached a lethal level for them. If frogs go, can we be far behind?” http://www.e

“Prosperity Without Growth: The Transition to A Sustainable Economy” by Tim Jackson. Argues against the paradigms of economic growth (which in inherently unsustainable, and is causing economic and environmental collapse) and for feasible no-growth alterna

Amnesty International support for the Uighurs, an ethnic minority under Chinese control, near Tibet, whose human rights are cruelly violated by the Chinese Communist state.

Arguments against bottled water: 1) toxicity – e.g. biophenal A; 2) price gouging – 2,000% markup; 3) waste from bottles, disposal of which taxpayers bear; 4) draining ancient aquifers; 5) not proven safer than tapwater – in fact much bottled water IS mas

“If the nuclear industry is so safe, why won’t the insurance companies cover them? If nuclear accidents are so improbable, how come the owners of nuclear plants won’t build these reactors unless they are given legal protection from full financial liabilit

Send an email to stop experimentation on live pigs at this university:

Mainstream economists do their bit to ensure mass murder by putting the economy before ecology: Here at University of Toronto the law faculty invited economist Scott Barrett last year to talk on c.c. His answer? Geoe

in solidarity with the Ugyars, an ethnic and religious minority of China persecuted by the Chinese state. As I write they are demonstrating for their freedom at Queen’s Park. In this respect, they are not dissimilar to the Tibetans or the Falun Gong.

How do environmental scientists deal with the depression that their work contributes to? They continue working because there are no other options. To do nothing at all is immoral but to indulge in false hope is misleading. Unable to live in the bubble of

“Psychology, so dedicated to awakening human consciousness, needs to wake itself up to one of the most ancient human truths: we cannot be studied or cured apart from the planet.” — James Hillman. A premise of eco-therapy is that there is a link between

Green jobs are the future. In Europe they recongize this. Why not here? Canadians are the worst in the industrial world on environmental issues (worse than the U.S. on a per capita basis) and yet Canadians somehow picture themselves as enlightened as comp

Free screening of movie on the tar sands, H2Oil, tonight at Bloor Cinema (Bloor St. West, Toronto) 7 p.m., with MP Olivia Chow.

Human rights activist Sandra Cuffe just called me from Honduras. The situation is very similar to the failed coup of Hugo Chavez in Venezuala in that citizens are trying to stop military tyrants from taking over the country. Sandra is at ground zero right

The only hope for humanity? If governments won’t take the lead, we must do it at the local level. This basic idea – of self-sustaining local economies – is catching on everywhere. Making the transition is difficult and too few have managed to do it. Howev

On procrastination: “we readily believe that another day will bring some support or advantage which we now want; and are easily persuaded, that the moment of necessity, which we desire never to arrive, is at a great distance from us. Thus life is languish

The 1973 dystopian film “Soylent Green” illustrates a number of important themes relevant to the major issues that face us in 2009: commodication and subjugation of women, psychological damage caused by the loss of nature in an industrial world (biophilia

“In 2008, Canada ranked second to last in the scorecard, with the U.S. in last place. However, the U.S. improved this year because of the climate initiatives planned by the Obama administration, said the WWF.”

Canada is dead last on green list of G8 countries. On a per-capita basis we have now fallen behind the USA. And this on Canada Day! Shame on us. For details see:

Words of wisdom from a woman friend, on the subject of men: “I learned long ago to love them, but also not to ever trust them.” Yes, the male ego is a dangerous thing: it breaks hearts, causes war, create inequity and suffering, is in part responsible for

“The species responsible for the mass extinction [sixth great extinction since the Earth began] is also the only species capable of halting it.” “Future generations will never forgive us …” – biologist E.O. Wi

“All human activities, professions, programs, and institutions must henceforth be judged primarily by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually enhancing human/Earth relationship.” – Thomas Berry. Accoring to that critera our governme

“the despoiling of the earth and the subjugation of women are intimately connected. It is not a coincidence that when women are raped, the land becomes parched and desolate [this is happening in the Congo], and when “feminine” qualities are oppresse

On the plus side, “transitional communities” are popping up everywhere. They represent local markets, food and energy soveriegnty, permaculture, true sustainability, communitarian ideals and above all hope for a future for humanity that can live prosperou

Human rights = animal rights because humans are animals. Animal rights = human rights because without biodiversity we ALL die. Humans, animals, plants and the Earth itself is under seige by industrial technology and capitalism, driven by elitism and self-

Please write letters to the Toronto Star objecting to the speciest article “The serial killer of the sea” (June 23, p.GT3) comparing sharks to serial killers. Why is the Star printing a story like this, demonizing sharks, but no story on the 100 million s

“Greetings to my brother dog.” – Cecelia Paiva, an Indigenous woman from the global south, practitioner of Pachamama, addressing a dog who was in the audience at the Citizens’ Inquiry on Uranium Mining, 2007. Cecelia spoke as a guest at many events we hos

“Why can’t we all just get along?” – Rodney King

“Demo in solidarity with protesters in Iran against brutality 2 pm Queen’s Park Toronto” (thnx Judy Rebick) The repressive incumbent won in what protestors say is a rigged election and their protests in support of the challenger and democrarcy are being c

I am reposting this as it is very important. Help save beautiful and irreplacable Temagami from clearcutting by sending an objection letter or email to the provincial government. I’ve canoed Temagami several times. The place is breathtakingly beautiful, f

Direct action resistance to mountain top removal. We need to do more of this in Canada, against nukes, against the tar sands, against open-pit mining, against clearcutting, against every manner of environmental destruction.

Monbiot argues that the end of 300 years of colonialism in Britain means it is no longer able to outsource social unrest to other countries. Britain’s prosperity was purchased at the expense of generations of Indians and other colonial victims. The same a

Hate fur farming? Go to this link and you will find a devil’s brew of professional fur farmers and furriers: I wrote them all a polite anti-fur message. Got one nasty reply from “Fur Czekino” who said he

Climate talks successful. World saved. We wish … Yes Men at it again. Bless their souls.

Help save beautiful and irreplacable Temagami from clearcutting by sending an objection letter or email to the provincial government. I’ve canoed Temagami several times. The place is breathtakingly beautiful, full of animal life. It is truly sacred and mu

I strongly object to the repression of religion freedom in Communist China against the Falun Gong / Falun Dafa religion. It is characterized as harmful “cult” by the Chinese state. In fact, it promotes peace and mediatation and non-violence. The Chinese p

Is it any coincedence that two religions banned in Communist China (Falun Dafa, Supreme Master) are known for standing up for human rights and animal rights? China has the world’s largest gulag, full of political prisoners, allows slavery of its citizens

TVO’s Steve Paiken quoting me on “The Agenda” in an intervew with University of Toronto president David Naylor, and his ad hominem (and wholly inadequate) response to my criticism. Go to minute 13:30 of clip. I am mainly critical of the corporatization of

How the industrial economy is unsustainable and unjust, in cartoon format. The Story of Stuff: A more intellectual version of the same themes by economist Peter Victor:

“Compassion literally means to feel with, to suffer with. Everyone is capable of compassion, and yet everyone tends to avoid it because it’s uncomfortable. And the avoidance produces psychic numbing — resistance to experiencing our pain for the world and

“It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions” – Mark Twain / “How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?” – William

In solidarity with the friends of pit bulls at the Supreme Court. This is case of specieism and discrimination: like saying that if one member of a racialized group of people is harmful ergo they all must be so kill them all. In human history we have done

This is some kind of lemur. He (or she) is very cute. Originally posted by Julie Kaiss. Thanks Julie.

Humanity’s trouble is not a lack of intelligence or ability to change. It is ego and self-interest, arising from a wounded heart, keeping us from appreciating the wonders of Creation before our very eyes. If we lack only the political will to do what is r

This music can serve as a makeshift requiem for the approximate 200 species lost every day due to man’s greed and arrogance. This, the sixth mass extinction since the world began, is the only one caused by a single species. By 2050 the corals will be gone

“Climate change: we have run out time.” It is now time for the governments of the world to abandon the ideological disaster of free-market economics and to embrace a sustainable no-growth economy: http://www.e

I posted this before, but am doing so again, because I really enjoy her righteous indignation. She has what most Canadians need a lot more of: a strong sense of justice and the willingness to speak out with conviction in support of what is right. http://w

In 2006 Brazil wanted foreigners, including environmental NGOs, to stay out of its territory, saying that it could best protect the rainforest ( This nationalism had popular appeal within Brazil. Now,

Documentary of agro-business in Germany. This clip showing cramped containment of sows and mutilation of piglets. Both workers’ and animals’ lives are dictated by a factory production system called Taylorism, which removes all freedom, all natural element

It is estimated that 4 billion human beings will die due to climate change later this century. This is equal to about 666 Holocausts. Thus the Harper gvmt is guilty of the biggest crime against humanity ever. The crime is premeditated: they know the conse

Harper and those that support him are willing kill the coral reefs of the world (, the Amazon rainforest ( billions of people

The climate talks in Copenhagen are six months away and the current Bonn talks are a dissapointing failure, with Obama failing to deliver (see Why? The U.S. (and Ca

In Canada we do not seem to be aware that (as they are in the UK) that “flying is dying.” Porter Airlines is expanding and has full page ad every day in the Toronto Star. No one says anything. Meanwhile, we recycle and some of us give up driving, while ai

“If self-improvement were a matter of mere wishing, every human being would be good, [however] it is a fundamental principle that, to become a better human being everyone must do as much as it in his powers to do, and only then can he hope that what does

“the US is consistently trying to dodge any promise of striving toward the necessary 2C goal. Asked this week if he’s committed to it, Obama’s slick chief negotiator, Jonathan Pershing, said the US was still looking at the science. Questioned by a youth d

A couple of weeks ago Thomas Berry died at age 94. He spent the last part of his life, from the mid-1980s onward writing and talking on the importance of a biocentric worldview and the coming Ecological Age. He was a great visionary of the what is possibl

“Sri Ramana [the famous Indian holy man] was known for his unusual love of animals and his assertion that liberation [the highest spiritual attainment] was available for animals too. When his favorite cow Lakshmi was near death, just as he had with his ow

A true artist:

The Sea Shepperd Society party with Paul Watson went well. He gave a rousing speech on the neccesity for interventionist action to uphold international law against illegal (and immoral) whalers. Good turnout and great costumes by some peope. Most memorabl

In Pakistan, Barrick Gold is doing its usual dirty business of murdering those who oppose environmentally destructive extraction industries. Here is the full story: In Toronto, the anti-mining activist commun

Need a job that’s meaningful and helps the world? Look on Goodworks Canada: Lots of “green jobs” posted there. A green economy is where humanity must go; we can each part of that in our work and as volunteers. There

Need some inspiration that a better, more sustainable world is possible? Look at “Intentional communities” international website: new communes, co-ops and permaculture farms popping up everywhere – people escaping industrial culture to grow their own food

Jethro Tulin, executive officer of the Akali Tange Association, is an indigenous Ipili human rights activist from Papua New Guinea. He will be speaking this evening at OISE, room 2212, 7 pm, at the University of Toronto about communities in PNG affected b

Action item: write to any institution that has an environmental / climate change / “sustainability” policy (e.g. church, school, government, business), and ask them what they are doing to educate their parishoners, students and employees regarding the ben

For those who worry that there is no justice, the Dhammapada (an ancient Buddhist scripture) tells us: “Neither in the sky nor in mid-ocean, nor by entering into mountain clefts, nowhere in the world is there a place where one may escape from the results

“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?” – Bell Hooks

“I gave my word to this tree and to all the people that my feet would not touch the ground until I had done everything in my power to make the world aware of this problem and to stop the destruction.” – Julia Butterfly Hill, who spent 2 years in a 1,000 y

What does fighting climate change and being a vegan have in common? 30% of greenhouse gases are caused by food production and transportation in North America. Eating local vegetables and non-processed foods saves lives in the future, including non-human b

Attempting to free oneself of “inordinate attachments” may very well be the path to liberation from bondage to things and people that enslave us in countless ways – including ways that lead to environmental instruction. Putting limitations on the human pa

“Even though moral obligations may arise from social relations with others, there is no reason why ethical principles developed at a local scale should not be extended to a global scale … Because people are often members of more than one cultural group

“Nothing is simple in this world where commerce is absolved for passing death sentences on intelligent socially complex gentle sentient beings; where diplomacy’s used as an excuse to ignore the slaughter of the gentle and the innocent.” – Paul Watson (com

“We live in peace with the mother earth, you guys [industrial civilization] destroy it, even without knowing or knowingly destroying it. Our ancestors have been telling us all along to respect the land and it’s animals, which you guys never seem to do.”

The word on Rex Murphy’s talk show today on CBC is that most speakers selected to speak were pro-seal killing. Animal rights activists were screened out. They were the voice of the voiceless, the seals, beautiful marine mammals, but not given equal time.

If you are an animal rights activist / vegan / vegetarian or environmentalist (or simply someone who tries to live ethically) in Toronto, it is important to patronize Panacea on Bloor. I shop there. They have a great selection of things that do not harm a

Call for AR action! Sun 4 pm today “make a call and be a voice for the seals, and for a compassionate society. The number: 888.416.8333 [broadcast of CBC radio talk show] Make a few points ahead of time, be relaxed and be polite. The talk is already off t

Quick report on two Students Against Climate Change events last night: Congo event was packed and quite heated. Verbal argument ensued between those advocating for an end to the endless atrocities and Rawandan nationalists who defended Rawanda’s right to

Specieism runs very deep. Extricating it from my own thinking is difficult, especially when we live in a society founded on it. It also means changing friends, taking unpopular stands, being scapegoated for doing so, and paying a social price for defendin

If extraterrestrial beings were to visit Earth they would likely have a sonar conversation with the marine mammals about how to deal with the problem of selfish humans destroying the oceans and killing all their relatives. How self-centered of us to imagi

Governor General Michaelle Jean’s action, supposedly in solidarity with the Inuit, took political sides with the Harper government in support of the controversial commerical seal slaughter. It had nothing to do with the Inuit. It was wrong and inappropria

There are some fundamental issues that arise from the intersection of human rights, animal rights and concern for the protection of the natural environment: no single life (human or non-human animal) is expendable, any process that we enter to must take i

Should animal killing be protected if it is part of a traditional culture? Some other traditional practices now contested or abandoned: wife burning (Rajasthan), female infanticide (China, India) foot-binding (China), cliterectomy (Somalia), live human sa

Paul York Students Against Climate Change is co-hosting TWO events this Friday night at University of Toronto! Take your pick: Holocaust in the Congo at Sidney Smith, 7:00 p.m. and Countdown to Copenhagen, Hart House 7:30 p.m. Both are very important. Con

It’s important to distinguish between the Inuit seal hunting and Canada’s commercial seal hunt. The two are two completely different hunts, for different seals, in different places, at different times of the year. Harper is attempt to play on the concer

Students Against Climate Change is co-hosting TWO events this Friday night at University of Toronto! Take your pick: Holocaust in the Congo at Sidney Smith, 7:00 p.m. and Countdown to Copenhagen, Hart House 7:30 p.m. Both are very important. Congo: http:/

Inaction on climate change costs lives. If one tenth of the population took some form of action, we could avoid the tipping point and avert disaster. Please lobby your MP for action on climate change. “The time has come to show the federal government that

Jeff Peters is leading the student protest at University of Toronto in this photo. Jeff is one of the best student leaders I’ve ever met. He was the only student governer on Governing Council to vote against Naylor’s draconian 2030 Vision last year, which

We are living in a small window of time in which it is possible to avert total disater vis. climate change, but those ‘in the know’ are frustrated by the intransigence of leaders who are afraid of losing votes if they implement unpopular but needed measur

The first and most issue is the right to live. The second basic issue is respect and freedom, not to be imprisoned. Specieist thinking is very deeply ingrained and it’s hard to move past it. So was racist and sexist and homophobic thinking in its time (an

Two hundred years ago people argued that black people were inferior and it was natural to enslave them. Women were also considered property by many and did not get the vote in N.America till the 20th century. Animal rights is another liberation movement,

In this calm before the storm of climate wars and mass famine and the end of most life on Earth due to climate change and drought, what do you think is the meaning of our existence here? We did not live in harmony with nature or one another or other speci

Video for “Behind the Mask” – great film against animal experimentation industry. The song is about dissapointment with police for persecuting animal rights activists and protecting animal torture chambers.

Take action for AR: Email the Bolivian Embassy in Canada to let them know that the practice of the Bolvian Army of beheading and shooting live dogs is obscene, ihumane, and gives Bolivia a very bad image abroad. Several videos of these atrocities are circ

Industrial agriculture and food transportation is responsible for 30% of the greenhous gases in the world. It also consumes vast amounts of fresh water uncessarily, is inhumane and cruel to non-humans, is toxic and unhealthy and is unsustainable. The alte

Environmentalists (or those who speak out on the issue) who fly need to examine their carbon footprint. Some of them fly overland from Ottawa rather than take the train! Bali, for example, accomplished nothing policy-wise, but put a lot of GHGs into the a

“Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven.”

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.” – Tich Nhat Hanh

The generally unequestioned assumptions of specieism and anthropocentrism are so ingrained in human culture, thought and language that overcome them requires a conscious and deliberate and ongoing effort – it is a process that is never quite complete. Esp

Paul York Videos on the Congo: “Congo’s Tin Soldiers” – exposes connection to mining = / Congo: The Broken Heart of Africa = / Documentary on 19th century mass murder: W

A very sad but illuminating video, explaining what has been happening in Sri Lanka from 1956 to 2000. It seems that Buddhism, like Christianity, is not immune to corruption and evil. How conveniently its basic tenets of non-violence (ahimsa) and compassio

Sometimes it is important to live according to principles of inclusivity, universal human dignity and forgiveness, when there enormous pressures to conform to ways of thinking and acting which are morally wrong because they cause harm in some way. If we d

A positive spin on human suffering: “Until you have lost your peace of mind, until you have been deeply disturbed, you have no chance of further awakening. This is a sacrifice which you, actually, don’t make – it has already been made for you by the effor

“All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet. It must be this voice that is telling me to do something, and I am sure it’s the same voice that is speaking to everybody on this planet – at

This story describes one case of rape and murder in the Congo. Multiply this story by 250,000 women raped and 5.4 million citizens murdered or starved to death due to pillaging by armed forces. All of this serves the interests of Canadian mining companies

“In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace.” – Wangari Maathai

A fair and balanced article on the Tamil protests in Toronto followed by the usual racist, intolerant and xenophobic comments by readers:

Will the UN and Canadian politicians and media say what a shame it was that so many Tamil civilians died AFTER they are dead (as they did with Rawanda, where UN peacekeeping forces pulled out, effectively paving the way for genocide) or will they act now

The Tamils will likely be outside the U.S. consulate in Toronto for the next 2 days and nights (until Sunday) because that’s when India’s election is. The current party, expected to lose, has informed the Sri Lankan government that this is their last chan

The only reason the seal hunt continues is to win a few political seat in Newfoundland. There is a contest between the Conservatives and Liberal there to win votes. The solution is to convince those parties that anti-seal hunt votes are to be won elsewher

When you buy a cellphone you contribute indirectly to the rape of 250,000 women in the Congo and the murder of 5.4 million through starvation caused by war, which is financed by the coltan and gold mining companies (Chinese and Canadian owned). Western co

Support the Tamils by going to Queen’s Park for their rally tomorrow at 12 noon (Wed. May 13). Labels like “terrorist” should not be used indiscriminately to dismiss an entire people. It is a humanitarian crisis. Canada should intervene through economic s

Support the Tamils by going to Queen’s Park for their rally tomorrow at 12 noon (Wed. May 14). Labels like “terrorist” should not be used indiscriminately to dismiss an entire people. It is a humanitarian crisis. Canada should intervene through economic s

Support the Tamils against genocide.

“If not reciprocated, love will flow back and soften and purify the heart.” – Washington Irving

Human beings need principles, guidelines and rules to help them to not harm others in the course of daily life because we experience “psychic numbing” and denial and lack of compassion when the problems of the world multiply and when we ourselves are impl

According to the Buddha, the end of suffering is attainable by letting go of our attachments, which cause us pain (Third Noble Truth). Easier said than done!

“I suffer more from the humiliations inflicted by my country than from those inflicted on her.” – Simone Weil. Among the horrors inflicted by Canada: clearcutting and habitat destruction, war against civilians, mining industry, Alberta tar sands, seal hu

Leader to alien visitor: “Why did you come to our planet?” Alien vistor: “It’s not your planet.” / “One species cannot be permitted to destroy the Earth.” – from the Day the Earth Stood Still (remake)

There is little doubt as to the necessity for dramatic social and political change, sufficient to curb the excesses of industrial civilization before a tipping point is reached and global environmental catastrophe becomes unstoppable. Unless there is a ra

Every evil stirred up in this world passes from one man to another until it alights upon a perfectly pure being who suffers it in its completeness and destroys it” – Simone Weil

“Every evil stirred up in this world passes from one man to another until it alights upon a perfectly pure being who suffers it its completeness and destroys it” – Simone Weil, New York Notebook

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, be

To understand religious violence, see this film “A Final Solution” from India. It is very bleak but worth watching as one can see from it how nationalism and religious exclusivism and scapegoating are combined in such a way that crimes against humanity (e

A green economy will occur because ordinary people change the way they get food and energy, not because of politicians or corporations or mass media – all of whom continue to be instrumental in the destruction of civilization and the natural world. This w

“A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.” – Simone Weil // “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another” – Gandhi // “The

“A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.” – Simone Weil “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another” – Gandhi “The squirr

The late social activist and author June Callwood “was branded a racist not because she had actually done or said anything racist, but because she declined to confess to non-existent bigotry, undergo ‘sensitivity training’ or otherwise reach demeaning

Human beings are but one species among millions. What entitles us to lord it over Creation and destroy it wantonly to serve selfish desires? If there is a human purpose or meaning it should include acting responsibily towards others who are weaker and who

Human beings are but one species among millions. What entitles us to lord it over Creation and destroy it wantonly to serve selfish desires? If there is a human purpose or meaning it should include acting responsibily towards others who are weaker and who

Racism, sexism, ableism, class discrimination – all are morally wrong – but if we count non-human animals as morally equal to human animals (and there is no rational argument that can stand up against that view that is not based on assertions of privelage

Racism, sexism, ableism, class discrimination – all are morally wrong – but if we count non-human animals as morally equal to human animals (and there is no rational argument that can stand up against that view that is not based on assertions of privelage

Racism, sexism, ableism, class discrimination – all are morally wrong – but if we count non-human animals as morally equal to human animals (and there is no rational argument that can stand up against that view that is not based on assertions of privelage

My fifteen minutes of fame …

Sharks are 100% race-blind, ethnicity-blind, nationality-blind, gender-blind and religion-blind. They don’t know or care who is maiming and preying upon them (other than that the predator is human). Sharks would not know or care one bit which race/religio

Paul York According to Rene Girard, the origins of violence and civilization occur through an unconscious pattern of scapegoating the ‘other’, which acheives social cohesion. Humans scapegoat animals and one another all the time through the creation of in

According to Rene Girard, the origins of violence and civilization the unconscious pattern of scapegoating the ‘other’, which acheives social cohesion. Humans scapegoat animals and one another all the time through the creation of in-groups and out-groups.

A cultural defense of oppression should be questioned. Human rights, animals rights and the rights of nature are inalienable.

Supreme Master TV Be Vegan! It helps reduce Global Warming and saves many species.

“Your interview was included as part of a global show in the Noteworthy News program at Supreme Master TV, which lasted from March 20 to March 23, particularly the Mar 22-23 episode.”

Ryerson’s parady of NOW touches on an important issue but in a disturbing manner. The column suggests killing all cows (and eating them) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, we need to get rid of factory farming; no, we do not need to kill cows to do

Ryerson’s parady of NOW touches on an important issue but in a disturbing manner. The column suggests killing all cows (and eating them) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, we need to get rid of factory farming; no, we do not need to kill people or c

Paul Watson effectively refutes the cultural defense of shark finning, which like foot-binding and clitorectomy and SUVs and bottled water, can change if enough people see the harm it causes and stop doing it:

“Most people in any social or ethnic or political group will fail to speak out about its culture’s atrocities against animals, as their religious institutions also seem to fail to do. The exploitation of unwilling sentient beings is categorically wrong, r

Organizing the big conference on mining (environment, water justice, human rights, traditional cultures, economics, etc) for April 26. Human rights advocates and anti-mining activists from all over the world (Papau New Guinea, Chile, Honduras, Guatamala,

Rally against tar sands enviromental destruction. Today! Wed, April 1, 5 pm – 7 pm. Royal Bank Of Canada. 200 Bay Street at Wellington St (near Union station), with Rainforest Action Network.

No Nuclear Now! Because nuclear energy is NOT green, safe or cheap. Public Rally. Thur. April 2, noon. Location secret for now. for details Thur. a.m.

Registrants needed for the “ElderBerry” conference – a spiritual retreat based on works of great defender of the Earth Thomas Berry, April 17-19. Speaker: Stephen Scharper.

Stop deer poaching in Rouge Park, presentation by Andy this Fri, Apr 3, 9am-noon. Toronto Zoo Admin. Bld, 361A Old Finch Rd, Scarborough (west of Meadowvale Ave, south side of Old Finch)

The apes of the Congo are being killed for “bush meat” and through deforestation. The Congo is one of the 2 “lungs of the world” (the other is the Amazon). Please join me and others in working to stop deforestation and mining there.

message Shame on the Canadian government for allowing the seal slaughter despite the lack of a market for the pelts. Harper gave $7 million to support it too :(

While race is socially constructed (we are all the same species) racial identity can advance cultural autonomy & social justice or conversely racism & injustice

Singer talk, Green Jobs Fair done. Left to do: March 24 – film on nuclear war The Strangest Dream, March 25 – lecture on mining and Congo, March 27 – Sharkwater

Events in March:

message is soliciting $5 to $20 donations for the Protest Barrick annual tour in April / May so Sakura doesn’t have to go in debt again. See

urges everyone to support the anti-tar sands campaign by Rainforest Action Network:

is looking forward to protest of evil PDAC mining industry conference, Wed. Mar. 4, 11 am – 2 pm, To. Convention Centre (south bldg), 255 Front St

thinks most politics is “fulll of sound and fury signifying nothing” – i.e. all talk, no substance

is gearing up for a week of mining issues: 3 presentations on Barrick, York U. conference, and mining conference with investors/prospectors, hosted by Barrick!

is trying to set up a lecture at York U. on gold mining and human rights.

is promoting the Rainforest Action Network protest against the tars sands expansion: Bay & Front, 8:30 a.m Thurs. Feb. 26 !!!

gained some insight into why 85% of Israelis support a gvmt bent on the destruction of 1.5 million civilians: a deep fear & insecurity which that gvmt exploits.

gained some insight into why 85% of Israelis support a gvmt. bent on the destruction of 1.5 million civilians: deep fear & insecurity which that gvmt. exploits.

is gearing up for the campaign for Governing Council, running on an environmental / anti-corporate / student’s rights platform. And also marking papers.

is gearing up for the campaign for Governing Council, running on an environmental / anti-corporate / student’s rights platform, and marking papers.

is gearing up for the campaign for governing council, running on an envioronmental anti-corporate, studentplatform, and marking papers at the same time.

is disturbed by the creation of concentration camps in Sri Lank. No different than Warsaw Ghetto or Gaza: dehumanization and mass murder. It must be stopped.

is running for Governing Council of the University of Toronto to stop the corporatization of this school. If you know graduate students at U of T let them know.

found out he is under investigation by Barrick Gold’s lawyers. It is a very great honour! I would love to expose Barrick in the court of public opinion.

Environmentalists who fly to climate talks do more to cause climate change than to stop it. See and “flying is dying”

is exploring the many ways in which environmental issues, animal rights, and human rights intersect and compliment one another.

is concerned that a spy agency such as CSIS or the FBI might be investigating animal rights activists by posing as Peter Singer, the philosopher, on Facebook.

If you haven’t see The 11th Hour with Leonard DiCaprio (on climate change and solutions) we are showing it this Wed Feb 11, MS 2172 at U of T, 7 pm. Great film!

strongly recommends watching Occupation 101 on Youtube:

strongly recommends Occupation 101 on Youtube:

is showing Occupation 101 (on Palestine) tonight at Med. Sciences 2712, U of T, 7:00 p.m.

saw the film the Bandit Queen about a woman who excecutes her rapists. Good for her! The world is still full of mysoginy and sex slavery. Read “The Natashas”

is sad that 300,000 seals will be murdered, starting Feb. 2nd and that most people either do not know or care. Those that know and care are too few to stop it.

urges people to see Occupation 101 (on Palestine), this Wed. Feb. 4th, 7pm at Med. Sci. 2172 (UofT) and The 11th Hour, Wed. Feb. 11, 7 pm, same room.

is proud of Pieter for rejecting money by oil and car corporations for his green education project, which they wanted to give in order to greenwash themselves.

Moral opposition to counterinsurgency wars and extreme police tactics is a stand against state-sanctioned terrorism and prevents reactionary insurgent terrorism

Moral opposition to counterinsurgency wars and police tactics is opposition to state-sanctioned terrorism and also prevents reactionary insurgent terrorism.

is getting tired of the toxicity, insanity and cruelty of industrial civilization but is trying to make the best of it.

told a captive audience of psych students in tutorial about animal rights and got them to discuss it and think about it.

Canada turned away a boatload of Jewish refugees in 1939; 70 years later Canada turned its back on 1.5 million Palestenians. Both groups are in dire need.

Canada turned away a boatload of Jewish refugees in 1939; 70 years later Canada turned its back on 1.5 million Palestenians. Both are human beings in need.

Canada turned away a boatload of Jewish refugees in 1939; 70 years later Canada did the same thing to 1.5 million Palestenians. Both are human beings in need.

Derrick Jensen says ‘my responsibility is not to reduce the amount of paper I use; my responsibility is to shut down the corporations cause clearcut logging

We have all fallen into the chasm between conscience, which says something is wrong that harms others, and complicity with the system that feeds off the harm.

reflects on the psychic violence Canadians do to themselves by dehumanizing Palestenians as “terrorists” and seeing animals as food and nature as a commodity

is very happy that the engineering department of University of Toronto added several environment focused courses in the last year due to student pressure

learned that Israel has an agenda of ethnic cleansing and apartheid and has developed a form of urban warefare against civilians it is exporting worldwide

Biodiversity: “much has been lost, but there is still much that can be saved.” – Danny Harvey

Bring the climate criminals to justice just as Simon Weisenthal brought Nazi war criminals to justice.

I am tired fighting evil and injustice and wish desperately for peace and love to enter the world’s collective heart.

Because we are endowed with free will we have a moral responsibility to use it wisely, which means not causing harm to others (human or non-human).

Did you know that the East coast sealers were offered money to stay home and they refused it?

It would be a good idea to pray for an end to humanity’s violent assault on the Earth and animals, and for common sense and loving kindness to prevail.

sent out emails regarding free films in Toronto on tar sands, climate change, plight of sharks, and resistance to open-pit mining. mssge me for more info.

sent out emails regarding free films in Toronto on tar sands, climate change, plight of sharks, and resistance to open-pit mining. FB me if you want this info.

“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.” – Ivan Illich

lists 6 reasons to be ashamed to be Canadian: 1. Harper on climate change 2. tar sands 3. open-pit mining 4. seal hunt 5. clear-cut logging 6. our indifference

lists 4 reasons to be ashamed of Canada right now: 1. Harper’s inaction on climate change, 2. the tar sands, 3. Canadian open-pit mining companies, 4. seal hunt

“This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like blood that unites us all.” – Chief Seattle


agrees with Chief Oren Lyons who says that the “Earth has all the time in the world, but we don’t.”

echoes the voices of many good people in condemning the airstrikes as a crime against humanity.

appreciates the bird song in Toronto this morning (their response to the sun). “The universe is a communion of subjects”

Line from the documentary on climate change The Age of Stupid: “It’s amazing. What state of mind were we in, to face extinction and simply shrug it off?” He is referring to human extinction. But we shrugged the extinctions of many other species. The problem is one being distracted and desensitized. Television is largely to blame for this.

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted” – Martin Luther King Jr.

There seem to be two possible scenarios for humanity: a dystopian hell of totalitarian rule and runaway climate change or a just, sustainable democracy. There will likely be various degrees of both, but in either case, not much relief for non-human animals until humans are gone.

In the history of humanity, animals have never been free from oppression by them. It is not realistic to expect that it will be the case now, even if we have become enlightened with respect to human rights. But inasmuch as we are here, there is a moral responsibility to respect the rights of others, whatever their species.

Written by admin

November 13th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The issue of “rights” in animal rights

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The idea of “rights” arose from the Enlightenment, in relation to human rights. They have since been extended to women’s rights, the rights of oppressed racial minorities, gay rights, the rights of the differently abled, and of course animal rights.

Rights are unviersal, inalienable and they confer the status of equality (they correlate to egalitarianism).

Human and animal rights correspond in the sense that humans are animals of a type, and also in the spiritual or religious (and also biological) sense of the the interrelatedness of all things, as well as in terms of the emphasis on altruism and concern for the “other.”

Kant, an originator the idea of rights, along with Rouseau, spoke of the “the moral law.” This provides an important articulation for a certain idea of rights as universal and a priori, as opposed to being determined arbitrarily from within this or that culture — which idea is the basis of cultural relativism.

Kant goes to great pains to establish the a priori basis of the moral law, for this reason: to ward off the argument of arbitrariness.

Although Kant himself did not extend his scope of concern to non-human animals (it is well know that he viewed them instrumentally, though he also advocated against cruelty to them), his thought provides a deontological foundation for animal rights.

Tom Regan makes this case, but his thesis is limited by the format of an ethics discussion and thus he does not tie his ideas into religion or environmental concern or the various way in which human rights and animal rights correspond beyond the scale of the individual. So there is an important gap to be filled in.

What I am looking at now is the epistemological origin of the ethical blind spot that our society has with regard to other species (i.e. the categories of thinking that give rise to racism and speciesism or any other type of discrimination), and how these become reified through
structural violence, which becomes accepted as “natural.”

We see these structures of violence accelerated to a world-destroying scale through industrialization, culminating in factory farms — which most people don’t know produces 18% of all greenhouse gases, ahead of even transportation (13.5%) (UN/IPPC, 2007 – There is right now a contest at the U.N. over this report, due to a challenge to it by a scientific study sponsored by the meat industry).

IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachuria is pushing a meat-free agenda, as a way of mitigating climate change, and he as actually influenced Bejing, which is now advocating openly for a reduction in meat — which ironically goes against the increasing meat consumption of China as it
industrializes (since meat consumption has class implication and is associated with affluence).

Another tangent arises from the work of Charles Patterson in The Eternal Treblinka, who shows the psychological and historical connection of the Holocaust and factory farms — which of course is
not to diminish or trivialize the Holocaust, but rather to explore how
de-sensitization and industrialization are connected, and how industrial methods for killing animals contributed to killing humans on the same scale and with similar detachment.

Zygmut Bauman and Hannah Arrendt, in their insights into the Holocaust, provide ideas that are of great value for understanding how
de-humanization occurs – and by extension speciesism (though they
don’t address that).

Regan at one point comes up with a really great idea, which is incredibly important, and which I think provides the cornerstone for
advancing this broader thesis: “environmental fascism.” He mentions it
in passing, in just a few paragraphs, but I have used it to describe a
fundamental problem with regard to both human and animal rights that
keeps arising within the context of technological responses to climate

For example, the problem of nuclear or carbons sequestration or geo-engineering technologies insfor as their implementation excludes
from consideration the rights of local inhabitants where they are located, who could be irradiated, or otherwise harmed — even though
such technologies have said to be beneficial to mitigate the crisis.

In the same way, environmentalists who advance grassfed beef as a
solution to the problems arising from factory farms are not taking into account the rights of the cows themselves to not be used instrumentally.

Also, all of this is related to non-violence and emancipation movements, and animal rights is said to be like the civil rights movement, or more precisely the abolitionist movement against slavery
in the 19th century.

There is a lot to be said on that front as well, and especially the fact that animal rights has been deliberately excluded as an issue by the emerging social movements in response to climate change: the food
justice and local food movements, the environmental movement. It is
much like the exclusion of women’s issues by men in the civil rights

What lies at the heart of it is speciesism, on this social and political scale, is not so much a personal moral failing (vocal animal rights activists get it wrong there) so much as an unconscious submission to exclusionary norms which serve exploitative structures.

We see the same thing happening with the violation of human rights by
extraction industries (e.g in the Congo): those most affected are unconsciously excluded from our daily thought, though we all use the
minerals extracted there — such as those that power our computers.

I would like to understand why and how this happens in order to better
contest it, and thus go beyond the usual rhetoric of activism. I can
see that a lot of feminist theory and the history of women relates to
this issue of how the basic rights of others can become routinely
excluded from the consideration of those who assume power, so some
insights can be gained from that study as well.

Also, on the issue of non-violence, I like this quote from Martin Luther King Jr: “Never, never be afraid to do what is right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

This raises the whole issue of non-violent civil disobedience as a possible response. With animal rights activists, there is a whole range of responses, from overtly violent to non-violent, from reformist to revolutionary.

Written by admin

September 26th, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Being an ethical vegan means reducing your carbon footprint in other ways, in addition to diet

without comments

In this post I am going to address the problem of vegans who, depite their environmentally friendly diets, do not live as ethically as they could in other areas of their lives. I almost said “should” but this is a decision that each one of must make for him or herself. It is more effective if you tell yourself that you should or should not do something, using your own reason, than I or someone else tells you. What I will do here is present the argument that, using your capacity to reason, you can accept or reject, according to your conscience and what you judge best.

Ultimately we all compromise in a fossil-fuel society; I am doing to right now by writing on a computer, using electricity that came from a coal plant. The question is, how is it possible to reduce harm the most? I would say through five things: 1) transportation, 2) diet, 3) housing, and 4) purchase of goods, and 5) and advocacy or activism on one or more of these fronts. Here I will address transportation and housing.

As with many of my posts, this one is excerpted from an online debate. I find these debates useful to help clarify and refine certain ideas. The social ecologist Murray Bookchin one said something to the effect that his best ideas came out of debates like this, and I’d tend to agree. Our debate adversaries, while sometimes seeming disrespectful to us (especially when they use ad hominem argument) in reality do us a great services by providing us with counterviews that help us refine our ideas more.

In this debate it started with a distinction between ethical vegans and health vegans (though clearly there is great cross-over between them). The first person referred to “people who eat vegan but don’t live vegan . . .”

Meaning that if you are vegan and wear fur or buy leather or go to the zoo, then you ar not an ethical vegan. You are a health or environmental vegan. That is, your concern is not with animals, because you see nothing wrong with hurting them in other ways than eating them.

To this comment I added the environmental angle:

Paul AndBaby York Ⓥ [this is my Facebook "handle" if you want to send me a friend request, btw]

By “living vegan” it means not just caring about animals, but living by the principle of non-harm (ahimsa), in my view — thus it requires being a serious environmentalist and ethical consumer as well – i.e. Fair Trade, local shopping, as little as possible flying and driving (or none at all ideally), second-hand clothing, recycling, reduce packaging, no leather, no zoos, no animal-tested cosmetics, no products made by those who test on animals, little or no toxincs period, and so on.

It’s a lot of work to do all this in a society that is not structurally designed for it, but I think it’s worth it, if even only for one’s own peace of mind and health and the health of the few animals one saves by not endorsing their exploitation with your consumer dollars. You can’t change the whole world, but you can change the whole world of the individuals you save.

Then someone – perhaps someone who flies or drives a big car or lives in a big house with poor energy efficiency – wrote, “Paul, vegans are serious environmentalists and ethical consumers by our very nature. You are over-pontificating.”

And my answer: I have met vegans who are freqent flyers, big homehowers, big car drivers, and supporters of capitalism, and not conservationists, and even a few climate change deniers. So there is a disconnect with some, just as there is with some environmentalists who are meat-eaters. Of course most ethical vegans get it on both counts, but my points are meant to cover all the issues where there is room for improvement for vegans who don’t get this.

Another person agreed with me: I think we do need to do absolutely everything (within reason) to be green, it’s extremely important because there are so many people that are not concerned about the environment …

My original detractor again; Overblowing this, Paul. Big house? So what? Climate change deniers? Again, so what if they deny or believe. Vegan actions as everyone knows battle water pollution, global warming, world hunger, sheesh, a disconnect? Who gives a damn about that? Some of my vegan friends have big houses and cars, and they do more for this planet than the other 98% of non-vegans. Or is it that 99%? Way too much energy trying to show a misguided righteousness…

Then an ally chimed in: It makes sense for vegans to be conservative with all their actions so as to limit harm on animals. It doesnt make sense to me that someone would go out of their way to save one insect and then be consumerist, polluting, supporting habitat destruction, things that are killing thousands [in fact trillions!] of insects and other animals. You can never be perfect but you can try your best. Reducing consumerism and living simply is no more difficult than avoiding certain foods, entertainment and products.

My response to my detractor who thin‎ks big houses are okay:

Perhaps I should be clear that I mean energy-efficient housing. If ethical veganism is about non-harm to others, and we have a choice between what climate analysis called “necessary emissions” and “luxury emissions” then we are morally obligated to eliminate luxury emissions.

Climate definitely affects others because 1) it already kills 300,000 people per year (World Health Organization); 2) it is a major contributing factor in species extinction and may kill 80% or more of all species by the end of this century; and 3) in a worst case scenario if we extract and burn all fossil fuels (coal, gas, oil) that are underground now, it will result in positive feedbacks in the atmosphere that will raise the temperature so high (450 degrees Celsius) that no living thing could exist in on the surface of the Earth, within a few centuries – called the Venus Syndrome (see work of James Hansen of NASA, one of the world’s most known and respected climate scientists).

A big energy wasting house is a luxury emission — although a well insulated house might in some cases be better than a leaky apartment complex — it depends on whether it was renovated to insulate it, and how much power it uses.

The Passive House design is the world’s best on this front. See


And as to your comment, “Climate change deniers? Again, so what if they deny or believe.”

It is not a matter of belief. It is a fact that climtae change is real and cause by man-made emissions. I can believe that God is real or not; that is not provable or disprovable emperically. But it is an emperial fact that the Earth exists, whether I believe it or not. In the same way, climate change caused by man is an emperical fact, and we all have a responsibility to mitigate it.

And your comment “vegans do more for this planet than the other 98% of non-vegans.”

That’s my point. If they are ethical vegans but also still indulging in luxury emissions they don’t need to, which caused climate change, which is causing the deaths of millions of species, and endangering the lives of everyone in the future, then that is morally inconsistent. That the next level for them, ethically — not to just rest on the laurels of their veganism, but to go further in their personal lives and knowledge of the issues.

People and animals who are born in the future matter just as much as those living today. One has a moral obligation not to kill them too, if it’s avoidable – which it is. If life on Earth is to survive we all need to be concern with climate change. It is not self-righteousness to say that, anymore than it is self-righteousness to say that it’s wrong to kill other animals or even each other. Ethically, it can be demonstrated.

Some people who are concerned with climate change still eat meat; they are morally inconsistent. And some people concerned with not eating meat for moral reasons are wishy-washy on climate change and have an ethical blind spot for their luxury emissions. That is also ethically inconsistent. They are go for climate change denial – which has been proven completley wrong (see or in most cases they believe that they do enough thorugh their diets and don’t need to do more, or that it makes no difference, since the world is doomed anyway, or their contribution to it’s demise is so small, relative to the big emitters, than it doesn’t matter.

Which is a bit like a traffic jam of thousands of cars, emitting tonnes of CO2 from their tailpipes and each motorist telling himself that the little bit he emits doesn’t matter because there are so many others – and if everyone thinks that then everyone keeps on driving and adding to the problem.

Of course there are structural barriers to change that force people to drive to get from A to B, where distances are great and there is no public transportation or trains. This is where green design of cities is necessary, and green design of buildings — and the necessity to push for these things as part of the overall solution for a better world. People cannot be blamed in some cases because of these structural barriers, if they are already in that situation, but a person can choose between living in the suburbs or downtown (which is more environmentall friendly – less driving), and between taking public transport if exists or not, and between energy efficient dwellings or not, if they are buying or renovating.

These are choices that exist and in the long run the energy efficient choices pay off financially as well in energy costs and transportation costs. Housing, diet and transportation are the three most important areas where individuals can reduce carbon footprints.

What I mean to say is that a person who is considering buying a car or a house, or choosing to travel, can make these ethical choices to get the least harmful car there is (like a Mini) or car pool or take the train instead — as many do quite well — or buy a condo instead or a fixer-upper and renovate it rather than a house in the suburbs that has bad energy efficiency – which many new homes do — and in terms of travel, they can restrict themselves to a flight every 4 years (as advocated by the Heathrow airport activists) rather than several flights per year — keeping in mind that every flight is killing people in the future by putting CO2 and water vapour (a potent GHG) into the atmosphere.

Ethical veganism is about moral consistency and non-harm in every aspect of life. There is more than one way to kill animals than eating them or wearing them. We can alter the environment in such a way that it kills them as well — and we are doing that through travel and housing and over-consumption, not just in how we eat.

airLeakageHouseemissions from airplaines

Written by admin

September 19th, 2010 at 7:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Response to article justifying meat-eating

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This is the offending article:

“Can Meat Eaters Be Green?”

This was my quick response to the comments section.

On the issue of hunting:

What humans did in the past or what is considered ‘natural’ no longer applies to the modern context, due to technology.

Which is to say that a hunter-gatherer way of life is no longer possible, and neither is a meat-eating way of life, if humanity is to survive (as it meat-eating causes 18% of all global greenhouse gases, according to the IPCC).

Reason therefore demands that we abandon this vice of culture and not try to justify it with such easily refuted rationalizations.

Here is a more detailed explanation:
“Is meat-eating natural?”

On the health issue:

(i) It is unhealthy to eat meat. There is a LOT of evidence for this. See Physians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, for example:

Meat-eating and cancer risk (

One can find similar articles on obesity, diabetes, heart disease, allergies, and other ailments. Organic beef is not much better:

(ii) It is health to be a vegan, if you do it right. There is a lof of emperical evidence for this position, not the least of which is the existence of healthy vegans themselves – including myself.

I am a weightlifter and stronger and healthier now as a vegan than when I was a meat-eater 20 years ago!

Honesly, the health argument is a non-starter, but for the record, let’s state it:

“Vegetarian diets, which contain no meat (beef, pork, poultry, or fish and shellfish), are naturally low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and full of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds.

“A multitude of scientific studies have shown that vegetarian diets have remarkable health benefits and can help prevent certain diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. We encourage vegetarian diets as a way of improving general health and preventing diet-related illnesses.

“Vegan diets, which contain no animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, or other animal products), are even healthier than vegetarian diets. Vegan diets contain no cholesterol and even less fat, saturated fat, and calories than vegetarian diets because they exclude dairy and eggs.

“Scientific research shows that health benefits increase as the amount of food from animal sources in the diet decreases, making vegan diets the healthiest overall.”


[note: this is from a site by medical doctors]

3) (i) Environment — grass-fed cows are still environmentally damaging, in that they use up water and land that could be more profitably used to grow food for humans or conserved.

The environmental advantage over factory farms exists with grass-fed cows, but vegan diets are far more environmentally friendly.

Choosing environmental veganism is the more logical choice, if one is concerned about the environment.

And (ii) ethically — the instrumental use of animals in this way cannot be justified, rationally. Every argument for meat-eating reverts, eventually, to speciesism, which is the moral equivalent to racism.

Non-human animals are sentient, they have intelligence and emotional lives and they deserve to be free from harm as much as any human being does. Our society used to enslave black people. This was wrong. It is now wrong to enslave animals, for the same reason:

everyone who is a sentient being is equal in their capacity to suffer and deserves the basic respect not to be imprisoned and murdered.

This is not to “lower” humans but rather to argue that both human and non-human animals (yes we are a type of animal believe it or not) should be respected.

We are all fellow Earthlings. Darwin proved this more than 150 years ago, but our society is still lost in the dark ages of predudice.

“They (farm animals) are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined and, despite having been bred as domestic slaves, they are individual beings in their own right. As such, they deserve our respect. And our help.” – Jane Goodall

(iii) The grass-fed line is being used by Big Meat to greenwash itself, since it is a voluntary standard anyway — and consumers are justifying meat-eating as “green” in this way, when it is not.

This is just like the argument of inflating your tires to mitigate climate change! Better to get rid of the car entirely.

For a more detailed answer on this:

Arguments against grass-fed beef

Written by admin

September 9th, 2010 at 7:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Lies we tell ourselves and re-imagining what it is to be human

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The big question is not why bad things happen to good people, but rather how can decent, good people particpate in mundane forms of evil on a daily basis?

This is not because they are evil people (they are not) but because they lie to themselves daily – which is easy to do in a society that rewards self-deception and punishes those who say the emperor has no clothes.

And the number and variety of lies (i.e. rational justifications for exploitation of others) is endless. We are conditioned from an early age to think of nature and animals and people in countries as expendable.

To a certain extent, human civilization could not flourish without some exploitation of nature, but there is a big difference between sustainable and unsustainable use of natural world.

And the instrumental and degrading and murderous use of animals and other peoples cannot be justified at all.

The dominant and most egregious lie of our society used to be that black people and women and other classes were inferior (and in many cultures this evil lie is till practiced). Our present society is equally deluded with regard to other species, and still practices subtle racism and more overt classism. In fact, egalitarianism is endangered in our society and we could easily regress – which is all the more reason to argue for total egalitarianism in all areas of life.

The lies include: they are less intelligent and therefore less worthy of consideration (but the speciesism of that view becomes apparent when we consider that we would not do to a retarded human what is daily done to more intelligent pigs); or the view that it is “natural” to kill and eat other animals — this clearly is an idea that we constructed — it is called “the naturalistic fallacy” and its error is apparent when compared to the application of the same fallacy in the past to justify exploitation of other human beings.

Our civilization badly in need of moral evolution. That fact is coming home with full force, due to the climate crisis. We have reached the limits of the Earth’s “carrying capacity.”

It is now time re-evalue what it means to be human, and to begin to respect the right of other Earthlings to live on this planet as well, free from exploitation. In fact our very survival depends on it.

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September 9th, 2010 at 7:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Towards an explanation for why otherwise decent people can “love one and eat another”

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How can people eat one and love another? This is the paradox of animal-loving meat-eaters.

The issue has been approached as a moral one by activists. Meat-eaters are thought to be morally reprehensible. Here is another explanation, more sociological and psychological in nature. In a way, it lets meat-eaters off the hook morally, but showing how they are victims of delusory thinking, which, however, they can overcome.

Most people categorize reality in their minds according to structures given by society, and specifically dominant institutions within society – which today are governments and corporations.

Within these categorizations it’s possible to pet the piglet or dog and fawn over them (fetishize them) and then eat bacon the same day, because the bacon is not from a living breathing animal in their minds — or if so, that animal is somehow separated from the cute ones.

The factory farm victims become objects, to be instrumentally used. We can look at it and realize the contradiction, but why don’t most people? How is it possible that they don’t see it?

This is a fascinating and important thing to understand. How does this happen? How can you “love one and eat the other”? It’s not because these people are evil. It’s because they have adopted these mental categories given to them from outside themselves.

And here is the key to it: acceptance of what is called STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE as ethically okay, as acceptable. The rights of the victim of structural violence is dismissed because that victim is thought properly to exist within that structure – he is thought to be a victim from birth — he is bred for that – that is his pre-determined fate. But the cute animal exists in another context — as as cute animal — and is placed into a diffent mental box or category. This one: food; that one: cute.

No contradiction because neither are seen as individuals, who have their own lives. Humans do this to other humans too, not only to animals.

It’s like the unconscious person operates through these categories and everything has to fit into one piegeon-hole or another. Within this way of thinking, the violence done to the factory farm pig is not the same as the puppy-throwing girl, whom they condemn as evil (I am referring to the case of the Bosnian girl who was famously caught on video throwing puppies into a raging river).

They have INTERNALIZED and NATURALIZED these strutures of reality as “just the way things are” and should be — unconsciously. We are trained to do this from a young age. Seeing through it is a big leap many don’t wish to make. It’s far easier to just conform to structural violence and not have to take responsibility for your actions, the harm they cause.

This is because people are lazy and as Kant says “they want to be duped” – to be misled and told what reality it. It’s easier. It’s more comfortable. Standing outside those norms is harder, and is frowned on by society as well. AR activists are scapegoated, for example, for taking a strong moral stand on the issues. It is considered weird, but eating the corpse of an intelligent sensitive and sentient Earthling is not. The structures of a human society, if uncritically accepted, can make anything seem normal and acceptable, including racism and slavery

The AR activist or any other kind of activist sees through those categories to the sameness of the two acts, and is frustrated with the person whose mental categories have not yet been broken down – who can’t see that killing a pig one moment and petting a dog another are inconsistent.

The confrontation between the AR activist and the person who eats meat sometimes results in the meat-eater questioning the categories – starting to break them down – or in many cases reinforcing them, feeling defensive and bolstering the prejudices with additional arguments.

Un-learning the structures that we are taught is a process many people simply do not wish to undergo because reality is made secure and comfortable through those categories and questioing authority and dominant structures is frightening. It starts to unravel the framework of reality for them — a place they don’t want to go, psychologically.

The irony and paradox here is that sometimes the most senstive people do the worst things because they are so sensitive, they need security so much. Here we get into the emotional reasons for why people accept convenient lies so easily and reject inconvenient truths.

For example, I know two people; one is vegetarian and is trying to go vegan (we’ll call her Mary) and the other still eats meat and even has some fur items in her home (we’ll call her Martha). But the second one, Martha, the meat-eating one, is more sensitive than Mary, by nature, more likely to succumb to the cute puppy emotionally.

So what is going on? Martha want security and thus gives into the structure of realy imposed from without more readily than Mary, the person who is less in need of affirmations of emotional security – this one is “harder” emotionally but also for this reason more able to question injustice and dominant structures and categories.

Very ironic because one would noramally think that the emotionally “harder” of the two, Mary, would be the more likely to be less compassionate than Martha, the “softer” one. It’s the opposite though. Martha one is less able to face the reality of violence than Mary and thus has learned to shut it out, to block it, by uncritically accepting the imposed categories which allow for structural violence. In the end, her sensitivity leads her to do more harm than Mary.

This can also be used to explain how people block the reality of climate change change and environmental destruction through various false rationalizations, as well as also slave labour and exploitation of workers from their minds, and unconsiously participate in evil as consumers, while at the same time being “good” people who are loving and kind within their own lives.

Now what’s really fascinating is that the AR activist him/herself has broken down these constucted categories in their minds and see the inconsistency of eating one and loving the other — BUT is neverthelees still subject to a great many categories still unquestioned, still not broken down.

This is because human beings are animals who use categories to navigate through life. If we did not, we could not function, practically. So we AR activists still have many prejudices we have not yet begun to question. What are they?

That is, can you idenitfy areas in your life where you cause harm but dismiss the harm in some way? What kinds of harm are unavoidable and which are avoidable, with some effort? How can you be more like Mary and less like Martha?

And how can Mary persuade Martha that it’s wrong to eat meat without at the same time condemning Martha and making her run into her emotional bubble where she can shut the door, supported by rationalizations from a speciesist society?

How can Mary make ethical veganism seem like a “safe space” for Martha to inhabit? After all Martha, lets her emotions make decisions for her. This is why the movie Earthlings is so important: those who see it have a strong emotional reaction to it. Meat-eating is no longer seen as a safe space, so they abandon it.

eat one love another

Written by admin

September 2nd, 2010 at 10:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized