What to Do on Kentucky Derby Day

We humans excel at making use of other animals, extracting wealth through that use, exhausting them, disposing of them. This week, the 145th Kentucky Derby will showcase these habits.

Frivolous, frenzied pressure surrounds the horse called Omaha Beach, who is dubbed most likely to win. Because the racing industry is all about ROI, this horse and the others will run so hard their lungs bleed. Racetracks use a diuretic called Lasix to stop the horses from bleeding through their noses.

UPDATE: Just three days before the 2019 Kentucky Derby, Omaha Beach was removed from the race, having come down with breathing problems associated with a trapped epiglottis. Inflammation of airway structures can cause a horse’s epiglottis to get stuck in folds of tissue, according to Equus Magazine.

Trainer Richard Mandella calls Omaha Beach “a kind horse. A horse that’s easy to be around.” Evidently we are just sensitive enough to perceive kindness in the other animals—even as we amuse ourselves at their expense. Even as horses continue to die in professional racing. Fatalities include Kentucky Derby horses Barbaro (April 29, 2003 – January 29, 2007) and Eight Belles (February 23, 2005 – May 3, 2008)…

And as long as the horse breeding business exists, so will the auctions and the killer buyers. Tens of thousands of horses, including racehorses, go to slaughter each year. With horse slaughter disallowed in the United States (it stopped in 2006), the unwanted animals just get a longer, more excruciating journey over the Canadian and Mexican borders for a slaughter. Don’t kid yourself about this. That $3 million purse isn’t buying sanctuaries for four-year old horses, either.

The racetrack industry is under scrutiny for drugging horses in the Triple Crown events. HR 1754, the Horse Racing Integrity Act, would create a nationwide standard for testing in racing horses, implemented by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Churchill Downs, Inc. opposes the Horse Racing Integrity Act. The major animal-advocacy groups back the bill.

Given the temptation to push boundaries to win, the racing industry will keep tormenting horses—drugs or no drugs. If we’d ask serious questions, we’d find no integrity exists in horse racing.

And this Saturday’s Derby would be the last.

This Saturday, let’s all refuse to don bonnets. Let’s decline to stick mint leaves in glasses. Let’s stop making light of this event, making bets on this event, and allowing its realities to go unmentioned. Let’s act upon a baseline of decency, speak up in our social circles, and start treating horse racing as the blood sport it is.

A Call for the End of Deer Control

No one needs a scientific survey to notice that very few deer at Valley Forge National Historical Park have aged beyond two years. The photo here was taken before 2010—the year Valley Forge started shooting its deer.

According to park officials there were 1,277 deer when they first baited the hapless beings and shot all they could, looking to reduce this long-established group to fewer than 185.

Any individual deer who survives one such annual massacre is highly unlikely to make it through the next. The lifespan of a deer is about 16; Valley Forge’s deer are infants and adolescents. For them, preserving intergenerational memory is out of the question.

Continue reading at CounterPunch.

A Vegan View of Deer, Coyotes, and Bobcats

Deer-stalking season is back. Time to remember defending the free is the core of the vegan ethic.

A vegan humanity wouldn’t breed chickens, emus, cows, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, llamas, or, for that matter, Chihuahuas. Nor would it pack ammunition and go chasing after hapless herbivores.

A vegan humanity wouldn’t compete against wolves, coyotes, and bobcats to keep the above-listed animals available for our use and amusement.

And if our hero, a pleasanter humanity, stops warring on wolves, coyotes, and untamed cats, then the claim that moose, elk, and deer have no natural predators would be history.

Now, some people stalk animals regardless of their numbers, because they think it’s fun, so they must have been led to regard an object that can kill as a toy—but people with this ugly view would not be brought up by our hero.

Canids Come Back

Long ago there were wolves here on the eastern side of the North American continent. Our anti-hero killed them off.

But you can’t keep a good bio-community down.

The Great Lakes wolves have mingled with eastern coyotes, producing coyote-wolf hybrids. Deer make up about a third of their food. These coyotes are apex AF.

So, why are there still so many deer?

 

Coyote on deck: Steve Jurvetson / Wikimedia Commons

The states’ hunting and trapping rules are dead-set against coyotes. About half of the coyote population winds up dead each year in Pennsylvania.

Bobcats are targets too—so there’s a community of capable carnivores under fire.

Federal managers ought to be heeding the growing body of scientific knowledge of the harm done when lands lose big predators. They ought to work with state agencies to reverse the current obsession with snaring, poisoning, hunting, and trapping them. We need to make this point heard.

Philadelphia’s Bloody Green Space

Know what shooting does? It creates a huge population of deer to keep shooting.

At the Wissahickon Valley Park, the northwest section of the city’s Fairmount Park, indigenous deer are baited and shot each winter.

Here’s the story, as recorded by Bridget Irons, archivist for Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer.

  • 1994: Friends of the Wissahickon called Natural Resource Consultants, Inc. for a deer population survey after people around the park observed—Oh, my!—deer.
  • 1996: An aerial survey counted 159 deer.
  • 1998: The Fairmount Park Commission, deciding on a limit of 30 deer, approved a one-time cull of the Fairmount Park deer.
  • 1999 – 2017: The official tally is 3,469 deer killed in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park.

It starts because the human “cultural carrying capacity” is so low (the number 30 as the limit on deer in the largest urban green space in the world). And then it becomes a vicious cycle of killing, deer repopulating at a frantic pace, and ever more killing.

Watch the same dynamic at the nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park, and throughout the townships surrounding Philadelphia. Residents complain. They don’t like their gardens nibbled. And eventually there’s a killing contract with the U.S. Agriculture Department—usually starting with a time limit, but carrying on indefinitely, with lot of money and personnel hours diverted to the projects. (For the Fairmount Park shootings, Philadelphia’s police aviation unit has been pulled in.)

How much should public pressure influence managers to impair what nature produces?

And how do we have a dialogue with the communities that manage to exert such violent pressure?

A Deer’s Reproductive System Is None of Our Business

Many advocacy groups prefer to promote deer birth control instead of shooting. They claim obstructing deer reproduction is a humane way of reducing their numbers.

It’s not. Scientists have published harrowing post mortems of deer subjected to chemical birth control.

And in the bigger picture, the attitude that humans should manage nature puts coyotes out of a job. Predators need us to stop repressing them, and to empower them to regroup and return to their natural roles.

And in the even bigger (and vegan) picture: Why on Earth would we want a pharmaceutical plan to control the destinies of untamed animals?

We might believe the public isn’t ready for coyotes.But then it’s our work to create understanding. Coyotes aren’t trying to create additional risks for us. Mainly they’re avoiding run-ins with us, moving at night where they live near us. Humans need to take a page from their book and be better minders of our own business.

 

Our War on Deer Is a Product of Domestication

Brace yourself. With autumn comes the early “official” deer kills. They will go on through the winter.

The deer of Valley Forge National Historical Park (photographed in the banner image by Jeff Houdret) are among the communities annually targeted by the United States government.

The vast majority of deer in the Park get shot down again every year. This means very few, if any, deer who stay in the Park will live past age two.

The assault on the deer themselves and on their community’s evolution is grotesque.

Deer Kills Aren’t a “Single Issue”; They’re a Vegan Issue

Deer killing starts because we have created cows, goats, domesticated sheep, domesticated fowl etc. for people to eat and wear, and pets as well. All these animals, human property, must be protected from carnivores and omnivores who run free. (How dare they!)

So we wipe out the wolves and then we establish policies to kill those who rise up to take their place.

Coyotes, in most of the northern Americas.

Then we have “too many deer”? No, we have too few carnivores.

I’m working on a presentation on this connection, tentatively scheduled for Sunday 29 October, at SuTao Cafe in Malvern, PA, to kick off to World Vegan Month in Chester County.

The presentation will be informed by the work of two groups who have directly confronted government assaults on deer: Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer (PAD), and Compassion for Animals – Respect for the Environment (Chester County CARE).

Forced Sterilization of Deer Is Another Insult

Most other deer protection projects have rallied around pharmaceutical control as the “solution to the deer problem” but that answer oppresses and erases deer, just as mass killing does.

And the deer contraception crusade allows the public to retain the idea that animals such as wolves and coyotes have no business living.

Animal liberationists and environmentalists alike should be cultivating human respect for carnivores including coyotes. These beings have roles to play in a balanced bio-community. Our society must stop pretending that managing and micromanaging the balance of nature is humanity’s work.

— Lee.

A Vegan Ethic for the Untamed

It’s deer-killing season. What’s an activist to do? Sometimes the call to use birth control seems the only available delay tactic when people are loading the guns.

But it’s coexistence with predators that we need to insert into advocacy. We might believe the public isn’t ready for coyotes. The public isn’t fond of running into deer on roads either. Natural predation would reduce that risk. Coyotes aren’t trying to create additional risks. Mainly they’re avoiding run-ins with us, moving at night where they live near us.

And greater danger lies ahead if we do not let predators live and thrive.

Click here for full piece published today on Free from Harm.


Free from Harm is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization promoting farmed animal rescue, education and advocacy and registered in the state of Illinois. The banner photo on this preview was taken by Jeff Houdret and is used here with permission of the photographer.

A New Animal Liberation: Why?

On Earth Day weekend 2016, the Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance invited me to the Cleveland Heights library to offer a presentation (public; free vegan pizza and homemade dishes) on Why We Need an Animal Liberation for the 21st Century.

So we focused on the subtitle and reasons to recharge the phrase animal liberation.

Discussions of rights so often veer into questions about who qualifies. We laud certain animals for demonstrating (often at great cost to the animals themselves) that they can decipher and respond to our cues, or adapt to our domestic environments, or act like us. Our assessments of what animals deserve can trap them again. As Catharine MacKinnon observed more than a decade ago, the model that “makes animals objects of rights in standard liberal moral terms—misses animals on their own terms.”

And lately I’ve beenKai and Candice leaning to liberation as our real objective: it evokes those living on nature’s terms, autonomous, free.

We can credit Peter Singer as a catalyst for a rising conversation, in the English-speaking world, of animals’ interests and human responsibility. Singer personally underscored this in the New York Review of Books three decades after having published Animal Liberation.

The thing is, the theme of Peter Singer’s 1975 book was not so much liberation as pain management.

Slide4

To Singer, Animal Liberation promotes a principle that most people already accept: we should minimize suffering. This became the keynote argument for the animal-rights advocacy that followed.

The next slide, quoting Singer at Taking Action for Animals (sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, 2006), highlights a point of contention. While many advocates agreed with Singer’s opinion that pain sensitivity is what draws our ethical consideration, some wouldn’t wave off our role in their deaths this readily. Slide5

Many advocacy groups followed Singer, though, and never established precepts against killing. The Animal Legal Defense Fund wrote up a Bill of Rights for Animals that accepts killing though livestock must be stunned into unconsciousness prior to slaughter.

Humane slaughter is an oxymoron

Yes!

The idea that causing a conscious being’s death is allowable under the “liberation” banner is bizarre, yet taken for granted in a lot of advocacy. To this day, exposés don’t decry the killing so much as the way animals are killed.

Peter Singer’s “equal consideration” for nonhuman interests will essentially regard animals as containers of pain and pleasure. To cut down on the most suffering, the activist is urged to oppose glaring abuses in animal husbandry. Here’s the point as originally stated in Singer’s Animal Liberation:Slide6

To a large extent, even rights advocacy (while taking great pains to differentiate itself from Singer’s brand of utilitarianism) reflects Singer’s model.

Slide8

– Peter Singer. nybooks.com/articles/2003/05/15/animal-liberation-at-30/

Singer, who wrote Animal Liberation during a key decade for human equality movements, says equal consideration ought to be extended to nonhuman animals. But according to Singer this consideration will only the cover interests we deem similar to those we seek to protect for ourselves.

This might seem logical on its face, but I’m not convinced it’s a fair (or even relevant) way to judge the interests of other animals who have no need for our assessments.

Nautical Dogs and Sterile Deer

Animal-advocacy theorists have presented hypothetical emergencies to justify our preference for putting humans first. Picture a lifeboat that can’t carry an entire group of humans and a dog to safety. Who gets to stay in the boat?

Tom Regan’s Case for Animal Rights came out in 1983. In Regan’s version, the dog loses. Regan assigns a human and dog equal moral significance: we all experience our lives. Yet Regan distinguishes the value of the lives lived by the humans and dog from the value of beings themselves. And then allows the sacrifice of any number of dogs to save the human. Slide10

This assertion was repeated quite recently by Gary L. Francione and Anna Charlton, who, in Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals (2013), say they “will not challenge these widely-shared moral intuitions” that “may tell us that in situations of genuine conflict between humans and animals, humans win. But our intuitions also tell us that in situations in which there is no conflict, we cannot inflict suffering on animals simply because we get enjoyment from doing so.”

Here’s the message the 21st century is sending to animal advocacy: There is hardly any uncontested space on this planet. There are more than seven billion of us, and everywhere, humans are “winning” while everyone else is disappearing.

People now impose contraception on deer so we can CLE Leespread ourselves out without having to deal with the “conflict” of animals in our way. Or we oust untamed animals in the name of human rights. In India, a Tribal Rights Bill was introduced to redress discrimination by allocating land to several million indigenous forest-dwellers—while annihilating the region’s last few hundred tigers. Is erasure of tigers acceptable because the tigers would have had less possible sources of satisfaction than the indigenous people? Or does ethical decision-making require a thought process more complex than that?

Under new global climate patterns, lifeboat scenarios will happen a lot. Environmental crises are unfolding more quickly than could have been predicted when many animal-rights texts were written.

Chapter Nine of On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century reviews advocates’ agreement to control the fertility of free-living animals over the years. In 1975, Singer suggested that animals have an interest in our research and development of fertility control over free-living communities.Slide16

The assumption that free-living animals might wreck their environment and need us to step in as supervisors matches the claims of administrative officials ready to lower the boom on animals in woods, parks, and fragments of green space. In 2008, when deer were targeted near Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, rights advocate Tom Regan accepted the premise that the local deer must be controlled, but argued that it should be done by pharmaceutical means. The contraceptive substance porcine zona pellucida (PZP), made from the membranes of pig ovaries, triggers the deer’s immune system, forcing the body to attack the deer’s own eggs.

Slide17

The Swarthmorean, 18 Dec. 2008

Regan’s position startled and disappointed me—for Regan’s book The Case for Animal Rights had urged: “With regard to wild animals, the general policy recommended by the rights view is: let them be!” But support for human-controlled reproduction in free-living communities had precedent in animal-rights legal work. In the 1990s, Gary Francione and Anna Charlton, on behalf of their Animal Law Project at Rutgers, explained their action on behalf of Pity Not Cruelty, Inc. to change deer-control policy in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania:

“We are assisting the plaintiffs in the Lower Merion challenge in the dissemination of information concerning non-lethal methods to decrease any deer/human conflicts, including the possible use of immunocontraception where the deer population can be verified to have increased considerably.”

This presents the deer’s very act of reproducing as a possible situation of true conflict. The stance ignores the obvious—balancing the deer population isn’t up to humans; it’s the role of native carnivores and omnivores.

Today, communities are demanding the systematic spaying of deer.

Slide20

A liberatory theory ought to call for the neutering of cats (TNR) or to prevent dogs from mating, they already lack the ability to reproduce and raise their young on their terms. Phasing out the breeding of animals as pets would, essentially, put wildcats and wolves off-limits to selective breeding to suit our whims. But contraception for free-living animals is animal control—nothing more, nothing less. Note the importance of distinguishing selectively bred animals from communities of animals who could actually experience autonomy, and shouldn’t be denied that opportunity.

I’ll let the next slide speak for itself.

Slide21

But for context, let’s talk about how much room we take up on this planet, thanks to some work made available by Californians for Population Stabilization.

Slide22Humanity’s mass (we’re the red bar segments in the next chart) has eclipsed the collective weight of all Earth’s free-living land mammals (green segments).

Slide24

Add to this the weight of our entourage of purpose-bred animals (blue segments).

Witness our expansion as we press the rest of Earth’s bio-community off the chart.

Can we so readily accept the claim of “too many of them”?

Shoppers gonna shop. Can we accept that some (really fancy) husbandry improvements support the liberation mission, sort of?

OK, let’s look at an e-mail I received from Whole Foods Market in London on 15 April 2016, just one week before Earth Day. Slide25It says…

“While organic dairy cows yield on average a third less than intensive production, the benefits of organic dairy are huge. In order for a dairy to achieve organic certification the herd must be pasture-grazed throughout the grazing season.”

The cows are on pastures (read: sprawl – and let’s explain it as such to our shopping friends), and they only “yield” a third of what densely confined cows produce. So, if all the cow’s milk shoppers switched to organic, they’d effectively demand three times as many cows? Look at these cows.

The next slide joins the two above advocacy positions: (a) constricting the populations of free-living animals, and (b) allocating more space to animal husbandry. Both positions, and certainly the two combined, support human claims to habitat and, in turn, the disappearing of the untamed.

Slide27

Both campaigns arguably advance ye olde humane-treatment principle “based on values that most people accept” but neither supports true animal welfare. The vegan response to these campaigns is non-participation. (That doesn’t mean doing nothing! We need to give our active support both to vegan-organic farming and predator coexistence initiatives.)

Slide31Peter Singer and Jim Mason, in The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, suggest animal husbandry could be a beneficial system for the animals involved. Hogwash. The hills were the habitat of wolves and wildcats before we came in with our animal husbandry.

As for an incremental step on the way to rights for animals, let’s be clear: no improvement in the conditions for purpose-bred animals cuts the mustard. The more connected to nature the farm is, the more reasons for the farm owner to set traps or call the “nuisance control” professionals.

Free-living animals lose where they’re overlapped by controlled ones, as the owners continually introduce problems into habitats.

Slide34

No authentic rights await purpose-bred animals; the concept is an absurdity we can accept only as long as we accept purpose-breeding.

Cultivating Active Respect

One rights scholar has said: “If we are going to make good on our claim to take animal interests seriously, then we have no choice but to accord animals one right: the right not to be treated as our property.” Will this resolve all the problems?

Slide36

Reindeer were domesticated back in 14000 BC; dogs were bred from wolves about 13000 BC—long before modern conceptions of rights and property.

Because domination is a deeper, broader problem than property status, we’d best think of abolitionism—the call to stop treating animals as commodities—as a component of animal liberation. We’ve got to get over our practice of warring against other beings, displacing them, hijacking their reproduction and demolishing their spaces. Authentic animal-liberation theory conceives of affirmative action to facilitate animals’ flourishing on their own terms. This means cultivating active respect for animals’ connections with their own communities, for their interests in the climate, in the land, water, and air they require to experience freedom.

Slide37And while the interest in shifting other animals’ legal status from property to person is worthwhile, the outcome will be limited if we base our claims on their remarkable abilities to adapt to human environments. Or if we focus on pain control. Slide38

The argument for nonhuman personhood, in the 21st century, will defend the life experiences for which animals themselves evolved, free from our assessments or supervision.
CLE convenors

Thank you . . .

to Cleveland’s vegan community for encouraging this exploration of our movement and the writing of the book itself. Having a launch date helped to move the new work from a computer file to a book! Bill, thank you for choosing the graph slide and explaining its elements during the presentation. Thanks to all our animal writers, including those not mentioned and those critiqued here, for their contributions to the advocacy dialogue. This writing is not an attempt to compete or compare. It’s intended, in the vegan spirit of collective progress, to help refine our wayfinding, knowing that involves dynamic and sometimes knotty discussions.


Photos of the Earth Day Celebration and book launch in Cleveland Heights courtesy of the Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance. THANKS TO ARKIVE.ORG FOR OFFERING A HUB FOR PHOTOgraphers of animals in Habitat, and encouraging the sharing of these images. Encampments meme: Tiffany Warner on PINTEREST, Pinned from KnowYourMeme.Com

Animal Liberation Follies

Professional advocacy now congratulates itself for its hands-on manipulation of animal fertility. It’s a false anti-cruelty position that strives to replace guns, arrows and traps with high-tech animal removal. What gives anyone the right to impose birth control on untamed animals? What gives career advocates that right?

Read more at Dissident Voice  today.