Sunday, March 8, 2020

Torturous Animal Experiments Continue in Secrecy at Rutgers University

The Vegan Vine
"As a graduate student, I ordered ten rats, like so many test tubes, for experimental use because they were 'laboratory rats' and I was a 'researcher'," confessed Joan Dunayer in the introduction of her book, Animal Equality: Language and Liberation. "Those labels permitted self-disguise. I didn't see myself as an abuser—not yet. Then I observed vivisection for the first time. At the University of Pennsylvania every veteran vivisector in the psychology department treated rats with callous indifference. I heard rats scream as their ears were hole-punched for identification. I saw them flung by the tail into metal boxes that fit them like coffins. There they stayed 23 hours a day, unable to look out. So that they would work for food, some rats were kept half starved. Others received electric shocks. Still others were subjected to painful injury such as stomach puncture. Termed 'procedures' and 'methods,' all forms of torture escaped moral judgment." After reading Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, Dunayer finally realized that she had "failed to consider most nonhuman animals, the vast majority of the world's living beings. My actions," she wrote, "had displayed as arrogant, self-serving, and self-deceiving a mindset as sexism or racism. The concept of nonhuman rights completed my shift in worldview. No conscious being should be treated like an exploitable thing."

The animal activist group Stop Animal Exploitation NOW! (SAEN) recently filed a federal complaint against Rutgers University after three nonhuman animals were discovered to have endured horrific deaths in Rutgers University laboratories: a rabbit was boiled alive during cage sterilization, a goat died after becoming stuck in a feeder, and a pig died when her bowel was accidentally perforated during an experiment.

These deaths are only the tip of the iceberg. While the rabbit, goat, and pig fatalities were considered "accidents" and negligent violations of federal regulations, their deaths were not illegal because nonhuman animals are still considered property under American law. The University's use of these and other animals in unnecessary, wasteful, and costly experiments directly result in the untimely and obscure deaths of thousands of living beings every year. When I speak to Rutgers students and alumni, they are shocked to learn that Rutgers conducts animal experiments. The business of torturing other animals is not something Rutgers advertises, but it should outrage every student, alumni, and taxpayer who supports the University.

Vivisection is the restriction of individuals to confined environments and the routine infliction of pain, injury, deprivation, and death for experimentation. Vivisection commonly involves torture under the guise of "science," yet it is inherently unscientific. Many LGUs (Land-Grant Universities) devise all kinds of schemes—including creating new diseases—to acquire "research" monies to torment nonhuman animals and fund archaic experiments. Research is big business, so breeders, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, universities, and others who profit generously from vivisection will do anything to keep the money flowing in.

Laboratories are living hells. Some nonhuman animals are born there and never leave. Many spend their entire lives surrounded by concrete and steel, subjected to nonstop physical and emotional pain. Reactions to trauma include persistent gagging from repeatedly having tubes stuck down their throats; chewed off fingernails from anxiety; rocking, and banging their heads on cell walls. In addition, hypervigilance, depression, and self-abuse—biting themselves—have also been exhibited in nonhuman animals manipulated in laboratories. These symptoms of distress have also been observed in human animals who have undergone physical and sexual abuse, war, and other traumatic experiences because suffering is universal, no matter who is experiencing it.

Before the Trump Administration removed the website, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) kept an online database called the Animal Care Information System, which provided an annual list of the types and numbers of nonhuman animals experimented on by universities. When I last accessed the online database four years ago, I found that at least 6 nonhuman primates, 12 guinea pigs, and 14 rabbits were exploited for research at Rutgers in 2014. In 2010, 9 nonhuman primates, 12 cats, 3 pigs, 114 guinea pigs, 86 rabbits, and 445 "other" sentient beings (deer, gerbils, voles, and mice) were left to languish in laboratory cages, experimented on, and/or subjected to pain, and killed at Rutgers. The database had included countless numbers of nonhuman animals used and discarded at Rutgers going as far back as 1999.

In response to the federal complaint, the University insists that "the highest standards of science, safety, service, and humane care for the animals in our care are met." Despite what Rutgers spin doctors claim, nonhumans confined to laboratories and subjected to experimentation are not—by their very use, oppression, and enslavement—treated humanely.

Like the sadistic activities enshrouded behind slaughterhouse walls, unethical and unjust laboratory operations are purposely concealed from the public. And, similarly to the younger Joan Dunayer, students and workers who participate in vivisection are often in denial themselves, rejecting their victims' very capacity to suffer. Vivisectors employ speciesist language to mitigate their killing for professional and financial gain and exhibit moral schizophrenia when they insist they "love animals" while justifying their participation in animal abuse and exploitation.

"Whatever their intellectual capacity, humans are spared vivisection because we consider it morally repugnant to inflict suffering or death on any innocent human," wrote Dunayer. "Nonhumans deserve equal justice. . . . They need—now—to be spared deprivation, pain, and death. They need—right now—to be freed. Evil is no less evil when its victims are nonhuman."

As a former alumna, I have since renounced Rutgers for their flagrant cruelty and disregard for nonhuman life throughout their corporate-laden "animal science" programs. I have grown weary with Rutgers' cozy and symbiotic relationships with "research" facilities, the pharmaceutical industry, and government agencies like the USDA and the National Institutes of Health. The fact that student tuition, alumni donations, and taxpayer money is funneled into funding outright torture of other animals should disgust everyone, not just those affiliated with Rutgers.

I implore the Daily Targum and other organizations to do a thorough undercover investigation into these injustices. Regardless of financial constraints, journalistic institutions like the Daily Targum have an obligation to expose wrongdoing and inform its student body and alumni of what their money is aiding and promoting. I hope students and alumni will join me in withdrawing their financial support of Rutgers University and demanding an end to the sanctioned abuse and exploitation of nonhuman animals everywhere.

How Do I Go Vegan?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

What the Coronavirus, the Film Contagion, and Infectious Diseases All Have in Common

The Vegan Vine
In the final scene of the 2011 thriller Contagion, we learn that the deadly virus that killed 2.5 million people in the United States and 26 million worldwide by day 26 had originated in a Chinese "meat market." The "chef," who had been handling the corpse of the infected pig, wipes the pig's blood and saliva on his apron and heads out of the kitchen to meet with Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), a customer who requests a picture and to shake his hand. Beth becomes patient zero.

Two things came to mind when I initially heard about the Coronavirus, a zoonotic disease that is rapidly spreading across the globe and whose source has also been traced to a "meat market" in China where nonhuman animals were sold for human consumption. The first, was the movie Contagion, which relied heavily on science and was praised by experts for its authenticity. The second, was the inevitability of such an outbreak due in no small part to our insufferable and systematic exploitation and abuse of other animals.

In "Beyond Humanism, Toward a New Animalism" David Cantor wrote:
Humans’ various holocausts against nonhuman animals . . . brought limitless disaster upon human beings, who until relatively recently were ignorant of organisms invisible to the naked eye. Hundreds of infectious diseases that chickens, pigs, cows, rabbits, camels, sheep, goats, horses, dogs, and others had adapted to over millions of years wreaked havoc on humans who assumed they could enslave other animals with impunity. Supernatural explanations arose for smallpox, bubonic plague, influenza, and other scourges that in actuality were zoonotic.
In "Animal Abuse: It's Why We Have Infectious Diseases," Cantor went on to describe the root cause of much human suffering brought about by our animal-abuse policies, cultures, and practices. Here are just some of the more well-known zoonotic diseases he addressed:

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome):
The best-documented and most likely theory holds that human beings acquired the HIV virus which causes AIDS from unnatural contact with chimpanzees — namely butchering them for their flesh ("bushmeat"), enslaving them as pets, or attracting them to settlements or crops, most likely starting in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Threatening Nature of Vegans and Truth

I was interviewing for a job and was prepared for the ubiquitous question: tell me a little about yourself. I mentioned a few interests, like organizing, reading, and writing, but it wasn't enough to satisfy my interviewer. I hesitated to mention my being vegan and knew if hired that it would eventually come up, but I went for it anyway. The interviewer seemed intrigued and as most "animal" conversations go, she related to a former dog companion whom she had loved and discussed at length.

"It must be a great sacrifice to be vegan," she finally stated, almost questioningly.

"It isn't a sacrifice, but a great joy," I beamed. "Going vegan is one of the best decisions I ever made because I no longer contribute to animal suffering through what I eat." I could see the wheels turning.

"Well, it's a choice, right?" she asked, rather rhetorically and smugly. "And that's your choice."

I smiled, noting the usual self-protective posturing. "Yes," I said.

Nonvegan rebuttals like the one above are both confounding and instructive, and provide interesting studies in psychology. When confronted with my being vegan, the interviewer quickly sought to make me "the other" so she didn't have to examine her own behaviors. Likewise, she sought to separate herself from me by implying that my being vegan is my own "personal choice," instead of a moral requirement. This begs the question: why would anyone want to defend a choice to do harm to others?

Years of experience has taught me that people need to put distance between themselves and what I'm espousing so they don't have to examine their own self-deceits. When someone insists that my being vegan follows my own "personal beliefs," I promptly point out that we both share the same beliefs. When I ask them if they believe that causing other animals unnecessary harm is wrong, they agree. Thus, when I point out that eating the flesh, milk, and eggs of other animals is unnecessary, causing billions of animals to be needlessly tormented and killed every year, they typically get defensive. The only difference is that I'm acting on our shared values and beliefs, while they are not.

"A person who tells you that eating animal products is a personal choice is experiencing a state of cognitive dissonance," wrote Robert Grillo in "Eating Animals and the Illusion of Personal Choice" (Circles of Compassion: Essays Connecting Issues of Justice, 2014). ". . . they have made this issue personal precisely in response to vegans making it public. Making the issue personal is a nice way of saying, 'I don't want to be judged or held accountable for my actions that harm animals.' So this is not so much an attempt to defend eating animals as it is a defense intended to block any further discussion or evaluation. Moreover, personalization removes animals from public discourse and keeps them tucked away in our closet of denial and silence."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

"Farmers" Don't Deserve Public's Money or Pity

The Vegan Vine
Overgrown hooves and anxious looks.  © Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
The words "farm" and "farmer" typically portend nostalgic and romantic notions of an American way of life. In the 1980's, like many teenagers, I was a fan of FarmAid concerts that sought to keep families from losing their farms. Songs like "Scarecrow" by John Mellencamp immortalized the financial struggles of farmers. Over the years I've seen many local farms disappear to human development.

When I became vegetarian, then vegan, I found that not all farms and farmers are created equal. I learned to let go of idealized, culturally-programmed concepts of these terms that—like the Old MacDonald nursery rhyme and Oscar Meyer jingle—conjure up naive and harmless impressions. Instead, when I came face to face with the truth of what most "farms" and "farmers" do, I uncovered violent operations where millions of nonhuman animals are needlessly bred, enslaved, and killed for their flesh, milk, and eggs.

There is a world of difference between farmers who grow fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables, or operate local, plant-based CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) and "farmers" who oppress, manipulate, and massacre other sentient beings for a living.

"Divorced from the land, numerous 'animal agriculture' operations have no farming component," wrote Joan Dunayer in Animal Equality: Language and Liberation. "Yet, the exploitation of captive nonhumans for food retains the name agriculture, evoking pastoral images of cows grazing, pigs rooting, and chickens pecking in the spacious outdoors. . . . Farm is largely an anachronism. . . . 'Farmers' and 'producers' who deal in flesh, milk, or eggs actually are slaveholders. Slaughterers are mass murderers. Assisted by words that falsify, consumers of products from nonhuman bodies pretend otherwise."

On May 23, President Trump authorized a $16 billion aid package for "farmers" to tide them over during his trade war with China—this is in addition to the $12 billion they were given last year. It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to bail out food-industry enslavers, otherwise known as "farmers," who uphold the catastrophic animal flesh, milk, and egg cartels. Nor is it our responsibility to finance those who abet these cartels by turning their soybean and corn yields over to feed companies to fatten nonhuman animals for slaughter. In fact, 75 percent of all soy and 95 percent of all corn grown in the United States is used strictly to fill captive nonhuman animals ("live-stock"), in spite of the fact that if this grain were consumed directly by humans, we could feed nearly 800 million people, potentially wiping out human hunger across the world. Furthermore, subsidies to soy and corn farmers indirectly help lower costs for those who breed nonhuman animals for consumption.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

NJ Gov and Legislators Help Some Animals, Ignore Others

Earlier this month, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed another piece of legislation for nonhuman animals. wrongly noted that Bills S1923 and S2674 were signed into law "to further protect animal rights across New Jersey." These laws do not protect "animal rights" because animals have no legal rights in New Jersey or any other state in the union—they are still considered property under the law. In addition, these bills only pertain to dogs, domestic animal companions, and service animals.

While I applaud the governor and legislators for their advocacy on behalf of some animals (dogs, cats, and "exotic" animals used in circuses), there are many other animals who are being ignored by the governor, legislators, citizens, and media throughout the State.

Follow-up comments made by Governor Murphy, along with Assemblymen Bruce Land, Matthew Milam, and Gordon Johnson indicate an incredible disregard for reality and truth. They also illustrate how profoundly invisible are the lives of countless other animals due to deeply entrenched ideologies and self-serving interests.

"Animal cruelty is abuse, plain and simple," said Assemblyman Matt Milam. "We will not tolerate animal cruelty in New Jersey..." 

I agree with Assemblyman Milam that animal cruelty is abuse and should not be tolerated, however, it is tolerated every single day in NJ. Almost everything we do maintains animal abuse culture. The State even goes so far as to subsidize the exploitation, abuse, and massacre of animals using taxpayer money for hunting, vivisection, horse racing, and to promote dubious "animal science" programs at Rutgers University. And what does Assemblyman Milam think happens to thousands of animals every day in NJ slaughterhouses?

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Dirty Truth About Panera's "Clean" Foods

The fast food chain Panera likes to flaunt itself as a chic place for modern foodies. Their commercials boast about their use of "clean" ingredients, particularly those made from the bodies and fluids of other animals. If you believe this advertising scheme, then I have a bridge to sell you.

The Vegan Vine
Hens exploited for their eggs stand on the body of a dead mate to avoid the painful wire flooring. 
© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

So-called clean foods happen to be very trendy right now, yet the term "clean" is as meaningless as the word "natural." What's more, calling animal-based cheese, bacon, and chicken products "clean" is incredibly ironic. Why? Because these products are derived from the most unsanitary, sickly, and brutal operations in the world.

The Vegan Vine, Every Twelve SecondsBreeding and killing nonhuman animals for consumption is a very dirty business. Most animals spend their days caged and wallowing in their own urine, feces, and blood, their lungs burning with the concentrated stench of excrement. Over 80 percent of all antibiotics are fed to animals bred for consumption because they're often sick with infections and sores.

No amount of sanitizing semantics can whitewash the horrors of those industries that exploit other living beings for their flesh, milk, and eggs. Animals are genetically manipulated and their lives cut short. They are deprived of every basic pleasure, tortured, and then killed for unnecessary foodstuffs. Their bodies bleed and their deaths are as excruciating as they are squalid.

The environmental destruction resulting from our mass consumption of captive animals is also incredibly dirty and damaging. Manure pits have led to human deaths and birth defects as a result of toxins seeping into groundwater. Many poorer communities surrounding factory farms battle polluted water and air. Fecal waste from cattle flows into rivers and streams, causing algae blooms that deprive the water of oxygen resulting in dead zones that suffocate sea animals to death.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Less Than Human" Labeling is Root of All Evil

The Vegan Vine
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." 

Henry David Thoreau wrote this in Walden in 1854. At the time, he was referring to the hypocrisy of philanthropists who gave to the poor yet ignored how their own lives contributed to the circumstances afflicting the poor.

In the same way, donating to an organization or signing a petition doesn't exonerate us from contributing to society's large-scale problems or, in the case of other animals, the systemic violence and injustice they face.

There are some evils in the world that are conspicuous compared with those ingrained in institutions and traditions that uphold the status quo. The actions of people like Dylann Roof, who killed nine Black Americans during a prayer service, are obviously abhorrent to most. On the other hand, we choose not to "see" the violence we contribute to on a mass scale in daily life. Campus protests erupt over a neo-fascist ideologue with a microphone while destructive and insidious "animal science" programs endure without backlash.

And like Thoreau's philanthropists, there are evils of benevolence that give the illusion of charity. A good example is the donation of turkey corpses to the poor for Thanksgiving. We make a spectacle of such events, patting ourselves on the back for our "generosity."

In a recent interview in the New York Times Magazine, Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative said: "The great evil of American slavery wasn’t involuntary servitude: It was the ideology of white supremacy, in which people persuaded themselves that black people aren’t fully human."