Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Frogs in Peril

The Vegan Vine
by guest writer Matt Ellerbeck, frog advocate and conservationist.

Frogs are in terrible trouble. Around 30 percent of all the world's frog species are threatened with extinction! Many human-induced hazards are killing frogs and contributing to their decline.

Habitat destruction is largely responsible for the loss of frogs. Areas that were once suitable for these nonhumans to live have now been destroyed. The areas that still remain are often polluted with hazardous substances like chemicals, oils, gasoline, and pesticides.

​Habitats are often isolated and cut off from one another by roads and highways that now slice through them. Countless frogs are killed on roads and highways every year when they are hit by vehicles.

A 2006 study from Carleton University in Ottawa found heavy traffic to be a larger threat to frogs than habitat loss.

Sadly, many frogs who are migrating to mating and egg-laying sites must cross over roads to reach such areas where many of the maturer individuals are killed. This greatly limits their reproductivity and makes it incredibly hard for various frog species to rebound.

Being struck and killed by vehicles is not the only threat that roads create for frogs. Chemical run-off from vehicles contaminate roadside ditches and pools. These sites are often utilized by frogs for mating and birthing.

Climate change is among the most serious threats that frogs face. Increased temperatures, changing humidity levels, desertification, and droughts wreak havoc on frogs as they do other animals. Frogs are generally adapted to moist and cooler habitats and may require very specific conditions to thrive, therefore, changes to these conditions can be life threatening. Since frogs can live in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, shifts in these environments results in dying frogs and dwindling frog species. Changes in climate can also effect the forming and availability of critical habitat features such as vernal pools (utilized as mating and birthing/egg-laying sites). Certain frog species have small natural ranges and within these ranges show fidelity to over-wintering sites. Thus, they have limited opportunities for movement if their habitats are degraded. Climate change is often cited as one of the reasons why frogs are disappearing from otherwise pristine and protected habitats.

Disease is another issue plaguing frogs. Chytridiomycosis is an often fatal infectious skin disease that seriously affects frogs. The condition is caused by the chytrid fungus—Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd. It has been devastatingly deadly to frogs. Bd has been found on all of the continents where frogs reside and may be responsible for the greatest disease-caused loss of life and biodiversity in recorded history (Skerratt et al. 2007).

The Vegan Vine​Chytridiomycosis has been linked to many frog deaths and extinctions of frog species in western North America, Central America, South America, eastern Australia, East Africa, and in parts of the Caribbean. The fungus is capable of causing sporadic deaths in some and 100 percent mortality in others. Sadly, no effective measure is known to control the disease in natural environments. Ranavirus is another affliction affecting frogs. The pathogen causes severe bleeding of their internal organs.

Numerous frogs are also seized from their homes by humans who exploit them as bait for fish, for the lucrative pet trade, for use in vivisection, and as a delicacy food. These misuses account for millions and millions of frogs who are captured and killed annually! David Bickford from the National University of Singapore estimates that between 180 million to over a billion frogs are killed each year just so humans can eat them.

The aforementioned diseases affecting amphibians are also being spread throughout various groups and to other previously healthy animals via these unethical trades and uses. When sick nonhuman animals are abducted from their natural habitats and then shipped and sold in other locations they bring their diseases with them.

​Myriad frogs are being lost each year through the combination of human-caused pollution, development, exploitation, abuse, and climate change. Their unnatural decline cannot rebound on its own, which is why the protection of frogs, like so many other animals, is necessary. Without rights and assistance, many simply will not survive the onslaught we have brought to bear on them.

To learn how you can help, visit www.saveallfrogs.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Bigoted Vegans Among Us

The Vegan Vine
Our world is awash in hatred and no one seems to be immune, not even vegans.

Having learned about the interconnectedness of all systematic forms of oppression and their root in nonhuman exploitation, it confounds me how some vegans can advocate for nonhumans while disparaging fellow humans over race, sex, class, religion, etc. It's like "shelters" for cats and dogs that hold fundraising events where they serve up the bodies of pigs, chickens, and cows. How can anyone who abhors the oppression of one group support the persecution of another?

"To see real change for nonhuman animals, advocates must challenge inequality for all," wrote Corey Wrenn in "Status Contamination: Women, Nonhuman Animals, and Intersectional Liberation."

Earlier this year, two former senior officials at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) were accused of sexually harassing employees for some ten years. "According to interviews, emails and an internal document reviewed by POLITICO, [Paul] Shapiro suggested a female employee should 'take one for the team' by having sex with a donor, sent pornography and lewd emails to male employees, and discussed with colleagues his sexual philosophies, such as having as many sexual partners as possible." According to another employee who attended a work trip in 2006, former CEO Wayne Pacelle "asked her to take off her clothes and perform oral sex, and asked her whether he could masturbate in front of her."

At HSUS, Shapiro and Pacelle apparently sought to reduce the objectification of nonhumans as things to be used and consumed all the while objectifying their own female colleagues as sexual playthings to be used and consumed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

U.S. Taxpayers Forced to Pay $38+ Billion a Year to Kill Other Animals

The Vegan Vine
A cat used in deadly experiments inside USDA laboratory.
Follow the money!

It's a commonly heard phrase that originated with the Watergate scandal. We hear it a lot today in reference to the investigation into President Trump's ties to Russia. But the popular phrase also applies to the nonhuman-abuse-industrial-complex. If you want to cut through the lies and deceptions to get at the truth, just follow the money.

Over the centuries we have built an entire economy and culture around the enslavement and exploitation of nonhuman animals. Working to end this grave injustice is as much an economic issue as it is a matter of political and social will. We simply cannot ignore the financial incentives that continue to drive nonhuman oppression.

Successful operations, whether they be military or social, usually require besieging the opposition on multiple fronts. Likewise, nonhuman advocates have many battlegrounds. In addition to advancing veganism and nonhuman legal rights, it is essential that we also deprive nonhuman enslavement institutions of their financial enticements. Nonhumans do not yet have legal rights in large part because too many sectors of society profit off their exploitation and deaths.

"People who purport to act on behalf of nonhuman animals must be urged to do much more than change their shopping, eating, etc. . . . citizens have to make time for policy," said David Cantor of Responsible Policies for Animals.

In his 2013 book, Meatonomics, David Robinson Simon found that $38.4 billion of United States taxpayer monies are used to further the nonhuman flesh, milk, and egg industries. Here's what else he found:

  • 63 percent of federal and state government subsidies go to promoting nonhuman flesh, milk, and eggs, while less than 2 percent go to fruits and vegetables.
  • Taxpayer subsidies create artificially low prices for nonhuman-derived "foods" that do not reflect the real costs to produce them, thereby encouraging Americans to consume greater amounts. For example, if we were to account for the full burden of a Big Mac—the abuse, environmental and health care costs, etc.—a Big Mac would actually cost $12.
  • A significant portion of the nearly $1 trillion in annual health care and lost productivity costs related to just three diseases—cancer, diabetes, and heart disease—are directly linked to the consumption of nonhuman-derived "foods."
  • Nonhumans bred for their flesh, milk, and eggs are routinely fed 75 percent (28 million pounds) of the US market of antibiotics to bolster their abnormal growth and prevent imprisoned-induced diseases. 
  • Nonhuman flesh, milk, and egg industries now rank with mining, oil production, and electricity generation as one of the most ecologically damaging to the planet. The EPA found that groundwater sources in one-third of US states are contaminated with urine and feces from factory farms.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Where Are the Rights in the "Animal Rights Movement"?

The Vegan Vine; Bill of Rights
When Lisa Vanderpump of Real Housewives fame and a nonvegan restaurateur is said by the New York Times to be championing "animal rights" for having dogs and running a dog rescue, you know there is a problem.

For most nonhuman advocates, the term "animal rights" has lost all meaning and efficacy. The phrase has been denigrated by a self-described "animal rights movement" and has been co-opted by anyone and everyone imaginable, from those who promote veganism to those who simply "love animals" like cats and dogs.

When we speak of "animal rights" (AR) it usually has absolutely nothing to do with the actual attainment of legal rights for nonhumans. This is regrettable because doing so only hurts those we're trying to help.

Activists and organizations alike misuse "animal rights" when applying it to the context of treatment and the lessening of cruelty and suffering. This only adds to the confusion and detracts from the real work being done to advance nonhuman rights. Similarly to the way veganism has been watered down by consumerists, fads, and those who want the label without the effort, so has "animal rights."

"Many animal advocates mistakenly think nonhuman animals have rights which 'animal rights' organizations work to enforce. The reality is that nonhuman animals have no rights," said David Cantor of Responsible Policies for Animals (RPA). "Despite massive injustice toward nonhuman animals, the first wave of the 'animal rights movement' has made no progress these past three decades because it is not a rights movement."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Untold Victims of Gun Violence

The Vegan Vine
Hunted Haunt the Hunter
Sue Coe
The recent Parkland, Florida school shooting has raised the specter of gun violence once again. And once again, politicians and pundits alike employ hunting rhetoric to absolve themselves and others of their own contribution to violence.

Almost every discussion following a mass shooting pointedly incorporates what I call the "hunting clause," whereby the purposeful targeting of nonhuman animals is deemed an "appropriate" use of guns in contrast to the inappropriate use of guns to purposefully target human animals. This self-gratifying distinction by which nonhumans are "hunted" whereas nonhumans are "killed" or "murdered" is deeply speciesist and immoral. What's worse is that these same people, who seek to justify their gun ownership for the purpose of slaughtering other animals, brag about teaching their children to do the same.

"Like Texas church shooter Devin Kelley, Nikolas Cruz also had a history of hurting animals. For Kelley it was beating a dog. For Cruz it was a string of reported cruelty that included shooting squirrels and chickens with a pellet gun, trying to get a dog to attack a piglet, jamming sticks into rabbit holes and killing toads. His social media reportedly included photos of dead animals," reported Jessica Scott-Reid in the New York Daily News.

Akin to hunters of humans, hunters of nonhumans also get a thrill from murdering. In a 1996 article from the Philadelphia Inquirer detailing a canned hunt, Rex Perysian, a hunter, was anxious to begin. "I wanna peg one of these babies," he said. The boar Perysian set his sights on writhed and cried out with each shot. After four minutes of hell, she laid down and died. "I was pumpin’, man," Perysian said. After wiping blood from the boar's nose, he lifted her head by the ears for the cameras, and then dropped her head "and bellowed into the woods, boasting that the kill had sexually aroused him." Later, as ranch workers dragged away the corpses, Perysian sang a Miller beer jingle and summed up his enjoyment of hunting for the reporter. ‘‘It's just adrenaline, it’s great," he said. I'm sure Cruz and Kelley experienced similar adrenaline rushes at they aimed at students and churchgoers respectively.

Edward Stack, Dick's Sporting Goods chief executive, who was praised for his decision to remove all assault-style guns from his stores after the Parkland shooting, explained why his company will restrict some gun sales. "We don't want to be part of a mass shooting," he said. But Stack doesn't seem to mind being part of some mass shootings.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Vegans Confusing Consumerism With Activism

The Vegan Vine; PETA's 13 Vegan Essentials
Necessity and activism as defined by PETA
An activist lamented the lack of participation at his fur protests: "I'm going to start organizing protests with the heading 'Vegan Food Event.' The numbers would quadruple," he said sarcastically. Another added, "Sad but true. Use 'Fest' too."

VegFests are all the rage and are popping up all over the country. Exposure to vegan foods and nonhuman sanctuaries is beneficial, but these are temperate events meant to peddle goods, not to advocate for the rights and freedom of other animals or inspire political and social activism. Instead of advising people to consume less, they push people to buy more and, in doing so, send the message that veganism is a personal, consumer choice, instead of a moral imperative.

The Tri-State VegFest held in Edison, New Jersey, last summer was sponsored by the Humane League, well known for its welfarist campaigns like persuading universities to switch to "cage-free" eggs. Instead of opposing the enslavement and killing of nonhumans and the violation of their moral rights, such campaigns seek only to make exploited nonhumans more comfortable, and their murders to appear less cruel.

The mastermind behind the NJ Tri-State VegFest was described on the website as "a natural-born entrepreneur" and the event was characterized as being "all about food, community, and entertainment. . ." A friend overheard another vegfest attendee speaking to a cutlery salesperson. "Which knife is best to use with [on] fish?" the guest asked. These functions are not exactly hubbubs of resistance. I'm not suggesting that we don't have vegfests, but I do think we should expect more of them and their participants.

The distinction between vegan activism and consumerism is becoming less and less apparent. Many have turned veganism into a trendy lifestyle, one that people feel they can take or leave whenever the mood strikes or a social affair beckons. Most vegan books and magazines cater to food and advertisers. They address clothing, travel, cosmetics, and other trivial nonsense as opposed to less glamorous topics like education, government policies, and critical thinking. Speciesist language, the animal-industrial complex, nonhuman rights, and other important issues are seldom, if ever, discussed.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Problem Vegans and Nonvegans Don't Want to Acknowledge

The Vegan Vine
Surrealist painting of industrialized human, artist unknown
Here are some frightening statistics from Population Matters:
  • There are now more than 7.5 billion humans on Earth. 
  • It took until the early 1800s for the human population to reach one billion. Now we add a billion humans every 12-15 years.
  • 10,000 years ago, humans made up 1% of vertebrate land animals. Today, free-living nonhumans make up just 1%. The other 99% are humans, our food-industry captives, and our domesecrated pets.
  • Populations of free-living nonhumans have halved since 1970, whereas the human population has doubled.

The human population crisis can be a contentious subject for many people. I touched briefly on it in a Facebook post a couple of years ago and managed to release all kinds of vitriol. I had noted that the best way to help the planet is to adopt a vegan diet and not have children. Some folks lost their minds and inferred that I was condemning them for the children they already had. My mere intention was to encourage people to rethink their future eating and breeding habits.

Last month a group of more than 15,000 world scientists concurred and issued a Second Warning to Humanity (since we didn't heed the first alarm back in 1992). They report that we are failing greatly to restrict human population and economic growth, among other threats, and that we must "re-examine and change our individual behaviors including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our per capita ­consumption of fossil fuels, meat [flesh], and other resources."

Some 20 years ago a college friend pointed out that choosing to procreate is a selfish and egocentric act. Like most human-centered speciesists, I didn't give it much thought, but it made a lot of sense. "Therefore because the [parent] has enjoyed sensual pleasure, the [child] must live, suffer, and die," scribed 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

People will go to great lengths to create mini-mes. The wealthier among us opt for technological extremes like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), uterus transplants, or pay poorer surrogates to carry their children. And still—much like homeless nonhuman companions—the ranks of homeless human children in need of forever loving homes never seem to wane.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Reviews: Two Tales on Eating the Unthinkable

Under the Skin by Michel Faber and Animals by Don LePan couldn't be more different as far as stories go, but both authors have managed to spin two unique and compelling narratives from one identical, unimaginable act.

The Vegan Vine; Animals by Don LePanAnimals is a thought-provoking tale that takes place in the twenty-second century, long after the mass extinction of most nonhuman animals.

The novel follows a human child named Sam who is disabled and therefore, is considered inferior and deemed a mongrel. We follow Sam from his original family and his loving, but working poor, single mother's home to his newly adopted home with Naomi, a brave, young girl who sees Sam as more than just the family pet and takes him under her wing.

Animals is a great achievement as it intricately combines two fictional manuscripts written in the future by Naomi and Broderick Clark, Sam's oldest brother. Clark interjects throughout to explain how things used to be before there were mongrels.

Even though Animals is a work of fiction, LePan shows what life is really like for billions of nonhumans today by skillfully illustrating, via a futuristic lens, similar experiences through another species.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Vegans Are the Furthest Thing from Elite

The Vegan Vine; The New Yorker
I endeavor to live a simple life. I reside in a cozy, one bedroom apartment of 673 square feet. I earn a modest salary and rarely dine out, and I prefer to rent movies for free from the library. I don't subscribe to the latest fashions or fads, and last year I spent zero dollars on clothing, shoes, and accessories. In an effort to limit my impact on the planet and other animals, I try to curtail my consumption of goods and limit my travel. Those who know me and are familiar with my minimalist habits and vegan ways would not label me an elitist, yet that is often how vegans are mischaracterized.

By definition alone ethical vegans are not elitist for the simple fact that they hold little to no power or influence in the overarching animal-industrial complex that controls everything from communication and government to universities and major corporations. In fact, our efforts often run counter to and challenge the existing system of oppression upheld by the elite.

It's all too easy for non-vegans to bully and belittle minority vegans as elitist while defending and excusing their own unjust choices, which is ironic considering the forced labor of animals and the consumption of their murdered bodies, milk, and eggs elevate and sustain the upper classes. Here are some brief examples of interconnected scourges linked to financial interests in animal oppression:

Violence: Animal industries are inherently violent operations that function by remaining invisible. Animal products can only be consumed when animals are treated as merchandise—things. Supported by non-vegan dollars; the meat, dairy, fish, and egg industries profit from the forced breeding and killing of billions of beings every year. In addition, slaughterhouse workers have few options and do the revolting work of killing for those who won't do it themselves. In "Vegan in the Dairy State" Cori Mattli noted that "there is a high correlation with slaughterhouse work and post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence." Workers often become desensitized to the violence they are paid to inflict on other animals and society pays a steep price for accepting such unnecessary violence as routine. Towns harboring slaughterhouses have higher rates of domestic violence and violent crimes, including murder and rape.

War/Genocide: In his groundbreaking book, Animal Oppression and Human Violence, David A. Nibert expounded how the need for more resources to maintain nomadic herds of animals for food and labor has resulted in centuries of war and conflict. From Genghis Khan to today's commercial cattle ranching operations, the upper echelon continue to expand their capitalist interests through the manipulation and exploitation of land and animals. Nonhumans are continually used as sources of food, tools, and labor to support conflicts and conquests. The influx of cattle, sheep, horses, and other animals to North, Central, and South America from European explorers through the Columbian Exchange helped fuel military expeditions, warfare between native tribes, and genocide.  As the demand for beef (and land and water for sustaining cattle) increases—even now—so too do conflicts with indigenous groups (e.g. Darfur).