Friday, January 14, 2011

Reflection after Calamity

Ballou's Monthly Magazine, May 1866
There is a section of the Little Miami River where I occasionally pick up ‘litter’. Last summer, I was returning from these uniquely sandy banks with the day's haul when my face hit something I couldn't see in the dusk. It was a spider's web. As this is a story about someone else's loss, I'm not very comfortable making it center on me. Nevertheless, my reaction was memorable, and it helped me reflect on how I've changed over time.

Several years ago, I probably would have been upset with the fates for cursing me with such an annoyance. My thoughts or exclamations would have been along the lines of: "Damn it! What the hell is that doing there? Leave me alone". (If I wrote or talked about this event, the home or tool I destroyed would have been called a ‘spider web’. No apostrophe-S to indicate possession and acknowledge the individual involved.)

So what was my instant reaction is this case? "Oh crap. I'm sorry."

Obviously, an apology changed nothing. The expression felt appropriate regardless. In that moment, it wasn't clear how much harm I had caused. I only knew my small inconvenience was incomparable to what I presumed the spider must be experiencing. Thinking about this reminded me that I've undergone a dramatic shift in attitude and awareness. One for which I feel quite fortunate.

We must abolish nonhuman exploitation. Embrace your responsibility — become a vegan.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Book for Young Speciesists

Not long ago, while visiting my parents, I found nineteen books from my youth that belong to a series published by the National Geographic Society: "Books for Young Explorers". The full series comprises several dozen titles released between the early 1970s and mid 90s. Retailers often list them as appropriate for children aged 4 to 8 years [0]. As examples from my collection demonstrate, most of the books are about nonhuman animals: "Baby Bears and How They Grow" (1986), "Animals and Their Hiding Places" (1986), "Creatures of the Woods" (1985), "Life in Ponds and Streams" (1981), "Strange Animals of Australia" (1981), "Wild Cats" (1981), "Animals that Build Their Homes" (1976), and "The Playful Dolphins" (1976).

The entries in this series I find most intriguing specifically address an aspect of human/nonhuman relations. My set includes "Baby Farm Animals" (1984), "What Happens at the Zoo" (1984), and "Helping Our Animal Friends" (1985). Although each of these is worthy of analysis, this essay focuses on "Saving Our Animal Friends" (SOAF hereafter), which was written by Susan Mcgrath and published in 1986 [1]. SOAF is laden with pictures, and only 19 of the 32 pages contain text. Each page, excluding the final two, has approximately 100 or fewer words.

Notes from Sociology
Why write about a book intended for kids? Early childhood is when most humans first absorb their society's speciesism. We teach them to uncritically accept and defend discrimination based on species and the routine exploitation of nonhuman animals on a massive scale. It's safe to assume that children reading SOAF are already being regularly exposed, as part of their primary socialization, to the speciesist values and norms that deeply permeate society.

Eva Batt Source Materials

"Why Veganism?" (1964)   HTML or PDF
"Confessions of a Very Slow Starter" (1981)   HTML or PDF

These essays by Eva Batt (1908-1989) offer a fascinating glimpse into the history of veganism. Batt, a resident of England, became vegan in 1954, just ten years after the term was coined. She recounted this experience, which involved a face to face encounter with a cow recently robbed of her calf, in "Confessions of a Very Slow Starter". In an earlier piece, "Why Veganism?", she reviewed the history of veganism, offered a definition of the term, and discussed various moral and practical aspects of living as a vegan.

In the years following her ‘slow start’, Batt made major contributions to the spread of veganism. She was a highly active member of the Vegan Society who served fifteen years as chairperson and edited the commodity pages of The Vegan for over two decades. The society published her two cookbooks: "What's Cooking" (1973) and "What Else is Cooking" (1983). Batt was a council member of the American Vegan Society and director of Plamil, which began selling a canned soy milk concentrate in 1965. She also worked with Beauty Without Cruelty, a charitable trust that promoted cosmetics and clothing not derived from or tested on animals. She even owned a shop in Enfield, her hometown, that sold food, clothing, and footwear suited for vegans.

Friday, January 7, 2011


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