Sunday, September 23, 2012

Starting an Animal Rights Club, Part I: At Your School

Hello everyone...
What's up in the animal rights world? Do you ever find it hard to keep track of all that's going on? Do you feel like you are spending so much time keeping up to date that you never get a chance to do any activism yourself?
I know the feeling! A good way to deal with this is to start an animal rights club in your school or community. Having a group of people to work with you is not only fun, but it also keeps you on track.
This is part I of a two-part series on my blog. Part II will focus on starting an animal rights club in your community.
I attempted to start an animal rights club in grade 9, but failed rather miserably. I'd like to use this as an opportunity to warn you about the mistakes I made, so hopefully you won't make the same ones that I did. I also want to share my ideas with you.
  1. Choosing a name for your club: I recommend "Animal Rights Club". It sounds nice, and you can use the acronym, too: "ARC". However, you may run into administrative difficulties if you choose such a name. I definitely did, due to the fact that the teacher-sponsor thought that "Animal Rights" was a too politically-charged term. I gave in to her views, and agreed to change it to "Animal Awareness Club". This was a mistake! What teenager wants to join an "Animal Awareness Club"? None at my school, as I soon learned. So please, leave it at "Animal Rights Club", and you'll attract members much easier.
  2. Scary Administration: The admin are often closed-minded to students starting new clubs all of a sudden. When I first spoke to the Vice-Principal about starting an animal rights club, it was like talking to an evil villainess about how I wanted to rally her slaves into saving the kittens. The room was dark, she looked at me with these cold, evil eyes, and she spoke about how the school was focused on learning and not activism. I held my ground, and she agreed to let me give it a go, but only if I could find a teacher to sponsor me. I fled from her torture chamber (which was actually a simple office) and later asked my favourite teacher if she would sponsor me, or if she knew of anyone who would. She led me to another teacher who agreed to sponsor me. I then went back to the Vice-Principal, club mission plan and goals printed on a sheet of paper in hand. I handed the sheet to her and waited, like a criminal awaiting a verdict of either guilty or innocent. Her heartless eyes scanned the paper distastefully. She agreed that I could do it, but of course I was in charge of getting it on the announcements and putting up posters.
    I think the important thing to remember here is that the admin usually are restricted from discriminating against you. They have to agree, as long as you are reasonable. So no matter how evil you think the admin are, don't give up.
  3. Getting Attention: So how do you attract members to your club, anyway? Just because it is on the list of school clubs doesn't mean that anyone will know about it. There are 3 ways of getting attention for your club: 1) put up appealing posters with all the necessary information on them (you might need permission from admin for this); 2) get it on the announcements (again, go to admin); 3) tell all your friends to come along and bring their friends! I did the first two things for my club, but I didn't have any friends when I was in grade 9, so no one came. Really, guys. It helps if you have friends.
  4. Meeting Plans: What are you going to talk about? This is up to you. Certain animal rights organizations want you to start clubs under their name or using their materials (ie. peta2 and Roots & Shoots), but I think it's best if you are independent. By all means, use the resources that you can find from any groups, but keep your options open. You can talk about (and act on) any of the following things:
    1. Veganizing your cafeteria (or working for vegan options at your cafeteria);
    2. Abolishing dissection at your school (or eliminating the requirement for students to dissect);
    3. Stickers, leaflets, and posters: distribute them around school (everybody seems to LOVE stickers!!!);
    4. Holding presentations to teach classes about animal rights issues (you can either prepare the presentations yourself or bring in someone from another organization);
    5. Fundraising to do all the cool stuff you want to accomplish (but remember, you can achieve a lot for free, too):
    6. Supporting group members in living an animal-friendly life-- exchanging recipes, website URLs, books, clothing recommendations, etc.
  5. Organizational Structure: I suppose you'll be the president, but don't be bossy. That would be a "turn-off" for your members. Instead, allow others to take the lead once in a while. Accept that others have different opinions, but don't let them steer the club entirely! Try to achieve a balance, okay?
I hope you found that useful! It took me ages to write, so it had better have helped! :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Heartless Robots R Us"

Last week I promised to write about my experiences at the local vetrinary hospital, so let me do that now. About 2 years ago, my school sent the students in my year on "Take Your Kid To Work Day", where we got to job-shadow our parents for the day. I was already very aware of my parents' jobs (I frequently visited my mom's workplace, and my dad works out of the home), so I job-shadowed someone at the animal hospital instead. Mistake?
When I got there, I was immediately thrown into the hectic and uncaring atmosphere of the back rooms at the animal hospital (the rooms that the clients don't get to see). One vetrinarian (or vetrinary assistant/technician-- you can't really tell) was talking about "knocking out" a dog, which I learned meant putting him under anasthesia. The vetrinarians were like the worst heartless robots I have ever met-- not like I have had the pleasure of meeting any real heartless robots, but still. They were so overworked and pressed for time that they could not allow themselves to look on each animal with kind eyes and a gentle touch. Instead, they would pick up the animal as though "it" was a fax machine or a squirming water balloon.
It all resembled so much of a factory-- the focus was on quantity, not quality. I started to feel ill, as I often do when I see animals suffering needlessly from violations of dignity and respect. As two women pinned down a dog and started shaving his neck I felt queasy. When a large black dog who I had started to grow to appreciate was dragged away to be euthenized, I felt as though part of me was being dragged to die along with him. And, as I observed the vetrinarian I was shadowing carve away part of the skin inside a little white dog's mouth for a "tissue sample", I collapsed-- yes, collapsed!-- on the ground. (At which point the vets made me get up and sit in the hall, threw a bag of chips at me, and got back to work.)
Before you say that I'm just overly sensitive, let me continue to explain. True, the vetrinarians did, at times, physically fix (I am hesitant to say "heal") their charges, but they also caused them unnecessary suffering. Can you imagine how it must feel to be roughly picked up by a severe-looking stranger and put in pain by them? If you went to the hospital with a strange growth on your gums and the doctor came and shaved it off (collecting a "tissue sample", of course) and sent you home with a bloody mouth and in no better condition, would you ever go back?
It is importatnt to keep our companion animals from getting ill, of course-- but be wary of vetrinarians taking your furry friend out of your sight. They may just transform into the worst  heartless robots you have ever met!

  • Independent vetrinarians (no back rooms!)
  • Alternative Vetrinary Hospital in the UK:
  • Keep your animals healthy so they won't have to go to the vet as much.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Euthenasia: Dignity vs. Convenience

Today I'm going to write about whether or not people should be allowed to euthenize their animals and the difference between compassion and cruelty depending on the situation.
Is euthenasia really about "putting an animal out of its misery"? Or, is it simply that the owners no longer wish to care for their pets? I think it's both.
In a fascinating book I'm reading called The Philosopher's Dog, the author Raymond Gaita says that you should not euthenize your animals, just as you would not put your granny "to sleep". He makes a good point. The basic rights of humans should typically be transferred to the ethics of animal rights. If it's okay to put terminally ill humans "to sleep", then it's okay to put mortally sick domestic animals "to sleep", presumably. But if it's not okay to do this to humans, then why would it be any better to do this to animals? I am not 100% opposed to the euthenation of sick animals. I am merely saying that we need to develop some kind of moral consistency between when enough is enough for humans and when it is for animals. Also, how will we know when an animal is consenting to euthenasia and when he/she is not?
Some people point to the pet overpopulation problem as an excuse to euthenize healthy animals. But this would only be a valid reason if you also thought that the human overpopulation problem could be solved in the same way. And goodness knows, I certainly don't want to live in a world where the excess human beings are rounded up and gassed. Do you?
I think that these are the reasons that people euthenize their animals, in typical situations, and I also provide my responses:
  • The animal (let's call him "Fido") is unable to take care of himself (ie. can't walk, can't go to the bathroom without help, can't eat through his mouth), and so the owner (let's call her "Yasmin") feels that Fido is in too much suffering, and not truly living anyway.
    • Maybe it is a good idea in this situation. It depends how bad it gets. If your dog has gotten so bad that he is simply lying on his bed all day and can't move or eat without someone doing it for him, then I think it might have gotten too far.
  • Fido's treatment is too expensive for Yasmin to pay for, so she feels she has no choice but to put him down.
    • Unfair! If Yasmin truly loved her dog, she could never put him to sleep due to financial issues. She should try to give him up to someone who could provide the treatment. Sometimes this doesn't work out and it truly isn't Yasmin's fault, but she should still try her hardest to save him.
  • Fido's treatment is extensive and time-consuming. Although it would possibly cure him of his ailment, Yasmin does not want to invest the time in it.
    • Again, so unfair. If I had a serious illness, no one would euthenize me! Thus, they shouldn't euthenize poor Fido.
  • Fido doesn't have an owner. He's in an animal shelter. He is just one of many. They don't have space for him any more.
    • :( No. That isn't right, either.
Enough of the depressing philosophy (for now!). The real question is this: What do we do with all the extra animals-- the ones that we don't euthenize for medical reasons? Do we keep them in cages in overcrowded animal shelters? Let them all go to wander the streets?
No. I don't think so.
What we need is more people to take animals into their homes-- even if only temporarily, as "foster owners". Many people say, "If you want a pet, go to the animal shelter and adopt one!", and that is great, but we really need to say is this: "Adopt an animal from the shelter whether or not you want a pet-- save a life." (I'm excluding those people whose lifestyles can't even permit the care of a little mouse because they are so busy or don't live in a suitable environment or aren't capable of caring for an animal.)
If we all went out to the animal shelters and adopted a hamster or a bird or another animal, we could save millions of animals in the Western world alone. That, I think, coupled with not breeding your animal and boycotting the pet industry, could be a large chunk of the solution to the problem of euthenizing healthy albeit unwanted animals.

And so, here is another one of my (not-so) famous lists on what you can do:
  1. Adopt an animal!
  2. Don't buy an animal from the pet store or a breeder-- ever!
  3. If you can not take care of your animal anymore, give him or her up to a no-kill animal shelter or a friend.
Next week, I'll tell you all about what happened when I job-shadowed a vetrinarian at a local animal hospital in grade 9-- and how horrible it was. Be careful around animal hospitals...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

What to do about the PLANTS issue?

Sometimes people ask you, when you are a vegan, why you think it is okay to eat plants and not animals-- after all, you're still hurting the poor plants! Besides this being one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard, it is also one of the most annoying. This is why I want to answer it on my blog once and for all.
Super-Obvious Point #1: Plants do not have brains. They do not have neurons, nor do they have nerves. Therefore, the notion that they could feel physical, excrutiating pain is very unlikely, if not impossible. Since they do not have brains, it also follows that they can not have conscious thought, as long as conscious thought is defined by having a brain. Some research has gone into whether or not plants have consciousness, which I applaud for its audacity and its open-mindedness, but even if plants did have consciousness, it would not be a reason to eat animals over plants, because...
Super-Obvious Point #2: Animals eat plants! Farmers have to feed cattle, pigs, chickens, etc. vast quantities of grain to get them fat enough for slaughter. And not all those calories become flesh ("meat"), either-- in fact, most of them get burned off when the animals move, digest the food, breathe, think, etc. So it is highly inefficient to raise livestock, and it results in the deaths of more plants anyway.
Super-Obvious Point #3: Animal products are bad for you. I've already given ample evidence of this on my two blogs, but if you haven't read that yet, then perhaps you should read the articles on and, hm?
PETA T-Shirt Design
Whew. I'm glad I finally did a good job of explaining that. Now I hope that nobody will ask me again, and instead just read my blog!
I'm sorry for forgetting to post last week. I was on vacation. See you next week!