Sunday, March 31, 2013

Animal Rights 2013

Hi everyone,
Today I want to talk about two different animal rights conferences that you really should go to: 1) the Animal Rights National Conference, in Washington, D.C. (end of June); and 2) the International Animal Rights Conference, in Luxembourg (September 2013). Here is a brief explanation of each:

Animal Rights National Conference 2013
Want to learn about animals, share your passion for animal rights, and travel to Washington D.C. all at once? Look no further than the Animal Rights National Conference 2013! It takes place annually, and this year, it is being held from June 27-30. I would expect that it's open to international visitors, too, including Canadians-- I'll check with them and get back to you all on that one.
If you can go, this would be an amazing experience-- one that could potentially change your life. According to the website,

"HIGHLIGHTS
  • 80 speakers from 60 organizations
  • 80 sessions: animal abuse, organizing, tactics, issues
  • Eyewitness reports on key campaigns
  • 90 free exhibits
  • 40 videos, including premieres
  • Newcomer Orientation
  • Nightly networking receptions
  • Awards Banquet on Saturday evening
  • "Celebration of Animal Rights" on Sunday evening
  • Lobbying and other special actions on Monday
  • Discounted sleeping rooms and meals
  • Free morning & evening vegan snacks

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?
  • People who care about animals
  • People who want to learn about animals
  • Students of organizing and advocacy skills
  • Leaders of animal protection organizations
  • Animal protection activists
  • Producers & retailers of animal-friendly products
  • Providers of animal-friendly services".
Here is the website for more information: http://www.arconference.org/index.htm. This conference is run by FARM-- the Farm Animal Rights Movement. The group's website can be found here: www.farmusa.org.
 
International Animal Rights Conference
This conference takes place in Luxembourg! It is from the 12th-15th of September this year. Anyone can go-- whether you're an animal rights activist or just interested in the subject.
This location was chosen because it is (supposedly) a very international country that doesn't have much of an animal rights community of its own, which makes it more easy to attract a truly international audience.
Their website, at www.ar-conference.com, states that the following things will take place at the conference:
 
  • "presentations
  • workshops
  • discussions
  • panel discussions
  • campaign reports
  • stalls and exhibits
  • animal rights concerts
  • animal rights protests"

  • Registration does not seem to be open yet, but keep checking back-- they'll update their website eventually (one would hope!).
    The website is run by activists from Luxembourg and Germany. Beware-- I went to the activist group's website, and they had a video of horrible animal suffering on it. I had to turn it off because I couldn't watch it. Still, I hope you can consider going to the conference, where there are many presenters who look interesting and more positive.
     
    That's all for now, then. Bye!

    Sunday, March 24, 2013

    How to Meet Other Veg*ns

    A lot of veg*ns (vegetarians and vegans) I've met on the web and in person have told me the same old thing: "I don't know any other veg*ns!" It can be pretty tough when you feel like you're all alone in a world of cold-hearted, misunderstanding meat-eaters... :( but never fear! There are ways to meet other veg*ns! :D
    Way #1: Regional vegetarian associations and vegan societies. These groups often hold events, potlucks, and more, making them a great way to meet others who follow a plant-based diet. Just do a search engine search for "[Your city/region name here] vegan/vegetarian association" and something may well come up.
    Way #2: Meetup groups. www.meetup.com has a lot of different groups you can join all over the world, including veg groups. Just do a quick search on their website for groups near your location.
    Profile IconWay #3: The One and Only... Volentia.com! I love www.volentia.com. It's a vegan and vegetarian online community where you can meet other veg*ns. There are discussion boards, blogs, and groups to join. From there, you can either agree to meet people in groups or as individuals offline, or you can keep your relations strictly offline. It's completely safe (well, as safe as the Internet gets, I figure). You can look me up on it-- my online name is "Cat" and my picture is currently a very huggable tree with a slogan saying, "Hug Me/ I'm an Environmentalist". Friend me?
     As www.volentia.com puts it,
    "Why Join?> it's fun and it's free
    > meet vegetarians and vegans
    > you can make new friends
    > you can tell your story
    > write blogs
    > share your photos
    > share your videos
    > share your recipes
    > organize events
    > support new vegetarians/vegans
    > pimp your page
    > chat with vegans & vegetarians
    > start your own group
    > plant your "world marker"
    > you may become (kinda) famous!"

    Way #4: Online veg*n dating sites. Veg*n dating sites (or ANY dating sites, for that matter) aren't really the way you should be spending your Saturday afternoons. But if you're desperate, they can help.
    Way #5: Environmental advocacy groups. Many environmentalists are vegetarian or vegan because veganism is good for the planet! You should actually be interested in environmentalism if you join one of these groups, though. If you don't really care, then you may regret joining an advocacy group and your ulterior motives may be revealed ;) On the other hand, going to environmental events is a perfectly fine way to meet people without getting involved in advocacy work. (But really, why wouldn't you want to help save the environment, too?)
    Way #6: Animal shelters. Most animal shelter workers probably aren't even vegetarian, but one or two people at your local shelter might be veg. It's worth a try to find out!
    Way #7: Ask around. Seriously. Just ask everyone you know if they know any other veg*ns or people who are interested in going veg. You may even be able to help them go vegan or recruit them to follow my blog! ;)
    Way #8: Convert people. Give presentations, hand out leaflets, get to know people, give advice, hold vegan bake sales, hold fundraiser concerts for animal-rights charities. You can do it! You'll be helping yourself by making friends who share your values, helping animals by converting vegans, and helping people by encouraging them to follow a healthy, plant-based diet. Perhaps by doing these things, you'll also find that there are already vegans in your community, after all. (They'll be more likely to approach you if you're doing an animal-rights event, obviously!)

    With so many options, you will hopefully be inspired to try something I've listed here. Having veg*n friends is not only good for your wellbeing; it is also motivational for you to keep going strong with your compassionate diet.
    See you next time!

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    Reincarnation and Animal Rights

    Hi everyone! Happy St. Patrick's Day! I didn't post here last week, but bear with me. I'm still doing this blog almost every week, despite the occasional forgetfulness. (To those of you who don't come here often, I'm supposed to post every Sunday, but...)
    Did you know that humans and animals reincarnate as each other? If you are a human now (I'm guessing that you are), you may well be born as a dog or an elephant in your next life. And if you're a dog, you might just be born as a human in the next life! Let's hope you don't come back as a chicken or cow or pig, because then you'd be in trouble.
    But, you see, that's the point. If you don't know what life-form you'll be born as in your next life, shouldn't you advocate for good, just treatment for all? Not only are you helping other people/animals/souls, but you're also saving your own skin!
    Without further ado, let us delve further into the subject in an article written by a physics major who happens to be my sister, Mary-Jean Harris: 

    Reincarnation
    By Mary-Jean Harris     January 2013
    Reincarnation has had many names and many faces throughout history, as if the idea itself has been reincarnated. But like reincarnation of a soul, so too has the idea retained the same essence in the minds it inhabits. Some people call it transmigration of the soul, others metempsychosis, Nietzsche called it eternal return, but they are all about a soul incarnating into a body again (hence the “re”). Yet in our culture, most people are strictly materialist and so the idea of something persisting after “death” and having existed before you were born seems simply impossible. And it is: if you are just matter and the matter is destroyed, it is like trying to make a teddy bear from a rock; you just can’t do it if you want something cuddly. However, for those of us who believe that there is more to your existence than atoms and DNA, reincarnation is perfectly plausible. For why should the soul, spirit, or mind (I’ll call it a soul) be destroyed with the matter, given that it is immaterial? Why could it not return to Earth to inhabit another body? And reincarnation is more than just a mere possibility, for an evil teddy bear is a possibility, but we all know that teddy bears are perfectly nice (disregarding some swashbuckling teddies...).

    Evidence of reincarnation has been found by various groups investigating the science of reincarnation, such as Paul Von Ward’s Reincarnation Experiment (you can read about it in his book, The Soul Genome). The Reincarnation Experiment tries to find past-like matches for people by looking for similarities in personalities, memories, and physical features. Although everyone has probably had some past life, it is difficult to get much information about common people in the past, so most of the matches found are to well-known people such as Thomas Jefferson, Marilyn Monroe, the painter Paul Gauguin, and more. So unfortunately, unless you start having past-life memories (which does happen more often than you would think, especially in children), then you would never know if you were once the nameless servant of Cleopatra or a lost Spanish pirate. Yet with the past-life matches that have been found, there are remarkable similarities between the lives of the present and past incarnations such as birthmarks where the past personality had been wounded, similarities in lifestyles and occupations, who they married to, the paintings they drew (in the artist’s case), and many more physical and mental similarities. Indeed, facial resemblances are often so precise that the best face scanners used in security would be unable to tell the two people apart. Past life memories also abound, and it seems to me that these are “mistakes”, for a soul is not supposed to remember details about its past life, though we can learn much from these mistakes (you can see a neat example here: http://www.mindpowernews.com/PastLifeBoy.htm). Paul Von Ward suggests that the aspects of a person transferred between incarnations exist in a “psychoplasm” (a play-off of the cytoplasm in a cell), which is basically an immaterial cell that contains information to make the soul version of you just like a physical cell has the DNA that creates the physical version of you. Like an animal cell, different parts of the psychoplasm encode different traits (see the picture using an analogy of a physical cell for the psychoplasm with names representing different aspects of a soul. You can read more about it here: http://www.reincarnationexperiment.org/soulpsychoplasm.html).



    People will continue to investigate reincarnation scientifically, but it is not entirely about the physical, since the soul is not physical so we can only get traces of it through science and not its whole essence. Thus, we can also learn about it through many philosophies. The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, Druids, and many more cultures believed in some form of reincarnation. Buddhism and Hinduism also believe in reincarnation into a body that corresponds to how you acted in previous lives until you transcend the system of karma to reach nirvana. And not only can you reincarnate into another human, but also into other animals. Some Greek philosophers such as Plato and Pythagoras also believed that the soul incarnated into various species based on how virtuous the soul was, which Plato talks about in his dialogue the Phaedo.

    
    The phoenix: a symbol of rebirth and reincarnation
    Now let us wonder what our society would be like if we did believe in reincarnation. Part of this is seen in Buddhism and Hinduism, for their philosophy respects all creatures. From this, people would take better care for other animals, and issues such as animal abuse and factory farming would be greatly diminished. For what if you are to be a pig in your next life? A reincarnated soul is certainly a connection that brings you closer to other species, though “you” certainly takes on a more abstract sense! And the fact that you return, whether as another animal or a human again, will often foster us to care more about how the future will unfold and what we do now to help it thrive. We already understand the consequences of polluting or destroying natural places, but people often put it off for someone in the future to deal with. Of course, they are never perfectly confident that all will fare well, so if you believe you will return, there is a greater incentive to be responsible now. The essence of you is thus related to the past and future much further than a normal lifespan. Yet the greatest change that would emerge from an acceptance of a soul and reincarnation is the idea that there is more than just matter to the world. There is something that transcends what we physically sense. We need not be religious to believe in a soul, for it is more a common truth to all religions and many philosophies, just like you don’t need to like a pirate teddy to like teddy bears, though you have to like at least some teddy bears to like a pirate teddy. Although reincarnation is significant in itself, there are many more ideas and theories that complete this view, notably those of the ancient Mystery Schools.

    So even if ideas of reincarnation and a soul have done no more than knot your eyebrows, we might still ask what if this were true. Yet with the budding evidence of reincarnation even in the scientific world, you need not turn to ancient doctrines if you don’t want to. Reincarnation is an important aspect of the spiritual nature of all creatures, and if Plato and the Buddhists are right, one day we will all know. -MJH
     
     
    Back to me (C) now. Some people, I find, will say that they don't need to care about animals because all that matters is the "here and now" and that life is just about "having a good time". It is practically impossible to fight with this if the other person has a completely meaningless concept of life and death. However, if you look at the reincarnation perspective, caring about others  and the world seems to be much more important than previously expected...
    What will you do to help animals this week?

    Sunday, March 3, 2013

    Animal Rights Conversation Starters and the Socratic Method

    A great way to convince people to get more involved in animal rights and/or go vegan is to pop in a comment here or there that'll make them want to have a conversation about it. This way, you give them the power to make their own choice as to whether or not they want to talk about it-- because, let's face it, forcing the topic of animal rights on people will only make them uncomfortable and possibly angry, and being too pushy will make them avoid the topic (and you) for a while after that. On the other hand, when the person you're talking to wants to be engaged in the conversation, you can go far.
    Anyway, here are some conversation starters (some of which I have tried, others that would probably work):
    • Wear a T-shirt with a catchy slogan on it. Here is the design (front and back melded into one picture) on one of my T-shirts that I love and that started a short conversation about the egg industry once (but of course you could use another T-shirt, too):
     Team Vegan 2012 Colors
    • Wear something else, like a button, hat, bag, etc. that'll catch someone's eye and start a conversation. This could be something with a slogan or picture on it, or it could be a really beautiful article of clothing that is surpirsingly made out of a vegan alternative to leather, silk, or wool (that way if they say to you, "Oh, I love your wool sweater," you can say, "Oh, this isn't wool. It's rayon, made from plant fibres! I try to avoid clothing that was made from the wool industry.").
    • If you're talking to someone about something that relates to veganism, you can always just pop a comment pertaining to your lifestyle to spark their interest. If they seem interested, get right into explaining the details! Example:
      • Them: I love baking cupcakes.
      • You: Me too!
      • Them: Yeah, I found an awesome icing recipe: milk with icing sugar and [etc]...
      • You: I make my icing with [insert vegan ingredient here], because I'm a vegan.
      • [Depending on their response, either delve into the topic of veganism or move onto something else. Chances are, they'll want to know more. Who wouldn't?]
    • Bring it up in a way that doesn't sound like you're attacking them. Ask them a question such as "Do you know any vegans in your family?" or "I wonder if the sports balls in our basketball class are made of leather?". That way, they can answer your question, which makes them think about veganism, and then if they're interested, they can ask you, "Oh, so are you a vegan or something?". Score!
    • Carry around animal rights books with you, so people can ask questions.
    If they say things about animal rights that you don't agree with, it's helpful to be open-minded and use the Socratic method (this gets them to think differently by asking questions):

    Other Person: But animals aren't human, so they don't deserve rights like we do. They're different from us and less important than us, so that probably means we can use them however we want?
    You (being the Socrates of the conversation): Well, do we have the right to use people of other races, people with mental disabilities, or gay people "however we want"?
    Other Person: Of course not!
    You: Why not?
    Other Person: Because they're human. Animals are not human.
    You: What makes being human the only factor in deciding how we treat others?
    Photo Courtesy of http://zirtual.com/blog/
    OP: Well, I didn't say it was the only factor...
    You: What might the other factors be, then?
    OP: Um... The ability to feel pain, maybe...
    You: Animals can feel pain.
    OP: Hmm... You're right. I'll have to think about it some more, I guess. What was that vegan starter kit you were talking about called?
    You: [smile and think, SUCCESS!]

    By asking questions, we challenge people to think differently. Since we know we're right, we have no reason to try to "trick" people or indoctrinate them into believing us. Once they think about it, they will realize that there is no way to morally justify eating animals and using them for our benefit. They will come to this conclusion for themselves, which is more long-lasting than them being emotionally riled up for a short time but not really changed.

    This was fun to write. :) I'm sorry I haven't written much in recent weeks. I was slacking off-- could you tell?
    Next week, I want to publish an article that my sister wrote. It's really good. And yes, it has to do with animal rights. And yes, I will write an introduction and conclusion to tie what she is saying into what my blog says. :D
    See you next week, then, friends! Have a good one.