Monday, September 2, 2013

Animal Rights, Reading, and the Internet: What to Believe

I've spent quite a lot of time researching different animal rights and vegan topics on the Internet and in books over the last few years. I've found that, although the Internet can be a great source of information, there is often a load of very conflicting data on the web. In books, too, one author can authoritatively tell you one thing, while the author of another book will insist on the opposite. How does one separate the fact from the fiction, the truth from the opinion?
That's what I plan to write about this week. :)
First of all, let's start with the Internet. There are a few types of sources that you can use to find info from the Internet. I'll discuss all the most relevant ones in turn:
  1. Animal rights organization websites: These are generally some of the most trustworthy sites that you can gather information from (although I think that PETA is kind of sketchy). These organizations have to uphold their reputations, so they research their information carefully, consult professionals, and cite many of their sources. Good websites include:
    1. Mercy for Animals International: (Canadian version:
    2. Vegan Health:
    3. The Vegan Society:
    4. Vegan Outreach:
  2. Blogs and personal websites: My website is a blog! And you can trust me to do research before giving information about a topic, although I acknowledge that those of you who don't know me have a right to be skeptical. Many bloggers are very careful to do their research, cite their sources, and keep opinion separate from fact. However, not all of them are. Although blogs and personal websites can be a great source of info, inspiration, and ideas, it's always a good idea to double-check any facts posted on blogs and personal websites that might have a significant impact on your life. Good sites in this category include:
    1. The Animal Rights Action Site (my blog, of course!):
    2. Think Differently About Sheep:
    3. Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach:
    4. The Breath of Empathy:
  3. Reader comments on blogs, forums, and other websites that allow for commenting: These are truly untrustworthy sources of information. On my blog, I published a post called "Say Neigh to Trail-Riding", and I received a myriad of rude, uninformed comments (and some neutral and/or polite ones, too). For example, one commenter said:
    "...Horses WERE put on this earth as "Beasts of Burden" meaning they are here as transportation and to be utilized as such. Horses that stand around and have no job are truly miserable...they get depressed if their human isn't with them."
    Of course, anyone who does not accept the anthropocentric view of the Universe would find this statement absurd, even laughable. The way this person stated this "fact" as if they were so sure of themselves-- as if they knew that horses are "beasts of burden" for human use, and nothing more-- illustrates very nicely why we shouldn't believe random comments posted on the Internet. They're often just passing opinions of whoever happens to be visiting a site. Although these comments can lead you to find more trustworthy sources, or they might inspire you, they shouldn't be automatically trusted. Comments are often less trustworthy than blogs and personal websites because there's little commitment involved in making a comment, while setting up your own site involves a degree of thought and commitment. Maybe I, as a blogger, have a biased view of this, but it seems like a reasonable statement to me.
Next: There's books. Books are an even better source of information than all Internet sources (authors usually do a lot of real-life research in order to write their books, after all!), although they are, of course, less interactive. I love reading animal rights and vegan non-fiction books. Here are a few that I think you should read:
  1. Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog: A wonderful book that challenges conventional thinking about animals and rights.
  2. The Dog by the Cradle, the Serpent Beneath by Erika Ritter: An intriguing book that discusses paradoxes in human-animal interactions.
  3. Wild Justice by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce: A look into cognitive ethology of animals. Not completely about animal rights or veganism, but fascinating nonetheless.
  4. Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina: A book by two dietitians outlining guidelines for healthy vegan nutrition.
  5. Thrive by Brendan Brazier: A book by an Ironman triathlete about eating to increase vitality and remain healthy for life.
Of course, a great source of info on animal rights issues is personal experience! Get out there-- go on a tour of a farm to see for yourself how the animals are treated (I did this once-- you can read about my experiences at, although keep in mind that I wrote this when I was younger and a less proficient writer), volunteer at an animal shelter, interview scientists and psychologists specializing in animals and animal rights, talk to the manager at a local vegan cafe. You decide how to get involved! Books and the Internet can be great resources, but don't forget to spend time in the "Real World" of animal rights, too!
Bye for now!

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