Friday, August 4, 2017

An Open Letter to AAA

Dear AAA,

How disappointing to open my email this morning and see the Subject line "11 Must-Visit New England Zoos & Aquariums." Don't you know that zoos and aquariums are antiquated businesses that, at long last, are on the way out? 

Such places hold wild animals in lifelong captivity. Animals that have evolved to range over hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of miles are now imprisoned in enclosures that severely restrict their natural movement and family relationships. The establishments you tout are a billion-dollar industry built on the suffering of animals — many of whom are intelligent, social beings — who are denied everything that is natural and important to them.

And while zoos and aquariums market themselves as places of education and conservation, unbiased studies show that there is "no compelling evidence" for the claim that zoos and aquariums promote attitude change, education, or interest in conservation in visitors. In short, gawking at sad, captive animals does not "educate" people who visit zoos and aquariums, or make them more likely to want to give these species what they really need, which is habitat protection and restoration.

While there is still a percentage of people who find these prisons entertaining, that attitude is fortunately waning. And frankly, no humane person would think that entertainment is a good enough reason to justify a life of captivity, regardless of how intelligent (or not) an animal may be.

I hope AAA will stop promoting these types of businesses. Instead, why not be creative and cutting-edge and come up with articles offering alternatives to zoos and aquariums? For example, animal sanctuaries, or the best places to go birding or whale watching? You can and should do better.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Meat Industry Vexed about Slaughter and Feedlot Decline

"No feedlot for me! I'm a sanctuary cow."
Last week I learned that there's an online meat industry publication,, that everyone (including vehemently anti-meat vegan advocates like myself) may join. Why would I do such a thing?

Well, I was inspired by Jan Dutkiewicz, a graduate student who presented a paper at last year's North American Conference for Critical Animal Studies. While I didn't go to the conference myself (although I hope to this year), I did listen to Jan's talk on Animal Voices Radio. Jan analyzed the rhetoric of the pork industry, revealing how it consistently and completely objectified pigs—transforming them (both rhetorically and literally) from living, sentient beings to lifeless units of production. When Jan explained that this meat industry rhetoric was readily available, from the meat industry itself, I was intrigued. It's one thing to imagine what killers and torturers are saying and thinking; it's quite another to actually be privy to insider information—to get inside the heads of the perpetrators, so to speak.

So I decided to join to see what I would find there. My hope was that I would gain knowledge that could help me in my advocacy. And you know what? It already has!

For one thing, I've learned that the meat industry is worried. I reported in a recent article that the meat industry's own figures show a drop in the number of animals brought to slaughter in February 2013, as compared to February of 2012. Troubling news for the slaughterers, but great news for animal rights people and of course the animals themselves!

And just today, in the "Industry News" section of Meatingplace, there's a story about the drop in the number of cattle being confined in feedlots:
USDA on Friday reported that cattle placed in feedlots in the United States with capacity of 1,000 or more head in February totaled 1.48 million, 14 percent below a year ago and well beyond the 9 percent decline analysts were expecting, according to a Dow Jones survey.
A 14 percent drop in a single year? That's huge.

While the meat industry wrings its hands and tries to figure out how to reverse the trend, those of us who celebrate any news about animals being spared suffering and death can use this information to bolster our commitment to compassionate living.

Let's keep the trend going. I can't wait to read more industry articles boo-hoo-hooing the decline of meat. The more they worry and complain, the more we know we're doing the right thing.

Friday, March 15, 2013

No Whey!

Sometimes, the posts that appear here originally begin as articles for the website Occasionally, I like to give a little extra background behind why I write what I write for TDIV, and this is one of those occasions.

In this case, it all started at the YMCA. You see, I'm a member of my local Y, and it never fails to irritate me when I walk into the weight room and see plastered all over the bulletin board articles and ads torn from muscle magazines—all extolling animal protein (particularly whey supplements of every sort) as necessary to get huge muscles. 

(Of course, the fixation on bulging, vein-popping biceps is an irritation in its own right, but I'll save that for another day.)

The issue, for me, is the Y's promotion of all this cruel, not to mention unhealthy, whey. I guess what I really need is to get up the gumption to talk to the Y director and see if, at the very least, some plant-based information can be included to balance out all the animal propaganda. In the meantime, I decided to pen the following article for TDIV: 

Derek Tresize, vegan body builder
It’s what bodybuilders are famous for: pumping iron, posing in front of mirrors, and choking down tons of whey. Why whey? Because whey protein—a by-product of the cheese industry—is known for its ability to help build lean muscle, which is exactly what muscle mavens are after.

And even though vegan bodybuilders have been wildly successful (just check out the amazing Robert Cheeke), there’s been a decades-long perception in the bodybuilding community that plant-based protein supplements were somehow inferior to animal-based ones.

Of course, vegan body builders have always known the stereotype was bogus. But now there’s proof. A newly released double-blind study has concluded that plant protein (specifically the one found in whole-grain brown rice) has the same muscle- and strength-building power as the long-lauded whey.

The study, conducted at the University of Tampa’s Department of Health Sciences and Human Performance, found that rice protein
"decreases fat-mass and increases lean body mass, skeletal muscle hypertrophy, power and strength comparable to whey protein isolate."
In other words, rice gives you all the benefits of whey without subjecting you to whey's dark side—not the least of which is the way that whey, like all milk protein, nourishes cancer growth.

And it's not just bodybuilders, or would-be body builders, who stand to gain from the transition away from whey. The dairy industry—which confines, rapes, drugs, and forcibly separates millions of mother cows from their calves before eventually slaughtering them—is one of the cruelest forms of factory farming. And whey, the supplement of choice for generations of body builders, has helped to support this terrible practice. Fortunately, this new study proves there's no need to choose between having magnificent muscles and a compassionate heart.

"Downer" veal calves (essentially dairy cows babies who are too sick to stand up and be slaughtered); like whey and cheap "hamburger," they are the by-products of the dairy industry

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Horse-Drawn Carriages: Separating Fact from Fiction

When you see horse-drawn carriage rides portrayed in the movies or on TV, it always seems so sweet. There’s the driver in a spiffy uniform, the quaint carriage with its big, spokey wheels, the comforting clippity-clop of hooves as smiling passengers go dashing along. But behind this fairy tale image is a reality that, for the horses at least, is anything but sweet.

Being trussed up in a harness and forced to pull a carriage all day, every day—on pavement intended for motor vehicles and in the most congested city areas—is grueling, dangerous work. The constant pounding causes painful and debilitating leg problems. The inhaling of exhaust fumes spewing from cars, trucks, and buses causes respiratory disorders. And the constant weaving in and out of noisy, unpredictable traffic causes these sensitive animals to spook, resulting in accidents that too often injure them, as well as people.

Last summer alone, several incidents involving carriage horses made the news. Here is just a sampling: 
  • A horse named Oreo becoming so badly spooked that he broke free of his carriage, burst into busy traffic near New York’s Central Park, and ended up crumpled on the pavement after being shot by police with a tranquilizer gun.
  • A drunk driver slamming into the back of a horse-drawn carriage in Galveston, Texas, killing one person and injuring the horse as well as four other people.
  • A horse named Dutch suffering a leg injury and his driver smashing into a car windshield after a spooking incident in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Two horses in Casper, Wyoming, getting thrown into the air, suffering major injuries, and later being euthanized after the carriage they were pulling was struck by an SUV.

The cruelty doesn’t end when the horses are off the clock. Carriage horses are not provided with the basic necessities that horses need to lead natural, satisfying lives. They don’t get to graze in green pastures, or roll in the dirt, or bask in the sun, or socialize with their fellow equines. The typical carriage horse, after a wearying day on the street, doesn’t bed down at night in a comfortable, roomy barn or a nice grassy field. Instead, they’re parked like cars in a garage—often housed in the middle of the city in stalls so tightly cramped that they’re not able to turn around, much less lie down comfortably.

And how did these poor animals end up as carriage horses in the first place? Many are broken-down horses from the racetrack, breeds whose anatomy was never designed for such work. When they become too debilitated to pull carriages, they are often sent to auction on their way to slaughter.

Don’t let the movies fool you. There’s nothing magical about a carriage ride, not when the cost is denying horses all of their natural instincts and subjecting them to injury and even death. Fortunately, the use of horse-drawn carriages for entertainment has been banned in many major cities around the world, including London, Oxford, Paris, Toronto, Beijing, as well as numerous smaller cities throughout the U.S. See the advocacy group Horses Without Carriages International for more information and how you can help with this issue. Their comprehensive website features a slideshow of images from around the world showing the cruelty of horse-drawn carriages, as well as photos of rescued carriage horses enjoying, at long last, the kind of happy life every horse deserves.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wha Me Eat?

A wonderful music video to warm the heart in the middle of this harsh winter! Groove to the reggae rhythms of British-born musical artist, performer, and activist with a career spanning thirty years— Rastafarian and vegan, Macka B.

Bet'cha can't resist dancing. (I couldn't).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vegan Is Love

Trailer for a new children's book by Ruby Roth. Please watch!