Archive for April, 2009

30 April, 2009

I Don’t Mind Stealing Bread from the mouths of decadence

Hunger Strike

Hunger Strike performed by Temple Of The Dog (vocals by Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam)

A song that Cornell describes as “the lyrics are somewhat of a political, socialist statement“.

“I don’t mind stealing bread, from the mouths of decadence”.

Is this song a tribute to civil disobedience? The millions are dying of being overfed while most of the world’s population are starving, this injustice in food distribution between nations and communities – “blood is on the table” is the blood of the slaves who make the food but can’t afford to eat it themselves.. That to steal bread from the “mouths of decadence” in order to feed the starving should be seen as a good thing, and not a criminal act.

This song is suggesting that the Hunger Strike is in solidarity with the starving “I’m going hungry”.

USAmerica throws away half of its food, the United Kingdom throws away a third of its food, New South Wales, Australia that figure is thirty percent of its food thrown away, Toronto Canada throws away 17.5 million kilograms of food per month.

And yet, in many places in the world, people are dying from lack of food.

Feedback welcome.

25 April, 2009

ANZAC biscuits (plus vegan recipe)

Anzac Biscuits (it is actually illegal to call them Anzac Cookies) are sweet and crunchy and are very easily veganised for those missing out on cookies and biscuits.

Anzac Day commemorated on 25 April in New Zealand, Australia and some Pacific Islands as a National Day of Remembrance for those involved in War.

During World War 1, women in New Zealand and Australia made these by the thousands to ship to those serving overseas. A recipe was sought for a product that would last the weeks or months it would take to ship by boat to the other side of the world and get supplied out to the trenches.

ANZAC Biscuits seemed to be based on a Scottish recipe for Parkin, they are made without eggs or milk and designed to be long lasting, and ideal for storage. In the trenches of the front lines, soldiers would put these hard biscuits in their mugs and cover them with hot water to make a form of instant porridge (oatmeal).

This was part of the effort of those on the home-front to be part of the Resistance. The wives, girlfriends, mothers and grandmothers, not only ran the businesses and farms, raised the families and funds, and organised the communities while their loved ones were away, they also knitted warm clothing and made food for care packages.

Not every fight can be won or lost, only by foot soldiers. It takes a combination of good effective leadership, brave soldiers willing to make the sacrifice and the Resistance of civilian non-combatants to support the soldiers by any means required.

These are also easily veganised by replacing butter with light nut oil or vegan margarine.

ANZAC biscuits

8 (125 grams) tablespoons vegan margarine (or light nut oil)
1 tablespoon golden syrup (similar to light treacle or corn syrup)

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup plain, all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (white or brown)

2 tablespoons boiling water
1 – 1/2 teaspoon baking soda / bicarbonate of soda

Melt the margarine and golden syrup in a saucepan over a Low heat.

Combine rolled oat, coconut, well sifted flour and sugar.

Combine bicarb soda and water, add this to the melted margarine and syrup. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix to a firm consistency.

Put spoonfuls onto a greased baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven at 150-160°C (300-325°F) a little less for fan-forced ovens.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking tray before moving. (Biscuits come out of the oven soft, hardens on cooling.)

Feedback welcome.

22 April, 2009

Biopiracy or Bioprivateering?

In honour of International Earth Day, a look at the Environment

Biopiracy or Bioprivateering?
Richard Stallman

For decades, new drugs have been found in exotic animals and plants. Genes from rare species and subspecies are also useful in producing new breeds, whether by genetic engineering or ordinary cross-breeding. The drugs, and nowadays the new breeds as well, are typically patented. This causes trouble for developing countries that could use them.

Patent monopolies on plant and animal varieties, on genes, and on new medicines, threaten to harm developing countries in three ways. First, by raising prices so far that most citizens have no access to these new developments; second, by blocking local production when the patent owner so chooses; third, for agricultural varieties, by forbidding farmers to continue breeding them as has been done for thousands of years.

Just as the United States, a developing country in the 1800s, refused to recognize patents from advanced Britain, today’s developing countries need to protect their citizens’ interest by shielding them from such patents. To prevent the problems of monopolies, don’t establish monopolies. What could be simpler?

But developing countries need support from world opinion in order to do this. It means going against a view that companies strongly advocate: that biotech company investors are entitled to monopolies, regardless of how they affect anyone else. It means going against treaties that these companies have prevailed on the US to force through threats of economic warfare on most of the world.

To challenge an idea which is backed by so much money is not easy. So some have proposed the concept of “biopiracy” as an alternative approach. Instead of opposing the existence of biological monopolies, this approach aims to give the rest of the world a share in the profits from them. The claim is that biotechnology companies are committing “biopiracy” when they base their work on natural varieties, or human genes, found in developing countries or among indigenous peoples–and therefore they ought to be required to pay “royalties” for this.

“Biopiracy” is appealing at first glance, because it takes advantage of the current trend towards more and bigger monopoly powers. It goes with the flow, not against. But it will not solve the problem, because the problem stems from the trend that this concept legitimizes and fails to criticize.

Useful varieties and genes are not found everywhere or with even distribution. Some developing countries and indigenous peoples will be lucky, and receive substantial funds from such a system, at least for the twenty years that a patent lasts; a few may become so rich as to cause cultural dislocation, with a second episode to follow when the riches run out. Meanwhile, most of these countries and peoples will get little or nothing from this system. “Biopiracy” royalties, like the patent system itself, will amount to a kind of lottery.

The “biopiracy” concept presupposes that natural plant and animal varieties, and human genes, have an owner as a matter of natural right. Once that assumption is granted, it is hard to question the idea that an artificial variety, gene or drug is property of the biotechnology company by natural right, and thus hard to deny the investors’ demand for total and world-wide power over the use of it.

The idea of “biopiracy” offers the multinationals, and the governments that work for them, an easy way to cement forever their regime of monopolies. With a show of magnanimity, they can concede a small part of their income to a few lucky indigenous peoples; from then on, when anyone questions whether biological patents are a good idea, they can cite these indigenous peoples along with the fabled “starving genius inventor” to paint such questioning as plundering the downtrodden. (This behavior pattern is widespread among business today. For instance, the “music industry” lobbies for increased copyright powers in the name of musicians, who they like to call the “creators”, while paying musicians only 4% of the companies’ total income.)

What people outside the developed world really need, for their agriculture and medicine, is to be exempt from all such monopolies. They need to be free to manufacture medicine without paying royalties to multinationals. They need to be free to grow and breed all sorts of plants and animals for agriculture; and if they decide to use genetic engineering, they should be free to commission the genetic modifications that suit their needs. A lottery ticket for a share of royalties from a few varieties and genes is no compensation for losing these freedoms.

It is indeed wrong for biotech companies to convert the world’s natural genetic resources into private monopolies–but the wrong is not a matter of taking someone else’s rightful property, it is a matter of privatizing what ought to be public. These companies are not biopirates. They are bioprivateers.

Copyright (C) 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 Richard Stallman
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted in any medium provided this notice is preserved.

Feedback welcome.

20 April, 2009

Your friendly neighbourhood anarchist

“There are no such things as superior forms of struggle. Revolt needs everything: papers and books, arms and explosives… The only interesting question is how to combine them.”
At Daggers Drawn

“Attack is the refusal of mediation, pacification, sacrifice, accommodation, and compromise in struggle. It is through acting and learning to act, not propaganda, that we will open the path to insurrection, although analysis and discussion have a role in clarifying how to act. Waiting only teaches waiting; in acting one learns to act.”
-“Insurrectionary Anarchy: Organizing for Attack,” in Do or Die #10

Feedback welcome.

15 April, 2009

RMS Titanic and Animal Liberation

RMS Titanic

Image via Wikipedia

At 2:20 AM, on 15 April 1912, the RMS Titanic sunk after hitting an iceberg on her maiden voyage from England to New York. The death total was 1,571 (or 1,513 depending on the source) people.

As today is that day, I am going to look at a few little bits and pieces of the Titanic, from an vegan point of view.

It was a passenger-ship of extremes, millionaires and captains of industry, separated by a couple of decks from migrants to the new world who carried all their worldly possessions in a suitcase.

Among the very rich passengers, was JJ Astor, who was also one of the fatalities, his family amassed their wealth in the fur trade in the South West and Canada. His was a fortune built on the bloodied corpses of animals whose lives were stolen for the greed of a selfish man.

The death of one man, in the lap of luxury, hardly seems comparable to the deaths of the millions of animals that would have been slaughtered in order to become the US’s first multi-millionaire.

Another wealthy First-class passenger, was the Swiss tennis player, Richard Norris Williams II, whose concerned in this private letter to another First-class passenger, seems to be on his fur coat, and not the dying and dead surrounding him.

‘I was not under water very long, and as soon as I came to the top I threw off the big fur coat. I also threw off my shoes. About twenty yards away I saw something floating. I swan to it and found it to be a collapsible boat.

As the world subsequently found out, although over 1,500 people died that night… Mr Harold Wingate of the White Star Line could report- the fur coat was saved.

The overcoat belonging to Mr Williams I sent to a furrier to be reconditioned, but nothing could be done with it except dry it out, so I sent it to him as it was.

Mrs. Lilli Black, another whose fur coat managed to survive the horror of that night, and years later remiscinced on the events of that fateful voyage…
“If it weren’t for my fur coat, 1 believe I would not be alive today, nor would the young steward. Mr. Fitzpatrick… I had. on a hooded steamer coat over my, nightclothes, and Bert [Denbouy] grabbed my, fur one from a chair as we left, the stateroom. That ‘extra’ I wrapped around Mr. Fitzpatrick when we had rescued him from an overturned boat.”

Mrs. Washington Dodge was another passenger who managed to rescue her fur coat…
I slipped on my fur coat over my night robe and preserver, put on my shoes… They were lowering [life] boats. I entered the second boat…

But the various fur coats were not the only dead animals on the boat that night.

Among the provisions taken on board the Titanic were the following:
* Fresh Meat 75,000 lbs
* Fresh Fish 11,000 lbs
* Salt & dried fish 4,000 lbs
* Bacon and Ham 7,500 lbs
* Poultry and game 25,000 lbs
* Fresh Eggs 40,000
* Ice Cream 1,750 lbs
* Fresh Milk 1,500 gal
* Fresh Cream 1,200 qts
* Condensed Milk 600 gals
* Fresh Butter 6,000lbs

* Eiderdown Quilts: 800

The Titanic was a luxury cruise for some, and passage to hope for others, and a celebration of death for thousands of animals.

As shown here, the connection between wealth and the exploitation and cruelty to animals. When animals have become commodities, when the price for a dead animals is greater than the value of a their life, it is easy to see that perhaps, the more money a person, or society has, the more they exploit animals.

There is a correlation between wealth and the exploitation of animals, between luxury and one’s inclination toward kindness.

This is one suggested reason for the hatred that fur wearers attract, but not as much aimed at leather. Fur is seen as a luxury good, leather utilitarian. Rich and useless people wear fur, flaunting their wealth, average, every day people wear leather, demonstrating their hard work. Fur is seen is an extravagance, leather is seen as a by-product of the meat-and-dairy industries.

And yet to the animal that is slaughtered, there is no difference, if they are turned into a fur coat or a leather sofa, they are still just as dead.

The more money you have to spend, the more you have to spend on useless status items, and dead animals are just one more thing to buy to flaunt a persons wealth.

Feedback welcome.

10 April, 2009

Tyranny or Revolution… Choose

Tyranny or Revolution. One of two simple choices. Continue to live a dictatorship or stand up and say No.

Those are the options – either unquestioningly obey unjust laws or stand up against them. By fighting unjust laws you are standing up for justice, freedom, free-thinking, you are standing up for what you believe in, more importantly – what is right.

If you obey unjust laws, that you know are unjust, you are losing your freedom, independence of thought, and you are sitting back doing nothing, from a position of safety while others are subjected to unjust laws that selectively punish and discriminate.

It doesn’t take a majority to make a rebellion; it takes only a few determined leaders and a sound cause.” H L Mencken

As we can see from many civil rights movements, from the abolition of the slave trade, sufferage for women, ending apartheid in South Africa, African Independence Movement and gay rights, the fight is for rights is not about a group asking or begging for their rights but about people taking the power that is already theirs and asserting their rights.

The fight for rights against those who hold power is an expression of power. People acknowledging there is injustice and standing up and fighting is an expression of strength, which challenges the common held notions of power relationships. Foucault (1990) said, it is in principle impossible to oppose power, because it is only with power that power can be opposed.

However, the fight for animal rights is an except to all civil rights and social justice movements, in that those who are victims and suffer at the hands of those with power, are never going to be in a position to assert their rights to life. What happens then?

Civil disobedience becomes duty.

As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.” Clarence Darrow

If we don’t speak out when we see injustice we are silently and passively saying we agree. Our silence empowers those who wield the whips and chains of enslavement. And right now in the Animal Rights Movement there is a creeping silence settling on organisations and activists who seem to have forgotten how to fight.

The animals continue to be treated as mere commodities and activists are waiting… for, well, something.

This silence is what is happening in the animal rights movement. There is a growing popularity in Animal Rights Activism (ARA) of complacency. Led by a theoretical “activist” Gary Francione, they have taken over as the public voice of activism. They have elected themselves the moral guardians of veganism. They speak the loudest. Meanwhile the Real ARAs are out in the streets actually fighting for what they believe in and fighting against injustice and tyranny, against the suffering and cruelty forced upon animals in the name of economics and “choice” (consumer choice, the animal doesn’t get a choice).

We know through painful experiences that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed“. Martin Luther King

The Francione-Lee Hall-inspired “pacifist dietary vegans” often appear to be confused about what ARA is. It is not (only) making vegan cupcakes and eating vegan marshmallows. While following a particular diet can be considered political action, it is not direct action. Friends of Animals contend that “veganism is direct action” without actually explaining what Direct Action is or how Veganism is Direct Action, apart from such suggestions as eat at a vegan restaurant, buy a vegan cookbook, join Friends Of Animals (which they claim is inexpensive). Direct Action Veganism seems to be related to how much money you spend, turning veganism into a consumerist action.

While it can be seen that choices at the supermarket are political – from the brands you support or boycott, the country of origin, the distance food is transported, its environmental impact in production, or the welfare of the ingredients in the case of animal products. The companies you support economically or economically sabotage shape the world, every consumers choice at the cash register has an impact on the world. From child slavery for chocolate or palm oil in your cakes to supporting brands that also own cigarette companies or avoiding animal products – these all have political consequences.

Although following a vegan diet might be regarded as passivism (passive + activism). And unless someone follows up advocating a vegan diet with actual actions you are a not an activist vegan, but a dietary vegan. The clue is in the word ACTIVism, it suggests some kind of ACTivity, ACTion, it involves acting one way or another, being an active agent in opposing the suffering and cruelty in the world. Part of the definition of vegan is someone who “promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment” (Watson and Shrigley). It is not telling other vegans how superior you are, that yours is the one true way, and the path to animal rights is found Only by blindly following Francione and Hall.

Words without action are meaningless.
The world will not, as Gary Francione and his followers say, be vegan if you want it. It will be vegan when people act on it. Get out and do something about it. Wishful thinking rarely achieves anything. It will take hard work, it will take risk, it will involve taking a stand FOR something, not just endlessly shouting down any Real ARAs who don’t blindly obey Francione.

What the world needs is a revolution, not another movement. The insistence of Francione and Hall followers of calling themselves “Abolitionist Vegan” divides Animal Rights. It artificially separates vegans, splintering what should be a united movement into Us v Them.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Why We Can’t Wait, 1963

So while Francione and Hall are sitting around telling people to Buy vegan cook books, Buy memberships of their organisations, Buy meals at restaurants, Buy text books they write, Buy, Buy, Buy, and tell people this is “direct action”, there are real Direct Action Activists are refusing to accept the status quo of a society that puts a higher price on the death of an animal that they do on the value of that animals life.

This is not civil war between those that oppose all form of MDA – militant direct action and those who don’t condemn it. Because the dietary vegans who talk about peace being the only way, they are nothing but a distraction. Their beliefs don’t seem to be based on Animal Liberation but following gurus and their opinions, they will left on the side of the road long after Real ARAs are reaching milestones in the path to true animal liberation.

These milestones will be reached by people standing up against the tyranny of a society.

“What have you done for animals lately?”

This is not a criticism of meat eaters, this is not a criticism of vegetarians, nor is this a criticism on people who live a vegan lifestyle who don’t want to be ARA’s. This is pointing out the hypocrisy of people who call themselves “activists” and then do nothing but recruit for the members for the Abolitionism of Francione and Hall.

So get on the train or get off the tracks. Because when you target Animal Liberation for being not vegan enough, you are in the way, you are the hit squad for animal abusing industries.

A revolution is coming – a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough – but a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character, we cannot alter its inevitability.” John F. Kennedy

Taking the world vegan will require a revolution, in the way of thinking of six billion people. This will be achieved when those who want to see real Animal Liberation rebel against the tyranny from the Animal Agriculture industry and other vegans who stymie activists who are making a difference. It will involved standing up for your principles instead of attacking those who do. It means putting your life and freedom on the line, and if you’re not prepared to stand up for what you believe in, then just what will you do to save the life of an animal.

Eating vegan marshmallows does very little for preventing the suffering and death of an animal. And calling yourself an “animal rights activist” when all you do is shut down anyone who believes in a different form of activism achieves nothing – or rather it achieves nothing for the animals. It achieves a lot in slowing down Real ARAs, it sides with the abusers and enables them to continue inflicting their cruelty.

If you are fighting for animal rights and liberation, I will fight with you. If you are vegan, I admire you. If you reject the animal death industries, I respect you.

So… will we have Vegan Revolution or Tyranny?

A vegan revolution is inevitable, so what are we waiting for? Why not now?

Let’s start the Revolution today.

Feedback welcome.

5 April, 2009

Is Animal Rights a Sham Movement?

Ojore N. Lutalo: “any movement that does not support their political internees … is a sham movement

Within the fight for animal rights, there are two types of prisoners. The animals are prisoners of a system that puts a higher price on their death than value on their life. There is also the activists themselves who are at the mercy of the leaders of the “movement” and the State who punishes them for daring to be different.

Firstly, the animals can be considered political detainees. They are locked up, chained up, enslaved, tortured and mutilated all because they were born another species. Not because of anything they have done wrong, but because they were born to the wrong parents. That is where the fight should be.

Too often animal rights advocates get distracted, by people who place a higher importance on their own popularity than the fight for rights. They want to be leaders, they say they are leaders, but the only they are concerned with is how many followers they have, how many blog hits and how many book sales.

Leaders should lead from the front and bring people along with them by the example they set. Instead animal rights is plagued with leaders who prefer to hide behind front groups, secretly writing for blogs in other activists names so they can sit back like they are above it all. They encourage the petty infighting because it does their reputation good when people align behind one leader or another but it IS NOT GOOD for the animal rights and animal liberation movement.

Leaders lead from the front, the don’t push from behind. They make sure everyone who is willing to sacrifice for them, (be it time, energy, work, money, thoughts) is not doing so for the wrong reasons.

Anyone who would put their ego above their animals, above on-the-ground activists is a sham leader.

photo credit, source and disclaimer:
By johnmuk (John Morris)
Photo is used here is unchanged and unmodified, and the use of this picture is because I think it is a good photo and is in no way to suggest that the owner of this endorses either my use of their work, me or the context.
(disclaimer via Flickr)

Feedback welcome.