Monday, May 31, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

I rarely send something to my entire list.  Today I am sending out my blog posting to my entire email list.
I have many people in my life who think that the vegan choice is just sort of my little thing I do or the equivalent of my religion or is a popular trend and nothing more.  They would not think this if it were me working each day to end violence toward humans. In most human circles, the non-violence education work I do would be considered "more important" if I were working for humans rather than non-humans.
I am sending this out because it is important to not turn our backs on needless violence.  It is not to point a finger at anyone or to say that I am a perfect example of non-violence/consistency.
I am not perfect.  I have inconsistencies in my life.  Like everyone, I do my best with what I know and with the often difficult choices I have to make. 
Most people want to help create a less violent and more caring society.  Some situations seem overwhelming.  How do I personally stop the war in the Middle East?  I have no idea.  Other situations are totally within our power.  How do I personally stop contributing to the war on innocent non-humans?  Here the choices are often within our hands and can be acted on immediately.
Some choices are easier than others.
Whether it is ethical to eat dairy or not eat dairy is not one of the more difficult choices in life.  It is quite clear that we are causing lifetimes of violence and suffering for the pleasure of a bowl of yogurt or a cheese pizza or a dish of ice cream. Most people do not realize this or do not want to make this connection.

Most people do not want to watch difficult/violent footage.  I understand....there are images that I have witnessed that have haunted me for years.  And, it is important to not turn away, especially if the industries are ones we choose to support. 

I am going over to the meditation center to volunteer today.  The center serves dairy.  It is accepted in even the most caring circles.
I know that many of my most politically and environmentally conscious friends are going to say that they only get "humane" or "organic" dairy products.  Most of them have never visited these dairies.  Caring people would not support these farms if they were witness to every step of the process.  Even the most "humane" dairy farm has to deal with the by-product of their industry: the male calves.  They are slaughtered or sent to a veal facility within a few days because the milk meant for them is destined for ice cream, yogurt, cheese and milk for humans who are beyond the nursing age.
There is no humane way around that or the fact that the mothers are slaughtered while still in the prime of their life and become part of the meat industry.
Eating dairy is a slippery slope.  You may start out saying you only support "humane" or "organic" animals products, but when you go out to eat you go ahead and order animal products in your meal without regard for the source.

Please, if you still consume dairy products and decide that you do not want to witness the extremely difficult/violent video attached to this email, there are other, gentler places to get informed. 
Buy some Daiya vegan cheese (the best..) and some coconut milk ice cream and make yourself a comfort food snack while reading through the endless vegan educational material on-line.  Simple Google: Dairy cruelty

Once you read the material you find, you will be more informed.
What you do with that information is up to you.
I hope you will choose to act on what you see.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Exactly Len.....Memorial Day As If All Life Mattered

On May 28, 2010, at 8:17 AM, My friend Len Frenkel wrote:

Please allow me to express some ideas about Memorial Day that go beyond the traditional. Of course I honor those men and women who have given their time, their bodies, their lives for the betterment of this country or the salvation of another. I honor those unfortunate innocent civilians caught in the crossfire who have lost their homes, their belongings, their lives.
But I also honor those living things and beings, innocent of any crime, who have also lost their place, lost their right to exist in peace, or lost their lives after brutal treatment by humans. I refer to trees cut down, needlessly; to fish corralled in nets by the zillions, needlessly; to mammals that undergo painful testing, needlessly; to animals in circuses and zoos forced to perform unnatural acts or live in constrained spaces, needlessly; to the billions of chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, sheep and goats that are confined and brutalized for their short lives so that we can eat them, needlessly.
That’s what my Memorial Day is about, and it is a profoundly sad one. When will humans learn to cohabit with other life forms rather than treat them as property to be used for selfish purposes?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pet Them, View Them, Feed Them, Fall in Love with Them and Eat Them.....


It is no wonder that human children grow up confused about what constitutes violence and what it means to be compassionate and live our values with consistency........

Here is an ad from the local Quaker e-newsletter:
(I removed the full name and email to give this guy some anonymity)

Roger Y. of River Oak Farm is selling organic Angus beef from cattle he has raised in Micaville. Groups make an order together. He can have 1/2 cut the way a group wants it. People can order with 2,4, 6, or 8 together. The full steer is about 500 lbs. His e-mail is: His cell is 208-55**.  Small children may come and feed a calf.

And this from the Christian Science Monitor:
 Hey kids, wanna go to the zoo today and look at the crocodiles? And then maybe eat one? The Beijing Zoo puts the same animals on its restaurant menu as it keeps behind bars. Crocodile, kangaroo, antelope, and hippopotamus are among the species that visitors can go the zoo to admire on the hoof, and then savor at lunch – steamed, braised, or roasted – at the Bin Feng Tang restaurant. This has been going on for years, according to the restaurant’s manager, who seemed surprised that a newspaper article this week about her establishment should cause a stir on the Chinese Internet. The news has not gone down well. “How would you feel, watching animals imprisoned in a limited space while eating their siblings?” asked Zheng Yuanjie, a well-known author, on his blog. The zoo restaurant apparently has the requisite license from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Landscape and Forestry (which would presumably prefer to see crocodiles and hippos in a soup than in their landscapes) and is quite legal because none of the species on the menu is endangered.  Nor, the restaurant insists, do any of the animals come from the zoo’s own enclosures. Still, the restaurant’s menu makes some people wonder. “The zoo is where we teach children to be nice to animals,” Qin Xiaona, head of the Capital Animal Welfare Association told the daily “Global Times.” “How can we do this after eating them?”
*Christian Science Monitor
The original link:

Forks Over Knives - Movie Trailer

I cannot wait to see this film...check out the trailer....fantastic! Two of my favorite people coming together for this film!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don't Cut Down That Tree!

My friend Daniel Seifert bought my little log cabin in western Wisconsin some years back.  He totally gets that the land belongs to the wildlife and he is a visitor.

Today he emailed me:

"i've been threatening to cut this tree down for years

these little guys must've been the reason i haven't"

And these are the photos he took and attached to the email:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Simple Food the most simple foods are the BEST.
An apple eaten right off the tree in the autumn.  A mango that drips juice down your chin.  Greens munched while gardening.  A handful of blueberries picked on the side of a hill overlooking the ocean.
Here is today's favorite.  Not as simple as raw foods, but this is total comfort food delight.

We got some red rice at the market. 
I cooked up red rice.  I cooked up garbanzo beans that I had soaked overnight.
I put these together with umeboshi vinegar (plum vinegar) and olive oil. 
I added some chopped celery. 
Don't bother asking me for measurements......use your intuition and enjoy. 

Joyful Pandas and Brilliant Bees....

I am working on my book that includes lots of stories of animal intelligence. It is pretty shocking that most humans still think that we are the intelligent species and other species are just sort of animal machines without feelings, thoughts, desires, language, etc. I was reading about animals reveling in freedom. in the book When Elephants Weep. I read this book when it first came out and just pulled it out to re-read some sections today. If you haven't read this book, you are missing out.

Zookeepers, scientists who keep animals in cages in labs and others who make a living from captive animals, usually say/think that the animals just want food and a comfortable place to be, but do not care if they have freedom. In the book there is a story of a two-year old panda at a Chinese breeding center who lives in a dark cage. When she was given a chance to go into an outdoor enclosure, she ran out into the outdoor space, trotted up a hill and again and again somersaulted down the hill. The scientist observing the panda said that she exploded with joy.

It is obvious that zoo animals want more than just food and a roof over their head when they try to escape time and time again.

What is less obvious, and most scientists will argue against, is that all species want the ability to control their own destiny. One study with mice first proved that they had preferences. When given a dimmer switch to control their own lighting, they would turn down very bright lights to a more comfortable level. When left alone they would adjust the lights to their own preference. The mice would also often choose the opposite of the scientist's choice. If he turned the lights on bright, they would darken them and if he turned them off completely they would turn them on very bright. If this same scientist disturbed the sleeping mice they would come out of their nesting boxes and immediately return to their cozy spot. But if he put them back into the nesting boxes, they would come back out immediately and would not stay in no matter now many times he put them back in. This and other studies have shown that they (and other species) care more about choice than comfort.

There is a division in the animal rights/animal welfare community. Some animal rights groups are joining in the fight for "better conditions" for farmed animals. This is a welfare issue, not a rights issue. While I would be happy if the animals we keep captive had better lives, my job, and the job of all animal rights activists is to work for the abolition of this type of slavery. The backlash of the new "happy meat" products is that many people are going back to eating meat and dairy who had once boycotted it. The reality is that there is no such thing as humane slaughter. There is no such thing as happy meat. The animals are all killed before they are old or sick. And even those farms calling themselves "organic" "humane" or "free-range" include practices that no peaceful non-violent person would want to support if they saw the reality. (For more information on this issue, go to My reason for bringing this up is the connection to animals wanting choice more than comfort. Even if the reality was that "humane" farming practices were really humane, this important element would still be absent for the animals. Like slaves getting nicer living quarters and better food, they still do not have free-will.

We know so little about other mammals. We know even less about insects.

There is no way that humans could recognize individual bee's faces. But, bees, sheep, fish and other non-humans have no trouble recognizing human faces and remembering them later.

One study in Australia found that bees could remember human faces even days after they were trained. The scientists would show the bees the very same series of black-and-white photos of faces (the same ones that are often used to test human memory). The bees got sweet rewards for choosing correctly and sour rewards for choosing incorrectly.

Just more proof that we have barely tapped the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding our big animal family. what I am sure of is that they can comprehend our language and our culture much more than we can theirs. Just ask your dog or cat.

(For the full bee story, go to:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Breathing it In

I know what brings me alive and recharges me.  I don’t always choose it, but I know it when I am submerged in it.  I also know when something drains me…I can feel it.  We arrived in North Carolina about a week ago with my mind haunted by the continuous flow of oil in the gulf.  How can every news story on NPR only talk about the loss of tourists and the financial loss to the fisheries?  How can it be that we humans still cannot widen our circle of caring to include the other animals in our family?  Like an adolescent caught up in their own world and unable to understand that everyone around them has their own desires and pain, the people of the USA focus only on their own puny troubles. Once again we show that we are unable to see the big picture and once again we are slow to see the misery our choices are causing.  I can guarantee you that most people in the USA are not thinking that they have anything to do with the oil spill.  They cannot see that their choices/actions and the demand for oil are part of the equation.  A present time aerial view of the people of the USA will show a large number of them shopping at Walmart, filling their cart with UPOs (Unnecessary Plastic Objects), purchasing their UPO’s, loading the UPO’s into their SUVs and driving the two blocks to their house.
The timing was perfect....with my head filled with haunting images of dead oil covered turtles, JC and I returned to one of our many homes....the beauty and healing of the mountains of North Carolina….I breath deep here and feel all the tension melt from my crazy worried human brain and body.  This is the beauty that reminds me why I do the work I do.  This is the kind of place that reminds me that all is not lost….
Here it is in pictures….much better than words (all of these were taken on one short walk in Celo):

One of many pink lady slippers

Hasidic :) Yellow Lady Slippers

Spring bamboo shoots (these are about a foot tall and 5 inches across

View out our front door (Mt Mitchell is right there in those clouds)

More of Becky's art

One of Celo's most talented artists and beautiful, inside and out, community members died last year......she was so loved in the community.  Here is her gravestone in the Celo burial spot in the woods...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Start All Peace cows have their babies stolen from them so humans can consume their milk.  They become meat at a young age and their male calves become veal or meat.  This is true of all dairy farms....Those calling themselves humane and organic are also guilty of this as part of their practices.
I was asked to speak at the Athens Human Rights Festival this past weekend. The big banner on the stage inspired me. The banner read: STOP ALL WARS. When I saw that sign I realized that this is probably not very empowering for people. It is overwhelming. It is not tangible. I imagined people looking at that and thinking, “How can I, one person, stop all wars? I have no idea how to do that. It is out of my hands.” I talked about taking the words on that banner and just switching a few of them to their opposite to empower ourselves. Rather than STOP ALL WARS, I asked people to change the word stop and the word wars to their opposite. It then becomes START ALL PEACE. Now that is something we can all do. Right now. With our daily actions. ALL Peace really means ALL Peace. Not just some peace for some beings. We humans are slowly evolving and including all people in our circle of compassion...even those who historically were outside of our circle of caring. The majority of us now accept that children, women and all races are deserving of basic rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It was not always this way. We had to evolve to this place of caring.
Some of us have been able to take this circle of compassion even further to include all species. We have redefined the word “other” to include all beings and the earth herself. Do unto others as you would have them do to you, the golden rule, takes on a new meaning when we let ourselves re-define others to be more inclusive. We humans are very slow learners. Other species can take in new information and adapt much quicker than we can.
I asked the people at the human rights festival to raise their hand if they would be willing to change a daily action/choice of theirs if they knew this choice was causing needless suffering/oppression to others. Everyone raised their hand. They easily raised their hand again when I asked if this would apply to buying items produced with sweatshop labor. This is not an easy choice in a world of cheap goods made by slaves and sweatshop workers. But they easily raised their hands because they know this is the most compassionate thing to do. I do not know how many took it to heart.
Then I talked about some of the needless suffering/oppression in animal agriculture. With a broader definition of “other” they would have to change many daily habits if they were being honest when I asked them the first question, “Would you change a daily action/choice if you knew this choice was causing needless suffering/oppression to others?”
The people in the crowd who were enjoying ice cream or hamburgers or sour cream laden burritos raised their hands to the question, but may not have made a connection to what was in their other hand. We do what we can when we are ready to act. We act when we are able to take in the new information. When does our compassion override our own selfish desires? I grapple with it myself today as I selfishly want to keep Tikvah alive and feed him meat from other suffering beings.
Start All Peace….not just some Peace...ALL Peace. It isn’t always easy. The choices are not always easy. Our dollars are our votes. Each time we spend money on something we are saying to the company producing the goods “keep doing what you are doing.”
Ethical consumerism has to be a strong conscious choice that we help each other make. It is easy for me to buy coconut ice cream and eat a vegan diet….That is a no brainer for me. It is not so easy to sort out the decisions around a family member I want to be with for many more years. We all cause some harm in the world.....but, how do we cause the least harm we can?
Zoe Weil, a wonderful teacher and author teaches MOGO (Most Good) workshops and has written a MOGO book. 

Even when it is not so black and white, we can try to make decisions that do the most good and least harm. We can start with the easy, obvious choices and move on to the more difficult is that simple.  We can start right now.

Better Than TV


Maybe it will help my mood if I write about tool use in the dung beetle world…… A beautiful dung beetle let me witness his smarts. Please, share this story with any of the less experienced humans who think humans are intelligent and other species are just “things”.

I was coming back from a run with our younger dog, Bean. I stopped and watched a dung beetle as he was surveying a pile of poo. It had rained the day before, so it wasn’t a dung beetles favorite poo package. They like a large chunk they can burrow under and carry on their backs. This little guy tried that method, but the crumbly dung kept falling off. He tried this a few times and then walked about two feet to a dry oak leaf and pushed it back toward the dung. Then he loaded the dry leaf with a high pile of dung. He was using his head like a snow shovel and piling the dung on load by load. He then did a circle around it and checked out all the sides. It must have met his approval, because he then started burrowing under the leaf. Once under the leaf, he lifted the whole load on his back and carried it away with his new fangled “backpack”. From my birdseye view, it just looked like a leaf with poo moving along the path. Who needs TV with a show like that?

The Buddha is Furry and Looks Like a Polar Bear

I am not sure what a blog is really supposed to be.  Is it supposed to be impersonal?  How real can we be with each other in this blog world?  This is not a diary or a journal, it is a blog.  But how can I write the blog and not share what is real for me in this moment?

I keep squeezing my hands together hard.  Then I am pulling and pushing my knees.  I am trying to feel my body.  I am trying to be right here right now.  I am trying to keep my heart open.  I am trying not to feel and trying to feel at the same time.  I am a little crazy because my heart is just aching.  The dog I have known and loved for so many years is very sick and I have to make decisions.  Tikvah is disoriented and mostly just sleeping….
But today it is pouring rain…hard hard rain.  And he insists on being outside in it.  He is in the forest…his favorite.  I was out in the rain with him…my hands on his wet body...him sleeping settled into the pine needles.  JC brought a tarp out and made a big tent over him.  We covered him up with a fleece blanket….he is sleeping hard.
He has been through so much with me.  Hiking in the most beautiful places on earth, adjusting to new cultures and languages, cold cold winters and hot tropical summers.  He has lived in Israel, Maine, Mass, Sweden, New Mexico, Georgia and Florida.  He was still as stone while I stitched up a 15" cut on his belly...with dental floss.....on an island in Sweden (he ran over a rusty piece of metal in the snow and sliced himself wide open...he would have died by the time we got to a hospital).  He has been loved in many languages.  He has been a nomad (yesmad) with us for the last year.  His name should have been the Buddha.  He has the Buddha nature more than anyone I know.  He is four legged love and ease.  He looks and moves like a baby polar bear.  I love him with way too much of my being.  This is how it is…we let these beings into the biggest rooms in our heart mansion. 
The vet said Tikvah cannot eat carbohydrates anymore.  The vegan super dog is now on a diet of all meat.  I can see the inconsistency in this.  I can see that I am harming many beings because of this one being I care so much about.  I saw a squirrel on the road yesterday, flattened by a car’s tires.  I was aware immediately that while I feel bad for the squirrel, I do not feel my heart weighing 300 pounds in my chest when I see him.  I do feel this heart weight for Tikvah.
And I am also aware…(in my calmer moments….when I am meditating or just breathing)…..that this too shall pass…..everything is changing.  When Tikvah is gone, I will think of him and smile or laugh…..just like I have done with every dog and every person I have ever lost.  It is is my selfish hanging on that is causing me so much pain.  He is sleeping peacefully under his tarp in the forest.
Once again, I get to remember to embrace the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows…
But for now there is a river of tears that will not stop….and it is pointless to try to stop it….eventually the river will dry up.

(My friend Pat just put on Robby Hecht’s music and it is like comfort food…It is healing my heart…..if you never heard him, check out the album Late Last Night and play it when you need healing)