Why Shopping Makes You a Pig

December 18, 2013

Our local outdoor mall has a gorgeous fountain as its centerpiece which, all year round, dances to Frank Sinatra tunes piped into the air through meticulously placed speakers no one can see.

I realized, back in July, that this makes you feel like it's constantly Christmas—and like festively, generously spending money.

Now I've always been pretty anti-consumeristic (a side effect of environmentalism, yes, but also possibly due to being petite and short-waisted, which makes shopping a paid nightmare). In any case, I prefer the bare essentials in my closet, kitchen, and studio. When I do indulge in some purchase, I often end up returning it from guilt of not needing it...admonishing myself for wanting something new, just because.

But studying pigs has changed my mind.

It's known that pigs love novelty—change in environment, new objects to play with, fresh things to stimulate their senses (it's the flip side of this coin that drives them mad in farming situations).

Being social animals ourselves, we humans share with pigs in the appeal of the novel. Have you felt the small high of enjoying something new? Pigs do! I now recognize that feeling as a biological urge and feel better about giving myself and others that satisfaction from time to time. Novelty is not so frivolous—it's part of our nature, a reminder that we, too, are animals whose instincts and urges, like pigs, are real and intact, whatever our environments may be.

Only, we need to make our purchases conscious ones to do right by our human faculties.

Whatever you're shopping for this holiday, look for the "alt" version (organic, vegan, recycled, local, sustainable, wood, fair-trade, etc). It exists—Google it, browse Etsy, you'll see! The treasure hunt itself is a novel high! Have an "alt" gift suggestion? Leave it in the comments below!

Happy holidays, happy new year, and thank you for all your positive work in 2013!

Judge Calls L.A. Zookeepers "Delusional"—Then Balks. Ugh.

August 2, 2012

Image: www.losfelizledger.com

In his concluding remarks in his evaluation of the L.A. Zoo's "Elephants of Asia" exhibit, Judge John L. Segal wrote: “The evidence at trial shows that the three elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo are emotionally and socially deprived." After consulting experts, he acknowledged that the elephants are "stressed, frustrated, unanimated, and unhappy, and that the zoo is not meeting [their] needs." He called the zoo employees "delusional," acknowledged their history of abuse, caught them telling lies, and questioned whether they will even follow his court orders to discontinue the use of bull hooks. Full articles on the ruling here and here.

BUT. After his scathing review, Segal stopped short of shutting down the exhibit, as called for in the suit, because the situation was "not cruel beyond the ‘ordinary’ circumstance of captivity," he said. WTF? Infuriating doesn't come close to properly describing this failure.

What would have to happen—that has not already happened—in order to be considered "abnormally" cruel? (Versus "normally" cruel, of course.) Is this lashing fake? Is it just a slap on the wrist to placate the public so business can continue as usual? Would it shock you? Judge Segal has been under fire for alleged corruption and deprivation of rights in his courtroom before. By the way, this abusive, useless exhibit, funded by L.A. city council, cost tax-payers $42 million. Meanwhile, the L.A. Unified School District has a $400 million budget deficit for the 2012-13 year, which caused massive recent layoffs and will result in classrooms with roughly 44 students per teacher next year. The elephant money alone could have provided salaries for over 900 teachers who would have been educating about 30 kids per class, 5 classes per day. I know funding is complicated and I'm no economics wizard, but this seems one of a million ways the money could have been better invested.

This is not the end of the story.

Plaintiff Aaron Leider, who initiated the lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers (thank you!), and attorney David Casselman, who has worked pro bono on this case for five years (bless his soul!), both hope that Segal's orders for the exercising of the elephants, the roto-tilling of the soil, and the discontinuation of bull hooks—however superficial it may turn out to be—will cause the public to heed the zoo's lies and failures and in turn put pressure on city council to ultimately shut down the exhibit.


•If you live in L.A., In Defense of Animals makes it easy. Use this form.

•If you're outside of L.A., you can use IDA's text in the form above and email it to our mayor and every city council member, addresses below:
[email protected] or (213) 978-0600 or (213) 978-0721
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
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[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
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[email protected]
And if you're really feeling ballsy, here's Judge John L. Segal's phone number.

I Only Eat Grassfed Bison

September 12, 2011

Years of study has led us to the following rule: Whether it’s a feather hair extension or grass-fed bison you’re buying, whenever and wherever animals are exchanged for money, you can bet it’s dirty business. Switching from factory-farmed meat to grass-fed bison, for example, doesn’t eliminate environmental degradation, water and energy waste, water-deprived truck rides to the butcher, slaughter, or lowlife politics. Switching meats often just changes the set of problems.

For example: 
•Many bison ranches are adjacent to natural parks where wild bison and wild elk roam. When wild animals carrying brucellosis (an infectious bacteria transmittable to humans and other animals) cross park boundaries during their winter migratory routes, they can infect ranched herds—the common consequences being that the rancher must kill his entire stable. So in the interest of cattle farmers, the state of Montana, under, for example, the Interagency Bison Management Plan, drives back its wild bison herds using helicopters, hazing, slaughter, and penning. In 2004 at Yellowstone National Park, 264 wild bison were rounded up and slaughtered in order to protect 180 cows grazing on land nearby. Another 198 were rather corralled until the following season, but for lack of space in the pen, 57 were killed without even testing for brucellosis. In 2008, 1,616 bison were driven from park borders and slaughtered.

•North America used to be home to 50 million bison. Now, the last free-roaming, genetically pure herd—descendents of 23 wild bison that survived mass slaughter— exist in Yellowstone National Park, numbering 3,000. Wildlife advocates have been working to restore Yellowstone’s bison populations for relocation onto protected areas nationwide, but ranch lobbyists around the country stand in the way. Because of ranchers’ fear of brucellosis spreading to their cattle, wild bison may never be allowed to repopulate public land again, especially because the competition against livestock owners for cheap grazing land is fierce.

•Even if your grass-fed bison is “organic” today, it still may have been genetically modified and bred in the past. Being that the only pure herd exists in Montana, the many ranched bison across America are not as natural as a consumer might hope, but rather mixed with cattle genes.

So think about it: Are organic grassfed bison farmers the people you want to be giving your money to? What side of politics do you want to be on?


Sources: LA Times1, LA Times2, and Save the Buffalo Campaign.
Photos from: Photos from www.buffalofieldcampaign.org