Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Statement from LOHV

Here is an official statement I recieved from John Phillips of the League of Humane Voters regarding yesterday's incidents:

“The League of Humane Voters of New York City's Manhattan screening of Blinders: The Truth Behind the Tradition on 9/22 was a tremendous success. The screening was attended by more than 300 caring people who want to put an end to carriage horse cruelty.

A few of our members have written to us concerned about an incident that took place during the screening wherein a disruptive representative of the carriage horse industry had to be removed by security. Please understand our reasons:

1. The industry spokesperson approached the microphone and immediately began screaming that he supported the carriage industry while shaking the microphone stand and pointing and making threatening attacks at the panelists. Simultaneously, another individual, who we believe may also be with the industry, began shouting and regardless of affiliation began advocating for violence.

2. As evidenced by the film itself, this industry has a history of violence against its opponents. In the film, an animal advocate recounts being literally whipped by a driver, there is video footage of a violent attack of the videographers, and a veterinarian reports having had to wear a bulletproof vest because of threats.

3. Earlier in the evening, prior to the movie being screened, a driver from the carriage horse industry with a history of disruptive behavior came to the box office to intimidate movie goers and attempted to stop ticket sales by calling the police.

Given this, and that we were responsible for the safety of the hundreds of people attending the event, we felt we had no choice but to remove the industry spokesperson.

The League of Humane Voters of New York City will continue to encourage a healthy dialogue on this important issue, but the safety of all participating is of primary interest to us. We have zero tolerance for violence.”

Thanks again, and if you have any questions, let me know.




Executive Director

151 First Avenue, Suite 237
New York, NY 10003-2965
Telephone: 212-889-0303
E-mail: john@humanenyc.org
Web: www.humanenyc.org

STILL BLIND--a follow-up to yesterday

I woke up this morning only to find an email in my inbox from a long-time member of the NYC Carriage Horse industry. This was in response to my blog post yesterday. The man who emailed me thought he would find a sympathetic ear in me, since I am a "reasonable person."

(Note to the man wrote to me: Yes, I do plan on emailing you back. And yes, I do like to think I am a reasonable person--thanks for noticing. Despite popular belief, there are, in fact, many reasonable people in the animal rights movement.)

The man who wrote to me--who was entirely polite and articulate--let me know that he had never abused an animal in his life. He has retired 3 horses to a sanctuary, he is a member of various animal and environmental organizations, and he strongly believes that there is no abuse in his industry. He said that the documentary, Blinders, was fluffed with dramatic music in an effort to make the horse-drawn-carriage industry appear worse than it is.

I actually thought that the film was extremely fair, and even mentioned that some of the drivers or "owners" occasionally retire a horse they are particularly fond of to a rescue (I'm not clear who pays for the horse's lifetime care in this situation). Though the man who emailed me insists that there is no cruelty in this industry, that the horses are well taken care-of, and there are few accidents compared to other equine industries (not sure that's a good standard), I simply don't see any reason to exploit these horses for "work"--it is completely against their natural behavior, and is speciesism at its finest. No matter how much you say you "love" them, they are crammed into spaces at night that are too small for them to stretch out, they are not given sufficient social activity, they are never turned-out and allowed to graze, they breathe fumes for a good part of their 10-hour working day, and incredibly easily-frightened, they are subjected to a constant barrage of noise and activity. Furthermore, unless they are one of the very few "lucky ones" who get to retire to a sanctuary, they are slaughtered for horse-meat. Basically, they live their lives between two pieces of wood--either their shaft or their stall. It's like a moving gestation crate--all of their movements are controlled by someone else.

Mr.Email-Guy said that he and I have different worldviews (no shit) and he is not trying to change mine. Unfortunately, the horses are forced to live in his world, not mine.

Let it be known that I am all for free-speech--and I am all for free horses!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blindingly Obvious

Tonight M and I went to see a screening of the movie Blinders, a film by activist Danny Moss, detailing the inside horrors of the horse-drawn-carriage industry. The website states the following about this documentary:

Through original footage taken with hidden cameras and interviews with carriage drivers, veterinarians, accident witnesses, animal rights activists, politicians, tourists, residents who live near the horses and people who have rescued NYC carriage horses from slaughter, BLINDERS takes viewers behind the scenes to expose the truth behind the tradition.

This film was incredibly powerful, detailing the egregious cruelty that is this industry. It told the stories of the many horses who die from accidents caused by living a work-life they were not meant to live, in an urban jungle that is certainly no home for them. Perhaps one of the most moving moments of this film was seeing a couple of the rescued horses living out their lives peacefully at a sanctuary. My partner says that when talking about these horses, or any other exploited animal, it isn't just about the suffering--it's also about their lack of happiness.

The screening tonight was at a huge movie theatre on the Upper East Side. Hundreds of animal advocates came out for this event. There was press there, interviewing people on line, interviewing the panelists and the organization that hosted this event, The League of Humane Voters NYC--a remarkable (and remarkably effective) political group striving to elect animal-friendly politicians.

The film screening was followed by an open mic, where people were encouraged to ask questions. John from LOHV--a dear friend of mine who I love madly--started out by boasting that just before the film, they had to throw some woman out who was from the horse-drawn-carriage industry. Now, knowing John, it is likely possible that the woman was thrown out because she was abusive and out-of-line...but he didn't mention that part...which made me wonder why the opportunity to have opposition at an event like this wasn't seized, or at least attempted. And if it was attempted, it should have probably been mentioned.

Why is it so hard to get opposition at events like this, anyway? Well, probably partially because they might have to face some truths about themselves...but also partly because of behavior like this:

A woman got the mic and stated that she thinks we should start to get violent. This was after she was going on and on, asking many questions--some of which were good ones, like WHY ON EARTH does this teeny tiny industry have such big power?

Listen, if you're gonna have an open mic, it has to be managed. And when this woman said that she thinks we should get violent, there was not proper intervention there. Yes, I'm angry too. Yes, I get it too. But being violent is just perpetuating the same problem--and it's not fixing anything.

It's really sad and scary to me that there was press there. It's sad and scary to me that the one quote they will take from this evening was that a woman said we should get violent on them, since they are violent on the horses.

Then, this:

A man went to the mic and started screaming about how he is PRO-carriage horses. He was immediately heckled, he was immediately put in his place. He was IMMEDIATELY asked to leave, and security IMMEDIATELY came.

I, for one, was interested in what this guy had to say. And I agree with Yetta Kurland, the civil rights attorney/city council candidate/my friend who said that it was a missed learning opportunity to have that man leave so quickly. He wasn't really doing anything wrong--he was just barking a little. The woman who had just been to the mic who said we should get violent was not asked to leave. This is not a good impression, people!! This is why we get a bad reputation.

Obviously we have a huge gigantic fight ahead of us. But we've made some progress, anyway. In NYC, this is largely due to activists such as John from LOHV who engage people on animal issues. But tonight's "festivities" just took away from the real issues at hand: the exploitation of animals, and how we can EFFECTIVELY work together to REACH PEOPLE in order to effect REAL CHANGE.

I do not have Ahimsa tattooed across my left ankle for nothing.

Click here to get more involved with ending horse-drawn-carriage cruelty, and click here to learn about effective animal activist tactics.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Many MENY possibilities....

I just got back from marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in the Marriage Equality New York Wedding March. I had mixed feelings about going at first, since I'm not sure I believe in marriage at all, due to, amongst other things, the privelige, the exclusion-factor (both legally and socially), and the fact that it is rooted in such ickiness. I finally decided to go, both to support my friend Yetta, and because I decided to look at it as a stake-in-the-ground, as opposed to the ultimate success.

Despite the fact that the mainstream media will have you believe that there are just two sides to the gay marriage debate--that it's unnatural or it's about damn time--there is actually another side, which is that gay people should be fighting for an entire new way of ordering relationships, and not model theirs after straight privilege. I like the way Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore says it in the essay, "There's More to Life Than Platinum: Challenging the Tyranny of Sweatshop-Produced Rainbow Flags and Participatory Patriarchy", found in the book That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation.

"Gay marriage advocates brush aside generations of queer efforts to create new ways of loving, lusting for, and caring fro one another, in favor of a 1950's model of white-picket-fence 'we're just like you' normalcy."

Yes, I agree, Mattilda.

Reading that essay, as well as other essays by Sycamore, was like coming home. Everything I'd ever thought but was never able to express was put so totally eloquently in these essays. But I digress...

The reason I went to MENY despite my reluctance for assimilation (though I agree that there are times it is strategic), is because of the same reason I am a strong advocate of Proposition 2, a hugely historic and important ballot measure on the ticket this fall, which, when passed, will end three of the cruelest confinement systems for farm animals in the state of California--battery cages, gestation crates, and veal crates. Obviously I'm a vegan (I'm "hard-core," as a young man working at MENY observed today) and I work to advocate veganism. But I see Prop2 as a stake-in-the-ground--an unbelievably important campaign that will put farm animals on the map, and create such an impact that will forever change the way this country uses and abuses animals.

Just like gay marriage is something that is...well...better than what we've got now, but by no means the end. Nor is it something I want, personally...but if I did want it, I should be allowed to have it in the same way that my straight friends have it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

These Pleather Boots Were Made for Walking

(and that's just what I'll do...)

We all know that tofutti cuties taste particularly pleasant while watching Late Night Oprah—especially when your girlfriend just broke up with you and you have no other choice but to drown your sorrows in sugar (been there). Yes, of course it’s nice to treat yourself to a mani-pedi after an exhausting day of shopping for a new pair of pleather pumps that will work perfectly with your vintage denim mini. Yeah yeah, me me me. I get it, I do. But for those days when that song gets tired and you realize that there are bigger and better things to fight for than your choice for American Idol, or for moments when you are newly convinced that karma’s a bitch and you’d better do something quick to get some (dairy-free) brownie points, you may be better suited focusing your attention outward—and burning some calories while you’re at it.

Now, with that in mind, what do the following things have in common and why should they matter to you: Central Park in late September; delicious—and deliciously free!—vegan food; stellar live music; and the cutest, sweetest turkeys and cattle and pigs (oh my!) you’ve ever heard of? They are all part of the Walk for Farm Animals, an annual tradition that is not only changing hearts and minds, is not just a fun afternoon in the sun, but also happens to be a totally necessary fund and awareness raiser for Farm Sanctuary.

The Walk for Farm Animals is taking place this year in over 50 cities nationwide, and more than 2,000 people are expected to take part. In honor of World Farm Animals Day on October 2 (and no, unfortunately you don’t get off of work that day), the Walks are held annually throughout September and October. Last year, the national Walk for Farm Animals raised $180,000, with donations going directly to the rescue efforts of Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farmed animal protection organization.

Now, let’s talk about the Big Apple specifically. Last year, I coordinated the NYC Walk, and we wound up raising over $40,000 and had over 350 walkers. It was a total celebration of the farm animals, which is what it will be this year too. This year, I’m co-coordinating all of the national Walks, and I couldn’t be more excited to have something so amazing keep me up at night in anticipation (as I watch Late Night Oprah and inhale mint-chip Tofutti Cuties, but I digress).

As truly awesome as the NYC Walk was last year, this year it is going to be even more outstanding. We have two live bands, the most ridiculously-divine food donated by The Groovy Baker, special speakers including the incomparable State Senator Liz Krueger, and raffle prizes that make me wonder if I should leave my job just long enough to be allowed to buy raffle tickets. (Prizes include a stay at the Farm Sanctuary B&B, gift certificates to your favorite vegan restaurants, handmade jewelry by some of the finest artists in the city, and a subscription to VegNews Magazine.) Oh, and once again, I’ll be MCing along with my co-MC (and BFF, FYI), Marisa.

In all seriousness, the issue of farm animal cruelty is one that is very real, and in huge need of both money and empathic ears. Here’s a personal story of Woe-is-(NOT!)-Me that I didn’t think I’d share, but here we go anyway…

Call it my little-sister identity, my Jewish upbringing, my feminist POV, or call it what you will, but from time to time, I have been known to complain…a little. (Insert the eye-roll of at least 2,000 of my closest friends.) So one day, when even I got sick of listening to my own histrionics, I walked to the tattoo place down the street and got the number “267” tattooed in black ink on my left wrist. This number, which was quoted from an article co-written by my amazingly smart and beautiful partner—is the amount of chickens killed in this country for food, EVERY SECOND. Actually wait, I take that back—the number is now 286 (and no, I will not get another tattoo). The point is, I did not get 267 etched into my body because I think I’m bad-ass, rather, it serves as a reminder to me to keep things in perspective, and to not get so caught up in the minor details that I forget about those struggling for their lives every second. It’s high time to get real and get moving. Welcome to the 21st Century, boys and girls—social justice activism is sexy!

The Walk for Farm Animals is a celebration of the lucky ones who managed to escape the horrors of factory farming. It’s a chill day where people from all over come and stand in solidarity with others who are also making a difference (insert starfish story here). If you live in or around NYC, I hope you’ll come to the NYC Walk this year—it SO beats sugar shock, SO beats reruns of Oprah. If you can’t make it, why not register anyway and just send around an email to your friends/co-workers/family asking them to donate to your online page. It will literally take you 10 minutes or less, right now, to do that, and it will honestly make the world of difference (shit—am I starting to sound like the woman from All in the Family?). If you’re not in NYC, check out some of our other Walk locations, and register for one near you. And if you’re so inclined start your very own Walk for Farm Animals, email me at jsinger@farmsanctuary.org and I'll get you set up.

Below is the info for the NYC Walk. When you register, you’ll also get a really cool t-shirt, and you’ll get a subscription to Sanctuary Magazine—for $15 (in advance; $20 day-of). That’s less expensive than getting just one hand manicured at a so-so nail place!

New York City Walk for Farm Animals

Date: Sept. 28
Time: Registration 10 a.m., Walk 12 noon
Location: Columbus Circle
Local Walk Coordinator: Cody
E-mail: nyc@walkforfarmanimals.org
Phone: 917-670-0347

I’ll leave you with this: Here is a quote I like. Looking forward to seeing you at the Walk for Farm Animals!

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.”—Samuel Adams