Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Monthly Archives: November 2008

digesting the holidays

I hope everyone had an enjoyable day off work, assuming you did have the day off work on Thursday. In the U.S., it was “Thanksgiving”, a holiday that makes me cringe.

Others have talked about the genocide that we are celebrating, I’ve talked a little about the turkeys who are killed, as well as the turkeys who are saved. I think most of that is all obvious stuff.

I dislike holidays, and that dislike grows more each year. Maybe I’m just not social enough to enjoy family gatherings. Whatever the reason, holidays are welcome only in that they are a day off work. The rest is simply something I need to expend energy to avoid, and thus is an annoyance.

This year, though, I took a five hour bus ride to visit a friend for a vegan feast. A vegan friend, and a motley crew of his vegan Food Not Bombs friends. We had faux turkey and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing, sweet potatoes, lasagne and a million types of cookies, and a few different pies. I’m probably missing something.

It was good and fun, and we didn’t have to pretend that we were okay with a carcass on the table. One of the guys there had been told by his family that it would be disrespectful if he brought a tofurkey to the family gathering, something that blows my mind even though I can’t honestly say it surprises me.

There is usually something relaxing about being among people who share certain baseline ethics, and this was no exception. As a group, we were mostly incredibly different from each other, held together by that invisible super-glue of shared veganism.

And apparently an obsession with cookies.

What I enjoyed the most about my “holiday” weekend was tramping along abandoned train tracks,

taking in the awe-inspiring graffiti building, five pointz

laughing and arguing and having thoughtful discussions with people. Meeting someone who is a provider for my heroes, the Rock Doves!

In other words, I would have had just as good a time, maybe even better, without the focus on food.

Except that I eat all the time now, so it isn’t like I could have gone without food altogether.

I always circle back around to this though, that if we were able to break the connection between food and socializing, I’d enjoy my non-vegan friends and family a hell of a lot more.

And at the same time, all those moments of eating surrounded by non-vegan food is exactly what puts the Thanksgiving With the Turkeys (and the 300+ vegan dishes at a giant community potluck) and the dinner with my friend Rich and his vegan friends in such stark amazing relief.

Holidays are conflicted times for most of us, I think. I would have been happy enough with my original plan – to go on a long, possibly overnight, bike tour. I definitely am even happier that I took that 5 hour bus ride to be social.

Abandoned train tracks and graffiti art seems like the perfect celebration after all.

the morning bean

the morning bean


helping sanctuaries

Mary posted today about a pig sanctuary in Florida that needs help. While some of that help needs to be money, a lot of help also needs to be hands on.

It takes a lot to run a sanctuary in a sustainable way. You need a dedicated group of volunteers (and often employees) to help with the day to day animal care; this is almost always more than one person can handle alone. You need someone to take care of the paperwork; this is a gigantic task for any organization wishing to get and hold onto their 501c3 status. You need someone to do outreach and fundraising; this is essential for obvious reasons. You need someone doing maintenance on the buildings and whatever projects need doing. There are only so many roles one person can fill while caring for the number of animals that Mary’s post mentioned. (Hundreds of pigs! The volume of poop and bedding alone is mind-boggling.)

There’s a sanctuary more local to me that I heard recently needs some help. To be honest I’m not even sure if they know that they need help, but as it was described to me, there isn’t enough shelter for most of the animals. The goats have almost no shelter, and they are animals who hate to get wet in the rain, and can have health issues when they do.

Is donating money enough? Sometimes it is all we can do.

But there are other things, in both situations. Do we know people who would donate or sell at cost construction material? Do we know of groups, maybe an animal rights group in a local college, or animal legal defense fund, or something similar, who could show up en mass to help with construction? (Students seem easier to motivate, to me, to get out and help.) A bit like habitat for humanity, in essence.

This is what has been going through my mind. I was thinking about seeing if I could gather a group of people to go down to Florida until I realized it was 12 hours away. That’s a bit of a stretch, even I had to admit that. But surely there are animal rights groups, colleges or just local groups, in that area. They probably don’t even know that their help is needed.

The regular volunteers, the regular help, is trickier, and not something I know how to address. Poplar Spring has been around for a long time, and it seems they have had strong community support from the start. It helps that they’re in the DC metro area.

I don’t know much about the pig sanctuary in Florida, I don’t know what they really need to keep going other than what I’ve seen on their web page. I do know that if they’re as close to the wire as Mary’s post made it sound, they’re swamped by all kinds of projects, big and small. Getting some work parties out there every few months could make a big difference.

Still, I know no one (aside from Mary and her husband) in Florida. And in any case, I’m not good at organizing people. (I can hardly organize myself!) A friend of a friend used to organize big work parties for Poplar Spring, and he’d get 50 people out there building fences.

We need someone like that to help that sanctuary in Florida. The Humane Society is about to take drastic action because the pigs aren’t being cared for well enough. This is something that donated time and sweat would alleviate.

If they weren’t 12 hours away, I’d be there. Then again, it has been colder in November here than it usually is in January, and Florida is warm…



Thanksgiving With the Turkeys, a recap

We started the day at 8am with ice-filled water buckets. It was a cold morning, made even colder by the wind. A few of the weekday employees were there as well, so many of the chores were already done even though we got there an hour earlier than normal.

It is amazing to me just how much work goes into an event like this, an event that is actually their most low-key event. All the tables needing to be set up, done by PCRM the night before, but still needing to be covered. The extension cords and utensils, the food to be chopped for the turkey’s feast, and a million other details that are almost impossible to keep track of. I just offer my help, and do what is needed.

There was even an extra guest, always invited, and ones we always hope just stay, as they are safe on sanctuary grounds, but not very many other places. Gunshots are a constant most of the year.

In the end, what sticks out in my mind is that 300 people showed up with vegan dishes, on a day that was really perfect for staying inside with hot cocoa and a good book. I’m admittedly not a big fan of any of the events, as necessary and important as they are, but of the events the thanksgiving one is my favorite. Most of the people who come to the Thanksgiving With the Turkeys are people who get it. It is an entirely different feeling than the Open House and Farm Tour, both of which pull a lot more people, but the majority of whom are not on the same page at all.

It is also clear that the birds know that this is their day. As we got the tables ready for them, the chickens were hovering around, hopping right up onto the tables to get a preview. This seemed to delight the people watching the preparations.

The turkeys were gobbling in excitement – they definitely knew that they were the guests of honor.

As people ate their fill and wandered through the rest of the sanctuary, a few of us dispersed to various parts of the sanctuary as well. People need to be told, nicely, not to approach the sheep. They just don’t relate the entire herd walking away from them as a sign to pay attention to, and so without supervision there is a constant slow-chase around the goat and sheep yard.

Lola was, somewhat unexpectedly, the sheep ambassador of the day. She was unconcerned by the people, focused almost entirely on munching on the grass. Lots of pictures were taken of her, and the interesting thing to me was that many people didn’t realize that she had only three legs. Only when they’d see her walk/hop would they notice. “What’s wrong with her leg?” they’d ask.

She’s actually doing great. As well as could possibly have been hoped for, likely even better.

The goats are pretty much always dependable in eating up all the attention (and hay) that can be thrown at them. At least certain goats enjoy it. There are others who are either quite frightened by people or who just aren’t interested.

And then there are the two troublemakers, who still are rambunctious enough that they need to be kept in their stall, as no one knows what damage they’d do otherwise!

We finished the day with breaking down the tables and cleaning up all the food. There was plenty of work left for the Sunday crew, but we ran out of light at 5:30, and that made it officially pumpkin pie and conversation time.

It was an expectedly long day, and a rewarding one.

turkey’s day

This will be a very quick post – it has been a long cold day, but an amazing one as well. Somewhere around 300 people came to Poplar Spring‘s Thanksgiving With the Turkeys, despite a predicted high in the 30’s, and a bitter wind.

And the turkey’s had a hell of a time.



It was so great to see.

turkey stories

I wrote an article for Stephanie’s animal rights blog on about the turkeys at Poplar Spring. It was posted today, so go check it out!

rule of law, positive changes to come?

When I posted about the potential for change that Obama’s election gives us, and’s vehicle for submitting ideas, Mary posted a link to a really interesting NYT Editorial that ended up in my spam box. I didn’t notice it until tonight, so it took half a week to be rescued, but that’s okay – it is worth it’s own post. There were a lot of things I didn’t know, and which add an extra sparkle to the tiny glimmer of hope that I have with regards to the potential changes.

Civil liberties advocates have been sounding the alarm for years. The difference now is that a Democrat is about to assume the presidency, and one of the most ardent defenders of civil liberties in his party — Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin — is dedicated to putting the restoration of the rule of law on the agenda of the incoming government, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

That sounds hopeful. Of course the ACLU ended up removing their opposition to the AETA, so I’m not sure how much worth I’d put on their support here.

Now that Mr. Obama — a onetime constitutional law professor who made this issue a cause early in the campaign — has won the election, there is both reason for optimism and increased pressure on the president-elect to keep his promises.

I’m reminded of a book I read last year, Rattling The Cage, which taught me quite a bit about the different perspectives a judge can have on the law (constitutional vs. something else, which naturally I can’t remember). I found the history of how a judge’s interpretation of law can be impacted by and can also impact the views of society to be quite interesting, and it made me better understand why some people put such stock in getting legal rights recognized for some specific animals. I’m not necessarily convinced by the argument, but I at least understand where people are coming from.

What it would mean, in the end, that Obama was a constitutional law professor, I am not sure.

And it would be a mistake to overlook Congress’s role. Members from both parties voted for laws like the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which stripped detainees of habeas corpus rights, and looked the other way while the rule of law was diminished.

And that’s a key point. FISA is not, by most standards, constitutional, and yet Obama was one of the ones who voted for it. There was only one politician who went on record against the AETA, and that was Kucinich. What are the chances of AETA being overturned, even if some of the other right-eroding laws are overturned? Slim, I’d think. Too many people have ties to BigAg and BigPharm, and their lobbies are too strong.

Still…this is more of a glimmer of hope than we’ve had in a long time, isn’t it?

tangible impact

Something really neat happened today. Terry, of Poplar Spring, emailed me to tell me that someone in Iowa had rescued some chickens, went looking online for how to make them some sweaters, found my post about sweater-wearing chickens, and was able to contact Terry to get more information on how to make some sweaters herself. And she’s making some for another chicken sanctuary in Minnesota.

A minor event in many ways, yet I know that these chickens who now have sweaters will be more comfortable as we head into the cold season. Terry’s creative solution for Poplar’s chickens gets to spread among other rescuers, to benefit more chickens.

The interesting coincidence, which perhaps enhanced my enjoyment of hearing about the midwestern chickens in their winter clothes, is that Mary posted today some thoughts on “Is giving money activism?” that sparked a more general discussion (my fault) on what exactly activism is.

I said a couple things in the comments that were an unconscious echo of things I’d said last February. Looks like some things are hard for me to change!

Yet knowing that in a small and indirect way, that I helped those chickens in the midwest have sweaters for the winter, it made my day. It feels good, plain and simple, to see that we’ve made a tangible positive impact. It is those little moments that remind me why I do the things I do.

thanksgiving with the turkeys at poplar spring

This coming Saturday, 11/22/08, there is a giant vegan potluck held at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. “Thanksgiving with the turkeys”.

Thanksgiving with the Turkeys

Saturday, November 22, 2008
12 noon to 4 p.m.

Come celebrate Thanksgiving WITH the turkeys – join our six friendly turkeys and all their friends in celebrating a cruelty-free Thanksgiving potluck. Please bring a vegan (no meat, dairy, or eggs) dinner or dessert item to serve 8. $10.00 suggested donation to benefit the animals. No charge for children under 16.

Elliot would love to see you there.



bunny love

I don’t know much about bunnies, but the impression I’ve gotten is that seeing snuggling bunnies isn’t all that common. I think Allison (on the left) is a snuggler, though. I remember her snuggling with Chloe and Percy, when they were still around. Now she has Twinkle to snuggle with.

The calendar arrived today, and I’m pretty happy with it, for a first “draft”. I’ll make some changes and get another printed out soon. The next one will have more information, on the sanctuary as well as the residents pictured. I’ll have a lulu link to make public for anyone interested in early December, I’m guessing.

I will put them up at cost, which actually will make them fairly affordable calendars, until you count in shipping. I’d like it to still somehow be a fundraiser (if a small one) for the sanctuary, but the only way I can think to make it work is if I donate a certain amount of money for each calendar that is ordered.

Shana asked about doing greeting cards in a comment recently. I’m going to look into that, though I have a feeling it will be too pricey for most people to be interested in. Stay tuned, just in case!

curiosity of cows

I was browsing through some old pictures tonight. Well, old is a relative term. These were from January 19 of this year. It was snowy (I am so not ready for winter!), and I remember that Otis and Petey were let out to run around for the first time since they’d gotten to the sanctuary. Crazy little babies they were! And of course I snapped as many pictures as I could. Tucked away in that set were a few pictures with one of the cows.

Here’s the thing about cows. They are often assumed to be sort of stupid. The reality is that they are intensely curious about others. They don’t tend to react quickly, especially when compared to most of the other, smaller, animals we’re surrounded by, but it is our failing that we tend to take the different speed to be an indicator of relative intelligence. Or of anything at all.

Mostly we have no clue.

But these cows…whenever there is something or someone new, you can count on the cows to be right there, checking things out.

And this is harder to put into words adequately, but their curiosity and attention in these situations is focused outward. When my cat is intensely interested in something, it is because she wants to capture it, and likely kill it and eat it. Even if it is a twist tie, that’s generally still her relationship to whatever is sparking her curiosity. Humans don’t seem to be much different, at least not the average human.

Cows are different, at least the cows I have gotten to know. They don’t have these hierarchies that exist in most other animals. They mostly stay together, but they don’t always. There’s no one leader, they are just somehow a group of individuals that have formed a community. They are a collective.

And something about that kind of social network makes them more focused on others than on self. Or that is my theory.

That’s what comes through when you see them watching, fascinated, as baby pigs run around outside for the first time, checking everything out and running with absolute glee through the inch of snow on the ground. That’s what you notice when you see a giant cow delicately following the antic-filled lead of a baby pig.

Cows aren’t stupid. They’re not placid. And though one of my coworkers claims that cows don’t want to live, he is wrong.