Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Monthly Archives: November 2008

Give me some links!

I’ve been pretty pathetic for a long time about reading blogs in the movement. I think I regularly read about four. Well, and a bunch of vegan food blogs! But most of my blog subscriptions are to bike blogs or local area blogs discussing smart urban growth (don’t ask! I got sucked into it, and it is like a soap opera, I swear, you can’t stop finding out what will happen!) or photography blogs.

So I imagine that there’s an awful lot out there that is interesting that people have been talking about which I’ve been oblivious to. Hopefully you’ll take a second to link in a couple of your favorites! Though including more than one link will send your comment to await moderation, just as a warning. I’ll release it, but it might take a few hours or most of the day.

I’ll start with a few posts that I read with interest recently:

  • How to tell if there’s a mouse in your house; easyVegan has a series of articles on what-to-do and how-to-prevent this situation that seems almost inevitable that we’ll face at some point! She linked it in for me in the comments when I thought I had someone moving into my heating duct. I haven’t heard a peep since, so I didn’t end up needing the info, but will keep it in mind should I need it in the future!
  • The Media – Image Maker or Societal Messenger? This is an interesting blog to me, in general, dealing with the issue of perceptions of beauty. This post, while talking specifically about perceptions of human beauty, reminded me of many aspects within the animal rights movement. The idea that cute animals are not food, but ugly animal are? And the perception of animal rights and environmental rights activists as “fringe” and “radical” and “terrorists”, and all those other tags that people love to apply to us. Oh, yeah, “unemployed”, based on the number of people who would shout “get a job” when I used to do fur protests on Saturdays back when I lived in Denver!
  • A street photographer whose work I love; and something about this photo in particular just grabs me. He says, of his own work, “I enjoy capturing images of everyday life, which for most of us goes unnoticed, while in the pictures it takes on a new meaning…” And can you guess? Yes, indeed, I see parallels to those of us working on any of the animal rights, environmental rights, social justice issues…we see what most ignore (willfully or not), and the world takes on a new meaning for us. (not always a pretty one!)

That’s enough of an eclectic sampling from me! What have you got for me to read?


asking for changes

We heard for almost two years that Barack Obama would bring us change. Sure, sure, anything can be said during a campaign! When it comes to politicians and their promises, I’ll believe it when I see it.

In addition to my lack of belief in campaign promises, I’m quite cynical!

And yet…even though we’ve still got a few months before President-elect Obama becomes President, I see glimmers of good things to come. If nothing else, he’s approaching the entire idea of the presidency with innovation.

He’s asking us, we the people, what we think. He’s asking the people of the country he’s to lead what we think is most important.

Plus, I just saw this great quote, which to my mind is one of the most encouraging things I’ve heard out of the mouth of any politician:

The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, “I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.”

As RAN said, “No kidding”.

But more than that, he gets it! At the very least, he can see that action is needed, and that action should be more than sticking your fingers in your ear and saying “I can’t hear you!” anytime someone wants to talk about the climate.

So. I have a glimmer of the hope that people keep talking about. is doing this thing where they’re collecting ideas and having their members vote on them, and they’ll present the top 10 as their suggestions. There are a few animal rights related ideas, but there are few votes.

If you’re of a mind to suggest an idea or vote on one, go check it out.

I’m sort of bemused that one of the top rated ideas at the moment is something that P-E Obama has already said he’s going to do (close Guantanamo Bay), and is one of the things that I’ve heard the most chatter about in mainstream newsites. That would be disappointing if something he’s already doing was presented as an idea!

It will be interesting to see how he deals with what are likely to be a gigantic number of suggestions. I like the idea of presenting ideas that have many supporting voices behind them, but of course it can be frustrating if your idea is not one of the ones presented by a group like So, to this I’d say, vote on, or on any other site or with any other group that is doing this sort of thing with ideas that you like, but don’t let yourself be limited to any of that. We can’t know, at this point, what our suggestions might mean to a man about to be sworn in as President, but I do know that what is not voiced can not be heard.

Some of my ideas at the moment:

  • repeal the AETA and AEPA
  • require prisons and schools to provide vegan meals
  • spend 10% of the transportation budget on bike and ped and transit options
  • make the 3ft rule (for motorized vehicles passing bicycles) and “slow then go” on red for bicycles the national standard
  • ban all further use of the words “terrorism”, “terrorist” or any deviation from government speak and government documents until those words are clearly defined to mean something other “anyone who doesn’t agree with me, or anyone who tries to prevent me from exploiting others for my own gain.”
  • require that all employers provide work-from-home options
  • require all employers provide secure indoor bike parking and showers

That’s what comes to mind for now. And yeah, I figured why not ask for the moon, right?

I did like the idea that Stephanie presented to increase funding for non-animal research methods.

What would you ask for?

History, Direct Action, Inalienable Rights

Listening to my headphones at work today, a song by one of my favorite folk singers came up – Utah Phillips. Utah was an interesting character, and as he was a collector of history I have always felt like I have a lot to learn from him.

Utah was an anarchist – not through theory, but through the way he lived. His heroes included Ammon Hennacy, Mother Jones, and many more people that most of us likely wouldn’t know.

Utah’s histories are people’s histories, in the same sense as Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” – the history that we’ll never read about in the history books used in school. Folk histories.

The reason I’m talking about Utah tonight is because listening to “Direct Action” at work today (an irony a few of you might understand) I was struck by how appropriate much of what he had to say was to the Animal Rights and Environmental Rights movements right now. The AETA, the SHAC7, Operation Backfire…and everything that Will talks about on his blog, Green Is the New Red.

Will doesn’t just talk about the oppression, he also has a running theme, encouraging us to not be intimidated, to get out there and exercise our rights.

Well, Utah’s song/story/spoken word has a great example of what direct action is, or can be, and the impact it can have. And he has something to say on freedom as well:

Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for somebody to try to take it away from you. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.

The IWW, the Wobblies, those unionists we can thank for the fact that we have weekends, they believed that men and women were born with inalienable rights. Inalienable rights, natural rights…these are the terms that we use to discuss what we mean by animal rights.

The right to live, for example, is an example of an inalienable right that we, as animal rights activist, believe that all sentient beings have, and should be respected.

The right to speak is one that Utah talks about, as a right that no one can give and no one can take away…it is something we’re simply born with.

Interestingly, one of Stephanie’s posts on today was about Ingrid Newkirk, or rather it was about an interview with her in the Financial Times. I have become more and more closed to anything Newkirk has to say (how can she possibly support Breed Specific Legislation, for example), but even she gets it right sometimes. To quote Stephanie quoting the Financial Times quoting Newkirk:

But if she considers animals “equal” to us, and we are dwarfed by their numbers, is it not inevitable that their interests will ultimately overwhelm ours? “No, no, no, ‘equal’ doesn’t mean ‘the same’. Happiness for a bird is not the same as happiness for man. I’m not suggesting we buy the chicken a golf-club membership, but if he has wings, let him fly and don’t keep him in a cage. Let him be who he is,” she says.

Freedom. That elusive inalienable right.

calender v.1 at the printer

I feel like I rushed it a bit, just so I could say that I got the calendar done this weekend, but I got version 1 ordered up through Lulu today. This is a calendar that can’t be considered outreach, as it is just pictures, not even so much as a name let alone the rescue stories, to turn it into an advocacy tool.

I will likely try out a few different versions in the next few weeks, and maybe I’ll take the time to add some text to each image, so that they can be used as advocacy. We’ll see. I always seem to have more plans than time, and when I have enough time I don’t seem to have enough either concentration or motivation!

In any case, if I end up with a calendar that seems worth making public, I’ll put a link here, just in case anyone else ends up being interested in having a copy for themselves.

Having gone through this process, I’m definitely feeling the limitations of the calendar, and so it has increased my motivation to do a photobook. There are so many stories to be told! I know only a few, but surely I know enough to fill up a small photobook.

images as advocacy

Prepare for some rambling – I’m writing this as much to figure it out as to explain what I think to others.

The general topic is images of animals, and the message they convey.

Included in this topic are issues of what or how people see things, as depends on their own education. (A term I am not using in the traditional sense.) That education might be in images, so that they look deeper at images, in a general sense, and this is something common in people who have spent time making images, looking at images, or both, and also quite a bit of time thinking about images. That education might be in animals, so that they can read animals more deeply, in a general sense, and this comes from experience.

A coworker once told me that she doesn’t eat cows because she imagines their big brown eyes looking at her.

A friend’s mom saw a picture I took of a chicken and said something along the lines of “I didn’t think chickens could ever be anything other than ugly. I’m not sure I can ever eat a chicken again.”

A complete stranger said of a picture of Harley, that what she liked about the picture is that it took something (yes, she said something) normally seen as unclean and ugly and made it beautiful.

The first two comments are very closely related, in terms of what drives their reaction. I would judge that the first comes from an “education” standpoint of having cats, being able to read expression and personality in them, and transferring that to reading expression and personality in cows, and having a crisis of conscience that leads her to eat chickens, but not cows.

The second comment appears to me to be from a similar perspective, though I don’t know the individual at all, and I am pretty sure she eats all animals.

The third comment is speaking from an image-education standpoint. A statement was made about the lighting, and her comment is really about the message of the imagery. This person likes that I’m looking at something in a “new” way.

Where am I going with this?

I am wondering, I suppose, what message we can expect to convey with images. Most of my animal pictures are from sanctuaries, particularly Poplar Spring, because I spend a few hours most every Saturday at that particular sanctuary. My own perspective on these photos is that they tend to portray both idealism as well as realism. Idealism because I consciously try to capture their individualism, their freedom, their environment that allows both. Realism because I don’t necessarily avoid the mud, the worn spots, the reality of a place that is lived in, rather than a stage set.

I bring this up because of certain images, stock images I would assume, that are commonly used by various groups in The Movement. I’ll go ahead and pick on one group, though they are not the only ones to have used this image. F.A.R.M. has a postcard featuring an itty bitty baby piglet (no more than a few days old) touching noses with an itty bitty eyes-barely-open kitten (guessing around 4 weeks old). They’re both pristine and fluffy, and the environment that is visible is pristine and lush green grass.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It is staged, folks, let’s be perfectly honest about that. And, assuming it is a stock photo from someone who is not an animal rights person, which I think it is safe to assume, it was created almost definitely through the purchasing of animals. How unlikely is it, after all, for someone to just happen to have a days-old piglet and a weeks-old kitten in a place where they can be photographed together.

Maybe that isn’t the point. I could be completely wrong about the animals used to create the image, after all, and there is only so much you can do to stage a shot like that – much of it will come down to luck and perserverence. Maybe the point is to have something so cute that everyone can’t help but to ooh and aaw, and say “how cute!” I’m not immune, despite my reservations about that particular image, and that reaction in general.

If it seems staged to me, I imagine it seems staged to most everyone else.

And if it seems staged, is it really conveying a message, or do people come away thinking that it is cute, but not how things really are?

Obviously I prefer a bit of grit in my own pictures, since that’s what I’m drawn to in the pictures I take. Not that I actually have that much choice – do you know how rare it is for pigs to not be muddy? Rare, I will tell you that. But I would love to be able to convey that muddy and “unclean and ugly” are entirely different concepts.

Overwhelming cuteness bothers me on another level – I intensely dislike the idea that we have to find attractiveness in another to agree to do them no harm.

Yet that is what I feel I am “selling” in images of these animals, based on the reactions I get from people sometimes.

I am not sure how to resolve this. On one hand, being able to show someone who is not inclined to see the beauty in a pig or a chicken that these individuals are actually beautiful, well, that seems like an achievement. To break through a wall and show personality…hopefully it makes people think.

But am I reinforcing an idea that personality, or worth, is only present in conjunction with some level of attractiveness? Does that leave them room to continue to eat all the remaining ugly (to them) individuals?

Obviously, there is only so much an image can do, in any case, no matter if it is “worth a thousand words” or not. I’m not suggesting that all text/logic based advocacy can be ignored in favor of finding The Right Images, but as I’m working on a calendar, I’m clearly needing to focus on what I can or should do with the images.

I’m a bit thrown for a loop by that third comment I mentioned. I first felt a bit sick to my stomach when I read it, and then I felt like it could make me cry. And then I wondered if I shouldn’t be celebrating – didn’t I get her to see pigs in a different way? And then I doubted myself…because her comment could also have meant that I reinforced her pre-existing view of pigs as unclean and ugly by showing her The Exception.

So, yeah, I am rambling and likely incoherent. How can images be advocacy? I’m not sure this has an answer; a great deal of our reaction to images will depend on context, both of our life, and in the presentation of the image.



do pigs like pumpkins?

Just a little.

Every year, at least since I’ve been going to the sanctuary, a truckload of pumpkins arrives after Halloween. A church donates the ones that don’t get sold during their pre-Halloween pumpkin sales, which is pretty cool. They make great decorations, and they’ll be used for the Thanksgiving With the Turkeys event, but they also make great treats for the pigs.

I love when we feed pumpkins to the pigs. They just love them. It is so much fun! Inevitably you’ll see someone with most of a pumpkin in his or her mouth, trotting away from the crowd to eat their prize in peace. Of course, also inevitably, someone follows them. But that’s okay, despite the complaints they send up, the pigs are pretty good about sharing.

And there are always plenty to go around.

For anyone who is wondering how things are going with the folks who were moving into my heating ducts last night, I haven’t heard them yet today. Either they have a much more active social life than I do, and won’t get in until late, or they decided that the community just wasn’t up to their standards.

In any case, the only nails I’ve heard clicking overhead are of Kylee, my upstairs neighbor’s arthritic and extremely sweet dog.

someone is moving into my heating vent

mice find sanctuary at the sanctuary too

mice find sanctuary at the sanctuary too

I was going to write a post about the upcoming holidays, and the corresponding increase in hits to my blog by people searching “thanksgiving turkey”, but I can’t concentrate on that right now.

I can hear an animal scurrying in my heating vent. Or maybe it is a duct. It is something that he or she can scurry through, and I can hear the little nails scuffling along the metal of whatever it is that they’re crawling through. At one point I swear it sounded like they were dragging something like a leafy tree branch inside.

I’m in a condo. I can’t even imagine where the little furry is coming from, or how they got inside.

My cat is hugely entertained, of course.

And if I ask anyone here (in my building) for advice, I know I’m not going to like their replies! Oh, they’re all animal lovers, they have assured me many times. But they mean they’re cat and dog lovers. Guinea pigs maybe too. Definitely not all-inclusive.

I’ll ask at the sanctuary too (my guaranteed weekly time with vegans in real life), but for now, anyone have any advice? I have a feeling there is a nest being built. And actually, I’m not sure they’re limited to the heating duct I’d swear they were first in. There seems to be at least two of them, and I’d swear they’re working together.

Pinky and the Brain, maybe, finally escaped from that lab?

Why me?

Oh, right, because I won’t kill them.

Advice please!

thinking about the calendar that might be

Terry and I have talked about a possible calendar many times. She would love to do one, but the big problem with calendars is cost.

Calendars are not anywhere near cheap to print out. Ignore the time it takes to get the pictures, do the post processing, sort through them, make decisions, etc, and just look at the cost of having them printed, and they’re expensive. Generally between $12 and $15 each! Depending on many factors, but especially on how many you print at once.

It sort of stumps me, because when you start adding in postage, and then think about what people will actually pay for a calendar, you’re looking at potentially losing money.

I was checking out the price of calendars at the bookstore the other day, and they all seemed to be $15.95. And, as Terry has said, “those are by professional photographers!” Terry’s not sure that visitors to the sanctuary would pay even $15 for a calendar.

There are other potential benefits to having some calendars printed, even if they seem pretty hopeless as a fundraiser – primarily, outreach. Though would it actually work?

I’m feeling hopelessly cynical tonight!



sphere o’blog updates

I’m the first to admit that I have a hard time keeping up with a lot of the happenings in The Movement, especially since I’m spectacularly bad at remembering to subscribe to the blogs I always intend to subscribe to.

But, I do happen to know of a few things that have happened that are pretty cool.

First, Boston Vegan Association has come out with their AR pamphlet. It looks glossy and professional from the pdf’s that I’ve seen, and they’re offering “generic” versions which we can fill out with our own organization’s info. I think that’s really generous of them, since they’ve done all the work on this! I like that the pamphlet jumps right in to address the issues of “humane” animal products. The only issue I could really take with the pamphlet as a whole, is the “male calves are killed” statement. In reality, both male and female calves are killed, only a small number of female calves are kept alive as “replacements” for the adults who are becoming “spent.”

It is such a common statement to hear that no one questions it. I never did until Terry brought it up – the common misconception that only male dairy calves are killed has become a pet peeve of hers! And indeed, most of the female cows at Poplar Spring are dairy cows saved from becoming veal.

Charlotte, saved from becoming veal

Charlotte, saved from becoming veal

But that is a fairly minor issue in the scheme of things. There are (ah hem) lovely pictures on the front and back covers too! You might even recognize some of them.

In other news, I learned recently that there is an animal rights blog as part of the group of blogs. It took me a while, and an explanation by Stephanie (who is running the animal rights blog) to get a grasp on what this is all about. There are many “causes”, such as Homelessness, Stop Global Warming, Gay Rights, Humanitarian Relief, etc, and Animal Rights is one of those causes. Which is pretty exciting, in the scheme of things. And it has more members than most of the other causes, which is great.

It will be interesting to see how it develops, situated as it is to get attention from those who are already of a mindset to act based on their conscience, even if their current focus is other causes.

And to cap off my paltry gathering of updates, it is a call to action to prevent some bad news. Sheryl posted late last week about some of the last minute rules that the Bush Administration is trying to push through to further damage the environment.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Contact your reps, and make public comments where you can. Sheryl’s post gives direct links to where you can make public comments regarding the killing of the wolves that the Bush Administration is proposing.

billy idol and his brother

About a year and a half ago I had a great idea to do a calendar from some of my pictures from Poplar Spring. I gathered up a few that I particularly liked, used my meager photoshop skills to add a border so I could put their name and a brief story.

I printed a couple copies, and they were okay. It never really went anywhere, but I still think about doing it for real at some point. My photoshop skills are better now, I have a ton of pics (always good to have more to choose from), I’ve got a friend who knows things like Quark (not physics, though he knows physics too), and…I know a lot more names of the residents.

I had to guess at many of the names when I did the first calendar, which I figured was okay since I was doing it to see how it would turn out. One of the names, of a chicken, I totally made up. I knew it wasn’t his name, but he just looked like it should be his name, I had a hard time remembering his real name. Terry and Dave thought “my” name for him was hilarious.

His actual name is Leopold. His brother is Cornelius. Quite a difference from the rock star image I had in my head for them!

They’re both so eye-catching, I just love to watch them. They’re pretty much in the middle of the pecking order (a somewhat literal term, when it comes to chickens!), though I remember Terry and Dave mentioning that when they work together, they can sort of become one super dominant chicken. But when I’ve been there, they’ve seemed pretty happy to not worry about defending a top-of-the-heap position.

At the Open House I ended up talking to Adam and Robin, and they asked if they could meet Leopold. Adam is a sponsor of Leopold. It was late in the day, and the chickens had started to put themselves to bed, but one of the pair was wandering around and I scooped him up. He was happy enough to be held, and though it turned out that he was Cornelius, Adam and Robin were happy enough with Cornelius as a surrogate for Leopold.

For some reason that sparked a determination for me to get some really nice portraits of them. This past weekend turned out to be perfect, and the two rock stars obliged me.

Leopold and Cornelius

Leopold and Cornelius

Or rather, their natural photogenic nature came through, making it easy to get pictures.

rock stars at Poplar Spring

rock stars at Poplar Spring

I’m officially the chicken paparazzi.