No choice to be made

It’s been a while again. I’ve had a period when I haven’t really felt like being in “activist mode”, and thereby not felt like I have much to say on the blog. I’ve been preoccupied with a lot of other things, both in a positive and negative way.

Sometimes we really let the wrong things take over, things that should not even be allowed into our lives in the first place. There’s been a lot of that lately, I’ve been fighting with myself the past months and it takes a lot of strength to do so. Not much is left for the things that really matter.

Sometimes we also need a break from the things that matter the most to us, just so that we will have the strength to keep on believing in them for the long haul. Even though I never stop being an activist – I am an activist by just being me and making the choices I make – I sometimes have to take a step back and focus on something else. I don’t think I’m the only one who needs to do this. It’s important to fight for what you believe in, but there’s no point fighting so hard that it kills you. No one will benefit from that – not you, and not the cause you are fighting for.

When I was younger I used to be afraid that I would lose my passion when I get older. That I would just settle for a simple, “mainstream” life. I used to think that I have to make a choice between to extremes – having an ordinary family life and being an activist – but I don’t. They can work together, actually they probably balance each other, the passion and fighting on one end and the ordinary, day-to-day life on the other.

There’s no choice to be made.

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Food for thought podcast

One of my favorite vegan educators is definitely Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Her podcast Food for thought is one of my big inspiration sources. In it she talks about different issues concerning veganism; food, social situations, compassionate language, animals and so on. Colleen has a calm way and voice that makes it easy to listen, and I admire her way of always responding to people and situations compassionately.

I usually download the podcast to my phone and listen to it when I go for walks or while sitting in the bus on my way to work. It’s a great way to learn and get inspired while doing something else at the same time. Some of my favorite episodes are “How to talk to hunters (or anyone with whom you disagree)”, “Disagreement Not Disrespect” and “Life after cheese”.

You can find the podcast episodes for example on Colleen’s Soundcloud page, or through her official webpage (where you can find other information and resources as well). Definitely worth checking out! If you don’t feel like listening to a whole hour episode, there are also shorter soundbites that you can easily listen to and share with others.

The problem with factory farming is not the individual cases of abuse

When I stood in the city one afternoon several years ago informing people about the conditions of pigs raised for food as a part of an ongoing campaign, one person came up to me and said something like “That’s nothing weird. That’s how it looks like” (pictures in the campaign included pigs living in dirt and sometimes even together with dead friends, wounded pigs etc.). The attitude of the person commenting was that this is normal and that there is nothing we can do about it, so we shouldn’t talk about it or even care.

Is it not exactly this that is the problem? It’s so usual that the animals are suffering that no one reacts anymore, it’s just “normal” and “okay”.

The issue is bigger than just farmers treating their animals badly, there is a problem in the whole system. Raising animals is not simply raising animals, so to speak. It’s an industry where living creatures are held and slaughtered on assembly lines like they were products. There’s no time, no space, no resources for well-being among the animals in an industry like the animal industry today (I don’t believe animals can be happy in any kind of situation where they are used for our purposes, but that’s another story). Animal “products” are cheap, even though the cost of production may not be, and people consume more and more of certain products, which leads to a faster and faster spinning industry. It’s not good for anyone’s well-being – not ours, not the animals’, not the nature’s. Something has to change.

This is one reason why I’m an activist. “Activist” may sound very ugly in some people’s ears, but that does not make me want to stop being one. I’m not ashamed. Prejudices are not a reason to stop fighting for things you believe in. I don’t want to live my life just watching the world get darker, if there’s something I can do to change this world to the better, I will fight to do it. I hope you will too, whatever it is that you believe in.

I don’t want to pay for continued cruelty

Recently the animal rights group Oikeutta Eläimille released new footage from Finnish farms, this time including pig farms, a goat farm, a dairy farm and a farm for egg-laying hens. The group have released this kind of footage pretty much regularly since 2007, and the conditions at the farms never get any better, even though there have been discussions around the footage and animal welfare every time.

The industry gets subsidies from both the Finnish government and the European Union (i.e. from our tax money) to better their image. Not to advance the welfare of the animals, but to better the bad image that the industry has got thanks to the footage that has been released and because people have gotten more conscious about what they eat. I don’t understand the logic behind this, why give money to an industry so that they make a bigger gap between what is shown in their commercials and what is the truth? If we would like to give funds, then why don’t focus on advancing the welfare of the animals instead? Wouldn’t that be a better use for the money? Giving money to better the image so that people will continue to buy meat is not a solution to the problem, it’s a cover-up.

Oikeutta Eläimille has started a petition to make this kind of subsidies history. You can find the petition here. Please sign it if you care about animal welfare and think it’s wrong to give funding for covering up cruelty and bettering the image of an industry with so much problems. This is what the petition-site says, loosely translated into English:

“Petition: No subsidies for cruelty!

I the beginning of the year new shocking pictures from pig farms were released. At the same time the meat industry got 1,5 million euros in subsidies for advertisement of pork.

Factory farming causes suffering to animals and big environmental problems. No more subsidies from the society for advertisement of animal products!”

Vetoomus: Ei tukea kärsimykselle!

Alkuvuodesta julkisuuteen tuli uusia shokkikuvia sikaloista. Samaan aikaan lihateollisuus sai puolitoista miljoonaa euroa verorahoja sianlihan markkinointiin.

Eläintuotanto aiheuttaa kärsimystä eläimille ja suuria ympäristöongelmia. Ei enää yhteiskunnan tukea eläintuotteiden markkinointiin!

– See more at: http://oikeuttaelaimille.net/vetoomus-ei-tukea-karsimykselle#sthash.ZXvX6MID.dpuf

Vetoomus: Ei tukea kärsimykselle!

Alkuvuodesta julkisuuteen tuli uusia shokkikuvia sikaloista. Samaan aikaan lihateollisuus sai puolitoista miljoonaa euroa verorahoja sianlihan markkinointiin.

Eläintuotanto aiheuttaa kärsimystä eläimille ja suuria ympäristöongelmia. Ei enää yhteiskunnan tukea eläintuotteiden markkinointiin!

– See more at: http://oikeuttaelaimille.net/vetoomus-ei-tukea-karsimykselle#sthash.ZXvX6MID.dpuf

If you would like to see the new footage, it can be found at elaintehtaat.fi (the site is in Finnish, but you don’t really need any Finnish language skills to be able to find the footage). Viewer discretion is advised.

European elections

If you live within the European Union, don’t forget to vote in the European Elections this May 22-25! Eurogroup for Animals, the federation of animal protection organizations in the European Union, started a campaign for the elections already last year. They have created a list of points about animal welfare that they would like political groups to include in their manifestos for the elections;

1. Improve farm animal welfare
2. Reduce the number of animals used in research and testing
3. Protect cats and dogs
4. Improve the welfare of wild animals
5. Use EU trade agreements to boost animal welfare in partner third countries
6. Ensure that animals are recognized as sentient beings in all legislation

More about what these points include and about the campaign in general can be found at www.voteforanimals.eu. For the Finnish campaign go to elainpolitiikka.net under “Europaparlamenttivaalit 2014” (in Finnish).

On Thursday last week, the local Animalia activist-group hosted a political discussion around these points and animal welfare in general within the European Union. Running politicians from different political parties had been invited, and in the end seven of them agreed to come; Sanna Lehtinen from the Centre Party, Jere Riikonen from the Christian Democrats, Johanna Sumuvuori from the Green party, Eila Aarnos from the Left Alliance of Finland, Juhani Tanski from the Workers party of Finland, Petrus Pennanen from the Pirate party, and then Helena Eronen from Change 2011, who did not show up to the actual discussion.

The politicians were asked questions about for example how the animals’ position in the EU can be improved, what they have done for the animals during their political career, what they would do to turn the trend of rising meat consumption, as well as questions about animal testing and slaughter transports. I was positively surprised by most of the politicians and their knowledge and interest in the subject, and the discussion turned out to be really interesting.

The only sad thing about the event was the small amount of people who turned up. Apart from the politicians and people who work for Animalia in different ways, only few came. Maybe the advertisement hadn’t been so good, or maybe people are not so interested in listening to political discussions, I don’t know. But I hope that next time a similar discussion is held there will be more people there to listen, because I found it very interesting and helpful. It’s different to actually have the politicians there and being able to ask them questions, than to just read their pamphlets and campaign-websites and try to decide who to vote for based on those.

The history of animal testing

The evening seminar about animal testing held yesterday (I wrote about it here) was really interesting, both the topics of the speakers and the questions from the audience.

Tuula Heinonen from FICAM, The Finnish Centre for Alternative Methods, talked about the problems with animal tests, why we need alternatives and some test methods that they are now developing in FICAM. Marianna Norring from the Juliana von Wendt Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments also talked about alternatives to animal testing and the purpose and goal of the fund. Marianna Lammi from Animalia talked about the history of animal testing, which I found very interesting and therefore want to share with you.

Advertisement from Animalia’s campaign against animal testing

The most interesting part of the history of animal testing is that all the way from the start there has been movements both for and against animal testing. In the antique, Hippocrates was for research based on patient observation and human autopsies, while Galenos, the founder of vivisection, created a strong movement of using animals in research. In the 17th to 18th century Descartes came with his theory that animals are just machines without souls and therefore can’t feel pain, while Voltaire was strongly opposing the use of animals in research.

In the 19th century, during the period of industrialization, the area of medicine was developing and animal experiments became everyday life at the universities. However, there was also winds blowing in the other direction. In England, Frances Cobbe founded the first anti-vivisection movement, the organization that now is BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection).

 

The Leaping Bunny Logo, the only assurance that a product is not tested on animals

During the first half of the 20th century came the first wave of animal experiments, because of infectious diseases, the world wars and laws such as the Therapeutic Substances Act, which made it compulsory to do test all medicines on animals. During this time the first laboratory for research on animals was founded in Great Britain. The second wave of animal experiments came later in the 20th century, when it became more common to test chemical and nuclear weapons, and the science of genetic manipulation got started.

Big things happened in the anti-vivisection movement during the 20th century as well. The first congress on prohibiting animal tests was held in 1909. The movement also got divided into two parts; a more radical stand and a more moderate one.

Today there is still a great reliance on animal testing as a research method since it is seen as something that “we have always done”, but also a rising interest in alternative methods because of different reasons. The movement against animal testing still have a lot of challenges to overcome before we can see a world where animals don’t have to suffer in the name of science or beauty.