It’s more fun in the Philippines?

We recently came back from a one month vacation in the Philippines. My plan was to update the blog while there, but we had much more limited access to the Internet than I thought we would, as well as a quite full-packed time-schedule.

This was my second time in the country, and I just got more aware of the contrasts that exist there. There’s two very different sides of the Philippines, and I have had the privileged to see both of them to some extent.

On one hand we have the Philippines that tourists see; paradise. The parts with all the resorts, white beaches, waterfalls and so on, everything beautiful that the country has to offer. On the other hand we have the lives of the many people living in poverty; in homes that would barely be called homes here in Finland – or even without a home at all – with storms and floods as a part of life, without enough money to feed the family.

The reality of a country with so much natural resources and so much talent saddens me. With a government full of corruption the people who call Philippines their home struggle to stay above the surface, and it breaks my heart. Seeing kids walking around hungry in the street without shoes or proper clothes, hearing how badly workers are treated and how little rights they have, how expensive it is to get your children proper education, and how huge the gap between the rich and the poor is… the list goes on an on.

I love the Philippines. I have family there now, I have friends there, I have friends who have families there, I have people I care about in this country on the other side of the world. The more I love, the more I care, and the more the situation breaks my heart. The people of the Philippines are strong, they always work hard, and they always have a smile on their face even though how bad their circumstances get. They deserve so much better.

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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.

Veganism is not the solution to all problems

Over and over again, I stumble upon discussions about veganism where non-vegans tell vegans that they’re naive, that veganism is not the solution to the world’s problems, and that there are worse things to worry about. Sometimes they actually believe vegans think they have the ultimate solution, that they are perfect (some vegans also seem to think so, but I believe they’re a minority) – and they love to point out things that make vegans look bad.

I don’t believe veganism is a solution to all problems. A common argument among vegans is that if everybody became vegan we would not have people starving in this world. This is not true. It is true that if everyone became vegan, we would have more food to feed people, because we would not anymore be growing crops to feed the animals to later feed the people with, which is insufficient and a waste of energy (apart from being ethically wrong in several ways). However, the problem is more complex, since we already now have an overflow of food in the industrial countries, while there are people starving in other places in the world because they lack food. In other words, it is also a question about distribution of the available food.

What I want to say with this is that I believe animal activists sometimes defeat their cause by pretending veganism is the solution to everything. It affects the trustworthiness of the whole idea of veganism. Because it’s not the solution to all the world’s problems. It is a start, and it definitely doesn’t do any harm. But we cannot pretend it is the perfect, and only, solution. It needs to be combined with a whole bunch of other changes to make this world what it should be.

As vegans we are not perfect people, and I think most of us are not trying to be. Because perfection is not what veganism is about. However, we try our best to do something, to make some kind of change. You have to start somewhere, right? I don’t let people who say stupid things about what I should care about instead of animals discourage me, because I am really trying to live my life the best I can, and do the least harm I can. I will never stop learning and changing myself and my behaviours towards the better, and what more can I do than that?

“People have the right to know what factory farming looks like”

The Finnish animal rights organization Oikeutta Eläimille has started a campaign  for supporting two of the people behind the videos and pictures from Finnish pig farms presented in the 2009 campaign “Sikatehtaat”. The two activists are possibly awaiting severe sentences for their actions, while the farmers have not been accused of anything despite the obvious violations seen in the pictures and videos. The issue will be taken up in court again next week and the activists need all the support they can get.

https://i1.wp.com/www.oikeuttaelaimille.net/sites/default/files/kuvat/sikatehtaat_oikeudenkaynti_4.jpg

To join the campaign and show your support, you should take a picture of yourself holding one of their pre-made signs found on their website (one of them seen above) and send it to the organisation by e-mail at sikatehtaat@oikeuttaelaimille.net. A lot of Finnish people have already submitted their pictures and there is also international support, from the crew of Sea Shepherd for example:

Picture from Oikeutta Eläimille’s facebook page.

I’m not a very big fan of being in pictures, but I want to show my support by writing this post. I find it ironic that you get punished so much more for breaking laws concerning privacy and property than laws against cruelty to other living beings. We have a really messed up view of animals (and ourselves) when we think we can do whatever we want to them just because we can, and if someone tries to stop that or even point it out they are the criminals. It doesn’t seem logical to me.

In theory the Finnish animal protection law sounds very good, but in practice it is not working out very well. Animals don’t get to live good lives, they are not well taken care of and they do suffer. As long as we don’t have a good system for checking up the conditions at the farms, activism like this will be needed. People have a right to know what they are supporting when they buy meat or other animal-based products. In fact, I would even argue that we should have an obligation to know these things before supporting such an industry.

Showing compassion over the boundaries of opinion

At one point in time the animal activist group that I was in did demonstrations at individual fur farms. We had a banner and we sang songs and shouted rhymes about how horrible fur farming is and how cruel fur farmers are. I joined a couple of times, but it never felt right to me and I decided to not join these kind of demonstrations anymore. After this decision I had a conversation with one of the other group members (who, for the record, is an amazing person that has inspired me in many ways) about the issue. She said that she understands that it is uncomfortable/hard for me, but that I need to think of it as a way of ending fur farming, and that I should try to distance myself from the owners of the farms, because in fact they are animal abusers and not good people.

Now I do think fur farming is a form of animal abuse, I think it’s wrong and unneccessary and I hope to see an end to it while I’m still alive. However, I don’t feel comfortable with standing outside the farmers’ homes calling them names and telling them they are horrible people without compassion. Because they’re not. I don’t think what they do for a living is okay, and I will never give my blessing for it, but they themselves are not horrible, cruel people. They are human beings, just like us, and like so many of us they have been desensitized to the suffering of non-human animals. Just as I don’t want to be called names or have anyone stand outside my home telling me what they think I do wrong in my life, I don’t want to do that to others.

I don’t either believe these kind of demonstrations do much for the sake of animals. Yes, after much effort and verbal harassment, that one farmer might close his farm and turn to other means of making money, possibly saving the lives of some animals. However, the hatred against animal activists would grow larger, and the indifference between the activists and the farmers would continue to be there. This kind of animal activism will not change the minds of anyone believing the use of animals for our own purposes to be okay, it might just make their belief stronger.

I don’t mean that we should stop fighting for an end to fur farming (or other types of animal abuse), but I don’t believe in this particular way of doing it. Hatred doesn’t grow anything other than more hatred, and I believe animal activism should be about changing people’s attitudes towards non-human animals and the vegan lifestyle, not shouting in their face that what they do is wrong. Because it doesn’t work. If we don’t show compassion towards other people, if we don’t change our attitude towards them, how can we expect them to change their attitudes towards non-human animals?

Discussing the future of fur farming

The citizen’s initiative for ending fur farming, which I’ve been writing about earlier, has now been handed over to the Finnish parliament as the first ever citizen’s initiative in Finland.

I don’t have big hopes for there to actually be a law change that would make fur farming illegal at this point, since a lot of the current politicians are negative towards the initiative. However, this means that they have to hold a serious discussion about the subject and that is already a good thing.

As a step towards the right direction, the organizations behind the citizen’s initiative are asking for at least changes in the rules around fur farming, to make the wellbeing of the animals in this industry better. I don’t believe this to be a solution to the problem, because I don’t see how the animals could ever have wellbeing when they are seen as products and kept in environments that are far from natural to them, but it would at least be better than nothing. In the end, constant new rules about how the animals should be kept and treated will lead towards the same direction as a total ban, and less and less people will probably pursue with fur farming.

I’m going to follow the news around the discussion to see how it progresses. Hopefully at least some of the politicians will speak up for the animals, because the animals have no voice of their own.