Friday, November 18, 2016

Imagine What a Vegan World Would Look Like

Santuario Igualdad Interespecie vegan

David and Piopito at Santuario Igualdad Interespecie in Chile. Photo by María Gabriela Penela.

For thousands of years, the human species has relied on the exploitation of our fellow inhabitants on Earth – the nonhuman animals. It has long been our society’s status quo, the norm. There are over 7.5 billion people on the planet. Nearly eight times that many farm animals are killed by humans annually. But what if the use of animals was no longer part of the equation? “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night,” Edgar Allan Poe once wrote. In the spirit of November being World Vegan Month, we dream of a vegan world and just a few of the amazing changes we would have to look forward to were it to become a reality.

 

Billions of Animals Would No Longer Suffer

Over 56 billion animals are raised and slaughtered for human consumption each year. This figure doesn’t include marine animals, whose deaths are measured in tons. Together, approximately 150 billion animals’ lives are taken by the meat, dairy, egg and fish industries. Billions more are destroyed, injured and deprived of freedom by the fashion, entertainment, sports and animal testing industries.

The abolition of animal exploitation would bring an end to the cycle of breeding and raising animals for the sole purpose of killing them. No longer would nonhuman animals be subjected to agonizing (yet standard) practices like forcible insemination, intensive confinement, tail docking, dehorning, beak trimming, being auctioned off as babies, gassed, electrically stunned, processed while alive. Traumatic events such as separating children from their mothers within 24 hours of birth would no longer be routine.

Transport trucks full of animals stop criss-crossing nations; there would be no more live export by sea or air. Fish would no longer endure the despair and severe depression of farming.

Our relationship with animals would be completely transformed from one of dominance to one of co-existence and respect. Their depth of sentience and sophisticated cognitive abilities would be an undisputed fact, and our treatment of them would be universally acknowledged as having moral significance. We would understand the animal kingdom as never before; sharks would no longer be vilified, and farm animals would not be reduced to objects. Nonhuman animals would no longer have the status of commodities, but of conscious beings with the inherent right to be free from bodily harm.

 

Painting by vegan artist Hartmut Kiewert.

“Large Picnic” by Hartmut Kiewert, 2015.

 

Nature Would Heal

The toll of animal agriculture on our planet is brutal.  The meat and dairy industries have been identified as major accelerators of climate change: animal agriculture produces more greenhouses gasses than emissions from all forms of transportation combined. Today, close to 80 percent of the Amazon’s deforestation is the result of land clearing for cattle ranching.

The environmental damage of raising animals for human consumption far exceeds that of plants — with beef production, for example, having emissions per gram of protein that are about 250 times those of legumes. A study published in 2015 stated that “consumption of animal-sourced food products by humans is one of the most powerful negative forces affecting the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems and biological diversity.”

With animal agriculture made obsolete, global CO2 emissions would drop spectacularly. A world of herbivores would mean that our individual dietary greenhouse gas emissions would be cut in half.

In a vegan world with more available land, biofuels would replace half of the coal used worldwide, which is currently responsible for about 3,340 million tons of CO2e emissions annually.

Rainforests play a crucial role in absorbing our world’s carbon dioxide, converting it to oxygen. In a vegan society absent of animal agriculture, the Amazon — the “lungs of the planet,” as it’s known — would be restored to its healthy density. No longer would trees be burned to clear land, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the process. Global warming would be de-escalated.

With humans no longer wearing the skins of nonhuman animals, our Earth would be spared the dumping of chromium-laced waste and other dangerous pollutants into water systems by the leather industry. Instead, our clothing, shoes and accessories would be made from materials like repurposed plastic waste and waste plant fibers.

 

Vegemoda bag made from pineapple leaves.

Vegemoda vegan bag made from pineapple leaves.

 

Our Water Would Be Protected

1 in 9 people around the world face water shortages. The water crisis is the #1 global risk based on impact to society, according to the World Economic Forum. A third of the world’s water consumption goes towards producing animal products. In a society without meat production, each former beef eater would save our planet nearly 130,000 gallons of water a year. The dairy industry’s catastrophic water footrpint (109 gallons to produce just one stick of butter) would be reversed in a vegan world.

Without industrial-scale animal exploitation, our water supplies would no longer be in danger of being polluted and made unsafe for human consumption by the frequent leakage of animal waste “lagoons” and fertilizer runoff. No longer would vast regions be affected by the disastrous manure spills of factory farms. Thanks to the end of the meat industry, communities would be safe from waterborne disease outbreaks caused by pathogens or having their drinking water poisoned by toxic pollutants like nitrogen.

With animal products obsolete, climate change would be abated; rising temperatures and the depletion of groundwater reserves due to drought would come to a standstill.

 

No More World Hunger

The bulk of industrially produced grain crops goes to confined animal feedlots instead of the 1 billion humans currently suffering from starvation and malnutrition. Over 50 percent of the corn grown globally, and 80 percent of soybeans, are consumed by animals farmed for their flesh. Yet it takes roughly 13 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of meat. Twenty-five times as much edible human food is being used to produce just one unit of meat.

In a vegan society, all field crop production that would have been used to raise animals would now meet the nutritional needs of the global population. It is estimated that by 2050, an additional 4 billion people could be fed with the annual energy value used to produce meat. Doing away with animal agriculture would free up land and resources, enabling communities to sustain themselves and making food sovereignty a reality. In the place of industrial-scale animal exploitation and slaughterhouses, there would be community farms and gardens, more schools and cultural institutions.

 

Species Extinction Would Be Halted

The systematic decades-long clearance of trees from the Amazon has condemned close to 40 species in the region to near extinction. And in the Southwest of the US, livestock grazing is the most widespread cause of wildlife endangerment. Not only do wild animals suffer from deforestation and climate change caused by the meat industry, but they are also killed en masse to protect its corporate interests. Keystone predators like California grizzly bears and Mexican gray wolves have been driven to extinction as a result of “predator control” programs.

Without the meat industry’s existence, more than 175 threatened or endangered species in the United States would be saved from peril. And according to Thiago Rangel, an ecologist at the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil, forest regeneration in the Amazon would help to “gradually recover species richness, composition and vital ecosystems functions.”

 

Kat Von D and Bruno in LAIKA, Issue Six. Photo by Melissa Schwartz.

Kat Von D and Bruno, who was rescued as a calf after falling off a transport truck to the slaughterhouse. From LAIKA, Issue Six. Photo by Melissa Schwartz.

 

A More Empathetic Society

Leo Tolstoy famously wrote that “as long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.” Could a world without wars result from, or coincide with, society abolishing animal exploitation? It’s not that far-fetched of a notion. Empathy is the ability to identify with the emotions of another and it is often the first step toward taking compassionate action for someone. And empathy literally transforms our brain.

A 2015 Neuroimage study showed that higher empathy scores were “associated with greater gray matter density” and that people “who have high cognitive empathy are those who are more rational.” A rational state of mind is calmer and less inclined towards impulsive actions — or, in other words, aggressive and violent behavior.

 

Rescuer Marc Ching with Lucky and Jack, who were saved from the dog meat trade in South Korea and Thailand. From LAIKA Issue Six. Photographed by Jenna Schoenefeld.

Rescuer Marc Ching with Lucky and Jack, who were saved from the dog meat trade in South Korea and Thailand. From LAIKA Issue Six. Photographed by Jenna Schoenefeld.

One of the core aspects of a veganism is being empathetic to the pain of animals, in being able to relate to them and recognize their suffering. Compared to omnivores, functional MRI brain scans reveal a more powerful empathetic response to both human and animal suffering in the minds of vegetarians and vegans.

The more we put empathy into practice, the more empathetic we become. It is nearly impossible to imagine wars still taking place once the last slaughterhouse shutters. In changing our relationship with animals, we could change our relationship with one another and pave the way to the world peace that we all long for.

 

Let’s Make It a Reality

It’s up to us to make the dream real — through leading by example, mobilizing our communities, becoming engaged with the world around us, participating in grassroots activism. The task is more urgent than ever, particularly since our President-elect is a climate change denier who is rounding up an administration similarly hostile to the protection of animals and the environment. When relying on the government to help us is no longer an option, we still have control over whether or not we choose to participate in industries and practices that are destroying our planet and its inhabitants. And that is incredibly empowering. We already know that a benevolent existence is possible — one need only flip through the pages of LAIKA to see how abundant, vibrant and interesting a vegan life is. It is us, the masses, who hold the key to transforming our society. Our potential to cultivate positive change is limitless, and the time to begin is now.

Posted by Julie Gueraseva

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32

Horses packed tightly in holding pens outside Tooele, Utah. Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

The majority of our nation’s wild horses are no longer free. They are warehoused in cramped holding facilities in order to make room for cattle farms on public lands.

On September 9, 2016 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recommended the unthinkable: killing the 45,000 captive wild horses and burros so that 40,000 more could be rounded up in their place.

Under pressure from widespread outcry, the BLM backed away on Wednesday from the panel’s recommendation. The government agency has a track record of betraying the public’s trust, however. “The BLM’s intention is best exemplified by the agency’s illegal sale of 1,800 wild horses [in 2015] to a known kill buyer (all horses were slaughtered in Mexico) and its subsequent promotion and financial rewarding of the BLM employee who oversaw these illegal transactions,” the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign stated in response to BLM’s announcement. As long as profits and cattle farmers’ interests continue to be a priority, the future of wild horses remains uncertain. As long as Americans’ infatuation with meat persists, so will the cycle of killing horses in order to kill cows.

LAIKA’s Fifth Issue detailed the plight of wild horses in our exclusive report “No Home on the Range” by Mark Hawthorne. Following, is an excerpt from that report, along with a selection of images and recollections by photographer Jennifer MaHarry that accompanied it. They illuminate the suffering these magnificent animals endure during round-ups, in holding facilities and at livestock auctions.

 

No Home on the Range
by Mark Hawthorne
an excerpt from LAIKA Issue Five

Fighting back tears, Deniz Bolbol recounts a gut-wrenching moment in her activism. As part of the nonprofit American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), she was in Twin Peaks, California, documenting a wild horse roundup carried out by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). For decades, the BLM — charged under the Department of the Interior with managing public federal lands — has been stampeding horses and burros off the landscape of 10 Western states and moving them to small pastures, where they will languish for the rest of their lives. A lucky few will find homes through the BLM’s adopt-a-horse program. Many others will die. BLM roundups are rife with controversy, but to Bolbol, nothing is more insidious about them than the taxpayer-funded tearing apart of equine families.

“When the horses come into the first pen at a roundup and the family is still together, everybody’s pretty quiet,” she says. “There’s not a lot of vocalization. But when they start separating the stallions from the mares and the babies from their moms, all the horses start talking. You know they are never going to see each other again.” It’s a scene she’s witnessed many times, but in Twin Peaks with her fellow activists, she felt her heart break.

You know they are never going to see each other again.

“We were at the temporary holding facility. They rounded up the horses, brought them into the trap pen, separated the mares from the males and the babies, loaded them up in different trailers, and then moved them to another location with a bunch of corrals for holding until they had a semi load ready. From there, they would take them to short-term holding. We were waiting as they were bringing in horses from the trap site, and this one stallion — we called him Atticus — he would lift his head up over the other stallions and give the loudest neigh, and there would be no response. Every two or three minutes, he would stretch his neck up and give a big neigh. Nothing. Then a trailer came by. Atticus gave another neigh. This time,” she says, her voice trembling, “one of the horses in the trailer neighed back. I said, ‘Oh my god, it’s his mare!’ But it wasn’t. It was his baby. Then the next trailer came with his mare, and the three of them were neighing. We all sat there and were all in tears. It was just so sad. That experience has stayed with me as symbolic of what these horses lose.”  The full feature can be found in our 5th issue.

 

Anatomy of a Roundup
by Jennifer MaHarry
an excerpt from LAIKA Issue Five’s “No Home on the Range”

Helicopter chase of wild horses by Bureau of Land Management

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Helicopter Chase
outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming (2014)

A hot, dry September day, and this herd had been relentlessly chased down by the BLM for more than an hour. They were exhausted and terrified of the noisy helicopter bearing down. This shot was the moment when they discovered there was nowhere else to run — they were being driven into a funnel-like trap leading to a pen, which led to a livestock truck. A foal who couldn’t keep up was left behind, and other horses died that day from either exhaustion or broken legs.

 

Wild horses trapped in chute by the BLM

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

The Trap
Near Onaqui Mts., Utah (2013)

A chute-like “trap” funnels rounded-up horses toward pens that lead to a transport truck where they are culled and separated by age and gender. Within minutes, horses are transported to a government holding facility where they’re further sorted and branded or injected with an infertility vaccine. From there, they go to permanent holding where the public is no longer allowed to see them unless they go up for adoption, which happens less than 2% of the time. Any horse over 10 years old is killed.

Wild horses confined in holding pens

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Government Holding Facility
Outside of Tonapah, Utah (2012)

Utter hopelessness was the feeling I got from this young mustang as he nuzzled another yearling for reassurance. I recognized him from the roundup from just an hour earlier and wondered where his mother was. I had watched the BLM separate him and his mother at the trap site and witnessed their desperation to stay together at a level on par to any human mother and child being broken apart.

Mother and baby wil horse kill auction

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Fallon Livestock Exchange
Nevada (2013)

110 degree sweltering heat with no shade made my heart pound for two hours as I took pictures. I couldn’t fathom lasting another hour, and these horses were there day after day. This mother and baby shared a moment before they were both auctioned off for slaughter. Nothing could prepare me for the absolute innocence, yet horrible reality, of that moment. This scene is still just as heart-wrenching to look at as it was the day I photographed it.


You can help the wild horses by withdrawing your support from the meat industry, regardless of whether the meat comes from factory farms or is “humanely-raised” or “grass-fed.” Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them that you as a constituent care about this issue. Ask them to protect wild horses and not favor ranching interests. Contact the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and tell her wild horses on public lands should be listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act (email feedback@ios.doi.gov or call 202-208-3100). Sign petitions and speak up for wild horses.

Posted by Julie Gueraseva

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Regina, a Chicken Whose Life Mattered

Kat Von D

LAIKA’s issue 6 featuring Regina and Kat Von D, photographed by Melissa Schwartz.

There was no question that Regina hen was destined to be a LAIKA cover star. From the moment Kat Von D first held the cuddly chicken at our cover shoot, it was magic.

Everyone on set at Farm Sanctuary in Acton, CA, where Regina resided, was smitten by the charming, curious, friendly and lovable girl. Not only did she fit right in during the shoot, she became the center of attention. Even her vibrant comb matched the color of Kat’s lipstick.

By sharing the cover of our vegan magazine with Kat, and with her name clearly printed, Regina was shown as an individual and a symbol of freedom for all animals.

Vegan Kat Von D Chicken Laika Magazine

When Kat met Regina at our cover shoot—magic. Photos by Melissa Schwartz.

But suddenly and sadly, Regina is no longer with us. Like so many hens, she suffered from reproductive issues and had a severely infected uterus. Although the surgery to remove it was successful, she passed away the night after it in late July. Regina was a rescue from a family’s backyard chicken flock  – a setting that many believe to be more “humane” than the conditions faced by chickens on factory farms.

In a letter to Regina’s loving sponsors, Farm Sanctuary explained that “whenever an animal is commodified, their individual needs and interests are overlooked in favor of securing profits.” Chickens who are used for eggs frequently develop reproductive issues due to overproduction. It’s unimaginable for Regina to experience cruelty, yet the U.S. alone kills 23 million chickens every single day. In fact, they are the most abused land animal on the planet. But if given a chance to express themselves, each one will show a personality that is uniquely their own,  just like Regina’s.

Following is a poignant tribute from one of the “humanimals” that knew Regina best — Danielle Petrovich, facilities coordinator at Farm Sanctuary’s Acton shelter:

“Regina was my friend. It may sound strange or foreign to most people who have never had the opportunity to get to know a chicken. She was special, though. Even among her ‘rescue peers,’ she stood out. Or, more accurately, she stood up, ran over, and made sure you knew she was there. If we did ‘superlatives’ for the flock (like in your high school yearbook) Regina would have won these hands down. ‘Cutest.’ She was freaking adorable with the black and white feather motif and the bright red comb! Regina means ‘queen’ [in Latin], and her unique ‘rose comb’ crowned her little face as though it was designed on commission. ‘Friendliest.’ When greeting humanimal friends, new and old, she was uninhibited by self-consciousness or fear. Everyone she met was immediately treated to her boundless antics: Pecking lightly at your shoe, elbow, jewelry, pant leg, belt, shirt button or lower back tattoo (should you be crouched down facing away from her, and have your shirt ride up a bit.)

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Regina in the foreground during our shoot, curiously examining the camera, with Danielle behind her.

She made an excellent ambassador for her species.

“A familiar lap was a favorite place for a nap and a pet. Regina often happily jumped right up and made herself cozy. ‘Most likely to Cheer You Up’ and ‘Most Squawky’ would undoubtedly go to her as well. When introducing her to people, I would often compare her to a stranger in the market who peers into your cart, strikes up a conversation about an item you’ve got in there and still has you chatting a half hour later. Initially in that scenario we’d be taken aback, yet by the end wanting to exchange numbers and meet up for a soy chai. Regina did that to people. You only needed to meet her once to feel as though you knew her. Perhaps because she made us feel, through her trust and her unequivocal gush of attention, as though she knew us. She sought us out. She truly loved people. For this reason, she made an excellent ambassador for her species. For the multitudes of people who will never have the pleasure of meeting her, I am gravely saddened. Mostly though, I just miss my friend.”

Regina, whose light shone bright, will live on forever on the cover of LAIKA, reminding that chickens are individuals whose lives matter. In honor of her memory, and all animals, we encourage you to go vegan.

Posted by Julie Gueraseva

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