Thursday, April 30, 2015

Norway stepping up its animal rights activism

Today in the news, Norway is dedicating a police force to defend animal rights. The Government is arguing that people who harm animals are likely to harm people as well, and it can be assumed that their previous laws were not enough as the report states "The law forbids abandoning animals, sexual interaction with animals and using live animals for feed or bait.". The measures being put forward also act against the abuse of livestock, and are all being hailed by animal rights activists. I find it interesting to see the state of animal rights in other countries, what laws exist and don't, and how the laws are upheld. Norway itself has received flak in the past for continuing to hunt whales despite the IWCs whaling ban, using a loophole in the 'International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling'.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Walt Whitman

I think I could turn and live awhile with the animals ... they are so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them sometimes half the day long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,

Not one is dissatisfied ... not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.
— Walt Whitman

As Walt Whitman explains in his poem he believes that living with animals would be a better alternative than living with humans for several reasons. Whitman argues that they are a simpler kind and do not focus on worrying about their lives, but instead enjoy living. Whitman argues that as humans we are never satisfied with what we have and instead stay up late at night and worry about our religions, our sins, and our materialistic items. Animals do not worry about all this. They do not care nor worry about religion, their personal belongings or anything else; the only thing animals worry about is living their lives in a manner that will give them the greatest chance of survival.

What Makes Us Human

Montaigne begins his essay An Apology for Raymond Sebond by stating that, "Of all creatures man is the most miserable and fragile, and therewith the proudest and distainfullest". He then goes on to talk about how humans are not truly superior to other animals, and how non-human animals do have means of communicating, perhaps their own language, it is just a matter of our inability to understand one another. He speaks on how although animals have not made attempts of their own accord to verbally communicate with humans, we too are at fault for making no attempt to speak in the language of animals. This is important because indicates that humans do posses a kind of understanding that other animals do not, however it does not prove that we are necessarily superior or that animals do not think or feel. This idea that humans are some of the proudest because of there frailty brought to mind this quote I remember reading awhile back:

"Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” 
― Mitch AlbomThe Time Keeper

I think that this is a very interesting perspective on human cognition, because it demonstrates one of the fundamental differences between human and non-human animals, which is that of abstract thought. Humans have developed such abstract concepts of time, morality, and have the ability to think about the future and recognize that we all one day must die. This type of high-cognitive processing shows a clear distinction between us and non-human animals, and it is indeed more complicated and thus seen as superior, however it comes with many drawbacks. Montaigne describes us as the most miserable and frail, and perhaps that is because of this ability to think on a level outside of simply existing and surviving, and the ability to question "why". It is this curiosity of the human spirit that is cause for much of our suffering, as a dog will not worry about the inevitability of death, and a horse will not try to find some greater meaning to life than in living itself. We strive for something greater than simply existing, which some may argue puts us on a level superior to other animals; however, it also puts upon us a pressure that no other animal faces, and it is simply what makes us human.

Why is it okay to hurt animals?

Why do we find it okay to hurt animals? Hurting animals our self-improvement will never justify why we do this. Whether we hurt animals for product testing such as shampoo or medical reason such as vaccines isn’t a valid reason mistreating animals. Animals aren’t meant to be incarcerated their whole lives as test subjects. They’re meant to be able to roam free in the wild, where they lived before we removed them from their natural habitat. Animals such as rats, monkey, rabbits, and dogs spend their entire lives in laboratories being tested on just so we know that the products being developed are safe for human use. If we wouldn’t test developing products on humans, why do we test them on animals? I believe the only reason we do this is because we think that it doesn’t hurt them and that they don’t have feelings. The only reason we think this is because animals aren’t able to express themselves through words like humans are. If a dog were to say, “stop, that hurts”, we wouldn’t be testing on them. The same goes for all of the other animals we hurt.
I’ve attached a video of beagles that have been rescued from laboratory testing. We see that they aren’t sure how to react to not being caged up. Luckily these dogs were freed from spending the rest of their lives in cages, sadly most animals are never able to make it out of labs.

The Exploitation of Animals

In this video we can that a man uses animals as a showcase in order for him to get tip money. In the video description it says that he is out there three times a week and on that particular day it was 90 degrees and there was no water in sight for the dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. This is a clear example of animal abuse and it is right in the open in front of everyone to see. People walk by and surely see how inhuman it is, yet do nothing. The dogs and cats are chained up looking disheveled and unhappy. The animals are seen as tools for entertainment and nothing else. Even if the man that is abusing these animals gets arrested for his wrongdoings, the dogs, cats, and guinea pigs will probably just go to a killing shelter and put out of their misery.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Amores Perros

Drawn by Gael Garcia Bernal who is in Motorcycle Diaries and Y Tu Mama Tambien, I began watching Amores Perros yesterday on Netflix, if you so desire to watch it as well. A visually pleasing foreign triptych film, I had not anticipated the curious use of animal imagery despite the movie's explicit title. From my four years of high school Spanish, I translated this to "dog love" which I latently associated with "dog days". Let me take a quick discourse on dog days: "popularly believed to be an evil time 'the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies,' according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria." There was also a song called The Dog Days are Over ( So I was under the notion that the movie would be about lovers in a lethargic sinister world, like Kar Wai Wong's Fallen Angels sphere. Alejandro Inarritu's milieu is more overtly and physically violent. The verified translation is but of course "love's a bitch". But there is a paradox here. To say love is a bitch is at once to say that love is spiteful and that love is unfounded allegiance. We act without rationality it seems because of love. Love is animalistic, Innaritu says. An animal is irrational.

Octavio is in love with his abusive brother's wife Susana. In an early scene, Octavio's brother becomes enraged at Susana for letting the dog out out of the house, and Octavio takes the blame for it, an act to prove his loyalty to Susana. But these attempts by Octavio put Susana into a position of disloyalty, which she does not know how to maneuver. It also makes him disloyal to his brother, and his mother who does not want Octavio to fight his brother. In order to further prove his loyalty to Susana, Octavio then uses the dog in dog fighting to acquire large amounts of cash to run away with her. The dog does exceptionally well, and Octavio's brother demands half of the winnings, claiming the dog is his. Octavio refuses. The dog parallels Susana here: who takes care of the dog? who takes care of Susana? who owns Susana? who owns the dog? On the eve of a crucial fight, Octavio comes home to find that his brother has taken Susana away. Susana stays loyal to the brother like a dog, irregardless of the pain he enacts on her. Susana is disloyal to Octavio's fantasy that he builds on the dog's success. A rival owner shoots Octavio's dog just as it is about to beat the other dog. Octavio calls him a "crazy fucker", and the linguistic choice of "crazy" is interesting to note. He has become irrational, in his love for victory, flouting the rules for reward.

The next chapter follows Spanish supermodel Valeria who is having a covert relationship with a married magazine editor Daniel. On television, she pretends to be in a relationship with fellow celebrity and introduces their "son", her dog Richie. To protect Daniel, she risks her career. Her deception here foreshadows the events which will transpire. A car accident, caused by Octavio on the run, leaves Valeria injured and bed-ridden. Richie dives into a hole in the floorboards of the new apartment that Daniel has bought for her. The hole is a representation of Daniel's fragile loyalty to her, and her "son" disappears into his volatility. Valeria cannot get Richie out and re-injures her leg, ending her career. Her devotion to Richie and Daniel destroy her. Valeria's beloved dog is disloyal to her, but Valeria is relentlessly haunted by his whimpers at night. The missing dog and the amputation of her leg arouses tension between Daniel and Valeria, and Daniel considers returning to his wife. He finally breaks open the floor in a craze and finds Richie, which parallels Daniel's renewed loyalty to Valeria.

It is with the ex-guerilla leader El Chivo turned vagrant secret hit-man that director Innaritu really insists on the animal symbolism. He lives with several stray dogs in an abandoned warehouse and happens to be at the scene during the crash. El Chivo steals Octavio's money and takes his wounded dog to revive it. El Chivo returns one day to find all his dogs killed by Octavio's dog, due to his proclivity for dog fighting. He becomes acutely distressed and is on the verge to shoot. But he decides to forgive both the dog and himself. In the dog's violence, he seems himself and the illogical lifestyle he lives because of his unexpressed love for his daughter. El Chivo tells the dog "it's not right asshole". To kill the dogs of the man who revives it is unjustifiable. This episode precipitates a big change in El Chivo, cutting his hair and revealing to his daughter that he is alive.

Innaritu uses the animal as a representation of a human in love. He includes both the fluffy domestic dog Richie and the ferocious fighting dogs. To love makes you literally an animal, a bitch. Humans are animals when they are in love. Is this true? We do become more impulsive.There is many a story of characters coming to their demise at the hands of a seductress because they could not act intelligently like humans. Our flight/fight instincts seem to kick in. Innaritu includes both women and men to compare how they become in the state of love. But our "ability" to love, to emphatize is often deemed a human quality, different from animals..

Good Ol' Aesop, Teacher of Common Sense

“Fable is a literary genre: a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that are anthropomorphized (given human qualities, such as verbal communication) and that illustrates or leads to an interpretation of a moral lesson (a "moral"), which may at the end be added explicitly as a pithy maxim.”

Okay, we’re starting to get into fables in class, and frankly, I’m pretty excited. Anyone remember reading Aesop’s fables growing up? I still have a collection of them at home.

 Fables have been a part of human culture for centuries, though when many people think of dear old Aesop when the word ‘fable’ is mentioned. It doesn't really matter though, because the point of fables is to teach right? So as long my kid knows not challenge a turtle to a race, then go ahead, let Aesop do his thing. Anyone remember this:

HBO at it's finest ladies and gentlemen.
So, whats the point of me dredging up this piece of our ancient 90's childhood? I'm trying to point out the influence that Fables have actually had on our lives today. They are one of our earliest introductions to 'ethics', what is good or bad based on societies standards. Though fables can literally be anything and everything so long as it has a lesson, I prefer to focus on Aesop, as most of his fables are more 'bare bones ethics'. For instance the story of the fox and the crow, 'beware of flattery'. I translate this as  if some creepy dude for no apparent reason is trying to get you to do something by saying you're pretty (smart, ect), BEWARE! What we as adults might call 'common sense' does NOT apply to children just yet, as they have not experienced enough things in the world to completely understand what's common by our societies standards. Why do you think your parents had to TELL you not to talk to strangers? Most 5 year old's I know wont't shut up, and love to be heard. Unless warned otherwise, they're not going to care whose the one paying attention to them (or in my case pretending to).

So we can thank Sir Aesop of the Greeks for some pre-made, ready to go, life lessons for young children whose parents are either unable, or just too lazy to explain these things to their kids themselves. That's what my parents did  and I think I'm a pretty normal, healthily paranoid human being.

So for those of us deciding to write a Fable for our next assignment, just keep this in mind: if you write it well enough, you'll be able to tell your kids to do whatever the hell you want them to do, alll without the nearly impossible task of keeping their attention long enough for them to actually listen to you. And for those of you whose kids won't read? Well good luck to you then!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Animal Blog #1

What is an animal? I believe an animal is a sentient being that goes through a cycle of generation and corruption, or in more general terms, birth and death.The capacity to die is what validates the life. Life is the essential ingredient for an animal. However, plants are alive as well. What differentiates plants from animals is not a brain or a heart, but rather the central nervous system. This is what I mean by sentience, the ability to feel pain. This ability, or curse, to suffer is the common thread that binds all beings under the umbrella of the term animal.

Alex the Parrot

Model-Rival Training Technique

Today (4/27) we learned of an African grey parrot named Alex, who is known to be the first non-human animal to ever ask an existential question. Along with this, Alex is able to answer basic counting questions that include blocks and sticks. However, to get this way there is a lot of training involved. Dr. Irene M. Pepperberg developed a training procedure modeled after the Model-Rival system developed by Dr. Dietmar. The process in which Alex goes through to learn is complex and confusing and is explained in the article provided.

Another bird discussed in today's lectures is the crow and how using their intelligence they are able to accomplish certain tasks such as opening nuts by dropping them at intersections and having the cars break them open when their beaks can not. Along with this, the crows discussed in class are able to perform multiple tasks and figure out puzzles in order to get food. They are highly intelligible and quick to learn unlike squirrels who would just walk away from a problem.

Both cases provide enough information to prove that the phrase "bird brain" may be more a compliment than insult. This also shows that animals can be trained to perform great things and could maybe help perform tasks in which we would have previously done ourselves. Birds especially since they are always around.

Why do we find it okay to make animals suffer?

    I found this picture after typing "Animals vs. Humans cartoon" on Google. This cartoon shows humans in closed-off cages with only one opening for their heads. I am thinking that the humans are supposed represent "animal role," getting tested upon by the animals, shown in lab coats and holding tools. I really like the dry humor of this cartoon, as one of the dogs says to the other, "Don't worry, they don't feel pain the way we do!" The thing is, we know we feel pain like "they" do, but the humans in the cartoon are unable to communicate this. In real life, the roles are switched. Humans test on animals, assuming the animals can deal with the pain, even though they feel pain just as equally as we do. However, animals are powerless against humans--they have no way of telling them just how much they are suffering. The goal of this cartoon is to highlight, and essentially mock the irrationality of human thoughts on animal testing. Animals can feel pain just as we do! We just like to ignore this fact because they cannot tell us otherwise. In class, we've been learning about the hierarchy in the human-animal vs. nonhuman-animal relationship. This cartoon definitely ties in with that hierarchy, revealing that humans are on top, and will always be in control of the nonhuman-animals.

Why do People Abuse Animals?

Why do People Abuse Animals? (Abuse = hurt, mistreat, etc.)

According to this article, there are three reason why people hurt animals.
These reasons are:
1. Some people don't do it on porpoise. They don't realize that their actions might be hurting or mistreating the animals.
       a. These people are considered innocent who act in harsh ways unintentional.
2. Animal abusers do it on purpose, but they don't mistreat for a long period of time.
       a. They can be peer pressured to show off.
       b. They might have anger issues.
3. Animal abusers hurt animals intentionally because they enjoy seeing them suffer, thus in return, they feel powerful.
       a. They act cruelly because animals can't speak for themselves, whereas people can.
       b. They feel powerfulif their animal is killing another animal.
       c. These people are considered to have psychological issues that can be caused by many reasons such as childhood trauma, neglect ion, or poisonous environment.

All these people can be cured with education, support, and/or licensed psychologist.
What one can do, if they encounter such people, is: get help; write everything down; be responsible; be a leader; volunteer your time; spread the word; invite guest speaker to your school or college class;  start a club; check it out -- understand the issue more in depth for better change.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Rhino Horn Poaching

The poaching of rhinos has become a very dangerous trade in Africa. Armed soldiers protect the few remaining rhinos from the poachers, who are after the rhinos’ horn. These poachers come from all over Africa to hunt these rare and iconic creatures for their horn. In eastern Asian countries, rhino horn is believed to have medical properties. Some claim that rhino horn is a cure for cancer while others believe it is an aphrodisiac. Western researchers have not found any evidence to support these claims. This is the dangerous cycle that rhinos have fallen victim to: so far as there is a market for the horn, and so far as there are rhinos walking, there will be poachers. In class and discussion section we have spoken about men exploiting animals as a form of resource. These poachers are killing whole rhinos for the sake of pleasing a cultural placebo. Until man realizes that these majestic creatures are not a source for them to exploit, there will be a conflict surround rhinos and creatures like them (elephants, lions, whales, etc.). Attached is a video documenting the atrocities of these poachers. There are some disturbing images in the documentary.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Humanity of Wild Men

One of the key ideas presented in Bisclavret is that of the "Wild Man", and it is debated if Bisclavret falls within this category of Wild Man or if he in fact more man than beast. Vanita Seth describes her idea of what the Wild Man is in mythology by categorizing him as somebody who is typically a mix or hybrid of different creatures, or sexes, or "disarranged" in some form or another. She also describes them as being morally ambiguous, and living in the wild. In the most literal sense of the Wild Man definition, Bisclavret would most likely be seen as fitting well into the category. He is both human and wolf, he attacked multiple characters, and spends a majority of his time living out in the woods.

He is also portrayed with some very telling human characteristics however, and I would argue that many of these traits balance out, if not overpower some of his more beastly characteristics. For example, when the king is hunting him in the forest, he is described as begging the king for mercy, which is not something a Wild Man would typically do. A Wild Man would likely be more inclined to either run or to attempt to defend against their attacker, but instead Bisclavret humbles himself before the king as a typical human would, thus showing the fearful and domestic side of his human self. Another important aspect of Bisclavret's life which distinguished him from the typical Wild Man is the fact that although he spends much of his time in the forest when he is with his wife, once the King "adopts" him as a sort of pet he betrays the wild and spends every waking moment at the Kings side, existing primarily in the Human world with him and his men. Finally, although Bisclavret's attacks on the Knight and later his wife do appear to show a sense of moral ambiguity, they are not uncommon to acts of violence often executed by humans. He is not described as being overly aggressive, or wildly hurting people without thought. The only two people he ever harms he does as an act of revenge, and although this is not seen to be a good thing and can be seen as a morally ambiguous act, it is also quite reminiscent of human attributes which shows he is not quite as much of a beast as people might assume. By definition alone he fits the categories which Vanita Seth put in place to describe a "Wild Man", but his humanity runs much deeper.

Men and Meat

In section, we had read The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams. It was designed to draw parallels between our culture's attitude toward animals and its attitude and treatment of women as well. It shows eating meat as a type of oppression, specifically against women, as it is considered a "mans food".  I had found this picture, and I think it certainly shows these ideas that Adams had discussed. The women are behind sign a giant sign  that say this is for men only, as they stare at the food with want. Before the discussion in section, I never really thought about how advertisements and society gears meat toward males, but after its hard not to see it everywhere. It is certainly an interesting thought, and shows how women can be viewed as second class citizens. I think this read was a bit of an eye opener for me, and something I'll be thinking about for a while in the aspect of women and society.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Meat in Advertisement

The excerpt I read in The Sexual Policies of Meat made me reflect on the way the past and present society has perceived food, particularly meat.  In the excerpt, Adams made it clear that meat is associated with masculinity while vegetables tend to relate more to women.  This made me consider the truth in this argument through the examination of an ad made in the 1950s.

 The ad below is directed towards pleasing the male audience as the prime rib is paired with sharp meat carving implements associated with the man’s stereotypical role in food preparation: the cutting of meat.  This ad created by the American Meat Institute states that meat is “complete.”  Meat, according the ad, “is a symbol for man’s desire” and encourages women to make meat for dinner because this is what their husbands “desire” and is what man has desired since the cave days.  Though the ad implies that meat is nutritional and should be part of every American’s diet, it specifically emphasizes the need for meat for the man and only mentions women when discussing the pride women will have in their meals they make with meat. 

The Dog and the Wolf

On Monday in lecture, Freccero spoke about the difference between a wolf and dog. American society has begun to make wolves apart of our pop culture, for example Twilight, Teen Wolf, Harry Potter etc. I find this interesting why humans feel such a connection to wolves that we began imagine/make up stories that we turn into them. In addition we make them into our pets. I know that there is a difference between dogs and wolves for many reasons. For example dogs are the most skilled animals at understanding humans. Freccero gave us a short story to read about dogs and wolves called The Dog and the Wolf (surprise surprise). The wolf was literally starving for his freedom and refused to give it up for shelter and food. The dog stayed in the house with humans and lived a comfortable life yet was a “slave” to his master. This is a pose as an allegory for humans as well as a short story. Humans have repeatedly come into contact with this problem. Being a slave to others to survive or to die in order to keep your freedom is a constant choice that people have to make everyday. Thankfully America is a place where we can practice our freedom thoughtlessly, and other places in the world people are starving for their freedom daily.