minor sniping

It’s interesting to me that taking even a skeptical stance on using animals – a stance that is the actual stance of many vegans – it’s interesting that one finds all sorts of places where people assume animals are objects to be used in the same way that religious figures can assume total authority on human morality. It’s not that they have no point. Even I can see that animal testing has potential benefits. But all kinds of really disturbing things our society rejects also have potential benefits. Like experimenting on humans in ways that damage them, even if the humans are rewarded.

Which bring me to the FDA panel review of a new, somewhat controversial weight loss drug. Now, I can see how some are very leery of trying such a drug themselves, when people like me won’t even test it on non-humans. Granted, the tests would look radically different, with the kinder and simpler human tests giving far better and more accurate results. That’s basically called the fancy field of statistical analysis, and it’s the gold standard for testing drugs. Animal testing is generally the backwoods cousin of science that the US government (uniquely in the west) mandates for drug approval. As a hint: the US doesn’t lead the forefront in getting new, effective drugs to market safely.

Here’s an interesting snippet:

Panelists also said they wanted to see more research on lorcaserin’s possible links to cancer. The drug caused a sevenfold increase in mammary tumors in laboratory rats. While the doses were far higher than human doses, experts said they were uncomfortable not knowing how to translate the findings to the human population.

The FDA’s own panel on drug acceptance does not feel comfortable with the results of animal testing, and wants to see clinical trials with humans first. Basically, rats don’t have a metabolism that overweight humans have. Which sounds right, because even skinny humans don’t have the metabolism and lose or gain weight the same way as an overweight human with heart trouble.

Tuesday ~ September 7, 2010 by b

Posted in General | Comments Off on minor sniping | blog@goodtofu.org

phee update

So, P the cat developed a limp a while back, and went on painkillers 24.7 . I’m not sure he was entirely comfortable being in that state 24/7, but he wasn’t limping.

This leads to an operation to fix a loose kneecap (luxating patella). Basically he was walking with his kneecap on the side of his knee. Fortunately this is much less horrifying in cats, which seem a bit like the loose skin in ability to get away from predators. Also P has a high pain tolerance, which made if difficult to tell exactly what was broken & how. They fix it by basically tightening up the joint – shorten the ligament, deepen the groove where the ligament fits into the tibia, and make the bones line up more like a healthy knee. After all that, they had to go back in for something that was only apparent in the post-surgical x-rays.

After all that, in recovery he walked out of his crate and across the exam room without any sign of injury..

Thursday ~ September 2, 2010 by b

Posted in cat | 6,913 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

whining & dining

I have a passive-aggressive rant. It’s just a response to being told I’m picky without cause, something every vegan occasionally hears. It’s not the end of the world, and I should know better than shooting from the hip in response. But it’s still annoying as hell.

To start off being fair, vegans have a reputation for being picky eaters. When I am told this, I point out that I’ll eat almost anything I consider edible food. “Almost” due to broccoli, seitan, and nearly all faux meat.

Here’s the deal about being (really) vegetarian… it’s not “won’t eat anything with parents” or even “won’t eat anything that can look back. It’s about not calling a dead rotting corpse “food”. Yes, rotting. That’s how steak becomes “tender”, it’s beginning to resemble something on the side of the road attracting flies. It’s about not violating the prime directive of human ethics: don’t kill unnecessarily.

Show me a meat-eater who has concerns which are that strong against eating an apple or a potato, who has legitimate ethics (i.e. can discuss them without sounding like a froot loop with conjectures like “animals aren’t conscious”), who’s body will entirely reject vegetables… and you’ll have someone who simply is not human. We all eat vegetables or we’d die young of scurvy (assuming we lived long enough). Vegetarians don’t include meat in our diet, anymore than bullets or something that came from my cat’s litter box.

Thursday ~ September 2, 2010 by b

Posted in veg | 6,051 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

care & feeding of your vegan

So, when people who already know that I am vegan meet me for the first time, they tend to ask a couple of questions:

Have you always been this skinny (I’m on the thinner side of healthy)?

Yes, actually. I’ve been overweight exactly once since I was a toddler, and I was lacto-ovo at the time. My weight has become more consistent as I started being vegan, but that obviously could be other factors. I tend to think people form an opinion about this before they hear my voice, and that I can only change their perception of how I deal with it. Many think I mean diet in “cabbage soup diet” and not “my gazelle’s diet includes wild grass”. I mean the latter, really.
How do you eat without going to the same places as everyone else?
The same way you decide where to go. I pick what I’m willing to eat and compromise to gain group consensus. If there’s nothing I’ll eat at a restaurant, I’m not going to pretend that I’m going to dinner there.

It’s generally a good idea to check out eating establishments in some way before going. Much as I think it’s unreasonable (literally) to not serve vegan food at nearly any restaurant (it’s ridiculously easy for a chef), I recognize that we are not the majority. It’s a business decision that turning down that portion of their population is worth the space on the menu. That’s also a business decision guaranteed to earn more phone calls that cost customer service dollars than simply printing something on the menu once, if you’re considering opening a business.

Second, some clarification that may be useful. Many vegetarians will say they “cannot” eat somewhere. Personally, I choose to be vegan and don’t think of it as a disease. I make an effort to say I “will not” eat somewhere instead, to be clear that I’m not at all going to skirt some very strong ethical objections just to protect the carnivores of the world from ever seeing them. I will be unhappy and feel that a relationship has been damaged if I’m put in a situation without veg food and expected to cope, and that unhappiness will not go away with “at least they were trying”

Generally, consider that if you are going out to eat with a vegan at a restaurant he/she did no suggest at some point, that vegan is fairly open-minded and non-judgmental about the whole thing. That acceptance is not unconditional tolerance.

Some rules to maintain your own comfort and civility… Do not try to out-gross a vegan about anything vaguely related to food and/or animals, unless you are not vegan yourself and thus it’s a time-honored hobby. You will lose, and wish you’d gone to dinner alone. Vegans sometimes make extra effort to self-censor to maintain comfort for their thin-skinned non-veg friends. Don’t abuse that respect.

Let me be crystal clear about an important point to keep in mind: A vegan eating lunch with you is mainly concerned about eating lunch. He/she is just as interested in having a disgust-free meal as yourself. Said vegan may have done background research that you would not consider; asking “do you serve vegetarian food?” is just the beginning to getting a useful answer. Going to a reeking pulled-pork bbq restaurant may be disgusting to a vegan. A vegan pointing that out is not neccessarily trying to convert you, start a fight, stop you from eating a meal, striking back at the man, or anything similar. That vegan is stating a visceral response no differently than “ow that hurts”. We all use different language when unpleasantly surprised, and it’s not meant to be nice. Yes, we should hold our tongues. Frankly, a vegan making those remarks occasionally is probably holding their tongue most of the time and possibly not happy with the slip.

A vegan eating dinner with a carnivore is making a sacrifice, however common, which few people make with any regularity. Being vegan is not an academic exercise. They may be doing so out of desire to reach out, to have diverse friends, to break down the us v. them mentality we’re all told must exist, to demonstrate that we’re sane.

Telling a vegan anything like they should eat a hamburger, are too weird, should be on a pedestal with different ethics, aren’t healthy, aren’t doing anything useful, or just plain should not be taken seriously are all rude. Your intelligence might be judged as a result, friends who can usually kid with insults aside.

Saturday ~ June 12, 2010 by b

Posted in General | 4,518 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

animals don’t care?

There’s commonly an argument presented that cows / lab rats / cats / pigs / lobsters simply “don’t care” about some injury being done to them by experiments or farm life.

First, as proof to the contrary… humans are animals, and we care. Any solid argument that animals don’t care must provide solid evidence that we are somehow unique, proof that a specific mechanism exists uniquely in humans.

Second, not caring doesn’t mean giving consent. Some humans occasionally have bouts of strong depression. They might care about anything at all, and am basically incapable of caring for general purposes. I am a slug, and won’t really react differently than a despondent animal. However, killing a depressed person would be murder, and today I’d certainly want such a murderer to receive swift justice.

It’s bullshit. Humans did not invent pain or consciousness, nor completely change the biology of our lower nervous systems. I seriously doubt someone who’s been thinking of anti-AR arguments for even a few hours has proof to the contrary. We like to think we’re different biologically, but the differences are small and not always relevant to our major ethical concerns. Besides, treat a human “like an animal” for a while, and it’s well-known that the aforementioned human will “act like an animal”. Dealing with captivity doesn’t exactly require a college degree.

Almost all animals to hide pain, injury, and anything else that paints them as a victim. For example, consider a housecat. They live a rough-tumble-life, and beneath the fur are often wearing bruises, minor joint injuries, pulled muscles… when’s the last time you treated a cat for one of those, much less asked your vet for advice on dealing with them? There’s almost no evidence that they feel any less pain from those injuries – and there are reasons to think they’re more sensitive. They do, however, show signs of handling it well psychologically, in the same way that humans might. With major pain like broken limbs, cardiac pain, and similar, they act more like humans. When given post-surgical pain meds, a moderately high dosage for a while improves their prospects… just like with humans. They use the same pain meds (mostly) that we do, and there aren’t significant differences between the respective parts of our nervous systems.

Yet through it all, your housecat will hardly utter a peep out of pain or abuse. That’s simply not how they respond emotionally. They respond by hiding themselves or the injury, by submitting, by trying to curry favor, by what we’d normally call “toughing it out”. Animals do not live in democracies or anarchist utopias, much like humans did not for most of civilization. They live in hierarchies with clear social positioning and rules of social behavior. Crying out for every pain would be like someone crying out for their freedom every time they saw a list of rules about anything. It doesn’t get the desired attention, so it’s not an obvious thing to do. “Normal” humans don’t even think about it. For animals, don’t expect them to cry out even if retrieved from an overcrowded house thick with ammonia, covered in fleas and long-lasting injuries, and starving. Regardless of how well they respond to improvements (often they’re very happy), they do not complain under normal circumstances. Doing so can get them hurt or killed, even amongst human beings. It does not advance their prospects, unlike for a human crying out in pain. Even humans only react by crying out while among other humans, not nearly so much without their company.

Nonetheless, some still make the argument that animal abuse cannot exist (or cannot be as severe as human abuse) because an animal is unconscious (in some form… I’ve been waiting half my life to hear some evidence of the claim). Logical extension of that logic means that it’s ok to experiment on, injure, and rough up unconscious or less intelligent humans. I think many would agree that doing such things to an unconscious (sleeping) human may be even worse than doing them to a conscious human – because unconsciousness removes the ability for realistic, practical self-defense. The ability for creating an artistic masterpiece or advance science doesn’t really matter. It would disturb some if intelligence or particular moral creed did matter.

Tuesday ~ June 8, 2010 by b

Posted in advocacy,cat | 6,937 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

whining & dining

To start off being fair, vegans have a reputation for being picky eaters. When I am told this, I point out that I’ll eat almost anything I consider edible food. “Almost” due to broccoli, seitan, faux non-vegan food.

Here’s the deal about being (really) vegetarian… it’s not “won’t eat anything with parents” or even “won’t eat anything that can look back. It’s about not calling a dead rotting corpse “food”. Yes, rotting. That’s how steak becomes “tender”, it’s beginning to resemble something on the side of the road attracting flies. It’s about not violating the prime directive of human ethics: don’t kill unnecessarily.

Show me a meat-eater who has concerns which are that strong against eating an apple or a potato, who has legitimate ethics (i.e. can discuss them without sounding like a froot loop with conjectures like “animals aren’t conscious”), who’s body will entirely reject vegetables… and you’ll have someone who simply is not human. We all eat vegetables or we’d die young of scurvy (assuming we lived long enough). Vegetarians don’t include meat in our diet, anymore than bullets or something that came from my cat’s litter box.

However, I do hear a slow trickle of complaints that one cannot be vegetarian. Bullshit, and you know it.

Monday ~ June 7, 2010 by b

Posted in veg | 2,442 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

May 1st

Happy May Day!

For those of you lost, May Day is a celebration that originates from two different places… Most recently from celebrations similar to U.S. Labor Day, and often referred to as Labour Day or International Workers’ Day in other countries. In the U.S., it originally commemorated the beginning of a standard 8-hour work day (as opposed to much longer) that was secured by a combination of unions and other labor-related groups. It originally was tied to remembrance of the Haymarket Affair, a police riot in Chicago during a strike in which several protesters were shot or later executed. The federal government instituted the holiday to draw attention away from the traditional celebrations tied to labor movements.

It’s also a group of traditional festivals from Celtic and Germanic cultures dating to pre-Christian ceremonies surrounding Beltane. The focus of those celebrations is in early May, and varies with the most important day occurring May 5-7. Some groups have heavily secularized the holiday, and others celebrate it as a religious tradition. This is where the May Pole originates.

Saturday ~ May 1, 2010 by b

Posted in nature,news | 6,420 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

Vegans eat oytsers

There’s an article that a vegan. ahem. alleged “vegan” (with scare quotes) claiming that oysters are perfectly vegan.

No. Oysters are not vegan.

Oysters belong to the animal kingdom. That means that they, any entertainment they provide, or anything they produce (including pearls) is not vegan. There is no question about this within the vegan community. The standard is never “is a central nervous system consciously receiving pain”. That standard is manufactured by people who are not vegetarians, as a stereotype that is humorous to them.

Many people draw lines on the dinner plate that they will not cross. Some will not eat flesh from mammals. Some will not eat chickens, but eat fish. Or pig but not cow. Or cow but not deer. Or cow, if it watched tv or whatever is supposed to make them comfortable in captivityThere are many, many such lines.

The point of being vegan is to avoid drawing fuzzy arbitrary lines at all. The vegan movement, actually founded just after ww2 came about precisely because a group of vegetarians were fed up with other vegetarians drawing arbitrary lines and then claiming to have exactly the same motivation and ethical standards. Quite literally, the original point was that vegans do not draw lines about whether or not oysters are ok. Their cells are from the animal kingdom. Full stop. No questions of sentience, intelligence, conciousness, or pain are considered.

A line in the sand like “oysters but not fish” is completely arbitrary. There’s not really science proving which animals achieve conscious self-awareness, and anyone claiming that they’ve found such a line is merely inserting their own, mostly emotional, opinion in the place of science, and then saying the questions have been answered to thei

Saturday ~ April 10, 2010 by b

Posted in nature,veg | 5,682 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

Animals in Idaho

There are a couple of issues brewing in Idaho over animal rights. Cockfighting and derailing the opposition.

First, Idaho has finally joined 40 other states in declaring cockfighting a felony. Yes, seriously, it was a misdemeanor and still is in some states. Idaho is not exactly on the forefront of animal rights legislation. OK, yay and go Idaho for passing important legislation, nonetheless.

Second, a state Senator is proposing a bill to maneuver around potential backlash to bring chicken farms into the state. HSUS was specifically declared as the primary “radical animal rights group” for its opposition. An advisory board on animal welfare has been formed. The board was not formed as a compromise or with the support of HSUS, and they do not consider it to represent their interests. I can’t say I blame them. Even though HSUS helped draft another part of the bill, they will not be welcome. In fact, many of the “animal welfare” groups listed are effectively unions and PACs for cattle farmers. No other groups have advocated in favor of animal welfare on a scale as large as HSUS in Idaho.

The board is usually presented by Idaho lawmakers as a step to preempt animal welfare groups by “proving” that Idaho is handling any animal cruelty, and appease anyone who might otherwise listen to them. Such boards are now commonly fought in other states as the existing opposition to animal welfare, and are generally considered a backward step among animal advocates. When one accuses a group of a crime, the alleged criminals do not belong on the jury.

HSUS is the organization that runs advertisements telling people not to abuse their animals, in the most common definition of abuse. They won acclaim among animal advocates for sending volunteers into NOLA after Katrina to rescue pets caught in the storm’s aftermath. Not exactly a revolutionary group trying to overthrow The Man. Labeling them as such without any clarification or any further description is simply trying to stir up prejudice.

Tuesday ~ March 2, 2010 by b

Posted in cat,dining,poli,veg | 6,385 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

the welfarist position

First and foremost, I’m one of those people who thinks the philosophical idea of animal rights makes the most sense, for improving the lives and reducing the suffering of animals. I simply do not think that animals will be universally given the treatment they deserve until acceptable treatment becomes mandatory. Ownership necessarily means abuse is legitimate, and makes it inevitable. You can see this first-hand in the reactions of many to my sentiments: outcries that AR is inconvenient and impinges the rights of humans, because we should be able to do what we want to our animals.

I tend to take this view. It’s a large part of my stance on many things, from animal entertainment and zoos, to medical testing. I’m against both, and can provide the facts to back it up. I shouldn’t have to; we have the internet.

Another position is the welfarist approach. This approach doesn’t really address the issue of rights, but instead directly tries to improve the lives of animals of any status. Welfarist organizations include the ASPCA, HSUS, and perhaps groups like the Sierra Club to a limited extent.

Many believe the two approaches are compatible. Peta cooperates with the ASPCA to improve the lives of animals commonly thought of as pets. This is quite notable, as the ASPCA originally considered itself a radical organization that was trying to completely overturn the system. That is, until they were accepted by the government if they toned down the rhetoric and some specific actions. They were, essentially, a radical animal rights organization when they were first created, but are by far no longer the same. They are now almost the definition of a welfarist organization.

Some fraction of each of these two communities sees the approaches as incompatible. Welfarists might simply delay a real solution by supporting animal agriculture, and animal rights advocates might be pushing too far & too fast to make a meaningful difference today. It’s worth noting that isn’t everyone’s opinion, and many in the community are nearly oblivious to the distinction.

Wednesday ~ January 20, 2010 by b

Posted in General | 7,983 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org