If you can handle reading one more article about Cecil

I recommend Sean Parson’s “Cecil the Lion, White Supremacy, and Speciesism.” Parson is the Interim Editor of the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, and after reading this article, I’m excited to see the next issue of the journal!

I found his writing very thought-provoking, but I’m still figuring out what I agree with. Comment below and let me know what you think!

Parson’s thesis:

What I want to argue here is that white supremacy operates differently than does speciesm and as such we need to understand media coverage of the topics will be different. When we use a more critical perspective to look at this debate we realize that the media coverage of Cecil does not show Americans’ love for nonhumans but instead the coverage serves as a way to hide the systemic and structural violence committed to both people of color and nonhumans in our society. In addition, the debate over Cecil shows the dangerous potential for how animal rights can actually support white supremacy.

How white supremacy and speciesism are advanced by the differing media coverage:

Because race and speciesism operate differently the media coverage of the topics looks uneven but in reality they are serving a similar purpose…The anger around the murder of black men and women shows the violence of white supremacy, and is therefore silenced; the celebration of Cecil’s life hides the violence of speciesism, and is therefore yelled from every bullhorn the media has to use. In this way both function similarly in that they hide and avoid conversations around systemic violence.

How a non-human can be protected by the system of white supremacy:

But in some instances, such as with Cecil, a nonhuman can be given certain privileges and rights that make them “almost human” and at that moment the system of white supremacy is used to protect that nonhuman animal.

What to take away from this as activists:

The fact that Cecil gained aspects of white privilege highlights the complex relationship that exists between different systems of oppression. It also points to a dangerous pitfall for activists’ interested Animal liberation: work done to protect certain nonhumans can actually reinforce and support white supremacy. Working to stop the uneven violence of white supremacy must be seen as part of the larger movement to end the enslavement and exploitation of animals and this means not using the system of white supremacy as a short-term way of protecting nonhuman life.

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I Went to the Conservation Congress Spring Hearings and It Was Much Friendlier Than I Thought It Would Be

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Last night was my first time ever going to the Conservation Congress, so I’m going to outline my experience for people who plan to go in the future.

My experience:

We registered between 6:30 and 7. There were white tables in front of the entry to the PAC, and we wrote down our names and addresses, and were handed the question packet and three voting ballots. The next table over, we showed our IDs and were given tiny ballots to write the name of the delegates.

We sat in a cluster of Alliance people so I would have the best chance of people finding me if they needed a cheat sheet. We all started filling out our white ballots, flipping between the question packet and the cheat sheet. The actual talking portion started a little after 7. The game warden introduced the event, and his words were supplemented by a powerpoint. He enunciated well, but spoke stiffly, and gave the impression of reading directly from a manual, the way that teachers always have to for standardized tests.

The first election was for the 3-year term. There was a period of time to nominate delegates. Two were nominated. Each took a turn speaking.

While the votes were counted, the game warden started to read through the questions in the packet. He read every.single.question, except for the local measures. I had mixed feelings about this. It’s good to have multiple ways to communicate information for different learning styles and intelligences, and it may have helped people with reading disabilities, so that’s very cool. But it was so dull and so long. We also watched a fishing video during this first hiatus.

After the votes were counted, they announced the winner – the incumbent, Paul Reich. The same voting process was then repeated with the 2-year term delegates, then more question reading as those votes were counted. The 2-year term delegate was also the incumbent, Melissa Smith. Yay, Melissa! I also liked Paul. He seemed like an ethical person who could get things done. Also, he looked kind of like Louis C.K.!

paul reich

The DNR guy finished reading all the questions on the white ballot, then we moved to the blue ballot. The blue ballot concerned citizen proposals, all of which were taped on the wall outside the PAC. The savvy people knew this and had already taken pictures with their smart phones. I was not one of those savvy people, so I had to run out halfway through and do so. The citizen proposals inspired a lot more crowd commentary than the DNR proposals.

We left right before they were going to read the questions for the green ballot. It was about 9 pm. I’m guessing the event went until 9:30 or 9:45.

I was definitely not the only animal lover there, and I didn’t feel out of place.

I was warned by others that the Conservation Congress can be an uncomfortable place to be if you’re non-consumptive (not a hunter/trapper/fisher). Because of this, I asked my mom to go with me. Even if she hadn’t been there, we had a contingent of maybe 15 Alliance people, most of whom were sitting together. The auditorium was huge, and there were only 200-some people there, so I was physically distant from the people who identified as hunters.

It is long, but there are multiple options to leave early. 

The only thing you have to physically be there for is the election of the 3-year and 2-year term delegates. That happens in the first hour. The rest of the time, the DNR reps read the questions that you vote on on the three different colored ballots. You can follow along, or you can fill them out ahead of time, especially if you have a cheat sheet!

I did enjoy the citizen commentary, and I learned a lot.

The reason to stay is that, after each question, there is an option for citizen comments and questions. It’s rare that what a citizen said changed the way I voted, but a lot of them were knowledgeable, and I’m glad I heard what they had to say.

“Conservation” is a bit of a misnomer, since the only issues we voted on are in regards to game species. Nothing about other wildlife, nothing about other environmental issues.

So, there are three different voting cards we fill out. The white is for issues that have passed their specific committees and will be enacted if voted on. I didn’t stay to hear what the green was, but I think it’s similar to the white. The blue is for citizen proposals. If those pass, they are sent to a series of committees in the DNR, and they may eventually become issues for the white ballot.

The white and green ballots only covered game species. The blue ballot had a range of proposals about keeping science in the DNR, doing a full impact study about the oil pipeline, making the voting process more transparent, educating the public, and my favorite, having online voting! When my mother and I Ieft right after the citizen proposals had all been voted on, her response was “that was a lot more balanced than I would have thought.” I agreed at the time, but I’m not sure in retrospect. The only issues where there was balance were the issues where voting didn’t mean that much. Assuming that it’s been this way every year, I think it says something that there’s significant disparity between the green/white ballots and the blue ballots. But let me know if I’m misinterpreting!

People really don’t like Cathy Stepp.

Which is, of course, totally justified. But my favorite part about the blue ballots is that they had at least three proposals that clearly had the goal of never having someone like Cathy Stepp as secretary again.

I have no idea how anyone answers all those questions without a cheat sheet, and without reading the questions ahead of time.

It’s just a lot, a lot of reading and information to do all at once.

A lot of the comments on citizen proposals were by people who cared about animals, the environment, or wanted hunters and conservationists to work together.

It was kind of inspiring.

OVERALL: It’s definitely not my favorite animal related activity, but I feel like it’s an important thing I can do for wildlife, and it’s only one night a year. I appreciate the option to leave whenever we want. I would appreciate even more the option to vote online, but I’m glad I went this year, and I hope to see even more of you at the next one!

Everything You Need for Tonight’s Conservation Congress

Tonight is your chance to cast a vote for Wisconsin’s wildlife.

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Image credit to Melissa Smith

From HSUS:

Care about Wisconsin wildlife? Then mark your calendars for Monday, April 13, 2015 and plan to attend the annual Conservation Congress spring hearings. The Congress offers an unparalleled chance to inform DNR and NRB decision-making, and in recent years it’s been dramatically over-represented by hunters, trappers, and other “consumptive” groups. Wildlife advocates, we need you at the table! Every county is allotted two delegates to the Congress, so please consider running for a seat. The time commitment is modest, considering what’s at stake. If you aren’t interested in running, please still plan on attending your local spring hearing next April – in just one evening, you’ll have the chance to vote on a wide range of issues affecting Wisconsin wildlife.

Click here to see the 72 locations across Wisconsin.

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Image created by Melissa Smith

Click here to read the issues you’ll be voting on.

Wildlife Ethic 2015 Poster Sand Hill Crane and Chick 8 X 11 format final

Image credit to Patricia Randolph

Click here for a voting cheat sheet from delegate Melissa Smith and here for a voting cheat sheet from Madravenspeak’s Patricia Randolph, or download below.

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Wildlife Ethic Most Humane Answers 2015 DNR QUESTIONNAIRE FINAL

See you tonight, friends.

Quick Hit: Make Way for Salamanders

(h/t Ken West) Did you ever read that book, “Make Way for Ducklings”?

Check out the real life sequel!

Make Way for Salamanders! (image from above article)

The City of Kitchener has closed part of Stauffer Drive so that a colony of salamanders can cross safely from one side of the street to the other.

It’s very cool to see people going out of the way to keep animals safe. And this isn’t the first time:

In an email, the city said that this is the fourth time that the road has been closed so that the salamanders can safely get across.

Way to go, Canada!

Awesome Mystery Animal of the Week: “Beelzebub’s pup”

Awesome Mystery Animal Facts:

1. This little guy stores fat in his tail, and the sign of a healthy one is a big tail.

I don’t think you’re ready to bump this jelly

2. Jaws can open wide enough to create enough force to bite through thick metal wire (or bone and skin, in natural environments)

I’m just imagining the Kids in the Hall skit with the guy who crushes heads: “I crush you!”

3. Eat 15% of their body weight in a day, but can eat up to 40% in 30 minutes

Man, all this eating is making me sleepy.

4. Originally believed to be a kind of opossum, but the closest phylogenetic relation is to this guy:

5. Linus Torvalds temporarily replaced “Tux,” the typical mascot (pictured below), with a form of this animal, in support of a campaign to save their species.

Pengwing! For some reason, the only image I could link to was Italian Tux! But you get the idea.

There are your clues! Who is the mystery animal of the week? Post your answer in the comments below!

The Lion Whisperer and the Best Way to Love Wild Animals

(h/t to Dawnwatch. Click here to send a thank you to CBS.)

If you have 15 minutes free today, I recommend 60 Minutes’ segment on The Lion Whisperer. The segment juxtaposes a hard look at the canned hunting industry with some beautiful footage of human-lion interaction. N.B.: There is footage of lions being killed in a canned hunting setting, but that is the only graphic footage, and there is plenty of warning before it happens.

As tempting as it is to want to visit wild animal petting zoos when visiting other countries, those kinds of establishments come at a price to the animals themselves. As one of the interviewees says about halfway through this video:

Whenever you pet a lion cub, you are directly enriching the canned lion industry.

In many cases, the only industry interested in adult wild animals is the canned hunting industry. They are too expensive and too dangerous for any other purpose.

So how can you be kind to animals when traveling? Be wary of environments where wild animals are available to be petted by humans. I’ll mention two more below, before letting you know some humane alternatives.

Another popular industry is “dolphin petting pools.” These can be found in the US and in other countries. For a brief overview of the problems, read the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society’s one page summary. The pools are harmful to dolphins:

 …unsafe, unsanitary and overcrowded conditions…

and dangerous to humans

Petting Pool visitors are also at risk from physical
harm….Several incidents of bites, head butts and trapped
hands were observed during the research.

Happy dolphin not in a pool! From http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/Bottlenose_Dolphin_KSC04pd0178_(cropped).jpg

Happy dolphin not in a pool!

Hitting a little closer to home, especially at this time of year, another wild animal enterprise that puts both animals and humans at risk are the elephant rides at the circus. Our friends at Animal Defenders International do great educating the public about the cruelty of circuses. This article mentions some of the damage escaped elephants can do:

An eyewitness reported the elephants were “breaking mirrors off, pulling panels off, breaking the windows out” of vehicles as they ran through the lot. Seeing the severe damage done shows how powerful these animals are. If the elephants were being used for children’s rides at the time, the consequences might have been tragic.

The Alliance has education campaigns about the circus every year, January – March. Contact alliance@allanimals.org if you would like to stand outside the circus in your hometown and hand out literature.

We do this! Well, we hand out leaflets in front of the circus. Come join us!

Let’s get back to the original question: how can you do ethical tourism if you love animals and want them to be a part of your travels?

The safest option is to love animals from a distance. There are all kinds of options for dolphin and whale watching and ethical safaris. You can get scuba certified or try snuba, or go on hikes.

What if you want to touch the animals? Well, that’s a greyer area. There are options for swimming with dolphins in the wild. My family went on one of those trips, and we really enjoyed it. We didn’t touch the dolphins, and we only briefly saw them, but it was amazing to be in their presence. After reading this post from Responsible Travel, I don’t know that I would do it again. It’s hard to know how ethical the company is, and I wouldn’t want to take the risk of working with a company that harasses dolphins for the sake of tourist enjoyment.

Another option, if you are in a place with wild elephants, is to skip the tourist venues and visit a sanctuary. This post has suggestions for ethical elephant encounters in South Asia.

If you don’t want to research all of this on your own, there are lots of people willing to help you, from places selling ethical travel packages to vegan travel agents. It can be more expensive, but you know your money is going to good places. My brother and his girlfriend used one of these services when planning their trip to Tanzania, and they really enjoyed the experience.

The bottom line is that if you’re going to interact with wild animals, do some research into the risk to them and to you before handing your money over. And when in doubt, go by this rule that I always follow:

There is always a greater love. Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals ‘love’ them. But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more.
– Edwin Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year: April 28.

You may enjoy your vacation most of all if you just take some pictures, and donate the money you would have spent on wild animal enterprises to an organization helping to keep those animals safe and healthy.