A (trophy animal) picture is worth a thousand (angry, violent) words

 

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From Huffington Post; click image for article & original photo credit

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

One woman (sporting a Safari Club International cap), one gun, one dead giraffe. One pump-my-ego photo posted and then shared hundreds of times on animal rights Facebook pages, generating thousands of sad or angry comments.

Many–distressingly many–of the responses to these vile, celebratory trophy photos are vile and violent themselves. When the killer is a woman, the comments can also be terribly misogynistic: “Stupid brainless b*tch!” “This fat ugly b*tch should be shot!” “Shoot this b*tch!”  Continue reading

Wielding words for animal rights: Rapping, religion, & blogging

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Do you ever suffer from weariness of words? I do. Words piled on words. Remember when Polonius–attempting to determine if Lord Hamlet had gone mad–asked him what he was reading? “Words, words, words,” was Hamlet’s crafty reply. So many words. Too many words. Animals suffer; we write words. Animals die; we read words. We log on, post to Facebook, read blogs, write blogs, comment on blogs, link to blogs, blog about blogs…meh. At the end of the day I ask myself, “What’s been accomplished?” Animals are still suffering, still dying, and all I’ve done is shuffle words, words, words. Have they changed anything?     Continue reading

Animal Blawg Links 3.15.13

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Spencer Lo

One (unfortunate) reality of blogging, especially for a slow writer like myself, is that it’s impossible to write about everything one reads, and yet there is so much important information and valuable perspectives to share. So from time to time (perhaps weekly), in lieu of my regular manner of blogging, I’ll simply offer quick links of articles, podcasts, videos, etc., that I’ve found worth examining—and hope others will too. Enjoy! Read More

An animal rights Super Bowl fantasy

Just say no to pigskin (unless it’s on a pig) – click image

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

It’s Superbowl Sunday, and even as I type, the six-hour pre-game show has commenced. We’ll tune in later, for the actual game. Yes, we’re football fans, a somewhat shocking revelation to friends who know us only for our more conscience-driven pursuits. We’ll be cheering for, well, who cares. I default to the NFC when I don’t have a dog in that fight, to use a football-related (OK, Michael Vick-related, close enough) term. Go 49ers, ho-hum. Then again, ravens are birds–and birds are good, and the Edgar Allen Poe/Baltimore connection is most compelling to a former English teacher…so…Go team! Continue reading

“Well-mannered predators” and other speciesist notions about animal captivity

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

No sooner do we turn the page on the sad story of two wild Montana grizzlies gone psychotic in a Midwestern zoo when along comes more tragedy involving captive wild animals. Yes, wild animals taken from their habitats or born into captivity to live unnatural, diminished lives are tragic cases in their own right. Witness a bear turning endless tight circles in her cement cell (instead of ranging across 100 square wilderness miles) and tell me this isn’t tragic.

But the latest calamities are compounded in that they are also human tragedies–and needless ones but for our speciesist insistence on keeping wild beings captive for our own pleasure and profit. Continue reading

Death threat follows posting of trapped wolf picture

Earth Island Journal "fair use" photo from Trapperman.com

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Imagine a wild animal lured to a baited foothold trap. The trap springs, catching the unsuspecting creature by the paw. Imagine–it isn’t difficult–the fear and pain; the thrashing attempts to free the firmly-clamped foot.

Now imagine people gathering to watch the terrified animal attempting to free himself. Guns–constant companions in this part of the world–are produced and shots are fired. The animal is hit but not down; a circle of pink forms in the snow, the trap’s anchor chain at its center. Pictures are taken; pictures are posted.

When the location is the Northern Rockies and the animal is a wolf, this scenario is not only feasible, it actually happens. This time it was in Idaho. Continue reading

All factory, no farm: And the CAFOs go rolling along

HSUS photo

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

The human population in Montana hit the one million mark early in January. Of the 50 states, the Treasure State ranks 44th in population, fourth in area. There’s a lot of “there” out there under the Big Sky, and elbow room enough at roughly seven humans per square mile. We like it that way.

But the folks in rural Shelby, Montana (pop. 3500+) will have a million new squealing neighbors to cozy-up to if Gov. Brian Schweitzer prevails in talks with Chinese capitalist investors. Sure, a $150 million hog processing plant will bring jobs, but given what is well documented about factory farms, it will also bring tons of unwanted baggage in water pollution, air pollution, surface contamination, a host of human ailments including asthma, headaches, skin and eye irritation, and worse–much worse. Just ask the residents in south central Michigan, who now issue “stench alerts” thanks to the numerous CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation) operating near Hudson, MI. Continue reading

The language of oppression and animal exploitation–time for a new and just vocabulary

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Words matter. Language matters. You know this, I know this. Go ahead, google words create culture or language creates reality and see what you get–and you’ll get plenty.

“While names, words, and language can be, and are, used to inspire us, to motivate us to humane acts, to liberate us, they can also be used to dehumanize human beings and to ‘justify’ their suppression and even their extermination,” asserts Haig Bosmajian, professor of speech communication at the University of Washington in Seattle. Continue reading

The ABA Journal Blawg 100

The more contact people have with Animal Law, the better it is for all (including and especially nonhuman animals).  That is the guiding principal of this blog.  Towards that end, the folks at the (Shameless) Marketing Desk have asked me to share the email below with you.  They have further asked me to let you know that if you should be inclined to pay a visit to the Blawg 100 site and spread the word about the Animal Blawg, that would be alright with them.  Continue reading

Pondering Michael Vick & Grandma´s Turkey

David Cassuto

From the Recommended Readings Desk:  This from Sherry Colb over at Dorf on Law — a very thoughtful essay furthering a discussion begun when Gary Francione lectured at Cornell Law School.  Among other queries, the piece explores the relative morality of dog-fighting vs. cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.  The name of the essay is ´Animal Rights, Violent Interventions and Affirmative Obligations´ and is well worth the peruse.

Blogging from Brazil

David Cassuto

I’m live-blogging from the plane on my way to Rio.  Actually, that’s not true.  There’s no in-flight internet connection so by the time you read this, the time of writing will have long passed.  Indeed, this situation reifies the ongoing and insuperable challenge faced by all writers.  Time, a crucial component of all experience marches ever onward; the writer can only try to invoke through words that which can never come again.  Or, as Jean-François Lyotard puts it, “in description, writing tries to meet the challenge of being equal to its momentary absence.”  Upshot: even though I’m not live-blogging, I just like saying “live-blogging” so that’s what I did.

In any case, I’ll be in Brazil for the next several months, teaching at the Getulio Vargas Foundation School of Law in Rio (FGV Direito-Rio).  FGV is the only law school in Brazil that utilizes the Socratic method and is well on its way to developing a world class environmental law program under the direction of my former student now colleague, Romulo Sampaio.  My stay in Rio has been made possible through the good offices of the late great Senator Fulbright.  Continue reading

Announcing “Our Hen House”

David Cassuto

Mariann Sullivan & Jasmin Singer

Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer are two of the jewels in the crown of the animal advocacy movement.  Both women have labored tirelessly on behalf of the voiceless for many years and in many ways.  Now they have a new way.  Their new project is called Our Hen House and is much more than blog.  It is, in their words, “a central clearinghouse for all kinds of ideas on how individuals can make change for animals.”  Below is some skinny from an email blast inviting people to the site.  It is a great thing they’re doing.  But don’t take my word for it.  Go and see.  And then stay and help.

Dear Friends,

You might be wondering why you got this email. If you’d like, please click “unsubscribe” below, and please pardon the intrusion. But if you’re interested in learning about Our Hen House — a new project that we’ve gleefully begun — then read on… Continue reading

100K

We’ve surpassed 100,000 hits.

No small thing, that.

Thank you for taking the time to read and write and care.

–David

The Objective Correlative

David Cassuto

The objective correlative conveys a sense of  “the whatness of the thing.”   According to T.S. Eliot, that means “a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”  To paraphrase the late Lee Hays, it’s a way of unscrewing the inscrutable.

Why tell you all this?  Well, first because I’ve been thinking a lot about this blawg and what it does and should do.  In recent months it has taken on a new look (how do you like it, btw?) and the influx of student views has also changed the tenor.  There is greater diversity of viewpoint and therefore more debate and, in my view, that is good for the animals.   Continue reading

In Memoriam: Frank McCourt

tdy_couric_mccourt_051115.300wTo my knowledge, Frank McCourt did not spend a lot of time thinking about animal issues.  However, he was the first person who taught me to care about writing and to appreciate the power of language.  He did that as he did everything — with a twinkling eye and a raft of good stories.

Every Friday, we read the NY Times restaurant review in class.  He used to say: “If you can write well about food, you can write well about anything.”  Mimi Sheraton was the food critic back then and she wrote marvelously about food.  Mr. McCourt loved reading her columns aloud and his delight in her prose was itself utterly delightful.  To this day, I still read the restaurant column every week even though I don’t live in NYC and can’t remember the last time I actually went to a restaurant it reviewed.

Mr. McCourt also taught me to write only about things I really care about.  He always said, “If it doesn’t interest you, what makes you think it will interest me?”   Back then, I didn’t think animal issues were important.  But I do now and were it not for him, I don’t know that I would be teaching and writing about them.   So, I like to consider Mr. McCourt an animal advocate by proxy.

In any case, he was a truly wonderful teacher.  I will miss him and I wish him safe travels.

Frank McCourt: 1930-2009.

–David Cassuto

On Blogs, Blogging, and Animals

As a newbie to the blogosphere, I have spent a good deal of time recently, wondering what value this blawg brings to the ether and, more importantly, to the urgent and ongoing struggle to resituate animals within society.  This led me to ruminate on blogs as literary expression and as a forum for information exchange.

I have taught writing for many years, first to undergraduates and more recently to law students.  To all of them I preach that they should never show anything they write to anyone – not even their mothers – until they have rewritten it at least five times.  Then, they should rewrite it another half-dozen times before deciding whether it merits sharing with anyone else.  Good writing, I maintain, requires great care.  One of the best compliments a reader can offer is to say that an author writes like she speaks – that her prose seems conversational, approachable and easy to digest.  However, the key to an easy-flowing style lies in multiple drafts, careful parsing, and unstinting attention to detail.  This methodology bears no resemblance to common discourse and thus the paradox (and concomitant student resentment).

Furthermore, as an academic, my stock and trade involves laboriously composed scholarly treatises.  Some run long and some short, but all are heavily sourced and often refereed.  Because this form of writing consumes so much time and labor and because there is so seldom money involved (and so little money when there is), I must believe that my work in some way adds value to society or my motivation evaporates.  In this sense, I adapt Johnson’s timeless adage that “no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money,” to the reality of academia and the marketplace of ideas.

All of this made me resistant to blogging, an endeavor requiring real or near real-time publishing of one’s virtually unedited thoughts (also for no money).  In short, blogging demands jettisoning many of my most cherished ideals about the nature of the written word.  Also, because I care so passionately about animal issues and because I believe them so philosophically and legally complex, I felt and still feel hesitant to throw thoughts out there unsourced and ungrounded.

Then I read this thoughtful piece in the Atlantic on blogging by Andrew Sullivan, a writer I admire very much, even when I don’t agree with him (he blogs here).  Sullivan quotes Matt Drudge (who I admire much less but whose cultural influence both in and out of the blogosphere lies beyond cavil) that a blog is a broadcast not a publication.  Its immediacy propels ideas straight into the discursive realm rather than leaving them to germinate for months or years in obscurity.  This got me to thinking about my unhealthy addiction to footnotes and to revisit the wisdom of Noel Coward, who once compared reading footnotes to “having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love.” He’s so right; notes are a buzz-killer and should be used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.

The value of my scribblings -assuming they have any – lies in the discussion they generate.  It is far less important that I be authoritative than that I be interesting and that animal issues be taken up and discussed by as wide an audience as possible.  Public intellectuals like Peter Singer, Cass Sunstein, Gary Francione, as well as many lesser known but no less thoughtful folks (some of whom populate our growing blogroll while a small sampling of the myriad others can be found here, here, and here), realized this long before I.  Sullivan notes that the medium’s true blogfathers are writers like Pascal and Montaigne, whose meandering styles, willingness to share fragmentary thoughts, and (in Montaigne’s case) to publicly revise and republish, pointed readers’ attention away from the authors and toward their ideas.  (Fine essay about Montaigne here, although you may have to pay for access)

Upshot: The goal – smelting a new set of norms and laws that unhook human society from its exploitive relationship to nonhumans – is collaborative and the individual role within it minuscule.  Hubris is addictive and as dangerous to good writing as careless prose.  One must embrace both the medium and the message.  The cause is urgent and the consequences dire.  Nothing but full-throated blogging will do.  With apologies to the Bard, I say: Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of prose.

David Cassuto

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