This past Sunday, I was honored to be a part of the Third Animal Rights Day that took place on the beach in Santa Monica, Ca. Many animal activists gathered to be part of this event and to give part of our day to remember the billions of animals who are confined, tortured and murdered for food, for fashion, for entertainment, for science, for money, for hunting and for fun. To those of us there, none of these reasons are acceptable and our demonstration was to remember these innocent beings who lose their lives as we lose our humanity. I am not going to write about all the various animal abuses as that is readily available, to see and hear and read by others who know more & write better. This kind of memorial has been done in Spain and Italy but it was the first one here in the United States, along with New York City. I want to write about my experience as part of it and how it affected me.
Let me begin by saying that I knew this event was going to be very emotional as we were going to be holding deceased animals, animals who lost their lives because of our utter disregard for them, because of our convenient beliefs that what we do to them is as it should be or because we humans benefit from them and have every right to do so. These animals who we held were mostly farm animals- chickens, quails, ducks, bunnies and a baby goat. But there were also fish, as there should be, as some billion marine animals are killed yearly. There was also a young male pitbull and a pretty white cat, both euthanized at shelters due to lack of space. All of these sentient beings died prematurely; most never had a name or anyone who cared for them. They were seen and treated like property- nothing more; nothing less. But to each of us, they were much more than that- they were innocent beings who suffered and lost their lives.
There we were, embracing these lifeless bodies and loving them even in death and asking for their forgiveness for our species’ abject cruelty and thoughtlessness towards them. The activists ranged in age from early twenties to seventy, men & women of different ethnicities, backgrounds, jobs and incomes who came together to mourn the animals. I truly believe we are now forever united due to this experience. My friend, Jessica Schlueter, wrote this about her experience holding a chicken. “Standing with sweet Clark (who I named while holding him; he seemed like a Clark). I promised him his death was not in vain, because his message will be spread and his story will be told.” Another friend, Alec Pederson, who held the dog, wrote this about his experience. “I had a choice to be there today holding this beautiful being who did not have a choice to be there. This pit pup was killed by human choice because there were too many animals at the shelter and not enough humans to adopt him. He was a healthy, 30-40 pound pit who had his whole life ahead of him. Breeders continue creating puppies to sell for profit and people keep buying them when there are so many amazing beings alive already waiting for a loving home. I did this because I see no difference between beings – I, and that other, are one. And as long as I have a voice, I will use it to raise awareness and reduce suffering for all expressions of life. This dog had no name so I named him after my son. Jake, thank you for allowing me to hold you today. My hope is that at least one person makes a choice after seeing you and possibly reading this, to begin practicing compassion every day. That person will hopefully teach another and so on. You did not die in vain. You are beautiful. And you are loved. Thank You.” And another activist, Meggan Anderson, wrote this- “Holding a battery hen who must have been kicking for her life, still had awful sores on her feet from the wire floor she was forced to stand on her whole, short life…she would have loved to feel the sand beneath our feet. She made me think of my little Scooby and how I have no reason to make another living being my breakfast, lunch or dinner, when I have SO MANY other alternatives available.” Another advocate, Rima Danielle Jomaa, who did not participate but witnessed it instead, wrote this about her experience- “Today… we saw firsthand the remains of the animals that fall victim to exploitation by this society. Beautiful rabbits, chickens, ducks, cats, pit bulls, fish… lay battered and abused, lifeless, in the hands of my friends. They received a proper ceremony filled with love and appreciation for the life that was taken. They were physically seen, touched, smelled… their death not in vain for once for countless people, families, walking in Santa Monica and on the pier stopped for extending periods of time and sought information. Many took pictures and cried… considering the messages they send to their children by the lifestyles they lead. Although a few people may have laughed today at the rights of animals, they did not leave unchanged.”
It was obvious that all of us who care about and fight for animals were deeply touched by this memorial. I wonder how those who were just going to the beach for fun thought and felt about this respectful but upsetting demonstration. Obviously, our hope is that we made people think about this issue & how they personally take part in animal cruelty and I am quite sure that many children were shocked, educated and changed by our presence. What I think is most important for the viewers about this wake of sorts is that we activists modeled caring and grief for the animals of the world, and not just our pets but animals we never knew and rarely, if ever, come in contact with. As we all cried or mourned quietly and shared our grief, we showed the strength of our compassion and hopefully, made it more acceptable to others to show their care & concern and yes, even grief, for animals. We brought gravity and acceptance to having deep feelings for animals, which I believe we all have as children. Sadly, we are taught to abandon these feelings so we can be accepted and fit into our society that wants to continue to exploit them. To many, I think they may have seen for the first time the immense pain and grief that we live with daily because we are animal advocates. People generally see us protesting, shouting, angry and rebellious but they never see the pain we feel for all the animals and therefore, never think about that. Grief is non-threatening and something we all experience as we all have losses that devastate us so perhaps we reached them on this deeper level; I can certainly hope that is the case here. As Mike Miura wrote from just seeing the moving photos- “the raw emotion of the participants should be what the ‘outsiders’ felt”. I also think those of us participating could not help but to feel guilty for not saving that individual we were holding and all the others being held there. Our guilt is always there as we know that millions die everyday that we didn’t save but we don’t usually see and hold them in our arms. They became individuals in our hands and, collectively, they represented all the others who live & die at the hands of humans.
As important as it is to reach others, I think this memorial was most important to us activists. We joined together not to protest or demonstrate but to MOURN all of the billion animals murdered- and we did it as a community, which always becomes intensified because of that shared experience. We grieved publicly together & I believe that each of us left feeling deeply touched and further bonded with the other activists. We joined together, left our egos and groups behind and came together to share the pain we usually keep inside or share with only a few friends or family. As one friend, Kara Kapelnikova, who helped obtain the deceased animals, wrote- “I was so deeply moved and inspired by the commitment and strength of my vegan brothers and sisters, standing united under the cause of animal rights, paying our respects to the animals we held in our hands. Animals who had every right to be alive but had been deprived of that right by the greed, gluttony and vanity of humankind. We broke down, we cried on each other’s shoulders, we held each other up — we came together. We were one.”
We must stay in touch with that sadness, that grief that was as deep and immense as the sand we stood on. I have said before that we activists are in a war that never leaves us, that disturbs us everyday and it never goes away. That is why grieving is so important and why communal grief is so powerful and healthy. We must grieve- to go on with this war- with new energy, more strength and less anger. “Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.” ~ Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
We do carry a very heavy burden by our knowledge of human brutality towards all species of animals and our daily commitment to fight these prejudices but I know that each of us who participated knows our place, our purpose in this life. We will continue to fight for the animals- with renewed commitment and inspiration and with these animals who we held, and all the other innocent animals, alive and deceased, as our anchor.
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Speaking To Us Without Words–Art and Animals Posted on May 4, 2013 by Diana Webster of Humane Advisor
Patty Shenker Founds the Animal Advocacy Museum to Touch Our Hearts
She’s petite, elegant, and beautiful but the power of Patty Shenker’s advocacy for animals makes her larger than life. Recently she has taken her advocacy visual by co-founding theAnimal Advocacy Museum, located in Pasadena, CA. The first exhibition (open until late May 2013) includes many pieces from Patty’s personal art collection, notably the work of artist Sue Coe, whose works are powerful, iconic statements against animal cruelty.
Currently on Exhibit at the Animal Advocacy Museum, Pasadena, CA
Advocating against animal cruelty became the raison d’être for Patty after her transition to vegetarianism over 40 years ago opened her eyes to the horrific abuses of slaughter houses and farmed animals. “In 1970, I decided to work for peace, and demonstrating peace to me meant accepting no violence at all towards any living being so I became a vegetarian, then vegan,” Patty said in our recent interview at one of L.A.’s most popular vegan restaurants. “After I realized how our culture has accepted cruelty to animals to satisfy our need for food, entertainment, and as beasts of burden, I knew that I’d found my life’s work to speak out for animals and change these injustices.”
Since then she has worked tirelessly, supporting animal rescue and advocacy with her own money and time. For example, in 1990, when she learned that the South Central Shelter in Los Angeles killed the most animals, she mounted a free spay/neuter program for the area, providing free transportation by herself, and fixed nearly a thousand pets. “My father instilled in me a sense of responsibility for the underdog. He came to America as an immigrant and became a criminal defense attorney to fight for justice for those who were innocent. Now I fight for the most innocent creatures of all—animals used and abused by humans,” Patty said.
From a Dream to Reality—A Museum Celebrating Animal Advocacy
Patty shared with me that it had always been her dream to create a place where works of animal advocacy art could be exhibited. Especially after she heard that there was a museum for the meat product in a can, Spam! After sharing this with her good friend and fellow activist, Prabhat Gautam, they decided to take action and make it happen. Thus, theAnimal Advocacy Museum was born. Currently located in a wing of the Throop Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena, the Museum is quickly becoming a mecca for Angelenos who care about animals. After a star-studded launch party in March that brought together the best and the brightest from the local animal advocacy scene, the Museum continues to welcome visitors interested in the art exhibition and has also started hosting animal welfare/vegan lectures and educational events. The Museum is currently open Thursdays and Saturdays from 11am-4pm at 280 S. Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101. For more information, check out the Museum website(http://www.animaladvocacymuseum.com/) and make sure to spread the word and “like” the Museum on Facebook.
Finally! An Animal Tourist Attraction that Promotes Their Humane Treatment
As this is a blog about tourism and animal welfare, I asked Patty if there were any plans to add the Animal Advocacy Museum as a tourist destination in Los Angeles. She said not yet, but that she would add it the list of ideas to promote the Museum. Imagine animal advocates from around the world adding the Museum as a stop on their trip to Hollywood and Southern California! WOW! Ms. Humane Advisor likes this idea! What a wonderful addition to an already exciting travel destination known for being the top media center in the world. By adding the Animal Advocacy Museum to tourist “must-see” travel plan checklists, the local tourism industry could support the great work being done to raise awareness of animal rights. Are you listening, Los Angeles Visitors Bureau?
My Heroes Have Always Been Animal Advocates
During our talk, I asked Patty who were her heroes. She gave it some thought and came up with a few names of people that she had the greatest respect for. But ultimately, she settled on another answer. She said, “Everyone who helps, rescues, fosters, speaks out for and fights for the animals are my heroes. We are all needed to end this horrific treatment of our fellow earthlings and I am comforted everyday to know that there are animal heroes everywhere in the world now. They all are my heroes!” Spoken like a true hero, who having been in the trenches herself, knows how hard it is to keep doing this often heart wrenching work, every day in any way, for animals, without losing hope. So for all of you animal advocates out there–animal rescuers and fosterers, nonprofit leaders and grunt workers, animal lobbyists, and anyone else who has put animal welfare at the top of their agenda, often at great personal costs, your work is recognized, appreciated, and admired!
Patty’s Top Five Ways to Help Animals
No interview with this dynamic spokesperson for animal rights would be complete without getting her input on how we can all make a difference for animals starting right now. Patty’s top five ways to help animals are:
- Go Vegan. Period. Bottom line. If you can’t go vegan, start with vegetarianism but with the ultimate goal of becoming vegan. Vegan also means no leather or suede, no silk and no fur! It’s easier than you think and means the world to the animals who suffer for all these products.
- Shop Aware. Make a conscious decision to not buy products that are tested on animals or impact animal habitats, such as products containing palm oil.
- Adopt, Don’t Shop or Breed Your Pets. With over 5 million healthy, adoptable dogs being euthanized every year in the U.S. alone, give a rescue dog or cat a chance at a new life and adopt.
- Never Support Entertainment that Uses, Therefore, Abuses Animals. We all grew up going to circuses, zoos, and amusement parks where animals were part of the show. But behind the scenes, these animals often endure lives of abject misery and suffering. Just say NO!
- Be a Political Animal. Here’s your chance to speak up to let our government officials know that there are voters out there that care about animals. Write letters. Lobby. Vote Humane.
To hear more from Patty, please check out her awesome blog, Patty’s Perch, where she shares her insights on animal welfare and how you, too, can be a powerful advocate for animals! With her work, she’s set an amazing example for all of us. What an honor it is to know her.
Patty Shenker Blog: www.pattyshenker.com
Animal Advocacy Museum: www.animaladvocacymuseum.com/
I just had to share this poster as it lists all the companies owned by the very evil company, Monsanto, based in my home town of St. Louis, Missouri. Not surprisingly, Monsanto plays a huge role in the imminent extinctions of the orangutans, the pygmy elephants and the Sumatran tigers, as I see many of the companies listed are involved in the deforestation of the Indonesian forest for palm oil, as well as the poor farm animals being fed their poisonous & deadly rBGH for more milk production! Years ago, they tucked away their own research into the Bovine Growth hormone (rBGH)- when the research concluded that the cows given this hormone died prematurely with bones as “brittle as potato chips”. They are truly one of our Mother Earth’s biggest enemies. Please boycott these companies- for the animals, for the health of humans & for our magnificent planet! As the Dalai Lama so eloquently said- “Morally speaking, we should be concerned for our whole environment.”Uncategorized | Comment (0)
The question of Do Elephants Really Paint? has & continues to be in debate. What is not debatable is that elephants do not paint in nature & they are “disciplined” to do this trick, which is what it is- another trick, just like doing headstands or riding bikes. Please do not support this abuse, any more than going to a circus or riding an elephant. People really need to stop being so mesmerized by elephants to the extent that we lose sight of their natural lives. Really just think about it! Elephants don’t naturally paint, do tricks or carry heavy loads. Let these incredibly sensitive, family-oriented, near extinction pachyderms just live in the wild, for those lucky enough, and in sanctuaries like Derby’s PAWS for those who have been enslaved & cannot go back to the wild! I know you will get educated with this article & i urge you to see the touching documentary, The Eyes of Thailand! TRUMPETS FOR CARING ABOUT THE ELEPHANTS! Continue reading »Uncategorized | Comment (0)
“After repeated cycles of forced impregnations, painful births, relentless milkings, and crushing bereavements, their spirit gives, their bodies wither, their milk dries up. At the age when, in nature, a female cow would barely enter adulthood, the life of a dairy cow is over. When her milk ‘production’ declines, she and her other ‘spent’ herd mates are trucked off to slaughter. Some are pregnant. All are still lactating. As they are shoved towards death, they drip milk onto the killing floor… All dairy operations, including Organic, exist solely by doing to millions of defenseless females the worst thing anyone can do to a mother. Dairy consumers support this practice with their purchases.” Continue reading »Uncategorized | Comment (0)
Philip Wollen is a former VP of Citibank and Australian philanthropist who is known to keep out of the limelight. But he will no loner be able to because of this amazing, profound 10 minute speech he gave to the St James Ethics Centre and the Wheeler Centre debate in Australia on May 16, 2012. The larger debate consists of six speakers, three that make the case for getting animals off of the menu and three that make the case against it Mr. Wollen succinctly & brilliantly makes all the important connections to make this speech one of the best I have ever heard. I have his speech on video & the written speech here. THANK YOU, PHILIP WOLLEN, for your wisdom, compassion and powerful voice for the voiceless! Continue reading »Uncategorized | Comment (0)
“A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.” Vernon Howard
Approval Seeking Behavior… If you ask me, this is where many of our challenges start. When you are too concerned with what other people think of you, you start sabotaging your life, and you start moving forward but with the breaks on.
“Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner” Lao Tzu Continue reading »Uncategorized | Comment (0)
I love this article and I was so thrilled to see Ringling’s Bind ‘Em & Beat ‘Em Circus on the list. In my opinion, the United States is now the United States of Corporate America and this MUST change. Change only comes through education and intervention. So here is some education! Continue reading »Uncategorized | Comment (0)
Movie-goers who care about animals being used in films come away with a certain amount of comfort after reading American Humane Association’s famous slogan- “No animals were harmed” in the film credits. But after researching this organization, I have learned that their presence assures us of no such thing and in fact provides us with a false sense of comfort and a very different reality. When I recently wrote to AHA, criticizing them for allowing wild animals to be used in the film, Water for Elephants, I received this response from their head of Communications, Jone Bouman- “As long as animals are involved in the process of filmmaking, American Humane Association vigorously believes it is important that we are present whenever animals are so that we can do our absolute utmost to ensure their welfare and safety on set.” Most people believe that they abide by their mission statement but nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading »Uncategorized | Comments (4)