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Saryta Rodriguez

First-Ever DxE Demo in Mexico City

First-Ever DxE Demo in Mexico City

By Saryta Rodriguez and Juan Carlos Fraga

 

En Julio 2015, la primera demostración de DXE en la Ciudad de México se llevo a cabo. Al enterarse de esta emocionante noticia, me acerqué a la activista con sede en México - Ciudad Juan Carlos Fraga para más detalles. Este fue un evento verdaderamente inspirador, y es un placer para mí compartir puntos de vista de Juan Carlos con ustedes. Disfrute! (Y muchisimas gracias, Juan Carlos!)

In July 2015, the first-ever DxE demo in Mexico City took place. Upon hearing this exciting news, I reached out to Mexico-City-based activist Juan Carlos Fraga for details. This was a truly inspiring event, and it is my pleasure to share Juan Carlos’s insights with you. Enjoy! (And many thanks, Juan Carlos!)

SR: Dondes estaban? (Where were you?)

JC: La acción se llevo a cabo en el centro de la ciudad en una calle en la que hay mucha gente y hay más de 10 restaurantes de comida rápida que venden cuerpos de animales como comida. Logramos hacer la acción en 12 lugares en algunos desde afuera y en otros entrando, estos lugares eran KFC, Mc Donalds, Burger King, Pizzas Hut, Carl's Junior y otros menos conocidos.

The action took place in the city’s center, on a street where there are many people, as well as over ten fast-food restaurants that sell animals’ bodies as food. We ultimately performed the action in 12 locations— some outside and some inside. These places included a KFC, a McDonalds, a Burger King, a Pizza Hut, a Carl's Junior and other lesser-known restaurant chains.

Left to right: Sujeto X, Jelly Mizery, Pako, Nut, Laura, Nelly, Perla, Marce, Fany, Kitty, and two more amazing activists!

Left to right: Sujeto X, Jelly Mizery, Pako, Nut, Laura, Nelly, Perla, Marce, Fany, Kitty, and two more amazing activists!

SR: Cuantos gentes llegaron para participar? (How many people showed up to participate?)

JC: Esperabamos ser menos, pero fuimos muchos— un poco más de 30 personas!

We expected to be few, but wound up being many— just over 30 people!

SR: ¿Cómo la gente viendo reaccionan? Aggresivo? Simpático? Confundido? (How did the people watching react? Aggresively? Sympathetically? Confusedly?)

JC: Algunas personas nos ignoraron e hicieron como que no nos escuchaban, pero fue muy buena la experiencia en un restaurant muy pequeño con solo 4 mesas en el que al terminar, las personas se quedaron muy pensativas y nos aplaudían cuando nos fuimos. En un Burger King, cuando el personal de seguridad intentaba sacarnos una señora les dijo que no nos sacaran que nos dejaran terminar. Lo que fue una experiencia muy buena, y además la señora logró que el policía dejará de molestarnos y nos dejara terminar el speech por lo que, en general, la actitud de la gente fue muy buena, ya que nuestra actitud hacia ellos en todo momento también lo fue. Esperamos haber dejado un mensaje que no olvidarán y que ojalá tomen en cuenta la siguiente vez que van a comer.

Some people ignored us and acted as though they were not listening to us, but we had a great experience in a very small restaurant with only 4 tables in which, at the end, people were very thoughtful and applauded us as we left. In a Burger King, when security personnel tried to kick us out, a lady told them not to do so and to let us finish. It was a very good experience, and the lady also convinced the police stop bothering us and let us finish our speech. So, in general, the attitude of the people was very good, and our attitude towards them at all times was also. We hope to have left a message they will not forget and will hopefully take into account the next time they go to eat.

SR: ¿Qué dijeron la gente que hablaron por los animales? (What did the people who gave speak-outs say?)

Read speak outs here.

SR: Comos te sentiste durante el evento? (How did you feel during the event?)

JC: Al principio me daba un poco de miedo sobre lo que podría hacer el personal de seguridad con nosotros, pero después de que lo hicimos por primera vez fue más fácil. Cometimos muchos errores que seguramente en las siguientes acciones iremos corrigiendo, muchos errores en el speak out pero cada vez los estaremos diciendo mejor!

At first I was a little scared about what security might do to us, but after the first disruption it was easier. We made many mistakes that we will surely correct in future demonstrations, many errors in the speak-out but each time we said it, it got better and better! 

Left to right: Laura, Juan Carlos, Nut, Mimi, Nelly, Kitty

Left to right: Laura, Juan Carlos, Nut, Mimi, Nelly, Kitty

SR: ¿Hay algo más que te gustaría compartir con nosotros acerca de su experiencia? (Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your experience?)

JC: Me encanta DxE, y también me encanta el compromiso de cada uno de los activistas que he conocido. Me encanta el compromiso de Kitty. Sin ella, y sin el apoyo de Wotko Tristan, ninguna de las acciones que hemos echo habría sido posible. Otros activistas como Chris Van Breen y Priya Sawhney han sido una gran inspiración para nosotros y para quienes quieren unirse a DxE en México D.F. Me encanta también la comunidad que DxE promueve sin importar que tan lejos estemos o nuestras diferencias, siempre y cuando creamos en la justicia y en los derechos para todos los animales. Quiero conocerlos a todos!

I love DxE, and I love the commitment of every one of the activists that I have met in it. I love Kitty’s [Kitty Jones’s] commitment. Without her, and without the support of Wotko Cristan, none of the actions we did would have been posible. Other activists such as Chris Van Breen and Priya Sawhney have been a huge inspiration to us and and for those who want to join DxE Mexico City. I also love the community that DxE promotes: No matter how far apart we are, or how different we are, as long as we believe in justice and rights for all animals. I would like to get to know all of them!

Ethical Consistency: When "Vegan" Animal Advocacy Groups, and People, Advocate for Death

Ethical Consistency: When "Vegan" Animal Advocacy Groups, and People, Advocate for Death

By Saryta Rodriguez

 

Cecil's death, like any nonhuman death at the hands of a hunter, was a tragedy-- but we cannot allow violence to beget more violence. We must not adopt the ideology of the oppressor, no matter how angry we are.

Cecil's death, like any nonhuman death at the hands of a hunter, was a tragedy-- but we cannot allow violence to beget more violence. We must not adopt the ideology of the oppressor, no matter how angry we are.

You’ve probably heard about Cecil the Lion by now. While the death of any animal always makes me sad, if you know at least one vegan and spoke to that person any time this July, they probably informed you that we are touched by the suffering of nonhuman animals every day. We are shocked that many of the same people who mourn Cecil in the morning have a burger for lunch, or a steak or fried chicken for dinner. Animal abuse is not something that just pops up in the news every so often but something by which we are surrounded on a daily basis.

What you may not have heard is that various animal advocacy groups—and individual advocates—have been calling for the death of Cecil’s murderer, Walter Palmer. It always surprises and offends me when I see people commenting on articles like those about Cecil that the person(s) responsible should die a horrible death. I have been critical of Gary Yourofsky in the past for his comments concerning how women who wear fur should be raped. While this rhetoric would surprise and offend me independent of its source, it particularly offends me when employed by animal activists. Animal activists are supposed to be the ones who respect the lives of all sentient beings.  There is no “but” to the Vegan Ethos. Once you add a “but”—once you decide, “Everyone deserves to live until/unless/except…”—you open a very dangerous can of beans indeed.

This is why people think vegans are “crazy.” They think we care more about nonhumans than we do about humans. They don’t believe that we stand for nonviolence because whenever someone hurts an animal, we advocate for violence against that person!!!

For starters, let us all take a minute to remind ourselves that once upon a time, we engaged in animal cruelty, too. Unless you have the privilege of having been born to and raised by vegan parents, there was likely a time in your life when you enjoyed animal flesh and secretions without any guilt or shame whatsoever. Should someone have killed you?

Secondly, the argument that some people “deserve to die” is precisely why the death penalty is still legal in most of the US, and we all know how well THAT’S working out.

Lastly, this all reminds me of a conversation I’ve had many times over with various people, most recently about a week ago. “If you have a chance to kill X,” the hypothetical goes, “Would you?” X is usually someone notoriously heinous, like Hitler, George Bush or Trujillo. The idea here is to see how far my respect for life extends, and if there’s ever a set of characteristics a person can have which would prompt me to violate my anti-killing stance.

My answer to this question is, and always will be, No.

I can hear you gasping. “But what about the people they’ve killed?” you wonder. “What about the people they are going to kill once you let them go?”

Allow me to explain:

  • Institutional problems cannot be corrected by murdering individuals. It doesn’t matter whether the Dude at The Top is dead or alive—as long as that person’s ideas are alive, the violence perpetuated by them will be, well, perpetuated. So the better solution, not just from a moral standpoint of nonviolence but also from a practical standpoint of wanting to end so-and-so’s abuses, is to attack the ideas they are perpetuating and prevent those from spreading or taking root.
  • There’s always another figurehead waiting in the wings. Killing Hitler would not have left the Third Reich leaderless. Soon enough, someone else would have taken his place—someone who could have been less or even more violent and extreme than Hitler, if such a thing is even imaginable (I’m having a hard time picturing what “more violent than Hitler” would look like, myself).
  • The last thing you want to do for any negative or oppressive movement is provide it with a martyr. It’s not like killing someone immediately informs the rest of the world that what that one person was doing was wrong, or that that person’s beliefs were misguided and vicious. That person’s supporters will only grow more zealous, now seeking revenge for the martyr’s death in addition to seeking to kill, enslave or otherwise oppress whoever the martyr said should be treated this way. 

In short, my fellow liberationists, please stop talking about how this or that person should be killed, no matter what they’ve done. You’re just outing yourselves as not true animal liberationists and sewing confusion amongst non-vegans as to what animal liberation is all about. 

(And, please, for the love of all that is holy, ENOUGH with the “CatLivesMatter” nonsense. We already talked about that, didn’t we?)

Let this also serve as a reminder to us to speak strongly for ALL oppressed animals—not just those our culture already does not consider food, such as lions, and not just those who are killed by individuals (hunters) but also those scores of animals who are murdered daily by institutions. While I don’t believe Walter Palmer should be killed, I don’t think any negative attention he gets should be perceived as his being “victimized.” The real victim here is Cecil, just as when a meat-eater is criticized, even though they deserve to live, the real victim in question is not the meat-eater but the animal whose body they consume.

BoJack Horseman Confronts the Humane Myth Head-On

BoJack Horseman Confronts the Humane Myth Head-On

By Saryta Rodriguez

 

The Netflix original series, BoJack Horseman, often brings to mind animal liberation, at least from my perspective. I was intrigued and, at times, horrified from the very beginning of the show (though I remained, and still remain, a loyal fan) by how personified animals nevertheless are exploited for human purposes. For instance, an early episode in Season One shows a personified cow working as a waitress at a restaurant, and when someone requests milk, she squeezes the contents of her own udder into a glass. In another episode, the same waitress shoves a plate at a diner and bitterly grumbles, “Here’s your STEAK.” (Side note: This scene in particular begged the question to me, So are the cows in this society chosen at random to become steak, or are there separate cows destined from birth to become steak while others live freely in society?)

After a long and anxious wait, fans of the show were finally given a second season just last week, which I devoured. SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this post has to do with Season 2, Episode 5, “Chickens.”

The episode begins with a personified chicken giving a video tour of his “humane” farm. He first shows us a black-and-white photograph of a decrepit building and talks about how factory farms pump their chickens full of hormones and keep them cooped up in cages.

Enslaved hens attempting to play foosball while the proud "humane" farmer pontificates on his own awesomeness.

Enslaved hens attempting to play foosball while the proud "humane" farmer pontificates on his own awesomeness.

“Now, as a chicken, this concerns me. Here at Gentle Farms, we treat our livestock differently. Lush fields, plenty of dignity, and foosball! The chickens here have wonderful lives before we harvest them, so you can eat them.”

Later in this episode, BoJack’s roommate, Todd, encounters a genetically modified hen who has escaped from a factory farm. I noted immediately that this chicken, unlike other nonhuman animals personified on the show (such as the proprietor of Gentle Farms), is more chicken-like—and, even for a chicken, odd and somewhat lacking in intelligence—than human. This serves as an indication that she is functioning improperly due to genetic modification. Check.

Todd, BoJack, Diane (the ghostwriter of BoJack’s autobiography, which was published at the end of Season 1), and Kelsey’s daughter Irving (Kelsey being the director of BoJack’s dream movie project, Secretariat) resolve to take the hen, who Todd names Becca, to Gentle Farms, as the police are hot on her trail. There, the proprietor goes on about how amazing the farm is: “We have 20 acres of pasture, where our chickens have hours of free play.” The proprietor’s child thanks BoJack et. al. for rescuing the hen from “a terrible life at a factory farm.”

Then, the moment of truth: Todd expresses concern that the factory farm will try to get her back, to which the proprietor replies, “Oh, don’t you worry about your friend. That chicken belongs to us now.” He then proceeds to pump a shot-gun.

Farmer is a bit too eager to take in Todd's "rescued" feathered friend...

Farmer is a bit too eager to take in Todd's "rescued" feathered friend...

Both the language employed—not she lives here now, not she’s safe here now, but she belongs to us now—and the gun indicate the basic logical fallacies of the Humane Myth. The myth rests on the false premises that a) nonhuman animals belong to us and b) their lives can be taken whenever we want, for whatever reason we want, as long as those lives were pleasant prior to the act of murder with which they were ended.

Later, a horrified Todd persuades the group to rescue the hen from Gentle Farms—in other words, at least in the context of this episode, all of the main characters become liberationists. When searching frantically for Becca in a barn full of hens, Todd finally says, "I found her! This is Becca!"--to which Diane replies, "No, Todd, don't you get it?! They're ALL Becca!" The barn door is then flung open, and all chickens save Becca run away.

Ultimately, after the group is arrested and then released due to BoJack's celebrity, Irving asks whether anything they did made a difference, given that Becca was only rescued because BoJack happened to know Drew Barrymore (who "adopts"--purchases-- Becca from Gentle Barn). Diane asserts that yes, a difference was made--in spite of the following image of a Chicken 4 Dayz fast "food" place doing tons of business. I would have to agree, given that not only was Becca saved but also, presumably, the many hens who ran away when Diane opened the door to the barn.

If this isn’t evidence that our issue is on the table, that the moment is ripe, and that the truth will out, I truly don’t know what is. As Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show, the tide is changing. The Humane Myth is being challenged increasingly across media, moving beyond animal liberation outlets to mainstream news (both left-leaning like The New York Times and Huffington Post and even right-leaning, such as Glenn Beck in the Fall of 2014) and entertainment. Direct action works, and we will keep engaging in it until every animal is free.

UPDATE: The Groundbreaking Case of Hercules and Leo

UPDATE: The Groundbreaking Case of Hercules and Leo

By Saryta Rodriguez

 

Earlier this year, I blogged about the Nonhuman Rights Project’s case against Stonybrook University on behalf of two captive chimpanzees named Hercules and Leo. While a decision has not yet been reached, here’s a brief update:

On May 27, 2015, for the first time in U.S. history, a case aiming to apply the writ of habeas corpus to nonhuman persons had its day in court. The hearing was held at the New York County Supreme Court in Manhattan, NY. Justice Jaffe countered the claim that there is no legal precedent for such a case (made by Assistant Attorney General Christopher Coulston) by declaring that the crux of common law is that it “evolves according to new discoveries and social mores.” In so doing, intentionally or otherwise, Jaffe highlighted the importance of consistently reexamining our legal system in light of our evolving morality— which, at a thrillingly accelerating rate, is evolving to encompass compassion and respect for nonhumans as well as humans in our society.

“Isn’t it incumbent on judiciaries to at least consider whether a class of beings may be granted a right?”
Justice Jaffe, May 27, 2015

In a surprisingly balanced report on Fox News following the proceedings, NhRP was quoted as demanding: “Chimps, although not human, should be designated persons, which would make their captivity illegal.”

Steven Wise asserts in court that Hercules and Leo are someones, not somethings, and, as such, they deserve legal protection from unjustified captivity.

Steven Wise asserts in court that Hercules and Leo are someones, not somethings, and, as such, they deserve legal protection from unjustified captivity.

Steven Wise said in court of chimpanzees, “They are the kinds of beings who can remember the past, plan ahead for the future…Which is one of the reasons why imprisoning a chimpanzee is at least as bad and maybe even worse than imprisoning a human being.” While the inclusion of “maybe even worse than” was perhaps unnecessary, the point being made is clear: chimpanzees are thinking, feeling beings who should not be detained and used as mere objects or tools.

The office of New York’s Attorney General, representing the university, desperately suggested that sending the chimpanzees to a sanctuary in Florida, NhRP’s intention, would simply be replacing one type of confinement for another. Anyone who has actually visited an animal sanctuary knows that this is patently false. While technically the chimps would still be in captivity—as they must be, because, regrettably, we humans have already robbed them of the ability to fend for themselves in the wild—they would enjoy both freedom to engage in their natural tendencies and socialize with others and safety from experimentation and other unnecessary human intrusion into their lives. This, and nothing less, is what chimpanzees—indeed, all animals—deserve.

Controversially, Wise likened the plight of the captive chimpanzees to that of enslaved African-Americans in U.S. history, reminding us all of the ongoing debates regarding the difference between a legitimate comparison and appropriation. I for one certainly hope that such a debate does not eclipse the matter at hand: the fate of Hercules and Leo.

The controversial comment reads: “We had a history of that for hundreds of years saying black people are not part of society and you can enslave them. That wasn’t right. It didn’t work.” When one considers this alongside Justice Jaffe’s statement about a “class of beings,” the comparison makes perfect sense. The idea here is not to compare individuals within different groups but to uphold the tradition of consistently challenging who in our society has rights, and who doesn’t.

Coulston reasoned, “The reality is these are fundamentally different species. They have no ability to partake in human society.” However, as NhRP and others have already stated, in response to NhRP’s past attempts to apply habeas corpus to nonhumans that were denied without a hearing on these and similar grounds, not all humans are able to “partake in human society” either. Not everyone can vote. Not everyone can have a job. And so forth. Still, we protect these humans. We do not enslave them based on their limited abilities.

I look forward to hearing these defenses employed on behalf of other nonhumans in the years to come. Much of the trial of Hercules and Leo has revealed scientific information about chimpanzees, emphasizing their intelligence. However, when personhood is finally granted to one nonhuman, inevitably animal liberation organizations such as NhRP will endeavor to apply the law to other nonhumans—including those who may be less intelligent than apes. This should not—cannot—serve as grounds for dismissal of these future cases.

This case, coupled with PETA’s recent decision to file suit against Whole Foods for false advertising, serves as proof that activism works—that when people speak loudly and confidently on behalf of those whose cries are so often ignored by society, change is not only possible, but also inevitable.

Jaffe is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!


Stories to Inspire, May: Ellie

Stories to Inspire, May: Ellie

By Zoe Rosenberg and Saryta Rodriguez

 

Update: On Friday, August 21, 2015, Ellie died of egg yolk peritonitis, a condition that is common among egg-laying hens. It is caused by a rupture of thin-shelled or otherwise malformed eggs, and due to the sheer volume of eggs hens are forced to produce by animal agriculture, hens often lack sufficient calcium with which to create consistently strong eggshells. Rest in peace, Ellie, and special thanks to Zoe for providing Ellie with a happy life for her final few months on Earth.

 

Dear Readers,

I am very excited to present to you today the first of a new series we are launching at The Liberationist called Stories to Inspire. Once a month or so, we hope to introduce you to a nonhuman individual whose life was spared thanks to intervention by compassionate humans like you.