Every day should be fur free, but Fur-Free Friday is the day of protests that takes place on so-called Black Friday, the day of frenzied shopping after Thanksgiving that so many merchants count on to bring in revenue. I have always stayed home on this day; I’m not a shopper and I hate crowds and the commercialization of the holidays; well, that’s another blog post. But as I’ve become more involved with animal rights and call myself an animal activist, I had to get myself on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and head to Union Square in San Francisco to be part of the protest with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).
Union Square is, of course, ready for the holidays. The giant tree is up, and the crowds are big.
Santas abound, including the creepy Santa clown, Stephen King variety.
But we are here for Fur Free Friday.
I couldn’t help but notice the disconnect on the part of Macy’s with its holiday windows. The wonderful people at the San Francisco SPCA have their yearly window display featuring adoptable animals, and at the time of my viewing the had adopted out 34 already, yay!
But just a few windows away is a display promoting fur as fashion. Loving one kind of animal and killing another for its fur makes no sense to me. None. Nada. They all want to live. And no animal should suffer for fashion.
I met up with the group and we got ready to do action! And it wasn’t just human activists; we had 4-legged activists with us too.
Attire is important–it sends a message, whether in-your-face or of the more symbolic variety.
Rabbits are killed by the millions, as well as cats and dogs, for meat and fur. They deserve to live, just like us.
The amazing Priya Sawhney of DxE led us on the march, with chants, banners, signs, and a police escort.
I am continually inspired by the young activists of DxE; their passion and energy is contagious.
We ended the march with a performance of Sia’s haunting song “I’m in here”, with Sara Muniz and Jason Andreas Biz on guitar.
If you can’t get out on a protest but want to let retailers know that selling fur is wrong, you can take actions as simple as mailing a postcard such as this one, targeting Nordstrom.
A day of activism really works up on appetite; a friend and I enjoyed a vegan lunch and coffee afterward. Hopefully vegan options will continue to become more commonplace.
After making my way back home, I had to go in and sit for a while with our newest foster cat Kianna, recovering from a fractured pelvis. I am so grateful for organizations like the East Bay SPCA for giving her a chance at life.
If you feel inspired to join us, the next action is this Sunday, November 29 at Dolores Park.
I have wanted to visit PreetiRang Sanctuary in Dixon, Calfornia (about 65 miles northeast of San Francisco) for a while now, and I finally made it up there thanks to my wonderful friend Cláudia Santos. Cláudia’s birthday was in October, but she arranged a “delayed” birthday party for a lovely November Saturday. It was just the right temperature (mid 60s) and not too much wind in an often windy spot for a trip to the approximately 40 acre farm sanctuary in the Sacramento Valley.
Founders Madhulika Vsingh and her husband Mukul Banbihari left life in the Silicon Valley to devote themselves to animal rights and providing a peaceful habitat for rescued farm animals, primarily cattle but also goats and chickens. The sanctuary name comes from the names of Madhulika’s parents and means “color of love” in Hindi, says Madhulika. Beautiful and so appropriate.
As you get out of the Bay Area, the landscape becomes flatter and the roads straighter. There is a certain beauty to the flat fields and scattered native oak trees. And such a nice change of pace for me, not being a true urban creature.
Anyone who knows me well realizes how important meeting the goats would be to me, so first thing when I parked my car, I headed straight to say hello.
Now I can go join the party!
After some eating and socializing, Madhulika and Mukul invited us inside for a video presentation on the sanctuary and the animals before taking us out on a tour to meet the animals.
The video we watched commemorating the second anniversary of PreetiRang is dedicated to Eartha.
I first heard about Eartha at the National Animal Rights Day 2015 ceremony. Eartha and the other animals honored that day (and the ceremony from the year before) are memorialized at PreetiRang.
First stop–the goats! Such charming, lively, inquisitive creatures! Like dogs, they love being scratched around the ears and they wag their tails. And nibble on anything that gets in their path! Geeta decided to taste my vest.
And now to the cattle:
In the next field area over lives Norman Leedlahar, born with 3 legs. PreetiRang is working with UC Davis on fitting him with a prosthetic leg to make life a little easier for him and ease the stress on his other limbs and spine. A sweetheart, and so beautiful.
Norman shares his abode with Tulsi, a female of about his age who has been bonded with him since they were about 3-4 months old. Whereas he is gentle and shy, she lets you know she wants your attention!
As the sun was showing signs of going down, we all headed out, smiles on our faces and love in our hearts.
Thank you Cláudia for making the arrangements, and thank you Madhulika and Mukul for all you do for the animals!
If you would like to sponsor an animal or make a general donation, please go to the PreetiRang website http://preetirangsanctuary.org/index.html
It’s been more than a month since the staff moved out of the old University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) building at the top of Bancroft and College Avenues. There are things I miss about the old neighborhood (Caffe Strada, the Underhill parking garage), and things I don’t (Telegraph Avenue, People’s Park). We are all still getting settled into the new space and the new neighborhood, and the gallery spaces in the buildings are off limits since it’s still a construction zone, but here are my (mostly) highs and lows so far.
For reasons that are not clear to me, much of the new space is ORANGE. I mean, seriously ORANGE. Not a very calming color. Just saying.
During the settling in period, some things have been a challenge. LIke making coffee with no flat surface to put the coffee maker on. But I persevere!
We have windows! Big windows that let in light and air (and noise and dust). With a view!
Everyone is trying to make their spaces feel a little more like their own. Some staff have more space to work with than others. I’m one of the ones with less. Less is more, right?
It gets better; I have a table now (no more making coffee on the floor) and we have (ORANGE) privacy screens going up.
And when I get sick or looking at orange, I can always daydream about summer in France by looking at my calendar (it looks good next to the orange).
Just across Oxford Street from us is one of the most beautiful parts of campus; lots of trees and greenery and art. Walking around is much nicer than it was in the old neighborhood (sorry, old neighborhood).
Some of the campus art nearby:
And the arts are not limited to campus, downtown Berkeley has its share.
Being in downtown Berkeley, there are a lot of restaurants to explore. As an inveterate brown-bagger and an aspiring vegan, I don’t really eat lunch out but there are lots of places to choose from.
There are also new cultural opportunities to explore>
And great news for me–the Berkeley Public Library is close enough to visit during my lunch break!
It’s not a neighborhood without problems; there are homeless encampments in front of the Bank of America building on Shattuck, Center Street is a major hangout for panhandlers, and an encampment seems to be forming in front of the Starbucks at Oxford and Center. With the (hopefully) rainy season and cold weather looming, it’s especially heartbreaking.
The new, improved BAMPFA opens at the end of January. Come see us!
Disclosure: I am writing this to fulfill an assignment for Introduction to Humane Education, a wonderful course in my first semester as a Humane Education PhD student at Saybrook University in conjunction with Valparaiso University and the Institute for Humane Eduction. I am reading The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird (awesome names). The assignment is to bring these elements to others through my teaching. Since I am not a teacher in a clssroom, I am applying the elements to how I might approach pet adoptions during my volunteer shifts at the East Bay SPCA. The views expressed are solely those of the author, not of any organization. I am paraphrasing the 5 elements, not quoting the authors.
So, you want to adopt a shelter pet?
Element 1: Examine your understanding of the basics.
Why do you want a pet? Ask yourself why you want a pet. You might be surprised at the real reason and it might be that a pet is not right for you or it is not the right time. The following are responses I’ve heard and my reaction to them:
“My kids keep asking for a dog/cat.” Not the best reason if it’s the only reason. Knowing as the parent that unless your kids are extraordinary you will be doing a lot of the pet care (and paying the expenses), do you want a pet? And why does your kid want a pet? If it’s because of a cute movie like 101 Dalmatians, chances are the pet will end up back at the shelter. Celebrities with pets are often not good role models either.
“I want a cat to catch mice.” or “I want a guard dog.” At shelters, we are looking to place companion animals as members of families, not working animals. And we can’t guarantee that a cat will be a mouser.
“I want a present for my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/child/children.” Are you sure the recipient wants a pet? Wouldn’t it be better for them to meet the pet, and make the choice themselves? Giving pets as surprise gifts is not encouraged. At the East Bay SPCA everyone in the household must be on board and present to meet potential adoptive pets.
“I have a cat/dog at home who is lonely and needs a friend.” Maybe. Maybe not. Do you know your pet gets along with other animals? Maybe your cat/dog is happy as an only pet. If you have a dog and want another, be prepared to bring your dog in to meet potential adoptees; it’s required at the East Bay SPCA.
“I love animals, grew up with them, can’t imagine life without them and have done my homework on adoption.” First, I will ask for permission to hug you. Then I will start introducing you to the animals. Gold star!
We will get to more questions in Element 3: Ask questions!
Element 2: Learn from your mistakes.
Meet several potential animals and find the temperament that is right for you. Take your time and find the right fit. If you meet an animal that you don’t connect with, figure out why and look for a pet with the characteristics that would facilitate a connection. Some people want lap cats, some want aloof cats, some want dogs that they can dress up, some want dogs that will go jogging with them. Are you a couch potato? A highly energetic pet won’t be the right one. There are couch potatoes waiting for you at the shelter, too! An older person might do well to consider an older pet. Senior pets are wonderful! Some animals might be shy at first; is that okay with you or do you want instant bonding? Don’t feel shy about having a conversation with the shelter staff or volunteer helping you; they generally know the animals and can make recommendations based on what you are looking for. And remember, it’s not all about looks. Personality is much more important!
Once you find the pet that you think is the one, it’s time for adoption counseling.
Element 3: Raise questions!
When adopting a pet, there are many issues to think about and at the East Bay SPCA, a volunteer adoption counselor or a staff associate will guide you through some questions and answer any you have. For example:
Where will the pet sleep at night? With you? In a crate? (Please don’t say outdoors.)
What behaviors can you tolerate and what not? Have you ever dealt with problem behaviors in pet before? There are ways to correct behaviors if you are willing to put in the effort.
Do you have the willingness to deal with litter boxes or picking up after your dog? Potty training a dog?
Have you considered the cost of toys, grooming, veterinary services? At the East Bay SPCA, you will be informed if they are aware of any pre-existing medical issues, but the cost of care will be yours.
Do you have time for keeping your pet from being bored? Dogs need walking, cats need activities.
Do you have your landlord’s permission?
Who will look after the pet if you go on vacation or have an emergency?
The list goes on!
Element 4: Add it all up (look at the “flow” of ideas).
After going through all the pluses and minuses, are you still on board? Have you met a pet that you can do everything in Element 3 for? Do you feel like all of your concerns have been addressed in the adoption counseling? You can change your mind and there won’t be any judgment. The shelter wants what is best for you and the animal. Don’t feel obligated!
Element 5: Embrace change!
If you adopted an animal companion, congratulations! Your life will change, for the better. The human-animal bond has mutual rewards. And if you have children, there will be lots of learning opportunities ahead. If you didn’t adopt, think about why not. Did you decide maybe the best pet for you isn’t a dog or a cat but some other small animal? There are plenty of private rescue groups for rabbits, birds, all kinds of creatures. Oakland Animal Services, not too far from the East Bay SPCA, has other small animals for adoption. Maybe a younger pet takes more time and energy than you have so you want to look into senior pets. Or if you realized it’s not the right time for you but you’d still like to be involved with animals, you could look into volunteering at a shelter. And start planning for the future when the time is right.
This week is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week; consider making a donation, becoming a volunteer, and/or adopting a pet in need!