“Let’s go out there and do a f*** ton of good!”

“Let’s go out there and do a f*** ton of good!” was the closing sentence of Will MacAskill at the Effective Altruism Global 2016 conference held at UC Berkeley August 5th through 7th this year. Professor MacAskill is the youngest tenured professor of philosophy in the world (yes, in the world, at age 29) and is the co-founder of Giving What We Can, author of Doing Good Better, and a major voice in the Effective Altruism movement. As one might hope at a conference of altruists, the book was free!

Will
Will MacAskill

I only heard about the conference and the movement itself the day before the conference, when I met Tobias Leenaert, The Vegan Strategist, when I went to a talk he gave at the newly opened Berkeley Animal Rights Center.

Tobias Leenaert
Tobias Leenaert, The Vegan Strategist

One online application submitted and there I was, at the Effective Global 2016 conference with about 1,000 other altruists.

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do it

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Your intrepid reporter, day 1.

After making my way through registration, and grabbing a coffee (altruists need coffee too!), I went to my first session, How to Change Your Mind, presented by Miya Perry, Head of Training for the Oakland start-up Paradigm Academy. We learned about changing our behaviors by digging deep into our System 1 and System 2 beliefs (I found this description helpful).

Next up: Cooperative Conversations, led by Tsvi Benson-Tilsen, formerly of the UC Berkeley Math Department and now at the University of Chicago. Conversation is more complicated than you think. We all operate from different world models of knowns, “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”, and our models may or may not overlap.

Et voilà, it was time to check out dinner! Being altruistic can work up an appetite. The food was delicious and predominantly vegan, with a couple of vegetarian alternatives for those who must have cheese (I understand, I really do). Vegan as the default was such a great way to go! Thank you, Centre for Effective Altruism, for that decision as well as the compostable bamboo plates and forks.

And of course, you know I wouldn’t leave out the all important dessert!

Saturday started with the keynote talk, The Past, Present, and Future of Effective Altruism,  by Will MacAskill and Giving What We Can co-founder Toby Ord. (Note: a side benefit was getting to hear all of the wonderful accents and languages from this international community. Will is Scottish and Toby is Australian, though both are now at Oxford in England.)

Toby Ord

Toby presented about the past, going through the history of ideas, while Will spoke about the present expansions in the EA literature, EA groups, and outreach.

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Will MacAskill on his first meeting with Toby Ord.
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Toby Ord takes us through the history of ideas.

Tired yet? It’s early still! Let’s grab a coffee and keep moving.

day 1 coffee

Away we go, to The Future of EA for Animals, presented by Jacy Reese from Animal Charity Evaluators. It was a quite lively discussion about the most effective ways to help animals

Time for lunch. The lunch buffet was set up on the plaza in front of Zellerbach Hall. In addition to good food, lots of small groups formed to continue the conversations that the various sessions (of which I went to only a handful) so far had triggered.

While a nap might have been a good thing about now, I soldiered on to Are Scientists Responsible Enough?, a talk given from the UK via the magic of Skype by astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees for the Centre for the Study of Existential Risks. As Lord Rees says (paraphrasing), because of the huge implications of the possible actions by a few people, we need more conerned and socially engaged scientists. As he said, “the global village has its village idiot with a global range”. In the US, his book is sold under the title Our Final Hour.

Back to my favorite topic–animals–with Irene Pepperberg from Harvard, talking on Avian Cognition and Consciousness: The Gray Parrot and Its Implications for Animal Welfare. We share this world with many other creatures and we are all interconnected. Empathy is called for, and we are only just finding out how much we don’t know about non-human animal intelligence.

Next, I went to a workshop on how to prioritize and compare different interventions for helping non-human animals, run by Lewis Bollard from Open Philanthropy Project.

Still holding up okay? Me too!

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Your intrepid reporter, day 2. Still smiling.

If we want to make the world a better place, of course, humans are a big part of the picture.  The next session I chose was The End of Poverty, a lofty goal.

Utilitarian philsopher Peter Singer, author of many influential books (Animal Liberation, Darwinian Left, and, relevent to this presentation, The Life You Can Save: How to Play Your Part in Ending World Poverty) was able to participate in a question and answer session with the audience through Skype.

His ending message: don’t think in terms of sacrifice but of fulfillment in your efforts to make the world a better place. As the saying goes, the life you save may be your own.

This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Rajesh Mirchandani from the Center for Global Development.

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The panelists for The End of Poverty discussion.
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From left, Svetha Janumpalli, Timothy Telleen-Lawton, Jeff Brown, Anne Healy, and Rajesh Mirchandani.

When evaluating possible interventions, some of the things to consider: scale, evidence/data, incentives, accountability, and transparency.

Catch your breath, and now we move on the day 3, which I started with a round of 3 20-minute talks. These were in the Senate Chambers for the Associated Students and Graduate assembly at UC Berkeley, on the 5th floor of Eshleman Hall. Very spiffy, and great views.

First up, Tobias Leenaert on Helping Animals with Technology or Morality? It takes a lot of motivation to get people to change their habits for ethical reasons. Maybe the vegan movement should focus on getting people to eat meat alternatives as they become more readily available (just try them, they’re [mostly] delicious!), and then their attitudes toward animals will shift as a result. In other words, instead of trying to change people’s beliefs to change their behavior, change their behavior and the attitude shift will follow. I will say that I am creeped out by lab meat, aka, clean meat, cultured meat, and tissue-engineered meat. But I am not a meat lover and my attitude is already with the animals!

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When surveyed, most professors of philosophy agree with the statement that it is not ethical to eat animals, but in reality, their behavior doesn’t match up.

Tobias was followed by Adriano Mannino of Effective Altruism Foundation on Affecting the Far Future with the Animal Cause. The foundation is an anti-speciesist think tank and project incubator headquartered in Germany. His point, if I understood correctly, is that people who value the lives of animals and want to prevent animal suffering are of a mind-set that also predisposes them to take on other causes and value all things living, human, non-human animals, plants, the planet, and that we can build toward a better future for all utilizing those values.

Finally, the round of speakers ended with nanotechnologist and futurist Christine Peterson, co-founder of Foresight Institute on Upstream Altruism: Applying EA Principles to Early-Stage Action.

My favorite bit was the idea of “hit and run” altruism, which could be equated to random acts of kindness. Nanotechnology means nothing to me, kindness does.

We aren’t done with lab-grown meat yet! Back to Zellerbach Hall for a panel discussion, Rethinking Meat and the End of Factory Farming, moderated by Claire Zabel with Open Philanthropy.

rethinking meat panel 2
From left: Tobias Leenaert, Claire Zabel, Lewis Bollard, Isha Datar, Bruce Friedrich, and Allison Smith.

For more information on the panelists:

Tobias Leenaert

Lewis Bollard

Isha Datar

Bruce Friedrich

Allison Smith

I met Allison Smith again at the workshop on interventions, led by Allsion and Jacy from Animal Charity Evaluators.

I promise this is the last on lab-grown meat; panelists Uma Valeti of Memphis Meats, Oliver Zahn of Impossible Foods, Tim Geistlinger from Muufri, and Isha Datar from New Harvest answered audience questions about technology, nutrition, and the notion of cellular agriculture. I’m still sticking with plant-based, thanks.

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Seated, from left: Uma Valeti, Oliver Zahn, Tim Geistlinger, and Isha Datar.

We’re almost done! Yes, I’m getting tired too.

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Your intrepid reporter, day 3.

I couldn’t leave without going to the talk by Cass Sunstein, who I know as the editor of texts I’ve used in animal protection classes in my humane education program. He has other claims to fame: Harvard Law professor, legal scholar,  Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012, and author of many books, including The World According to Star Wars (surprised by that one?!).

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Professor Sunstein’s talk was titled From Behavioral Economics to Public Policy. Don’t let the title scare you. Many Star Wars references were sprinkled throughout (I won’t pretend to have understood most of them).

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Cass Sunstein

It was a very interesting talk on social meaning and concepts like using nudges to get people to do good things. For example, at the Amsterdam International Airport, flies painted in the urinals nudge men to aim at a spot where pee doesn’t overflow onto the floors. These have resulted in 44% less “spillage” in the men’s bathrooms at the airport. Don’t ask me how it was measured. Or who had to measure it.

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Men are weird.

And now to the closing remarks!

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Will MacAskill on the future of the Effective Altruism movement

A gathering on stage of the staff of the Centre for Effective Altruism who made the conference happen, the awesome volunteers, and a big thank you to them and to all of us for attending and spreading the ideals of effective altruism.

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And proving that we are also optimists, all of us went outside to gather for a group photo, I haven’t seen the final result, but here we are trying to squeeze together in front of Sproul Hall.

I’d like to end this with one last thought. The weekend before this, I attended the World Vegan Summit 2016 in the same location. I thought I would have a lot to write about, but I had an uncomfortable feeling the whole time (compounded by food poisoning; gotta wash those fruits and veggies and use clean hands, food service people!). It was an amazing opportunity to hear Professor Gary Francione, a divisive but forceful leader in the animal rights movement, and I learned alot. But there was a vibe of “our way is the only way” that doesn’t sit well with me. I am much more interested in open-minded thought and discussions.

Peace. And may the force be with you.

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The 5th Annual Conscious Eating Conference

The 5th Annual Conscious Eating Conference was held Saturday, March 19, 2016 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California. The David Brower Center is a beautiful facility with a Platinum LEED rating that houses numerous non-profit and social enterprises, a conference center that serves the “green event” industry, and yearly hosts 25-30 museum-quality exhibitions focusing on environmental issues.

The David Brower Center

Brower

5th Annual Conscious Eating Conference

The program promised an interesting day, vegan food, and a chance to talk to represenatives from activist groups as well as make new friends. I registered, got my hand stamp, picked up my program, and enjoyed the vegan pastries and coffee (with almond milk).

 

 

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Paw print stamp and my Liberation band, a fork transformed into a symbol of non-violence.

Time to get started. We all headed to the Goldman Theater.

 

Hope Bohanec: The Humane Hoax

Hope Bohanec is the author of the book The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat? and Projects Manager for conference host United Poultry Concerns.

United Poultry Concerns

Hopes book

There is no way to raise and slaughter animals for meat in a humane way.There are inherent cruelties in any animal farming for profit, and deceptive labeling practices to sell the practices to consumers.

I was surprised to learn that dairy is the number one commodity in California. That California Happy Cows campaign? The dairy industry is every bit as cruel as the meat industry.

 

 

Edita Birnkrant: Free-Range Ranching and Animal Agriculture’s Devastating Impact on the Environment & Wildlife

Edita Birnkrant is Campaigns Director of Friends of Animals, an international non-profit animal advocacy organization.

Friends of Animals

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Edita Birnkrant
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A plant-based diet is the only way to sustainably feed the world’s human population.

Did you know that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has designated 2016 as the Year of Pulses? Pulses are lentils, peas and beans.

International Year of Pulses

Pulses are highly nutritious, contribute to food security, foster sustainable agriculture, promote biodiversity, and are delicious!

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Check out some recipes.

Pulse Recipes

Robert C. Jones, Ph.D.: How Not To Be Vegan

Philosophy professor Dr. Jones speaks on animal ethics and is a member of the Advisory Council of the National Museum of Animals and Society, a place on my must-visit list.

National Museum of Animals and Society

His book New Critical Perspectives on Veganism will be out later this year.

Dr. Jones is not suggesting we not be vegan (he’s been vegan since reading John Robbins’ Diet for a New America in 1987), he is advocating for revisionary political veganism that is aspirational, inclusive, and intersectional. Veganism is something you work at, something in your head that manifests in your behavior.

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Michael Bedar, Christopher Locke, and Ruby Roth: Fiction and Children’s Author Panel

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Hope Bohanec introduces writers Ruby Roth, Christopher Locke, and Michael Bedar.

Ruby Roth is a leading author and illustrator of vegan and vegetarian books for children.

Her approach to vegan activism is to start with what you are good at, get better at it, and use that to make a difference.

 

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Using what you are good at as a platform for vegan activism.

Christopher Locke writes animal rights fiction. His series The Enlightenment Adventures starts with Persimmon Takes on Humanity, which I can’t wait to sit down and dive into.

Christopher Locke

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The keys to animal rights fiction:

  • Changing the world through imagination
  • Characters that care about and take on issues
  • Page-turning adventure
  • Must care about the pictures
  • Accurate depiction of what animals go through

I’m already in love with Persimmon!

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Michael Bedar is co-director of the East Bay Healing Collective. His new novel, Sweet Healing, is ultimately about the meaning of wellness and healing as it chronicles one character’s exploration into holistic approaches to diabetes.

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Sweet Healing

Lunchtime!

Vegan lunch and time to visit the various animal organizations’ tables. It was also a chance to explore the Brower Center.

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Lining up for lunch.
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Basic but hearty.
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(Vegan) cake makes everything better!

Up the stairs at the Brower Center is a lovely outdoor patio.

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Looking down on my way up and out to the patio.
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The view from the upstairs patio.

pattrice jones: Mad Cows, Queer Ducks, and Unconvetional Sheep: What I’ve Learned About Intersectionality from Animals at VINE Sanctuary

VINE (Vegan is the Next Evolution) Sanctuary welcomes and facilitates alliances among animal, environmental, and social justice advocates and makes connections between animal exploitation and other forms of  oppression.

VINE Sanctuary

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pattrice jones inspires the audience to a standing ovation speaking on the intersection of sexism, racism, and speciesism.

Donny Moss: Our Virtual World: Impacting Videos to Help Animals

Grassroots activist Moss made the critically acclaimed 2008 documentary Blinders about the horse-drawn carriage trade in New York. He has since created TheirTurn.net, an online animal rights magazine, and is a leader in the efforts to get the New York Blood Center to take responsibility for the chimps that experimented on and then abandoned in Liberia.

Their Turn

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Grassroots activism:

  • Pick approach that works for you
  • Don’t criticize other approaches; each approach has its pros and cons
  • Exit your comfort zone
  • Take ownership

Karen Davis, Ph.D.: My Personal Path and Rocky Road to Thinking Like a Chicken

Dr. Davis is the founder of United Poultry Concerns and one of the eloquent speakers from last year’s conference who inspired me to enroll in my doctoral program of humane education. As she says, go out and inspire and educate others as you have been inspired and educated. I’m taking those words to heart.

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Dr. Davis also speaks of  “trying to climb inside the skins of the animals we are speaking for”. Among the beautiful chickens she has known personally are Viva, Gabby and Felix.

Instead of “go vegan”, she suggests the phrase “go animal-free” as it brings in the animals and liberation. Being vegan is not about food, it’s about making a better earth.

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We ended the day with many of the speakers returning for a question and answer session.

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And of course, I couldn’t leave without buying a couple of books.

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Thank you to UPC for hosting, all of the wonderful and thought-provoking speakers, the vegan food providers (those pastries were the best), and the David Brower Center. I hope to attend again next year! And now I have a date with Persimmon and her friends.

Art and Activism

I don’t refer to myself as an artist. When I was much younger I wanted to be “an artist”, yes, but as I have worked in the arts for many years now I have realized that a lot of the game of becoming a “successful” artist is knowing how to market yourself. And that’s the rub. I have no desire to develop that side of my personality. But I do love to draw still.

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Our first group meeting of activist-artists.

We recently started an art group at Direct Action Everywhere, and I was amazed at the wonderful artists in the group. It’s an honor to have been included.

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Here is an artist statment I wrote not long ago when I was approached by art group organizer Leslie Robinson Goldberg, aka the Vicious Vegan of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) about a series profiling activist-artists.

Artist Statement

Genevieve Cottraux

As a shy and anxious kid, drawing and animals were two of the ways I connected to the world. My mother was always very tolerant about taking in the strays that my siblings and I brought home. At one point, we had 4 dogs and 7 cats sharing the house with Mom and the 4 of us. I drew a lot of pictures of cats, needless to say.

In college getting my design degree, drawing classes were always my favorite. My first job out of college was as an archaeological illustrator with a company in Sacramento, working on environmental impact reports and historic building surveys. After a couple of years, I was being phased out by computer applications, so I went back to school and shifted careers into arts administration. My love of drawing had really suffered, but never my love for animals! By finding a community of artists with the animal activism world, I’ve finally felt inspired to get out my sketchbook.

The project that I am contemplating working on focuses on the animals I meet and love during my volunteer shifts at the East Bay SPCA. I plan to do a sketch a week, picking the animal that most touches my heart during my shift. I mostly volunteer in the cat adoption area, but I’d love to start including dogs as well. The challenge will be finding the best way to include their stories with the sketches.

I think what bring me back to drawing is the personal connection I feel when I am with the animals at the shelter. My heart is involved, not just my eye-hand coordination and attention to detail. Someone suggested that I offer the shelter animal drawings to the eventual adopters of the animals, and I really like that idea, if I can bring myself to part with them!

I went through all of the work I have accumulated over the years, and was surprised at how little of it involved animals. I included an older piece (the endangered Smith’s Blue in the DxE blogpost, link below) because it is a drawing I am still happy with years later and it was one of the rare chances I had as an illustrator to draw something that made me feel like I was doing something important (plus it made me happy).

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Smith’s Blue, my rendering

 

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Smith’s Blue, the real deal

The other 4 drawings, all unfinished, I included are of animals I recently spent time with at the The East Bay SPCA, the wonderful shelter where I have volunteered sine 2009. I plan to keep doing a sketch every time I go to the shelter, focusing on the animal that day who most tugs at my heart.

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Check out the DxE blog, The Liberationist, for many interesting and thought-provoking articles, such as this one by the amazing Kitty Jones: Five Things Animals Would Say If They Could. Here is a link to the post with my drawings: Art and Animals: Genevieve Cottraux

Tofurkey, the sad-eyed chihuahua mix, has since been adopted! Yay, Tofurkey!  I can’t decide if I hope they changed her name or not.

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Tofurkey (unfinished drawing)

I started a new piece last night, of my newest foster kitten Babou. He is the sweetest, funniest little guy. He makes me laugh and I know he will find a wonderful forever home, thanks to the East Bay SPCA.

Babou

I Survived the First Semester! Or, I’ve Been Really Busy

Saybrook-logo

When I applied to a Ph.D. program on an impulse last summer, I knew my life would be busy, but I didn’t realize just how busy. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I thought, sure, I can go to school full time while working full time. It hasn’t been the easiest thing I ever decided to do, and I have many more semesters to go. But having now submitted my last paper for the first semester (YAY), I can look back and reflect on just how crazy the last few months have been.

before
Before–the cockeyed optimist, ready to study!
Insane Asylum Entrance
This way madness lies…
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Got my last paper in. Semester one done. Can I brush my hair now?

One of my first moves was to get a big dry-erase calendar to organize my life. I hung it, planned out the semester, and then pretty much ignored it until today, when I am wiping it clean for next semester.

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I’ll pay more attention next semester.

As would be expected in any doctoral program, books are involved. Lots of books. Some I really enjoyed. Some I struggled with. And I faced the reality that I have to pick and choose what to read; I can’t read it all. Or I’m going to have to take a speed-reading class.

MGLH
Read this book!
On Complexity
Foster cat Mouse and I struggled with this one.

My dictionary stays open to the “h” pages–I can’t remember the definitions of heuristic and hermeneutics to save my life.

I did have to change some things in my daily routine. My obsession with making the bed every morning is a thing of the past, I hate to say (sorry, Mom). As much as I like to do laundry, the laundry room is now the least visited room in the house.

unmade bed
I blame it on the cats.
laundry
I justify infrequent laundry by saying it’s because of the drought in California.
mending
My mending and sewing pile gathers dust on top of the sewing machine.
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I have become the queen of unfinished craft projects.

We might not ever eat homemade meals if not for the Purple Carrot. Similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh!, it’s a service that ships the ingredients and recipes for 3 meals a week. Purple Carrot happens to be vegan, and has the caché of having Mark Bittman on the team.

Purple Carrot logo

purple carrot 2
Quick, easy, tasty and healthy vegan recipes. A life saver!

Of course, we do end up eating on tv trays in front of television most of the time. But that’s not new.

tv trays

 

eating at desk
Eating at my desk is also not unheard of these days.
Clif bar
Yes, a Clif Bar with coffee is a balanced breakfast, really.

Have I mentioned coffee? There’s a lot of coffee in my life. Funny thing. it’s mostly decaf, but still gotta have it!

I have managed to have some fun down time. Maybe that’s why I scramble to get my papers in on time, but my idea of fun down time is going out on marches and protests, and I think of those as a part of my humane education program. As my friend and fellow future Ph.D. Suzy Fisher says, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.

Never Be Silent

Elephant March
Marching for Elephants with one of my favorite activists, Sara Muñiz.
Gene Baur
Farm Sanctuary Founder Gene Baur speaks at UC Berkeley.
Walk for Farm Animals
Walk for Farm Animals in San Francisco with my buddies Cláudia Santos and Heather Meyer.
Preetirang
I also spent a beautiful day at Preetirang Sanctuary thanks to Cláudia.
Brave the Cage
I Braved the Cage with Suzy Fisher. Animal Place was at UC Berkeley to demonstrate what the lives of hens in battery cages are like.
FFF
Fur Free Friday. The awesome Kitty Jones is behind me, holding the Animals Are Not Ours to Wear sign.

A trip to Chicago was one of the highlights of autumn for me. I got to live my Ferris Bueller moment at the Art Institute of Chicago and attend a wonderful concert by the National Brass Ensemble, thanks to the generosity of world’s best boyfriend and amazing brass player Robert Ward.

There’s always room for food in my life, maybe too much so sometimes, and cooking classes are a great way to spend the spare time I don’t have.

JL Fields
Fun holiday cooking class at the PETA Foundation offices with JL Fields.
Thanksgiving cook
Thanksgiving chef in pajamas and apron, with bed hair.

I bake for the monthly bake sales held to benefit animal sanctuaries by the Berkeley Organization for the Advocacy of Animals at UC Berkeley.

I continued to volunteer for East Bay SPCA. It’s because of my experience there with the animals that I am on this path, so I can’t give that up! And I’ve added fostering onto the list of things I do. Our guest bathroom has been turned into a foster cat habitat.

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Foster kitty Mouse and her babies. She did most of the work. All now adopted into loving homes!
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The kittens were not particularly appreciative of the finer points of research methodology.
Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle preferred television to studying.
Kianna
Kianna, not loving the cone, after surgery to remove her paralyzed tail (probably hit by a car).

During all of this, work was chaotic too! The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive moved into a new building. Moving is never easy unless you have truckloads of money to pay someone else to do it while you go on vacation.

I had a wonderful time volunteering at the Western Museums Association 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose.

And just when I got settled into a new office and a new neighborhood, I found a wonderful opportunity to work at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. Let the commuting begin! Only it didn’t begin so well. My car should be done at the MINI service center soon.

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The Manetti Shrem Museum, under construction, planned to open in Fall 2016.

Ask me how I’m doing:

swing
I’d like to say life is like this, but…
thumbs up
A fellow Saybrook student posted this on Facebook; all of us in the program understand!

One day it will all be worth it: I will be one of the new Doctors of Philosophy getting to wear the coveted sash.

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Saybrook graduates, August 2015. I want that sash!

I couldn’t be doing any of this without the love and support of aforementioned Robert Ward. Thank you!

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And for any possible naysayers out there (thankfully that would not be any of my friends or family), I will leave you with the wise words of Harold. Please excuse his language.

Harold

 

Fur-Free Friday

FurFreeFriday
Their fur, not ours.

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
Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square is, of course, ready for the holidays. The giant tree is up, and the crowds are big.

tree at Union Square
The tree at Union Square

Santas abound, including the creepy Santa clown, Stephen King variety.

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Bad Santa and his creepy elf

But we are here for Fur Free Friday.

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In Defense of Animals protest sign

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!

kittens in the window
Kittens from the SFSPCA in the window of Macy’s

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.

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It’s not fun for the animals who die horrific deaths so you can wear that fur.
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The reality of fur is not fun

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.

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“Real fur belongs on me, not you.”
Javier
Javier, activist extraordinaire

Attire is important–it sends a message, whether in-your-face or of the more symbolic variety.

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Alicia Santurio’s awesome shirt
peta shirt
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals shirt
Liberation band
Lisa Zorn’s Liberation Band and bunny gloves

Rabbits are killed by the millions, as well as cats and dogs, for meat and fur. They deserve to live, just like us.

rabbits

The amazing Priya Sawhney of DxE led us on the march, with chants, banners, signs, and a police escort.

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Priya Sawnhey, kick-ass animal activist
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I’m not sure if they were protecting us or keeping us in line; we are a peaceful group!

I am continually inspired by the young activists of DxE; their passion and energy is contagious.

Kitty
Me on the far left, Sara Muniz center, and Kitty Jones on the right. I feel honored to march with them.
Sara
Sara Muniz speaking to the crowd
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“Every year, over 50 million animals are killed in the name of fashion…”
Wilson
Wilson Wong and Ryan Peter Witwicki Faddegon
Westfield
Banner bearers Jean P. Harte, Lisa Zorn, Diane Gandee Sorbi and Dan Sorbi

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.

lunch
Vegan sandwich (with artichoke hearts, capers, sun dried tomatoes, avocado…delicious) and a soy latte at Working Girls’ Cafe.

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.

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Beautiful, sweet foster cat Kianna from the East Bay SPCA. She’s one of the reasons I act on behalf the animals.

If you feel inspired to join us, the next action is this Sunday, November 29 at Dolores Park.

DxE November Day of Action

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I hope to see you there! We will keep protesting “until every animal is free.”

 

 

 

Animal Place’s rescue chickens

On July 23, 2015 Animal Place liberated 1,500 white Leghorn hens from the agony of battery cages at an egg farm. Dubbed “Liberate Libby” for the poster hen who had her beak mutilated, her feathers battered from rubbing against wire walls, and spent a year with a dozen other hens in a cage, the rescue operation arranged to transport the hens to Animal Place’s Rescue Ranch in Vacaville.

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The hens have been undergoing quite a bit of care. When they first arrive, the hens must be declumped, meaning staff and volunteers spend time when the chickens roost keeping them from piling on top of each other and suffocating. The chickens have never lived outside of their small cage and know no other way of being except crammed together. It takes them a while to figure out they have space to move!

They’ve undergone health checks (the hens bred to be layers for industry suffer oft-times fatal consequences of the huge number of eggs they  produce and their life spans are seriously shortened). And when their laying days diminish, the majority of white Leghorn hens in California are gassed, their bodies left in landfills.

Today, I went with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) animal activists on a volunteer work day at the Rescue Ranch. Our mission, to catch one by one each chicken to go through a dosing of Ivermectin, a dewormer, as the last part of their health checking. They  stay at Rescue Ranch for a total of two months; for the rest of their stay they get to be chickens and also get some socializing. Our first lesson, how to hold a chicken, was provided using Libby herself as our patient demo chicken.

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We divided into teams and headed to the barns. Another group had assisted Saturday with quite a few of the hens, so our group had about 900 to catch for their treatment. Needless to say, the chickens didn’t really want to be caught and dosed with dewormer. It took a while for some of us to get the hang of it; go slow and be quiet, and work them into corner. DON’T make a lot of noise, chase them around, and generally make an idiot of yourself! Interestingly, each and every one of seemed to be talking softly to the chickens as we caught and held them, calling them Sweetie and telling them we were sorry and that everything would be okay.

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As we caught the chickens, we took them to the dosing line, where 4 experienced handlers were waiting to receive and dose the chickens and send them to the outdoor pen so we could keep track of who had and hadn’t been treated. A fairly efficient assembly line formed.

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And eventually all of the chickens were on the outside, not the inside.

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Then it was time to clean the barns, oh joy. We gathered up eggs (and there were a lot of eggs), raked dirty straw, scraped perches, spread clean straw and topped the hay bales with wood shavings (for absorption and easier cleaning, I presume). It might sound strange, but the eggs are fed back to the chickens. We tossed them on the ground in the outside pen (splat!) and the chickens eagerly ran and started pecking away. The nutrients they lost are thus returned to their depleted bodies.

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I was surprised to hear music playing in the biggest of the barns; apparently it keeps the raccoons from stealing in and killing the chickens. Raccoons don’t like classic rock I guess! There were also much appreciated fans blowing in the big barn. It gets hot in Vacaville.

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As a gesture of thanks, Animal Place provided us with drinks and snacks in the shade of a lovely tree. It was hard work, but great to get to know some feisty chickens and spend some time with my new DxE friends.

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The California drought is quite apparent in this part of California; the hills are dry and the fire danger is high. It can be hard to believe the drought is as bad as it is living in the Bay Area, but the land is suffering.

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Thank you to the DxE organizers for this event. It was my first work day at an animal sanctuary and it was hot but fun. Looking forward to the next one! I hope to eventually get to spend some time with goats at one of these work days. And thank you so much for the hospitality of the folks at Animal Place and for the amazing work they do for the animals.

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