Thursday, April 23, 2015

Watch Cowspiracy

Starting yesterday, in honor of Earth Day, the groundbreaking film Cowspiracy is available to watch for just $1 throughout the week. I absolutely loved this film and think everyone, vegetarians and non, should watch it. Don't worry, it's not full of gore and animal violence caught on tape. There was only one place where I had to avert my eyes, and I'm sure most people won't even need to do that much.

The filmmaker goes on a personal journey of revelation as he attempts to understand the reasons that his beloved environmental groups seem to ignore the effects of animal agriculture in all forms. He eventually comes to the conclusion that you can not truly be an environmentalist and still consume animal products. The processes are detrimental to the earth - even the so-called sustainable small farm businesses. The film is littered with facts, plots, numbers and formulas - which I really appreciate. There's the emotional component too, of course. Not only does the filmmaker come to believe in the logic that he's developed over time, but he also starts to question the very morality of using animals for food. It's so interesting to watch his conviction evolve throughout the film, and I found myself making parallels to my own journey and remembering when I came to these very same conclusions on quite a different path.

This film is particularly relevant in the context of the California drought debate that is taking place currently. Of all the media coverage on this historic drought, I've rarely heard explicit mention of animal agriculture practices, although that is what uses the vast majority of California's fresh water. Instead they blame it on the almond trees! I can already envision the ads against buying almond milk... sigh.

If you're a Californian, an earth-loving hippie, a lifelong vegan or a curious vegetarian - watch this movie! It's also super entertaining and funny - much more upbeat than, say, Blackfish. Take a night this weekend and check it out - it's only $1 after all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tech comes to the defense of dwindling elephant and rhino populations

Today I wanted to share an amazing Indiegogo campaign that has the potential to end much of the illegal poaching of elephant and rhino populations in Africa. Air Shepherd Drones is proposing a system of predictive analysis to estimate where animals and poaches will likely be, drone fliers with mobile command vans that will locate possible poachers by air, and teams of ranger crews that will arrive on the scene ideally before any poaching takes place. The plan also includes post-operation data that will be beamed to the command vans and integrated into the code, helping to strengthen the analysis over time.
Population map from the Air Shepherd campaign

The computer models will be designed and maintained by the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, who will then be offering their open-source software to other vetted universities who can run the model and support other anti-poaching efforts.

I think this is a fantastic blend of science, technology, and animal welfare. Not only could this type of effort help to end poaching, but it could also provide the video to bring awareness to who these poachers are and what devastation they bring to a declining species. Video is the only media format that gets attention these days. Print is almost dead (including long-form blogs like this one, sadly), photos can go viral but also easily dismissed as "photoshopped", but video has truth to it and also great emotional impact.

Elephants are one of the most interesting lifeforms on the planet, to me. They are emotional. They have complex social rituals after death, including what humans would consider a mourning period and funeral. They are highly sensitive and even vengeful creatures. Elephants are our kin, in so many ways. It is deplorable that they have been brought to the verge of decline, and it's so heartening to know that many countries are asking for help to stop the poachers and save these species.

Of course I donated. Who can resist geeks using supercomputers to save the world? There are just four days left for Air Shepherd to reach their funding goal. Click here to donate or check out more about their campaign.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Let's begin with an infographic

Science is all graphs and equations, right? I want to share this super science-y pie chart that pretty much says it all.

Believe it or not, I've actually had people ask: "But if everyone goes vegan, what will happen to all the cows and chickens??" Uh, they will live out their lives until they die of old age and meanwhile we won't be force-breeding millions more to take their place in the slaughter line. Obviously.

The transition would be phenomenal and world-changing, but I don't see it as being traumatic for anyone, human or animal. The animal agriculture industry as a whole would feel the most harm if everyone began to stop eating animal products. The individuals who run independent farms would have to slowly transition to a different kind of farming (ideally organic vegetables and sustainable crops). Even better, let's fully legalize the growing of hemp crops in this country and give farmers a profitable, ecologically-sound option to livestock.

The start of something new

Hello, friends!

I recently realized that I needed an outlet for animal rights related discussions that wasn't my own personal life blog. So I'm starting this new blog to channel my thoughts and fact-findings into something substantial. That's the hope anyway.

My life has been a steady forward progression of awareness about animal rights, veganism, and all that goes along with that. The more I learned, read, and discussed these issues, the more it deepened my resolve to do no harm to any sentient animal. The animal rights movement has many facets, and figureheads, but it seems to mainly be driven by emotional pleas, celebrity vegans, and cute baby animal pictures. While this does work to persuade many people, I think it is a grave misstep to ignore the huge array of scientific results and facts that form an even more compelling picture.

I do believe that animal cruelty, in all its forms, is a dying convention. Those who are clinging to old ways, and attempting to prop up the failing animal-based industry, are on the wrong side of history. And in the near future, our current treatment of animals (domestic and wild) will be viewed much like slavery is today - as a horrific chapter in the course of human events.

In the meantime, much can be done to educate ourselves and our communities about the reality of animal use and abuse. My aim is to contribute, in some small way, to that end - using logic and facts along with emotional arguments to support my points in this public forum. Like any good scientist, I hope that reason can prevail and lead us to a brighter future. :-)