Friday, June 12, 2015

The dissappearing Saiga's

Recently, an unknown, extremely deadly disease has been killed over 100,000 Saiga's
Scientists are now trying to figure out why the Saiga's are dying so rapidly. Almost extinct, these animals have made a jump from 50,000 too 250,000 over the last few years. However, in the past two to three weeks over 100,000 Saiga's have dropped dead, due to he unknown disease. The disease must have a correleation too human involvement, as said in the article it is probably due to the strange weather patterns we have been experiencing this past month and also chemical rain from the farms around the area. Humans almost hunt this animal to extinction, bring them back, and due to our actions, they are almost extinct again.

All Chimp Species endangered

According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Services, all chimpanzee species are to be considered endangered.
This does not include people that own chimps as pets, but it does include the selling of chimpanzee's blood and tissues, and also using chimps in science.
I am glad they are taking steps in giving chimps freedom. Since we have killed so many of them, and they are so closely related to us. The article makes logical sense, in that chimps need to be protected, having them in captivity is fine, but having them for science experiments and using their vital organs should not be protected under law.

Elephant Grieving

The article Grief, Sadness, and the Bones of Elephants got me thinking about animal emotions and their ability to mourn the loss of their loved ones so I decided to venture further into the topic and stumbled across this video. The way the elephants act toward the bones show that they are feeling emotions at that moment, although the exact emotions they are experienced aren't fully understood. I think animals experience very complex emotions but because they can't speak to humans through language, humans down-play these animals and claim that they are dumb or aren't intellectually comparable to humans. Similarly, humans commonly look at all animals of one species as having the same personality when that can't be further from the truth. I think humans need to expand their minds and look at animals as equals and as distinct individuals and then animals would be treated much better and actually have the rights that many humans claim they should have.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"A Major Change" by Temple Grandin - Response (Prompt #7)

“A Major Change” by Temple Grandin engages with the concept of improving the welfare of animals bred for the purpose of their meat or other byproducts. Grandin emphasizes the necessity to be attentive towards the needs of animals that differ from the needs of neurotypical humans but somewhat correlate or overlap with the sensory needs of people with autism or other atypical perspectives. I think Grandin’s strongest argument is her assertion that the vocalization of animals in slaughterhouses is an indicator of their comfort. Not only does this argument serve to fill the communication void between humans and animals a bit, but also she conveys this issue with strong support and a solution. Grandin provides data that strongly suggests that vocalization is correlated with discomfort and pain, as it relates to the use of cattle prods and stressful environments (188). She follows this up by offering a solution that she personally invented and tested. I would say that Grandin’s weakest point is her reliance on the assumption that autism and animal perception are similar. I think it serves to create an empathetic narrative for the reader to understand the pain and suffering of animals, but I also think there is a danger that it can be misconstrued to dehumanize non-neurotypical people.

Anti-Animal Testing cartoon

In this cartoon, “animal testing” is turned into a play on words because the animals are the ones doing the testing. The animals are depicted with cruel facial expressions and the human on whom they are experimenting looks terrified and pained. Anyone looking at this carton would immediately think how scary and awful it would feel to be the person on the table and would say this sort of treatment is cruel and should be illegal. Because the viewer would know that the scenario is usually reversed and the animal is the one scared and in pain, it causes them to rethink any ideas they may have had about animal testing being acceptable. By flipping the situation and putting the human in the animals place, it forces the viewer to see the scenario from the animal’s perspective, and hopefully understand and have empathy for them. 

The Sexual Politics of Meat in Commercials

In an Arby’s commercial titled “This Is Meat Craft- We Have the Meats”, it is very clear that the target audience is men. The commercial begins with the slabs of meat being aggressively slammed onto the table, followed by a man’s deep voice asking in an almost mocking tone, “Did the meat scare you? Are you intimidated by their might and marbley-ness?” Saying that one should be intimidated by the meat implies that meat is strong and formidable, and should be feared. The deep voice then says “You sit atop the food chain and these meats are your prize, your championship belt, your protein trophy”. By placing man on the top of the food chain, the commercial is reinforcing the idea that man has the highest ranking in all of nature, which also contributes to human exceptionalism. By calling meat a “prize” or a “trophy”, it relates it to sports, something typically masculine. Although the meat is only ever bought in the form of a sandwich, which is shown briefly at the end, the whole emphasis of the commercial is on the meat. The bread and vegetables are entirely unmentioned because they placid and feminine. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


More on the connection between misogyny and speciesism. I saw a post online yesterday about how the female author of the post was walking alone by a group of men who were calling things like "come here!" and "how 'bout a kiss?" and other condescending flirtations. Fed up, she turned around to tell them off, only to find they were calling to a dog across the street. While, no doubt, a relief at the time, this only goes to show how little difference there is between the way some men speak to animals and the way they speak to women. In our last section meeting, it was brought up how we tend to speak condescendingly to our fully grown pets. This behavior is not exclusive to animals, as shown in the example above, and extends to women as well. It's jarring to realize how women and non-human animals are treated with equal disrespect by men, and how normalized it is on both fronts.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Elephant Breakdown

Elephant Breakdown by Michael Pollan

I found this article to be really depressing.

Pollan extensively talks about how elephant society is breaking down because of human intervention such as poaching. Elephant societies are intricate, and the slaughtering of a mother causes vast psychological pain to her offspring. With the detailed web of kinship, any fracture to it is detrimental. Pollan did well explaining the ways that human intervention is causing a problem with elephant kinship, which in turn is leading to elephant outburst and harm to human society.
Perhaps a weakness to this article is that it is rather lengthy. For a New York Times article, I feel that the readers are looking for a more concise expose as opposed to a long and detailed article.

Characters or Symbolism?

The connection between women and animals is distinct in literature and art in more ways than one. Although the idea of women's relationship with animals and nature that stems from creation tales such as Eve and the serpent exist consistently throughout history in literature, I've noticed another recurring theme in both women and animals of literature. Both non-human animals and women are often treated as symbols and plot devices more than actual characters. While a huge amount of female characters in literature fail to pass the Bechdel test and exist purely to further the depth of a male protagonist's character, animals are treated with similar disregard. In much the same way that readers will mourn a female character's demise only through a male character's grief and consequential growth, when we see mention of, say, a raven or crow, our first thought is of bad omens and upcoming conflict for our human heroes; sparing hardly a thought for the actual creature. Although subversion of this trend has been growing in popularity on the side of including strongly developed female characters (in the popularity of franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergence, etc), non-human characters (excluding mythological characters) have yet to become more than a means for symbolism and/or plot advancement. This trope, and how rarely it is noticed by readers, displays both the internalized misogyny and speciesism of modern society.

Yet another movie, Ex Machina this time

Like with my last post, this movie does not specifically include animals in it, in fact it is completely devoid of them just like Mad Max. That being said, the subject matter of the movie, as well as its underlying themes suggested to me a relationship to this class when I was watching it. Ex Machina is a film about a young man who works at a tech company who is invited to spend a week at the remote home of his employer. At the house he is tasked with giving what his employer believes is artificial intelligence a series of tests, known as Turing Tests, to see if it is indeed true AI. I won't continue with the plot, because it isn't entirely necessary to this discussion, but once again I will add a little sidebar suggesting you go and see this movie because it is fantastic. Now back to the topic at hand, the relation this movie has with the course is a bit more abstract in its nature, however the subject matter of artificial intelligence shares a close bond with the course. AI represents a new type of intelligence, one separate and yet equal if not greater than that of human beings. It's the field that would shake the very Cartesian fabric on which society is built in which the thinking thing of the human being is no longer the only one worthy of treatment as the baseline being. That basic similarity aside, the movie shares another somewhat more obscured relation. In this movie that is entirely devoid of animals other than the human beings who are the main characters, of which there are only two, the artificial intelligence becomes the surrogate subject to be related kept as animals. The AI in question, Eva, is kept in a room with her only interaction with humans being the side of the room where a glass window is installed. This room, or cage as it should be called, is quite similar in purpose to that of a zoo cage. It allows the human who believes themselves greater to observe from safety the unpredictable animals, or in this case AI, that they wish to study. The movie moves closer into themes of liberation and hints of feministic ideologies that I won't go into detail on but trust me when I say this is one philosophical journey of modern cinematography that should not be missed, especially if you ascribe your own thinking to be similar to the subject matter of this course.

Mad Max and its Tangential Relationship with this Class

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the movie Mad Max in theaters, this is a bit of a sidebar but I suggest everyone reading this goes and sees it because it is truly spectacular, and while watching the movie I couldn't help but connect it to this classes themes, even if only a bit. The setup for Mad Max is pretty simple, Max Rockatansky, the protagonist, gets roped into helping Furiosa and five women she has liberated escape from the man she freed them from, Immortan Joe and his army of crazed War Boys. Without getting too far into the realm of spoilers, the relation this movie shares with the themes of this class has to do with its clear feminist underpinnings running throughout the course of the movie. The world has been destroyed, there is not clear reason as to how it happened but the course of human history leading up to this future is not too difficult to figure out on your own. The movie has a question repeated throughout it, "Who broke the world?" which is delivered in an almost indicting tone toward the antagonist of Immortan Joe. Its suggestion is that Joe, who represents the patriarchy of modern society along with its class based system, is the symbol of who is responsible for this future. It is worth noting that not once in the two hour plus movie was an animal shown. They are gone along with the grass and the trees and the water. This running theme of getting away from the patriarchy, and escaping this possible future, I felt very closely relates to this course and its themes of liberating society, and animals, and for equality among all creatures of the Earth.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


I saw a trailer for the movie Ant Man recently, and it got me thinking about superheroes. Specifically, about superheroes that are associated with animals - and, as it turns out, there are a lot. Whether it's an ant's size and proportionate strength, a bird's flight, a spider's web, or a chameleon's camouflage, when imagining humans as something better or more evolved than what we are, we seem most inclined to think of attributes that already exist in other animals. Although humanity mostly gave up it's original respect for nature and non-human animals during the early industrial revolutions, some of this mindset seems to have stayed with us, in the admiration with which we consider certain animals, even if it is only in a fictional or symbolic context. It made me wonder that maybe if animals were just a little more human-like (if they walked on two feet or spoke a language we could learn or looked like Bruce Wayne - okay maybe that's too far) the current binary of humans over animals would be flipped. We admire so many things about animals but only when they attributed to humans - a parallel of sorts to cultural appropriation, but on a physiological/biological level rather than a cultural and aesthetic one. The implications are very similar to how a white girl wearing a bindi is 'artsy', while an Indian girl wearing one is a potential terrorist. Our admiration for animals and their abilities is obvious in our media, but that admiration has yet to return to the animals themselves.

Friday, June 5, 2015

"In Defense of Slavery" by Marjorie Spiegel

In Marjorie Spiegel's essay "In Defense of Slavery," the author argues that the domestication of animals by humans is tantamount to the enslavement of African's from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Spiegel's strongest argument, in my opinion, was that of Aristotle's interpretation of the subjugation and domestication of animals and some humans over two thousand years ago. Aristotle argued that being tamed improves an animals existence, claiming that is "secures [the animals] survival." Though I do not agree with Aristotle's take on slavery, I do respect  him as one of the greatest minds in history. I believe that the weakest argument made in this essay is that many slaves enjoyed there enslavement. After visiting a plantation, Sterling Brown claimed that he found no evidence of the horrible conditions attributed to slave plantations, instead finding "a kindly patriarchy and grateful, happy slaves." This is the weakest piece of evidence in my mind because even if the conditions on this particular plantation were livable I doubt that those conditions were standard for all slaves.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thinking Like Cattle and The Open Steppe

My favorite article from week five was Temple Grandin's "Thinking Like Animals". Grandin attempts to bridge the gap between the desires of the factory farmers and the needs of the animals; she offers a realistic starting point to moving towards a more ethical food industry. Grandin eases opponents of animal welfare by offering a better means of processing the animals, better for for both farmer and cow. What she is doing is introducing people who have never before considered the mindset of cows to that mindset, but veiled in the disguise of a better machine for processing cattle. Other authors we have read have advocated for a complete liberation of animals, though just, these are hardly realistic options in our complicated world . Grandin offers an excellent starting point, putting ourselves into cows hoofs so we can ease their suffering in the slaughter house.

However there are points that Grandin makes that I strongly disagree with. "Death at the slaughter plant is quicker and less painful than death in the wild. Lions dining on the guts of a live animal is much worse in my opinion". I think this is a naive statement, the life of a factory farm is equivalent to life on death row: trapped in a camp for a period of time until the eventual early death. For the alternative I must quote 1982's "Conan the Barbarian". When a warrior is asked what is best in life, he replies with "The open steppe, fleet horse... and the wind in your hair". A brief life of freedom will always be greater than an extended one of imprisonment.
PETA animal testing video, Warning! It is disturbing!

In the simplest terms, animal testing is cruel and unethical. PETA stands for, as it names suggests, the ethical treatment of animals. In the video they emphasize the torture these animals experience in labs, or any scenario where animal testing is conducted. Compared to Descartes view, PETA takes the opposing side, in that they don't deny thought and/or life to animals. Based on the highly graphic images displayed in the video it would suggest PETA refutes the rights of humans to performs test on animals.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Grandin's "Thinking Like Animals"

For this blog I read Temple Grandin's piece, "Thinking Like Animals". I really enjoyed reading this passage; it is a story that I have heard before on a television show a few years ago. The work that Grandin does for animals headed for slaughter is amazing and very interesting when you consider how she is able to better understand these animals through her autism. The strongest part of this argument is her stance on the reasoning behind her design of the restraint system. She gives concrete reasons as to what alarms cattle and what calms them and she does so by speaking from a personal experience point of view. Through her autism she was able to understand more and more about how touch, sound, and motion affect people and animals which led her to create a much more humane method for slaughtering cattle. She talks about how she used to like to feel the pressure of the machine because it would calm her down just like it does for the animals. The only weak point of this argument is that she does not bring in any other testimonies from researchers or professionals, which doesn't necessarily hurt her cause but it also doesn't add anything extra. Overall, I really enjoy this piece. I think that Grandin is doing wonderful, helpful work and her story of using her handicap to benefit the world is an inspiration.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Second favorite

I think my second favorite story from the Class Reader would have to be "Beavertown". Reading it gives me a sense of animal rights. The beavers were making a dam right in front of Mr. Foley's home causing a flood into his basement. Mr. Foley calls the police complaining, and the policeman shows up and argues, that the beavers are protected, that there's nothing they can do about it. Mr.Foley was astonished and said, "You mean a beaver is more important that a man, than my entire family?" The Policeman simply said that the beavers are not doing it on purpose, that they all have homes and a family to protect just as well as we humans do. Mr. Foley then threatened the beavers claiming he can use a single grenade to get rid of the dam. The policeman said, "After four hundred years of slaughter, we're finally at peace with the beavers,they're happy, we're happy, they're hard working, intelligent, and strong." I feel that this quote is really what hits the home run. The policeman is giving all human traits to the beavers, which imply's that they are just like us and that they deserve the same rights we do.

Favorite From the Class Reader

It seems that my favorite from the beginning of the quarter is a pretty popular one, The Crane Wife. I even chose to write my first essay about it, and had a few family members read it because I liked it so much. I am not sure why I liked it s much, maybe because there was a twist with the wife being the crane? Anyways, I feel as though it connects with this class in a few different ways. 1) I remember a while back we talked a lot about the relationship between women and animals. How they seem to be closer to one another than man and animals. Using Adam and Eve as an example, Adam was created first and then Eve and  animals were created second. The wife in "The Crane Wife" is in fact an animal, a crane to be exact. Therefore a very strong bond between woman and animal. The second topic I feel that this story touches on is animal labor. I know this may seem far fetched but think about it. The husband continuously asked his wife to make sails for him even though it almost killed her, pushing her to her limit she ran away. The wife even warned him, "Do not ask this of me, husband, You ask me to give all of myself." We all know that humans push animals to their limit and many of them end up dead. Whether its lab testing, or needing donkeys for agriculture.


My favorite reading from this quarter was Axolotl by Julio Cortazar. I just love the tone with which it was written, setting an eerie sort of suspense with its imagery and ambiguous word choices. It was a reading that actually gave me goosebumps, especially when the pronouns for the axolotls turned from 'they' to 'I'. The anthropomorphic descriptions of the axolotls somehow made them seem even more alien, rather than more familiar, and contributed hugely to the somewhat unsettling tone. The fact that you're never quite sure whether the man truly is transforming or is actually as unbalanced as he mentions a guard thinking he is brings out some of the most interesting aspects of having an unreliable narrator.

The blurred line between species was effective in the story-telling, and in making a statement (intended or not) on human exceptionalism. Like Vanita Seth implied in her piece ("Difference"), this story makes one consider the man-made nature of the construct of species. With the mysterious ending, implying that the man was now both human and axolotl, and though perhaps more spiritual than social, the idea of arbitrariness in differentiating species shines through.