25 September 2010


I've spent much of this afternoon trying to find ways to make this blog exciting, pretty and worthy of reading.. Added some links on the side. One lot is a whole bunch of sites where I get a lot of my news and random articles from, the other lot is a list of organisations' websites that you should browse through, look at the campaigns and get involved with. The whole page is still work in progress though.

I should probably also add that the photo credits go either to my sister or me and Google.

In terms of actual blogging, unless I come up with a sudden topic to rant on (like that last one :P), there's actually not much to write on. But here's the mental to-blog-on list, let's call it a taste of what's to come: the paradox of dissections for education on biodiversity, ecological engineering, climate skepticism, COP 16 in Mexico, EDGE, rhino poaching in South Africa, ecotourism and last year's plans of an NGO (which I think I should find a way to copyright before I post it on here :P).

The next couple of months will be pretty quiet because of exams, but at the end of November I'll be back in India. This means copious amounts of interning, volunteering and free time to sit and make NGOs. Get ready :)

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20 September 2010

This is the big one. Big.

Okay it's time to tackle the big one. The pro-vegetarian argument (and other tangents).

I can't count the number of times I get asked to defend myself. To be honest, such debates are something I quite frankly suck at, therefore it's not something I enjoy and would prefer to dodge. But you can't take a stance on something this important to you and not have a good justification for it/not be bothered to justify it. So I shall take this one on as well as I can, once and for all, even if it seems somewhat arbitrary...

About two and a half years ago, after some 16 years of enjoying the carnivorous life, I decided to give it up for a life of vegetarianism. Mind you I'd tried and failed a year before that, only lasted two months after being tempted by kebabs - moral of the story, not easy to go veg in India if you're a fan of butter chicken, kebabs and chicken tikka. Anyway that's very much besides the point. The point is - why? Why would I stop eating meat (YES - fish count, but that's a separate issue I'll rant on later) and still be going strong with no cheating whatsoever two years later. Simply put - I didn't feel comfortable eating meat.

Here are my reasons for being vegetarian, I'll go through them one by one. I do rate them in this order of priority, but that's my own personal choice.

1) Humans don't have the right to exploit other animals

I'm going to be as careful and delicate as I possibly can in explaining this one. It's the one that gets me into the most trouble because I never explain it well enough, plus it's just a generally controversial one. Here's my big disclaimer because people always seem so ready to chuck this argument in the face of vegetarians: as a person who appreciates the working of nature and evolution, I GET that humans are part of the circle of life. It'd be wrong for me to disagree with that, because if I believed it was wrong and inhumane for a human to kill and eat another animal, then that would mean it's also wrong and inhumane for a lion to kill and eat an impala. I get that. BUT, I think that we can only go so far in justifying our diet using that logic.

For one, a lion hunts an impala out of necessity. Why do we eat animals? Yes we need protein in our diet in order for it to be balanced. But a lot of the time, we eat it just because we can. But my biggest issue here is the difference in scale of how we do it and how nature does it. I think it's fine if we eat the odd bit of meat every now and then, but the fact that there are millions of animals around the world that are bred, harvested and kept in appalling conditions just to feed us is disgusting. The fact that ridiculous amounts of money, land and resources go towards keeping these animals alive when they shouldn't even be there in the first place is also sickening. Factory farming, enough said.

I'm going to say it again - I buy the circle of life argument. We are a part of nature, thus we do belong in the circle of life. But not if we're just going to take that circle and rape it. I don't believe that we're allowed to take an aspect of nature that works in nature, only to magnify and exploit it just so it can suit our lifestyle of mass-consumerism. It's quite simple - we are not allowed to do that simply because it doesn't work. And this applies to a lot of things, not just meat production. It comes down to our (absurd) anthropocentric view of the world. A view that is clearly a failure.

I also think it's unfair for vegetarians to get attacked so often with the circle of life argument. It's often mostly about personal choice. If I feel uncomfortable, as an animal lover, eating something that was once a living sentient creature, then what is wrong with that? We're the only species with a conscience and sense of morality so why not be conscious of what you're eating? Hell, if the lion had a conscience maybe it'd think twice or at least feel bad for its prey :P

2) The cruelty

This was another one of my biggest issues. I personally can't live with myself knowing that my lunch went through a terrible life of suffering and torture and a painful death just to land up on my plate. Again, yes okay, there's got to be some amount of suffering, the impala's death when the lion get it is not painless. But again, look no further than factory farming. I can't tolerate the fact that these animals are put through needless amounts of suffering just for the sake of their mass consumption. But I suppose this one's my own opinion. I personally don't think we have the right to inflict that upon other animals, but I know that argument's flawed.

3) The contribution to environmental degradation

I could go ON and give you a bunch of stats to prove this one. I think this is the most important anti-meat argument that exists. The impact is just too big. The cost to our planet is not acceptable. It is unsustainable. Meat production leads to a vicious cycle of deforestation, pollution, soil degradation, resource consumption and climate change. The UN released a statement on how the industry is responsible for 1/5 of the world's greenhouse gases. Or how about this - if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and replaced it with a vegetarian meal, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to taking over half a million cars off the road.

This point is the one on which I think people need to focus. If you have an issue with vegetarians, fine attack us for the moral grounds of our decisionn but most of all it's an issue of your ecological footprint. Yeah sure you've heard it all before but how many times do you need to be told of its importance before you actually make a change? It is SO simple, less meat production = less stress on the world's fuels, water and land, less global warming. Take this piece of information, look into it if you're skeptical, process it and implement it.

Have a look - Eating the Planet

There are other reasons to be vegetarian, but these are my main ones.

I guess while I'm at it I should also touch the issue of eating more "exotic" animals; "non-farm animals" or "wild animals". My personal biggest problem with this is the hypocrisy of it. I fail to see how someone can on the one hand, understand the practice of keeping dogs, cats, rabbits etc. as pets, be capable of forming a bond with these animals and then turn around and eat it. I can't understand how someone can go on a game drive, take photos of the beautiful kudu, ostrich or warthog and then eat the very same animal that they were admiring when it was alive. I guess I could apply the same logic and say it's wrong for anyone who's been to a petting zoo to turn around and eat that same pig, cow, chicken. But maybe that's taking this argument too far...or is it? :P

Then there's the obvious issue that some of the animals people eat are in fact endangered/killed at unsustainable levels - sharks, bushmeat, one look at the current state of the world's fisheries = enough said. (Watch End of the Line! Although I'll keep the collapsing fisheries issue for another post)

When it comes down to it, no, I'm not going to force vegetarianism on everybody that I can. But I'll say this - just think about the impact of your diet, the cost, the origin. I'm not going to try convince you to cut the meat out of your diet. But if you're going to eat it, do it sustainably and responsibly. Eat less meat, try find alternatives, if that doesn't suit you, then at least buy free range and locally produced products. Maybe it does require more effort, but really, if you can't make a tiny bit of effort to improve the condition of the planet on which you live and the species you share it with, then look inside yourself and find it in you to change - why are you here?
Our resistance to change is unacceptable. I say this with reference to one thing in particular - our view that we are the centre of the planet. We don't have some God given right to screw our planet over just because we're the most intelligent product of evolution.

So here's a few things that I have no reservations in imploring you to do:

1) Think about your place on Earth and think of yourself in the context of the whole planet - your actions affect everybody and everything else.

2) Have a look at what you eat and think about reducing the impact it has on the planet, on the animals and on other humans. Have at least one meat-free day a week.

3) If you're still going to be stubborn, then for God's sake, don't hold the belief that non-vegetarian is what everyone should be, and leave vegetarians alone. Don't be arrogant about your diet because you think you're a superior Homo sapiens at the top of the food chain.

The first step is simply thinking about it. Read up on the issue. Accept the need for change. The next step is the actual change, the "taking action". I could hurl a bunch of cliches at you but I won't. I'll just end this one with a simple question and let you take it from there, let's call it today's homework - what are you doing to change the world for the better?

Today's rant was inspired by a representative from Animal Voice who came in to speak at UCT for Green Week :)

P.S. If you disagree or you're bored and feel like instigating debate, challenging comments are welcome :)

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16 September 2010

The Cove Part 2

So I'm still on a mission to make everyone I know watch The Cove. Thus I'm going to put up a screen shot. Don't worry, it's not some shocking one of a dolphin being slaughtered.

I wouldn't use the word 'favourite', it's not very appropriate, but this is definitely one part of the film that stood out the most to me. At first it had me wondering "okay, why are they showing this and why for so long?" It was almost like an awkward silence in the heat of the movie, but with quite an eerie feel to it.

I'll let you figure out the rest when you watch it though. Look out for it.

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15 September 2010

African Conservation

Do yourself a favour and read this. It's a brilliant, brilliant article. I don't buy into the whole pro-hunting for tourism argument, but at least it's one angle that's covered.

I never knew this was said by Gandhiji,
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated".
Very cool. Although I guess it doesn't say much for our nation...

The formatting on the blog is doing strange things. I'll fix it later.

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12 September 2010

Short on money, long on time

Aside from a degree and driver’s license, here are three things that are part of my five year plan:
- PADI Open Water Course
- FGASA Course at Mabula
- Climb Kilimanjaro
Ok so maybe the last one’s a little random but it’s happening. Maybe not in the next five years, but definitely before all the ice is gone.
Oh and another resolution – at least one game drive every six months in order to stay sane. Last week's visit to Mabula has put that in perspective. While we're on that topic - I saw the most amazing lion sighting I've had in four years of going there. The two big male brothers were at the side of the road to begin with, so we had a look and then thought we'd try look for the rest of the pride. After no luck finding the females we went to go have another look at the males by which point they'd moved. So we were driving along the road parallel to the one where they were earlier. We couldn't see them and then suddenly out of nowhere they ran out from behind us and the one was chasing the other. It was very dramatic, you could see all the dust they'd kicked up and hear them growling at each other. Definitely made my year :) That and the fact that I saw my first wild serval :)
Enough of that though, here are things all of you should do:
- Take reusable bags to the groceries. It’s not always easy to remember, but it feels good when you do :D
- Get yourself a resurrection bush - look at it when it’s deprived of moisture then watch it transform when you stick it in some water. That is how you appreciate nature and evolution.
- Listen to Xavier Rudd :) That's the song that cheered me up when we went to the glacier (lack thereof) at Sonamarg in July (still must blog on that)
One more thing I should say as somewhat of a follow-up – judging by the reports from Sea Shepherd’s team in Taiji right now, the annual dolphin hunt at the infamous Cove seems to have gotten off to an unsuccessful start. The dolphin herding and killing begins every year around September 1st and so far, the dolphins have been pretty lucky :)
And this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t go on one small ranting tangent – I bought a note pad from the UCT shop today and just discovered it’s made by “Tree Line Products”. Really? How is that a suitable name? I read it and think ‘great, so the cost of this is the tree line of a forest?’ Hmm, thanks guys.

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02 September 2010

James Jay Lee

I'm going to dedicate this post to James Lee. Of course I don't mean "dedicate" in an overly fond way because I don't fully support him. But his basic message does sort of deserve a bit of respect.

James Lee entered the headquarters of the Discovery network in Maryland this week with various weapons etc., took hostages and threatened to take people's lives:

His point? Discovery doesn't show enough programmes encouraging people to take action over the environmental crisis. Here's a link to the site he made, listing his demands to Discovery Communications:

It's shocking. I'd laugh, except for the fact that he nearly killed people over it.
Focus must be given on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution

I've tried to spread similar messages (as in programming messages, not rants about human filth) myself, emailed Animal Planet with programming suggestions, been called a fundamentalist, all of it - but jesus, even after watching The Cove or 11th Hour I don't go on rants full of such violent nonsense. Even worse - does he really think Discovery's gonna solve the whole problem? Not exactly policy-makers are they? And his whole thing about inventing - I've seen some BRILLIANT stuff on Discovery about new renewable energy sources. Fine maybe not enough, but then rather just have one simple demand - create a new channel SOLELY dedicated to such programmes, but even then, they sort of have. The whole point of Animal Planet as well is about appreciation of nature - create that and you have people who want to protect the planet. Such needless anger and violence, I don't commend. I'm curious about this guy though. His life, his background. Seemed intriguing...

But I'll say this, he's wrong on his views about "human filth", but if you really think about it, almost every problem in the world does come down to human overpopulation. If Chinese communist 1-child policies aren't the answer, then what is? Because it doesn't feel like education and family counseling is working all that well...

Lee was an idiot, but I dig his passion for the planet. On that note only, I'll say rest in peace James Lee. But you were quite the nutter. If you didn't like Discovery's programming, then darling, you could've subscribed to Nat Geo. Quite unnecessary death and drama.

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