Monday, March 12, 2018

In defense of pigeons

Many people will tell you that they love and/or respect animals, but there are usually exceptions to this love. Sometimes the exceptions outnumber the animals loved, such as in the case of people who only love their pets, and don’t really care about many (or even any) other animals. Pigeons, on the other hand, seem to be hated, or at least disliked, by nearly everyone. I've even heard people who are otherwise super empathetic to other sentient beings proclaim their lack of love for these birds. The reasons that are most often given are that pigeons are dirty animals, that they spread disease, and that they pollute our cars, balconies, and the the city in general with their droppings. But how much truth is there to our view of pigeons, and if some of this perception is true, what are the ethical ways of dealing with the issue?

Let's start with pigeons' bad reputation for being “dirty” and for carrying all kinds of diseases. I’m not sure what being “dirty” actually implies in this case, but like most animals, pigeons groom themselves regularly, so they don't stand out in this respect. As for diseases, pigeons do in fact carry diseases that may be harmful to humans, including chiamdiosis, psittacosis, histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and a couple of others. Before passing judgment, we should remember that not only pigeons, but all animals, including our beloved cats and dogs, carry diseases which may be harmful to humans. In fact, cats and dogs carry more of these diseases than pigeons do. The vast majority of us do not get sick from our pets (or from pigeons) because it's generally not easy to catch a zoonotic disease (a disease contracted from an animal). Other humans are much more of a health risk to us than pigeons, dogs, or any other animals. Unless we have a heightened sense of hypochondria, we usually don’t get paranoid about this, so, logically, we should be even less paranoid about zoonotic diseases. This is not to say that we shouldn't try to minimize contact with pigeon droppings. Contact with any fecal matter, animal or human, is best avoided. The occasional bird dropping on our balcony or our car is just part of life, but if we want to prevent pigeons from congregating (and pooping) in certain areas en masse, there are more and less ethical ways of doing this. Poisoning them is both cruel and unethical. Apart from the fact that it is completely unnecessary to kill these birds, ingesting the poison makes them suffer greatly before they die. The humane way to solve the problem is to simply stop feeding them where we don't want them to gather. This will result in a win-win situation for both us and the pigeons. The birds will not congregate in an area where they know they won't find food, so we won't have to deal with their droppings, and, in the long run, the pigeons will benefit from having to seek food for themselves. After all, a lot of the food that we feed them with (bread for example) is not very good for them. Some people think that this inappropriate diet might be one of the reasons that 10 species of pigeon have become extinct since the 1600s, and that close to 60 surviving species are currently threatened with extinction.

In my opinion, we don’t give pigeons enough credit. They are actually pretty fascinating animals. First of all, like other birds, they are much smarter than we might think. Studies have shown that they can, in fact, remember and recognize human faces, and even have the ability to distinguish letters of the alphabet. Another interesting fact about them is that they are monogamous, usually for life. They’re also really good parents, and take care of their children until they are almost fully grown (which is why we rarely see baby pigeons). Pigeons get a bad rap, partly because they're so prevalent, and partly because we've been taught to believe a lot of negative things about them that are not necessarily true. A little bit of research does a lot to break stereotypes, and while you don’t have to suddenly start to love pigeons, I hope you use the information in this post to at least gain some insight and to try to coexist with them in a more positive way.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

NEW POEM -- Winter | NOWY WIERSZ -- Zima

If you are the cold path uphill through the snow
Then I am the grey winter sky above you
With its sporadic breaks of sunshine

If you are the trees on this mountain, seemingly frozen solid above a certain altitude
Branches covered with beautiful frost patterns
Then I am the mountain itself
I want to speak to you, but your roots have grown over my ability to do so

If you are the animals trying to survive in the winter months
Then I am their last-minute luck in finding food or shelter
On an unlucky day of an unlucky week of an unlucky life

If you are the fatigue formed from the fear of failure
From staring at the February horizon still too far in the distance
Then I am faith
The kind that you look for, and realize that you might just be all out of


Jeżeli jesteś zimną ścieżką w górę poprzez śnieg
To ja jestem szarym zimowym niebem nad tobą
Ze sporadycznym prześwitem słońca

Jeżeli jesteś drzewami na tej górze, na pozór całkowicie zamarzniętymi od pewnej wysokości
Z gałęziami polukrowanymi pięknymi wzorami mrozu
To ja jestem samą górą
Chciałbym z tobą porozmawiać, ale twoje korzenie zdławiły mój głos

Jeżeli jesteś zwierzętami próbującymi przetrwać zimowe miesiące
To ja jestem szczęściem, które im pozwala znaleść jedzenie lub schronienie w ostaniej chwili
W pechowy dzień pechowego tygodnia pechowego życia

Jeżeli jesteś zmęczeniem stworzonym przez strach przed klęską
Przez gapienie się na lutowy horyzont, nadal zbyt daleko w oddali
To ja jestem wiarą
Taką, której szukasz i zdajesz sobie sprawę, że może już się wyczerpała

Sunday, August 20, 2017

NEW POEM -- "Last" (Armen Abalian)

LAST from L@st Months

A last secret
One final breach
Gently moving your hair behind your ear to whisper
To reveal a new intolerance

"Come here"

You can avoid the house
Avoid the neighborhood
Avoid the city
Avoid our history
Mute, muffle, or murder the memory
But if you want access to any of this
"Come here"
Is your only gateway

I am deaf to any other preamble
No more words, warped and wounded
Washed out or wistful
No more wishes, birthday or bogus
Friendly or furious
It has all been said
It has all been felt
Like a store sample phone, all the buttons pressed a million times without actually making a single connection


"Come here"

So easy to save someone from the soliloquy of a summer solitude
Don't try the back doors
I have been weak, but I still managed to bolt them all
I have also closed all the windows
To avoid an accidental whiff of your perfume
Or an accidental chorus of a song that reminds me of you blasting from some car for three seconds as it drives by


"Come here"

Say this, or don't say anything to me ever again
It's that simple

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Things to consider if you claim to love animals

"I love animals." We’ve all seen and heard this many times. It is heartwarming to hear that someone has love for the beautiful creatures with whom we share the planet. It is important, however, to make sure that there is consistency in this love, that this love is honest and informed, and that the ethical “disconnect” between this statement and one’s reality is minimized.

One of the biggest disconnects is saying that you love animals, while you continue to eat them. There are several reasons that people do this. The first is that they love only certain kinds of animals: cats, dogs, guinea pigs… in short: pets. They have made the distinction in their mind that pets are to be loved, while farm animals are to be eaten. The thing to remember here is that there is less of a difference between the animals that we consider pets and the animals we eat than we might think. Pigs, for example, are very smart animals, smarter than most animals we consider pets. Many farm animals not only have the capacity to feel as much as a dog or a cat does, but they exhibit the same type of behavior as the animals we share our homes with. This is not to say that we should all adopt a cow or a pig, and bring him or her into our house. What it does mean is that we should be conscious of the fact that other animals are, in many ways, just like our pets, and respect their right to live. The idea that it’s OK to eat certain animals stems from a very unenlightened time and has been reinforced over centuries. The growth of vegetarianism and veganism in many parts of the world is an active negation of this archaic belief, a new, empathetic approach that recognizes that we should respect all sentient life. While humans, dogs, pigs, and fish are all very different creatures, the fact that we are all sentient beings is the most important factor here, and we should strive to minimize the suffering of such beings, not add to it.

There are several other, somewhat related reasons why “animal lovers” eat whom they claim to love, and these are also archaic. One is the idea that we need meat to survive. Someone might claim that he loves animals, but has no choice but to eat them in order to be healthy. This is, again, false. I have written a lot about this (see this essay, or this one), so I won’t rehash the details. To summarize as briefly as I can, you can indeed live a perfectly healthy life on a plant-based diet. The idea that meat (or dairy) is a necessary part of our diet is an outdated one. In fact, there is more and more evidence that meat consumption is worse for our health than we had thought.

Another thing to remember is that it is not all right to use and abuse animals for our benefit. While many animal lovers cringe at the idea of eating meat and dairy because they are aware of the death and suffering caused by these industries, the truth behind some of the subtler forms of exploitation of animals still eludes them. A good example is the use of animals in our sports and recreation. Some forms of animal-based recreation are considered more harmful, while others less so. Let's take horseback riding, an activity that many people consider harmless, even beneficial to a horse. Many people who ride horses love these animals so much, they would never willingly do anything to harm them. But, as this article points out, this activity can, indeed, be harmful to horses, and this is something we should consider if we care about their well-being as much as our own.

It is not necessary to love animals in order to respect their right to live. We do not love every human being that we do not harm or hurt. We simply do not engage in such behavior because it is unethical to make another person suffer and, on a base level, it just feels wrong. We do not have to love a hen that is forced to lay eggs in a dark factory farm her entire unhappy life, but we can feel empathy for her nevertheless. We can recognize this injustice, and hopefully take steps to end it. One of the best ways to do this is to stop partaking in the cycle of death and suffering by switching to a plant-based diet. Those of us who love animals should, theoretically, be able to do this even more easily. Love is a powerful force that can help us make more ethical decisions. We have been conditioned to accept things as they are, but a reality that is based on suffering and death is one that can and should be changed. If you love animals, think about the things mentioned in this essay, and examine your own choices to see if there are any obvious disconnects between this love, and the reality in which you live.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Armen Abalian "Love Poems" -- a selection

I am currently working on a series called "Love Poems". Below are four poems from that series. Others will hopefully be published soon, somewhere.


The future, chained to the past, screaming at the present

It will break free, but not yet, not today.

Today it will need food, water; it will need to be consoled.

It will need to be told stories that will seem like unbelievable fairy tales

To remind it of something beautiful that is not guaranteed.


My soul, or something similar to it, hurts with every wistful melody that hits it.

The seemingly innocuous music causes it to recoil like an animal in pain that doesn't want another blow.

I have come to understand that it wants chaos, noise, not melancholic daggers.

To put it at ease, I end up listening only to the sounds of the city.


You say "darkness" and everyone automatically thinks of sadness, depression, hopelessness.

What about a place to escape from the incessant, chaotic, frantic, overwhelming laser light show?

Darkness, with the impartiality of a blanket

Where a sick animal can dream about health and an unconfined existence.


Some nights I woke up next to you and saw you looking at me

Or vice versa

Which areas of your mostly hidden, hard to decipher inner world were you wandering around?

Lush mountain landscapes of green and purple?

Deep desert valleys of red and broken beige?

Or were you lost in some nondescript, fragmented reality, looking at me, trying to tell me you couldn't find a way out?

I never asked, I was just happy to have you there, next to me.

ALL POEMS (c) 2017 ARMEN ABALIAN. Please don't reproduce without permission.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The intelligence of chickens

A while ago, I wrote about the importance of animal intelligence. While we shouldn't base our decision to kill a sentient being on how smart s/he is, it is important to know that animals that many of us had previously thought were just plain "stupid", are, in fact, more intelligent than we had imagined. Studies such as the one below, concerning the intelligence of chickens, proves this.