Monday, December 31, 2012

A resolution of sacrifice, taking a step back from our selfishness

The word "sacrifice" has different connotations (both positive and negative) for different people. Sacrifice, in my understanding, is an antidote to selfishness, a way to spread our love and compassion to other beings around us; a way to stop focusing only on our own needs, desires, and whims, and to help others to live a better life.

We often avoid helping others that are suffering because it is not convenient for us. We do not want to adopt a dog from a shelter because that would mean we would have to actually give up some of our free time to walk this dog; or because it would make traveling more difficult; or because it would require us to spend some of our precious money on someone else. We abandon our pets because we feel it is too much of a hassle to keep them. We do not want to give up eating meat because we enjoy the taste. We don’t want to worry about giving money to shelters because it would mean that we don’t have enough money for our own needs (though these "needs" might just mean a couple of extra beers at the bar). All of these things represent a selfish approach to life. A person who realizes the importance of helping will sacrifice his/her time to help a stray dog. This person will never abandon his pet. This person will cut down on, or avoid meat and animal products, because s/he will realize that the meat and dairy industry are responsible for the death and suffering of innocent animals. This person will donate a percentage of his/her disposable income to a charity that helps the less fortunate of the world, whether they be humans or animals.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a step back from a self-centered existence to help other sentient beings. In fact, I think it is necessary, in order to improve the world, to sacrifice a little bit of our own comfort to provide comfort to someone else. Giving, helping, sharing – these things will not only alleviate the pain of others around us, they will alleviate our own pain, both by making us focus a little less on our own little world, and by instilling us with a feeling of fulfillment from the positive impact we have on the lives of others. You are often told that it's OK to just worry about yourself and your immediate family. I would argue that it’s even better to open our hearts up to the greater suffering in the world. Our relationship with the rest of the animal world is one of the biggest problems in the world today, one that causes an immense amount of suffering daily. The suffering that we cause other animals has negative consequences both for ourselves and for the world around us. I write about this a lot, hoping that some of you will understand, and make appropriate changes in your life to remedy the situation. Any direct action that one takes to improve the lives of the innocents of the world is positive, and I encourage you to make 2013 the year when you act to affect positive change.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

5 Ways you can help an animal this holiday season

Though the holidays offer us a great opportunity to spend time with the people we love, we should also remember to spread some holiday cheer to our animal friends, as they also rely on us to bring a little joy to their lives. Here are 5 ways we can improve our relationship with other animals during the holiday season:

1) Give the give of hope. Donate money (or food, blankets, etc.) to a reputable no-kill animal shelter or other such organization that helps animals. Many of these organizations are severely underfunded and rely on donations from private individuals to keep doing their important work. You don’t have to give a lot. Every little bit helps.

2) Consider adopting a dog or a cat from your local shelter. If you can do this responsibly and can offer the animal a permanent home, this is the best gift you can give, both to yourself and to the dog or cat that you save.

3) Do not give animals as Christmas presents, and discourage others from doing this. A person who receives a pet should be a responsible individual, one who you know will care for the animal forever. Frivolous giving of pets as presents often leads to their abandonment.

4) Think about two of the positive words often associated with the holiday season: compassion and love, and remember that the truest, most honest way to show compassion and love for other animals is by not eating meat. If you eat meat, make cutting down on meat, or eliminating it from your diet, one of your New Year’s resolutions.

5) If you live in cold/snowy area and have stray cats (or dogs) around, consider building a winter house for them to help them survive the cold. Here is how you can do this for both cats and dogs.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Why the intelligence of animals is important, and why it isn't

Many of us have come across videos on Youtube that depict the intelligence of certain animals (or a collection of different animals) in a positive way. Many of these videos are meant to surprise us by showing how ingenious a pig, crow, etc. can be. These videos often state that the animal being portrayed is even "smarter than a dog", or "as smart as a human".

First let’s discuss why it’s important to raise awareness of animal intelligence. The majority of the world still views most animals as nothing more than beasts with little or no emotions, intelligence, etc. Videos such as these show that animals do, in fact possess intelligence, and that they are capable of doing things that we might not have thought they were able to do. This, consequently, will lead some people who might not have respected these animals before, to start respecting them. Will this lead to a complete turnaround in the way they treat other animals? Probably not. But it might lead to subtle changes in their perception thereof, which, in turn, might lead to a more compassionate approach to other animals. After all, it’s arguably a little harder to mistreat and/or eat something that is both sentient and intelligent. In countries that have a strong pet culture, and people have learned to love their domestic animals, these videos are important in that they draw parallels to our pets, showing us for example, that a pig can be as smart as a dog. This may get someone to at least consider showing a bit more respect for the lives of these animals as they do for that of their beloved pooch.

Every coin has a flip-side, and this issue does too. The phenomenon described in the first paragraph really refers to the initial phases of learning to respect other animals. As I said above, for people who have little or no respect for other animals, these types of videos may lead to a greater respect for the latter. As we move deeper into improving our relationship with other animals, however, and start developing true compassion towards them, we begin to realize that the intelligence of an animal is not as important as the life of that animal. This is why we should be careful not to be too divisive when we discuss the intelligence of other animals – dividing them between "smart" and "dumb". Although it is true that some animals are smarter than others, we must remember that all sentient beings have a right to live. This is really the card that trumps the rest. Placing too much importance on intelligence will inevitably lead us to conclude that it is OK to kill certain animals because they’re simply "stupid". We don’t kill people because one is smarter than the other, or because they might have mental deficiencies, so we shouldn't do this with other animals either.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Helping stray dogs to survive in winter / Jak pomóc bezdomnym psom przetrwać zimę

Making sure stray dogs are warm in the winter is a bit harder than doing the same for feral cats, but we should do whatever we can to help them. Remember that for the most part, stray dogs have a harder time adjusting to cold weather than stray cats, and their options for finding warmth are bit more limited. Here are some practical steps you can take to help strays survive a harsh winter:

1) If you know of a specific area where stray dogs sleep, consider leaving some warm blankets, etc. there for them to sleep on. Blankets used by dogs can become icy and cold during the winter months, so make sure you minimize the risk of this happening by placing the blankets in a covered area such as under a bridge, overpass, etc. Remember to also place some kind of protective layer under the blanket, so that it won't get wet from the ground. Thin layers of styrofoam, which you can buy at most bigger hardware stores, will usually do the trick.

2) Building a winter shelter for stray dogs is a bit more challenging than building one for feral cats. You can follow the basic principles of building a cat shelter (as outlined in my previous post), but you would have to make both the entrance and the whole thing a lot bigger. The matter is somewhat complicated by the fact that stray dogs often move around a lot. Still, if you feel that this is an option and you know of a particular dog that will benefit, please do this. Some people recommend straw instead of blankets as bedding in dog houses, because, as we mentioned above, blankets used by dogs in the winter can sometimes get wet and icy.

3) Remember the importance of donating blankets, old sweaters, and any other such items to your local animal shelter. In many of these types of shelters around the world, dogs are kept outside in the winter, and need blankets, etc. to keep warm. This is a very simple, yet very effective way to help these animals.

Na co dzień widzimy więcej bezdomnych kotów niż psów, ale pamiętajmy, że bezdomnym psom tez należy pomóc. Bez naszej pomocy radzą sobie znacznie gorzej niż koty. Nie mogą ukryć się w piwnicach, nie wcisną się przez małe otwory do ocieplanych pomieszczeń. Jedyna pomocą dla nich jesteśmy my. Oto kilka prostych kroków, które możemy podjąć aby im pomóc.

1) Jeżeli znasz miejsce, gdzie śpią bezdomne psy, to wystarczy przynieść tam kołdre czy stary koc, aby miały posłanie. Najlepiej położyć je pod jakimś daszkiem i nie bezpośrednio na ziemi, aby ochronić je przed namoczeniem (w Castoramie czy Leroy Merlin można tanio kupić styropian i użyć go jako podłoże)

2) Budowanie domku zimowego dla bezdomnych psów jest nieco bardzie skomplikowane niż budowanie takiego domku dla kotów. Można zbudować wg instrukcji, które opisałem w poprzednim poście, tylko oczywiście o większych gabarytach albo zbudować prosta budę z desek.

3) Podaruj kołdry, koce czy stare swetry lokalnemu schronisku dla zwierząt. W wielu takich miejscach, psy są trzymane w klatkach na zewnątrz nawet podczas mrozów i kawałek koca jest dla nich jedynym źródłem ciepła.

Building a winter shelter for feral cats/ Jak zbudować domek dla kota na zimę

(poniżej po polsku)

Winter is coming, and in many parts of the world feral cats will have a hard time surviving outside in the extremely cold temperatures. If you live in a region where there are feral cats, please consider making a winter shelter for them and placing it in your yard, patio, or, if you live in an apartment building, in a corner of a courtyard, etc. It doesn't take a lot of time or money to build one of these, and you'll be helping an animal survive a very harsh season.

What you need:

1) A styrofoam box (or, alternately, you can line a regular cardboard box with styrofoam plates)
2) Polyurethane foam (or foam rubber)
3) Black plastic wrap, or a large 40-60 gallon (160-240 litre) garbage bag
4) Good-quality repair tape/duct tape
5) Knife and/or scissors for cutting
6) Polar fleece (cut into strips)

The process of building the shelter:
1) Cut out the entrance hole for the cat. The placement and size of the hole are pretty important. The hole should be on the side and fairly high, close to the top of the box. It shouldn't be bigger than 15cm x 15cm (6x6 inches). If using a styrofoam box, remove the cover before cutting the hole.
2) If using a styrofoam box, attach the cover using the polyurethane foam/ foam rubber. Cut off any excess foam once it has hardened.
3) Cover the entire box with the black plastic wrap, or, even better, place the box into a large garbage bag. Make sure that the wrap/garbage bag is tight around the box, and the the edges are tucked in and don't protrude, and then wrap the whole thing tightly with the repair/duct tape.
4) Make sure that the edges of the entrance hole are taped up completely (inside and out), because you don't want the cat to make the hole bigger by scratching away at the styrofoam. In fact, it's best to cover the whole front side with the tape to ensure that the cat doesn't scrape through the plastic.
5) Make a little protective roof over the side of the box where the entrance hole is. This can be made using a part of a cardboard box or plexiglass. If making it from a cardboard box, make sure you cover it completely with a plastic garbage bag, so it doesn't get damaged by rain or snow. You can attach the roof to the box using the repair/duct tape.
6) Put the strips of cut polar fleece into the box.

This is more or less what the finished product should look like:


Nadchodzi zima, i w krajach jak Polska, gdzie zimy bywają surowe, miejskie koty potrzebują pomocy, aby przeżyć. Pomyśl o tym by zbudować i postawić taki domek - gdzieś w bezpiecznym miejscu, gdzie bywają koty .Dobrze jest tez umieścić na budce informację czemu służy z prośbą , aby jej nie niszczyć. To nie wymaga ani dużo czasu ani pieniędzy a dzięki temu te koty, przed którymi ludzie zamknęli piwniczne okienka maja szanse na przetrwanie zimy.

Co potrzebujemy:

1. Pudło styropianowe (można zamowić n.p. przez; 0-512 476 785; *Pamiętaj że niezależnie od tego z jakiego materiału jest budka (z drewnianych deseczek, starej szafki, skrzyni) musi być bezwarunkowo ocieplona wewnątrz styropianem. Styropian w płytach można kupić w sklepach budowlanych.
2. Pianka montażowa
3. Czarna folia (worek na śmieci 160, 240 litrów..)
4. Tasma naprawcza tego typu
5. Nożyk do cięcia
6. Polar (pocięty, może być np. z lumpeksu), wełna, sztuczne futro

Kolejnośc budowy domku styropianowego: 1. Wycięcie otworu, najlepiej przy zdjętej pokrywie. Duże znaczenie ma wielkość i umiejscowienie otworku wejściowego. Czyli otwór z boku i dość wysoko. Nie powinien być większy jak 15 x 15 cm.
2. Przylepienie pokrywy pianką montażową. Po utwardzeniu się pianki, odcinamy jej nadmiar po zewnętrzej stronie pudła.
3. Oklejamy całe pudełko folią. Najlepiej włożyć je w duzy worek śmieciowy, wygładzić zawinięcia, załamki i przyklejac taśmą naprawczą.
4. Taśmą oklejamy tez wokół cały otworek wejściowy. Tzn kawałkiem taśmy od środka do zewnątrz. Chodzi o to, by kot wchodząć do wnętrza nie wydrapypał przy tym stropianu i tym samym nie powiększał otworu.
5. Taśmą oklejam też przednią sciankę domku, tzn przynajmniej część przy otworze wejściowym, bo inaczej kot będzie rozdzierał pazurkami folię przy wejściu.
6. Mały daszek nad okienkiem z pleksi przyklejam też taśma naprawczą.
7. Na koniec wkładamy do wnętrza budki posłanie z polaru.

Tak, mniej więcej, ma wyglądać domek:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


The Gem is a hip little neighborhood bar, located on Davenport Rd. (close to Ossington Ave.), away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto's main concentrations of nightlife. It boasts a good selection of local draught beer, as well as a fairly extensive food menu.

Address: 1159 Davenport Road, Toronto, ON, Canada


Vegetarian/Vegan: Quite a few lacto-ovo veggie options, not sure about Vegan options.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The cruelty behind the wool industry

Apart from one jacket made from recycled wool, I have no clothes that that are made from any animal products. The only reason I have this jacket is that several years ago, when I made the decision to stop wearing leather, I didn't know that wool also had its dark side. More and more people realize the horrors behind the fur industry, and most vegans (and some vegetarians) realize that leather is, at best, a by-product of the meat industry and, consequently, is also a by-product of animal suffering and death. Still, a lot of people who come to the above realizations do not realize that wool involves a lot of cruelty as well.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Shearing sheep is big business, and many suppliers try to speed up the process as much as they can in order to sell more wool. This means that shearing sheep becomes a mechanical (and often rushed) process, one that often causes painful lacerations and other damage to a sheep’s skin. While most types of shearing operations treat sheep as mere objects, causing them to suffer, the common process of "mulesing" is particularly cruel, and routinely involves cutting off chunks of a sheep’s skin and flesh along with its wool. To make matters even worse, this is often done without any anesthesia. Apart from the skin damage and the negative consequences thereof, there are other issues that make wool an unethical choice. One of these involves the way that these animals are transported. Many of the same sheep that are used for wool are later transported across continents, often in filthy, cramped conditions, only to be slaughtered for food. This is only one of several negative practices associated with the wool industry. Moreover, the production of other types of wool, such as mohair, cashmere, pashmina, etc. involves as much if not more suffering as the production of "generic" wool.

All of the above things should lead us to reconsider buying wool in the future. While it is important to try to minimize our involvement in the death cycles of the meat and fur industries, we must also be conscious of the needless suffering of animals in other industries (such as the dairy, egg, and wool industries) and do our best to avoid these products as well. Wearing wool is not necessary, as we have progressed to a level where synthetic fibers, such as polar fleece, are, in fact, much warmer than animal products such as wool and fur. This is why clothing made from these synthetic fibers is what you see on polar and mountain climbing expeditions, or any other such trips in extremely cold weather conditions.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Why animals? (revisited, yet again)

Despite having written about this before, I still sometimes get asked why I choose to focus on helping animals when there is so much else wrong with the world. It’s funny that, in most cases, this question is asked by people who do absolutely nothing to help anyone beyond their immediate family, if that. I’m pretty sure that anyone who truly helps to make the world a better place will not ask silly questions about my priorities. This is because they will realize the importance of helping in and of itself, and will most likely be too busy trying to make a positive change to ask these types of questions. Still, here are some things to keep in mind if the “why animals?” question does perplex you:

The first thing is that when it comes to how we mistreat other animals, the scale of the problem is enormous. Millions upon millions of animals suffer and die daily because of us. Anyone who truly respects the life of other animals will realize the magnitude of the problem, and will not need to be convinced. The people who are befuddled by people helping animals are those that simply haven’t yet realized the importance of respecting animals’ right to live and not suffer. To put things in perspective, let’s pretend for a second that it’s human beings that are in the position of these animals. Imagine slaughterhouses full of humans, humans chained up on short chains, forced to perform and be killed for sport and entertainment, hunted, humans abandoned when they are no longer cute. Yes, of course some of these things still do happen to us, but, for the most part they happen a lot less than they do to animals, and there isn’t as much blatant exploitation mixed with a total lack of respect involved.

The second thing is that animals are innocent beings. Animals, much like small children, cannot defend themselves, and even if they could, they would be no match for our technology and our intelligence. Unfortunately, instead of using our intelligence to create a better world for everyone, we’ve been using it to exploit, abuse, and bully other species for our benefit. What about children, one might say, or sweatshop workers? Aren’t they innocent victims as well? Of course they are. This is a serious problem, and every conscious individual should be concerned about it. What is true, however, is that more and more countries are taking steps to remedy the problems of child exploitation and workplace injustices, and there are many more people in the world who at least recognize that these things are a problem. This is often not the case with issues of animal abuse. Most people unfortunately still cling to the idea that we are somehow justified in causing all this suffering and death, and that we have a right, as a higher form of life, to do whatever we want to other animals.

I believe animal rights issues to be pretty important, and I devote a lot of time to trying to improve the way we interact with the other species with whom we share the planet. Having said that, I also recognize the importance of helping in and of itself, and I will not question someone’s choices if they happen to feel passionate about something different from what I’m passionate about. Judging someone on the basis of whom they choose to help is just plain silly. There are many injustices out there, and plenty of room for all of us to chip in and help. I focus on our relationship with other animals because I truly believe that the current one is dragging the world down and causing a lot of negative consequences for us all. Others will choose to get involved in other issues, important issues they are equally passionate about or feel a personal connection to. So let’s not waste our energy on silly questions, but rather do our best to try to improve the world that we live in. This will benefit all of us much more in the long run.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

COOL PLACES AROUND THE WORLD: Caligari Café (Guadalajara, Mexico)

This hip cafe/restaurant with a bohemian slant, located on the southern edge of the Santa Teresita (Santa Tere) neighborhood in central Guadalajara, is the perfect place to grab breakfast, coffee, or a beer (they have a pretty good selection of microbrews).

Address: Juan Manuel 1406, Guadalajara, MX


Vegetarian/Vegan: Quite a few lacto-ovo veggie options, not sure about Vegan options.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Using our love for our pets to learn to empathize with other animals

People all over the world have pets that they love very much. In some countries, pets are treated as family members, while in other countries, less so. Still, in both cases, there is enough respect for these particular animals to make the idea of eating them seem cruel. After all, someone might say, these are pets, and while other types of animals are meant to be eaten, pets are not. This, of course, is not true per se, and depends on your perspective. If you look at eating habits around the world, what is acceptable in one culture is often deemed unacceptable in another. Cows are sacred in India, while they are slaughtered by the million in Texas. Cats and dogs are beloved by people in many parts of the world, but both are eaten in parts of Asia, among other places. The easiest way to break the cycle, to stop eating the meat of an animal, is to have a personal connection to that animal. This is why people who have cats or dogs will, generally, never even think about eating them; or why rat owners are sickened at the thought of animal experimentation; or why bird watchers sometimes get so attached to birds, they would never want to see one harmed.

I believe that every step we take to stop eating animals is a good step. Every instance when a species is taken off the "list of animals to be eaten" constitutes progress. Whenever we start to feel that personal connection to a certain animal, we should be happy. We should be grateful that we are lucky enough to love our cat, dog, guinea pig, turtle, hamster, etc., but should also use this opportunity to expand this love to include other animals. Why? Because a connection to one animal is like a seed that can eventually grow into a beautiful tree of compassion for all animals. We must remember that no animal wants to feel pain or suffering, whether it be our dog or cat, or a pig, cow, or sheep. No animal wants to be hoarded and confined in a small, crowded area. We hate the thought of our pets being in this situation, but chickens, and many other farm animals often live their whole lives in dark, confined spaces, only to be killed at the end. When we see reports of dogs and cats crammed into cages, we feel horrified, and justifiably so. We should try to grow our empathy for other animals, so that we have the same sort of reaction when we see them in such situations. They deserve our sympathy and our help as well. Again, don’t be afraid to make the connection. We should remember that these animals have the same emotions as the animals we call pets, and are often as smart, if not smarter, than our pets are. The only reason that we sometimes feel that there is a difference, is that we have been conditioned to make this distinction.

By spreading some of the love and respect to other animals, we can eventually begin to fully understand the injustices of our current relationship with the rest of the animal world, and to take concrete steps to eradicate these injustices. While we will never eliminate every inconsistency in what we do, we should at least take steps to eliminate obvious double standards such as the one described above.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Pescetarians (also spelled "Pescatarians") avoid every type of meat except for fish and seafood. Many people all over the world (especially in many Asian countries) mistakenly believe that people who eat fish and seafood are actually vegetarians, when in fact they are not. Before getting into why I think one should not eat fish, I would like to state that I, too, was a pescetarian for about a year before I switched over to vegetarianism, and later, veganism.

There are two main reasons why people choose to become pescetarians. Some decide on this type of diet because they don’t have the same amount of empathy for fish and other marine animals as they do for cows, pigs, sheep, etc. They feel that fish either don’t have feelings, or somehow don’t deserve as much respect as other animals do. Others feel that fish, unlike other meat, is too healthy for us to give up. In their view, without fish, we would not be providing our body with the nutrients we require. The first reason, the lack of empathy for fish, is a common one. When I gave up other types of meat, I didn’t give up fish because I just didn’t feel as sorry for them as I did for other animals. Now, having developed a deeper empathy, I realize that this way of thinking was wrong. First of all, there is quite a lot of scientific evidence that suggests that fish are, in fact, more intelligent than many of us had previously thought. The fact that they are marine animals and function in a different way than the land animals that we are familiar with should not mislead us. Fish are sentient beings, just like humans, cows, deer, and other animals. This, on an ethical level, should be enough for us to respect them (even if we can’t yet empathize with them) and to stop eating them. Besides, this respect can sometimes eventually give rise to empathy, as was the case with me. When I stopped eating fish, I didn’t really feel much compassion for them, but with time I started to feel this compassion more, especially when I thought about how so many people who are very conscious about the suffering of other animals seem to disregard the suffering of our marine friends. Another ethical paradox is the fact that many of the same people who would never eat the meat of a dolphin, or a whale, would have no problem eating the meat of a trout, or that of a red snapper. I ask myself, is this a question of size or intelligence? Neither argument is satisfactory, in my opinion, as both are trumped by the respect for sentient life in and of itself.

As far as healthy eating is concerned, the case against consuming fish can be argued quite effectively as well. First of all, most of the fish and seafood that is sold in supermarkets is generally not very healthy. Farm raised fish, which accounts for a big percentage of supermarket fish, often has high levels of mercury, and since many fish are given antibiotics (and their environment treated with pesticides) to ensure they don’t get sick, any nutrients that you get from them will most likely be offset by the negative side effects of these practices. The truth of the matter is that you can find all the nutrients that you normally get from fish and seafood in a vegetarian or vegan diet. Let’s take something that most people think they can only get from fish: Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. In fact, flax seeds combined with a couple of other simple ingredients will provide you with a great meat-free source of these important nutrients. Anyone concerned about losing the positive nutrients provided by fish only has to do a simple Google search in order to find non-meat alternatives to each of these.

Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll consider cutting down on fish and seafood, if not eliminating them completely from your diet. While not as cute and cuddly as baby mammals, as sentient beings, they deserve the right to live as much as any other animal.

Friday, November 2, 2012

An Effaist feeding walk (Un paseo de alimentación effaísta)

While I was on vacation in Mexico recently, I came up with an idea to help the stray dogs there, and to raise awareness about their suffering. I went on what I called "feeding walks". Among other things, they served as an important reminder that the power to make a difference is often in our own hands.

I have never liked the fact that people would go on vacation somewhere and be either blind or oblivious to the injustices of the region. Granted, some of these injustices are complicated in nature, especially when they're part of a culture’s social fabric, and require a lot of research before one gets involved in them. Some issues, however, like the plight of hungry stray dogs, are relatively easy to get involved in. Basically, I felt so bad for the emaciated hungry dogs digging in the garbage that, true to my Effaist beliefs, I decided to help. I bought a 4 kilogram bag of dog food and I spent several evenings feeding pretty much every stray dog that crossed my path. Many of these animals were hesitant at first, giving the impression that they had been either chased away and/or mistreated many times beforehand. Once they had gained enough confidence and started eating, though, I could tell that many of them were really hungry.

So what did my series of feeding walks change? And did they, in fact, do more harm than good by giving these dogs false hope (as some might think)? I would argue that these types of feeding walks do indeed accomplish several things. First, they give the dogs a break from hunger, and from the trash that they normally dig through. Second, they show people that there are individuals out there that care about these animals, which may, in turn, encourage others in the area to start doing the same. People would often stop to ask me what I was doing, and most whom I spoke to had a very positive reaction to the whole idea. Even in our crazy world, I believe good deeds are infectious, and there are indeed people out there who only require this small push to start helping themselves.

To answer the second question, feeding a dog regularly and then stopping can indeed be very dangerous, as the dog may very well become attached and expect food from you at a given time and a given place. This should only be done if you know for a fact that you will be around for that animal. A feeding walk is different in that it is not a permanent solution. Like I stated above, it provides a temporary break for these animals. This, of course, does not mean that a permanent solution is not needed. Among other things, a feeding walk is a reminder of the need to fight for a permanent ethical solution to the problem of strays – education about the proper treatment of pets, the creation and implementation of spay and neutering programs, the creation and implementation of catch and release programs, providing more support for no-kill animal shelters and animal rescue organizations, the encouragement of adoption of strays from shelters. After going on several feeding walks, one almost always wants to get involved in one or more of the above-mentioned ways in order to keep helping these animals in a more permanent capacity.

Since the act of helping innocent beings is a very positive one, every Effaist feeding walk will have positive consequences for the world. Although the act itself only provides temporary relief from the hard lives these poor animals live, it serves as a reminder, both to ourselves and others, that there is a problem, and that something should be done to help these animals. The next time you travel to a part of the world where there are many stray dogs or cats, or if you live in one of these regions, please consider taking a little bit of time and going on a feeding walk of your own.

Últimamente cuando estaba de vacaciones en México, se me ocurrió una idea para ayudar a los animales callejeros y para levantar conciencia sobre su sufrimiento. Hice una serie de paseos, que en ingles llamé "Effaist feeding walks", que llevan a una conexión al sufrimiento animal (en este caso de los perros callejeros). Aparte de eso, son un recuerdo importante de que el poder de hacer una diferencia está en nuestras manos.

Nunca me había gustado el hecho de que mucha gente, estando de vacaciones en algún lado, ignora o hace que no ve las injusticias de la región. Claro, algunas injusticias son muy complicadas ya que forman parte de la fábrica social de una cultura y, por lo tanto, requieren mucha investigación antes de involucrarse. Sin embargo, hay males, como por ejemplo el sufrimiento de los animales callejeros, que son mucho más fáciles a remediar. Yo, simplemente, me sentí tan mal por los perros hambrientos buscando comida en la basura, que, recordando los principios effaístas que trato de seguir, decidí de ayudar. Compré una gran bolsa de comida para perros, y pasé un par de horas cada día dando a comer a cada perro callejero que me topé. Al principio, muchos de esos perros tenían miedo de acercarse, dando la impresión de haber estado asustados o maltratados antes por personas poco compasivas. Una vez ganada la confianza, se notaba que la mayoría de los perros tenían mucha hambre.

Entonces, ¿cambiaron algo estos paseos? Y (según algunas personas) ¿no hicieron más daño a estos perros, dándoles esperanza falsa? Yo diría que estos paseos sí lograron un par de cosas importantes. Primero, dieron a los perros un descanso del hambre y un descanso de comer la basura que comen normalmente. Segundo, enseñaron a otras personas que hay gente a quién le importa el bienestar de esos animales, lo que pudiera animar a otras personas en la zona a ayudar también. Mucha gente me paraba para preguntar que hacía, y la mayoría de las personas con quienes hablé tenían una reacción muy positiva a la idea. Hasta en nuestro mundo loco, creo que uno todavía se puede permitir contagiar por la influencia positiva, y que hay personas que solo necesitan un pequeño empuje para empezar a hacer cosas buenas ellos mismos.

Para contestar la segunda pregunta, sí, dar a comer a un perro regularmente y después dejar de hacerlo puede resultar en problemas, ya que es probable que el perro ya estará acostumbrado a recibir esta comida en el lugar de siempre y al mismo tiempo. Este tipo de cosa sólo deberíamos hacer si sabemos que vamos a estar ahí, y que el perro podrá contar con nosotros. Los paseos que describí arriba no son lo mismo – son una solución temporal, un descanso del sufrimiento. Obviamente, eso no significa que no tenemos que buscar una solución ética y permanente. Al contrario, los paseos effaístas son, entre otras cosas, un recuerdo de la necesidad de encontrar una buena y compasiva solución al problema de los animales callejeros – de establecer programas para educar al publico sobre el buen trato de las mascotas, de crear y implementar programas de esterilización, de financiar mejor los albergues y refugios que no matan a los animales (de tipo "no-kill"), de animar al publico de adoptar las mascotas en vez de comprarlas, etc. Después de hacer unos paseos effaístas, uno casi siempre quiere involucrarse más en estos asuntos, para poder ayudar a esos animales en una capacidad más permanente.

El acto de ayudar es algo muy positivo, y cada paseo effaísta que haces resultará en consecuencias buenas para el mundo. Aunque en si mismo es sólo una solución temporal, es un recuerdo importante tan para nosotros mismos cómo para otra gente, de la importancia de hacer algo para ayudar a los animales que sufren en el mundo. La próxima vez que visites una región donde hay muchos animales callejeros (o si vives en una región así), piensa, por favor, en comprar una bolsa de croquetas, y de dejar un poco de comida (y agua) para los animales de la calle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween E-Cards (Animal rights/Effaism) came up with a great collection of e-cards called "Truly scary Halloween cards", dedicated to raising consciousness about the (as the name implies) truly scary ways in which many animals around the world suffer.

There are a total of 9 e-cards. Get them, send them, post them, and help raise consciousness about animal suffering. Here's one of my favorites from the collection:

Friday, October 19, 2012

I used to be a vegetarian

Back in September, I met a couple of people who "used to be a vegetarian", but no longer were. Generally speaking, there are many reasons someone becomes vegetarian/vegan, and many reasons one stops being one. I would argue that any vegetarian/vegan who goes back to eating meat never fully connected to a true and deep-seated empathy for other animals. People who become meat-free because it's fashionable, to impress someone, or for other similar reasons, obviously often fall out of the lifestyle as quickly as they fell into it. Even those who become a vegetarian/vegan for health or environmental reasons (both very valid concerns) risk being knocked off their path if their foundation is not strong enough. They might read a new report on the "health benefits of eating meat", or buy into the idea that sticking to free-range products is "good enough", etc.

People who have achieved a deeper level of empathy do not get knocked off their path. A true realization of the unfairness of our current treatment of other animals and the resulting empathy this generates in us are not temporary phenomena. They last a lifetime. Furthermore, they produce an incredibly strong, almost unshakable conviction, one that bypasses temporary trends. This conviction is unwavering. For people who feel this true, permanent empathy, questions such as "are you still vegetarian/vegan?" seem as ridiculous as asking if their heart is still beating, or if their brain is still working. The compassion we feel flows through our blood. We are part of it and it is part of us. Much like enlightenment, this phenomenon is hard to explain to people who have not attained it. What is important is that we try to take steps to attain this level of empathy, even small ones, and even if it seems "unreal" or unconvincing at first. Why? Because compassion is progress, and a truly compassionate way of life leads to a better, fairer world for all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Anita's Animals - A no-kill sanctuary for abandoned animals in San Juan Cosala, Mexico

When I lived in Mexico in 2008-2009, I had the privilege of meeting one of the kindest, most selfless people that I've ever known - Anita Strehlow, founder of the no-kill sanctuary she calls "Anita's Animals". Born in Germany, Anita has been helping the animals of the Lake Chapala region in the Mexican state of Jalisco for over 20 years. She takes in all abandoned animals, nursed them back to health if they're sick, pays for spaying/neutering them, and tries to find good homes for them whenever possible.

Anita receives no funding from the local government, and relies entirely on private donations. Recently, with the escalation of violence in Mexico, many of the foreign residents, many of whom supported her while they were living in the area, have moved back north. Although Anita accepts money via Paypal, many of these people seem to have opted for an "out of sight, out of mind" approach to her refuge.

After visiting her recently while I was in Mexico, I created an Indiegogo page to raise money for Anita. If you're looking for a good way to help animals, I can vouch for the fact that this is one of them. Any money you give will help Anita continue doing the good work that she does in a region where refuges such as hers are almost non-existent.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why it’s important to act instead of complaining

I was talking to a woman yesterday about some stray cats in our neighborhood and she mentioned that she had seen someone trying to poison them. I asked her if she had called the police, to which she replied that she had not. “They don’t care about things like that”, she said.

On one level, I completely understand her. The police in many countries, including this one, have often proved themselves less than stellar defenders of animals. Yes, there is a growing consciousness out there about the plight of animals, and the need to protect them against abuse and mistreatment, and new animal protection laws are being created. These laws, however, are often not enforced, since the police are seldom as advanced in their compassion as the lawmakers who created the laws. One way to remedy this is by making sure that the people who create these laws follow up on them, ensuring that the people who later enforce them are briefed on their importance. They shouldn’t just be created and then forgotten.

The most important thing to remember here is that a better society, one in which animal protection laws are both created and properly implemented, starts with us. As always, we can either accept the injustices around us, or take concrete steps to change them. The woman who I mentioned above is obviously a kind person, one who cares about animals. Still, I can’t help but think that she could benefit these animals a lot more if she would take even the tiniest step to try to change the way the police treat these types of cases, instead of just complaining about this. Whether we’re talking about the government, legislators, the police force, etc., things only change when people get vocal and get active about the injustices that bother them. Every voice counts, and the more voices speak up, the more likely they will be heard. If this woman, and 20 individuals like her, for instance, call the local police station and voice their concern over people poisoning animals, there is a better chance that this injustice will register on the police’s radar as something that has to be dealt with. If not, the police might not be aware of this, or, as is often the case, not aware of how important it is to people. This type of ignorance should be challenged, not smugly frowned upon. This is especially important when dealing with animal protection issues, as there is a lot more ignorance (and lack of interest) in these types of matters than with matters where people or physical property are concerned.

Whenever we feel helpless, we should remember that everyone who has undertaken a seemingly impossible task has felt the same. History is full of such cases, many of which have made the impossible possible. There were times when people thought that children would never stop working in factories, where women would never vote, where slavery would never end, where violence would never dissipate, where animals would never get laws of any kind. All of these presuppositions have been proven wrong, but not because people quietly complained about how unfair the world was, but because they didn’t give up and took concrete steps to remedy the situation. If it wasn’t for this type of attitude, nothing would have changed.

The longer we let things stagnate, the more stagnant they will become. If we see an injustice, we should report it – to the police, to our local government, to our representatives, to animal protection societies. If we live in a society where these channels are ineffective, we should get together with other like-minded individuals and try to change the channels. This is the path to progress. As conscious individuals, we should assume an active role in showing people a better way to interact with other animals, one based on empathy and respect. It’s up to us to be vigilant, and to try to incorporate the fair treatment of other animals into our society.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Johnny Cash on the Planet of the Apes

... in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - quite possibly the least flattering rendition of Johnny ever.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A vegetarian Thanksgiving

Tofurkey with non-meat gravy and stuffing, yams, potatoes, mushrooms, fried carrots and cauliflower, cranberry sauce, etc, etc, etc, etc,...

On this day of giving thanks, one of the things I'm most thankful for is the fact that my mom and I can share and enjoy a cruelty-free Thanksgiving dinner.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Why it’s silly to argue over the taste of meat substitutes

Last month I wrote an entry about meat substitutes, and why there is nothing wrong with consuming them. Today I’d like to look at another issue that’s often discussed regarding these products – their taste.

I’ve heard many times that veggie hot dogs and hamburgers taste nothing like the real thing, and that, generally speaking, their taste is inferior to that of real meat products. While a carnivore may (or may not) complain about the taste of a veggie hamburger or hot dog, I, for example, would pick the taste of a veggie-burger any day over that of a real burger. Part of me wants to convince carnivores that this is because there are more and more veggie-based meat substitutes that do taste fantastic. These days, these products are not only bought by vegetarians and vegans, but by an increasing number of meat eaters. I’ve had many veggie burgers in many restaurants around the world and most of them have been very tasty.

Still, I feel a little torn making this argument. While I don’t want to sound like I’m agreeing that meat substitutes taste "worse" (I think I’ve made it pretty clear that this is not the case), I also feel the need to remind people that taste is not the key element here. When all’s said and done, this shouldn’t be a taste contest. To put it bluntly, real burgers are made from the flesh of murdered animals, while meat substitutes are not. Real burgers are a product of the meat industry, which is responsible for killing millions of innocent animals daily, while meat substitutes are not. Avoiding meat represents progress for humanity, while eating it does not. Ultimately, these are much more important considerations than taste. True progress comes when we realize that the unmistakable taste of dead flesh actually represents an immense amount of animal suffering, and is therefore best left behind. What's more, any person who really cares about animals will gladly sacrifice even more taste than he or she has to in order to progress to a more ethical life. This is the right approach, and the reason why, ultimately, it is pointless to argue about the taste of meat substitutes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

mexico 2012 (part 2)









Lo de Marcos, Nayarit:

Lo de Marcos, Nayarit: