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.