Friday, August 12, 2016

Time to resurrect Ye Olde Blogge then

I haven't posted on here in 5 years and it's intriguing to see how much I've changed.  My writing, my thinking, the way I come across, are all different (in a good way, mostly).

Anyway, the reason I am back is that I am doing the Write101x course via EDX.  We were asked to do a journal as part of our progress through the course.  The idea is to come back to this later to compare and reflect on our earlier thoughts and writing.

However I completely suck at journalling and while I actually started off enthusiastically enough, I now don't even know where my journal is.  So I am shamelessly copying this guy's idea.

This could be me, but I'm too disorganised.  Sigh
I will be writing down my thoughts if and when I find some time.  For now I'll just briefly mention one of the activities posted on the forum: Do you agree with Dot Wordsworth's comment that 'it’s cruel not to teach grammar to children?'

Hell.  Yes.

If you don't want to forever stunt a child's potential, teach them grammar.  It will help them express themselves better, it will give them more opportunities, and it will save them from being flamed by grammar Nazis on the interwebs.

Anyway that's enough for now.

How can I refuse?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baby breastfed by vegan mother dies

I posted this rather quick, off-the-cuff response to this blog post:

"Wow. "abstinence from all animal foods is a danger to one’s health and most particularly, your baby!" Uhm, Sarah, not true. A vegan diet can be very healthy but like with every diet, people can get it wrong. The reason we need to get B12 from supplements is simply because our veggies are washed - cyanocobalamin is naturally found in soil and fermented things. The only animal foods with significant levels of B12 are calf's liver and sardines, which not everyone eats. And vitamin A is abundant in red and yellow fruit and vegetables. All the vegans I know are quite knowledgeable on nutrition and would never dream of feeding a child just breastmilk esp when not taking supplements.

I think very few people actually know anything about nutrition other than what they learned at school and home, which often is very limited and outdated. I didn't know that B12 was so crucial until a few years ago, and I don't know many people who have a clue that you need, say, vit D to help calcium bind to your bones, or vit C in order for your body to use iron.

This is a tragic case of parents not being particularly clued up and doctors not doing more when they did have concerns. At any rate punishing parents for being ignorant and suspicious of Western medicine smacks very much of Big Brother, and putting the blame on a vegan diet smacks of bias."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On animal rights

My response to a fellow Facebook user and bird enthusiast, on PETA’s 12 steps (honestly I didn’t know them and frankly can’t be bothered, I don’t need a 12-step programme to teach me what is right). I have had to knok this off inbetween 50 million other things so if there are inconsistenies or errors, you think I'm talking plain old rubbish, please point it out. I know I've left out a lot.

Anyway, PETA’s points (as quoted by the mentioned person) in bold, his comments in italics and mine as is:

1 1. Abolish by law all animal research. (There would be no cures for AIDS, cancer, heart disease, etc., and testing of new drugs would be done on humans, or not at all.)

---this is a long answer and I urge you to read up on the many alternative methods and viewpoints. Animal research is unfortunately hit-or-miss at best (thalidomide anyone?) and many more sophisticated means of testing medicines have appeared, not least of which TraumaMan, cell cultures, lab-grown tissue and organs, computer simulations, microdosing...of course I could also point out the fact that many substances have very different effects on humans than they do on other animals. There’s a wealth of literature out there, should you want to read up more I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

2. Outlaw the use ...of animals for cosmetic and product testing, and classroom demonstration (physicians would perform their first surgeries and procedures on humans without any previous experience).

---again, see my friend TraumaMan above (and computer models, and a myriad of other lovely, interactive and non-icky physical models) for classroom demonstration. Furthermore with over 8000 known safe cosmetic ingredients not to mention the plethora of currently available products, I do not think there is any justification for testing cosmetics on animals. Short of conning people into buying yet another silly anti-aging cream or hair colour, what is the point? Why should animals suffer and die for human vanity?

3. Vegetarian meals should be at all public institutions, including schools.

---what’s the problem there? Surely any child has the right NOT to eat meat should he or she choose not to? Surely only serving animal products can be argued to be infringing on the rights of these children?

4. Eliminate all animal agriculture (resulting in no milk, eggs, chicken, fish, or meat for food, no leather for shoes or clothing). (How many foods do you eat that contain eggs or dairy products, or a derivative of the same? Did you know your keyboard and mouse may have been made with animal products?)

---none. I am vegan and do not use any of the products you mention. I am aware that animal products are ubiquitous but this does not have to be so. The animal agriculture sector is unfortunately also the locus of the worst animal abuses – think battery farming, sow crates, veal crates, dehorning, debeaking, foie gras, downer cows, dumping or alternatively gassing or maceration of day-old male chickens...the list goes on. Even welfarists should be offended at the kind of cruelty routinely perpetrated, not even mentioning specific cases like that of Conklin Dairy Farm. This could be a whole discussion on its own. There are great environmental and nutritious benefits to a vegan diet. If you want to understand my views on food animals, this piece puts it in a far more eloquent way than I can:

5. Eliminate all herbicides, pesticides or other agricultural chemicals. Outlaw predator control.(Farmers would not be able to produce as much food as they do now, driving the cost of living up, and eliminating the export of food to hungry nations. Animals such as coyotes are already a problem in some areas, coming into yards to eat garbage and prey upon outdoor pets.)

---I have no problem with dangerous pesticides (like Aldicarb) and herbicides being eliminated. There are safer alternatives. Distribution issues and politics have a far larger effect on food production and prices than predators and pests. Given that animal agriculture is a current fact of life, I’d far rather support cruelty-free methods like using Anatolian hounds to guard sheep rather than using, say, gintraps or poison. Were there no more animal farming, this would be a non-issue. Pesticides and herbicides are a broader conservation issue – many of our raptors are endangered because of “pest control”. Even our endangered Cape Parrots are killed because they eat from the pecan trees that have replaced their natural yellowwood forests.

6. Transfer enforcement of animal welfare legislation away from the Department of Agriculture. (Animal issues would be controlled by people with little or no experience in customary animal husbandry.

---judging by certain laws like the 28-Hour Law* the USDA doesn’t know too much about animal welfare either.

* whereby a person may not confine animals in a vehicle or vessel for more than 28 consecutive hours without unloading the animals for feeding, water, and rest. 28 hours??? More than a fll day and night. It can even be extended to 36, by written request. Oh and this does not apply to poultry. Neither does the Humane Slaughter Act, which also neglects to protect rabbits and numerous other animals.

7. Eliminate fur ranching and the use of furs.

---and the problem here is? Does anyone here support fur?

8. Prohibit hunting, trapping and fishing.

---once again, I am unable see a problem with that. I realise that I may offend hunters here but I can’t really comprehend the sport in killing animals.

9. End the international trade in wildlife goods.

---I think we all agree with this one.

10. Stop any further breeding of companion animals, including purebred dogs and cats. Spaying and neutering should be subsidized by state and municipal governments until all companion animals are extinct. Abolish commerce in animals for the pet trade. Eliminate pet ownership.

---ok this is a prickly one. Something like 4 million cats and dogs are euthanased in the US annually because humans allow them to breed unchecked and do not look after the young. So clearly there are some problems. I am also most concerned about how many people in the pet trade operate, not least selling wild-caught parrots. However I myself have a number of companion animals; they make me very happy and I provide them with a good home. Some of them are adopted, some (like the mynahs) are invasive species and cannot be returned to the wild here. We have bought a bird from a pet shop. We spotted her when going to buy water bowls and perches. She’s a one-legged yellow-backed lory that was being kept in a hamster cage, away from the other birds. I couldn’t leave her there.

11. End the use of animals in entertainment and sports (resulting in no horse shows, cat or dog shows, animal actors, rodeos, animal movie stars).

---…no elephants being beaten and abused by handlers in circuses, no greyhounds being shot and their ears cut off before they’re dumped, no bullfighting, no “dancing bears”, no dogfighting, no horsefighting (I shit thee not), no fire Taiji see where I’m going with this? Dog and cat shows may be innocuous, many other entertainments are not at all. I am happy to elaborate if you like.

12. Prohibit the genetic manipulation of the species (resulting in the elimination of critical medical research relating to Cancer, AIDS and other life threatening diseases, as well as crop production improvements such as the difference between the Holstein and the Angus, and eliminate all pedigreed animals, etc... ).

---this is a somewhat tricky one. I generally am sceptical of GM (whether breeding or actual GM) because I don’t think we have enough knowledge, wisdom or foresight. Killer bees anyone? Not to mention companies like Monsanto who force food dependency by only providing their super duper disease resistant seed on the condition that farmers have to keep buying from them, etc. I am all for studying genetics, just not too convinced about the manipulation of genes for profit. And of course this would not eliminate pedigreed animals – how would it do that? I don’t have any problem with curbing attempts to breed animals to a point where they are not healthy, like pugs who have respiratory issues and chihuahuas whose legs break like chicken bones because they are just too small. And cows are not crops ;)

You may sympathize with one of the points above... however, do you agree with all of them? If you disagree with only some, you cannot, in good conscience, continue to support the animal rights agenda with donations or support of their legislation. For example, I happen to agree with item 9, above, but if I send money to the animal rights groups, it may be used to support items with which I disagree.

---once again Art, PETA are not the custodians of animal rights, neither of my conscience. Animal rights thinking has existed long before PETA. I do not give them money. I base my ideas on simple extension of human rights (the right to life, the right to bodily integrity, non-intervention, conservation etc.) and furthermore I have read some of the ideas of people like Peter Singer, Gary Francione, James LaVeck, and South African thinkers like Michelle Pickover and Dr Les Mitchell. I do support causes like: CLAW , HHCU , Sharklife , and numerous others that actually put in the legwork of making animals’ lives better. My family and I have rescued, rehabilitated and released numerous birds and other creatures. I try to educate my own child and other children about the importance of treating animals with compassion and respect.

At the end of the day animal rights is not about an agenda, it is a philosophy that has at its core the best interest of animals, not from a condescending viewpoint of the “crown of Creation” or “top of the food chain”, but from a deeply felt need to understand what is truly the best way to co-exist with creatures that are more similar than different to us. I am unable to understand why anyone would oppose this ideal.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Technology rocks

Maybe now that I can blog from the comfort of my phone, I'll actually get around to doing so. Of course I may instead just carry on spending time arguing about animal and human rights with unreceptive people on the internet *shrug* At any rate, I love technology, partially because it allows increasingly sophisticated platforms for people to do what they've done since time immemorial - bickering, showing off and sharing naughty jokes among others. Anyway, as you were
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Of Rhinos and Citrus Trees

This blog post is long overdue about the desperate situation faced by rhinos in Africa but also in response to this post by Kevin Leo-Smith, who believes that our "Western bunny-hugging, conservation attitudes ARE BUSY pushing the Rhino towards extinction." Now while I find that statement, as well as his Facebook statements about "armchair rhino activists" quite insulting and offensive, the future of the rhino are more important than either of our opinions. Thus in the interest of constructive debate, I will engage with Mr Leo-Smith as far as possible. Due to time constraints, I can't nearly address everything I'd like to address, but here goes.

My first question to Mr Leo-Smith is as follows. Is it really our bunny-hugging conservation attitudes, or does it have more to do with the following issues?
  • Certain people believe - despite clear evidence - that rhino horn has medicinal properties, and they are willing and able to pay for these. In Tanzania, among others, there is a thriving trade in the skin and body parts of albinos, as they are believed to possess magical properties. I am sure that Mr Leo-Smith will agree that sustainably harvesting skin from albinos is not an option, but that educating their countrymen could be.
  • Many people in Africa are poor and disempowered. Now we can create a new industry in rhino horn but I have a sneaking suspicion that - much the same as with mining - the (mostly white) investors and business owners that will make the money, while the impoverished Africans will still need to poach rhino to get a slice of the pie . Tourism is widely seen as a part of the answer to Africa's economic problems - I have a hunch that over its lifetime a live rhino is far more valuable to the country than a bit of horn. Also, these are expensive animals and losing them at such a rate must deal quite a blow to these game reserves - not good for our economy.
  • There are people illegally flying around in South African airspace with hi-tech weapons, invading private property and endangering the lives of, not the armchair rhino sympathisers but the actual game rangers, conservationists and normal staff working on the ground. Does anyone else see a problem here? The anti-poaching committee discussion was the first real peep from SANParks, those people to whom us taxpayers entrust this work, and nothing from the government. Perhaps I am paranoid but I am sure there are kickbacks involved here. Why is the military not involved in what is essentially a small-scale invasion? Why does it fall to private reserves to fight this when the military has the skills and the equipment to track poachers and intervene?

Secondly, I would like to point out to Mr Leo-Smith that not all conservationists are privileged whites; not all Africans are potentially poachers, or at all pleased at the wholesale killing of rhinos; and, while I appreciate their circumstances, it is worth remembering that the poachers are also armed and are often more than willing to shoot to kill, and that their opponents - game rangers and the like - are often also poor Africans.

One thing Mr Leo-Smith and I seem to agree on is that education is key, and that we need a multi-pronged approach. I just think that legalising rhino horn is not part of that approach. We will only be endorsing rhino horn as a legitimate product and (as others have pointed out) opening up easy distribution channels for illegal rhino horn. How will the end user be able to tell the difference? And honestly, if we can't monitor armed helicopter gangs, how will we monitor the rhino horn trade? Legalising rhino horn will make a few people a quick buck, and will exacerbate the problem in the long run.

Education, ground-level enforcement, diplomatic efforts between our government and buyer countries, economic empowerment of our people and the commitment of all stakeholders will be necessary. I am willing to, and do, financially support conservation efforts, and am willing to dedicate physical resources to the fight, Mr Leo-Smith, with no expectation of return other than the conservation of a magnificent animal. So, other than legalising rhino horn, what are your suggestions? I am looking forward to hearing them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Creationism, or, please don't challenge my dearly-held paradigm with nasty evidence

I am speechless. I have just read this article * about Creation, a movie about the life of Charles Darwin. People do not want to see the movie because apparently evolution is "a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying".

It suggests a serious lack of understanding of evidence, of scientific method, and imho, of faith. Believing in a deity doesn't mean you have to avoid all knowledge. Accepting evolution as a valid theory doers not mean you can't believe in God. If I were Christian I'd be loads more impressed by a God who designed a universe to adapt and evolve than by one who just made things from clay and sort of stuck them there. And whether or not you believe in macro-evolution, you can't deny micro-evolution** - the ways in which species change and adapt in such small and rapid ways that humans can observe it.

Anyway, I suppose some people are just more comfortable avoiding anything that might challenge their comfort zone.

*thanks to Marcia for the heads up

**thanks to Andre Croukamp for the terms, not to mention lots of material to think about wrt evolution and numerous other things

P.S. I was tagging this and thinking that I need a "wtf?" tag. then discarded that idea because just about every post would require said tag. The world is a strange place, people :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You have the right to freedom of expression, as long as you say what we tell you

This article frightens the crap out of me. Does anyone else think this law is a throwback to apartheid days, when the government decided for you what you were allowed to see or hear? Can you say "unconstitutional"?

It is bleeding obvious what the aim of this law is - to protect our corrupt and incompetent officials against exposure. I can't help seeing in this yet another, and an ominously significant, deviation from that promising path of freedom and democracy that lay before us in 1994. The longer the ANC is in power, they more they resemble the Nats L