Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Retro Active Compassion: Lifelong Vegetarians

Martha with Paul & Linda McCartney
What Is It Like To Be Vegetarian For Decades?
Being a vegetarian (or a vegan) is not a new, unique, special concept. Plenty of people throughout history have been 100% vegetarian. It's neither complicated, nor difficult. Here is an incomplete list of people of renown who've been vegetarians throughout history; while lengthy, I immediately see some missing.

I've been 100% vegetarian, and then vegan, for a solid lifetime at this point––despite the fact that no one immediately around me has been. It's not a lifestyle I acquired from or consistently shared with anyone. Good thing I was never concerned with 'fitting in' and never gave the alienation aspect much thought. I'd always had a live and let live, free-will attitude, so I was never too concerned with other people's choices. Nor were they with mine, since I never really talked about it.

Being a vegetarian was never a 'phase' or a decision, it's just who I am and I never felt like it was a big deal. However, if one were to 'calculate' the number of lives spared by my dietary choices, being a vegetarian/vegan in itself can be a rather significant animal rights contribution (approximately 4,700 beings designated as 'farm animals' have been spared in my case.)

The vegetarian McCartney family on their farm in the 1970's
I feel increasingly discomforted that, given our access to information and exposure to what goes on in the sadistic meat and dairy industries, more people are not becoming vegetarian/vegan (and at a faster rate.) This global love of animal flesh, en masse, supports monstrous industries and a human obsession with 'culture' and 'traditions'. Not reality, not truth.

Entire cultures throughout human history have lived as vegetarians. Longtime vegetarian and animal rights activist Mary Tyler Moore once said she believes a meat-free diet will sooner or later be the norm. "It may take a while,” she told Time magazine. "But there will probably come a time when we look back and say, 'Good Lord, do you believe that in the 20th century and early part of the 21st, people were still eating animals?'"

Animal rights activist/lifelong vegetarian Mary Tyler Moore
Hard to believe we're no closer to this eventuality now than back when MTM said it. Her past optimism is similar to mine during my 20's, and we share the same beliefs. But my optimism has waned in recent years. Today, apathy and ignorance are inexcusable. People consciously choose cruelty when they have other choices. Which is unsettling for me, personally. 

Think to how long ago The Smiths recorded 'Meat Is Murder'. Morrissey has been an impressive pioneer, speaking out on the topic of this exploitative behavior without fail, while others haven't. 
The Smiths, Meat Is Murder; Morrissey has been consistent
The reason these outdated behaviors, ones entirely lacking respect for the nature and the lives of our fellows, have continued––and even expanded to outlandish, mass proportions––is that there are bullying industries out there who want to profit from the choices people are willing to make.
Paul & Linda McCartney, lifelong vegetarians/animal rights activists
All anyone really needs to do to make a big difference is to stop supporting those industries immediately. And to say something about it. Live and let live (and free will) applies to all species. So I do talk about it these days. I stayed quiet for a very long time. 
Paul McCartney continues to share the compassionate message
I'll take this one out with lifelong vegetarian and animal rights activist Paul McCartney with his co-veggie, Linda McCartney––who together raised anti-fur/anti-cruelty fashion designer Stella McCartney.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Retro Active Compassion: Respect For (Non-Human) Animals In 1990's TV/Films

Jingle All The Way (1996); Frasier; Switch (1991); Grosse Pointe Blank (1996)
Compassion in Mainstream 1990's TV/Films (Following Decades of Activism)
I had only seen 'Grosse Pointe Blank' (1996) once, years ago. I watched it again recently and noted how its rhythm, screenplay, soundtrack all have a distinctively 90's feel. All in the best way possible. 

I also appreciated something else: Several times in the course of the film, the characters express concern and compassion for animals. In dialog, alone. For example, when the two leads are getting reacquainted after a 10-year gap, John Cusack's (professional assassin) character explains he doesn't have a wife but he has a very nice cat, and when Minnie Driver's character tells him that's not the same thing, he responds: 'You don't know my cat. It's very demanding.' To that, Driver's character asks (baffled): 'It? You don't know if it's a boy or a girl?' To which he replies: 'I respect its privacy.' For someone who believes in respecting all species –– because non-humans are their own persons, not things –– this pointed dialog in the midst of conversation in an action-comedy film was refreshing to hear. 

Later, when Dan Akroyd's character (Grocer) meets with Cusack's (Blank) for a surprise breakfast, they discuss the controversial error Cusack's character made during a previous job which cost an innocent dog, called Budro, his life. Cusack's character is noticeably upset and says: 'Budro was never a target. Budro was acting on instinct. I would never hurt an animal. I'm offended at the accusation.' Another welcome surprise. This is how two tough assassins can talk in an action-comedy film? Seems like a different world than the one we have today when people shamelessly brag about 'hunting' and killing other species in various capacities. But the clincher was how they ordered their breakfasts! Here's the script from the point when the waitress enters the scene:

WAITRESS: Hi, my name is Melanie. Let me tell you about some of our specials. Today there's the Alfalfa on My Mind. That's our featured omelet. Or there's Gatsby's West Egg Omelet. If in the mood for something different, there's the I Left My Heart in San Francheezie.
BLANK: What'll you have? 
GROCER: Two poached eggs. Scrape off the milky white stuff. Hash browns well done. English muffin for the bread, and a coffee.
BLANK: Wholegrain pancakes and an egg-white omelet, please.
WAITRESS: What would you like in your omelet?
BLANK: Nothing in the omelet.
WAITRESS: That's not technically an omelet.
BLANK: I don't wanna get in a semantic argument. I just want the protein, all right?

Their  options and their choices are not vegan –– but it's all decidedly vegetarian. This is a far cry from what any action-comedy film would include in a food discussion between two manly assassins. There would be plenty of talk about slaughtered animals without the slightest semblance of concern for their welfare. I was frankly amazed to hear this sort of food conversation casually taking place in a mainstream film. And it wasn't that their vegetarian food choices were an issue. This was obviously just normal for these characters.

This past Christmas, my husband and I decided to watch a Christmas movie we hadn't seen before. We were in the midst of watching a 90's mainstream (awkward, inconsistent) family film called 'Jingle All The Way', starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, when something remarkable happened; a supporting character emphatically told a woman on the street: 'You shouldn't wear fur!' Just like that. In a mainstream-Arnold Schwarzenegger-family-comedy-from-the-90's. The lady was undoubtedly considered a villain. 

And then I remembered: This was typical in the 90's. And, as I've shared in frustration before, animal rights activists in the 70's (and 80's) made terrific strides to help alleviate any interest in fur until it seemed only the cruel, heartless older woman was the sole participant in a bygone industry. So what happened?

I saw this again in one of the most successful and mainstream TV shows for the 90's, 'Frasier'. In one episode, Frasier mentions how he knows Maris will react dramatically (as the never-seen but oft-discussed Maris was prone to do.) He says: "She doesn't deal with confrontation very well. I once questioned the political correctness of her serving veal. An hour later, we found her locked in the garage with the engine running on her golf cart!' A TV character known to be food snob was willing to discuss the cruelty involved in serving veal in the 90's. We never hear anything remotely like this on TV today. So again, what happened?

Here's another example I noticed recently in the midst of what I consider to be a dismally bad film. In the film 'Switch' starring Ellen Barkin, the character played by JoBeth Williams wears a fur coat, and an alarmed woman passerby stops her and says: "Do you know how many poor animals they had to kill to make that coat!?" Again, this relatively mainstream Blake Edwards film was released in 1991. Following diligent activism decades prior, the 1990's upheld an existing narrative and everyday people were disenchanted by the entitled and self-serving woman who was willing to wear a fur coat. So what happened since, allowing the fur industry to seep back into fashion?

With these separate, random examples, it's quite obvious that compassion reached the masses decades ago, despite the fact that today we have far more knowledge and exposure to the tragic cruelties that exist in industries that exploit the lives of non-human animals. I am so proud of the activists who struggled to build that level of awareness so that people were choosing to be relatively conscious back in the 90's. It's heartbreaking that a couple of decades later, we see how entitlement and greed came back full force to eliminate all of the progress that was made before, taking us many steps backwards. 

Indeed, we should be looking back at the 90's and seeing how much we have progressed from that time to be coexisting respectfully along with our fellow Earth-dwellers –– instead, we have this. Things are for worse today. Farm factories, fur factories, even canned hunting factories. It's truly abominable to see where we are today. Those struggling to encourage a compassionate lifestyle must constantly swim against a tide of overwhelming force. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Greed Slaughters Innocents: Haunting Tragedy of Badfinger Still Resonates

Heartbreaking Plight of Badfinger, Not Unlike That of Other Exploited Animals

Innocents who suffered terribly for the sins of those in power, Badfinger were like factory farm animals of the music industry in the 1970's. This footage (below) is deeply sad if you look closely. They are so pale. There is no joy behind their eyes. Here was the first group to be signed by Apple Records (until Stan Polley tricked them into leaving and ruined them.) They were incredibly respected by their peers for years. And yet, they appear embarrassed on camera. It's the look of poverty.

They were working on recordings at a country home where this promotional footage was filmed. At the time when this was shot, they couldn't afford much food, let alone spiffy clothes. They certainly don't look like hit-making rock stars, although they very much were. They seem weak as they play their instruments. And they are painfully shy in the exterior shots. 
Theirs is the darkest 'behind the music' nightmare story. These sensitive, gentle artists did not put up a fight or make their struggles public. They were so young. They had hit records. They should have been enjoying their success. Their records sold big, made a few greedy people plenty of money. There's such joy in this 'power-pop' song; 'No Matter What' would soon be shooting up the charts.
The band was trapped into evil contracts by abusive management. And no one helped them. There were those who could have helped them. (People knew, but kept quiet, kept living their good lives.) Those who knew (Macca? Lennon? Nillson?) must have carried plenty of guilt for after sweet and talented Pete Ham killed himself, following years of this trouble. Pete Ham felt responsible for his bandmates and worried that he couldn't take care of his little family financially, all whilst he had hits on the radio.

Imagine hearing your chart-topping songs everywhere –– even one that became a 'standard' recorded 200+ times by other artists, 'Without You' –– and being too poor to buy a pint at the pub. They were famous rock stars unable to afford to care for their loved ones. Meanwhile, their contemporaries partied, rode around in limos and wasted all their money. The two guys from Swansea and two from Wales who made up Badfinger were trapped in music industry hell. Tom Evans offed himself some time after Ham.

This is so-called 'humanity'. Those in power (i.e. Big AG –– and in the case of Badfinger, evil Stan Polley) take advantage of those who are gentle. The ones who should be defended, and protected. Not slaughtered. Human greed is a serial killer as every industry proves. The fact that we live in a world in which sadistic factory farms, canned hunting farms, fur farms, etc. are legal is beyond disturbing.

Meanwhile, the blissfully ignorant choose to remain blind to all of this suffering. Apathy helps maintain the cycle of cruelty. There is no difference which species suffers quietly. It's always tragic, always preventable. One only has to look to see.

Badfinger is the band that died for all the sins of the music industry. Just one industry in this sick, twisted world filled with humans who destroy one another –– and more troubling, humans choosing to destroy the lives of all other species.