The End of Captivity? (review)

The End of Captivity?The End of Captivity? A Primate’s Reflections on Zoos, Conservation, and Christian Ethics. Tripp York. Cascade Books, 2015. 135 pages.

The End of Captivity? is a short, open-ended Christian meditation on humans and their effects on wild animals. The book is both challenging and infuriating at the same time. It is challenging because it asks us to question the basic logic that puts animals in zoos. But it is sometimes infuriating because, as the author points out, human dominion over the planet is so complete that there isn’t very much space around for wild animals. Where, exactly, can we send them? Continue reading

Sometimes words matter

This was delicious.

This was delicious.

A lot of people, reading my previous two posts on defining veganism — including some people who commented on them — reacted by saying: “it’s all semantics.” Who cares about the precise definition of veganism? This will never matter.

Actually, yes, words do matter, and here’s a major case in point — the history of Buddhism. The first precept of Buddhism is expressed in various ways, often as “not to take life” or “not to kill any sentient creature.” The Detroit Zen Center gives the precept as “Do not harm, but cherish all life.” That is very close to a vegan commandment. Continue reading

Is veganism ambiguous?

This was delicious.

This was delicious (at “Modern Love”)

Veganism could be an ambiguous concept. Is this a problem?

The original basic idea of veganism is the principle of ahimsa, or not harming sentient creatures. In the overwhelming majority of cases it is perfectly obvious (both to vegans and nonvegans) what is, or is not, vegan. But at the edges of the concept, there are ambiguities, and sometimes disagreements; different people use the term “vegan” in slightly different ways. Why do these and other ambiguities arise, how important are they, and what (if anything) should we do? Continue reading

Kate Lawrence on media overconsumption

The Practical Peacemaker, by Kate Lawrence - coverKate Lawrence, author of The Practical Peacemaker: How Simple Living Makes Peace Possible (Lantern Books) was interviewed as part of the “Authors @ Douglas County Libraries” series. This is the third short excerpt from the interview, on media overconsumption and advertising, recently uploaded to YouTube. For more about the book see Kate’s blog.

Talk on “Environmental Destruction and Livestock Agriculture”

Keith AkersIn case you’re in Denver this Tuesday (September 29), I’ll be giving a talk at the University of Denver on “Environmental Destruction and Livestock Agriculture,” sponsored by the DU Environmental Team. It will be at 8 p. m. in room 253 of Sturm Hall (2000 E. Asbury Ave, Denver, Colorado). There will be a quick overview of basic environmental issues relating to the livestock industry, such as climate change, resource depletion, and mass extinctions. It’s free and there will be vegan goodies served. For more details, check out the Denver Vegans Meetup site.

Kate Lawrence on vegetarianism

Kate Lawrence, author of The Practical Peacemaker: How Simple Living Makes Peace Possible (Lantern Books) was interviewed as part of the “Authors @ Douglas County Libraries” series. I have recently uploaded the following short excerpt on vegetarianism from the interview to YouTube. For more about the book see Kate’s blog.

Whole Foods to stop selling rabbit meat

Nutmeg Sprinkles IMGP0537 rabbitsThe Rabbit Advocacy Network, the House Rabbit Society, and SaveABunny, released a statement on Tuesday (September 15) saying that they were “thrilled to announce the end of rabbit meat sales at Whole Foods Market.” A House Rabbit Society member, who was also a long-time Whole Foods shareholder, traveled 800 miles to attend the annual Whole Foods Market Shareholders Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, and made a plea to the Whole Foods leadership team on behalf of the rabbits. Continue reading

Lisa Levinson and Vegan Spirituality

Lisa LevinsonLisa Levinson organizes Vegan Spirituality groups, retreats, and online gatherings across the country as part of In Defense of Animals’ Sustainable Activism Campaign, offering emotional and spiritual resources for animal activists. We recently discussed Vegan Spirituality and this is what she said.

Question: How did you get started down the idea of “vegan spirituality”? What is your religious / spiritual background? Continue reading

Technical Issues with “Compassionate Spirit”

Keith AkersThis site has had some technical issues in the past 24 hours as I make the transition to a new web host. You may have seen a strange-looking page, “not found” messages, and so forth. I have also purged some, but not all, of the older static files (there were some items going back over a decade). The problems have now been resolved; let me know of any issues you have accessing the site. UPDATE August 22: as of this morning there was still a problem; the site displayed the web host home screen (instead of the main page of the blog). This has now been fixed. Let me know of any further issues or problems.

It’s not about climate change

Several major news sources have stated that the Pope’s recent encyclical is concerned about climate change. The CNN headline summarized the message: “’Revolution’ needed to combat climate change”. The New York Times declared: “Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change.”

Well, yes, the pope is concerned about climate change, but this view of what the pope’s encyclical is “about” is quite misleading. It is about the environment generally and the human relationship to the environment. It is worth actually reading the Pope’s encyclical to see what he does say. Continue reading

What does the Decline of Christianity Mean?

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

The latest data on Christianity comes from a recent report from the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. It sounds as if Christianity is on track to disappear as the dominant religion in America within a generation or two. In fact, it’s possible that Christianity might eventually disappear from American life altogether. Is this good news or bad news? The answer might seem to depend on whether you identify with Christianity. If you’re some religion other than Christianity, or atheist or agnostic, it’s great news; otherwise, not so much.

I’d like to ask a slightly different question — what does this mean for vegans? Even Christian vegans hold a perspective which is so different from that of other Christians, that the decline of Christianity does not clearly have a good or a bad implication. Continue reading

Livestock and atmospheric carbon dioxide

A key cause of climate change

A key cause of climate change

There is now more megafauna biomass (the total biomass of all large animals that are heavier than about 100 pounds) than there has been in recent earth history — indeed possibly in all of earth’s history. It seemed to be fairly constant at 200 million tons for literally hundreds of thousands of years. Then, starting with the industrial revolution and the huge surge in human population and the population of domestic livestock, megafauna biomass has exploded. It is currently about 1500 million tons, over seven times as much. And almost all of this increase has happened just since the industrial revolution.

Whoa! How did this happen? And do you think that all this extra animal biomass would affect carbon dioxide levels? Continue reading

Megafauna Extinctions and Overpopulation

Extinction is a hot topic these days. Megafauna — those “big animals” whose average size is 100 pounds or more — are going extinct at an alarming rate. There is huge popular sympathy for elephants, whales, tigers, giraffes, apes, and other animals endangered by human activities. At the same time, we face a huge paradox: there is more megafauna biomass now than there ever has been for past 100,000 years or so. How can megafauna become more prolific and yet so many species be faced with extinction?

There’s a simple explanation. The cause of megafauna extinctions is one particular megafauna species, namely us, and a number of other species that we have brought into existence, namely our livestock. Continue reading