Tell Air France: Shipping Monkeys for Torture is Unacceptable

From PETA:

Air France claims to be “Making the Sky the Best Place on Earth.” But in reality, the airline is making the sky a dangerous and scary place for many of its passengers. Air France continues to ship monkeys to laboratories, despite the fact that nearly every other major airline in the world has ceased sending monkeys on these horrific one-way flights.

Many of the animals being flown to laboratories have been snatched from the wild, ripped away from their homes and families. Crammed into tiny wooden crates in the cargo holds of passenger flights, they endure a dark and terrifying journey. Passengers above often have no idea how much pain and panicking is occurring beneath them.

Each year, tens of thousands of monkeys are flown to the U.S. from countries such as Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mauritius, and Vietnam. Upon arriving in the U.S., the animals are transported to facilities such as Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories and Covance—the U.S.’ largest importers of primates—to be imprisoned and tormented in experiments.

While pressure from PETA and our supporters caused Air France to cancel at least one scheduled shipment of 60 laboratory-bound monkeys, the company remains one of the largest traffickers of primates in the world. In fact, Air France is the only airline servicing the island of Mauritius—one of the largest exporters of monkeys for use in experiments—that is still willing to ship primates to laboratories.

Fortunately, almost all other airlines—including Aer Lingus, Air China, American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Delta, Lufthansa, and Qantas—have shown great compassion by refusing to transport monkeys to laboratories.

What can you do? Well, if you’re a bunch of animal rights activists, you target Patton Boggs, the chief US lobbying firm for Air France, as myself and about 30 other activists did on Monday, to cap off a successful animal rights conference. What’s crazy is that Air France gave PB a measly $20,000, whereas some of their other clients gave upwards of a million! Shouldn’t this “reputable” law firm drop a small client and stop supporting animal cruelty?

You can also e-mail Air France-KLM directly, at mail.customerservice.cdg@airfrance.fr. Tell them to follow suit of other airlines, like those listed above, and stop helping this unscientific vivisection of conscious, sentient beings. PETA’s action alert, with a pre-filled letter, can be found here. Note that back in January, a campaign similar to this worked, halting a transport of 60 monkeys from from Africa to the United States. It’s time to put the pressure back on!

Photo: airsouffrance.fr

By Any Means Necessary (Reflections on AR 2012)

After 3+ days of a non-stop whirlwind of animal rights activity, I would wager most activists are going home with a paradoxical “tired, but energized” feeling. I know I am – I ended up being sick the entire time (sorry to anyone I may have infected) – I feel a bit overloaded at the now ensuing networking/commenting/e-mailing/upkeep of 100+ new AR friends. But at the same time, if anything has shown me the power of our movement – the movement to end the exploitation of animals for any use – it was this past weekend.

Hundreds and hundreds of animal rights activists attended, from all over the world (mostly US, but a few from Europe, South America, and Asia), each with their own specific cause, group, or passion. Whether it was rescuing primates in the jungles of southeast Asia, protecting feral cats in our nation’s capital, or giving a voice (and face) to farm animals, the sheer volume of animal rights work being done right now is astounding.

Alex Hershaft of FARM – the organizers of the conference – put it well in his closing speech, that year to year, progress seems slow, but with his hindsight of 40 years (he’s been in the AR scene since the 1970s), we have come so incredibly far. Paul Shapiro echoed the comment at Sunday night’s plenary by showing a marked decrease in meat consumption, animals being killed for food (from 2009 on), and of course the vegan options that abound in grocery stores across the country. Seth Tibbot, the founder of Tofurky, was recognized at the talk for his service to vegetarians and vegans worldwide (and I even saw him do some karaoke later!).

Among my insanely long list of “to-dos” from the conference is some research on “conference-going” itself. I’ve been to just a few now, and each time they feel very overwhelming, then comfortable, and then sadness strikes as we leave for home. I’d like to balance those emotions a little more, as well as “plan” to attend less and network/interact more. My plans originally included a whole slew of talks I didn’t make it to, either because of over-crowded rooms, the super awesome exhibit hall were you could hang out for hours and not get bored, or just doing something else. From a “get things done” perspective, it feels like failure to miss many of the talks one planned to see, but it shouldn’t, and I have some great strategies planned for AR 2013.

It was a real highlight to hear people like Peter Hammarstedt of Sea Shepherd and Peter Young discuss direct action so candidly. As Philip Wollen put it, “what is indirect action?” and I challenge you to consider the same thing if you think breaking into buildings to rescue animals that are in pain is somehow unethical. Animals, as we learned, aren’t property: they aren’t pets, they’re companion animals, and we’re not owners, we’re guardians.  If you think that’s silly-vegan-hippie talk, then just consider the power of language as 60 years ago the civil rights movement fought against the word “nigger” instead of black, African-American, or simply, “human.” What we call things, the names we give and the terms we use to describe animals and people do make a powerful difference.

Much like my beloved Vida Vegan Con attendees, people at AR 2012 simply “got it.” They were 99.9% vegan*, they brought their rescue dogs with them (who were all well-behaved), and they sympathized at every story of animal cruelty, be it puppy mills, factory farm torture, or zealous hunters. We bonded over Dandies marshmallows and Tings, and smiled wide as each activist told of what they were doing in their town to promote a vegan lifestyle. I met a vegan forest ranger, a 72-year old vegan woman who was feisty as hell, a TON of vegan straight-edge kids (XVX REPRESENT!), and a lot of people who did a double take when I said I was from luh-a-vull kin-tucky. But we’re everywhere! Vegans from Alaska, from Baton Rouge, from Boston, from California, from New York, and from Hawaii. This isn’t just a group of people who happen to not eat animals: this is a tidal wave of change that will educate, compassion-ate (not a word, yet), and liberate. As it was said so many times, this will all happen, by any means necessary!

See #ar2012 on twitter for thoughts of others attendees. If you wrote a re-cap of the conference, let me know and I’ll link it here!

*I met, I believe, one vegetarian and heard “rumors” of a few others. No judgments! Alex Hershaft’s message to everyone at the beginning of the conference was “leave here a vegan.”

Asheville: Day 1

Note: this entry hopefully marks a slight detour in the purpose, or theme, of the blog. Still vegan, still passionate, but I want to write a little bit more about my life, and some of the things I do. This isn’t for some zealous, narcissistic reason, but that I think adding a personal touch to a blog inundated by heavy politics and animal rights issues might be a breath of fresh air. You’ll see more of this theme in the coming weeks, so leave your thoughts, whether positive or negative, in the comments!

After a lengthy seven hour drive, during which I met 1) a man who asked if I was devil-worshiper, and 2) a man who was a fan of Dan Barker, my partner and I arrived in godless Asheville, North Carolina. Note that both encounters were prompted by my Remembering Never “No God, Know Peace” shirt, so the juxtaposition of religious KY vs. secular NC (at least, Asheville) was humorous, if not sad.

Asheville sits between the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the larger Appalachian Mountain range. Within the Blue Ridge Mountains are the Great Smoky Mountains, and Shenandoah National Forest, as well as Pisgah National Forest, one of the closest to Asheville. As far as beauty goes, you can’t do much better than the scenery here: the mountains rise up high in the distance with beautiful trees covering the landscape year round. Asheville’s history, like many US cities, is dotted with European conquest and bloodshed. The Native American tribe of the Cherokee were the previous residents of the land up until the late 1500s, and only recently has the area bestowed any recognition to the once prior stewards of the land. Asheville’s growth started in the late 1800s due to railroads, George Vanderbilt II and his Biltmore Estate (the largest private residence in the US, to this day), and a bounce back after the depression.

Today Asheville has a reputation for eclectic people, vegan food, and from what I can tell, a healthy dose of anarchy. Within minutes of parking, I saw a CrimethInc sticker on a parking meter, a “Vote Here” sticker on a trash can, and we hadn’t even walked into Firestorm Cafe yet! As you can guess by the name, Firestorm has a liberal, leftist agenda, much like Earth Crisis. Worked owned and operated, they sell exclusively vegan food, coffee drinks, and delicious desserts like chocolate cupcakes and “gingerqueer” brownies. The mood is chill, with everyone from vegans to crust punks to hippies wandering in and out, looking at the anarchist lit, using the wifi, and enjoying life. Surreal, and awesome, all in one.

After wandering the city’s “hip” district, running into a Really Really Free Market (yes!) and buying a “pop-out Boston Terrier,” we hit up Climb Max, Asheville’s sole indoor climbing gym. A little background on my climbing interest: I learned how to rock climb (i.e. belay and tie the right knots) a couple years back at Iron Works in Berekely, CA. That spoiled me, as the routes are clean, well-marked, rated properly, and the gym is super rad. By comparison, almost any other gym is going to be inferior…but still! Mark your shit, people. If tape is falling off the walls, fix it. Keep things clean, rate the routes, and make everything visible. These, to me, are the basics of a having a rad climbing gym.

It was fun to climb at Climb Max, but it’s mostly bouldering, with a spare crash pads and tape going every which-way. What is neat is that the main top rope set up is outside, literally, so passersby can see the action. There were four routes outside, decently marked, but with the dim evening light most were almost impossible to see. In conclusion: I love rock climbing, and I love local businesses, but that doesn’t excuse poor business practices (this is evidenced by Firestorm who are decidedly anti-capitalist, yet highly “professional!”)

Dinner was at Rosetta’s Kitchen, an all-vegetarian diner open late near the river in Asheville. Walking in you see lots of tattoos, “buy local” insignia, and a full wall of literature on everything from reclaiming your sexuality to quitting your job. It’s this kind of stuff that really makes me like the city – this hyper-leftist, anarcho-vegan attitude that seems to be just around the next corner. Food-wise Rosetta’s was the shit; we had a grilled portobello sandwich, “tempalo wings” made with local tempeh, and vegan chocolate cheesecake. They had some all-natural root beer that really was all-natural! Sugar, a bunch of spices, and carbonated water. So good.

Rosetta’s is also awesome for the following reasons: 1) they have a “sliding scale” dish consisting of beans, rice, and veggies that you can buy for $2-$6 – the idea is to not have to turn anyone away who is hungry 2) they have their own line of vegetarian/vegan burgers and other frozen goods sold in local health food stores (Earth Fare, for instance, which is amazing) 3) they’re open until 3am on the weekends and 4) both online and in-store, they offer “community connections” – a way for people to find out about new, progressive events in Asheville, which they actively support.

So far, Asheville is rad, but more vegan food, exploration, and forest trails await!

Photo credit (top): Joshua Cole