Monthly Archives: April 2010

Famous Vegetarians

If you’re veg, you’re in good company! (Note that all of the Beatles are on this list!) The ones I find most impressive are in bold, and if they’re vegan I noted it after their names.

Albert Einstein, scientist
Albert Schweitzer, philosopher and theologian
Alice Walker, writer
Alicia Silverstone, actress (vegan)
Alison Lohman, actress
Allen Ginsberg, poet
Alyssa Milano, actress (vegan)
Angela Bassett, actress
Anna Paquin, actress
Anne Hathaway, actress
Antoni Gaudí, architect
Anthony Kiedis, singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers
Ariana Huffington, writer and polictical activist
Aristotle, Greek philosopher
B.B. King, musician
Benjamin Spock, M.D., pediatrician
Bill Walton, NBA All-Star basketball player
Brad Pitt, actor
Brandon Boyd, musician of rock band Incubus
Brian Greene, theoretical physicist (vegan)
Charles Darwin, scientist
Charlotte Bronte, novelist
Chris Evert, American tennis legend
Chris Walla, guitarist of Death Cab for Cutie
Christian Bale, actor (Yes, even when he got MASSIVE for Batman!)
Coretta Scott King, activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr. (vegan)
Deepak Chopra, author and doctor
Dennis Kucinich, politician (vegan)
Diane Keaton, actress
Diogenes, Greek philosopher
Dizzie Gillespie, famed jazz musician
Doris Day, actress
Dustin Hoffman, actor
Eddie Vedder, singer and songwriter of Pearl Jam
Elijah Wood, actor (vegan)
Ellen Degeneres, TV personality (vegan)
Emily Deschanel, actress (Vegan)
Emily Dickinson, writer and poet
Epicurus, Greek philosopher
Forest Whitaker, actor
Franz Kafka, writer
Gandhi, Hindu spiritual leader
Gavin Rossdale, singer of BUSH
George Harrison, musician of The Beatles
Georges Laraque, NHL player (vegan)
Gustave Flaubert, French novelist
H.G. Wells, English writer
Harriet Beecher Stowe, writer
Ian McKellan, British actor
Immanuel Kant, philosopher
Ira Glass, NPR’s This American Life
Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nobel Prize winner & Holocaust survivor

Jack Johnson, singer
James Cromwell, actor and animal rights advocate (vegan)
Jane Goodall, primatologist
Jared Leto, actor and singer of 30 Seconds to Mars
Jason Mraz, singer (vegan)
JD Salinger, American novelist
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, philosopher
Jesus Christ
John Cleese, British actor and comedian of Monty Python
J. M. Coetzee, author/novelist
John Lennon, Beatles singer and songwriter
John Salley, NBA Champion (vegan)
Jonathan Safran Foer, author
Kate Winslet, actress
Kirk Hammett, musician and guitarist of Metallica
Krist Novoselic, musician, bassist for Nirvana
Lauren Bush, niece of George W. Bush
Leo Tolstoy, Russian writer and philosopher
Leonard Cohen, singer and songwriter
Leonardo Da Vinci, Italian painter and inventor (vegan)
Lord Byron, writer
Louisa May Alcott, American writer
Mark Twain, renowned American writer
Mary Shelley, novelist
Matthew Scully, conservative political speechwriter and author
Mike Gordon, musician and bass player of Phish
Moby, musician and co-author (vegan(
Mr.(Fred) Rogers, TV personality/host and educator
Natalie Portman, actress
Oliver Stone, American film director
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, musician of The Mars Volta (vegan)
Orlando Bloom, actor
Pamela Anderson, actress
Paramahansa Yogananda, spiritual teacher and yogi from East India
Paul McCartney, musician, singer and songwriter, Beatles guitarist
Percy Bysshe Shelley, writer
Peter Sellers, actor and comedian
Phil Lesh, musician and bass player of The Grateful Dead
Plato, Greek philosopher and student of Socrates
Plutarch, Greek philosopher
Porphyry, Greek philosopher

Rabindranath Tagore, Eastern Indian philosopher
Rainer Maria Rilke, writer
Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and poet
Ringo Starr, musician and drummer of Beatles
Rosa Parks, civil rights activist
Russel Simmons, music producer and co-founder Def Records
Russell Brand, actor
Saint Angela Merici
Saint David (vegan)

Saint Francesco d’Assisi
Sir Isaac Newton, physicist
Socrates, Greek philsopher

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Spriritual leader
Steve Vai, musician
Steve-O, Stunt performer & tv personality (vegan)
Superman/Clark Kent, fictional superhero
Supreme Master Ching Hai, Spiritual leader (vegan)
Susan B. Anthony, women’s suffrage pinoeer
The Roots, all veg band
Thom Yorke, singer of Radiohead
Thomas Edison, renowned inventor
Tobey Maguire, actor (vegan)
Tom Morello, activist and guitarist of Rage Against The Machine
Vincent van Gogh, Dutch Post-Impressionist artist
Voltaire, French writer and philosopher


To New York // Léopold Sédar Senghor

I simply love this poem.


New York! At first I was bewildered by your beauty,
Those huge, long-legged, golden girls.
So shy, at first, before your blue metallic eyes and icy smile,
So shy. And full of despair at the end of skyscraper streets
Raising my owl eyes at the eclipse of the sun.
Your light is sulphurous against the pale towers
Whose heads strike lightning into the sky,
Skyscrapers defying storms with their steel shoulders
And weathered skin of stone.
But two weeks on the naked sidewalks of Manhattan—
At the end of the third week the fever
Overtakes you with a jaguar’s leap
Two weeks without well water or pasture all birds of the air
Fall suddenly dead under the high, sooty terraces.
No laugh from a growing child, his hand in my cool hand.
No mother’s breast, but nylon legs. Legs and breasts
Without smell or sweat. No tender word, and no lips,
Only artificial hearts paid for in cold cash
And not one book offering wisdom.
The painter’s palette yields only coral crystals.
Sleepless nights, O nights of Manhattan!
Stirring with delusions while car horns blare the empty hours
And murky streams carry away hygienic loving
Like rivers overflowing with the corpses of babies.


Now is the time of signs and reckoning, New York!
Now is the time of manna and hyssop.
You have only to listen to God’s trombones, to your heart
Beating to the rhythm of blood, your blood.
I saw Harlem teeming with sounds and ritual colors
And outrageous smells—
At teatime in the home of the drugstore-deliveryman
I saw the festival of Night begin at the retreat of day.
And I proclaim Night more truthful than the day.
It is the pure hour when God brings forth
Life immemorial in the streets,
All the amphibious elements shinning like suns.
Harlem, Harlem! Now I’ve seen Harlem, Harlem!
A green breeze of corn rising from the pavements
Plowed by the Dan dancers’ bare feet,
Hips rippling like silk and spearhead breasts,
Ballets of water lilies and fabulous masks
And mangoes of love rolling from the low houses
To the feet of police horses.
And along sidewalks I saw streams of white rum
And streams of black milk in the blue haze of cigars.
And at night I saw cotton flowers snow down
From the sky and the angels’ wings and sorcerers’ plumes.
Listen, New York! O listen to your bass male voice,
Your vibrant oboe voice, the muted anguish of your tears
Falling in great clots of blood,
Listen to the distant beating of your nocturnal heart,
The tom-tom’s rhythm and blood, tom-tom blood and tom-tom.


New York! I say New York, let black blood flow into your blood.
Let it wash the rust from your steel joints, like an oil of life
Let it give your bridges the curve of hips and supple vines.
Now the ancient age returns, unity is restored,
The reconciliation of the Lion and Bull and Tree
Idea links to action, the ear to the heart, sign to meaning.
See your rivers stirring with musk alligators
And sea cows with mirage eyes. No need to invent the Sirens.
Just open your eyes to the April rainbow
And your eyes, especially your ears, to God
Who in one burst of saxophone laughter
Created heaven and earth in six days,
And on the seventh slept a deep Negro sleep.

Léopold Sédar Senghor, “To New York” from The Collected Poems, translated by Melvin Dixon. Copyright © 1998 by The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia on behalf of the University of Virginia Press. Reprinted by permission of The University of Virginia Press.

Pay it Forward

This year’s international Pay it Forward Day is this Thursday, April 29th. It has now spread to 120,000+ people in 21 countries around the world, and is set to inspire some wonderful random acts of kindness. It would great to have your support. Help spread the word and let’s make this world that little bit brighter:

Visit for more information. You can also print “Pay it Forward” cards, to pass on to people and encourage them to do the same! Be part of the few that do, rather than the many who talk about it.

What random acts of kindness will you pay forward on the day? Here are some ideas:

  • Can for kindness – you can collect cans of non perishable foods and give to a refuge or other organization who would benefit
  • Soap Saver – Getting a bunch of people who all travel for work and stay at lots of hotels to donate the free soap, shampoo and conditioner towards a group that would benefit
  • Book Giving – Collect books and distribute to needy groups (which might be in a poor country)
  • Charity Day – Sausage sizzle, selling chocolates etc. to raise money for a local charity in need
  • Hospital – many patients have to pay for the use of the television……..perhaps you can ask the company involved to offer discounted or free TV for patients on PIFD (or provide some gifts that sick patients might enjoy)
  • Buying the train or bus ticket for the person behind you (+give them a card)
  • Donating some of your professional services to someone in need on the day – free hour consultation / etc….
  • Buy a stranger a cup of coffee and leave a Pay it Forward card for them
  • On a rainy day, buy a few umbrella’s and give them to those who don’t have one and are getting wet. You could attach a Pay it Forward Card to the umbrella
  • Visit your local church and ask if there is any family that might need your help
  • You may consider becoming a Pay it Forward champion and promoting the day to your local community. That way, more people of all ages are inspired to pay the kindness forward

Here’s the facebook book group you may wish to join
(we are aiming for 10,000 members by Thursday)

Vegetarian Recipe Round-Up

Below are some incredible vegetarian recipes – thank you to PBS for compiling them.  I’ve tried many, and the rest look delicious.  Explore the veggie world!  It really does open up your diet to whole new flavors and food experiences outside of the drudgery of a slab of meat with a starch and a boiled vegetable on the side…

Tip: for people looking to have one vegetarian night per week, or decrease their meat intake but face that “holy cow I don’t know any vegetarian recipes!” fear – it’s not true!  Tons of your favorite foods are vegetarian or easily made vegetarian, you just didn’t notice it!  Some examples: spaghetti with marinara sauce (just don’t add meat!), macaroni and cheese (look for cheese without rennet), penne with vodka sauce, tacos (just substitute fake ground ‘beef’; with taco seasoning in it, trust me – you can’t tell it’s not meat), pizza, breakfast for dinner (just nix the bacon), grilled cheese, perogies, quiche, pot pie…plus, it’s easy to forget about meat once you start looking through the recipes below!!!

3 Bean Salad (I Am Not a Chef)
Acorn Squash Tempura With Beet and Honey Vinaigrette (Earth Eats)
Apple Fennel Salad (Simply Raw Recipes)
Asparagus Soup (use real butter)
Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise Dip (Jersey Bites)
Baked Penne with Eggplant (I Am Not a Chef)
Balela Mash Side (Cook Appeal)
Barley and Shredded Beet Salad with Scallions (30 Bucks a Week)
Basic Kale Chips (Simply Raw Recipes)
Beet and Chevre Salad (use real butter)
Better Than Tuna Salad/Sandwiches (PDF from Compassionate Cooks)
Biggest and Tastiest Salad Ever (Simply Raw Recipes)
Bittman’s Flatbread (30 Bucks a Week)
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili (30 Bucks a Week)
Borrachos Remixed (Last Night’s Dinner)
Broccoli Ricotta Pizza (Not Eating Out in New York)
Bulgur and Freekeh Pilaf with Roasted Butternut Squash (Not Eating Out in New York)
Butternut Squash Puree (30 Bucks a Week)
Cabbage, Pear and Pistachio Salad (Not Eating Out in New York)
Caprese Bites (30 Bucks a Week)
Cauliflower Croquettes (Not Eating Out in New York)
Chard Frittata (30 Bucks a Week)
Chinese Scallion Pancakes (use real butter)
Corn, Blackbean, and Avocado Salad (Jersey Bites)
Cornbread (use real butter)
Couscous with Roasted Fennel and Toasted Almonds (Food 52)
Creamy Caesar Salad (PDF from Compassionate Cooks)
Crowd Pleasing Pasta with Tomatoes and Artichokes (PDF from Compassionate Cooks)
Deviled Eggs Three Ways (Not Eating Out in New York)
Easy Roasted Greenbeans (30 Bucks a Week)
Eggplant Fries and Eggplant Caviar (Indian Public Media)
Eggplant, Leek and Orzo Casserole (30 Bucks a Week)
Fennel & Three Bean Salad (Coconut & Lime)
Fresh Veggie Korean Pancakes (Not Eating Out in New York)
Gazpacho Andaluz (John and Lisa Are Eating in South Jersey
Goat Cheese and Mushroom Crostini with Caramelized Onions (Jersey Bites)
Golden Acorn Squash Chili (Coconut & Lime)
Golden Rice (30 Bucks a Week)
Grilled Bread Salad with Peaches and Basil (Last Night’s Dinner)
Grilled Tomato and Cheese (Jersey Bites)
Herbed Feta and Tahini Dip (Not Eating Out in New York)
Honey Wasabi Coleslaw (Not Eating Out in New York)
Japanese Ginger Carrot Dressing (use real butter)
Kale, Mushroom, Tomato and Onion Salad (Simply Raw Recipes)
Lentil Soup (use real butter)
Lentil Loaf (30 Bucks a Week)
Linguine with Eggplant (I Am Not a Chef)
Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese (Food 52)
Mayonnaiseless Coleslaw (use real butter)
Mini Mushroom Pies (Not Eating Out in New York)
Muhammara: Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread (PDF from Compassionate Cooks)
Mushroom Strata (30 Bucks a Week)
Noodle Frittata (30 Bucks a Week)
Organic Market Salad (Working Class Foodies)
Pa Jun (30 Bucks a Week)
Parsnip Pancakes (Not Eating Out in New York)
Pasta alla Puttanesca (Jersey Bites)
Plantains with Lemon Juice and Garlic (30 Bucks a Week)
Polenta with Mushroom Ragu & Poached Egg (Working Class Foodies)
Portobello Burgers (30 Bucks a Week)
Quasi Caldo Verde (30 Bucks a Week)
Quick and Easy Baba (30 Bucks a Week)
Roasted Asparagus (use real butter)
Roasted Asparagus in Browned butter, Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar (John and Lisa Are Eating in South Jersey)
Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli (Food 52)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (use real butter)
Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Dip (Jersey Bites)
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (use real butter)
Roasted Parsnip Puree (use real butter)
Roasted Potato and Green Chile Salad (use real butter)
Roasted Red Pepper Wraps (PDF from Compassionate Cooks)
Roasted Stuffed Squash (use real butter)
Ryan’s Mushroom Poppers (PDF from Compassionate Cooks)
Savory Bread Pudding (Last Night’s Dinner)
Sauteed Snow Pea Sprouts (use real butter)
Savory Chickpea Flour Pancakes (Not Eating Out in New York)
Squash & Kale Bread Pudding (Working Class Foodies)
Summer Vegetable Gratin (Last Night’s Dinner)
Tempeh Pate PDF from Compassionate Cooks)
Tofu Korma Masala (30 Bucks a Week)
Tortilla de Patatas (use real butter)
Tortilla Espanola (Working Class Foodies)
Tropical Fusion Baked Beans (Coconut & Lime)
Vegan Snacks (Working Class Foodies)
Vegetarian Jamaican Patties (Not Eating Out in New York)
White Bean Salad with Peas, Leeks and Walnuts (30 Bucks a Week)
Wild Dandelion Turnovers (Not Eating Out in New York)
Wild Nettle Pesto (Little Homestead in the City)
Yellow Split Pea Soup (30 Bucks a Week)

Animal Facts – Prairie dogs, Rats, and Bats

I’ve been reading the book “Second Nature” by Jonathan Balcombe. In it, he cites countless studies that demonstrate some fascinating characteristics about animals. I’ll periodically be posting some excerpts from the book that highlight some of the most fascinating, impressive, and surprising facts I find in the book. I hope you read the entire entry – there is nothing radical about it, just a beautifully written summary of some of the facts of life we tend to hear little about.

Today we’ll look at three animals – Prairie dogs, rats, and bats. I’ll also include a few more general excerpts from the book (one of which details a fascinating trait of chimpanzees). Enjoy!

Note: I’ve chosen not to include the sources Balcombe cites to save myself time – if you wish to know though, I’ll certainly add them.

Prairie dogs:
“Befitting their social nature, prairie dogs have developed a sophisticated system of predator detection. Their alarm calls convey specific information about an approaching foe, including species, size, shape, and even color. When hawks or humans come into view, prairie dogs run to their burrow entrances and dive inside; if the enemy is a coyote, they watch vigilantly from the burrow entrance, or if it’s a dog, they may just stand erect and watch from where they are foraging. If presented with only recordings of an alarm call in the absence of any actual predator, the rodents respond in kind.

Northern Arizona University biology professor Con Slobodchikoff, who has studied prairie dogs for over thirty years, believe that they have the most sophisticated communication system of any other mammal. To date, research has shown there to be at least twenty different basic prairie dog words describing predators, with many more variations to account for modifiers, totaling about a hundred words. They even have a specialized term for humans carrying guns.

Despite such sophisticated alarm systems, prairie dog populations, once numbering as many as five billion, have plummeted by 98 percent, mainly from extermination and habitat loss. Cattle ranchers have tried to destroy them because of perceived grazing competition (generally unsupported by data). Some hunters even take pleasure in “misting” prairie dogs – shooting the animals with hollow-point bullets that cause them to literally explode in a mist of blood. The fact that there are humans who find amusement in obliterating these harmless animals makes me wonder which species is more admirable.”

“Here’s an experiment from the University of Georgia that set out to examine whether rats have metacognition. Rats were rewarded for pressing the correct lever assigned to either a short (2 to 3.6 seconds) or a long (4.4 to 8 seconds) noise played to them. Before they could press a lever, however, they were required to poke their noses into one of two holes, one of which voided the current trial and advanced to the next one, and the other of which communicated that the rat was going to press one of the levers. Food pellets were dispensed depending on what choice the rat made: a small reward of pellets for choosing to advance to a new trial, a large reward of pellets for a correct lever choice, and no pellets for an incorrect lever choice. As you can see, just learning the experimental set-up requires some cognition on the part of the rats. The next step was even more revealing.

If the noise was obviously long (e.g., 6 seconds or more), the rats almost always elected to take the test, which usually resulted in their getting 6 pellets for a correct answer. But if the discrimination was difficult (e.g., a 4.4 second noise), the rats usually elected to void the trial, earning a smaller reward (3 pellets) in the process. In trials in which rats were not given the option to decline, they showed the lowest accuracy on the most difficult discriminations. Thus, rats appear capable of judging whether they have enough information to pass a test. They know what they know. In other words, they demonstrate metacognition.”
[I’d like to add that both myself and Balcombe heartily disapprove of the studies carried out using animals, particularly rodents – tomorrow I’ll post a passage detailing some of the mental side effects suffered by these obviously sentient, social creatures when kept in a shoe-box sized care without even a place to hide – only a water bottle and a block of processed food.]

“Echolocation is a fantastic adaptation, but it has its drawbacks. Ultrasound dissipates very fast in air, so most bats shout very loudly to detect their own echoes. How, then, does a bat’s ear detect a faint echo immediately after being bombarded with a high-intensity, potentially damaging pulse of sound that may exceed 140 decibels, well beyond the pain threshold of human hearing? The solution is as strange as it is simple: bats disable their hearing during the call phase and reactivate it during echo detection.  The fastest rates of muscle contraction are found in the ears of bats, where muscles may twitch 120 times per second to temporarily deafen the bad.”

Some other excerpts:

On pain and suffering – “In some situations, it is possible that a human’s knowing the reasons for pain – such as a necessary medical procedure – may lessen the experience of pain. British ethologist Donald Broom believes fishes may in some cases suffer more than we do, for they lack ways that we have for dealing with pain. For instance, humans can be told (or we can tell ourselves) that a pain will not last long, whereas fishes presumably are unable to do so. For American ethologist Marc Bekoff, suffering may be greater in an animal with no rich cognitive life with which to remember past events or anticipate the future. In The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain, and Science, American bioethicist Bernart Rollin suggests that animals with a reduced concept of time may not look forward to or anticipate the cessation of pain. ‘If they are in pain, their whole universe is pain; there is no horizon; they are their pain.'”

On instinct “Rene Descartes argued that animals were ruled by an inflexible instinct that cannot aid them in different circumstances. To this day we have a common tendency to reduce animals’ actions to mere instinct.

There is nothing ‘mere’ about instinct. Babies are instinctively drawn to movement and faces. Men are instinctively drawn to women with symmetrical faces and a big waist-to-hip ratio. Women are instinctively drawn to men with a major histocompatibility complex (a dense area of our genetic makeup that plays an important role in immunity) vastly different from their own. Instinct keeps us alive (swerving to avoid a tree), safe (avoiding precarious heights) and intact (removing your hand from a hot element). In a complex world, it would be too time-consuming (not to mention dangerous) if minds had to consciously, rationally, process all the information they are confronted with.

But what is crucial to understand about instinct is that it does not (as is so often assumed) preclude conscious experience. When you jump at a sudden noise, or you blink when something suddenly flashes before your face, you still experience and remember these events, even though your body responded involuntarily. All of the basic feelings we experience are fundamentally instinctual. We don’t intellectually learn that itchy feelings are unpleasant or that the sweetness of a blueberry is attractive, but no one would deny that a mosquito bite or a fruit smoothie are consciously experienced.”

On measuring intelligence – “We have a patronizing tendency to measure other animals’ intelligence against our own. We subject them to a sort of IQ test. Because these tests are devised by humans, they naturally contain human bias. Counting oranges in a box may reveal something of the intelligence of a human, but it sheds little light on the intelligence of a chimpanzee or a parrot. Counting fruit is not very useful to them. Recognizing edible fruits, knowing where they are in the forest and when they are due to become ripe (skills humans generally lack without specialized degrees) – these are useful bits of information to a chimp and a parrot.

Just for the record, humans are not always smarter than nonhumans. The starkest demonstration of this was discovered at Kyoto University, Japan, where a community of captive chimpanzees participated in various studies of cognition. Tetsuro Matsuzawa, who directs the program, presented the chimps with touch-sensitive computer monitors, and they soon learned to obtain small food treats by performing tasks on the monitor. One such task is to recall in sequence the numbers 1 to 9 scattered randomly on a computer screen and displayed for just one second before being replaced by white squares. Ayumu, a five-year-old chimp, excels at this. He casually but quickly points to all the white squares in sequence. Humans barely pass the test with just four or five numbers. When the British memory champiln Ben Pridmore – who can remember the order of a shuffled deck of cards in 30 seconds – competed head-to-head against Ayumu, the chimp performed three times better. When the numbers flashed for just a fifth of a second, Ayumu correctly recalled all nine digits 90 percent of the time, compared to 33 percent for Pridmore. While Ayumu is the best among his chimp peers, the average chimp scores twice as well as the average human on this short-term memory task. It appears our hairy ape cousins have a photographic memory.”

And from the introduction by J.M Coetzee: “Yet at a certain point, Balcombe suggests, principled skepticism can turn into doffed foot-dragging: here he points to a tendency among investigators – each time animals pass the tests we have set for them, they raise the bar slightly higher.”

Book survey

Answer these questions and put your response in a comment! I will put mine up eventually 🙂

1) What was the major theme from the last book you read?

2) Who was the best written character from the last five books you read?

3) Is there a new genre/topic that you’re really looking forward to getting better acquainted with?

4) Three things from recently read books that made you uncomfortable or nervous?

5) Something you read recently that made you gleeful or overcome with admiration?

6) Name a literary character you ‘met’ recently who you really liked?

7) Name a doomed literary character whose death really made you miss them?

8 ) If you could only have access to a dictionary or a thesaurus, which would you choose?

9) What’s the most pointless book on your shelves? The one you blink at every time you notice its existence?

10) What’s the best conversation you ever had about books or a particular book? Who was it with?

When Bolivian circus-animal ban goes into effect, where will the animals go?

This is from the LA Times. After the article are a few videos I’d strongly urge you to view.


She could have lived until 40 in the wild, where the average life span of a lion is double that in captivity. But Maiza is frail and nearly blind after 18 years in the circus, jumping through flaming hoops and performing at the point of a trainer’s whip.

Two of her cubs had their fangs cut for trainers who wow crowds by sticking their heads inside lions’ mouths. Another cub, not Maiza’s, had her claws ripped out at birth — without anesthetic.

Such stories of abuse, along with clandestine circus videos made by animal-rights activists, prompted Bolivia to enact the world’s most comprehensive circus-animal ban.

Maiza, four cubs and a baboon named Tillin are early beneficiaries of the law that takes effect in July. The five cats are headed next month to a California refuge for former animal performers, while the baboon is expected to be housed in a special sanctuary in Britain.

Nobody, however, seems to know what to do with dozens of other animals in small circuses roaming the country. Zoos already are too crowded and, apart from La Paz’s, substandard.

Even the group caring for the first five animals, Britain-based Animal Defenders International, acknowledged it initially didn’t have a place to put them, and it had to import a specialist in large felines because there were no experts in the country to evaluate and monitor the lions’ care.

The Inti Wara Yassi wild animal preserve in central Bolivia, with 1,000 animals, mostly monkeys and macaws, said it could take rescued circus animals, but it would need government support.

ADI, which fought for the ban, said it would like congress to pass legislation regulating sanctuaries and the handling of wild animals before turning the creatures over to preserves such as Inti Wara Yassi.

Even the cost of caring for just the five lions and baboon so far is double the estimated budget.

“I don’t dare give an amount,” said ADI’s Enrique Mendizabal.

Though circus operators were given a year to comply, owner Salvador Abuhadba gave up the cats and baboon last August, saying he didn’t want trouble from the new law.

“They were part of my family … they deserve a dignified retirement,” said Abuhadba, who denies they were abused and has renamed his animal-free operation Abuhadba’s Ecological Circus. “I don’t make the money I used to. People are fascinated with circus animals. But I think I did the right thing.”

The animals’ new caretakers say they were fed Coca-Cola, chicken scraps and leftovers. They suspect the baboon has diabetes and are working with a primate expert in Britain to find out.

Behind the fantasy, illusion and entertainment, the circus hides a life of animal cruelty, said Susana Carpio of Bolivian-based Animals SOS.

A hippopotamus died in his sleep when his circus pool froze over in the Andean city of Potosi, 13,123 feet above sea level. A dwarf elephant was killed by La Paz’s harsh climate in 2007.

“The death of the elephant Rossi moved us to press for the law,” Carpio said.

That same year, ADI infiltrated circuses in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia and filmed videos of the animals chained and crowded in cages barely bigger than they were, living in their own feces, Mendizabal said.

If they resisted their trainers, they would be beaten. Elephants were made to do their tricks with hooks stuck in their skin, according to ADI video viewed by the Associated Press.

The same images were given to Bolivian legislators.

“It took two years to pass the law. Some senators feared the next step would be to ban bullfighting that’s very popular in the eastern villages,” said former legislator Ximena Flores, who sponsored the bill.

While some European countries already prohibit the exhibition of wild animals in circuses, Bolivia’s ban goes further, covering circus use of domestic animals and pets as well.

Carpio said it was possible to pass the law because Bolivia has no strong circus lobby, only medium- and small-tent operations that keep their animals in poor conditions. ADI is pushing similar initiatives in other countries and says it has made the most headway so far in Peru.

Shortly after the Bolivia law passed last July, Abuhadba called Animals SOS to come pick up his brood.

“They opened the cage and gave them to me,” Carpio said. “I didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t have a leash to take them as if they were pets.”

The animals were confined to their circus cages until ADI constructed a secure refuge for them in a Cochabamba park, where neighbors at first complained about the roaring and feared the lions could escape.

Subjugated their whole lives, the lions don’t have the grandeur or courage of their counterparts that dominate the African savanna. But a good diet, nutritional supplements and painstaking care have allowed them to recover some weight and animal instincts.

They each devour a total of 80 to 100 pounds of red meat during three feedings a week.

“Now their fur has regained its sheen and they groom each other, a good sign of recovery,” said Richard Talavera, the chief caregiver.

One Cuban family circus, which has already been fined, still performs with six boxer dogs that play ball in local team jerseys, an AP reporter found. Ekatarina Carranza, who does acrobatics in the circus, says the dogs are pets.

But circuses from surrounding countries no longer travel to Bolivia for fear their animals will be seized.

Major circus operators deny they abuse animals and have tried to distance themselves from the sort of abuse shown in the ADI video. A U.S. court last year dismissed a lawsuit seeking to bar Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses from using elephants in performances.

“We take great pride in our animal welfare and our animal care,” said Stephen Payne, spokesman for parent company Feld Entertainment, which says circus life can even be beneficial for animals.

“In the wild, elephants are threatened by predators, hunters and starvation due to a dwindling natural habitat,” the company says on its website. “The elephants at Ringling Bros. are assured a lifetime of veterinary care, nutritious meals and a clean, safe home.”

Meanwhile, Maiza’s caretakers say she doesn’t have long to live. She and the other lions will travel in May to a 2,300-acre preserve owned by PAWS, the Performing Animal Welfare Society, in Northern California where bears, tigers, elephants and lions that previously lived in captivity and under human abuse now roam.

ADI has committed to paying their keep for the rest of their lives — $75 per day, plus salary and benefits of the keeper. The organization has not decided if it can take on more circus animals from Bolivia.

“I would love it to be the rule and not the exception,” said Pat Derby, PAWS president and founder. “Circus animals never have a nice day. The worst zoo in the world is not as bad as the best circus.”

Top photo: A lion eats at a temporary shelter while he waits to be transported to a refuge in the U.S. Credit: Dado Galdieri / Associated Press
Bottom photo: An elephant’s chained legs at the circus.


Introduction from Matthew Scully’s “Dominion”

“Dominion” is a vital book. Peter Singer calls it “And eloquent polemic against human abuse of animals, culminating with a devastating description of factory farming” in the New York Review of Books. The Rocky Mountain News said “I was saddened, moved, and unsettled by this book. I no longer consider animal rights a fringe movement…In the end, Scully does a brilliant job of planting a very disturbing seed: If we can treat animals this cruelly, what are we capable of doing to ourselves?”

For my part, I’d like anyone who cares for me in the slightest to read this book. It is eloquent, accessible, logical, and wholly without the sort of radicalism that turns many people away from the animal-rights (or animal well-being) cause. Please, read this introduction and please, read the book. I will lend one of my two copies for anyone who asks.

In my view the most pertinent and powerful paragraphs are paragraph 6 (counting the epigraph as a paragraph), paragraphs 10-13, and the final two paragraphs.

Excerpt from Matthew Scully’s “Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy” (2001)


And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and it was so.
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Genesis 1:24-26

It began with one pig at a British slaughterhouse. Somewhere along the production line it was observed that the animal had blisters in his mouth and was salivating. The worst suspicions were confirmed, and within days borders had been sealed and a course of action determined. Soon all of England and the world watched as hundreds, and then hundreds of thousands, of pigs, cows, and sheep and their newborn lambs were taken outdoors, shot, thrown into burning pyres, and bulldozed into muddy graves. Reports described terrified cattle being chased by sharpshooters, clambering over one another to escape. Some were still stirring and blinking a day after being shot. The plague meanwhile had slipped into mainland Europe, where the same ritual followed until, when it was all over, more than ten million animals had been disposed of. Completing the story with the requisite happy ending was a calf heard calling from underneath the body of her mother in a mound of carcasses to be set aflame. Christened “Phoenix,” after the bird of myth that rose from the ashes, the calf was spared.

The journalist Andrew Sullivan discerned in these scenes a “horrifying nothingness,” something about it all that left us sick and sad and empty. More than a year has passed since the last ditch was covered over. But probably you can still recall your own reactions because it was one of those events that made us all pause and question basic assumptions. One knew that something had gone terribly wrong, something deep and serious and beyond the power of vaccines or borders or cullings to contain. We saw in all of their simplicity the facts of the case: Here were innocent, living creatures, and they deserved better, and we just can’t treat life that way. We realized, if only for an instant, that it wasn’t even necessary, that we had brought the whole thing upon them and upon ourselves. Foot-and-mouth disease is a form of flu, treatable by proper veterinary care, preventable by vaccination, lethal neither to humans nor to animals. These animals, millions of them not even infected, were all killed only because their market value had been diminished and because trade policies required it – because, in short, under the circumstances it was the quick and convenient thing to do. By the one measure we now apply to these creatures, they had all become worthless. For them, the difference between what happened and what awaited them anyway was one of timing. And for us the difference was visibility. This time, we had to watch.

Silent while all of this was unfolding in early 2001 were people usually quick to caution against “sentimentality” toward animals. Looking out upon those fields of burning pyres, no one could claim that mankind is going soft. The images bore witness, instead, to an incredible hardness and abandon. It was an “economic disease,” as one writer put it, revealing attitudes there all along and now, in desperation, grimly carried out to their logical conclusion.

The drama had a familiar feel to it, for in a strange way mankind does seem to be growing more sentimental about animals, and also more ruthless. No age has ever been more solicitous to animals, more curious and caring. Yet no age has ever inflicted upon animals such massive punishments with such complete disregard, as witness scenes to be found on any given day at any modern industrial farm. These places are hard to contemplate even without the crises that now and then capture our attention. Europe’s recurring “mad cow” scares have all come about from the once unthinkable practice of feeding cattle the ground-up remains of other cattle. Livestock farmers around the world are becoming “growers,” their barns “mass confinement facilities,” and slaughterhouses vast “processing plants” dispatching animals – “production units” – at a furious pace of hundreds per minute.

When a quarter million birds are stuffed into a single shed, unable even to flap their wings, when more than a million pigs inhabit a single farm, never once stepping into the light of day, when every year tens of millions of creatures go to their death without knowing the least measure of human kindness, it is time to question old assumptions, to ask what we are doing and what spirit drives us on. “Our inhumane treatment of livestock,” as Senator Robert C. Byrd warned in July 2001, in remarks without precedent in the Congress of the United States, “is becoming widespread and more and more barbaric. . . . Such insensitivity is insidious and can spread and be dangerous. Life must be respected and dealt with humanely in a civilized world.”

The attitude Senator Byrd describes has already spread into sport hunting, which is becoming colder and more systematic even as the ranks of hunters decline. In our day hunting has taken on an oddly agricultural aspect, with many wild animals born, bred, and held in captivity just to be shot, and even elephants confined within African game parks to be “harvested” by Western sportsmen in a manner more resembling execution. Wildlife across the world live in a state of perpetual retreat from human development, until for many species there is nowhere else to go, as we have seen for a generation in mankind’s long good-bye to the elephants, grizzlies, gorillas, tigers, wolves, pandas, and other creatures who simply do not have room to live and flourish anymore.

Even whales are still hunted, long after an international moratorium was declared and longer still after any credible claims of need have passed away. Employing weapons and methods ever more harsh and inescapable, the hunt goes on for many other animals one might have thought were also due a reprieve, as new substitutes are found for their fur and flesh. From Africa to the western United States to the storied rain forest of the Amazon, it is the fate of many wild creatures either to be unwanted by man or wanted too much, despised as a menace to progress or desired as a means to progress – beloved and brutalized all at once, like the elephant and whale and dolphin.

In our laboratories, meanwhile, we see the strange new beings of mankind’s own creation, genetically engineered, cloned, and now even patented like any other products ready for mass production. Even with all its possibilities for good, this new science of genetic engineering carries the darkest implications of all for the animals, conferring on us the power not only to use them as we will but to remake them as we will. It comes at an inconvenient moment, too, just as research of a very different kind has revealed beyond reasonable doubt the intelligence of many animals, their emotional sensitivity, their capacities for happiness and suffering alike.

The care of animals brings with it often complicated problems of economics, ecology, and science. But above all it confronts us with questions of conscience. Many of us seem to have lost all sense of restraint toward animals, an understanding of natural boundaries, a respect for them as beings with needs and wants and a place and purpose of their own. Too often, too casually, we assume that our interests always come first, and if it’s profitable or expedient that is all we need to know. We assume that all these other creatures with whom we share the earth are hear for us, and only for us. We assume, in effect, that we are everything and they are nothing.

Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they are overlooked, their interests so easily brushed aside. Whenever we humans enter their world, from our farms to the local animal shelter to the African savanna, we enter as lords of the earth bearing strange powers of terror and mercy alike.

Dominion, as we call this power in the Western tradition, today requires our concentrated moral consideration, and I have tried in the pages that follow to give it mine. I hope also to convey a sense of fellowship that I know many readers will share – a sense that all of these creatures in our midst are here with us, not just for us. Though reason must guide us in laying down standards and laws regarding animals, and in examining the arguments of those who reject such standards, it is usually best in any moral inquiry to start with the original motivation, which in the case of animals we may without embarrassment call love. Human beings love animals as only the higher love the lower, the knowing love the innocent, and the strong love the vulnerable. When we wince at the suffering of animals, that feeling speaks well of us even when we ignore it, and those who dismiss love for our fellow creatures as mere sentimentality overlook a good and important part of our humanity.

It is true, as we are often reminded, that kindness to animals is among the humbler duties of human charity – though for just that reason among the more easily neglected. And it is true that there will always be enough injustice and human suffering in the world to make the wrongs done to animals seem small and secondary. The answer is that justice is not a finite commodity, nor are kindness and love. Where we find wrongs done to animals, it is no excuse to say that more important wrongs are done to human beings, and let us concentrate on those. A wrong is a wrong, and often the little ones, when they are shrugged off as nothing, spread and do the gravest harm to ourselves and others. I believe this is happening in our treatment of animals. The burning pyres of Europe were either a sign to us, demanding an accounting for humanity’s treatment of animals, or else they were just a hint of things to come.

After the foot-and-mouth crisis, Matthew Parris, a former member of Parliament writing in the conservative Spectator, observed that “ a tide of moral sentiment is slowly turning. It turns first in the unconscious mind. We feel – not opposed to something, but vaguely uncomfortable about it.” I hope he is right. I hope that more of us might pass from moral discomfort to moral conviction. I hope that animal welfare will receive more of the public concern it warrants, leading over time to legal reforms not only in our treatment of the creatures now raised and slaughtered by the billions, but of all within the reach of human recklessness, greed, cowardice, and cruelty. If Mr. Parris is correct, and a spirit of kindness and clemency toward animals is stirring in the world, I hope with this book to encourage it.

Chapter One: The Things that Are

Whether of natural or supernatural origin, the moment that humanity acquired reason and language we were set apart forever from the natural world, and nothing was ever the same. How amazing that for all of our boundless power over the animals, so many of us still care about them, delighting in their companionship, admiring them from afar, and feeling their hurts whenever one of them is actually before us stricken and needful.

I am not, I confess, a particularly pious or devout person. But animals have always awakened something in me – their little joys and travails alike – that, try as I might, I find impossible to express except in the language of devotion. Maybe it is the Lord’s way of getting through to the particularly slow and obstinate, but if you care about animals you must figure out why you care. From a certain angle it defies all logic, often involving, as in the case of pets or the strays who find our doors, all sorts of inconveniences and extra worries one could do without. And the only good reason I know to care for them is that they are my fellow creatures, sharing with you and me the breath of life, each in their own way bearing His unmistakable mark.

I know that they do not have reason comparable to ours. I know that their lives and place and purpose in the world are different from ours. I know that theirs is an often violent world, “nature red in tooth and claw” as Tennyson described it. But I also know that whatever their place and purpose among us might be, it is a mysterious one beyond any man’s power to know. Whatever measure of happiness their Creator intended for them, it is not something to be taken lightly by us, not to be withdrawn from them wantonly or capriciously.

That kinship is to me reason enough to go about my own way in the world showing each one as much courtesy as I can, refraining from things that bring animals needless harm. They all seem to have enough dangers coming at them as it is. Whenever human beings with our loftier gifts and grander calling in the world can stop to think on their well-being, if only by withdrawing to let them be, it need not be a recognition of “rights.” It is just a gracious thing, an act of clemency only more to our credit because the animals themselves cannot ask for it, or rebuke us when we transgress against them, or even repay our kindness. We are going to need a little mercy ourselves one day. The way I figure it, I cannot expect mercy if I am unwilling to give it.

Bibliographic information:
Scully, Matthew. “Introduction.” Dominion: the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. New York, N.Y.: St. Martin’s, 2002. ii-4.

Austrian comfort food

This is a simple, delicious comfort food that’s great for late nights (like tonight, when Mike and I didn’t get out of class until 11:30PM). Follow the directions for browned butter first – make about a cup of it and store it in the refrigerator for three weeks or the freezer for up to four months. If you put the pasta water on to boil just before you brown the butter, this will only take the time it takes to cook the pasta!

Pasta (egg noodles are best, but any kind is good – make however much you want to eat!)
3 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs toasted walnuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbs browned butter

To toast the walnuts: put 1/4 to 1/2 cup of walnuts in a pan – I love cast iron. Heat them, stirring occasionally, until they’re toasted! You’ll know they’re toasted by the smell, and the darkish brown color.

To brown the butter: melt 1/2 cup (minimum – any less and it’s very easy to burn the butter) of butter over medium heat. Once it has melted, lower the heat so that it stays just at a simmer. It will foam, and after it foams it will begin to clarify. Heat, stirring occasionally, for five to eight minutes. Do this until it becomes a deep golden color – not brown, as the name would imply. Remove from heat, stir for 30 seconds to stop the cooking, and pour into an airtight container.

To make the dish:
Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot you cooked it in. Add the browned butter, sugar, and toasted walnuts. Stir until everything is evenly distributed. Note: you don’t need much butter, and can cut it down to a teaspoon if you’d like…that’s the beauty of browned butter! You get a much more intense flavor so you can really minimize the fat you include.

The husband review: “It’s like peanut brittle – you just can’t stop eating it. Delicious. Amazing.”

First Poem for You // Kim Addonizio

I like to touch your tattoos in complete
darkness, when I can’t see them. I’m sure of
where they are, know by heart the neat
lines of lightning pulsing just above
your nipple, can find, as if by instinct, the blue
swirls of water on your shoulder where a serpent
twists, facing a dragon. When I pull you

to me, taking you until we’re spent
and quiet on the sheets, I love to kiss
the pictures in your skin. They’ll last until
you’re seared to ashes; whatever persists
or turns to pain between us, they will still
be there. Such permanence is terrifying.
So I touch them in the dark; but touch them, trying.