ani-mism noun 1 the attribution of a living soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena (Barber 2005, 51).
This semester, I'll be writing a paper on performance theory, activism, and scholarship using the work of a few well-known activist scholars but primarily that of Dwight Conquergood. My research question, while not fully formed yet, will have something to do with positioning the self in scholarship when the topic is familiar, or even dear to the researcher. I'm presently in this position and will continue to be so throughout the remainder of my PhD research and writing, since I'll be studying the beliefs and performances of animal rights activists in Canada.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the idea of subject positioning, Bronwyn Davies and Rom Harre define it as:
Please Note: This article has undergone a revision since it was first written. Two footnotes have been added.
There are many introductions I might make to this post. I might discuss the accusation that vegans are privileged city-dwellers subsisting on a First World diet who don't understand how animal agriculture works. I might relate the conversation I had with a Buddhist friend last week when I told him we planned to attend a cattle auction. I might use any number of tried and true vegan inroads to conversation (Meet Your Meat, etc.). But we didn't do this so that I could answer vegan criticisms, tell personal stories or fill this space with received language. We did it to see and to tell you what we saw.
This is what we saw.
So, my post yesterday garnered 120 separate hits, far more than most of my others. We're a species who loves its drama, we are. And I also attracted a troll, but dramatic posts will do that.
In the wake of that post and its fallout, there are some issues I want to address about the way I approach vegan consciousness. Yes, I do think the eating of meat, milk and eggs is morally wrong and contributes to the suffering of sentient beings. I think it unapologetically, and it constitutes part of my core value system. It's also a well-informed belief, and I can present my reasons for it chapter and verse from many reputable sources. Further, I intend to participate in more direct vegan action going forward, so you might expect me to blog about bearing witness to factory farming brutality and vigils for farmed animals. I cannot be other than this, do other than this and still live with myself.
From August 30th to September 1st Sean and I participated in a group retreat at the Tatamagouche Centre called "Crossing Stony Ground: Earth Spirit and Justice for Challenging Times" led by Starhawk. For those of you who don't recognize that name, Starhawk is a longtime Goddess worshiper, political and social activist and permaculture expert who has been and continues to be a seminal influence in Pagan, activist and farming circles. In fact, her book The Spiral Dance brought me to Goddess spirituality when I was sixteen, and I've had a great deal of respect for her work since then.
Barbara J. King, Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William & Mary, presents an elegant survey of a difficult topic in How Animals Grieve. In a tone both measured and sympathetic, King asserts that animal grief is a strong indicator of animal love, that 'animals grieve when they have loved'. Evidence for this assertion ranges from accounts of dolphin mothers mourning their deceased infants to captive bear murder/suicides, and in each case she demonstrates that while their expressions of grief might vary, animals do respond emotionally to loss.
Modern Paganism has more than a few bloody roots. The early Celts practiced both animal sacrifice and human ritual killing1 and might well have engaged in ritual cannibalism under extreme circumstances, as historical and archaeological evidence attests.23 Elaborate human sacrifices were performed at the temple in Uppsala and elsewhere in Northern Europe as late as the 10th century AD, and there are well-documented accounts of animal sacrifice as well.45 The early Greeks may have engaged in human sacrifice or human ritual killing and certainly engaged in animal sacrifice.6 These are only a few among many examples, as students of pre-Christian religion well know, and they collectively represent a disquieting piece of theological history. However, while most Pagans will agree that cannibalism, human ritual killing and human sacrifice are better abandoned to history, the practice of animal sacrifice has been reconstructed by a few sects of the Pagan community.
Please Note: With this edition of Activism Updates, I'm relinquishing the illusion of a schedule for the series, since it's become abundantly clear to me that I haven't the time to stick to it. Worse, I've stopped actually reading the activism e-mails that come to me from various sources; I drop them in a folder for later perusal, thinking I might use them in the blog series, and then never return to them. So I've actually become a less-effective activist than I was when I began, and that's problematic for me. I've also noticed an uptick in the number of activism posts from friends in my social networking feeds, which seems to indicate an increasing level of comfort among my peers for this sort of material, so I'm less worried about the spamming issue.
Like any pair of geeks, Sean and I have been looking forward to this film for years, have played and shared the trailers, have swooned over the snippets of song we've heard. We've even planned to go to the midnight showing on the day of its premiere, and we've talked about whether or not Peter Jackson will once again render Tolkien's work with the loving detail he gave to "The Lord of the Rings".
So we were devastated to learn that animal wranglers for the film have recently alleged that at least twenty-seven horses, goats, sheep and chickens died off-set during production because of poor living conditions and neglect. Entertainment Weekly writes:
My next Activism Updates post isn't due until next weekend, but with Thanksgiving on Monday, a trip to Bangor on Tuesday and Wednesday and Celtic Colours after that, there's little chance I'll be posting much of anything at all next week. The following week I'll be finishing up the panels I'm writing for Hal-Con, completing a course of spiritual training I've been undertaking for many years and attending a two-day Shambhala meditation workshop, followed by my nephew's birthday. The week after that is Hal-Con, shortly followed by World Fantasy Con, likely followed by my collapse into a pile of coffee-saturated goo for a couple of days before I leave the researching/marketing/submitting/conventioning part of my writing career behind for a long spate of actual, honest-to-goodness story-writing.