Nov 2010

NOVEMBER 2010 * IN THIS EDITION:

  • Greetings to advocates for Other Nations
  • Chimps Dancing at Waterfalls: Research into animal spirituality
  • Missouri passes puppy mill legislation
  • Wildlife Services killed HOW MANY animals???
  • Gentle Thanksgiving – ‘tis the season for kindness
  • Leaving you with a smile (dogs, rock’n’roll, & 2nd chances)
  • Other Nations – our name

Greetings, Animal Advocate…

Other Nations, an organization for animal advocates and activists, kicked off on Thurs. 21 Oct. with a showing of the award-winning documentary, “The Witness” (watch it online here).

It was a small group, but those present ran the gamut from garden variety animal lovers to animal welfare to animal rights proponents, omnivores to all shades of vegetarians-vegans, and activists to academicians to retired folks. Individuals’ areas of greatest concern included factory farming, puppy mills, trapping and fur farming, animal testing, and exterminations by Wildlife Services (a federal USDA, taxpayer-funded program that kills wildlife in service to agriculture—more to follow).

We invite you to keep in touch with Other Nations through our e-news and occasional updates. Help us grow into an army of informed, effective advocates by forwarding this newsletter to others. Contact Other Nations (secure e-mail service provided by Modwest in Missoula) with your comments and suggestions, and to get placed on (or removed from) our e-news list. Let us know what Other Nations can consider doing to meet your needs as an animal advocate in Missoula County and environs. More films? Book discussion group? Speakers? Casual social gatherings? It’s up to all of us…let’s create something positive and life-changing for ourselves so that we, in turn, can make a difference for the other nations.__________________________________________________________

CHIMPS DANCING AT WATERFALLS:
Does research into animal spirituality changes our lives? Should it?

Death brings us together, and much as we humans do, other members of the animal kingdom gather to grieve the loss of one of their own, as evidenced in this video. Some laugh like we do, and scientists now maintain that some likely have spiritual experiences. Yes, spiritual experiences. We’re talking moments of awe and wonder. Mystical moments. Oneness.

I witnessed grieving for myself when, in 2005, I helped document the reinstated Montana bison hunt with Buffalo Field Campaign outside Yellowstone’s northern boundary. Three of us watched and recorded as a young woman shot a bedded-down bison at close range. When the bull was dead, his companions gathered around the body, nudging, pawing, pushing and finally, standing vigil. They had to be driven off with gunshots from the hunting party so the butchering could begin. They would return to the spot again and again.

As for humor, my friend Al says he saw a crow clowning around to amuse his corvid pals. Several noisy crows were perched on a wire when one suddenly dropped—still clutching the wire—and hung upside-down for a few seconds, gently swinging back and forth. Then the bird righted himself. Al swears by this story, and swears that the intelligent bird was goofing off for fun.

And now, spiritual experiences. Check out the linked item above—it’s all about the brain structures we share with the other nations. Given that humans and some animals share structures and neurochemicals that govern emotions and spiritual experiences, why would we insist that these functions sprang into existence only for the first time in human beings?

“…(I)f we look hard enough, we can find the roots of our own intelligence and emotions in other animals,” claims Dr. Marc Bekoff in The Emotional Lives of Animals. “…(T)his doesn’t mean that humans and other animals are identical, but rather that they share enough common physical or functional traits that their capacities fall on a continuum.” Evolutionary continuity, he says, draws on Darwin’s observation, “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher animals in their mental faculties.”

If chimps can dance themselves into a trance at waterfalls (as observed by Bekoff and Jane Goodall), and we know they share structural and chemical brain components responsible for emotions and spirituality in humans, how can we refuse to consider—at the very least—what this could mean?

“For now, let’s keep the door open to the idea that animals can be spiritual beings and let’s consider the evidence for such a claim,” says Dr. Bekoff. “Meager as it is, available evidence says, ‘Yes, animals can have spiritual experiences,’ and we need to conduct further research and engage in interdisciplinary discussions before we say that animals cannot and do not experience spirituality.”

What we understand about animals continues to mount: They pursue their own interests; they suffer physical and mental anguish when prevented from pursuing them; many live in complex social structures; they lead emotional lives of joy, sorrow, and empathy; some likely experience spiritual moments. The moral implications are staggering for a species (ours) that persists in seeing other species as mere commodities in units of tens of millions rather than as distinct individuals with desires and feelings.

It falls to us—the humans who care, you who are reading—to grasp the issue, formulate the argument, then stand up and make it—peacefully, persistently. At any given moment—at this very moment—tens of millions of sentient animals are suffering physical pain and mental distress in factory farms, banks of research cages, fur farms, and in other myriad horrors we’ve devised for them in the service of human profit and pleasure. Now add to these horrors the possibility of moments of crushing spiritual despair. It means nothing to the animals that we humans now understand this possibility; nor will our new insight change their lives in the next hour, month, or longer.

If we consider ourselves moral beings, however, it should change everything for us.______________________________________________________________

PUPPY MILL LEGISLATION PASSES – Missouri voters on election day approved a ballot measure aimed at ridding the state of its reputation as the nation’s puppy mill capital. Some of the new requirements tell you just how bad things were—now required: daily feeding and yearly vet exams—but also included: females are not to be bred more than twice in 18 months, and must be kept indoors with unrestricted access to outdoor exercise yards. Read about it here.

WILDLIFE SERVICES admits in newly-released data that it exterminated 4.1 million animals and destroyed 18,000 more in 2009. This includes 27,314 beavers; 988,577 blackbirds; and 114,522 mammalian carnivores, including 1,775 bobcats, 82,097 coyotes, 480 wolves, 571 river otters, and 443 black bears. Read more here.

GENTLE THANKSGIVING – For a truly peaceful plate at Thanksgiving, check out the info and recipes at Gentle Thanksgiving. For Missoula’s own Gentle Thanksgiving dinner (it will have already occurred by the time you receive this), click here.

“I detect…a little bit of moral self-indulgence in these grand displays of clemency. Like America’s annual presidential turkey pardon…(it is) the modern, inverted version of the animal sacrifice: We raise a live one up to the gods, and then kill all the rest.” Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, 2002

LEAVING YOU WITH A SMILE: For lovers of dogs, Boston (the ‘70s rock band), and shelter adoptions: http://www.dogwork.com/feeling/

Remember to contact Other Nations to receive our updates and e-news. Happy Thanksgiving! ____________________________________________________________________________________________

OTHER NATIONS – OUR NAME
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
~Henry Beston, The Outermost House, 1928