The Latest

International Workers Day

International Workers Day In Solidarity with The Great American Strike 2006
Monday, 01 May 2006
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM

May 1, International Workers Day

In Solidarity with The Great American Strike 2006


No work, no school, no buying, no selling!

1886… the fight for the 8-hour day…
2006… today’s fight for full legal rights for all immigrants

In unprecedented mobilizations, millions of immigrant workers and their supporters have made history. We have demonstrated that with numbers we have power. Immigrant Rights organizations and others around the country have called for a “Gran Paro Americano” (National Strike) on May 1st. May 1st is International Workers Day. This special workers holiday was “born in the USA” on May 1, 1886 when close to two hundred thousand workers in the United States struck for the eight-hour day. Today millions of working people all over the world celebrate May 1st as a day of protest against injustice and in defense of workers rights. However, May Day has been largely forgotten in the land of its birth. This year May Day will be special. As we mobilize for justice for the immigrant community we can help revive that militant workers holiday here in the USA.

The government, employers, and the media conglomerates seek to turn us as working people against each other by talking about “illegal” immigrants who are a “drain on society." But who in this country is not a descendant of immigrants? Like other workers, immigrant workers are exploited, pay many billions yearly in taxes, and are under attack. Immigrants are working people, not criminals, and deserve to be treated with dignity and have the right to be united with their families.
Amnesty for all! No human being is illegal

When? May 1st, 2006
At what time? 4:00 PM
Where? Rally on BOSTON COMMON
(Park Street, Green Line or Red Line T)


FOR MORE INFORMATION: Boston May Day Coalition 617-407-9433 or 617-566-2861
http://www.nohr4437.org http://www.BostonMayDay.org Email: info@BostonMatDay.org

Sponsored by the Boston Mayday Coalition, Chelsea Uniéndose en Contra de la Guerra, Socialist Alternative, the International Socialist Organization, Latinos for Social Change, Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition, & the July 26th Coalition. (Partial List) Labor Donated

support gay youth, dine with deval patrick

The Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Youth will celebrate its 26th anniversary on Thursday, May 4th at the Calderwood Pavilion at 527 Tremont Street.

The silent auction will include a chance to win dinner for 8 at the home of Deval & Diane Patrick.

The Boston Alliance of GLBT Youth (BAGLY) is one of the oldest, possibly the first, youth-led LGBT organizations in the country. BAGLY also holds the world's original and largest LGBT Prom at Boston's City Hall each spring attracting 1400+ youth.

BAGLY provides a safe space for young people to meet, socialize, and get support no matter where they are in their journey as an LGBT person or ally. The work BAGLY does is more important now than ever. While the gay establishment looks through the lense of gay marriage equality the right wing infiltrates our schools to do away with gay straight alliances, and any mention of LGBT issues whatsoever. In the past few years the attempted suicide rate of LGBT youth has risen to 5 times that of their straight peers.

Donate To BAGLY now!

unisex bathrooms BANNED!

Enforcing a ban on Unisex Bathrooms Could Cost State and Businesses Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

The recent puritanical uprising against the unisex bathroom at 28 Degrees Restaurant and Lounge by the Board of State Examiners of Plumbers is a gleaming example of how out of touch city bureaucracy can be.

State plumbing code reads ''Toilet facilities for each sex, male and female, shall be provided" in places of assembly. It does not say that toilette facilities should be separated by sex.

With this new interpretation, all of the unisex handicap accessible bathrooms in Massachusetts would have to be divided into two separate facilities costing our state millions of dollars.

In an effort to get 28 Degrees to renovate their unisex bathroom, the Board said they consider sinks to be a toilet facility. That interpretation would require hundreds of restaurants, hotels, and stores that offer separate bathrooms but shared sink areas to renovate.

In addition, the code itself is in stark contrast to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance which draws the distinction between a person’s biological sex and their gender identity and expression. The ordinance states that people who are living as male or female should be allowed to use the bathroom that best matches their gender identity and expression. Unfortunately none of the laws and codes acknowledge intersexed and genderqueer people. This must present quite a dilemma to those who are obsessed with keeping people separated based upon their biological sex.

Finally, concerns about the safety and comfort of women using unisex bathrooms are valid and should be addressed. 28 Degrees, and many other restaurants, offer intelligently designed and open floorplans that provide private stalls and communal sinks creating the safest and most respectful environment for patrons.

Fake "clinic" cons 17-year-old girl

An Indiana mother recently accompanied her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend to one of Indiana's Planned Parenthood clinics, but they unwittingly walked into a so-called "crisis pregnancy center" run by an anti-abortion group, one that shared a parking lot with the real Planned Parenthood clinic and was designed expressly to lure Planned Parenthood patients and deceive them.

The group took down the girl's confidential personal information and told her to come back for her appointment, which they said would be in their "other office" (the real Planned Parenthood office nearby). When she arrived for her appointment, not only did the Planned Parenthood staff have no record of her, but the police were there. The "crisis pregnancy center" had called them, claiming that a minor was being forced to have an abortion against her will.

The "crisis pregnancy center" staff then proceeded to wage a campaign of intimidation and harassment over the following days, showing up at the girl's home and calling her father's workplace. Planned Parenthood's clinic director reports that the girl was "scared to death to leave her house." They even went to her school and urged classmates to pressure her not to have an abortion.

The anti-choice movement is setting up these "crisis pregnancy centers" across the country. Some of them have neutral-sounding names and run ads that falsely promise the full range of reproductive health services, but they dispense anti-choice propaganda and intimidation instead. And according to a recent article in The New York Times, there are currently more of these centers in the U.S. than there are actual abortion providers. What's more, these centers have received $60 million in government grants. They're being funded by our tax dollars.

Go to: http://www.ppaction.org/campaign/fake

Oranges for Passover

With the close of Passover, I leave you all with this lovely teaching from Susannah Heschel, courtesy of Wikipedia.

"In the early 1980s, the Hillel Foundation invited me to speak on a panel at Oberlin College. While on campus, I came across a Haggada that had been written by some Oberlin students to express feminist concerns. One ritual they devised was placing a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the Seder plate).

At the next Passover, I placed an orange on our family's Seder plate. During the first part of the Seder, I asked everyone to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit, and eat it as a gesture of solidarity with Jewish lesbians and gay men, and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community (I mentioned widows in particular).

Bread on the Seder plate brings an end to Pesach — it renders everything chometz. And it suggests that being lesbian is being transgressive, violating Judaism. I felt that an orange was suggestive of something else: the fruitfulness for all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and active members of Jewish life. In addition, each orange segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out — a gesture of spitting out, repudiating the homophobia of Judaism.

When lecturing, I often mentioned my custom as one of many new feminist rituals that have been developed in the last twenty years. Somehow, though, the typical patriarchal maneuver occurred: My idea of an orange and my intention of affirming lesbians and gay men were transformed. Now the story circulates that a MAN said to me that a woman belongs on the bimah as an orange on the Seder plate. A woman's words are attributed to a man, and the affirmation of lesbians and gay men is simply erased.

Isn't that precisely what's happened over the centuries to women's ideas?"

Quote from Susannah Heschel, dated April 5, 2001.

happy 420

Today we celebrate the glorious gifts our earth provides in the form of Cannabis. We celebrate our spiritual and deep connection to the natural world, and we recognize the beauty and value in all things living. On this day may we have a moment of quiet for ourselves and for all who are oppressed and suffering in the world especially those affected by the immoral "war on drugs," and may the fire in our hearts continue to burn for peace and justice.

Video Selections:

Rally 4 Women & Families

Saturday April 22
1-3pm
Copley Square
  • Rally for women and families.
  • Protest the South Dakota abortion ban.

Bayard Rustin Community Breakfast

"I am Human Through Your Humanity: Tearing Down the Borders of HIV/AIDS"
Saturday, April 22, 2006
10:00 am to 1:30 pm
John F. Kennedy Library and Museum Boston, MA
Free and Open to the Public
Light Buffet 10:00 am

Program begins promptly at 11:00 amReservations not required
Free Parking - Wheelchair Accessible

The Bayard Rustin Community Breakfast is an annual forum created by the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts to recognize the roles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from communities of color in the fight against the AIDS epidemic. The Breakfast is an opportunity for us to come together as a community to be informed, affirmed and empowered. The inspiration for this event has been drawn from the human rights, civil rights, and social activism of Bayard Rustin. Bayard Rustin was an African American gay man whose life of engagement and leadership in the political movements for social justice, including the civil rights movement, identify him as a hero and role model for future generations. The Breakfast strives to reflect Rustin's activism, humanitarianism, and artistic ideas by creating a multicultural, spiritual, and educational celebration.

Join us at this year's Bayard Rustin Community Breakfast for inspiring speakers, a wonderful breakfast and amazing musical performances by:

FOUNDATION MOVEMENT!!! -- A socially conscious group of young artists offering lyrical commentary on issues of injustice & oppression laced with hot beats. Foundation Movement members; Eroc, Optimus, and DJ El are a diverse group of young artists with origins from Puerto Rico, Liberia, and Guatemala, who all met in Boston and united to form the group. This cultural fusion, as well as their experiences growing up in Boston, has influenced The Foundation's music. Not another rap group with watered down lyrics, and messages of misogyny and materialism..... Visit their website at http://www.foundationhiphop.net/

AND... TRE ALEE, a talented singer, songwriter and producer who enjoys sharing her blessing of a beautiful voice with others.

For more information, please call 617.450.1644. www.aac.org

open letter to lgbt community

April 10, 2006

An Open Letter to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community:

We are a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT) people of color who work in the LGBT movement. We are writing to you in response to Jasmyne Cannick's article "Gays First, Then Illegals", which ran in The Advocate, in which she, a black lesbian, argues that she cannot support the current battle for immigrant rights because LGBT people have not yet won the right to marry. We are writing to express our profound disagreement with her, and to offer alternative LGBT perspectives to the current immigration battles happening across the country.

To begin with, Cannick fails to realize an obvious fact – the LGBT community and the immigrant community are not mutually exclusive. There are thousands of LGBT immigrants in this country. There are thousands of black immigrants. And there are thousands of black LGBT immigrants. To put forward an argument that says "we should get ours first" makes us question who exactly is the "we" in that analysis. In addition, we recognize the historically interconnected nature of the immigrant and LGBT struggles — such as the ban on "homosexual immigrants" that extended into the 1990's, and the present HIV ban, which disproportionately impacts LGBT people — and we believe that only by understanding these connections and building coalition can we ensure real social change for all.

And we ask those who share the destructive views of this article to remember the immortal words of Audre Lorde when she said that "There is no hierarchy of oppression". We reject any attempts to pit the struggle of multiple communities against each other and firmly believe that "Rights" are not in limited supply. We condemn the "scarcity of rights" perspective espoused by Cannick and other members of the LGBT movement, and are surprised to see members of our community trafficking in such ugliness. But then, one reason why it has always been so hard to shift power in this country is because the ruling class has successfully made us believe that there are only a few deserving groups to whom rights can be given. This strategy has always been used to divide oppressed groups from coming together to work in coalition.

We are painfully aware that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities still lack many basic protections under the law in this country, including the right to care for and support all of our families, in the various ways in which we construct family and kinship. Nevertheless, supporting immigrant rights, while we continue to work for LGBT liberation, does nothing to hurt our cause. In fact, we believe the opposite to be true, and want to work towards building powerful coalitions between immigrant and LGBT movements to work together for social justice.

We are also aware that many immigrant right advocates have (intentionally or not) used anti-black rhetoric to move their agenda forward. Arguments such as "Don't treat us like 'criminals'" or "We are doing work that 'other' Americans won't do" have the effect of positioning immigrant narratives as subtly juxtaposed with American stereotypes of non-immigrant black communities. They leave native-born black Americans as among the only people who do not have access to the immigrant narrative, and so are in a permanent position of subordination, as the state consistently negotiates and redefines citizenship and "American-ness" for almost everyone but blacks. Nevertheless, the solution to this problem is not to abandon support for the struggle of immigrant communities. Rather, we call on immigrant movements and (non-immigrant) black organizations to work together for real racial and economic justice in this country. Together these movements can work to end the exploitation and targeting of both communities, and to ensure that black folks and immigrants do not end up having to choose between competing for low-paying jobs, or being targeted for detainment or imprisonment.

As lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of color, we support the current immigrant rights marches and rallies happening across the country this month, and we march too. We march because immigrants are among the most politically vulnerable, underpaid and exploited communities in the country, and are asking for basic human rights, including the right to live free from torture and exploitation, and the right to work. We march because we recognize the connections between the state attacks on immigrant and LGBT communities, and that LGBT immigrants in particular are disproportionately affected by much anti-immigrant legislation. We march because we oppose the heightened policing and criminalization of immigrant communities, including the increased militarization of the border, as mandated by HR 4437 and Senate bills. We march because we oppose indefinite and mandatory detention of noncitizens—as well as the mass incarceration of people-of-color- communities in the U.S. more broadly—and envision a society that ensures the safety and self-determination of all people, regardless of national origin, race, class, gender or sexuality. We march because we oppose the guestworker proposals, which would continue the exploitation of many low-wage workers. We march because we demand the repeal of the HIV ban. We march because our sexualities have been historically criminalized by this country, and we understand that "law" and "justice" are not the same thing.

It is our understanding that Jasmyne Cannick was writing as an individual, and not as a representative of either the National Black Justice Coalition (on whose Board of Directors she serves) or The Stonewall Democrats (for whose Black Caucus she serves as Co-Chair). As LGBT people of color, we call upon both of those organizations to publicly clarify their own positions in this ongoing civil rights discussion.

We also call upon our community to imagine how much more progress we could make if we all stopped thinking of social justice as a zero-sum game.


Sincerely,

Katherine Acey
Executive Director, the Astraea Lesbian Action Fund

Faisal Alam
Founder & Former Director, Al-Fatiha Foundation for LGBTIQ Muslims

Samiya BashirBoard Member, National Black Justice Coalition
Communications Director, Freedom to MarryBoard Member, Fire & Ink


Noemi Calonje
Immigration Project Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

Noran J. CampOffice Administrator, Freedom to Marry

Chris Chen
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
immigrant from Taiwan 1997

Alain Dang
Policy Analyst, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Debanuj Dasgupta
Board of Directors, Queer Immigrant Rights Project

Carlos Ulises Decena, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Joseph N. DeFilippis
Executive Director, Queers for Economic Justice

Marta DonayreCo-Founder, Love Sees No Borders

Andres Duque
Coordinator, Mano A Mano

Monroe France
Educational Training Manager, Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Eddie Gutierrez
Rep. for Christine Chavez, granddaughter of labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez

Priscilla A. Hale, LMSW
Executive Director, ALLGO

Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano
Director of Arts and Community Building, ALLGO

Kemi Ilesanmi

Surina Khan Interim Vice President of Programs, The Women's Foundation of California
former Executive Director, International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Lee Che Leong
Director of Teen Health Initiative, New York Civil Liberties Union

Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins
Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Yoseñio Vicente Lewis
Board Member, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Latino, Trans Social Justice Activist, first generation U.S. Citizen

Glenn Magpantay
Steering Committee Member, Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of New York

Rickke MananzalaCampaign Coordinator, FIERCE!

Gloria Nieto
National Latino Justice Coalition

Doyin Ola
Welfare Organizer, Queers for Economic Justice

Jesús Ortega-Weffe
Director of Community Organizing, ALLGO

Emiko Otsubo
former Board member, Queers for Economic Justice

Clarence Patton
Executive Director, NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project

Donna Payne
Senior Diversity Organizer, Human Rights Campaign

Earl L. Plante
Development Director, National Minority AIDS Council
President-Elect, Board of Directors, National Black Justice Coalition

Achebe Powell
Betty Powell Associates

Lorraine Ramirez
Public Policy Committee, Queers for Economic Justice

Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera Convener, the National Latino Coalition for Justice

Ignacio Gilberto Rivera
Founder, Poly Patao Productions
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Russell D. Roybal
Director of Movement Building, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Shay Sellars
Major Gifts and Events Administrator, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Pedro Julio Serrano Communications Associate, Freedom to MarryPresident, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s

Sarah Sohn
New Voices Legal Fellow, Immigration Equality
Board of Directors, Queers for Economic Justice

Lisa Thomas-Adeyemo
Co-Coordinator, National People of Color Organizing Institute, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Director of Counseling, San Francisco Women Against Rape

Carmen Vazquez
Deputy Executive Director, Empire State Pride Agenda

Robert Vazquez-Pacheco
former Program Manager, Funders for Gay and Lesbian Issues

Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz
Capacity Building Project Director, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Andy Shie Kee Wong,
Coalition Manager, Asian Equality

Lancy Woo and Cristy Chung
lead Plaintiffs in the Woo vs Lockyer, marriage rights case
Miriam Yeung
Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, the LGBT Community Center

ANIMAL RIGHTS AND THE QUEER COMMUNITY

By Helen and Steve Rayshick, co-founders, Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition (MARC)

Some of you may be asking what an essay about animal rights is doing at a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender website and who, we, Helen and Steve Rayshick and the Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition, are. To answer the first question, we were invited by a vegan Queer Today member to write a guest essay for your group. MARC is the largest grassroots animal rights group in the state; we do everything from leafleting at colleges to picketing restaurants to lobbying legislators to handing out free samples of vegan food. Our goal is to advance both the welfare (humane treatment) and rights (legal/moral responsibilities of humans toward animals) of ALL animals. Much as Queer Today is a radical group for your cause, we are a radical group for our cause. Although our methods are always peaceful and legal, our goal is the liberation of all animals.

That still probably brings us back to the question of why should you care about animal rights. With national politics dominated by the hostile right wing and gay marriage being attacked in Massachusetts, you may well think that you have problems enough of your own. We certainly agree that probably no human group in the US is as persecuted as those people whose sexuality differs from that of the mainstream. We think that is one more reason why you should investigate and consider animal rights and the choices you make related to animals. Each of you knows firsthand what it is like to be victimized, to have your rights ignored, and to be a target of oppression. We ask you now to think not just of humans but to think of animals because no human on earth with the possible exception of torture victims, endures anywhere near the suffering we daily impose on animals.

If that statement sounds extreme, we ask you to suspend judgment and keep reading. Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Isaac Singer has called our treatment of animals an “Eternal Treblinka.” First, when we talk of suffering, we should talk of quantity of suffering—each year in the US about 10 billion farm animals are raised and killed for food. The number of sea animals is probably double that. Another 100 million are killed in the US by hunters and about the same number suffer in labs. Worldwide, about 40 million animals are killed a year for their fur. Millions more animals suffer in circuses, rodeos, zoos, and pounds. The overall number of animals killed in the world each years reaches into the hundreds of billions. For our purposes, we will restrict this essay to farm and sea animals because they represent about 95% of the animals killed each year. Every American who eats meat, sea animals, eggs, and dairy contributes to the death of about 93 animals per year.

Second, the quality of their suffering is extreme. Over 90% of US farm animals are raised in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), also known as factory farms. These are huge windowless metal warehouses with wire or concrete floors, poor lighting, terrible ventilation, and a sensory assault of hellish sights, sounds, and smells. Often, thousands of pigs or cows or tens of thousands of chickens or turkeys will be confined to a single building. Many of them may never get outside except for the day the truck comes to take them to the slaughterhouse. Disease, injury, fly infestations, and slow painful death are the norm.

The purpose of this nightmare is to save money and produce meat, dairy, and eggs as cheaply as possible. Americans want animal products and want them cheaply; every meateater consumes about 270 pounds of animal flesh a year, let alone dairy products, sea animals, and eggs. In order to keep the price low, there is often a total lack of veterinary care; it’s cheaper to let an animal die than to ease its suffering. Many injured animals starve to death because they are too weak to compete for food or even crawl to the food troughs. Industry estimates say that about half a million animals a year are so weak that they have to be literally dragged to slaughter. The real number is probably far higher.

Animals are crammed into tiny spaces to save money. The standard breed of egg laying hen has a wingspan of 37 inches; they are crowded in cages with 6-11 other birds and allowed at best 72 square inches of space. A 600 pound breeding sow (female pig) is confined in a 2 by 6 foot pen during pregnancy and nursing and artificially impregnated twice as often as she would be in nature. Veal calves (male dairy cows) are chained by the neck and kept in crates too narrow for them to even turn around or lay down or stand up, depending on the system used. Some animals are housed in tiered CAFOs with wire floors; the excrement of those animals above them falls on animals below. As factory farms age and decay, more and more piglets are falling through the rusted wire floors
to slowly drown in the pig waste below.

Regular practices include the following surgical and other invasive procedures all done without anesthesia: beakcutting, forced feeding and/or forced starvation for birds; branding, tail docking, and castration for cows; tale docking and ear cutting for pigs. All of these are done to minimize problems caused by overcrowding. Rather than stop overcrowding, the “farmers” inflict horrid painful procedures on animals instead.

Many specific practices are inherently cruel. Veal calves are denied any solid food and suffer from severe diarrhea. In order to make flesh “tender”, veal producers deliberately induce anemia in young calves; a result is that, often, calves’ bones break but are not treated. Ducks and geese used for foie gras have their livers enlarged 6-10 times normal size through horrific force-feeding methods. Because male chicks from egg laying breeds don’t grow large enough to be suitable for meat, they are killed at birth; the most common methods are to dump them in piles several feet deep into dumpsters where they smother and/or starve to death, or to throw them alive into chipper shredders to be processed for pet food.

Genetic manipulation is also a constant: “broiler hens”—meat chickens—live a grand total of 47 days on average. They are bred to grow so fast that their legs can’t support their weight and they suffer crippling injuries. Dairy cows now produce up to 10 times the milk they would in nature, causing painful sores and mastitis (udders swelled to the size of beach balls). Dairy cows and chickens are the most over bred animals, but many turkeys and pigs also suffer from breeding problems.

Physical and emotional problems abound—chickens are raised in wire cages and their claws may literally grow into the metal of the cage; injuries and tumors are untreated and ignored; leg and joint problems are found in all types of animals because of lack of exercise; by the time they face the terrors of slaughter, 40% of all dairy cows are lame; cannibalism can occur; and repetitive rocking, gnawing, and swaying (known as stereotypies) can occur. Quite frankly, animals often go insane. Pigs, which have been tested to have IQs equivalent to human 3-year olds, have been witnessed literally attacking their cages out of rage and frustration. In essence, every natural instinct is denied. Tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of animals die before even being taken to slaughter.

Transport is no better—farm animals can legally be transported for up to 48 hours with no food or water. They are overcrowded in trucks and shipped in all weathers—freezing cold or boiling heat. Pigs have been found literally frozen to the inside walls of trucks in cold weather. Often animals are jostled so badly on the road that they arrive for slaughter with broken bones.

Even if all the rest of this were altered, slaughter itself is a nightmare. 95% of farm animals killed for food are birds; they receive NO legal protection under the humane slaughter act. In essence, the US Government has spent nearly 50 years denying that birds are animals because to admit so would mean they have to be stunned first before slaughter begins. Stunning costs 1 cent a bird; the industry will not pay for it. Under the Bush administration, the USDA is now trying to re-categorize rabbits as poultry in order to eliminate stunning requirements for them also.

Stunning is no panacea, though. Where practiced for birds (Europe), it involves dragging a bird through a trough of water with an electric current running through it, basically near electrocution. For cows and pigs, it involves shooting a metal bolt into their brains. Frequently, because slaughterhouses work like assembly lines with an emphasis on speed, stunning is done improperly or missed. Slaughterhouse workers have testified and videotapes have shown cows, pigs, and other animals being hoisted upside down by one leg, boiled alive, and slit open and bled while still moving. In Oct. 2003, the NY Times reported that the terror is so great for pigs (the most intelligent of farm animals) that they enter a “hypermetabolic” state in which their flesh literally liquefies. Former cattle rancher turned vegan Howard Lyman has said that he’s been in dozens of slaughterhouses and the animals are “always terrified.” They can smell and hear their herd or flock mates being killed and butchered.

If you think that perhaps “humane”, “free range” or organic animal products are really any better, first these are a tiny percentage of the market. Second, the transport and slaughter are the same. Third, the first two terms have no legal meaning: free range chickens may have no more room than caged ones, and all the males are still killed at birth. The term organic refers primarily to the food the animals are fed. Although there are some welfare standards, they are riddled with loopholes, and enforcement is poor anyway. Well known “organic” producers have been caught using factory farm methods to raise animals. Philosopher Tom Regan has said of these types of farming that they are “not right, just less wrong.”

The treatment of sea animals is no better—they most commonly die in huge piles at the bottom of massive mile long nets. They are crushed or suffocate. And, for every sea animal killed for food, 3 others who were caught at the same time (known as bycatch) are killed or injured. Other animals like seals in Canada and dolphins, whales, and porpoises in Japan are killed because of alleged competition with the fishing industry.

This essay addresses the plight of food animals primarily but the lives of lab animals and circus/rodeo animals are just as horrific. NO laws of any kind regulate what actually can be done to animals in lab experiments. The only relevant laws relate to cage size and feeding schedules, NOT what can be done in the actual experiment. And, if experimental procedures deem it necessary, food, water, and medicine can all be denied. Again, as with farm animals, enforcement of even these weak laws is notoriously lax.

At this point, two thoughts may be running through your head: (1) They are just animals and/or (2) What’s this got to do with me? Our responses to these thoughts are interrelated.

The history of oppression of non-power groups is remarkably similar. Each group that has been victimized and oppressed by an elite power group has faced similar problems: ridicule, marginalization, disinformation, and stonewalling. Authors such as Alice Walker, Marjorie Spiegel, Carol Adams, Jim Mason, and Charles Patterson have written eloquently showing how much of the same propaganda that currently justifies animal abuse has been used to justify sexism, slavery and racism, the Holocaust, and imperialistic wars. American homophobes engage in similar tactics.

One of the most common elements of oppression involves maximizing differences between oppressor and oppressed while minimizing similarities. Surely, this is something that you have experienced because of sexual orientation. To your oppressors, all that you have in common with them--goals, hopes, talents, needs, the ability to love and be loved and to be hurt and to be happy--are minimized while sexual orientation is maximized. This was done to blacks to justify slavery and Jim Crow laws, to women to justify denying them legal rights, to people with disabilities, to European Jews, and also to animals.

If the last linkage is shocking, consider this: every non-human animal from chimpanzees to fish, from pigeons to pumas, shares many physiological and psychological traits with humans. They have similar central nervous systems, they have brain chemicals that we know are linked to pain in humans, they have limbic system similarities relevant to emotion, and certain drugs like anti-anxiety medications work exactly the same way metabolically in animals as in humans. Recently, researchers at Edinburgh University in Scotland proved that fish have essentially the same pain perception physiology as humans. In essence, they feel pain like we do.

Although scientists starting with Descartes and religious leaders beginning with St. Augustine have gone to great lengths to “prove” that animals are different emotionally from us, virtually every pet lover can tell you that their pet has wants, needs, and emotions. Science has also increasingly shown that animals process emotions in the same ways we do.

The point is that in terms of feeling pain and feeling emotions, the animals we harm the most are just like us. Oppressors’ efforts to maximize differences border on the absurd. Some professional ethicists have resorted to arguing that because animals “lack morals” they don’t deserve rights. This standard, applied to humans, backfires. We could reasonably say that infants and very young children, the mentally retarded and severely mentally ill, and senile people all “lack morals”, but we sure wouldn’t justify forced starvation, branding, castration without anesthesia, or any of the other horrible things humans do to animals for them. It’s also worth noting that animal morality is only beginning to be studied; in one famous (or infamous) experiment, chimps were given the choice between shocking another chimp and eating or not being fed. The chimps overwhelmingly chose to go hungry rather than harm another chimp.

Another morally bankrupt argument is that animals aren’t as smart as we are. Let’s ignore the questions of whether this is even measurable and whether there aren’t many skills that animals have that we lack and just address the logic of it. If we applied the same standards to humans, we might find a tyranny of the intelligent over the less intelligent. We meet people every day who probably aren’t as smart as we are, but that sure doesn’t give us the right to kill, hurt, or eat them. This is absurd logic.

Animal rights activists call the prejudice against animals speciesism, the belief that any species different from our own has fewer rights than we do. Like many prejudices, it may have its roots in low self esteem and the psychological need to place one’s self above others. With human prejudices, a person can be unintelligent, unsuccessful, unattractive, unloved and unlovable but find superiority in discriminating against whole groups of people such as homosexuals, or racial or religious minorities. Similarly, many humans may be able to bolster their shabby self-esteem by discriminating against animals.

A brief look at how animals are portrayed illustrates this. Many of our insults--calling another human a pig, rat, dog, bitch, sheep, chicken, cow, ape, or snake--inherently insult animals. A great deal of popular culture humor involves jokes about hurting animals from flushing them down toilets to throwing them out windows to hitting or kicking them. The famous novelists Larry McMurtry and Jerzy Kozinksi have both written jokingly about bestiality, which is really the rape of another species. We ridicule animals. Similarly, a mainstay of the early careers of comedians like Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy were anti-gay jokes. For centuries, ethnic minorities have also been the object of offensive jokes and humor. Oppressors often ridicule those they are oppressing.

Second, oppressors marginalize the concerns of oppressed groups. When women began to fight for equal rights in the 1800s, they were told that their needs weren’t important; slavery was more important. When the gay rights movement began in the 1960s, it was judged less important than the anti-war movement. As activists working for animals, we are regularly told by people who won’t even stop to wait for a response that we should be “working to end the war” or feed the hungry or stop a disease or prevent abortions or any other endless stream of other causes. Those people telling us this are never actually working on those campaigns at that time; they are simply marginalizing our efforts. When someone wants to ignore an issue, they can find an endless list of other “more important” issues. Equal rights for people regardless of sexual orientation is a major human rights issue; until all humans are given the same rights, we live in an unjust society. Similarly, the animals killed in the US outnumber humans by over 90 to 1 and their suffering is unbelievable. We believe that we will not have a just world while ignoring this amount and severity of suffering.

Third, oppressors rely on misinformation. The most obvious issue for homosexual rights is the claim that homosexuals and bisexuals and transgender people want “special rights.” It boggles the mind to understand how someone asking to be treated the same way as everyone else can be construed as seeking “special rights.” Similarly, disinformation abounds about animal rights activists and the animals we represent. First, NO ONE thinks that animals should have the exact same rights as humans; no one thinks they should be allowed to drive or vote (another type of ridicule often used). However, they should have the right to be left alone or treated with basic decency, not maimed, tortured, or killed by humans. Second, animal rights activists are NOT people who “hate people”, an accusation we often encounter. At a recent protest where this accusation was made, our group included 3 teachers, a psychologist, 2 social workers, 2 lawyers who work with the mentally ill, and 3 environmental scientists, many of whom are parents and grandparents. In other words, an obvious cast of misanthropes! J

Fourth, oppressors engage in stonewalling (no pun intended.) Just as homophobic politicians support civil unions or other half measures to prevent equal rights or claim that “I support gay rights” then oppose gay marriage, efforts are made to block any progress for animals. At least 13 states have now declared farm animals exempt from ALL provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, and a similar number are debating “Food Disparagement Laws” making it legally actionable to say anything negative about the procedures for raising any “food product” in that state. Industry insiders relentlessly push for weakening already barely existent welfare standards and spend millions and billions of dollars blocking legal efforts to protect animals. The one penny per chicken that could be spent to stun birds before begin to cut them apart is a vivid example.

Our ultimate point is this: wherever and whenever we see oppression, we see it justified and implemented in remarkably similar manners. All groups fighting oppression are all fighting the same evil, the belief that those with power can do whatever they want to those without power. Lawyer and author Jim Mason has argued in An Unnatural Order that the roots of this oppression can be traced to our treatment of animals. He’s studied the birth of animal agriculture in the Middle East and argues that because of the inherent cruelty involved in domesticating, raising and slaughtering animals, groups and nations that chose herding over plant-based diets became more violent and more warlike. Carol Adams has linked domestic abuse to animal abuse. The FBI lists animal abuse as a primary early warning sign of human violence. When we justify the harming of ANYONE, it becomes a lot easier to justify the harming of everyone. Ignoring the suffering of the 90 plus animals each American eats every year makes it far easier to ignore the suffering of humans, ESPECIALLY if we can declare that they are different from us. A fundamental break in humans’ relationship with the rest of the natural world occurred when we declared that we differed from other animals and were separate from nature. It has probably affected our treatment of even other humans ever since then.

We know that we don’t need to harm animals and certainly don’t need to eat them. Every major nutritional association has taken a position that a well balanced vegan diet would keep a person, even a child, in normal health. We don’t need to eat animals or their products. We may be used to the taste, but the ethicists arguing for animal rights have consistently argued that when measured against the day to day suffering of animals and the denial of all their basic needs and then the taking of their very lives, “it tastes good” is very trivial indeed. It has also been argued that becoming vegan and living an animal rights philosophy “isolates” one from the mainstream. This is, to a certain extent true, but being an abolitionist or early feminist or coming out of the closet also all isolate one from the mainstream. Doing anything that asks others to question their morals and values will always cause social discomforts, especially early in a movement or one’s own activism. The history of all rights movements is a history of recognizing this and taking those steps anyway because they are the right thing to do.

We recognize that yours is a difficult and painful battle and support it. We ask that you visit our website read vegan literature, and please, please consider the needs and suffering of animals.

ABOUT MARC: MARC is a 501c(3) nonprofit working everyday to help animals and promote animal rights in Massachusetts. With over 600 members, MARC is the largest most active animal rights group in the state. Every day, animals suffer in Massachusetts, whether as “food”, “science”, unwanted pets, or as animals killed or abused for clothing or entertainment. On land and sea and in the air, wild animals suffer from hunting, fishing, and trapping. And because these animals cannot speak for themselves, we at MARC act as a voice to end this suffering. You can learn more and join our efforts at massanimalrights.org

Support Our Transgender Community

This Saturday, April 8th, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition will hold a fundraiser at the Arlington Street Church.
If there is one fundraiser you attend this year it should be this one!

The fundraiser will include a buffet dinner and dancing. Advance tickets are only $20, $25 at the door, and for those who are under the age of 18 tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

Among other projects: MTPC is now actively working, with the help of State Representative Carl Sciortino, to ammend the Massachusetts anti-discrimination and hate crimes statutes to include coverage for persons of diverse gender expression and identity.

Cynthia McKinney is not her hair.

Last week Cynthia McKinney was grabbed by a capital police officer who claimed that her change of hair style was the reason he did not recognize her. I wonder if he can't recognize the white men in suits when they change their hair.

Weather or not Cynthia is "crazy" like many of her colleagues report is irrelevant to the fact that this was clearly a case of racial profiling. According to a reliable source of a friend, the capital police regularly wave people right through with very little security.

Cynthia McKinney is a racist, Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said on Fox News Channel. I guess Mr. Delay forgot that people of color living in the united states cannot be racist because racism is a combination of predjudice, power and privilegege - and only he holds that combination. I guess he forgot about all of the far-right racist and white supremacy groups that he associates with.

India Arie's new single "I am not my hair" could not have come at a better time. Cynthia McKinney is not her hair. She is not her skin. She is the soul that lives within.

Listen to the new single here! There dance remix is so hot!