Intro and Happy Birthday Wish, by Brenda Carey
Our upcoming Summer 2019 issue will feature an extremely important woman who is largely the reason why we have an animal rights movement in the United States today. She is, of course, the amazing Ingrid Newkirk. Back in 1991, it was one of the many books written by her that influenced me to become vegan. I passed that book on to others, who were likewise influenced.
The organization she founded, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has been the most influential and most successful animal rights group in the history of the world. PETA, an organization as controversial as its founder, has used every tactic that could possibly work to help educate the public about animal cruelty in many hidden places, and has hence improved the plight of animals beyond measure for its efforts. Whether PETA was enlisting the help of celebrities, ladies wrapped in lettuce leaves, billboards, video games, and even getting activists to shower in public to make a statement about the eco-implications of diet (something that I did for them in 2011), it got attention. And so, we cannot let this month pass without wishing this wonderful woman a happy 70th birthday! Those of us who care about the animals (and the planet) have many big reasons to be glad that you were born! Thank you for using your life to help animals and for helping humanity become better, kinder, and even healthier in the process.
To celebrate this occasion with you, our readers, we have received permission to share an excerpt from Ingrid's newest book that will hit stores in January 2020. It's called AnimalKind and we know you are going to love it! It has been described as an absolute avalanche of new information about who animals are--intelligent, aware, empathetic—and it is dispelling old notions of what animals were: accessories to human pursuits. The book explores the important studies that show that animals, once thought of as no more than the raw material for handbags, hamburgers, circuses, or research, are complicated living beings with emotions, intricate communications networks, and myriad abilities. AnimalKind is said to be the first book to present these findings in a concise, cohesive, consumer-friendly way—along with practical advice on how to respect these animals.
The first half of the book summarizes these new findings in animal behavior; the second half of the book shows readers, now that they see how amazing animals truly are, why we no longer need to use them as we once did. Whether it’s medicine, product testing, entertainment, clothing, or food, there are now replacements for all the uses animals once served as multi-national corporations switch from real wool to faux fleece, create plant-based foods as alternates for everything from meat to cheese, tout the benefits of human cell technology as substitutes for monkeys caged in laboratories, and scrap captive orca exhibits and elephant rides for virtual reality and animatronics. AnimalKind is a fascinating study of why our fellow creatures on this earth deserve our respect, and moreover, the steps every reader can take to put their new understanding into action. This will be another to add to the library from Ingrid that compels the world to evolve toward compassion for animals, just as we expect from this author.
From the Author, Ingrid Newkirk, Herself
We asked Ingrid to tell us in her own words a little more about this book, and this is what she wrote:
One of the questions in (my upcoming book) AnimalKind is one that most people who fish or eat fish dread hearing the answer to, because the answer may compel them, if they are kind, to stop fishing and eating these interesting animals. It is: “Are fish self-aware?”
Chimpanzees and elephants have passed the famous mirror test, the gold standard for measuring animal intelligence in the animal kingdom, but a fish? Of course, even human intelligence tests are broadly criticized for being devised with a certain population in mind, and the mirror test was, of course, devised by humans to see how other animals measure up to human intelligence. It’s worth noting that this particular test is one of many tests for determining self-awareness; it’s generally agreed that animals can be self-aware in ways not measured by human-devised tests. However, it is a useful gauge of how our biases work as well as a test of how clever animals are.
In the mirror test, a mirror is placed in front of the animal and researchers sit back, clipboard in hand, to see what happens.
Now, most animals do what most human tribal peoples did when they first saw a mirror. Thinking the reflection of themselves is another person, an intruder, they are startled, and even attack the image. Tribesmen might throw a spear at the figure in the glass, or toss a rock at the mirror. In the case I’m referencing, researchers chose a wrasse, a small, colorful fish and placed a mirror in front of him. (I’ll say “him” as I have no idea of the fish’s gender.) The little wrasse at first raised his fins in alarm, then swam to the back of the mirror to see if there was anyone there, then back to the front to have another look. The fish studied the image, and turned this way and that, just as a human would in their first encounter with this magical object.
Then the researchers, in a move I do not approve of, rubbed a dark substance on the wrasse’s body. Suddenly, the image in the mirror had a mark on his body, too. The wrasse rubbed against a rock to get rid of the smudge, and then…went back to the mirror to see if it had gone. Some of the dark splotch had disappeared, but not all, so back swam the wrasse to the rock to get the rest off. He then examined his reflection in the mirror. Yes, all gone. He passed the test!
One of the most insidious myths about fish is that they cannot feel pain or feel emotions—and, therefore, that it’s not cruel to catch them with hooks and let them suffocate on land.
Fish do feel pain, of course. In fact, their lips are as sensitive as ours are, or more so as they are full of nerve endings. If their lips come in contact with a bitter substance, for example, they will attempt to rub it away on the sandy bottom of the river or tank. And fish not only choose friends, but have long memories (behaviorists have found some fish can retain a memory for at least 7 years, and learn from it, including how not to be caught in a net again if they have ever escaped from one). Some species of fish will hide their young in their mouths if a predator comes by, like octopuses they will make and decorate a nest in the weeds, and many create a “dawn chorus” as birds do, singing underwater, perhaps discussing their plans for the day.
I like the PETA kid’s t-shirt that proclaims, “fish are friends, not food.” But friends or not, there is no reason not to relate and to put them on your plate.
Today, Good Catch is one company that makes soy tuna, in several flavors, and it’s delicious. Mae Wah is another company that provides faux fish, lobster, crab, and other marine-tasting foods. And having grown up eating sole and plaice, among other fishes, I was delighted, as a vegan, to learn that the line for vegan fish and chips at one shop in London was around the block. Well, not glad to stand in line, but delighted faux fish is now catching on (geddit?).