Monday, February 18, 2013

Animals in the Entertainment Industry: No Happy Ending

When most people watch movies and television shows with animals in them, they forget to consider how the animals they see are treated in the name of entertainment. Even I am sometimes guilty of this, because when I get into a good movie, I tend to forget that the animals I see are being forced to perform. A couple months ago I went to see The Hobbit with my family. Right after I saw the movie, I discovered many animals had died from neglect during the filming of the movie. Next time I see a preview with live animals in it, I will do more research on the production of the film.

The recent death of Pat Derby, co- founder of Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), reminded me how poorly the entertainment industry treats animals. Derby started out as an animal trainer, and was involved in the training of animals on the sets of the popular TV shows “Flipper” and “Lassie.” After witnessing firsthand the abuse and neglect performing animals faced, Derby left the animal entertainment industry and went on to advocate for performing animals. Derby created animal sanctuaries that offer refuge to animals that have experience abuse in the entertainment industry. She also developed a model for training elephants without bullhooks or weapons.

I think a good rule of thumb is, if an animal is not in his or her natural habitat, then there is a good chance this animal is experiencing cruelty. Dolphins for example, although they look happy and playful at the aquarium and SeaWorld, the performing industry is not a good life for them. Dolphins are extremely intelligent, and they need large amounts of space and interaction with many other dolphins to lead fulfilling life. For more information on dolphins click here.

Those who go to see animals perform do not want them to experience cruelty, in fact, a lot of people who go to see animals at SeaWorld or at the circus claim to LOVE animals. Those in charge of these productions claim that after people see an animal perform, they will gain an appreciation for the entire species. The truth is, if you really care about animals, you want what is best for them, even if that means less excitement for you.  

There are some movies that have use technology to created realistic animals. The movie Golden Compass is a good example. By supporting movies that use visual effects for creating animals, you are saving animals from being forced into the entertainment industry. So next time you think of going to the circus, find an animal sanctuary near your hometown that offers animals a more peaceful and happy life. 

Simply Vegan: Ways to Enjoy a Vegan Lifestyle

When I first decided to go vegan a few years ago, my friends and family repeatedly questioned the choice. Many were concerned for my health, and questioned how I could get by without ever eating my favorite foods again. Although I was already vegetarian, dairy and eggs were a big part of my diet, and people wondered how I could be willing to stop eating all the foods that I loved. However, after I found out about the cruelty cows and chickens faced in factory farms in order to produce milk and eggs, I knew I could never really enjoy eating animal products again. For me, going vegan felt like the right thing to do, but in the beginning it was not an easy transition. Here are some recommendations for those new to the vegan diet, or those who have struggled and are looking for some tips.

My first recommendation for those planning to go vegan is do a lot of research on what vegans should eat. I believe my lack of research is what made me an unhealthy vegan in the beginning, and it hurt my chance of convincing those around me to join the cause. I just tried to take out dairy and eggs from the foods I already ate. This lead to just plain spaghetti, lots of dull salads, and veggie burgers on the regular. I did not really enjoy this food, and those around me could tell and felt sorry for me. One of the most important things for a vegan is to enjoy the food you eat! If those around you see you enjoying your meals, and can see how healthy you are, they are more likely to want to eat vegan.

Finally, after getting unbearably bored with my bland vegan diet, I started to do research on vegan cooking. There are many cookbooks available, but I mostly used the internet. The online recipe resource Foodgawker has a vegan category with thousands of inspirational dishes. I now enjoy a wide range of delicious meals, such as curries, stir fries, hearty soups and more. I also now know more about vegan protein substitutes, such as tempeh, seitan and tofu.

Another recommendation is to stay calm and positive when people ask you about your diet. And trust me, this conversation will happen all the time, so you should be prepared to explain it well. When I first started to respond to people about my diet, I turned into a deranged preacher who started to get very emotional about the animal abuse and the injustice, to the point I just scared people away. One tip is when someone first asks you why you are vegan, before preaching, ask them how much they know about veganism. This is a good starting point for you to understand their mindset, and find out what makes sense to them. 

Remember to keep it simple. When someone asks why you are vegan, they are usually just pointing out it is not normal, not looking for a 20 minute lecture. I always say I am vegan for the animals, for the planet and for my health. And then if they seem open to it, I go into more detail about the lifestyle. Always remember to never get angry at people when talking about veganism, you cannot change everyone.