Archive: June 2009

The Dangerous World of Butterflies: More dangerous for butterflies than for humans.

Saturday, June 20th, 2009 by Kelly Garbato

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

On Wednesday, journalist Peter Laufer appeared on The Daily Show in order to discuss his newest book, The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists. While the material might seem rather lighthearted – especially in comparison to his previous subjects, which include neo-Nazism, illegal immigration and the Iraq war – the illegal butterfly trade is nothing to scoff at, as he explains:
 

 
Naturally, even the so-called “butterfly huggers” (e.g., the North American Butterfly Association, the International Butterfly Breeders Association) view butterflies as a collection or a part of nature or ecology as opposed to the many individual beings that they are. Or, put another way, butterfly conservation is more about environmental protection than animal rights – or even welfare. Even so, The Dangerous World of Butterflies sounds like an interesting read, since butterfly collecting isn’t normally a “hobby” that’s equated with danger (nor are butterflies the first group of animals to come to mind when one thinks of wildlife “poaching”).

During the interview, Jon wonders why one might want to collect butterflies, due to their short life spans of a week or two. According to Wiki, this is a bit of a misconception:

It is a popular belief that butterflies have very short life spans. However, butterflies in their adult stage can live from a week to nearly a year depending on the species. Many species have long larval life stages while others can remain dormant in their pupal or egg stages and thereby survive winters.

Butterflies may have one or more broods per year. The number of generations per year varies from temperate to tropical regions with tropical regions showing a trend towards multivoltinism.

Not that the butterfly’s life span really matters – for, as Laufer explains, it’s not the aim of collectors to house a population of living butterflies. Rather, collectors view butterflies as objects to be exhibited, much like artwork. In this way, the appeal of “owning” the corpse of a butterfly belonging to a protected or endangered species is much like that of owning a stolen piece of art.

As morbid as this attitude is, I’m not sure it’s all that different from that of butterfly conservations, who view their objects of admiration as pieces of a whole, cogs to be manipulated and controlled in order to achieve a desired result. A thousand Schaus Swallowtails, for example, aren’t significant as a thousand living beings, but as representatives of an endangered butterfly species. To conservationists, the beings are all interchangeable members of a species, much as their corpses are interchangeable pieces of valuables and artwork to poachers and collectors.

Videos in this post

The Daily Show – June 17, 2009 – Peter Laufer
Peter Laufer sheds light on the villainous subculture of poachers who steal endangered butterflies and sell them for big money. (5.13)

“Being dead never tasted so good!”

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by Kelly Garbato

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Via Blamer moodygirl comes the following SNL skit, “Cluckin Chicken,” which takes the Suicide Food phenomenon to a whole new level. (Indeed, Ben included the video as part of a “Fictional Suicide Food Emeriti” roundup last May.)

Warning: the video contains some graphic footage of a chicken corpse being “cleaned” and “quartered.”
 


 
About twenty seconds into the video, my husband popped up over my shoulder to ask if I was watching an actual commercial. Such is the depravity of modern “meat” advertisements.

Videos in this post

Saturday Night Live – Cluckin Chicken
Excerpt (s.18 : ep.13) | 01:34
All the outs and ins of making a great chicken.

Why this vegan feminist is red hot for Green Porno.

Saturday, June 6th, 2009 by Kelly Garbato

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

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I’ve heard mention of Isabella Rossellini’s latest project, Green Porno, here and there – ecorazzi, The Colbert Report, CNN even – but never bothered to follow up, seeing as I don’t get the Sundance Channel and all. But an article in Bitch magazine’s Spring ’09 issue (No. 43, appropriately titled “the buzz issue”) made me take a second look.

In “Wings of Desire: Bug sex as a gender revolution,” Katura Reynolds examines the subversive nature of Green Porno (as well as British evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson’s alter ego, Dr. Tatiana): by depicting (non-human) animal sex in all its kinky, decidedly non-vanilla glory, these projects challenge our traditional views of what “natural” sexuality and gender expression look like in the animal kingdom.

“Bug sex” is so much more then heterosexual, missionary style pairings: bugs may be male, female, or hermaphrodites; heterosexual, homosexual or asexual; reproduce through sexual activity, parthenogenesis, or an alternative combination thereof; etc. (Some, like the preying mantis, even engage in sexual cannibalism, consuming their partners during coitus.) The same holds true for many animal species, humans included; for example, in his 1999 book, Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (which I highly recommend, by the way), Bruce Bagemihl reviewed existing evidence which points to observed homosexual behavior in nearly 1500 animal species.

Green Porno, which is currently in its second season and airs on the Sundance Channel Tuesdays at 9 PM ET, is a bit cheesier and cheekier than its British cousin, – which is so raunchy that it’s not even available on Region 1 DVDs, let alone running on U.S. television. (You can, however, view a few clips of the show on You Tube.)

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Writes Reynolds,

The eight short films in [season 1 of] Green Porno were written by Rossellini and codirected with Jody Shapiro. They feature Rossellini acting out the sex lives of flies, praying mantises, earthworms, dragonflies, gees, fireflies, snails and spiders. The films are simultaneously hilarious, scientifically accurate, unrepentantly corny, compellingly sexy, and completely bizarre. [...]

Rossellini strives for a simple, childlike atmosphere in the films. She starts each in a bodysuit, saying, “If I were a [type of bug],” and then her costumes gradually build as the film progresses: extra arms, compound eyes, snail shells, you name it. The props and supporting characters are made from giant cut-paper sculptures, like she’s wandered into a kindergarten classroom plastered in giant paper flowers.

The schoolroom setting is chosen very deliberately – it’s a foil for overtly sexual content. Rossellini gets it on with huge paper models of flies, mantises, and bees; she gasps and moans in orgasmic ecstasy as a firefly and a snail; she runs around waving hands covered in paper cutouts of sperm as a spider. As stated in the press release, “If human, these acts would not be allowed to air on television. [Indeed, Dr. Tatiana's human reenactments and live non-human animal footage is not.] They would be considered filthy and obscene.” But the silly costumes and absurd props distract audiences from the flagrantly, graphically sexual content. Comedy often serves as a harbor for the unspeakable. By laughing at the silliness of it all, we can disarm the taboo.

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Happiness is a ‘pumped and dumped’ gun.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 by Kelly Garbato

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

First, the bad news: That rider to the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights, introduced by asshat extraordinaire Tom Coburn, which would allow visitors to carry loaded guns in national parks? Passed both the House and Senate – with the help of plenty of Blue Dog Dems, natch.

But on the bright side, Stephen and his fiancé, Sweetness, can take that honeymoon in Yellowstone that they’ve always dreamed of:
 

 
Also, this provides our park rangers an excellent opportunity to earn some extra funds, to prop up the crumbling national park system.
 

 
$20k on AK-47′s, anyone?

Videos in this post

The Colbert report – Monday, June 1, 2009 – Guns in National Parks
Thanks to Tom Coburn and the NRA, campers need no longer live in fear of being carjacked by a bison. (02:30)

The Daily Show – June 2, 2009 – Money Shot
Josh Gad explores the exciting investment opportunities in semi-automatic weapons.

Bob Woodruff on boiling humans.

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 by Kelly Garbato

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Journalist Bob Woodruff made an appearance on The Daily Show last night in order to promote his latest project, Earth 2100:
 

 

I find it interesting that Stewart and Woodruff open the discussion with a clip of Earth 2100 that invokes the anecdote of the frog submerged in a pot of boiling water: namely, if you put a frog in a pot of water that’s already boiling, she’ll jump right out, having sensed the heat and danger. But if you place her in a pot of cold or lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, she’s none the wiser, and will remain in the deathtrap until she becomes frog soup. In this metaphor, humans are the frogs, and the pot is earth.

Which is all fine and good, except according to Snopes, this is a folk tale:

Like a fable, the “boiled frog” anecdote serves its purpose whether or not it’s based upon something that is literally true. But it is literally true? Not according to Dr. Victor Hutchison, a Research Professor Emeritus from the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Zoology, whose research interests include “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles to include determinations of the factors which influence lethal temperatures, critical thermal maxima and minima, thermal selection, and thermoregulatory behavior”:

“The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

The “boiled frog” legend is a ubiquitous one – one that, given its falsehood, is both speciesist and completely inappropriate for what I assume is supposed to be a scientific documentary. The latter point is a given, but allow me to explain the former: central to the anecdote’s premise is the idea that a frog is so utterly stupid that, given subtle but entirely discernible cues, “it” would remain oblivious to the increasing danger and allow “itself” to be boiled alive. “Let’s not be like those lesser animals!” the tale cautions. Except. In denying climate change and poo-pooing slight increases in average global temperatures as “insignificant,” the human species is actually exhibiting less sense than Dog gave a frog. The frog isn’t earth’s complacent village idiot – we are.

Also of note: Jon alludes to the presumed vivisection which led to the “discovery” that frogs might allow themselves to be boiled alive, given the right circumstances. Both Stewart and Woodruff appear to think that such gruesome experiments probably took place years ago, in the distant past. Except.

“The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

While I can’t locate citations for these experiments, Wiki suggests that they’re more recent debunkings of “research” performed in the late 1800s (“research” on which the legend is apparently based).

So, yeah, we boil frogs alive – or attempt to, anyway. And that’s not even the worst of it.

Anyhow, back to Earth 2100.

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