Stephen Colbert schools Jonathan Safran Foer on happy meat animals.

February 17th, 2010 by

Stephen Colbert of THE COLBERT REPORT

Admittedly, this is rather old news, but Jonathan Safran Foer appeared on The Colbert Report last Monday in order to discuss – what else? – Eating Animals.

[Initially, I was going to group Foer’s interview with those of Claire Danes and John Durant in one big “(happy) meat peddlers” video roundup, but the Foer and Danes interviews proved a pleasant surprise – and not because of the guests! – so a dedicated post for everyone! Except for you, Durant. You’re kind of a douche, and you make this galactosemic lady feel a bit like one, too. (It’s not the same as lactose intolerance, but it’s close enough.) But anyway, that’s the backstory behind my procrastination. End: digression.]

The interview was about as frustrating as I expected on Foer’s end, e.g.,

* “I wouldn’t necessarily say you should become a vegetarian […] I would say you should eat less meat.”

* [When asked if he would eat a hot dog] “Maybe the hot dogs they made 50 years ago.” (as opposed to those produced today)

To his credit, Foer does manage to stay on message and squeeze in a number of pertinent facts re: animal agriculture, however, in downplaying the need for vegetarianism, he negates whatever points he may have scored with the audience. (i.e., if animal cruelty is wrong, and even “happy meat” products are cruel…go vegetarian on Mondays after 6 PM? Say what now?)

And veganism? Fuhgeddaboudit! The word “vegan” was not uttered once during the entire 5+ minute interview.

Luckily, in his quest to be the most ridiculous caricature of a self-delusional meat-eater he could be, Colbert provided some of the more trenchant quips in the exchange. To wit:

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Once a Terrorist, Always a Terrorist: Sean Maher Meets The Mentalist *

February 9th, 2010 by

The Mentalist logo banner

Caution: Spoilers ahead!

No stranger to the Green Scare, the latest episode of CBS’s The Mentalist (Season 2, Episode 12 – the appropriately titled “Bleeding Heart“) featured a terra-inducing plot line, complete with a proposed mega-development in the wilderness, government corruption and intrigue, and a graffiti-and-arson-loving eco-terrorist named Jasper.

Here’s what you need to know, via TVOvermind:

Sean Maher as Dr. Simon Tam of Firefly

The Mentalist “Bleeding Heart” begins with Agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and consultant Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) being interviewed by a camera crew in the CBI office. […]

Lisbon allows the crew access to the office and bullpen, but not the crime scene. The team is investigating the murder of the mayor’s aide, who was found when the mayor herself broke ground in front of the cameras for a new development project. When they interview Mayor Melba Walker Shannon (Sharon Lawrence of Privileged and NYPD Blue) and her assistant Wilson (Firefly‘s Sean Maher), Jane notices immediately that the mayor seems uncomfortable talking about the victim. When he presses, the mayor asks them to leave.

A possible perpetrator of the crime is an environmental group led by a man named Jasper. Though they’ve burned down buildings on protective land and other drastic measures, they haven’t committed any murder in their past history. Rigsby and Cho pay a visit to the foreman on the building site where the aide’s body was discovered, but while they’re questioning him, the trailer gets firebombed and the door jammed. The foreman is injured and Rigsby and Cho barely make it out with him before the place burns up. It’s clear to them that Jasper is escalating in violence.

Further investigation leads the team to suspect that the mayor was being bribed to approve projects on previously protected lands.

The investigation continues, yada yada yada, Jane takes the news crew out for tacos by way of an apology for exploding at them earlier – and is promptly kidnapped by Jasper and his crew:

Jane is blindfolded and led to a cabin in the woods. His blindfold is removed and he’s confronted by the masked men, one of whom he surmises is eco-terrorist Jasper. Jasper wants Jane to carry a message that he’s not the one who committed murder or attempted to kill the detectives. Unfortunately Jane reveals that he’s figured out Jasper’s identity–the mayor’s assistant Wilson. […]

While Jasper tries to decide what to do now that Jane knows his identity, Jane tries to talk his way out of his own possible murder, saying he can help Wilson. He succeeds in getting Wilson to a near state of hypnosis, when they’re suddenly interrupted by a loud shout that the house is surrounded by law enforcement personnel. Jane urges Jasper to stay calm. When Lisbon and the cops burst in, Jane is alone and restrained and Jasper has escaped out of a trap door.

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“Beating a(n almost-) dead horse” in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

February 8th, 2010 by

A mule in Bolivia

Since writing about Jon Stewart’s banter with Congressman Anthony Weiner about “beating” Michael Bloomberg “like a rented mule,” I haven’t been able to distance myself from the images evoked by this phrase. While our language is replete with speciesist terms and expressions, I find this one particularly troubling. After much contemplation, I think I finally understand why.

When I was younger, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment was a favorite of mine. I first encountered the novel in either 10th- or 11th-grade English class, and it so appealed to my macabre, angst-ridden teenage sensibilities that I read it several more times over the years. I’ve long since forgotten all the story’s particulars, however, one scene has stayed with me, as if imprinted in my subconscious: protagonist Rodya Raskolnikov’s dream – related so vividly in the book – of watching his fellow townspeople beat an elderly and infirm mare to death in a drunken mob rage. While this scenario doesn’t quite line up with the idiom “I’d beat x like a rented mule,” the sights, sounds and emotions conjured up by the phrase are exactly the same – and horrifically so. (Ditto: “Beating a dead horse,” so charmingly illustrated on the Pocket English Idioms website.)

Adding another layer to the text is the dream’s symbolism:

Rodya’s dreams always have a symbolic meaning, which suggests a psychological view. In the dream about the horse, the mare has to sacrifice itself for the men who are too much in a rush to wait. This could be symbolic of women sacrificing themselves for men, just like Rodya’s belief that Dunya is sacrificing herself for Rodya by marrying Luzhin. Some critics have suggested this dream is the fullest single expression of the whole novel, containing the nihilistic destruction of an innocent creature and Rodion’s suppressed sympathy for it (although the young Rodion in the dream runs to the horse, he still murders the pawnbroker soon after waking). The dream is also mentioned when Rodya talks to Marmeladov. He states that his daughter, Sonya, has to sell her body to earn a living for their family. The dream is also a blatant warning for the impending murder.

After the jump, I’ve copied the entire dream sequence – but I should warn you that it’s extremely graphic and troubling. (And certainly nothing to laugh about, however much one may dislike Republicans who buy their way into public office.)

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Anthony Weiner, Jon Stewart share a good teehee over animal abuse.

February 5th, 2010 by

The Daily Show logo

“For my next bit, I shall kick a puppy. Bolstered by your applause, I may urinate on it as well.”
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Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) appeared on The Daily Show last night, ostensibly to discuss health care reform. At one point, the conversation turned towards politics, with Stewart referencing Weiner’s failed 2005 mayoral race against Bloomberg, as well as his decision not to run in 2009, after Bloomberg successfully petitioned the NY City Council to extend existing term limits. The conversation quickly devolved, with two generally progressive men comparing Bloomberg to an enslaved animal, and snickering over animal abuse culminating in murder:

Stewart: Are you – uh – running for mayor? My feeling was you could have defeated Bloomberg in this cycle – uh, but, you did not run. Are you gonna run the next time

Weiner: I could have – I would’ve beaten Bloomberg like a rented mule, [cue raucous audience laughter] but I decided, I uh…[pause for audience cheering; Weiner laughs, Stewart nods head in agreement]

Stewart: Okay, how much does it cost to rent that mule? Because…

Weiner: It’s an expensive mule.

There’s so much speciesism packed into these four (three, really) short sentences; where to begin?

– Mocking abused and enslaved animals? Check.

– Making light of animal abuse? Check.

– Intimating that you yourself would like to beat an animal to death? Check.

– Objectifying a sentient being by referring to him/her as an “it”? Check.

– Unquestioningly referring to an animal as rentable property? Check.

As much as I dislike similar expressions (e.g., “I don’t have a dog in this fight.”; “Let’s kill two birds with one stone.”), comically joking about “beating a rented mule” has got to be one of the worst of the bunch. The image conjured up by this phrase – that of an exhausted, elderly “pack” animal, already worked to the brink of death, being bought, paid for, and used like a punching bag on which to take out one’s frustrations – is pitiful and sickening. To laugh at such misery and suffering is…well, it’s fucked up. Serial killer fucked up.

To be fair, I doubt that Weiner, Stewart and others who callously employ these phrases spend much time deconstructing the comparisons they’re making. But ignorance isn’t an excuse. And words matter.

Video after the jump (fast forward to 4:30 for the fauxgressive bravado):

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Biopic Temple Grandin to air February 6 on HBO; vegans sharpen their knives in anticipation.*

February 5th, 2010 by

Temple Grandin

For once, I’m actually happy that I don’t get HBO – otherwise, I’d feel obligated to watch and report on Temple Grandin, a new biopic starring Claire Danes that’s premiering on the cable channel this weekend. (Spared by own cheapness!) As if the title alone isn’t enough to turn all the vegans and vegetarians in the audience off (what’s that? you’ve never heard of Temple Grandin, you say?), behold American Humane’s gag-worthy marketing materials:

Movie Tells Inspirational Life Story of American Humane Advisor
‘Temple Grandin’ Airs Feb. 6 on HBO

HBO will premiere an original film based on the inspirational, true story of Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes, on Feb. 6, 2010. (Check your local listing for the broadcast time in your area.)

Temple Grandin paints a picture of a young woman’s perseverance and determination while struggling with the isolating challenges of autism. Grandin became a successful doctor in animal science through her unique connection to animals and is now a world-renowned consultant in the field. She is widely recognized within the animal welfare and livestock-handling industries as a pioneer in the ethical treatment of animals.

If by “ethical” you mean “killing more efficiently.” Similarly, Grandin’s “unique connection” to “food” animals is akin to that of a serial killer to her victims. Tomato, tomahto.

Grandin is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the American Humane® Certified farm animal program. American Humane Certified, originated by the American Humane Association, is the nation’s pre-eminent and fastest-growing monitoring, auditing and labeling program that attests to the humane care and handling of animals raised for food. Find out more about the American Humane Certified program at www.thehumanetouch.org.

Or just bypass the “happy meat” propaganda and go straight to http://humanemyth.org.

Grandin is also the best-selling author of Thinking in Pictures, Animals in Translation and Humane Livestock Handling. She recently authored an article titled “The Importance of Farm Animal Welfare” for The National Humane Review.

Vegans the internets over remain unimpressed.

In producing the film, HBO also engaged the services of American Humane’s Film & Television Unit, which is the exclusive monitoring and granting agency to award the coveted “No Animals Were Harmed”® end-credit disclaimer. The production followed American Humane’s strict Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media, had an American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative™ on set to ensure animal safety and welfare, and earned the famous assurance to viewers that “no animals were harmed” in the making of the movie. Learn more about American Humane’s Film & Television Unit.

Wherein “accidental” deaths don’t qualify as “harmful,” and the AHA has about as much authority (or will) to enforce its guidelines on film sets as the USDA does to uphold its own animal “welfare” and worker safety regulations in slaughterhouses.

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Lost‘s Sayid Jarrah: A History of Violence

February 2nd, 2010 by

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Caution: Spoilers through Season 5 below.

Last year, I wrote a (relatively) brief summary of the few animal-friendly plot lines found in seasons one through four of Lost. Animal advocacy issues are rarely addressed in the show, but look closely, and you’re bound to discover occasional gem: lovable Kate is a vegetarian, while show villain Anthony Cooper enjoys blood sports such as hunting. The Losties (understandably) took to hunting wild boar for sustenance early on, but the slaughter quickly ceased when they discovered the Dharma food drops. And who could forget Sayid’s memories of Amira?

While nonhuman animals didn’t much figure into the season five story arc, one episode in particular stuck with me. In fact, I meant to write about “He’s Our You” (Season 5, Episode 11) months ago, but somehow it kept getting placed on the back burner. With the final season of Lost set to begin tonight, what better time to revisit an old episode?

As I noted previously, Sayid’s story lines oftentimes revolve around the themes of forgiveness and vengeance, with Sayid struggling to come to grips with his strikingly violent past. As a soldier in the Iraq Republican Guard, he was captured, co-opted, and trained as an “interrogator” (read: torturer) by American forces during Operation Desert Storm. At the close of the war, his “skills” were put to use and turned against his fellow Iraqi citizens in the Republican Guard, where he was promoted to the Intelligence division and tasked with torturing dissidents and political prisoners – including his long lost childhood love, Nadia (as well as the aforementioned Amira). Torn between his allegiance to his country and his moral qualms, he helped Nadia to escape, but could not bring himself to go with her.

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Once on the island, Sayid (somewhat reluctantly) put his interrogation skills to use several times (as if fate would not allow him a break from his past – even when stranded on a lost island!), first torturing an innocent but obstinate Sawyer, and later, a guilty but cunning Ben Linus. During the “A-list missions” and battles with the Others, Sayid proved to be a valuable military asset. After escaping from the island, Sayid reunited with Nadia, only to see her murdered not a year after their wedding. The rest of Sayid’s time off the island is devoted to hunting her killers down, one by one, and exacting revenge. This came with an uneasy alliance with Ben, on the premise that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” However, it’s still unclear whether the men Ben directed Sayid to kill had anything to do with Nadia’s murder – or if Sayid was being conned.

Flash forward to Sayid’s return to the island – circa 1977. Here, a lost and confused Sayid struggles with the reason why he’s been brought back to the island; what is his purpose here? After meeting 12-year-old Ben Linus, Sayid has an epiphany: if he was to kill Ben, then the young, innocent Ben would not live to grow into the evil, adult Ben that the Losties know and hate – and thus most of the (present-day) events in Lost would never occur. But can Sayid really murder a child in cold blood?

He’s Our You” deals with Sayid’s inner struggle over this complex moral dilemma. As with earlier episodes, Sayid wonders whether he’ll ever be able to escape his past as a torturer and killer; are these merely things that he has done – bad things, of course, but things that can be left in the past – or are they what he is? To what extent do Sayid’s sins define him as a person? And, given the American occupying forces’ role in shaping his destiny, is Sayid a natural born or man-made killer?

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The X in the File, the Meat on the Bones

January 31st, 2010 by

Though not nearly as supernatural as its namesake, Bones Season 5, Episode 11 (“The X in the File“) concludes with a deliciously philosophical exchange.

But first, a brief plot summary:

An out-of-this-world case brings Brennan and Booth to New Mexico where they investigate human remains with extraterrestrial attributes. The victim is identified as a local UFO fanatic, known around town for her relentless search for alien life forms and whose latest “evidence” leads even Brennan and Booth to re-think outside existence. Meanwhile, a local sheriff refuses to release the bones, forcing the team at the Jeffersonian to work via satellite, and Angela and Jeffersonian intern Wendell come clean about their relationship.

After the case is wrapped up, Brennan and Booth celebrate with a little star gazing. In the middle of the desert, lounging on the hood of Booth’s car, the two wonder about the possibility that life exists on other planets:

(Brennan and Booth, alternating)

It’s ridiculous to think there’s anything on this planet which merits crossing what are literally astronomical distances.

Do you think aliens are anthropologists? Maybe they just want to study our religion, sex, love, our fine languages and line dancing.

That’s an interesting possibility I hadn’t considered.

They’re living creatures, they like to reach out, Bones.

Living creatures like to reach out and eat each other.

Oh. So what are you saying, that the aliens are going to come down here, and drink our spinal fluid?

Well, if the aliens are advanced enough to fly faster than light, then they can probably make spinal fluid.

You just said that aliens are nice.

Did not.

You just basically said that aliens are nice anthropologists.

I do not think so.

You think that aliens are you!

You got me. I was sent down as an advance scout.

At first, I thought the conversation might veer towards the ethical, with Brennan arguing that the aliens – being of superior intelligence and all – would have earned the right to drink our spinal fluid. After all, this is one of the most common justifications given for our individual and institutionalized exploitation of nonhuman animals (e.g., humans are more evolved, intelligent, refined, civilized, etc. – the “top of the food chain,” “because we can” school of “thought”). Taken to its logical conclusion, this line of reasoning grants a similar license to exploit us “lesser” humans to hypothetical intelligent alien visitors.

Alas, the episode ends on a lighter note. Even so, when Brennan suggests that the aliens could – and would – develop and consume synthetic spinal fluid, and Booth implies that this would indeed be the “nice” thing to do, I can’t help but read this as a subtle plea for veganism: why harm sentient beings for sustenance when you’ve no need? Exploiting just to exploit is “not nice” at best.

Thoughts?

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Sweeney Todd, a Caged Bird and the Devil’s Wife

January 28th, 2010 by

Sweeney Todd movie poster 07

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Caution: spoilers ahead!

Normally, I’m not one for musicals (Little Shop of Horrors and Grease notwithstanding!). That said, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street struck my fancy right away. Now, I could attribute this to the film’s macabre, Gothic Victorian setting, or to the dynamic star/director duo of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton; and, while these are both ginormous positives, I’d be lying if I said that either of these is what compelled me to dabble in a genre I tend to pass up. Nope, as much as I love a Goth Depp/Burton vehicle, Sweeney Todd reeled this vegan misanthrope in with promises of cannibalism. Cannibalism is the shit.

Sweeney Todd opens with the titular character’s arrival in London. “Return to London,” actually: in a former life, Sweeney Todd was one Benjamin Barker (also a barber). But we’ll get to Barker’s story in a moment.

We first meet Sweeney Todd as he and a young sailor dock in a London port. Whereas Todd’s traveling companion, Anthony, marvels at the beauty of London, Sweeney will have none of it. His gloomy, sullen mood sets the tone for the rest of the film: shades of black, gray and blue, colored only by the red crimson of blood spilt.

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link love, 2010-01-26

January 26th, 2010 by

Hello hello, and welcome to POP!’s very first link love link roundup. I’ve been collecting vegan pop culture links for months now, so this one’s a doozy. That said, the link love posts should be much more manageable from here on out!

Frac Attack! soundtrack cover artwork

Before we get started – please, feel free to promote your own vegan pop posts or share a link or two in the comments.

Frac Attack: Dawn of the Watershed (A short environmental zombie thriller) – A new independent environmental zombie film brought to you by the talented folks at Shirari Industries and The Dacha Project. R and PG-13 rated versions, both of which clock in at the 17-to-18 minute range, are available for viewing on the film’s website.

Karol Orzechowskiof: Field Trip – Via Mary at Animal Person comes this short film (and accompanying images) shot by Karol Orzechowskiof (of Animal Voices) at Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair’s Education Ring, “where thousands of children per year are conditioned to accept a corporate-sponsored and increasingly mechanized system of intensive animal agriculture.” You can view the video and learn more on field trip.

Zach Cincotta @ vegansaurus: Movie review: Meat, the thinking person’s slaughterhouse documentary – A review of the 1976 Frederick Wiseman documentary Meat, which sounds like something I wouldn’t even dare watch on Halloween. Also worth noting: Wiseman has apparently directed a number of other animal-themed documentaries (as per imdb), including Zoo, Racetrack, and Primate. Un/fortunately, Netflix doesn’t have a very large collection of Wiseman’s work available for viewing.

Zach Cincotta @ vegansaurus: Movie review: Au hasard Balthazar (it’s about a French donkey, you’re gonna love it!) – On Au hasard Balthazar, or “the existential donkey movie.” Reportedly a real tear-jerker, this one will not be making an appearance in my Netflix queue any time soon.

Zach Cincotta @ vegansaurus: Movie review: The Future of Food – Okay, this is Zach’s fist movie review for vegansaurus, and thus our last vegansarus link for today. Directed by Deborah Koons Garcia (Jerry Garcia’s widow!), Zach writes that The Future of Food “mines a lot of the same material as the more recently released Food, Inc., but without the head-scratchingly ridiculous hypocrisy inherent in the latter movie’s stance on animals.” Possibly you’ve also noticed that The Future of Food makes an appearance in one of POP!’s background collages?

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Biff! Bam! Kapow! (And welcome!)

January 25th, 2010 by

Super Kelly!

Welcome to the launch of POP! goes The Vegan., a pop culture blog written for vegans, by (a) vegan(s). Specifically, the aim of POP! is to dissect and critique film, television, music, theatre and literature, examining pieces of each from an animal rights / vegan / anti-oppressive perspective.

POP! has been a painfully long time coming. Some (many?) of you probably already know me from www.easyVegan.info, an animal rights blog that’s much more general in scope than POP!. While www.easyVegan.info began as an action-oriented blog, lately I’ve been focusing on issues of intersectionality over there, with the occasional pop culture post thrown in for fun. Inspired by the Bechdel Test Movie List database, I thought it might be fun to collect all my movie reviews in one place, thus creating a sort of “animal friendly film list.” Though slow to come to fruition, the idea quickly ballooned, resulting in what you see here. I’m still tweaking the site, so please bear with me!

Many animal-friendly bloggers sporadically discuss popular culture (with not a few blogs devoted to celebrity gossip) – but to the best of my knowledge, POP! is the first and only vegan blog that is dedicated solely to popular culture studies (wherein “popular culture studies” is my fancy way of saying “sometimes-critical movie and television reviews”). In this vein, I hope POP! fills a void in the vegan internets.

While POP! only went live in January, the blog archives reach way back to July 2007. All of the posts dated prior to 1/20/10 originally appeared on www.easyVegan.info; when I crossposted them here in anticipation of the blog’s launch, I archived the posts under their original publication dates. I expect that there will be some crossposting in the future, however, from here on out, most of the posts appearing on POP! will be original pieces. If you’re a regular www.easyVegan.info reader, please add http://www.PopGoesTheVegan.com to your reader or blogroll as well!

If you’d like to get in on the action, I’d love to have you! For the time being, I’m hoping to bring a few guest bloggers on board. I watch more television than I should, but even I can’t keep up with all the shows and movies out there! If you’d like to submit a post or idea, hop on over to the Submissions page for details.

Relax, kick back, and enjoy the show!

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