Holistic Activism

Some ideas about how we can reduce conflict among activists, create campaigns that are long lasting, reach out and connect with people who have different values to that of our own and work towards a meaningful shift in paradigm.

Guest Post by Mark Allen

Mark in garden

Mark Allen

“The embrace of unconditional forgiveness is essential to the success of all the major activist adventures in the world. There may be truth in the savage denunciation of corrupt corporations, politicians, and a media in bed with what Robert Kennedy called ‘systems of cold evil’ that want to keep exploiting the earth. But this response has two main disadvantages in practical affairs: the excitement of projecting your own unacknowledged darkness onto others keeps you from seeing just how implicated you are. Advocating for any cause in this spirit virtually ensures your efforts will increase resistance rather than heal. Human beings will never be convinced to change their ways by other human beings who try to humiliate them. In nearly every case, such condemnation only reinforces the behaviour it is trying to end. When people are accused of acts they know they are guilty of by others who have contempt for them, they almost always retreat even further into their self-destructive behaviour. If they do change, it is from fear, or perhaps hypocrisy, but not from their own truth” (Andrew Harvey).

 

The version of the article that you are reading is very much a draft; something that I have put together for the 2018 Students of Sustainability Conference in Melbourne. While this is a work in progress (in fact it will always be a work in progress) the aim is to try, at the earliest possible opportunity, to encourage people to connect to the issues that are discussed here. If these words inspire only one person, then they have served their purpose.

 

Encouraging people other than myself to become involved at the onset is important because I am not exactly sure how this project will develop, only that it seems right for me to be doing this. In face of the overwhelming issues that the world is facing, it feels to me that we really have to evolve or accept a future that I don’t want to think about. Of course many less privileged people than myself are already experiencing much of this dystopia right now. But I digress…..

 

At this stage I can say that the plan is to develop this movement by holding regular workshops and sometimes weekend retreats. Hopefully these workshops will inspire others to run workshops of their own with the movement spreading from there. This is the model that Climate for Change use and this seems to me to be the most effective way of developing a movement at this time.

 

So why have I found myself involved in Holistic Activism? As someone who has been an activist on and off since the 90’s I have seen many activists burn out and much of that burnout is through dashed expectations, differences between activists and disappointment at seeing little positive change for the many hours of time that they have invested.

 

Of course I have witnessed some major successes and I am not in any way trying to denigrate the achievements that activists have made, only that for every success there seems to be a thousand more battles that need to be fought. We are mostly putting out spot fires and not putting enough emphasis into approaching the mindset that is creating these spot fires. This is why I have arrived at holistic activism.

 

It is an acknowledgment that most of the problems that plague humanity (and therefore the rest of the natural world) are rooted in our disconnection with all that is. If you feel this is too airy fairy, I urge you to read on. This movement utilises Deep Ecology, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, Social Permaculture and some aspects of Post Structuralism; all movements that have strong grounding in their own right. There is nothing much here that is new; just a repackaging of modern and ancient discourses in a way that is hopefully approachable to the modern day activist.

 

I am not trying to replace other forms of activism.  This is about looking at how the activism that we are involved in can tap into deeper more proactive change. It could also provide another approach to effecting change for those who need to take a break from frontline activism.

 

So considering that ‘activism’ is the second part of the title, the first question I suppose might be, what is an activist? I believe that every person is an activist (or potential activist) to a greater or lesser degree, even those who might not appear to fit the picture of what an activist is perceived to be. Everyone has a point whereby they would choose to go out and campaign, even if it is something as fundamental as ensuring that clean water is running out of their tap and that they have clean air to breathe. By seeing everyone as a potential activist, we start to pave a way towards looking for points of connection with others rather than getting bogged down in points of difference.

 

So this article is aimed at everyone because it assumes that everyone is a potential activist and it assumes that activism is something that is and should be ongoing. One thing that history has taught us is the need for constant vigilance or else we risk succumbing to the ideological posturing of those people who, over time, develop sufficient power and influence to favour a narrow view of the way the world should be.

 

While language is a valuable tool, it also reduces and compartmentalises our complex relationship with the world and all that is. Therefore, to find a place of connection outside of language is as important as embracing critical thinking.

 

Indigenous tribes across the world have rituals in place to do just that. It is a means of ensuring that the impact of language is visualised from a deeper perspective. But those rituals have to be regular and ongoing in the same way that language is regular and ongoing. We have much to learn from such knowledges to ensure that the systemic change that we are working towards does not mutate into some kind of alternative dogma.

 

So as well as finding ways of reconnecting to the wonderment of the world, we could benefit immensely from learning to be the observers of our minds; to step back and realise that ‘thoughts, images memories and other cognitions are nothing more than bits of language, words and picture.’

 

HOLISTIC ACTIVISM STEPS

 

Climate change and many of the other problems that are plaguing humanity and have plagued humanity are the symptoms of a much deeper problem, one that is rooted in ego and cognitive dissonance.

 

Cognitive Dissonance

 

Holistic Activism is about taking us outside of that because unless we do, we will never achieve long-term peace and sustainability. We have to stop re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and embrace our interconnectedness and not our separateness. This movement is about taking an approach that deals with the causes as well as the underlying symptoms. Here is how:

 

The first step is acceptance. Our approach to activism and living must come from a perspective of acceptance of the way the world is in this moment; that for one reason or another, for better or worse, the world has unfolded to this point. Acceptance does not mean that we have to like it or not want to change it. Instead, acceptance is the starting point of that change. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming attached to discourses centred around what could of or what should have been. This leads to the politics of resentment and the emotional impact that comes with it. This of course does not mean that we should condone past actions or activities. On the contrary, it is about maintaining a critical eye so that we do not repeat those mistakes. The notion of acceptance is about breaking the endless cycle of recrimination and moving towards an activism that is centred on compassion.

 

This brings me to the second step which is about de-escalation. Every person brings with them the many layers of their life experience into conversation; they are that way as a result of many factors and influences that stretch back to long before they were born. By not basing our assumptions on there being a healthy normality, we can look towards those issues that connect us as opposed to focussing on the ones that divide us. In doing so we can build up the trust that is required to have open and constructive conversation on those issues where we do have differences. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be assertive and show boundaries. In fact it is important that we do, only that this assertiveness is underlined by compassion.

 

HA Picture

 

The third step is to maintain our own capacity to think critically coupled with a willingness to change our perspective. No one person can have a clear view of the way the world should be. We can have ideas but we must feel that we are part of an ongoing conversation and that the outcome of that conversation will never be exactly what we envision. It will be much more complex and multi layered. Knowing this gives us the freedom to be open to new ideas and to be willing to change our perspective, thus creating a more conducive atmosphere for everyone to create meaningful change.

 

The fourth step is to realise that creating social inclusion and ecological sustainability is not about everyone adhering to the same set of values. Instead we need to look for areas of connection. We achieve this by trying to see things from the perspective of someone else and looking for areas where that connection can be made. This starts to take the relationship out of ego and begins the process of developing a relationship that is considerably more open minded.

 

The fifth step is being comfortable with paradoxes. This is a key aspect of not getting caught-up in cognitive dissonance. The world is a complex place and there are many truths that seem conflicting but have their place. We try to draw lines around our perspective of the world and make a box out of it and then defend what lies in that box. We also run the risk of breaking the world into dichotomies which ignores the complexities that can make a real difference.

 

The sixth step is to take a permaculture approach to the way we communicate. Observe a situation before choosing your role within it. Work out where we can work together and determine the most effective role that you can play.

 

The seventh step is to utilise assertive communication techniques as well as reflecting listening in order to most effectively engage with the previous six steps.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Thank you again reading this very brief introduction. If you connect with even some of what is written here, it would be great to hear from you and it would be great to hear your thoughts and opinions.

 

A more in-depth version of this article will, in time, be published as a booklet and this in turn, will accompany workshops and regular meet-ups. I have no idea what impact this movement will have, but this is where I have arrived at and where I feel that I can now make the best contribution.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION/GET INVOLVED

 

You can contact me at themindfulactivist@gmail.com and join the Facebook group Holistic Activism and Behaviour Change to learn more and contribute to discussions on the topic.

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Quick and Easy Vegan Meals

By Nick Pendergrast

daria-pop-tarts-toaster

Not really a meal, but on a side note, all UNFROSTED pop tarts are vegan!

I remember someone saying a while ago that there are great vegan recipes out there, but what do you do if you just want to make something really quick? You certainly don’t have to be into cooking/keen to make fancy meals with long and complex recipes/have a lot of time for cooking to be vegan!

Below are some ideas for quick and easy vegan meals – some are cheap, others not so cheap and some are healthy, others not so much. But all are very quick and easy to prepare. Add some salad/chopped up carrots or other vegetables to any of these to increase your vegetable intake and make them healthier. Please leave comments with additional suggestions that you like.

 

chicken sandwich

Vegan “chicken” burger.

 

  • Vegan “chicken” burger/sandwich:

Fry up oil, “chicken” stock (Massel chicken stock is vegan and available at pretty much any supermarket*), hard tofu (eg sliced garlic tofu available at Coles) and cook until crispy. Serve with bread or burger roles and vegan mayonnaise (Praise 99% fat-free is a vegan one that is available at most supermarkets, plus there are healthier vegan mayo’s you can find at health food/organic shops and sometimes in the health food section of the supermarket).

 

ingredients for chicken sandwich

Ingredients for the “chicken” burger above.

 

  • Toasted cheese sandwich using vegan cheese – Bio cheese slices are available at most supermarkets. For the best cheese sandwich, put cheese with some salt and pepper inside bread, cover both sides of the bread with vegan margarine eg Nuttelex and then fry until brown on both sides and cheese has melted. Occasionally push down on bread with a spatula to help with cheese melting.
  • Lentils and frozen peas fried up with stock and served on top of toast.
  • Sausages with frozen peas and pre-made hash browns. Sanitarium sausages are vegan and available at most supermarkets, Linda McCartney sausages are also vegan and available at some supermarkets.
  • Soup and bread. There are a number of pre-made vegan soups available at supermarkets, including some La Zuppa Soups, Pitango Soups and heaps more.
  • Pre-made falafel and hummus with wraps.
  • Spiced lentils mix:

Fry up oil, garlic if you have it, then add 3x 400 gram tins of lentils with stock if you’re using it, then add 800 grams of diced tomatoes and all spices, fry for a few more minutes, then mash a bit with a potato masher. Add spices for flavour eg Massel Beef stock (all Massel stock powders are vegan even though they’re called “Beef”, “Chicken” etc), chilli flakes, cumin, pepper, garlic powder if you’re not using fresh garlic, mixed herbs etc. Serve with rice or bread roles. Thanks to Adam from VeganSci for this one!

 

Lentils and Rice

Spiced lentils mix.

 

  • Baked beans on toast (avoid ones with cheese/meat).
  • Tinned spaghetti (avoid ones with cheese/meat).
  • Instant noodles eg Indo Mie Mi Goreng Fried Noodles and all Maggi two minute noodles are vegan.
  • Pre-made burgers with bread eg Sanitarium “Not Burgers”, Fry’s chicken schnitzels or burger patties etc (all of the Fry’s range is vegan, most of the Sanitarium range is and those that are vegan are marked as vegan on the front of the package).
  • Hot dogs with bread or hot dog buns and sauce, plus onions if you have them. Sanitarium hot dogs are vegan and available at most supermarkets.

 

Additional suggestions from when I posted this on Facebook – please leave a comment below if you have additional suggestions:

  • Dairy free shop bought pesto, in pasta with nutritional yeast for extra flavour sprinkled on top, fresh basil.
  • Toast with avocado spread on top, squeeze of lime juice, black pepper and either tomato, radish or peppers.
  • Quorn fishfinger sandwich with salt n vinegar, on white bread with vegan margarine eg Nuttelex and tomato sauce.

 

*For an endless list of vegan products you can find in an Australian supermarket, check out the Vegan Easy Cheat Sheet.

All CCM Ice Hockey Skates Are Vegan!

By Nick Pendergrast

 

I realise most people reading this don’t care!

ice hockey chen diagram

But I thought I’d share it here so it comes up in searches if others are looking for vegan ice-hockey skates.

 

Below is the response from CCM regarding their skates:

 

ConsumerServices <consumerservices@ccmhockey.com>
Tue 1/08/2017, 9:39 PM

Hello Nick,

Thank you for contacting Consumer Services at CCM hockey
We apologize for not having responded to you sooner.
All of our skates are manufactured with synthetic leather, no animal products.

Respectfully
CCM Hockey Team
1 800 644-1677

Ford’s Attempts to Moderate the CORE of the Civil Rights Movement

By Nick Pendergrast

Black-Panther-Party

I recently heard a great podcast episode on the Black Panther Party by Revolutionary Left Radio. Some of the issues raised on the show reminded me of research I did for my PhD thesis that never made it into the final edit. This research was on different factions within the civil rights movement and attempts from outside of the movement to moderate it. My thesis focused on the animal advocacy movement but in looking into the role of financial considerations in shaping animal advocacy, I looked into research on financial considerations and moderation in a wide range of social movements, including the civil rights movement. I am by no means (anywhere near!) an expert on this topic but it was something that was just at the “edge” of my research and I found what I read on this issue really interesting, so thought I’d share my writing summarising some key points from these texts. I believe the issues raised in these texts are very relevant to debates and tensions going on in a wide range of social movements today. See the references at the end if you’d like to look further into the sources yourself.

NPIC

This article is mostly based on information from this book – see below for an online link to it.

Foundations and Social Movements

In the book The Revolution Will Not be Funded: Beyond the Non-profit Industrial Complex, Andrea Smith (2007) outlines the historic and contemporary role of foundations set up by millionaires and corporations, and their moderating influence on social movement organisations and social movements generally. The first such foundation in the United States was established in 1907 and since then there has been a continual increase in foundations, non-profits, and donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations. These foundations initially acted as a tax shelter for corporations, but also quickly focussed on moderating movements for social change. While these foundations supported measures to ameliorate social problems, the instigators wanted them done in a manner that did not challenge capitalism. For example, amid strikes by Colorado miners in 1913, the Rockefeller foundation worked to reduce the social and political unrest by giving relief to individual workers, but saw workers organising through unions as a threat to society. It was feared that these developments could lead to more fundamental changes. After World War Two, many foundations moved beyond merely philanthropic giving and began to try to engineer social change and influence social justice movements (Smith, 2007, p. 4-5).

 

The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

A particularly good illustration of how this can work in practice is the way the Ford Foundation and others actively attempted to steer the civil rights movement in a more conservative direction (Smith, 2007, p. 5). The Ford Foundation did this through directly funding the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) with $175 000 and also through giving $500 000 to the Metropolitan Applied Research Centre (MARC) (Allen, 2007, first published 1969, p. 55). CORE’s outside funding rose from $4 604 in 1952, to $130 609 in 1960, to $694 588 in 1964. There were also huge increases in the outside funding of the civil rights movement generally at this time (Haines, 1984, p. 36). According to a text by Robert L. Allen (2007, first published 1969, p. 55), the Ford Foundation was able to not only directly influence the activities of CORE through funding that organisation, but they also indirectly influenced CORE through funding MARC. This funding was used to create civil rights fellowships, where the fellows (including the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and many leaders from CORE) received a salary to a level roughly equivalent to those they were then receiving from their organisations or private employment.

MARC was headed by the psychology professor Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, whose strategy was to get large corporations involved in the ghettos of American cities. He argued that ‘business and industry are our last hope…they are the most realistic elements in our society’ (cited in Allen, 2007, first published 1969, p. 55). MARC set about trying to calm Cleveland’s racial tension, which the Ford Foundation had been attempting to do for years (Allen, 2007, first published 1969, pp. 55-56). The Ford Foundation made a donation of $175 000 to the Cleveland chapter of CORE, which was to be used for ‘training of Cleveland youth and adult community workers, voter registration efforts, exploration of economic-development programs, and attempts to improve program planning among civil rights groups’ (Allen, 2007, first published 1969, p. 56). CORE was perfect for the Ford Foundation because their militant rhetoric meant that they appealed to discontented African-American people (unlike “old-style” moderate leaders), but their ambiguous and reformist definition of black power as simply black control over black communities differentiated them from “genuine” black radicals who the foundation saw as too dangerous. Similarly, funding from the foundation appealed to CORE because before it received this funding it was several thousand dollars in debt. CORE had struggled financially as its promotion of black power scared away potential financial supporters (Allen, 2007, first published 1969, pp. 55-57).

 

The Ford grant to CORE was a success in the eyes of the foundation – there was no rebellion in the summer of 1967 (serious riots had occurred in 1966 and the early spring of 1967) and tension was further eased when Carl Stokes became the first African-American mayor of a major American city in November 1967. The voter registration drive and voter education program initiated by CORE (and funded by the Ford Foundation) played a significant role in this election (Allen, 2007, first published 1969, pp. 55-57). King and his associates in many organisations advocating for civil rights ‘were increasingly defined as moderate or, at the very least, as “responsible” militants’ (Haines, 1984, p. 34).

 

Both CORE and MARC attempted to negotiate with the power structure on behalf of African-Americans and the poor. They were seeking more government and private aid, and, rather than challenging the existing economic and political structure of US society, they pushed for the poor to be included in this structure. Floyd McKissick, who was the second CORE official to get a MARC scholarship, criticised capitalism but not in a fundamental manner: it was not that capitalism itself was wrong, the problem was that black people were not able to fully participate in it at the time. CORE had no intention of tampering with the “free enterprise system” beyond increasing black involvement in this system, with black power increasingly being equated with the power of black business and black capitalism. Partly due to indirect control and manipulation from the Ford Foundation (Allen, 2007, first published 1969, pp. 60-62), ‘far from aiding in the achievement of black liberation and freedom from exploitation, [CORE] would instead weld the black communities more firmly into the structure of American corporate capitalism’ (Allen, 2007, first published 1969, p. 62). Most in the civil rights movement ended up calling for reform rather than revolution (Haines, 1984, p. 33).

 

References:

Allen, R. L. 2007, first published 1969. From Black Awakening in Capitalist America. In The Revolution will not be Funded: Beyond the Non-profit Industrial Complex, ed. INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, 53-62. Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.: South End Press.

Haines, H. H. 1984. Black Radicalization and the Funding of Civil Rights: 1957-1970. Social Problems 32 (1): 31-43.

Smith, A. 2007. Introduction: The Revolution will not be Funded. In The Revolution will not be Funded: Beyond the Non-profit Industrial Complex, ed. INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, 1-20. Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.: South End Press.

The Silence of the Lambs: My Interview with an Australian Slaughterhouse Worker

By Nick Pendergrast

I did the following interview with an anonymous Halal slaughterhouse worker in Western Australia and it was published years ago in the magazine Vegan Voice, which is no longer in operation. Since being published in the magazine it has showed up and disappeared in various places online. It’s great that it has been shared around online and I encourage people to put it up wherever they like. But I thought it’d also be worth posting it here, just in case it disappears from the other places online at some point, as I think the worker I interviewed gives a frank and insightful perspective on this industry that is mostly hidden from public view. While this workers’ story is unique, it is also interesting to see a remarkable amount of overlap between their account and the experiences of other slaughterhouse workers that I have read about – see the links at the end for some larger-scale studies of slaughterhouse work. At the time of publishing this, the interview is available online here in the magazine version that was originally published, with pictures etc, if people would rather read the information that way.

A content warning that the interview contains frequent and some graphic descriptions of violence and harm to animals.

How did you become a slaughterhouse worker?

Lack of any other job in the country, really. I was either picking vegetables which a lot of times you got to have machine tickets for, or you had to just go get a manual labouring job and the meatworks were always hiring and they pay pretty good. So it was just, you know, random chance. I know after talking to some of my friends on the weekend that the beef abattoirs are now paying 45 dollars an hour. The demand is there for workers and they really do pay pretty well, and a lot of other places just can’t compete with that sort of money. So it was greed, unfortunately.

How long did you work there?

Four months. I was there for a month, didn’t like it, went on to do some labouring. I just wasn’t earning enough to cover my bills, so I had to go back.

How did the experience of working in a slaughterhouse compare with your expectations of what it would be like?

A lot messier, a lot more violent, a lot more brutal. I didn’t expect the sort of conditions and cruelty that I seen there. And I thought, because we had quality control experts there and a veterinarian on staff ‘ But they really didn’t seem to care. They were there for the money just like we were. And they just kept putting the product through — that’s all they were worried about.

Can you describe each stage of the process of turning a live animal into food on the public’s plate?

Well, the goats are rounded up with choppers, shotguns, explosives — things like that so they’re scared — and herded onto trucks. The trucks come in and I think the worst day was 25 dead animals off the truck just from sheer overloading. Then they’re put in the marshalling yards and left to starve for a couple of days so they clean their stomach out. Because you’re not allowed to, well, I’m not sure if you’re not allowed to, but our practice was you don’t slaughter an animal with a full stomach because there’s more chance of inexperienced workers bursting the stomach, tainting the meat and not being able to use it.

After being in the marshalling yards anywhere from a day to a week, they’re brought up into holding pens, again using loud noises to scare the animals. A lot of the goats we dealt with were feral and we were like the second or third human they’d ever seen in their entire existence.

They’re kept in very small pens, crammed in there so you don’t have to go and get them out of the marshalling yards as often. Then they’re herded in up a race, then up a conveyor belt and electro-stun to the back of the head. When the animals are wet, the electro-charge doesn’t distribute across the brain properly, so a lot of the time you’d have to do it two or three times. And you’re not trained in it; they just sort of say, ‘Well, you point it in that direction and you put the electrodes there.’

You hear the animals scream, their eyes will roll back in their head, their tails will curl up, they’ll piss and shit blood. The conveyor belt was a series of paddles and a lot of times their skin would get caught in that and get torn open. So the animal was in constant suffering from the time it’s herded, to put on a truck, to the electro-stun.

Then, because it was a halal slaughterhouse, the Muslim cleric would say his prayer dedicated to Allah and slit the animal’s throat. Then it was supposed to be left to bleed out for 20 minutes. Generally they’d be left for about five minutes, if that. A lot of times the animal would still be kicking, still be alive, when its head and tail were removed, which is the next stage.

They’d be hung out inverted, so they’d bleed out and drain out. You’d cut the tail off. You’d then have to snap the neck and cut the head off. A lot of the times when you’re doing that the animal was still alive. People used to get kicked by the animals, so they’d punch them back. I mean, the animals, you know, are dying — what’s the point in hitting a creature suffering that much?

Then the hooves would get cut off. Meanwhile, you could still see the animal visibly twitching, you could still see the life in the meat. And I’ve gone through all stages and even to the point where they’d go in the chillers, they’d still be twitching. There’d still be ‘ you could tell there was some sign of life or activity going on there.

But before they’d cut the hooves they’d use a bio-saw to cut through the brisket. Then they’d cut the top hooves off, turn them upside down, cut the bottom hooves off. Then the gutter would open up the stomach through a small incision where the bowel is, put his knife in with the blade facing outwards and slide that down so all the stomach would spill open (well, without actually bursting the intestines). Then the gutter would have to hold the stomach with all his weight and run the knife down both sides of the backbone, separating the stomach and the intestines and the organs.

They’d get chucked down a chute, and most of the time they’d burst and spill on the floor. Our meat inspector was supposed to check the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys for disease, but a lot of times he wouldn’t bother.

After the stomach came out it was up to the trimmers to trim off all the excess bits of fur and faeces and milk, stuff like that. And then it would go straight into the chillers. This would take anywhere from, I reckon, 10—15 minutes, from the time the animal was killed until it got into the chillers.

So you found that halal wasn’t any more humane than standard practice.

No, well, they said that Allah forbids an animal being bashed on the head, no animal fighting, no unclean animals — it’s supposed to be a lot nicer and happier for the animal. But, you know, when the electro-stun didn’t work and they’d go through the chute a lot of them had their throats slit while they were still alive, still kicking. The idea is that it’s supposed to distribute the charge over the brain so they don’t feel any pain, but generally it would just immobilise them because they’d still be screaming, they’d still be kicking and twitching — still trying to run while they’re laying there sideways having their throat slit. And it’s this sort of thing that sticks with you, this sort of thing that you remember for a very long time. Can you still hear the lambs screaming, Clarice? Can you still hear the lambs? That sort of thing.

LambDaffodils

Image from: https://sheilacrosby.com/squee-monday-lambs/

Which sections of the slaughterhouse did you work in?

I worked from one end to the other because I was a good worker. I even used to work out the back trimming, salting and stacking the skins. I just learnt quick, I suppose, either that or I was terrible at every job and they couldn’t figure out where to put me. [Laughs.] But no, I used to try and do my job to the best of my ability. I got a few cuts and bruises to prove it. But yeah, every process, every single part of it, you know, is just turning life into a machine. That’s all it is. Get the product out, get the product out. Who cares? You gotta do what you gotta do.

The animals in the cages are whipped and beaten. There’d be the stockman out the back and when an animal would fight back, you know, they’d take chains and crowbars to them, like, beat them into submission. A lot of the time when I was trimming the skins you could see the foot or knuckle bruises where people had punched into the animals when they were alive. As I say, when people were chopping off the tails and they’d get a kick in the chin, they’d lay into the animal. And it’s laying there dying, it’s its last moments. What are you going to prove, you know? I saw it as a defence mechanism, because a lot of people didn’t want to accept it: it’s not me, it’s the animal. And that comes down to psychology, but I don’t know enough about that to comment on it. I’m just speaking from experience.

Unfortunately I’m still a carnivore — or omnivore, I should say — but there has got to be better ways of doing it than that. And like I say, even when I’d voice problems, or anyone else would voice a problem, it would take days before anything got fixed. Sheep and goats aren’t meant to be transported when they’re pregnant, but nearly every second mutton that we’d do would have a foetus in it, anywhere from a tiny little lamb like this big [motions a size of about 10cm x 10cm] to full grown, ready-to-fall. If they gave birth in the marshalling yard while they were waiting, well, the animal technically didn’t belong to anyone, so it would have to be put down.

When it would get really cold at night the animals would huddle together and a lot of them would get crushed. Again, that was from overloading of the pens. The pens would be this deep [motions approximately 30cm] in faeces and mud, so a lot of the time — like when sheep slip over and stay on their side too long, they get like a toxic shock — poisons get released from their stomach or their muscles, and it would ruin their balance centre in their brain and they wouldn’t be able to walk any more.

The process was supposed to be that you’d do a ‘dead run’ first thing in the morning — basically any animal that’s in pain you’d have to kill. Now sometimes these animals, they’d either die on their own or they’d lay there till three or four in the afternoon and we’d start killing at six. Other animals would come through with big canker sores and maggots and wounds, like, whole legs ballooned up with maggots, and they’d just be left in a pen until somebody could be bothered coming over to shoot them. And every time somebody would voice an opinion, say something should be done, it would just be, ‘Yeah, we’ll get the product through, we’ll deal with that tomorrow, we’ll deal with that tomorrow.’

They never bothered shutting the plant down until major machines broke down, like the day the conveyor belt from the race broke down, you know, we shut down for a week until they fixed it. Then when they fixed it, it was actually pulling more chunks of skin and doing more damage to the animal. They said, ‘Oh, don’t worry, the chain will stretch, it will wear in.’ There was no consideration at all, it was just a matter of product, product, product. That’s all they cared about.

How many animals do you estimate were killed each day at the slaughterhouse where you worked?

Anywhere from 650 to 800. I think our biggest day was 820. We used to get a bonus for killing more than 700. If we killed more than 750 animals a day, for a certain amount a day you were over, you got 10 cents or 20 cents bonus per head. So basically they’re paying you to push it through quicker, they’re giving you more money to ignore the bleeding time, to ignore stunning, ignore best practice. Nobody’s taught proper animal husbandry. I actually had to ask the vet the best way to pick up a sheep.

Were there many cases of disease and other conditions among the animals at the slaughterhouse?

Many of them had the scap [diarrhoea] — their back legs would be covered in it. The marshalling pens, like the fences, were in real bad disrepair and they’d actually lose eyes because they’d be that overloaded. We had animals being attacked by crows and foxes, losing eyes. Foxes would eat their way in through the anus, then in through the intestines, whereas crows would start at the eyeballs and peck at the brain — and a lot of these animals would still be alive.

If the vet deemed it was, like, 90 per cent good, he’d still put it through — just cut this off, just cut that off. The incidence of disease ‘ I’d have to say about 50 per cent. A lot of the time they would have some form of large cyst on them, or maggot-infested dags or wounds or canker sores, or lack of iron, or a crippled leg due to overloading or the handling techniques. Yeah, at least 50 per cent of the animals would have some form of injury or illness, quite easily.

And when they were diseased the whole thing wasn’t thrown out — they’d just cut around it? The rest was used?

There were ones that would come through ‘ there was what was basically an arthritis and they’d get put in the chiller and they’d get blown out because the gases and the juices in the joints that cause the arthritis would swell up and taint the meat. So they’d just cut it out as quickly as possible. I got taught to take the skeleton out of a sheep, while it was still hanging up, and yeah, it was literally just cut that chunk out, keep the rest, you know. And the practice of putting them down was only in extreme cases where the animal was fully diseased or fully messed up or they’d been crushed or they’d laid down too long and they couldn’t get up and the toxins had actually gone through the meat.

How would you rate the hygiene at the slaughterhouse?

On a scale of one to ten, probably about negative five. In the marshalling yards the animals would be standing almost knee-deep in their own waste. Hay would be thrown out to them when they were disabled or weak and they’d literally be eating out of their own crap. Stomachs would get burst; the idea was there was supposed to be zero tolerance for faeces on the floor, but it would be everywhere.

The holding pens were under cover, but even so it took a long time before they realised that you gotta clean those pens out. They were on crates about this high off the ground, approximately two inches [5cm], so the waste matter would fall through and you could smell the urea, the ammonia from their waste, festering there. We were supposed to clean those out once every two weeks, one pen at a time, but they’d get left. I think about five weeks was the biggest record I seen while I was there, until they actually started filling up through the crate and then you’d have to lift the crates up and shovel it out. And then it would just get dumped around the yard for flies to breed in, which would then go reinfest the sheep that are being held, and, you know, the cycle of disease just kept going and going.

Did you notice any changes in the mentality or behaviour of the workers the longer they worked there?

Yeah, there was a definite change. A lot of people ‘ there was heavy drug use, alcohol use. A lot of that seemed to be compensating because as soon as people knocked off it was a matter of getting blind, forget about what you’ve done for that day, you know. Or you’d get the other side of it where people would snap and just start getting really brutal. It was either denial or the extreme acceptance of ‘well, I’m going to kill kill kill’.

Do you think that doing this job affected workers outside work hours, such as in the way they treated humans or other animals?

Oh, a lot of them had their own pets but they’d go out hunting and they wouldn’t have any consideration. I mean, you’d hit a kangaroo on the side of the road or hit a kangaroo on your way to work and you’d be joking about it. You know, no one would care about the animal you’ve just killed. That realisation even got me one day when I hit a roo, but I did do the right thing and had to take the hatchet out of the back of my car and cut his head off. It was either that or leave the animal there kicking and bleeding.

But a lot of people just, yeah, they treated other animals that weren’t socially accepted pets as fair game, open sport. People used to go out pig hunting because there’s a lot of feral pigs around the area. And they’d let their dog sic onto them for something to do and let the dogs attack and maul them for five minutes before they decided to shoot them. I don’t know if that was a direct consequence of working at the meatworks, but it’s a pretty big coincidence.

Lamb and Dog

Image from: https://sheilacrosby.com/squee-monday-lambs/

You mentioned alcohol and drug use — that was quite widespread, was it?

If it wasn’t for marijuana, amphetamines and alcohol that place couldn’t function.

And so that’s while they’re working as well, not just afterwards to forget about it?
While they were working there were a few people drinking on the job, which I always wondered about, it being a Muslim slaughterhouse. Alcohol should have been banned because it’s against their religion, but a lot of people would be drinking, though not the Muslims themselves. But a lot of the other workers were heavily using amphetamines, smoking dope on their lunch breaks and stuff, and a lot of that was, I’d say, to compensate for what they were doing. That’s the way it felt.

Do you think workers at the slaughterhouse could freely express their concerns without feeling as though their jobs were under threat?

No, you can’t. If you scream too loudly you will get the sack, and that’s a lot of the reason why I left because things I was saying were getting ignored. I knew that if you demanded you’d be out the door and in such a small community there’s not many jobs. That was the reason why I was there to begin with.

The head of the meatworks was an accountant, he was a bean counter. All he worried about was money. Like, he was an accountant as a profession, and that’s all it was to him. It was a numbers game. You know, this many animals versus this much to fix it — are we going to get more animals through if we fix it or do we just put up with it the way it is and ignore everyone’s comments.

The quality control officers were powerless or ignorant or in denial, and the vet — there was the two vets there, who I believe were also supposed to be RSPCA officers — just ignored it, put up with it. That’s the meatworks, everyone just thinks that’s what it’s supposed to be. They don’t know any better, they don’t wanna know any better. And yeah, you can’t, like I say, make any demands, otherwise you’ll be out the door.

How did you feel while you were working and did your work affect you outside working hours?

My drinking and marijuana use steadily increased. I did become a lot more withdrawn and antisocial. I found I could only hang out with other meatworkers, because [we were] in the same mental state, I suppose, same social scene. Also, in a country town there’s not too many outlets for sociability. But the meatworkers were treated with a kind of respect and fear because everyone knew that they were crazy. [Laughs.] You know, they had their own corner in the pub, and yeah, you were treated a little differently because of it and you treated others a little differently because of it.

Do you think that the violence inflicted on animals in the slaughterhouse spilled over to violence among workers during work or outside work?

I seen many arguments on the slaughter floor where people would throw their knives on the ground and go out the back and punch on, over voicing concerns about safety or he’s not doing his job and why should I have to cover him. Yes, there was a great deal of violence, as well as a lot of dangerous practical jokes and things like that. Yeah, and if you couldn’t take it, if you couldn’t hack it — you’re a girl, you’re a wuss, you know, you were treated like shit. You weren’t one of the boys, basically.

Are there any memories of the slaughterhouse that have particularly stuck with you?

The scream of the goats. It would sound like a child being tortured. And they would scream a lot of times when you didn’t electro-stun them properly — they’d scream and they’d jump and they’d bark. They’d bash their heads on the side of the race and open up wounds. And seeing other people, as I say, take crowbars and chains to animals. It’s going to stick with me for the rest of my life. But particularly the screams of the animals — it sounds too human.

You know they know it’s not right and you know within yourself it’s not right. But in pursuit of the almighty dollar many people will do many things.

 

 

For more information on slaughterhouse work, I recommend:

The Psychological Damage of Slaughterhouse Work’ in PTSD Journal (short article based on academic research).

Meatworkers, especially women, prone to violence: study’ by Danielle Bowling (short article based on academic research).

Caught in the Gears: The Dangers of Slaughterhouse Work’ by Faunalytics (summary of a study by Human Rights Watch).

Slaughterhouse Workers’ by Food Empowerment Project (shortish overview of research on the topic).

Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates’ by Amy J. Fitzgerald, Linda Kalof, Thomas Dietz (academic journal article).

Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry’ by Gail A. Eisnitz (book).

Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?

By Katie

 

melting-ice

Image from Bernhard Staehli / shutterstock

 

Jennifer Ludden has recently published an article asking the question: Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?

My answer? No.

Read the scientific predictions for climate change. Consider what future your child will have. I’m scared about what the world will be like when I’m 40, but at least I will have had 39 years to live a ‘normal’ life, pre-climate change disaster.

My privileged Western kid will produce far more emissions than a kid in Burundi. (Yes, even if they are vegan and an amazing ethical eco person! Vegans and ethical people – you don’t get a free pass at breeding!) But ultimately who will suffer the most under climate change? The kid in Burundi. And my kid will help to add more suffering through their environmental impact.

 

kids-and-climate-change

Image from The Weather Channel on Youtube

 

So, no. No good reason to choose to bring a kid into this world. You do it for your own selfish reasons, to propagate your DNA and have a little version of you that you believe is a special snowflake and not something that cost you half a mil and shits on you (literally!).

That’s not even to mention what kind of world they would be living in if the climate doesn’t continue to go to hell. I’m not bringing a girl into this world. Knowing she has a 1/3 chance of experiencing violence? No. I will never have to come to the realisation that I could not protect my own child from family violence or sexual violence.

The worst part is being one of those childfree people that loves kids and fantasises about being able to have my own kids in a perfect world. So many childfree people hate kids. It’s so easy for them. But I have to watch others experience it, get all the adulation and recognition by our pro-breeding society, knowing that I am choosing to opt out and not experience being a parent. Because it’s in the best interest of the planet, the other animals we annihilate with our breeding, and that little kid in Burundi.

 

polar-bear

Image from globalaffairspress.com

The Greens and the Myth of “Green” Capitalism

By Nick Pendergrast

 

green capitalism

 

We recently did a podcast episode where we explained how we’re voting this election. We got some feedback questioning why we’re voting for far-left parties like the Socialist Alliance ahead of the Greens in the Senate. This has a lot to do with the limitations of “green” capitalism.

 

We are anti-capitalists, so feel we have more in common with an anti-capitalist party like the Socialist Alliance than pro-capitalist parties like the Greens (even though we’re not state socialists). More specifically though, while we like and respect the Greens and think they have a lot of positive, progressive policies, we also acknowledge that they support (and are one of the biggest proponents of) the idea of “green” growth and “green” capitalism. They do not fundamentally challenge Turnbull’s “jobs and growth” mantra but simply tweak it to “green jobs and green growth”.

 

green jobs

 

We have done a whole episode challenging this idea of “green” capitalism, featuring sociologist Dr Caleb Goods, who did his PhD on the topic of “green” jobs and “green” capitalism generally. I thought a graph from his book Greening Auto Jobs: A Critical Analysis of the Green Jobs Solution, which we discussed on that episode and is displayed below, is particular telling. It shows that fossil fuel emissions have only ever gone down in times of economic downturn and up in times of economic growth. So for those concerned about the environment, it makes sense to challenge this idea of growth, which is an inherent part of capitalism.

 

growth graph

 

While we hope that the Greens get more votes than the two major parties, we are preferencing parties like the Socialist Alliance ahead of the Greens, to encourage the Greens to challenge growth. On episode 136, we discuss preferential voting and why it makes sense to preference parties taking the climate emergency more seriously than the Greens, for example by challenging growth. This can send a message to the Greens – just as the Greens encourage people to vote for them to send a message to Labor.

 

 

prefential voting

 

I hope that more people voting for parties like the Socialist Alliance who challenge economic growth will encourage the Greens to embrace the idea of degrowth. I believe that to take the climate emergency seriously, a move towards a degrowth economy is essential.