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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Been down this road before…

Food Empowerment Project has recently thrown our support behind AB 376, which would ban the possession of shark fins in California.

But unfortunately, this blog isn’t about why sharks are one of my favorite animals (oh, but let me know if you want me to elaborate on that), it is about a situation nearly as grim as the one that sharks are facing now.

The bill has stirred up controversy – it is co-authored by a wonderful Assemblymember in my county, Assemblymember Fong, but it is being blasted by a State Senator Yee from San Francisco, who is running for mayor. And unfortunately, he is attempting to make this an issue about Chinese culture.

As a person of color, I find two things incredibly distressing about these situations:

  1. When ethnicity, race, or whatever you want to call it, is used to condone any form of animal exploitation or cruelty.
  2. When people who defend the animals expose themselves to be racists.

Food Empowerment project was started to show the interconnections of both human animal and non-human animal injustices. One of my main mottos is “Oppression is oppression no matter what form it takes.”

Now, as someone who attended the charreada when I was young, I often speak out in opposition to the cruelties involved in these traditional rodeos (not the beauty of other parts of these events, just those involving animals). My memories of attending are of complete sadness. I am appalled when people call that our “culture.” To me, every cruelty and injustice, even under the guise of cultural tradition, needs to be stopped (including many of those in the U.S.).

Regardless of how strongly I feel about the animal cruelty at these events, I am just as disgusted by the vitriolic comments against my people (for example Mexicans are lazy and are just cruel to animals). In order to comment along with the people who are opposed to the animal cruelty I have to speak against their hateful comments otherwise I would feel as if I am siding with absolute racists.

Those of us who do not tolerate animal abuse can still be proud of our culture.

When I worked on the law in California to ban the production and sale of foie gras, the race card was brought out again. The producer (of El Salvadorian descent) claimed it was a race issue. I quickly reminded the legislators that the cruelty involved in the production of foie gras had nothing to do with culture.

And here it is again with the shark finning bill. The race card is dropped and people who are working on the bill are at a loss since it is such a simple and clear issue of preventing a form of cruelty as well as protecting species who are currently threatened with extinction. And yet, I read comments on blogs that absolutely sicken me with their xenophobic, racist remarks about the Chinese people.

My initial reaction of course is to worry about how incredibly prevalent racism is – even in California’s Bay Area. How can people who care about non-human animals be so filled with hatred? And what do they think they accomplish by expressing this?

This is the road I would never like to go down again. But I know it is inevitable in a society where the we are often pitted against one another.

I just hope that those reading this will stand strong and speak out against both. Please do not allow any comment in favor of the animals with even a tinge of racism go without speaking up for the animals and speaking against racism.

We, as advocates for justice, for compassion and for the animals, cannot allow it to continue.

For information on sharks, please see our webpage:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's Thumper's Year!

Happy Chinese New Year! As it is the Year of the Rabbit, it seemed only fitting to draw attention to the section of our website that explores the issue of rabbits killed for food.
And, well, since a bunny has recently come into my life, I thought I would write a bit about that too. Since I was young, my favorite animals have always been sharks (thanks to Jaws) and cats (thanks to the strays in my apartment complex when I was little) – yes, I know, not exactly vegan critters. One of my favorite websites is
One rainy day when I was in college, I moved out of my dorm and into an apartment where I discovered a mama cat and her two kittens. I immediately became the proud parent of the mother and one of her babies, who had not even opened his eyes. I named him Malcolm (after Malcolm X), and he was a constant in my life one month shy of 17 years – I lost him in April of 2009. You can read more about Malcolm here:
The pain of losing my baby has been so intense for me that I have chosen not to have any more animals (in addition, my traveling schedule isn’t the best for a critter).
Recently, my boyfriend and I have moved in together, and with him has come his bunny (he only rescues special-needs rabbits).

I am close to many bunny lovers, but while I have appreciated their love and passion, I had previously only adored bunnies from afar. And now I am living with one. And, yes, she has won me over.

One of the most amazing things I have learned (and I know all of you bunny people are probably bored by now) is how incredible it is that their natural behaviors are still very much a part of their lives. My favorite example: bunnies use their powerful hind legs to thump the ground when they sense something – a predator, a strange noise, whatever – that they need to warn other rabbits about. And our bunny, in this case, thumps when our neighbors are too loud! I encourage her of course, hoping they will get the hint and quiet down – but truly, I am in awe of this instinct.

And not to get too sad here, but really the extent of my learning about rabbits has been in my work against cosmetic testing and animal experimentation. Most of what I know about rabbits – no tear glands, how silent they are, etc. – I’ve discovered in the context of them being experimented on for products from perfumes to detergents. It has always filled with me sadness and anger, and now I feel the only adequate word is anguish. Getting to know the true nature of these creatures as they clean their ears and hop with joy, my heart breaks at the thought of a laboratory and all of the thumping that might take place … or, perhaps worse yet, for those rabbits whose instinct has been bred out of them.
For information on buying cruelty-free, please see:

Anyhow, let’s make this Year of the Rabbit an opportunity to inform people about animals used in experiments and those animals raised for food – including rabbits!