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Dear readers, it is with great joy that we bring you LAIKA Magazine’s 7th issue: the Haven Issue. It’s a shelter from turmoil where justice, equality and empathy are firmly upheld. The Haven issue invites you to create a world in which all are safe and valued. Gracing the cover is vegan actress and activist Harley Quinn Smith, who represents beautifully her generation’s optimism and determination. Inside, she shares a heartfelt open letter to Gen Z about the importance of allyship and the urgency of animal rights.

Through fearless journalism and unforgettable photography, the Haven Issue disrupts oppression. We underscore the connection between animal liberation and human liberation in stories like “United We Rise,” which features Aph Ko and Sunaura Taylor, among other brilliant voices from the movement. The stunning feature “She Matters” makes evident how essential asserting animals as individuals is to dismantling speciesism, and why this matters so much to feminism.

Throughout the issue, we celebrate dynamic vegan women like Jenné Claiborne and Madelynn De La Rosa, who are broadening vibrant spaces of creativity and compassion. We demonstrate the beauty of standing up for the vulnerable in stories about kitten rescuer Hannah Shaw and rhino defender Damian Mander.

The innocence of animals in the Haven Issue reminds us that on this earth, there is no need to dominate anyone. Life is at its most complete in peaceful co-existence. This is wondrously showcased in “The Last Place on Earth,” which tells the incredible story of how the First Nations communities of the Great Bear Rainforest protected their sacred land, its wildlife and our environment from a destructive pipeline.

Every page of the Haven Issue is an artistic statement intended to uplift, energize and provoke discourse and action. With gorgeous imagery and resonating storytelling, LAIKA is an uncompromising source of independent media that provides you, our dear reader, with an immersive experience. Order your copy of the Seventh Issue of LAIKA or subscribe today.

On the Cover: Photography by Ryan Pfluger; creative direction by Julie Gueraseva; styling by Jessica Zanotti. “She Matters” photographed by Sammantha Fisher. “United We Rise” illustrated by Camila Rosa. “From the Soul” photographed by Paige Carter. “The Last Place on Earth” photographed by Jennifer MaHarry.

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Filmmakers Keegan Kuhn (left) and Kip Andersen. Photo courtesy of “What the Health.”

In a pivotal scene in What the Health, the new documentary from the creators of Cowspiracy, filmmaker Kip Andersen visits families in Duplin County, North Carolina — an area known as the “hog capital of the world,” where confined pigs outnumber people 40 to 1. “My neighbor there died from cancer probably just last year. My nephew down the street, he’s got cancer. Not a smoker, not a drinker,” resident Rene Miller tells Andersen. A stone’s throw from her home pig waste is sprayed weekly into the open air. North Carolina’s pig CAFOs disproportionately affect low-income communities of color, reflecting a pattern “recognized as environmental racism,” a 2014 study found. As the camera pans to containers full of dead pigs left to decompose by the side of the road  ( to be later ground up and fed back to the living pigs) Miller says, “I don’t eat bacon, because I know where it comes from.”

WHAT THE HEALTH from AUM Films & Media

Animal agriculture is eroding human health, much in the same way as it is decimating communities like the one in Duplin County. A multitude of peer-reviewed studies have linked animal products to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s. Dairy boosts the amount of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) in the blood, which promotes cancer cell growth. Processed meats and eggs are carcinogens as dangerous as cigarettes. And the list goes on. Yet as we learn in What the Health, not only are leading health organizations refusing to discuss plant-based foods’ role in disease prevention, they are actively recommending the consumption of animal products to sick people.

A still from “What the Health” conveys the truth about carcinogenic properties in a typical bacon-and-eggs breakfast.

In their quest to find out why, Andersen and co-director Keegan Kuhn uncover dizzying corruption — the US government, medical industry and health organizations are colluding with animal agriculture in putting the public’s health at risk for the sake of profit. The truth, as it turns out, is stranger than fiction. There’s government-funded marketing schemes to increase meat and cheese consumption. Tens of millions of dollars are spent promoting dairy products to children in schools. The American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society and the USDA’s dietary guidelines committee all take millions of dollars in donations from the likes of Tyson, National Dairy Council, Oscar Meyer and KFC. And the meat and pharma lobby is so rich and powerful, they’re practically writing the laws.

It’s a harrowing reality, but What the Health is ultimately about self-empowerment. Through compelling interviews with renown physicians, world-class athletes (including LAIKA’s former cover star David Carter) and regular people who have reversed chronic diseases with a vegan diet, the film shows that the solution lies in our hands. “It begins with us now. We can’t rely on the government to do something about this,” Kip Andersen tells LAIKA. “We have to stop eating all horrific animals’ flesh and end it from the demand side up.” Here, Andersen shares with us more candid thoughts on the film’s process and the meaning of true health.

Did you face some of the same challenges in making What the Health as you did with Cowspiracy?
The biggest trouble is these organizations that you think would want to talk, similar to Cowspiracy — the environmental NGOs, the health groups — just don’t want to, because they know they are essentially failing the public in telling the truth about what’s causing a lot of these diseases that they are supposedly in the business of trying to help stop or prevent. Cowspiracy was considered groundbreaking because there had only been a couple of people at that point who had really dug deep into the environmental impacts [of animal agriculture]. The medical community is in the dark, but you have quite a few doctors now who are kind of renegades who had to find out [the truth] on their own — of course they didn’t learn about it in medical school. There are a lot more doctors being turned on to the secret of a vegan diet and [its impacts on] health, so it was easier to find more people to talk to in What the Health.

Did making the film make you feel hopeful, then, that widespread awareness in the medical field is imminent?
It’s a matter of time. It’s just been hidden for so long. And in this time we live in, you just can’t hide the truth anymore. I feel What the Health is a big catalyst for getting this into the mainstream. That just has to fall over into the medical field, because people are going to start telling their doctors they’ve watched this movie. In 2-3 years, [this information] is going to be common knowledge. You’re going to see this taught, and known in the medical community.

What drove you to embark on an undertaking as massive as a feature-length documentary on a highly controversial topic?
It’s personal for me because of my family history. That was the real driving factor. My dad has had several heart blockages. My grandpa died of heart disease and diabetes. I have cancer on both sides, a lot of diabetes. My aunt is dying of diabetes. [My family] always warned me, “Kip, you’re going to have heart disease.” And then to find out, [the cause] is mostly our diet! A lot of this is to, honestly, show my family and friends that I love.

How did you approach making a fact-dense film like What the Health?
It’s so important to have a strong narrative that’s entertaining, so the audience can easily digest it and actually enjoy watching it. A lot of it was about going further into research, finding out about the connections, the money trail. We kept interviewing people, they told us to interview someone else, we looked into that. One thing led to another. Then we laid it out into as entertaining of a story as we could, because there is so much information, like you said. The goal is definitely to get this into the mainstream.

True health is when you consider everything — not just yourself, but your community, the environment, and all the animals living in harmony.

People don’t typically consider the devastating impact that animal agriculture has on communities, like the one you visited near a pig farm in North Carolina. What was that experience like for you?
My Dad lives in North Carolina. I just feel so sad for the people who live anywhere near these awful places. There’s this whole bacon craze, and people think bacon is ‘cool.’ And it’s so not. In North Carolina, you really see the impact of those food choices. This state that is so beautiful is in such a state of urgency. Thousands of fish dead in the beautiful river. With What the Health, we wanted people to realize what true health is. A lot of people think of health as ‘paleo’, which is not [healthy] — you’re only thinking about yourself. True health is when you consider everything — not just yourself, but your community, the environment, and all the animals living in harmony.

What do you think can be done in the more immediate future to help these communities?
Other than [lawsuits], a big thing that will progress the truth coming out is processed meat being classified as a carcinogen by WHO (World Health Organization). When something is a classified carcinogen, it has to be labeled. If you get something from The Home Depot that has arsenic, it’s labeled. So it’s just a matter of time before bacon, processed meat, deli slices have a warning label on. And when that happens, it’s going to have a big impact.

At the screening in New York, you said that if 10 percent of population believe in a vegan world, then that world will come to be. How, in your opinion, can we cultivate a sense of optimism, so we can get to that tipping point faster?
If you tell yourself, “I’m not going to be successful,” it’s not going to happen. You could be doing the right things, going to school, getting your masters. But if you say you’re not going to be successful, you just aren’t. You’re not going to be happy. It’s [the same way] in society and culture as a whole. It sounds kind of cliché, but thoughts become things. The law of attraction is so true. And you have to see it, you have to believe it. These new companies popping up, vegan restaurants, everyone putting billions of dollars into plant based foods, and on and on. And then it hits you — oh my god, this is happening at an exponential rate! This is happening and it’s happening now.  You don’t have to convince 100 percent of the people, you only have to convince around 10 percent, and the rest falls into place. That’s how every social [justice] movement is. You get that core 10 percent of people who really believe, and then it just happens. And it happens fast.

By Julie Gueraseva

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The post ‘What the Health’ Is A Startling Exposé of Corporate Greed Trumping Public Health appeared first on LAIKA.

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Photo by Clara Polito

Writing a book is no small feat. Now imagine doing it while still in your teens. LAIKA’s one-time cover star Clara Polito has accomplished just that. Her first cookbook, Clara Cakes: Delicious and Simple Vegan Desserts for Everyone! was just published by powerHouse Books. It’s chock full of recipes for a dizzying array of creative desserts, with an entire chapter dedicated to frosting, plus sage business advice, a super handy guide to kitchen gear and egg substitutes, even a spread about why she’s vegan.

Photo by Logan White.

Polito is a serious pro with a heart of gold, but she’s no overnight sensation. She’s been running her LA-based company Clara Cakes since the age of 12, selling her creations at stores, restaurants and countless events across the city, as well as doing many brunch and dinner pop-ups. Her hard work has rightfully earned her treats a loyal following. The artist and skateboarder Ed Templeton says it best in his introduction to Polito’s cookbook, “Clara is the kind of girl that gives me hope for future generations. She didn’t wait for anything happen to her, she made it happen for herself.” Indeed.

Polito shares her S’mores Bar recipe with LAIKA, followed immediately by our Q&A with her.

Photo by Clara Polito

S’mores Bar
“I rarely ate traditional s’mores growing up because: 1) Marshmallows have gelatin, and 2) I’ve never been camping in my life. What I can remember of these sweet snacks is that the marshmallow always swallowed up all the other flavors. It was too sweet to be able to enjoy the perfect graham cracker and melty chocolate combo. These s’mores bars give you a balanced ratio of a lot of graham-cookie-bar crust, just enough chocolate chips, and a bit of melty marshmallow to tuck it in. I honestly don’t have much of a desire to ever go camping since I can just make these bars in my oven…”

Ingredients
1 cup crushed Nabisco plain graham cracker crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips*
1 cup Dandies Marshmallows,* torn in half
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup v. butter, melted
1 tablespoon coconut vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
* Specialty ingredient, buy ahead

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×9 baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar and baking soda with a fork. The baking soda will dissolve. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, and baking powder.

4. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

5. Add the vinegar and baking soda mixture to the butter and beat on high until the vinegar is fully incorporated, about two minutes.

6. Slowly add in the dry ingredients on medium speed and beat until it looks like cookie dough.

7. Reserve 1/4 of the dough and set aside, you’ll use this later for the topping. Press the remaining dough into the baking pan.

8. Sprinkle chocolate chips and marshmallows evenly onto the cookie dough layer.

9. Take the cookie dough you set aside and scatter grape-sized pieces over the marshmallows and chocolate chips.

10. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Place on cooling rack, serve warm.

Then and now. Clara covers our Summer ’13 issue (left); and is the author of her first cookbook four years later. Photos by Sylvia Elzafon and Logan White.

LAIKA: Veganism has become a lot less stigmatized in recent years. Do you even still feel the need to explain that you’re a “vegan” baker?

Clara Polito: It depends on who I’m talking to, or where I’m selling. Most of the time, I like to let my cooking speak for itself and win people over, and then tell them afterwards that it’s vegan which is always very much to their surprise! I think because being vegan is second nature to me, and such a part of my inner moral compass, I don’t have to work too hard on integrating it into my identity. Changing the way people eat is ultimately why I do what I do.

LAIKA: It’s a pretty crazy time, with this country’s government trying to escalate the oppression of both human and nonhuman animals. How does all this affect your craft and your sense of urgency to make the world better?

Clara Polito: I feel that being vegan is so important, especially now, as a way to express compassion. Our country is so accustomed to feeling disconnected to cruelty, corruption, etc. I think being vegan is the simplest, everyday activism you can do that touches on so many different issues beyond animal cruelty. I think it motivates me to make my recipes accessible. It makes me want to hold tight onto my craft and work harder.

LAIKA: The cookbook is so impressive. It must’ve been a ton of work to put together.

Clara Polito: Other than jotting down recipes, I had no prior cookbook experience. I think I needed someone to say, “Let’s do this, here’s what I need from you,” and from there it was a blast. The problem I run into is narrowing down recipe ideas, so coming up with new ones was fast. I took most of the dessert photos (Logan White took some as well), so there would be nights where I’d have four different cakes in my fridge calling my name.

LAIKA: The design of the book is also very eye-catching. Did you collaborate with the publisher and designer on it?

Clara Polito: My publisher was really open to my ideas for the book design. They’d send over different versions of possible designs and really listened to my feedback. The designer asked me to send over different tablecloths and aprons I use, and that’s where the flowers throughout the book come from. The handwritten old English was a tribute to the first business cards I made, and I love how modern it feels in the book. I love how much the book design represents myself and my baking.

LAIKA: And your best friend is a part of the book too, is that right?

Clara Polito: Sophia [Longo] is an extremely talented writer, and about a year ago she wrote a zine called Dessert Haikus. She wrote several different haikus having to do with desserts and then we put them together with photos of my baked goods. A couple months later when I started working on the book, it seemed like the perfect addition to it! She’s been a part of this adventure since I started baking, so it makes the book even more special and meaningful.

LAIKA: That’s so cool, and such a great example of young women’s camaraderie. So, people new to vegan baking are sometimes intimidated by the lack of eggs. What’s your take on that?

Clara Polito: My favorite egg substitutes are applesauce, coconut vinegar, and Mori-Nu silken tofu. I think texture and taste both taste more fresh when not using eggs. Isn’t it weird how non-vegan cake is technically chocolate eggs?!

LAIKA: Yep! What’s the top advice would you give young women your age who have a hobby or passion and yearn to turn into a career?

Clara Polito: I would say to embrace your passion and know your self-worth. People might offer you advice, which is nice, but you don’t have to take it. Do what you want to do.

LAIKA: Ok, final question — what’s inspiring you these days, and what are your must-eat vegan dishes around LA?

Clara Polito: Stella McCartney’s latest collection, both womenswear and menswear. I keep going back to the lookbook for inspiration! And specific dishes at particular places are: Organic Puff Pastry Tart with Market Green Salad at Elf Cafe (Elf is vegetarian, request this dish vegan); the Sweet Potato Falafel at Fala Bar; Spicy Sweet Potatoes at Azla; Masa Echo Park’s vegan Deep Dish Pizza (request vegan); the vegan pupusa combo that comes with fried plantains and black beans at Delmy’s Pupusas (request vegan); and the Jackfruit Taco with Chipotle Mayo and Tomatillo Salsa at Plant Food For People.

Clara Cakes’ latest pop-up dinner is in Detroit this weekend, and the NYC book launch is on March 23. Get to know this inspiring young woman even better in our Issue Two cover story. Pick up her stunning new cookbook online or at stores nationwide.

Interview by Julie Gueraseva

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The post Wunderkind Vegan Baker Clara Polito Raises The Bar With Her Debut Cookbook appeared first on LAIKA.

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Mink farm in Ontario, Canada. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/WeAnimals, 2014.

The thrill of glimpsing a wild animal in their habitat is as much in our true nature, as it is in the animal’s to desire freedom. We are a culture of Planet Earth documentaries, awed by the unbridaled beauty of the animal kingdom. Yet on fur farms, those same animals endure the indignity of captivity so severe it strips them of all the natural behaviors we find so enthralling. In this time of our heightened awareness of societal injustice, mindfulness can extend to what we eat and wear. As a moral species, we have long acknowledged that inflicting suffering on sentient beings for trivial means is wrong. Fur, and other materials that are the products of oppression, therefore have no place in the modern wardrobe. Now is our opportunity to literally wear our wokeness on our sleeve.

Fueled by increased demands in developing economies of Russia and China, the fur trade has in recent decades grown into a global multi-billion dollar industry. But this momentum is showing signs of slowing, and Europe has experienced groundbreaking political and legislative developments, with fur farming now banned in eight countries. Among them is the United Kingdom, where it’s been outlawed since 2000; the long-awaited Croatian fur ban came into effect last month; and the Dutch Supreme Court recently upheld a mink farming ban in the world’s fourth largest fur producer, the Netherlands. Japan has closed its last fur farm, and New Zealand has a partial ban. But the fur machine churns on. 125 million rabbits and 75 million mink, foxes and raccoon dogs are killed for fur each year in China. On fur farms in the European Union, over 32 million animals per year are killed for fur year-round. In the US and Canada, where trapping is the norm, over 7 million fur-bearing animals are slaughtered annually. In this story, LAIKA speaks to some of the witnesses, activists and experts who are determined to bring those numbers down to zero.

“If you could see what I’ve seen, you would never wear that coat.”

“The fur is everywhere,” says photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. She is speaking to LAIKA from Scandinavia, home to fur giants Saga Furs and Kopenhagen Fur. “Some people don’t even know that animals are killed for their fur coats,” she says. “What I see is the death of a hundred individuals.” McArthur has seen more than most. By her estimate, she has documented twenty five fur farms in Europe and Canada.

Mink farm in Quebec. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur, 2014.

Mink are the world’s most widely farmed for their fur. Denmark alone produces 17.8 million pelts a year. Confined to extremely small wire cages, some only 8 inches across, “They pace back and forth, everything is completely unnatural,” says McArthur. “These are animals who [in the wild] live close to water, they live solitary lives. But yet they’re crammed in. They cannibalize. It’s very normal for them to have injuries on their scruffs, ears missing, paws missing.”

The farms are typically situated in forests. For the animals, it’s freedom that’s close, yet hopelessly out of reach. “They can feel the breeze … There’s trees surrounding the cages, and they just look at that day in and day out,” says McArthur. She describes the filth and unbearable stench of their immediate surroundings, the excrement piled high underneath, the cages caked with fur and dust.

Most recently McArthur captured aerial views of enormous mink farms on the east coast of Nova Scotia, which she says are “more like a brand new concentration camp.” These fully mechanized factory fur farms generate an extreme amount of pollution. The runoff creates algal blooms in nearby lakes that have become increasingly common in the region. “There are kids camps that are next to these lakes, and they don’t just impose a ‘no swimming policy,’ they move the whole camp because it’s a dangerous bloom,” McArthur says. “And they don’t know if they can ever get rid of it, or treat it. It just kills the lake, the animals who drink from it get sick. And this is because of useless mink farming. It’s creating a catastrophic chain of events.”

Mink factory farm in Nova Scotia, Canada. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur, 2014.

And whether the farm is new or old — “it’s hell,” says McArthur. “If you could see what I’ve seen, you would never wear that coat.” In addition to mink farms, she has documented fox farms, one of which also kept raccoon dogs. In the wild, these animals (who are in the same family of species as domesticated dogs) live in densely vegetated areas, roaming vast distances.

Fox fur farm in Quebec, Canada. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/WeAnimals, 2014.

On fur farms, they “have zero autonomy,” McArthur says. “They can’t choose their friends, they can’t choose their mates. The loneliness that they must endure.” The wooden structures they’re housed in are often worn down from chewing, which results in severe mouth injuries that go untreated. “These animals spend a lot of time circling trying to find a way out,” she says. These and other stereotypic (abnormal repetitive) behaviors, like fur chewing and self-injury, are a sign of psychological dysfunction and a common sight on fur farms. Many animals simply succumb to despair. “They’re just really despondent and sort of beyond fear,” McArthur says.

A starved fox on a fox fur farm in Quebec that was the site of horrific abuse. Charges were brought against the fur farmer. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/WeAnimals, 2014.

In the wild, foxes dig complex burrows, but on fur farms they are forced to stand on wire flooring for the duration of their lives. “If you can feel the horror and urgency of what it would be like for your cat or dog — that’s what millions of animals are feeling,” McArthur says. “And imagine how your legs must atrophy, not being able to take a stride, standing hobbled on cage flooring. It makes you twist your body in all sorts of ways to alleviate pain. There’s no recourse from that other than lying down, and that’s barely a recourse.”

The Coldest Coats

A name synonymous with fur these days is the Toronto-based Canada Goose, which deceptively markets its fur-lined down parkas as “humane.”

Rescued coyote at Lockwood Animal Rescue Center. Photo by Jennifer MaHarry.

The coyotes caught with leg hold traps for Canada Goose, and other companies that use fur, sustain injuries like severance of tendons (caused by animals twisting their limbs to free themselves), limb amputations and profuse bleeding, among many others. Traps may go unchecked for as long as five days, as the animal suffers from thirst, starvation and fear. To preserve the pelt, instead of being shot, the coyotes found alive by trappers will be clubbed, suffocated or strangled with a snare — a metal noose that delivers an agonizing death that can last eight minutes.

Canada Goose obsessively claims that its $900 jackets, favored by city-dwelling celebrities and status seekers, provide “functionality,” yet there is no scientific proof that fur trim or down are a requirement for warmth. High performance synthetic materials have been sufficient for even subarctic expeditions.

This boldness with misleading consumers is rooted in Canada’s complicated relationship with trapping. The romanticized history of the country’s settlement “influences everything from government policy to wildlife management practices — the North American Wildlife Conservation Model is based in the assumption that wildlife must be used as a resource,” explains Lesley Fox, executive director of Canadian organization The Fur-Bearers. “Politicians who covet a rural vote frequently hide from these issues,” she says. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even participated in Canada Goose’s Employee Global Conference recently. Its CEO Dani Reiss was made Member of the Order of Canada last year “for his commitment to the preservation of Canada’s North, notably as chair of Polar Bears International.” Reiss told The Telegraph UK in December that “polar bears are icons of the north; we’ve made jackets for the scientists and support staff who work with them.”

Rescued coyote at Lockwood Animal Rescue Center. Photo by Jennifer MaHarry.

The coyotes slaughtered for those jackets are also North American icons — called “God’s dog” by the Navajo. Like our beloved pet dogs, they are members of the genus Canis. In LAIKA’s issue 6 feature “Kindred Creatures,” Camilla Fox, founder of Project Coyote (no relation to Lesley Fox), explained that the animals maligned by Canada Goose as “pests,” are in fact a keystone species that plays a vital role in a thriving ecosystem.

Activists in Canada face steep hurdles, among those an absence of federal labeling laws: retailers are able to market the fur of dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals as “faux fur.” (“It can be difficult for some consumers to know what is fake and what is real,” says Fox.) The Fur-Bearers, however, make gains on the municipal level, working with individual communities to end their use, and support of, trapping. “Several municipalities in British Columbia have enacted or requested permission from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to prohibit trapping as a direct result of this campaign,” Fox says.

And there is an upside — many Canadians feel a strong connection with nature, because of how accessible it is. “That makes the discussion of introducing new ideas regarding the sentience of wildlife a little easier,” explains Fox. Educating the consumer dwindles demand, as evidenced by sporting goods giant Canadian Tire recently dropping fur at two of its subsidiaries. Atmosphere, one of the stores that stated they will not stock fur, except for their Quebec stores, was a long-time carrier of Canada Goose.

“When you focus on the victim, it is easy to overcome fear.”

In New York, where Canada Goose opened its U.S. flagship last fall, a passionate grassroots initiative has been ignited. Protests in front of the Soho store are a weekly occurrence, and two Anti-Fur Marches have taken place this winter. Posters and stickers bearing the Canada Goose logo with the slogan “Proudly torturing animals since 1957” and “Fur trim kills” are a common sight on buildings and bus stops in NYC and have made their way to other parts of the world.

“Our main focus is to change the way the general public looks at fur,” says organizer Rob Banks. “This issue needs to be handled on different levels — we fight on the streets, educating the public, while others fight to get laws changed.” Through their Facebook page “Stop Canada Goose Now,” Banks and fellow activists share prints, exchange ideas and help activists in cities around the world set up demos. On Instagram, #fuckCanadaGoose appears thousands of times, and even Canada Goose’s own hashtag #AskAnyoneWhoKnows has been overtaken by anti-fur posts.

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David and Piopito at Santuario Igualdad Interespecie in Chile. Photo by María Gabriela Penela.

For thousands of years, the human species has relied on the exploitation of our fellow inhabitants on Earth – the nonhuman animals. It has long been our society’s status quo, the norm. There are over 7.5 billion people on the planet. Nearly eight times that many farm animals are killed by humans annually. But what if the use of animals was no longer part of the equation? “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night,” Edgar Allan Poe once wrote. In the spirit of November being World Vegan Month, we dream of a vegan world and just a few of the amazing changes we would have to look forward to were it to become a reality.

Billions of Animals Would No Longer Suffer

Over 56 billion animals are raised and slaughtered for human consumption each year. This figure doesn’t include marine animals, whose deaths are measured in tons. Together, approximately 150 billion animals’ lives are taken by the meat, dairy, egg and fish industries. Billions more are destroyed, injured and deprived of freedom by the fashion, entertainment, sports and animal testing industries.

The abolition of animal exploitation would bring an end to the cycle of breeding and raising animals for the sole purpose of killing them. No longer would nonhuman animals be subjected to agonizing (yet standard) practices like forcible insemination, intensive confinement, tail docking, dehorning, beak trimming, being auctioned off as babies, gassed, electrically stunned, processed while alive. Traumatic events such as separating children from their mothers within 24 hours of birth would no longer be routine.

Transport trucks full of animals stop criss-crossing nations; there would be no more live export by sea or air. Fish would no longer endure the despair and severe depression of farming.

Our relationship with animals would be completely transformed from one of dominance to one of co-existence and respect. Their depth of sentience and sophisticated cognitive abilities would be an undisputed fact, and our treatment of them would be universally acknowledged as having moral significance. We would understand the animal kingdom as never before; sharks would no longer be vilified, and farm animals would not be reduced to objects. Nonhuman animals would no longer have the status of commodities, but of conscious beings with the inherent right to be free from bodily harm.

“Large Picnic” by Hartmut Kiewert, 2015.

Nature Would Heal

The toll of animal agriculture on our planet is brutal.  The meat and dairy industries have been identified as major accelerators of climate change: animal agriculture produces more greenhouses gasses than emissions from all forms of transportation combined. Today, close to 80 percent of the Amazon’s deforestation is the result of land clearing for cattle ranching.

The environmental damage of raising animals for human consumption far exceeds that of plants — with beef production, for example, having emissions per gram of protein that are about 250 times those of legumes. A study published in 2015 stated that “consumption of animal-sourced food products by humans is one of the most powerful negative forces affecting the conservation of terrestrial ecosystems and biological diversity.”

With animal agriculture made obsolete, global CO2 emissions would drop spectacularly. A world of herbivores would mean that our individual dietary greenhouse gas emissions would be cut in half.

In a vegan world with more available land, biofuels would replace half of the coal used worldwide, which is currently responsible for about 3,340 million tons of CO2e emissions annually.

Rainforests play a crucial role in absorbing our world’s carbon dioxide, converting it to oxygen. In a vegan society absent of animal agriculture, the Amazon — the “lungs of the planet,” as it’s known — would be restored to its healthy density. No longer would trees be burned to clear land, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the process. Global warming would be de-escalated.

With humans no longer wearing the skins of nonhuman animals, our Earth would be spared the dumping of chromium-laced waste and other dangerous pollutants into water systems by the leather industry. Instead, our clothing, shoes and accessories would be made from materials like repurposed plastic waste and waste plant fibers.

Vegemoda vegan bag made from pineapple leaves.

Our Water Would Be Protected

1 in 9 people around the world face water shortages. The water crisis is the #1 global risk based on impact to society, according to the World Economic Forum. A third of the world’s water consumption goes towards producing animal products. In a society without meat production, each former beef eater would save our planet nearly 130,000 gallons of water a year. The dairy industry’s catastrophic water footrpint (109 gallons to produce just one stick of butter) would be reversed in a vegan world.

Without industrial-scale animal exploitation, our water supplies would no longer be in danger of being polluted and made unsafe for human consumption by the frequent leakage of animal waste “lagoons” and fertilizer runoff. No longer would vast regions be affected by the disastrous manure spills of factory farms. Thanks to the end of the meat industry, communities would be safe from waterborne disease outbreaks caused by pathogens or having their drinking water poisoned by toxic pollutants like nitrogen.

With animal products obsolete, climate change would be abated; rising temperatures and the depletion of groundwater reserves due to drought would come to a standstill.

No More World Hunger

The bulk of industrially produced grain crops goes to confined animal feedlots instead of the 1 billion humans currently suffering from starvation and malnutrition. Over 50 percent of the corn grown globally, and 80 percent of soybeans, are consumed by animals farmed for their flesh. Yet it takes roughly 13 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of meat. Twenty-five times as much edible human food is being used to produce just one unit of meat.

In a vegan society, all field crop production that would have been used to raise animals would now meet the nutritional needs of the global population. It is estimated that by 2050, an additional 4 billion people could be fed with the annual energy value used to produce meat. Doing away with animal agriculture would free up land and resources, enabling communities to sustain themselves and making food sovereignty a reality. In the place of industrial-scale animal exploitation and slaughterhouses, there would be community farms and gardens, more schools and cultural institutions.

Species Extinction Would Be Halted

The systematic decades-long clearance of trees from the Amazon has condemned close to 40 species in the region to near extinction. And in the Southwest of the US, livestock grazing is the most widespread cause of wildlife endangerment. Not only do wild animals suffer from deforestation and climate change caused by the meat industry, but they are also killed en masse to protect its corporate interests. Keystone predators like California grizzly bears and Mexican gray wolves have been driven to extinction as a result of “predator control” programs.

Without the meat industry’s existence, more than 175 threatened or endangered species in the United States would be saved from peril. And according to Thiago Rangel, an ecologist at the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil, forest regeneration in the Amazon would help to “gradually recover species richness, composition and vital ecosystems functions.”

Kat Von D and Bruno, who was rescued as a calf after falling off a transport truck to the slaughterhouse. From LAIKA, Issue Six. Photo by Melissa Schwartz.

A More Empathetic Society

Leo Tolstoy famously wrote that “as long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.” Could a world without wars result from, or coincide with, society abolishing animal exploitation? It’s not that far-fetched of a notion. Empathy is the ability to identify with the emotions of another and it is often the first step toward taking compassionate action for someone. And empathy literally transforms our brain.

A 2015 Neuroimage study showed that higher empathy scores were “associated with greater gray matter density” and that people “who have high cognitive empathy are those who are more rational.” A rational state of mind is calmer and less inclined towards impulsive actions — or, in other words, aggressive and violent behavior.

Rescuer Marc Ching with Lucky and Jack, who were saved from the dog meat trade in South Korea and Thailand. From LAIKA Issue Six. Photographed by Jenna Schoenefeld.

One of the core aspects of a veganism is being empathetic to the pain of animals, in being able to relate to them and recognize their suffering. Compared to omnivores, functional MRI brain scans reveal a more powerful empathetic response to both human and animal suffering in the minds of vegetarians and vegans.

The more we put empathy into practice, the more empathetic we become. It is nearly impossible to imagine wars still taking place once the last slaughterhouse shutters. In changing our relationship with animals, we could change our relationship with one another and pave the way to the world peace that we all long for.

Let’s Make It a Reality

It’s up to us to make the dream real — through leading by example, mobilizing our communities, becoming engaged with the world around us, participating in grassroots activism. The task is more urgent than ever, particularly since our President-elect is a climate change denier who is rounding up an administration similarly hostile to the protection of animals and the environment. When relying on the government to help us is no longer an option, we still have control over whether or not we choose to participate in industries and practices that are destroying our planet and its inhabitants. And that is incredibly empowering. We already know that a benevolent existence is possible — one need only flip through the pages of LAIKA to see how abundant, vibrant and interesting a vegan life is. It is us, the masses, who hold the key to transforming our society. Our potential to cultivate positive change is limitless, and the time to begin is now.

Posted by Julie Gueraseva

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The post Imagine What a Vegan World Would Look Like appeared first on LAIKA.

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Horses packed tightly in holding pens outside Tooele, Utah. Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

The majority of our nation’s wild horses are no longer free. They are warehoused in cramped holding facilities in order to make room for cattle farms on public lands.

On September 9, 2016 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recommended the unthinkable: killing the 45,000 captive wild horses and burros so that 40,000 more could be rounded up in their place.

Under pressure from widespread outcry, the BLM backed away on Wednesday from the panel’s recommendation. The government agency has a track record of betraying the public’s trust, however. “The BLM’s intention is best exemplified by the agency’s illegal sale of 1,800 wild horses [in 2015] to a known kill buyer (all horses were slaughtered in Mexico) and its subsequent promotion and financial rewarding of the BLM employee who oversaw these illegal transactions,” the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign stated in response to BLM’s announcement. As long as profits and cattle farmers’ interests continue to be a priority, the future of wild horses remains uncertain. As long as Americans’ infatuation with meat persists, so will the cycle of killing horses in order to kill cows.

LAIKA’s Fifth Issue detailed the plight of wild horses in our exclusive report “No Home on the Range” by Mark Hawthorne. Following, is an excerpt from that report, along with a selection of images and recollections by photographer Jennifer MaHarry that accompanied it. They illuminate the suffering these magnificent animals endure during round-ups, in holding facilities and at livestock auctions.

No Home on the Range
by Mark Hawthorne
an excerpt from LAIKA Issue Five

Fighting back tears, Deniz Bolbol recounts a gut-wrenching moment in her activism. As part of the nonprofit American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), she was in Twin Peaks, California, documenting a wild horse roundup carried out by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). For decades, the BLM — charged under the Department of the Interior with managing public federal lands — has been stampeding horses and burros off the landscape of 10 Western states and moving them to small pastures, where they will languish for the rest of their lives. A lucky few will find homes through the BLM’s adopt-a-horse program. Many others will die. BLM roundups are rife with controversy, but to Bolbol, nothing is more insidious about them than the taxpayer-funded tearing apart of equine families.

“When the horses come into the first pen at a roundup and the family is still together, everybody’s pretty quiet,” she says. “There’s not a lot of vocalization. But when they start separating the stallions from the mares and the babies from their moms, all the horses start talking. You know they are never going to see each other again.” It’s a scene she’s witnessed many times, but in Twin Peaks with her fellow activists, she felt her heart break.

You know they are never going to see each other again.

“We were at the temporary holding facility. They rounded up the horses, brought them into the trap pen, separated the mares from the males and the babies, loaded them up in different trailers, and then moved them to another location with a bunch of corrals for holding until they had a semi load ready. From there, they would take them to short-term holding. We were waiting as they were bringing in horses from the trap site, and this one stallion — we called him Atticus — he would lift his head up over the other stallions and give the loudest neigh, and there would be no response. Every two or three minutes, he would stretch his neck up and give a big neigh. Nothing. Then a trailer came by. Atticus gave another neigh. This time,” she says, her voice trembling, “one of the horses in the trailer neighed back. I said, ‘Oh my god, it’s his mare!’ But it wasn’t. It was his baby. Then the next trailer came with his mare, and the three of them were neighing. We all sat there and were all in tears. It was just so sad. That experience has stayed with me as symbolic of what these horses lose.”  The full feature can be found in our 5th issue.

Anatomy of a Roundup
by Jennifer MaHarry
an excerpt from LAIKA Issue Five’s “No Home on the Range”

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Helicopter Chase
outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming (2014)

A hot, dry September day, and this herd had been relentlessly chased down by the BLM for more than an hour. They were exhausted and terrified of the noisy helicopter bearing down. This shot was the moment when they discovered there was nowhere else to run — they were being driven into a funnel-like trap leading to a pen, which led to a livestock truck. A foal who couldn’t keep up was left behind, and other horses died that day from either exhaustion or broken legs.

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

The Trap
Near Onaqui Mts., Utah (2013)

A chute-like “trap” funnels rounded-up horses toward pens that lead to a transport truck where they are culled and separated by age and gender. Within minutes, horses are transported to a government holding facility where they’re further sorted and branded or injected with an infertility vaccine. From there, they go to permanent holding where the public is no longer allowed to see them unless they go up for adoption, which happens less than 2% of the time. Any horse over 10 years old is killed.

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Government Holding Facility
Outside of Tonapah, Utah (2012)

Utter hopelessness was the feeling I got from this young mustang as he nuzzled another yearling for reassurance. I recognized him from the roundup from just an hour earlier and wondered where his mother was. I had watched the BLM separate him and his mother at the trap site and witnessed their desperation to stay together at a level on par to any human mother and child being broken apart.

Photo by Jennifer MaHarry

Fallon Livestock Exchange
Nevada (2013)

110 degree sweltering heat with no shade made my heart pound for two hours as I took pictures. I couldn’t fathom lasting another hour, and these horses were there day after day. This mother and baby shared a moment before they were both auctioned off for slaughter. Nothing could prepare me for the absolute innocence, yet horrible reality, of that moment. This scene is still just as heart-wrenching to look at as it was the day I photographed it.

You can help the wild horses by withdrawing your support from the meat industry, regardless of whether the meat comes from factory farms or is “humanely-raised” or “grass-fed.” Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them that you as a constituent care about this issue. Ask them to protect wild horses and not favor ranching interests. Contact the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and tell her wild horses on public lands should be listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act (email feedback@ios.doi.gov or call 202-208-3100). Sign petitions and speak up for wild horses.

Posted by Julie Gueraseva

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The post The Lives of Wild Horses Hang in the Balance appeared first on LAIKA.

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LAIKA’s issue 6 featuring Regina and Kat Von D, photographed by Melissa Schwartz.

There was no question that Regina hen was destined to be a LAIKA cover star. From the moment Kat Von D first held the cuddly chicken at our cover shoot, it was magic.

Everyone on set at Farm Sanctuary in Acton, CA, where Regina resided, was smitten by the charming, curious, friendly and lovable girl. Not only did she fit right in during the shoot, she became the center of attention. Even her vibrant comb matched the color of Kat’s lipstick.

By sharing the cover of our vegan magazine with Kat, and with her name clearly printed, Regina was shown as an individual and a symbol of freedom for all animals.

When Kat met Regina at our cover shoot—magic. Photos by Melissa Schwartz.

But suddenly and sadly, Regina is no longer with us. Like so many hens, she suffered from reproductive issues and had a severely infected uterus. Although the surgery to remove it was successful, she passed away the night after it in late July. Regina was a rescue from a family’s backyard chicken flock  – a setting that many believe to be more “humane” than the conditions faced by chickens on factory farms.

In a letter to Regina’s loving sponsors, Farm Sanctuary explained that “whenever an animal is commodified, their individual needs and interests are overlooked in favor of securing profits.” Chickens who are used for eggs frequently develop reproductive issues due to overproduction. It’s unimaginable for Regina to experience cruelty, yet the U.S. alone kills 23 million chickens every single day. In fact, they are the most abused land animal on the planet. But if given a chance to express themselves, each one will show a personality that is uniquely their own,  just like Regina’s.

Following is a poignant tribute from one of the “humanimals” that knew Regina best — Danielle Petrovich, facilities coordinator at Farm Sanctuary’s Acton shelter:

“Regina was my friend. It may sound strange or foreign to most people who have never had the opportunity to get to know a chicken. She was special, though. Even among her ‘rescue peers,’ she stood out. Or, more accurately, she stood up, ran over, and made sure you knew she was there. If we did ‘superlatives’ for the flock (like in your high school yearbook) Regina would have won these hands down. ‘Cutest.’ She was freaking adorable with the black and white feather motif and the bright red comb! Regina means ‘queen’ [in Latin], and her unique ‘rose comb’ crowned her little face as though it was designed on commission. ‘Friendliest.’ When greeting humanimal friends, new and old, she was uninhibited by self-consciousness or fear. Everyone she met was immediately treated to her boundless antics: Pecking lightly at your shoe, elbow, jewelry, pant leg, belt, shirt button or lower back tattoo (should you be crouched down facing away from her, and have your shirt ride up a bit.)

Regina in the foreground during our shoot, curiously examining the camera, with Danielle behind her.

She made an excellent ambassador for her species.

“A familiar lap was a favorite place for a nap and a pet. Regina often happily jumped right up and made herself cozy. ‘Most likely to Cheer You Up’ and ‘Most Squawky’ would undoubtedly go to her as well. When introducing her to people, I would often compare her to a stranger in the market who peers into your cart, strikes up a conversation about an item you’ve got in there and still has you chatting a half hour later. Initially in that scenario we’d be taken aback, yet by the end wanting to exchange numbers and meet up for a soy chai. Regina did that to people. You only needed to meet her once to feel as though you knew her. Perhaps because she made us feel, through her trust and her unequivocal gush of attention, as though she knew us. She sought us out. She truly loved people. For this reason, she made an excellent ambassador for her species. For the multitudes of people who will never have the pleasure of meeting her, I am gravely saddened. Mostly though, I just miss my friend.”

Regina, whose light shone bright, will live on forever on the cover of LAIKA, reminding that chickens are individuals whose lives matter. In honor of her memory, and all animals, we encourage you to go vegan.

Posted by Julie Gueraseva

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The post Regina, a Chicken Whose Life Mattered appeared first on LAIKA.

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LAIKA Issue 6 Cover Shoot with Kat Von D - Vimeo

LAIKA’s Issue Six cover shoot with Kat Von D at Farm Sanctuary was a special experience for everyone involved. Creating something beautiful in a place where animals are safe left an indelible imprint. “By posing with rescued animals on the cover of a vegan magazine, while wearing head-to-­toe vegan products — from makeup, to clothes, to footwear — Kat sent a huge message of compassion to the world,” says LAIKA’s editor in chief Julie Gueraseva. The LAIKA photo shoot was Kat’s first ever visit to a sanctuary, and her genuine love for the rescued animals she bonded with was apparent. Watch our exclusive behind the scenes video of that magical day.

Kat did her own hair and makeup at the LAIKA shoot, using vegan products from her line Kat Von D Beauty. The compassionate stunner created four distinct looks, including the bold green eye seen on the cover. Our Issue Six cover story broke the news to the beauty world that Kat is in the process of reformulating her entire line to be vegan. Look for the detailed credits of everything Kat wore at our shoot inside our new issue.

Kat and Bruno. Photo by Vee Hertel.

The force of Kat’s creative energy was palpable, inspiring everyone on set and resulting in the beautiful images taken by photographer Melissa Schwartz. Pick up a copy of Issue 6 or subscribe to see all of the incredible photos and read the revealing interview with Kat.

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Kat Von D is a world renown tattoo artist, creative powerhouse, makeup maven and the stunning cover star of LAIKA’s Magazine’s newest Sixth Issue. The force behind Kat Von D Beauty opens up about veganism, how she’s turning her makeup line vegan and about being a fearless animal advocate. In her first-ever vegan magazine interview, she shares with LAIKA her heartfelt thoughts about self-expression and her artistic process. Bonding on the cover with Regina hen and with more animals rescued by Farm Sanctuary in the feature, Kat is the embodiment of our new issue’s theme — Unity.

Inside the Unity Issue, we bring you poignant explorations on friendship, community, family and the kinship we share with one another and with our planet’s fellow inhabitants. Stories like “Enduring Bond” showcase not only the individuality and emotional depth of the animals, but also our remarkable commonalities with them.

Throughout LAIKA’s 6th issue, we draw attention to the impact of coming together in stories like “Plant Power,” about the growth of the food sovereignty movement and community agriculture; and “The Once and the Future,” a compelling series of cross-generational dialogues between vegan trailblazers and vegan teens. We feature food that connects us with the simple splendors of the plant kingdom from the likes of Lina Saber and Mississippi Vegan. There’s fashion that transcends boundaries, beauty that celebrates nature, and journeys that cross continents.

Every page of the Unity Issue is designed to uplift, to provoke and to underscore the power and joy of co-existence. With gorgeous illustration, award-winning photography and unforgettable storytelling, LAIKA provides you, our dear reader, with an immersive experience that will leave you inspired and moved.

Stay tuned for more behind the scenes photos and videos from our Kat Von D cover shoot. Order your copy of the Sixth Issue of LAIKA or subscribe today.

On the Cover: Photography by Melissa Schwartz; art direction by Julie Gueraseva; makeup, hair, styling and artwork by Kat Von D.

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Perhaps the most remarkable feat of the animal agriculture industry is the distance at which it has kept the public from its massive killing apparatus. Despite the fact that hundreds of millions of animals are slaughtered every single day for their meat in this country, most of us have never witnessed a single instance of this violence.

The non-profit organization Animal Equality aims to change this, with the help of virtual reality. In its new VR documentary film called Factory Farm, which is part of its iAnimal project, the organization’s cofounder Jose Valle leads viewers through the final moments in the lives of several pigs in a factory farm and slaughterhouse in Mexico. The film made its public debut at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, earlier this month.

A Sundance attendee watches the “Factory Farm” video, during which they can move around and get a 360° view of a slaughterhouse.

Factory Farm, produced in collaboration with VR technology company Condition One, is not easy to watch. It puts viewers just a few feet from not only the horrific conditions these animals are subject to, but also the stun-and-slaughter process, as they bear witness to what is an extremely common outcome: pigs regaining consciousness just moments after the initial stun, left to writhe and suffer as they bleed out on the slaughterhouse floor.

Pigs funnelled to slaughter at a plant in Mexico. Photo courtesy Animal Equality.

The film is narrated by Valle, who worked for months building the contacts and relationships to get access to the Mexican facility. (A level of transparency that, it’s worth noting, would never be possible in the US, due to the industry’s colossal, ongoing effort to prevent the public from seeing where its meat comes from.) Valle used a custom rig built with six special cameras to film the footage, which was later stitched together to create an immersive, 360-degree video. The viewer is able to behold their grim surroundings, from floor to ceiling and all around, in full, stereoscopic 3D.

We sat down with Valle and his Animal Equality cofounder Sharon Nunez to talk about their Sundance experience and how virtual reality will shape animal rights activism.

What did showing iAnimal at Sundance teach you about the potency of virtual reality?
Sharon: Even though it was a 12-minute video — a very intense video — of a factory farm and a slaughterhouse, most people watched through the whole experience. A lot of people commented about how powerful the footage was, and many commented about eating less meat or even going vegetarian or vegan. It is important to note that this was one of the most talked-about pieces at Sundance. One of the key learnings for us was that when people are immersed in VR, they are ready for something transformative. We give them that through access to all these horrible places where animals are suffering and are slaughtered. And this actually has the potential to not only change their lives, but to change the lives of millions of animals.

Jose: Since this medium is so new, many viewers are exposed to this technology for the first time, and to these kinds of experiences for the first time. During the panel on virtual reality, people commented about our piece because for them it was so strong, people still had those images in their minds — so powerful that one person had nightmares. With virtual reality, what you remember is not merely that, “I watched that piece,” like with conventional videos. It’s more like, “I have been there” or “I have a memory of what it’s like to be inside a slaughterhouse.”

Were you surprised by people’s willingness to watch the film at Sundance and their reactions to it?

Jose: Yes, because we told them that it was going to be an intense experience, it contains some very graphic scenes. One of the challenges was, how can you convince or invite people to watch something that is going to be painful, something that is going to be difficult to watch. It’s like asking someone, “Do you want to suffer?” And no one wants to suffer. But people were actually eager to watch it, and virtually everybody who watched it thanked us for producing the piece. Word-of-mouth worked really well, and we found that many people were also bringing their friends, co-workers or even families. They even drove from Salt Lake City to Park City specifically for that video. We filmed many of their reactions, which speak for themselves [in showing] how impacted they were. It’s not a video that you finish watching and you can just move on to the next thing. What we found is that people needed to process what they have just witnessed and they needed to talk about it and they needed answers.

If you look in the other direction, you are still inside that cage, just as the animals are.

The life of a pig on a farm. Photo courtesy Animal Equality.

Many people have seen undercover footage, but VR is something new. What makes this kind of sensory experience so life-changing and so vital to the animal liberation movement?
Jose: Virtual reality has the power to bring you into these places where you are not supposed to be. When we learned about this new technology, we understood that. We started experimenting, putting cameras inside cages — so when the viewer sees that [footage], [it’s as though] they are the ones who are trapped inside the cage and everywhere they look, there is no way out, as animals don’t have a way out. If you look in the other direction, you are still inside that cage, just as the animals are. So I would describe it as a very powerful [way] of people being witness to what happens and feel like you are the one subjected to the same treatment as the animals.

Sharon: We feel that VR is an extremely important tool for activism. We think it’s really revolutionizing empathy and the capacity [for] people to empathize with others, human or non-human. When we want to make sure that a person is transformed or we want to maximize the possibilities we have with engaging a person, changing or inspiring that person — VR is our tool. We want to continue developing content for VR inside farms and slaughterhouses and other animal exploitation facilities. And we want as many people as possible to try this out. That is why we are planning to bring this to universities, to festivals, we are to planning to bring it to politicians, to companies. And we think it’s really going to make a case for animals and their suffering.

How do you envision making this cutting-edge technology accessible to a large number of people?
Jose: Whenever we have shown this video with virtual headsets to people, we find ourselves surrounded by [other] people who are really interested in [trying it]. So we know that we have that on our side. We are bringing iAnimal to universities all over the U.S., Germany, Italy, England, and Spain. We are launching a website that will allow users to visit, virtually, a farm and go from one of the gestation crates to the slaughterhouse, look around and discover more information. We are also producing an app that will allow anybody, in any part of the world, to download [and watch] those same videos with a virtual headset like Google Cardboard, [which] we’ll be providing. People will be able to see it and show it to their friends and family and coworkers. We will also share it with other animal organizations who can use it as an awareness tool during their activities.

by Evan Shamoon

Images courtesy of Animal Equality.

The post Virtual Immersion into the Reality of Farm Animals appeared first on LAIKA.

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