John Zerzan’s recent letter [“Peaceful protest changes nothing,” Feb. 6] had the feel of an obligatory public service announcement or perhaps one of those overly cautious product warning labels. Like those quirky product warnings it compels one to think about the terribly, difficult life of those who genuinely require such elementary advice: the person who hadn’t realize he shouldn’t use his electric iron while under water, eat the silica packet that comes in a pair of new shoes, or place a baby into a washing machine. The warnings strike most of as silly and perhaps even insulting but for a small part of the population those warnings are presumably quite important.
Zerzan’s warning is addressed to those confused folks who are under the delusion that by simply marching a sufficient distance or as part of a big group they will thereby magically bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice and throw off the yoke of oppression. While the number of people attempting to use their toaster as a flotation device is probably fairly small, those who mistake good manners, well-planned marches, luncheons with cops, and letters to politicians for real resistance is embarrassingly large. It’s pathetic that we even need the reminder that Zerzan offers us: peaceful protest changes nothing.
Date submitted: 10 April 2016
News outlet: The Eugene Weekly
When Montana State paleontologist Jack Horner recently spoke at the University of Oregon it was as though Dr. Frankenstein himself had arrived on campus.
Horner spoke of his efforts to “reverse engineer” a dinosaur. That is, to genetically manipulate a chicken—an evolutionary descendant of dinosaurs—so that the resulting animal will, in some way, physically resemble a dinosaur. This may involve attempting to add a long tail, altering the shape of the skull, changing the skeletal structure of the limbs, and on and on. The guiding idea is that if evolution could trace a path from velociraptor to modern chicken then humanity should be able chart a course in the reverse direction from chicken back to raptor.
Of course, the great sin of Dr. Frankenstein was hubris and an unexamined assumption that for him nothing is off limits or could ever be prohibited. But Horner’s macabre endeavors transgress on the sacred; they are an insult to the living world. If nothing else, respect for animals must bar treating them as a mere assemblage of component parts and desirable features to be rearranged and manipulated for one’s amusement or curiosity.
Date published: 6 November 2015
News outlet: The Eugene Weekly
Leo Harris Parkway divides Autzen Stadium from Alton Baker Park and so divides Oregon Ducks from mallard ducks. But even when it’s not game day, the sound volume from Autzen respects no boundary and invades Alton Baker, often drowning out the birdsong, riversong and windsong that people rightly expect to hear in the park. Long practice sessions at the stadium are generally accompanied by a soundtrack as booming as one might expect for a violent sport that lends itself to war metaphors.
As a volunteer nature guide, I am often in the park with elementary school children and I consistently encourage them to respect the plants and animals that live in Alton Baker. I encourage them to use all their senses to fully experience the park and the more-than-human world. The exercise can be a challenge for young people raised in a myopic, digital culture which is often hostile to animals and non-commercial spaces; it is made more difficult, sometimes impossible, when the relentless noise of that culture is pouring out of Autzen Stadium.
Letter to the Editor re:Joseph Rose: Handling Roadkill
Date submitted: June 1, 2014
News outlet: The Oregonian
Based on the fact that we spend a lot of money on dog toys and a lot of time on cat memes, America tends to think of itself as a nation of animal lovers. And yet, there is a demonstrable hatred toward animals that cannot credibly be denied. It’s not necessarily a hot searing hatred but rather a cold, callous hatred; a hatred that manifests less often in acts of rage and more often in passively accepting the suffering and making light of the killing of other animals.
For example, in response to a reader’s question about the legal requirements that fall upon a driver who has struck and killed an animal, Oregonian columnist Joseph Rose singled out opossums and rats as particularly unworthy of our concern should they be killed and he concludes his brief reply by quoting a trite bumper sticker that read “Cats: The other white meat”.
The number of animals killed on American roadways is staggering. Light-hearted jokes about this fact send a message to others that these deaths are unimportant and not worth caring about or addressing. Such jokes help enforce a norm that says concern for animals is inappropriate and that their suffering can be laughed at. In such an atmosphere even those who do empathize are apt to remain silent.
Bodies on roadways and the jokes they illicit confirm that we are not really the nation of animal lovers that we pretend to be.
Letter to the Editor re: “Oregon Zoo Tiger, 15, Suffers Apparent Seizures, Dies”
Submitted: March 26, 2014
News outlet: The Register-Guard
The Oregon Zoo recently announced that 15 year old tiger Nicole has died. According to the Zoo’s announcement, Nicole was born at the John Ball Zoological Garden in Michigan in 1998 and was transferred to the Oregon Zoo in 2000 where she remained until her death. Her brother Mikhail remains on exhibit at the Zoo.
Nicole was thus a captive her entire life and never knew that being a tiger does not necessarily mean existing merely to amuse and be gawked at by humans or that tiger habitat generally does not include coffee stands and gift shops. She likely did not know that her experience as a tiger was incredibly unique even if she knew all too well that it was painfully, perhaps mind-numbingly, shallow.
In the death announcement Oregon Zoo officials praised her for her docile nature as she was reportedly quite compliant for procedures such as blood draws and dental work. By a captor’s logic, docility is the highest of virtues and yet there was no possibility of her ever being released for “good behavior”. Her zoo experience rendered her dysfunctional and dependent, unable to live a normal tiger life in the wild, unable to live free of those who confined her.
She was born into captivity and she died in captivity. It is the least glamorous and most depressing of tragedies.
Letter to the Editor re: “Raids to Free Minks Ups Ante on Animal Rights”
Submitted: October 17, 2013
News outlet: The New York Times
“It’s our livelihood. They’re trying to put us out of business,” was the defense offered by mink farmer Virginia Bonlander whose business was targeted in the recent surge of raids that have been carried out by animal rights activists [“Raids to Free Minks Ups Ante on Animal Rights,” Oct. 16].
Bonlander’s defense of killing animals is both curious and commonplace.
That something “is one’s livelihood”—that one financially profits from engaging in a particular activity—cannot be allowed exempt that activity from moral scrutiny. If anything, being paid to harm others may exacerbate, rather than mitigate, the offense. That one has built their life around harming others and does so as a means to support themselves is reprehensible in a way that is quite different from someone who may harm others in a less calculated manner.
Yet this defense is commonly advanced by people in industries where the raw material is living, breathing animals who are then violently transformed into consumer products. The assumption that profit is a legitimate defense must be challenged.
Letter to the Editor re “Next Out of the Printer, Living Tissue”
Date submitted: August 18, 2013
News outlet: New York Times
A recent article on Darryl D’Lima’s efforts to print living tissue such as knee cartilage with a 3-D printer had a moderate tone (“Next Out of the Printer, Living Tissue” August 18). It presented D’Lima’s efforts without succumbing to the enthusiasm of zealots who sometimes suggest that whole organs will be printed and transplanted into patients in the near future.
Yet there was no mention in the article that D’Lima has overwhelmingly produced dead rather than living tissue; specifically, dead rabbit tissue. D’Lima has been performing medically unnecessary surgeries and killing rabbits in his lab for years.
To present only the possibility of a future benefit without also presenting the very real harm that is currently being inflicted on animals is a disservice, if not a deception, to your readers.
Letter to the Editor re Douglas County Lamb Show & Barbecue
Date submitted: May 30, 2013
News outlet: The News-Review
Sigmund Freud wrote that “Children show no trace of the arrogance which urges adult civilized men to draw a hard-and-fast line between their own nature and that of all other animals.”
Freud’s observation is confirmed by the friendships that children readily make with animals. Unfortunately, the process of turning caring children into “civilized men” (and women) often involves terminating these friendships and mocking their significance.
The annual Douglas County Lamb Show & Barbecue serves this function of hardening hearts. Children who have cared for animals are expected to put their friends on the auction block and eventually under the knife. Amongst the civilized it is deemed a sign of maturity to willingly exchange the lives of loved ones for money.
74th Annual Douglas County Lamb Show & Barbecue Program [PDF]
Letter to the Editor re “Logging Towns Are on a Roll,” February 24, 2012
Date submitted: February 25, 2013
News outlet: The Wall Street Journal
In truth, log yards are graveyards. The stacked bodies of dead trees, viewed merely as building materials, were not only themselves once alive but also provided homes and security for countless others who lived amongst their branches.
To justify the industrial scale slaughter of trees by pointing to shifting unemployment rates and the “composite price per thousand board feet of framing lumber” is to paper over atrocity with the pages of an accounting ledger.