Category Archives: Uncategorized

Louis. Save yourself the pain.


Sorry I haven’t written for a while, blessed readers. Just when I was getting all limber, the laziness came and plucked me sucker by sucker off the substrate of this blog. Not entirely true: I’ve also been ripping out a 3000 word essay and it’s H.A.R.D. I am on the last 10% and it feels like bleeding out everything I have through a paper cut. It goes really slowly. I’ll post it soon.

I also took a little holiday to Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain.

Here’s something to talk about. Subeditor nails it: is this just Jackass fooling or a cultural statement on our treatment of food animals? Neither in the main, the guy says: he had a party trick line in eating spiders etcetera and decided to see if he could reach 1 million hits. Cole says he doesn’t want to cause suffering, thus aims for a quick kill, and that while animal ethics are important, we shouldn’t be worrying about it when we haven’t got all humans to a happy place. (A previous community worker, he now makes a reasonable living from his youtube channel) Obviously keen to avoid being labelled attention seeking, he presses for the possibility of his ‘voice” being heard but seems to be confused on what he’s actually saying.

I feel the guy would accept any retrofitted rationalism to his stunt behaviour. Are you making a statement on factory farming? Why yes of course I am. Does your problem with hypocrisy extend to the fact that animals eat each others alive? Hell yeah, that’s great.

I don’t believe in rampant fundamental loudspeaker in your face animal rights activism that doesn’t take a considered perspective. That old boring paradox again in that this guy reminds me of that: he’s yelling but he doesn’t know what he’s on about. More importantly and inexcusably, there’s no need to prove a point by killing anything. Delete.

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Environmental Justice for Animals


Animal Visions

Before some of y’all get mad or confused, the title is not an attempt to co-opt the phrase “environmental justice” away from communities of color plagued by environmental, health, and economic inequalities.  Nor is it an attempt to replace “animal rights.”  This post is concerning issues of space and habitat I’ve been grappling with for a while.  As I’ve started working directly with urban animals, urban black communities living in poverty, and this notion of interspecies community, I’ve had to rethink how I go about labeling some of these intersectional issues of habitat quality, the institutional shuffling of African Americans into ghettos that directly decrease their quality of life, the institutional displacement of animals in the city, unless they are “pets” under constant surveillance by “owners”, “entertainment” in a traveling circus, “livestock” in a backyard, captives in a zoo, or victims in a lab facility.

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Animals trying to be people


Bobo‘s ENGAGING. His big interested eye looks delighted. He seems bright, glossy, happy. I like his insecure feet. I wonder how he feels about the cameraman. I wonder if he misses his parrotness. I wonder how his ancestors got trapped in the jungle.

Been thinking about animals on the internet, the animal awwwness movement in general. What’s in it for the well being of the species and the individual? Is it going to encourage or discourage the trapping of parrots in the Congo? Could go either way.

This isn’t about animals being people. It’s just unbelievably moronic and useless. I heard that the crew and cast ate wolf meat to get into the combative spirit.

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Sing it: whale sound and the science of non-human speech


Whale FM is taking up my time.

Some whale sounds reflect a huge elastic twanging off a planet sized gong. Some sound like a gothic door on an ancient hinge. Some whale songs sound like the most orchestral fart you have ever done. All songs must break the bubble wrap muffler of the ocean. The medium isn’t the message, but it’s got everything to to do with how the songs have evolved.

Whale.fm contains thousands of sound clips of pilot whales in the north Pacific. It is a crowdsourcing project that invites us to match similar sound clips by playing them and watching the accompanying phonogram.

The site does not suggest what we should we looking for. You could match on timbre or length. You could match pulsatile sounds and continuous sounds. The reflex action is to match phraseologies – phrases that play out in a similar sequence of morphemes over similar lengths of time. One common phrase consists of an initial squeal, a high bellow and a sharp decrescendo.

I matched 18 whale sounds like so before I learned that the major understanding on whale song is indeed in the syntax. Not a lot is known about pilot whales, but the closely related orca is known to share syntactical dialects within groups.

The researchers appear to be tracking the evolution of memes between populations – catch phrases that whales pick up from one another, mutating the sequence as it goes along.

Now there are a lot of people who say that there is a huge gulf between the language of humans and the communication rudiments of non-humans. We hear that no animal uses symbols of any kind. It is interesting to read that language itself did not evolve like a hand or an eye, so it looks like the lesser creatures are doomed to wander the earth mutely forever. There are no primitive languages or languages in the making– we are told the gulf is absolute. It is different to the argument on moral codes. In this argument, non-humans have moral codes up to a point, but they are never going to debate abortion or same sex marriage.

But you wonder what the guys at whale.fm are up to. And you read something like this and you get a different take on it. Rather than comparing whale song to our own language, we are admitting that it is simply completely different and we don’t know much about it. We may never interpret it and there may be more important things to do. But we respect its complexity. We don’t rule out that the message is meaningful. I’m down with that.

Canned hunting


Chris McBride is a dude. He brings important concepts to the public in large text and colour pics. Probably his major work is The White Lions of Timbavati, written in the early 70s about the emergence of individuals with a cream coat and the conservation questions thus posed. Chris is still rocking and researching in Africa to this day. Go Chris!

His wife Charlotte is still taking the air too. I guess at some point she gave up her 34 mile nightly round trips through lion country in that breakdown open sided vehicle. Running to camp with her daughter, both singing loudly, when the car blipped out yet again. Nuts!

My coworker Kate dropped the White Lions hardback on my desk one day. I spent some time admiring the style Chris and his wife brought to the savanna. In one colour plate, Chris, long, lean and flexy, rocks twill flares and a fitted cord jacket like Jarvis of the Bushveld.  His wife Charlotte is splendid in a midnight blue kaftan. She coolly guts an impala for the camera while their daughter plays with a spleen or something.

For a scientist, McBride was open about his mental struggle with the white cubs. He worried they would be social outcasts and unsuccessful hunters. Foreseeing lingering starvation, he wondered whether he should sell them to zoos and invest the capital back into the game.

He didn’t. Told you he’s a dude.

Those lions were OK. But their offspring have become part of an international freak show.

Do we object to raising and shooting a lion in captivity (for a trophy)? Many do. The first thing we’ll say is it’s unsporting. I think unsporting may have started with long-range weapons.

There is a huge issue with keeping big predators captive, and it’s still allowed all over the world.

The thing about lions is, they cause a lot of suffering themselves. Of course they are merely expressing their lion-ness, and we can expect no more. We can’t blame them for their means of survival. However, the world would be a better place if they had a little compunction in how they killed their prey. Herbivores go down in a blaze of neurons, and they don’t have to be dead for the feasting to begin. Then there’s the way they separate the men from the boys, and their fanatical devotion to napping.  They’re not going to do anything about climate change.

And maybe this is fundamentally why some people are OK with raising a white lion, semi-taming it, then blowing it away for cash. What’s the difference between this and doing it to a food animal? What are our choices? The McBrides must have seen this one coming., and they probably still find it hard to answer. 

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No coda for the cockroach


Why do I loathe the cockroaches that par occasion bypass my wooden floors?

I loathe them because I see them.

If it were mice droppings I’d be unpleased. But a roach I resist with all my urban biology.

I like spiders and all that. That’s easy.

In a zoology prac we once dissected roaches. I enjoyed this less than plucking the kidney out of a gassed rat. I had feelings for the rat. The cockroach was just a lump of gross with an egg sac coming out of it. And I felt shameful. My higher feeling had deserted me.

I shriek for cockroaches. In reality they are the Oriental type and they can’t get vertical onto surfaces. They aren’t in my foodstuffs. They can’t harm me, but they unhinge me something terrible. I have a man comes round, George, who seals my cracks. He sprays and patches up millimetre thin crevices with a crude paste. This is useless.

All the time in the world. Pal.

I have semi Buddhist sensibilities: I avoid killing anything, but I’m not sure about the purpose attributed to all beings. I killed my first roach about a year ago. I don’t even know what it takes for the creatures to die. I don’t know what the difference between life and death is for a cockroach. It seems you have to physically obliterate their molecules so that post-cohesive, the roach just isn’t there anymore.

If I get an infection I have my own cohesion to consider, so I stop the breeding of bacteria with chemicals. Well, you can’t really kill bacteria, just slow them down. The roach is equally solid. It doesn’t get bleed, get cancer, have agonising childbirth. Neither do plankton, but we need the plankton.

I think the cockroach has a good thing going. I wonder if it has quality of life in the dark, the close. His power is that of the swarm, but the last roach alive will hang out a goodly long time and probably never yearn for the touch of his kin.

Then again, listen to Lydia Davis.

“It is in his moment of hesitation that you sense him as an intelligent creature. Between his pause and his change of direction, you are sure, there is a quick thought.”

That raptor, the rogue


Aunty Pam skyped me from Hillcrest, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. First she was skyping her grandson Troy. Troy saw my green light and said “That dude is on.”

“What dude?” asked Pam.

“That London dude.”

So Pam rang off and called me.

She told me that a crowned eagle got hold of her prize Yorkie bitch, which was pregnant but miscarried in the scuffle. Uncle Mike witnessed the event and roared at the eagle. It released the dog, and the dog lives. The eagle perhaps flew home empty-taloned to its nestling, by now receiving a good education in the Sucks department of being non-human.

It's tough being a kid.

Let’s examine this manifold tissue of events. Culture (human) vs nature is what anthrozoology is built on. Gods and government always knew that nature would be the last bad guy. And nature can take your eye out. And the peasant man knows that if you’re lost in the woods, don’t dance round the toadstools. Don’t sex with the weasel. Because you’ll get incorporated. “There’s piskies up to Dartmoor, and t’idden gude yu sez there b’aint!” — Cornish feudal servant ca 1600.

Incorporation and the corpus. The living dogs husbanded by Aunty Pam and the near-corpse of the snatched up bitch. Aunty Pam invests commercially in Yorkshire terriers. Each puppy sells for a whack of SA Rand. They go to breeders, families, retired folks who’d like to subsume another round of kids. Another stock opinion from the AZ lit : the animal is “petrified” – incorporated into human existence and sacrificing its dogness for a lap. It’s not complicit in the exchange – it just is.

The eagle in KZN preys largely on vervet monkeys. A heavily pregnant small companion animal may be an easier target. Eagles catching dogs and cats is stock urban legend where I grew up. This is the first genuine report I’ve heard. That these worlds are colliding without fission astonishes me. I need to know more. I haven’t heard about any disgruntled dog breeders poisoning crowned eagles, but you never know.

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