Monday, April 13, 2015

Small Triumphs

This is a photo, taken today, of the first time this dog allowed me to touch him.

He's been at the shelter where I work for over a month. He has bitten nearly every staffer and several volunteers.

Today he came up and put his paws on me. I put his sweater on and a leash and took him outside. Things so minor that would have been impossible a week ago.

I'm not claiming any credit for this, except for one thing: which is I gave him his space. Except for necessary things like cleaning his kennel, and vaccinations when he first arrived, no one's done any actual "work" with him (and those who tried were the ones who pushed him too far and got bit). Slowly, through routine alone I suppose, he's come out of his snarly, terrified shell and is now going to an adoptive home.

Score for modern sheltering.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

NPR innocently asks, "does being vegan REALLY help animals?"

"Well OF COURSE it does!" (Says vegetarian who only talked to vegans.)

This article by Barbara J. King on the NPR website should have been titled "Why veganism is awesome: a vegan's perspective".

There are so many good, articulate writers and thinkers out there who are thoughtful meat eaters; the fact that this NPR writer didn't find ONE of them to talk to makes me mad. NPR is supposed to be better than this. Instead, we get yet another cookie-cutter, shallow, biased piece almost copy-pasted from the vegan movement's talking points. Although it's presented as an opinion piece, that doesn't excuse NPR for hosting such tripe.

My response, in bulleted list format because I'm lazy (also I've written about this before):

-I have friends who are vegan. They are good, earnest people who care deeply about animals, and I can dig that. Unfortunately, one of the many problems with the vegan "movement" is it is headed by radical animal rights activists just like the ones interviewed for this article. Anyone from PETA or  HSUS is not "reasonable", and are complicit in the deaths of thousands of dogs and cats annually through unnecessary euthanasia. They may care for animals too, but their goal is to force their values on everyone without listening to facts or reason. They should be the last ones to use as examples if you're really trying to have a balanced discussion or convince anyone to change their lifestyle. (Also, kindly remember that us thoughtful meat-eaters care deeply for animals, too)

-Veganism (or vegitarianism, or reducing use of animal products) is not the only way, or even a good way, to go about reducing the suffering of animals by human hands.

-Just because you're not eating them, doesn't mean animals didn't die for you. Soy harvest alone kills or displaces countless birds and small mammals. Sorry to wreck your warm-and-fuzzies, but that "95" number is completely made up by someone with an agenda.

-Growing plants is not automatically better for the environment than growing animals.

-All the proven health benefits of a vegan diet have as much to do with simply being more thoughtful about diet in general than in actually being vegan.

-No, it really isn't simple or cheap to live on a vegan diet. Especially if you have children. Stop the hand-waving. Maybe we can have a discussion about how to improve public school lunches? Or reduce urban food deserts? Or incentivize community gardens? Or, you know, ANYTHING besides  scolding or guilt-tripping because "I can do it, so can you"?

-While we're at it, let's acknowledge a couple things: 1) most vegans are white, middle to upper class, while most of the farmworkers who harvest the crops that make a vegan lifestyle possible are poor people of color; 2) some people really, truly can't survive on a vegan diet for health reasons; 3) food is very important to many cultures and insulting cultural dishes because they dare to contain meat is bigotry

-The word I'm looking for is 'ethnocentric'. (And also, if you're comparing yourself to Saint Paul simply because of your diet, that should be a clue that your ego is too big for you to be having a grown-up conversation, especially on freaking NPR)

-They try to imply that government or military misallocation of resources - like grains seized in Ethiopia during the height of famine- was because of factory farming? That's insane. I can't even.

-Can we PLEASE have a discussion that goes beyond "red meat"? Corn-fattened beef from feed lots is not the only animal product out there. Vegans love to hang their debate on it because it's pretty clear cut: yes, reducing this type of meat consumption is healthier; yes, feed lots are bad for the environment; yes, it's wasteful to feed them corn. We know this already. Can we talk about range cattle? Or farmed tilapia? Or backyard chickens? Or livestock fed off of marginal land unsuitable for crops? Or sustainable hunting? As someone who cares about this stuff, I hate seeing yet another black and white debate from vegans. "Beef or no meat at all" are our only choices? Really? Even the pesco-vegetarian author barely touched on how important fish is as a protein, yet dedicated many paragraphs to full-on anti-meat propaganda.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Agate Hunting

This cliff is about a quarter mile from the river, so I'm sure these are river rocks are from the old river bed. It's a good spot. I can always find at least a double handful of semi-translucent agates within half an hour.

And every now and then, a really nice one:

This is what they look like after going through the rock tumbler:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bighorn Sheep of Interstate 84

Bighorn sheep went extinct in Oregon in the 1940's but are making a slow steady comeback. There are now an estimated 3700 in the state. Less than a hundred hunting tags are issued each year, and it's a "once in a lifetime" tag - even if you don't fill it, you never get the chance again.

It's a special treat to see one in the wild. And if you want to see one, I can tell you exactly where to go where you're almost guaranteed to see at least a few. I've personally seen a group as large as twenty. You don't need to hike, you just need to look out your car window while driving between mileposts 128 and 115 on I-84 in Oregon.

(Mile post 122 July 2013)

This is the habitat:

(area circled has about a dozen bighorns in it, you just can't tell in this horrible blurry photo, taken December 2014)

At the top of the cliffs the land flattens out a bit and is private farm land, and beyond that is the John Day River. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been re-introducing bighorns in several places along the John Day river, but much farther south. This tiny strip of land is shown as "bighorn sheep occupied habitat" on their map, but it looks like the closest reintroduction location is many miles to the south (see below) (plus, I can't imagine ODFW thinking that land that close to a freeway would be prime habitat for reintroduction).

I'm guessing the sheep traveled to this location themselves, following the river north to the Columbia from the Cotton Canyon area. They found this small but nice piece of real-state and decided to stay, and I can see why: the steep cliffs they like to keep them safe from coyotes, plenty of water and browse, and, though they have to deal with the constant sound of traffic, they're almost guaranteed to never be harassed by hikers, hunters, dogs, or domestic livestock.

(area in red is our bighorns, area is green shows next closest population)

FYI: there aren't really any safe places on this stretch of road to pull over for photos. I've seen some people do it, though I haven't worked up the courage to risk death-by-semi to get some shots of the wildlife with my nice lens.

I call this series "dog forced to sit next to trees"