Articles & Information
"The way the world communicates"
No matter who you are, a nonhuman animal or a human animal; we all communicate. We may not be able to speak the same language or speak at all and that's okay.
Some of us use our hands to communicate, others use our bodies and even some use computers to say hello. Some insects go "buzz buzz" and while others dance around. What a world to live in that we have so many ways to meet new friends!
When students learn that beings on this planet come in all shapes and sizes, that's when we can begin to break down the systems of injustice and end bullying and the oppression of all species.
Let's bring humane education into the classroom.
Registration for the FREE and virtual Humane Summit that I’ll be speaking at is open and I'd love to see you there!
I'll be speaking on February 6th at 6:00 PM EST/ 5:00 PM CT on:
WHY WE CHOOSE NOT TO RIDE ELEPHANTS, GO TO ZOOS, OR SWIM WITH DOLPHINS:
As parents and educators, how can we collectively start the discussion with youth about animal equality and the impact that our choices can have? In this session, Abby Power will talk about how we can use humane education tools to introduce topics such as speciesism, systems thinking, cognitive dissonance, and critical thinking in order to engage our children to find solutions and make systematic change. As educators or parents, let’s give children the tools to be the next generation of changemakers.
Join @hecoalition and 46 speakers and panelists for the Humane Summit, a fee-free virtual speaker series in humane education! Learn, share, and connect online from Feb 5-7, 2019. Register here: hecoalition.org/summit
Humane Education Coalition Launches Fee-Free Virtual Speaker Series, the Humane Summit
January 15, 2019
Humane Education Coalition Launches Fee-Free Virtual Speaker Series, the Humane SummitSAN ANTONIO, TX - The Humane Education Coalition is delighted to announce the launch of their new virtual speaker series, the Humane Summit. This three-day event brings together education professionals from around the world to learn, share, and connect about humane education. The Summit is held entirely online from February 5-7, 2019 and features unique speaker sessions and live panel discussions from more than 45 education experts.
"The Coalition is honored to provide a platform for so many brilliant, committed educators to share their knowledge and insights with a global community of participants," said Megan Moon, HEC President and producer of the Humane Summit. "We are confident this event will further our collective efforts to create a more compassionate, just, and sustainable world."
Participants will learn new strategies and tools for introducing, incorporating, and enhancing education programs, and they'll discover opportunities for building cross-cultural connections and solving challenges. Speaker sessions will cover a wide range of topics, including social-emotional learning, animal protection issues, environmental ethics, social justice, and social work education. As an added benefit, all sessions and recorded panel discussions will be saved in the Summit for participants to view at their convenience. There are also special opportunities for participants, including the option to earn a certificate of completion from the University of Denver's Institute for Human-Animal Connection, entering to win an online course from the Academy of Prosocial Learning, and entering to win a box of humane-themed children's picture books from The Gryphon Press.
"The Coalition strives to reduce barriers between our constituents and the tools they need to learn, teach, and thrive," Moon continued. "We are thrilled to provide this unique speaker series with no mandatory fee for participants thanks to our generous sponsors, which makes the Summit an inclusive and accessible learning opportunity for educators worldwide."
The Humane Summit is open to anyone, anywhere in the world and is an ideal professional development opportunity for educators, program administrators, nonprofit employees and volunteers, social workers, therapists, parents, and global compassionate citizens. The only requirements to participate in the Summit are access to the Internet and a working knowledge of the English language, as that is the language used in all Summit activities. Registered participants will receive a link to access the Summit via email upon registration.
To learn more and register, visit hecoalition.org/summit. Please contact email@example.com with questions.
About the Coalition
The Humane Education Coalition is a global alliance for collective impact. Its mission is to advance the field of humane education for the betterment of all living things. The Coalition collaborates with partners in the human rights, environmental ethics, and animal protection sectors to achieve common goals and support their work. The Coalition provides needed resources, educational opportunities, and grant funding for agencies around the world that teach about human rights, environmental ethics, and animal protection. The organization also works collaboratively to implement groundbreaking initiatives in the field of humane education, including research, publishing, and policy.
I was interviewed by @nonhuman.rights.project Communication Director Lauren Choplin about why I decided to be a voice for the NhRP elephant clients!
If you remember, back in November I wrote a story about my experience observing the animals, Minnie in particular, at the "Big E" in Springfield, Massachusetts.
In this interview with Lauren, I describe my vision as a humane educator, for how we can encourage children and adults to care about other species without depriving individual nonhuman animals of their liberty or exploiting them.
Here is a link to the published article:
I hope you enjoy this heartfelt interview!
Thank you to everyone for your support!
This is a film I put together about my journey as an animal rights activist and all of the ways we work together to fight for the animals. It is intended to build hope and courage and a way for all of us to find our voice.
Some artistic notes about the film:
When I first heard the song, "We Shall Overcome: Love Will Rise Again" I was deeply moved. This song captures how I feel about being a voice for the animals. I've never felt so empowered, inspired and as strong in my life as I do now. Nimo Patel was so gracious to let me use his music for this film. If you have the opportunity, please visit Nimo's website and learn more about his efforts of using music for social change. If you are able, please consider donating to his cause.
This film explores all of the ways we exploit animals and all of the ways we fight for them. It goes back and forth between the two extremes. For all of the oppression and injustice the animals face, we are there to make things right. You may notice that at times, those oppressing the animals don't seem to even notice what they are doing. We've been conditioned that what we are doing to animals is normal, natural and necessary. The veil is lifting.
When we actively speak up for the animals, we are tipping the scales. It doesn't matter if you're scared, shy or hesitant, you can do this. And if you think that one person can't make a difference I refer you to this poem by Bonaro W. Overstreet:
(To One Who Doubts the Worth of Doing Anything If You Can’t Do Everything)
You say the little efforts that I make
will do no good: they never will prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in balance.
I don’t think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.
In this film, I also wanted to show that activism comes in all forms. Everyone has a talent that can be used towards the fight for animals. Whether that be in the form of direct outreach, protest marches, creating wonderful vegan food, educating others, writing about the fight for animals, supporting vegan businesses, bearing witness, teaching children about living a compassionate lifestyle, having those hard conversations with family and friends or even by simply living a vegan lifestyle, we are standing up for what is right and just. Our life is based on constantly going against the stream and fighting injustice. It can take its toll and there are days where we may feel helpless and like we’re not making a difference but we are. You should feel proud!
I wanted to end the film at the Maple Farm Animal Sanctuary. Like so many sanctuaries, this is a place of refuge and where animals can live out their lives in peace. Animals deserve to have moral consideration and have the ability to express agency over their own lives.
The last image is of Gail staring out into the distance of an open barn door. Gail was used as a dairy cow for the first ten years of her life. I wonder what she must be thinking. Does she remember her time before being rescued? Does she miss her family? Where are they now? Unlike the 300 million cows who are slaughtered every year, she is free...like all animals should be.
I hope this film inspires each and every one of you to be a voice for the animals!
Music by Nimo Patel and Daniel Nahmod at Empty Hands Music, "We Shall Overcome: Love Will Rise Again."
Special thanks to The Save Movement, Toronto Cow Save, Laura Ray, Sheryl Becker, Erica Korff, Lilly Colwell and to everyone who made this film possible.
This film is dedicated to my son, James. I'll keep fighting until you see a more humane and compassionate world.
On September 22nd, I traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts to attend the “Big E”, with my son, James in order to complete an assignment for my Animal Protection course. The “Big E” is New England’s "greatest state fair” (Wikipedia, "The Eastern States Exposition", 2018). We arrived at 11:30am and left at 4:00pm. It was a very hot day and the sun was beating down. This was my first time going to this fair but I had an idea of what I should expect. I at first found the experience challenging, but when I put myself in the position of an undercover investigator, it made the situation a little easier to handle.
Before arriving, I had made a list of the animal exhibits that I wanted to view along with the show times. We first made our way to the “Swifty Swine Racing Pigs” show. Here, pigs are housed in a trailer, advertised as “air conditioned for piggy comfort.” As the presenter begins the show, you can hear pigs squealing from the trailer. There was a total of three races during the show. When called upon, four potbelly pigs are loaded into holding gates for the race. They raced around the track for an Oreo. The names of the pigs ranged from “Brittany Spareribs” to “Kim Kardashiham” to “Kevin Bacon.” The finale of the show was with “Swifty” the swimming pig. This 12-week-old pig’s act is to swim an 8ft long tank of water. After the show, the pigs were put back into the trailer and into their crates. There are souvenirs available such as Swifty pig noses and an opportunity to get souvenir photos of you and your family holding Swifty. The show operates every day that the fair is operating (17 days), and 5 times a day (Johnson, "Swifty Swine Racing Pigs", 2018).
The next stop was to the R. W. COMMERFORD & SONS animal attraction. This 40 year old company is located in Goshen, Connecticut. Their website proclaims that they work hard to give their animals a nice home and that the animals are well taken care of (R. W. Commerford & Sons, "Our Animal Friends", n.d).
The attraction at the “Big E” included a petting zoo as well as pony and elephant rides. This exhibit was the most distressing for me. Minnie, an elephant, was on display. She looked exhausted. Her eyes appeared sunken in, her skin looked incredibly dry and cracked and her mood seemed to be despondent as she walked around in circles giving rides to customers. The ride lasted around 1:30 minutes per group. The next rider(s) would immediately get on and Minnie would go around in a circle again. There was no rest for Minnie during the time I observed her, which was for more than half an hour. The handler had a bull hook with him, which he held conspicuously at his side and would use it to guide Minnie if she wasn’t going where he wanted her to go ("R. W. Commerford & Sons Attraction", 2018).
I then went over to R. W. Commerford & Sons’ petting zoo. There was a zebra in the center of the tent. It was held inside a small enclosure which was surrounded by the pygmy goats and Barbados sheep. The Zebra stood in one place and did not move or look around. Most would probably not even notice that the Zebra wasn’t interacting because they were too distracted at all of the goats trying to jump out of their enclosure to get food from the guests. Along the side of the tent were four Shetland ponies that were chained up to the railing. Inside of a cage, which you could barely see inside because there was a grate over it, was a Greenwing MaCaw. I didn’t see any sunlight getting into the cage. This was the same with the African Grey Parrot. There were many other exotic animals at the petting zoo such as the Scimitar-Horned Oryx, originally from the Sahara Desert and the Zebu Steer from India that were also chained to a fence. Like with “The Switfy Swine Pig Racing”, there were opportunities to buy souvenirs such as photos and cow boy hats ("R. W. Commerford & Sons Attraction", 2018).
I spoke to those working the R.W Commerford & Son’s attractions and everyone seemed to hold the party line that all of these animals are happy and well looked after ("R. W. Commerford & Sons Attraction", 2018). The workers themselves looked miserable. I don’t believe that many of employees really want to be doing this. They too are a victim of oppression, whether that be down to their race, income level or class. Just like when the poor white man was pitted against the poor black man in order to keep the institution of oppression functioning, this same system is pitting these employees against the animals in order to prop up upper classes.
When I exited the fair, I encountered a group of animal activists that were asking for those that walked by, to consider what their ticket was paying for. I spoke to Sheryl Becker, the director of the Western Massachusetts Animal Rights Advocates group. She lead me to a PETA report showing that R.W. Commerford & Sons has had over 56 citations of not meeting federal standard of care for animals used in exhibition; based on the Animal Welfare Act (PETA, "R. W. Commerford & Sons Traveling Petting Zoo Factsheet", n.d).
The Nonhuman Rights Project reports, violations that pertain to the elephants in the care of R. W. Commerford & Sons alone include, “failure to have an employee or attendant present during periods of public contact with the elephants; failure to give adequate veterinary care to treat an excessive accumulation of necrotic skin on the elephants’ heads; failure to maintain the elephant transport trailer; inadequate drainage in the elephant enclosure; failure to dispose of a large accumulation of soiled hay, bedding, and feces behind the elephant barn; and failure to keep an elephant under the control of a handler while she was giving rides” (Nonhuman Rights Project, "Clients: Beulah, Karen, and Minnie", n.d). When I explained that the elephant giving rides on that particular day was Minnie, Becker was shocked and concerned. Peta has reported that Minnie has been involved in three separate incidences of dangerous behavior (PETA, "R. W. Commerford & Sons Traveling Petting Zoo Factsheet", n.d).
The first reported incident occurred in 1989 when Minnie attacked and critically injured an elephant handler. This occurred when the handler struck Minnie with a bullhook while two children were riding on her back. She had picked the handler up with her trunk and threw him against a trailer. This broke the handler’s jaw and shoulder. Years before this happened, Minnie had attacked a worker and broke his arm (PETA, "R. W. Commerford & Sons Traveling Petting Zoo Factsheet", n.d).
In 1998, Minnie knocked down her trainer and stepped on him. Again, she had children on her back. One of the children fell off of Minnie and hit her head (PETA, "R. W. Commerford & Sons Traveling Petting Zoo Factsheet", n.d).
On March 5th, 2006, Minnie became agitated and swung her head toward two employees. She used her weight to pin them against the loading ramp. A witness confirmed that Minnie’s action was a result of her being provoked by one of the employees hitting her in the face (PETA, "R. W. Commerford & Sons Traveling Petting Zoo Factsheet", n.d). This makes me think that this could become another Sea World Tilikum situation (BBC, "SeaWorld orca Tilikum that killed trainer dies", 2017).
When I got home, I saw a post by the Nonhuman rights project and couldn’t believe that Minnie, along with the other two elephants owned by the Commerford’s, Beulah and Karen were clients of Steven Wise (Nonhuman Rights Project, "Clients: Beulah, Karen, and Minnie", n.d). The Nonhuman Rights organization had been at the Big E at the same time as when I was there doing my assignment.
According to the Nonhuman Rights organization, Minnie was born in the wild in Thailand. She was imported to the United States in 1972 when she was two months old. Practically since birth, she has been on display. She has been in petting zoos, used for sales promotions, in Indian weddings, films, circuses and photo shoots. Minnie was sold to the Commerford’s in 1976. At the age of 46, Minnie has lived a life that has been nothing short of abuse and exploitation (Nonhuman Rights Project, "Clients: Beulah, Karen, and Minnie", n.d).
Within the space of just a day or two, a photo of Minnie went viral. There have been petitions to stop the exploitation of the elephants in Commerford’s care and more activists showing up to protest. Just two days after I visited the “Big E”, Steven Wise was on a Western Massachusetts news station, WGGB/WSHM, advocating for Minnie’s release to a sanctuary (Sleem & Masse, 2018). This has been a catalyst of dozens of news articles covering the case and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. There is currently a change.org calling to “End the Use of Wild Animal Acts at The Big E!” There are currently 127,070 signatures as of October 31st (Change.org, n.d).
The current litigation case with Beulah, Karen and Minnie’s is still ongoing. In December 2017, the first petition was refused with Judge James Bentivegna proclaiming that the case was “frivolous on its face as a matter of law.” On June 11th, 2018, a second petition was filed on behalf of the elephants in Connecticut. (Nonhuman Rights Project, "Second Petition Filed on Behalf of Captive Elephants in Connecticut", 2018).
If the case is won, the elephants would be welcomed to the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) Sanctuary to live out their lives (PAWS, n.d).
This assignment has taken me into an entirely different direction than I had anticipated. It has allowed me to feel like I was part of something bigger. I was able to bear witness to the life of entertainment animals such as Minnie, who have had to endure more than any animal should. Although I left the “Big E” feeling angry, I now feel empowered. I am able to see how so many groups of people are going at great lengths to speak up for the animals; either through protests, petitions, advocacy or legal work. Through the use of social media, Minnie’s story has been shared thousands of times, further opening the hearts and minds of those around the world. I look forward to following Stephen Wises’ case for my friend, Minnie.
Below are some additional photos and videos that I took during my experience at the "Big E". The way we exploit animals is never ending. I ask one thing of you, please look into their eyes.
How Can You Help?
1.) Vote with your dollar. Don't attend venues or events that promote or participate in animal exploitation & animal entertainment. This will signal to places that we want change.
2.) Get involved with organizations such as the Nonhuman Rights Project who are trying to help Minnie, along with many other animals and fighting for their release.
3.) Attend an animal advocacy event. It may feel scary at first but I promise you will never feel more alive and empowered to use your voice!
4.) Write to The Big E at info@TheBigE.com and tell them to stop this action.
5.) Sign the change.org petition, "End the Use of Wild Animal Acts at The Big E!"
6.) Share Minnie's story and all of the other animals that are exploited at the "Big E" as far and wide as you can! The more people know about it, the more we can create change.
BBC. (2017, January 06). SeaWorld orca Tilikum that killed trainer dies. Retrieved October 31, 2018, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38531967
Change.org. (n.d.). End the Use of Wild Animal Acts at The Big E! Retrieved October 30, 2018, from https://www.change.org/p/eugene-cassidy-president-and-ceo-end-the-use-of-wild-animal-acts-at-the-big-eJohnson, Z. (Director). (2018, September 22).
Swifty Swine Racing Pigs. Live performance in Eastern States Exposition, Springfield.
Nonhuman Rights Project. (n.d.). Clients: Beulah, Karen, and Minnie. Retrieved October 30, 2018, from https://www.nonhumanrights.org/clients-beulah-karen-minnie/
Nonhuman Rights Project. (2018, June 11). Second Petition Filed on Behalf of Captive Elephants in Connecticut. Retrieved October 30, 2018, from https://www.nonhumanrights.org/blog/second-petition-connecticut/
PAWS. (n.d.). Performing Animal Welfare Society -- PAWS. Retrieved October 31, 2018, from http://www.pawsweb.org/
PETA. (n.d.). R. W. Commerford & Sons Traveling Petting Zoo Factsheet [Brochure]. Norfolk, VA: Author.
Sleem, S., & Masse, A. (2018, September 24). Call to end wild animal acts at the Big E after viral Facebook post. Retrieved September 24, 2018, from https://www.westernmassnews.com/news/call-to-end-wild-animal-acts-at-the-big-e/article_e5e6db6e-c066-11e8-b5b3-7f9b485dbdd1.html
R. W. Commerford & Sons Attraction. (2018, September 22). Live performance in Eastern States Exposition, Springfield.
R. W. Commerford & Sons. (n.d.). Our Animal Friends. Retrieved October 30, 2018, from http://commerfordzoo.com/animals.php
Wikipedia. (2018, September 22). The Eastern States Exposition. Retrieved October 30, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eastern_States_Exposition
Inspired by the book, "Half the Sky", I am moved to be a voice for women everywhere.
Through education, a shift in cultures and attitudes, and the opening of hearts and minds, we can stop gender discrimination.
Gender discrimination is tied to:
With 3.7 billion women on this planet, we will not be stopped. Let the world feel our strength.
Hear my passionate plea by viewing the video below.
Music by Artificial Memory, "Soleil (Remaster)": https://soundcloud.com/artificialmemory
Feel free to download this resource I created to help get you started on how you can support women globally.
Sending much love and kindness,
After a recent interview with the Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights for my human rights class, I learned that this wonderful organization is in desperate need of the following:
Individual Wrapped Snacks For The Waiting Room (Energy Bars, Peanut Butter Crackers, Etc.)
If you have the opportunity to donate please do so or if you live in the Metrowest area I will be doing a collection and bringing it into Boston. You can message me directly if you would like to drop off donations directly to my home.
The Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Right's mission is to provide holistic health care coordinated with social services and legal aid for asylum seekers, refugees, survivors of torture, and their families.
They also train professionals to serve this population, conduct research to understand and implement best-practices, and promote health and human rights, locally and globally, to improve the quality of life for survivors of torture and their communities.
Sometimes life has a way of knocking out all of our creativity and passion. We are forced to fit within perfect little boxes. Why? It's easier this way. Like little ants that follow in line, the mechanics of society are able to operate most effectively this way.
But what is life without color? Without interpretation or expression, what is the point?
When I go for a run I'm often running down the road or through a park. I like running because of the way it makes me feel but I also hate running. But what I do love is dancing! After my dad died, I made the decision that I would be brave and be myself. I opened myself up to feeling vulnerable. Now when I run, I also dance. And not just snap my fingers and sway, but really all out dance. I twirl, I shimmy, I close my eyes and put my arms in the air and dance. Yes, at times I feel embarrassed. Those that pass me by are often confused as to what I'm doing but they always have a smile on their face. I am trying to show them that they too can have the courage to do their "dance." They can live the life that brings them joy.
I think you may like this sweet short film. Let's bring the color back into this world.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander was one of the most eyeopening books that I have ever read. Please, consider reading it. It will change everything you thought you new about racism and discrimination in the United States today.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts soon!
Shifting our paradigm of thinking so that we not only create a more compassionate world, but a world that works for all.