Fashion Offenders, Every 9 Days & Animal Cruelty Syndrome

Osborn shoes offers one vegan style for guys with cotton uppers and rubber soles. They are fair trade, small-scale, and pretty freakin’ cool. I wish all their soles were rubber!

• Treehugger recently published a list of 7 unethical companies with the most abusive labor conditions. Who made the list?

  1. 1. H&M: sweatshop  fire recently killed 21, organic cotton fraud, trashing unsold clothing.
  2. 2. Abercrombie & Fitch: sweatshops in Saipan, exploitative worker contracts, zero-transparency according to Corporate Responsibility, ILRF’s Hall of Shame
  3. 3. The Gap (Old Navy & Banana Republic): New Delhi child labor, Saipan sweatshops labeled as “Made in USA”, Forced abortions on female factory workers.
  4. 4. Nike: Human trafficking and indentured slavery, anti-union policies,  sweatshops and unpaid workers.
  5. 5. Limited Brands (Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, Express and The Limited): Jordanian sweatshops, human trafficking & slave labor.
  6. 6. Phillips-Van Heusen (Calvin Klein): violent sweatshops, forced labor in Saipan.
  7. 7. Wal-Mart: criminal labor practices, sweatshops.

Cleanup workers toiling on the beach at Grand Isle, La.

• A New York Times article today reports on the grossly underestimated amount of oil gushing into the Gulf. “A government panel on Thursday essentially doubled its estimate of how much oil has been spewing from the out-of-control BP well, with the new calculation suggesting that an amount equivalent to the Exxon Valdez disaster could be flowing into the Gulf of Mexico every 8 to 10 days. The new estimate is 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day. That range, still preliminary, is far above the previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.”

• The New York Times Magazine, this week, has a heart-wrenching and though-provoking feature article on a phenomenon many psychologists, criminologists, prosecutors, veterinarians, and law enforcement professionals have suspected for a very long time: cruelty towards animals is directly connected to violence towards other people. “… a growing sensitivity to the rights of animals, another significant reason for the increased attention to animal cruelty is a mounting body of evidence about the link between such acts and serious crimes of more narrowly human concern, including illegal firearms possession, drug trafficking, gambling, spousal and child abuse, rape and homicide.”

Violent Animal Porn: Supreme Court Slams Animals

Today’s news comes from contributor Dan Mims, who covers a very disturbing case involving animal cruelty that reached as high as the Supreme Court. We welcome Dan, quite a Discerning Brute, as a new contributor!

by contributor Dan Mims

The animal welfare blogosphere has been buzzing about Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision in United States v. Stevens, decided 8-1 for Stevens. The emerging consensus, following arguments and counter-arguments about the import and merit of the decision, seems to be that the Supreme Court made the right choice, both legally and for the benefit of the animal welfare movement.

Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

First, some background. “Stevens” is Robert Stevens, a purveyor of an animal fighting video who was prosecuted in 2004 under a federal statue passed in 1999. The law — officially known as Law 18 USC § 48 — prohibited creating, selling, or possessing videos/photographs of tortured animals for commercial purposes. The law, though potentially applicable to depictions of many kinds of animal torture, was passed in large part to discourage so-called “crush videos” — fetish videos depicting animals being crushed to death. One video in particular examined by Congress at that time is described by the following (WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE):

A kitten, secured to the ground, watches and shrieks in pain as a woman thrusts her high-heeled shoe into its body, slams her heel into the kitten’s eye socket and mouth loudly fracturing its skull, and stomps repeatedly on the animal’s head. The kitten hemorrhages blood, screams blindly in pain, and is ultimately left dead in a moist pile of blood-soaked hair and bone.

There are no words that can adequately describe such an act. That said, we must bear in mind that the Supreme Court’s role is to decide whether or not laws are constitutional — and not to be an arbiter of morality. In this capacity, the Court struck down Law 18 USC § 48 because they found it to be written over-broadly such that it might infringe upon other constitutionally protected forms of speech.

Some animal welfare advocates have cheered this decision on the basis that robust free speech is essential to our movement. Normally I might agree, depending on the trade-off. But here’s the rub: the challenged law was actually quite careful to confine its scope to commercial activities, and not to speech. For example, under the law, Stevens was still perfectly within his rights to advocate for animal fighting, or to advocate for his right to sell related videos. He could even create, distribute, or possess such videos, as long as he had no intent to commercially gain from those activities.

Congress has considerably greater leeway in limiting commerce than it does in limiting speech. Had the Court recognized commerce as the pivotal issue, I have no doubt the law would still stand. Instead, incomprehensibly, the Court ignored the law’s actual language and focused on speech.

Why does this matter? For one thing, when the Court struck down Law 18 USC § 48 on the basis of speech concerns, it may have set a devastating precedent by which commercial activity that exploits animals is protected under the 1st Amendment. At least, those who would benefit from such an interpretation can now make that case.

That’s the big picture. The day-to-day effect of this ruling is that the market for violence-porn starring animals is once again open.

A silver lining is that the sponsor of the original law, Elton Gallegly (R-CA), is set to introduce a replacement bill <>  that purportedly skirts the Supreme Court’s objections to the original. However, the language of the new law will be confined to “crush videos” only. Depraved individuals like Robert Stevens will still be free to sell their vile wares, encouraging further abuses while enriching themselves.

The animal welfare movement ignores all of these ramifications at its own peril — and, more importantly, at the animals’. HSUS’s Wayne Pacelle, for one, seems to grasp <>  the importance of this decision. Here’s hoping his legal team can write several abuse-specific laws to lobby throughout Congress that will approximate the former scope of Law 18 USC § 48.

Fresh Friday Finds

1. History has been made as Proposition 2 passed in California. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of animal advocates around the country, 20 million farm animals’ lives will improve with the removal of veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages. The news, Wayne Pacelle’s Blog: What it means for animals. Beef jerky is consumed by real men. At least that’s what Umberto’s new campaign ‘Eat Like An Alpha‘ wants you to think. The website is so full of insulting, stereotypical, and gender-defining crap that I almost didn’t notice how gross the shriveled-up-flesh product is.

3. Custom Vegan Shoes! All you have to do is send in an image of the shoe or boot you want to Vegan Wares, and they’ll make it vegan! Holy Cow-less! CLICK HERE!

4. Fur-Free Fashion Week!

There are so many fashion events to go to this week! Start out at HSUS’ Cool Vs. Cruel on November 12th in NYC, celebrating Calvin Klein. But first vote on the people’s choice award for the CvC design contest! Then go to Friends of Animals’ ‘Reception Beyond Fur‘ on November 24th in NYC! See you there! Lastly, don’t forget the classic Fur Free Friday on November 28th targeting ShopNBC and Nordstrom.

anti-fur poster

Dirt Candy Logo5. New vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy has already won me over with their tag-line “Anyone can cook a hamburger, but leave the vegetables to the professionals“.

Dirt Candy Header Image


I got this letter from a reader the other day:

Dear Discerning Brute,
I've been talking with this guy lately, and we've gone out a few
times. Problem is, he's not even vegetarian (I'm a vegan). I honestly
just can't let myself "look past it"--in my opinion, it's like dating
someone of a completely different religion and neither of you want to
convert; the individual in question may be an all-around great person,
but to figure them into a relationship might not be the best idea, for
both parties.

Am I just being paranoid? I live in a small town in the South,
visit NYC often (family in Brooklyn) and plan to move there upon
graduation. Needless to say, it is VERY difficult to find vegan men
around here! :)

Thanks for taking the time to read this!
"Vegan & the City"

Dear “Vegan & the City”
I completely know where you’re coming from! I’ve dated the vegan, vegetarian, and the omnivorous, and there is simply no rhyme or reason to evaluating the potentials of a relationship on that alone.
If you decided to come out as a vegansexual in your small town and date only the veg, you are probably cutting down your pool of available bachelors in the US by 90%, and in your hometown by 99.99%. I don’t recommend going this route, though it has its benefits: No need to explain yourself at meals, and less conflict of values. Is this enough in itself to make a relationship work? Not necessarily. I’d say that if everything else is working, the best thing you can do is be patient, compassionate, and steadfast. If he is a good guy, he will find joy in understanding you and he will become inquisitive without you having to push your values on him.
There are several things to be careful of as an equal-opportunity dater:
First, It’s important to distinguish that your veganism is not a religion. It is not faith-based. Rather, you are a voluntary spokesperson for a social justice struggle. You must make that clear so he respects it as a choice, not as a persuit of faith-driven puritanism. Second, if he decides eventually to go veg for you, or for any reason – be careful not to end up in a teacher-student dynamic. Often, when I’ve dated non-vegans who decide to go cold turkey on cold turkey, I end up being their vegan guru (whether I liked it or not) and that can totally kill the chemistry. If this happens, makes sure to have a book and a video to hand over, and step back and let them sort it out without being the babysitter or the critic.
It sounds like if you really like him, you have to stand your ground, and insist on being respected as an animal advocate. If he can deal with that, it’s a start. That means he should never, ever put you in an uncomfortable position concerning animals, even if he eats them on his own time. There is no need to accommodate his meat-eating any more than you would accommodate any other sort of disrespect. If he continuously disrespects, ridicules, or marginalizes your advocacy, it’s time to lose him and move on.

Take Our Poll

Men Like Sports

I tried so hard to enjoy watching sports when I was a kid. I even went as far as collecting sports cards. I remember saying to myself, “Ok Joshua, you have to pick a team that you like and then get to know everything about them“. I randomly picked the Phoenix Suns (it was probably the purple). I went through my basketball cards and tried to memorize each of the players’ names – but it was useless, I was bored out of my mind and confused about the religious-like zeal that sports fans had. Especially men. What a strange cult! Looking back, I think it was simply an attempt to fit in and make my dad think that his arts & crafts making, comic book collecting, electric guitar playing son with blue hair had hope of being a ‘real man’.

My sister recently sent me an article about a hockey tradition in Detroit where squids are tossed around on the ice. Where drunken men insanely twirl and fling these creatures above their heads and across the ice. Apparently this thing dates back to the early ‘50s and has something to do with casting a magical spell to win. Read the article and watch the video here.

So what is it about men, sports, and cruelty to animals? Cockfighting, Michael Vic, elephant polo, bullfighting, horse racing, horse fighting, dog racing, trophy hunting, rodeo – what cultural significance do these all have? What do they say about us? What do they say about men specifically?

//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Fight

Are men inherently brutal? Are sports one big cock-fight (not the bird kind)? Do guys get together and say “Let’s go kill stuff, it’ll be fun!”? Do boys truly enjoy these things, or do they break under the pressure of tradition – not unlike the wild horse who is broken – and simply fall into line acting out these dramas in an attempt to prove their manhood?

What I do know is that I don’t enjoy watching sports. I enjoy physical activity – I run, I bike, I hike, I play tennis, I swim – but I simply do not identify with the male prototype who acts like he is part of the team he watches on TV and gathers in groups to get wasted, get loud, and have an incredibly complicated, testosterone-laden excuse to act out his desires to be close with other men (look at pro wresting! Men in speedos pretending to fight). Nor do I identify with the man that kills or sends animals to kill each other in name of entertainment. Does our homophobic culture push men to do these things as an only option for male intimacy? Maybe, but consider the Romans – homosexuality was encouraged and they had cruel sports, too.

Animal Art, Brutality in San Francisco

**Update** 3.31.08
The exhibition has been canceled due to threats. It is still not clear whether ADEL killed the animals himself, or documented their slaughter at the hands of Farm Workers (who typically use sledgehammers ??). If anyone can provide the information to sort out any confusion, it would be appreciated. Was this documentation or was it staged specifically for exhibition? The answer could draw a significant line between useful discourse to help animals and expose a cruel practice, and an artist who bludgeoned animals for himself for shock-value.
I am receiving many angry emails. I want to clarify – documenting animal cruelty is one of the most powerful tools animal advocates have. Look at the Hallmark beef recall case. It’s not that animal advocates can’t handle seeing these images – quite the contrary – it’s because of these images many of us have become animal advocates in the first place.  The problem is that the context of these brutalities is out of sight and the gallery has not provided information or clarity regarding what happened here – which surely would be expected had these animals been dogs, cats, or people. Of course there is outrage when the public is allowed to assume that ‘someone has bludgeoned Bambi for an art exhibit’.
It has been brought to my attention that an Algerian artist by the name of ADEL ABDESSEMED will be having an exhibition called “Don’t Trust Me” at the San Francisco Art Institute (see below for details), that documents his killing, via sledgehammer, of six animals — a sheep, a horse, an ox, a pig, a goat, and a doe. Worst of all, it was partly paid for by tax money (Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund).

Continue reading “Animal Art, Brutality in San Francisco”