Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Another Daddy Post - (Mis)Representations of Non Human Animals On Baby Products

What children are taught to believe:


Kenya and I have babies on our minds! As parents-to-be we've been recently exploring the vast world of baby merchandise. It came as no surprise to us to see many representations of non human animals (which I will be referring to simply as “animals” for the rest of this entry) displayed on everything from bedding to clothing to wall paper borders to pacifiers to baby dishes and beyond. The vast majority of the representations are of warm and fuzzy, cuddly and cute animals with joyous expressions on their adorable cartoon faces. Cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, fish, frogs, birds, dogs, cats, bees, dolphins, monkeys, giraffes, zebras, lions, and many more animals are often shown in themes of either free settings; an open pasture, the forest, a jungle, or just “the wild” in general – or in captive settings; farms, zoos, circuses, etc (although the cages are rarely included). In either setting these animals are clearly shown as being happy and comfortable, often with big anthropomorphic smiles to prove it.

Now, as vegans, Kenya and I are quite aware of the realities of animal exploitation that are sanitized and misrepresented on baby products. I'd like to briefly go over a few prominent examples.

On “farms”, for instance, animals are forcefully impregnated and bred in order to be confined and exploited for unnecessary human desires and they are all eventually killed. To not kill them, from a business standpoint, would not be economical, regardless of the size of the operation, from small scale to factory farm. They are all exploited and used in ways that would be considered torture if humans were in their place. Rape (forced impregnation), torture (mutilation, intense confinement, rough handling, etc.), and murder are standard business practices. The animals are all the property under the law (same as a couch or an Ipod – only animals have
interests) and, of course, they are treated accordingly. When they no longer serve a purpose to the “producer”, they become a hindrance to making profits and are ultimately killed at a very early age. Not exactly what was depicted on the burp cloths and in the wooden toy sets that we've seen.

Dairy cow's, for example have to give birth constantly in order to produce milk. Forced impregnation is necessary to the operation and, in many instances, this occurs while the cow is restrained in a contraption referred to as the “rape rack” (this goes for female pigs --sows-- as well). They, as all other mammals, certainly do not produce milk just so humans can steal and consume it. They produce milk, which is “designed” by nature, for their own babies, to feed their calves. When they give birth to a male, he would cost too much money to raise in order to run an efficient operation (too much input, not enough output). So what is done with them? They are torn from the mothers and turned into something economical: veal, the flesh of calves. When dairy cows are “spent”, meaning no longer productive, they are killed just like the male “beef” cows, often ending up in hamburgers.

Egg laying hens are certainly not any better off. Whether the operation is “free range” or “cage free” or your average factory farm setting, the hens' beaks, a very sensitive part of their bodies, are often cut about half way off with a hot blade so that they do not naturally establish a pecking order, peck and/or cannibalize other hens also within close confinement. Egg laying hens are starved and their reproductive cycles are manipulated into laying more eggs, simultaneously with other hens, so that they are productive and efficient so as to compete on the market. Male chicks are an unwanted byproduct of the egg industry. Once hatched, they are simply killed - gassed, suffocated, crushed, electrocuted or ground up alive in large numbers. That way a “producer” can eliminate what would otherwise be uneconomical: the life of male chicks. This reality is much different from the idyllic scenes on the blankets, clothes, and bibs.

As vegans, Kenya and I are also aware that many free or “wild” animals, many represented on baby items, are killed in order to protect ranchers and their “livestock”. The USDA's Wildlife “Services” program kills hundreds of thousands of “wild” animals, using tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, every single year. In 2004, for example, Wildlife “Services” killed 2.7 million “wild” animals such as coyotes, beavers, raccoons, feral pigs, snakes, skunks, squirrels, foxes, deer, prairie dogs, and rats. These animals are shot, poisoned, gassed, snared, and caught in leg hold traps. In addition, millions of birds are killed in order to protect crops, many crops which are primarily used to feed “livestock”. Starlings, pigeons, crows, ravens, sparrows, geese, swans, vultures, and many many more are killed in the thousands and millions annually.

Other “wild” animals that are depicted on baby items are, in reality, shot and killed, or sometimes left injured, just for “sport” and/or tradition.

Zoos and Circuses are also prominent themes appearing on baby items. In pretty much all the zoo themes, the animals are depicted without having any barriers around them, or as if they were in their natural environments. This is very much in contrast to the actual reality of zoos, on and behind the scenes. In reality animals in zoos are often prevented from doing many of the things that are natural and important to them like running, roaming, flying, climbing, foraging, choosing a mate, and being with others of their own kind. This causes them great stress, which is blatantly apparent if one knows what signs to look for. Furthermore, many animals in zoos live only a fraction as long as they would in their natural environments.

Circus scenes on baby items are often the most exciting. Anthropomorphic animals can be seen smiling as they perform various acts, seemingly having the best time of their lives. In reality, animals do not naturally perform “tricks” as they do in circuses. In order to force the animals to perform tricks trainers use whips, tight collars, electric prods, bull hooks, and other painful tools. The scenes behind the scenes at circuses are not so much exciting and fun as they are horrifying.

Knowing these realities behind what is often represented on children's merchandise as “happy”, “playful”, “natural” forms of animal exploitation, I think at least two questions need to be raised:

1) Why do we want our kids to love the animals that we routinely exploit, and brutally harm for no other reason than for our personal pleasure?


2) Why do we lie to our own animal loving children about, and make them unwittingly complicit in the injustices that occur to their beloved friends and companions, the animals?

Having once been an unapologetic omnivore and then a confused vegetarian in denial about the unnecessary harm I was causing for most of my life, I am in a position to expertly answer these questions. We can't be honest with our children about the ways animals are exploited because we ourselves are uncomfortable with it on some level and know our children would not be comfortable with it either. Most of us are aware that other animals, including the ones we regularly exploit are intelligent, sensate individuals with interests in living and continuing their lives free of exploitation.

Many of us are now aware that we don't need to consume animals or their bodily secretions to survive and live healthfully. Therefore, we want or
need to believe in this fantasy that animals bred and raised or captured for unnecessary human purposes live happy, full lives and are treated with love and respect by their exploiters. Otherwise, we would come face to face with the reality that for no justifiable reason we are directly responsible for the many pitiful lives and cruel, brutal deaths of animals that are every bit as alive, conscious, and sentient as we are - that we are the oppressors of our children's lifelong friends. This is why we need to show “happy” representations of animals to our children when those animals are in reality very far from being happy as they are exploited and killed.

This is early indoctrination into a speciesist world, to erroneously teach our children that animals are merely things that are meant to be, and even happy to be, used by us. Never mind that animals have their own lives and their own interests. That would ruin the fantasy... not to mention dinner.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Big 20 Weeks Anatomy Scan...

baby B's profile (so hard to get him to stay still) with baby A's random body parts in the mix

baby A's thinking pose

baby A's profile

star wanted in on the baby bump photo action this week

20 weeks twin bump

our 20 weeks pregnancy evolution

We are now in week 21 and everything is still going great!!! We had our 20 week anatomy scan last week and the babies are doing so well. They are measuring ahead of schedule and they're growing at a pretty even rate in relation to one another. We were able to see every little part of their bodies, from their brains, to each little finger and toe. We loved seeing the 4 chambers of their hearts pumping away and their cute little profiles. They are already looking like their papa!
During the scan baby B wasn't being very cooperative so I was told to drink some cold water and move from side to side to get him to change positions, which he finally did and the tech was able to get all the shots they needed to diagnose our healthy little identical twins. He was such a little rascal and honestly it has been a pattern at all of our recent appointments. Baby A always seems willing to pose for us and baby B just does his own thing. I love it! I can't wait to see how their personalities are when they're born.
The actual scan took almost 2 hours, I started feeling sick after laying on my back for a while so I had to change positions quite a bit during. The pressure made me feel light-headed, but thankfully changing positions and cold water helped a lot. This had to be my favorite appointment out of all of them so far, besides when we found out they were twins and then when we found out they were boys.
Our perinatologist did inform us that even though everything is stellar with the babies and my cervix, I will be on bed rest at 24 weeks (3 weeks away). I am so lucky to be able to work from home from Nov 30th until the babies are born. Then I will be on maternity leave for 12 weeks. I can't imagine being away from my office for 5 plus months, but I will do anything to ensure the best for our little sweeties. I am super in love with my career, but I am more in love with my boys!!! At least I will have some work to keep me busy while on bed rest for 12 to 13 weeks! Can you imagine???
Honestly, I don't think I could have handled going in to the office after the next couple of weeks. Though I'm feeling so much better than in the first trimester I am starting to feel drained, sleep has become a more uncomfortable task as the days pass. My belly is growing so fast, I am feeling the babies' movements more and more, but still not feeling distinctive kicks or punches. I pee like 5 times during the night and toss and turn from side to side. I know this is just the beginning of sleep deprivation and at least I'm still getting a decent amount of shut-eye for now.
My appetite is growing, some days I can't eat enough and some days it is completely normal. Last night I was hungry again like less than 2 hours after eating a wholesome dinner (brown rice and delicious pinto and kidney beans with two different kinds of kale) and I even went back for seconds. When I was weighed at the anatomy scan last week I had gained 8lbs total for the pregnancy and an average of a pound a week since the last appointment. I imagine that will be the steady pace for the future. We are going to appointments every two weeks now so Monday (we will be in our 22nd week) is the next one.
I am extra happy to announce that my best friend is pregnant too. We are only 8 weeks apart and she has just spilled the beans to everyone so now I am finally free to discuss. She even has the same OB I had before transferring to my perinatologist. We have been friends since our freshman year of college and while almost polar opposites in most aspects of philosophy and lifestyle we totally connect. There is nothing better than having someone to share the first-hand experience of something so life altering and enlightening (though I can't stand that she hasn't puked one time her entire pregnancy). I am so excited for future play dates and mommy talk!