My View: Animals in Captivity

Following my posts about trophy hunting and recreational hunting, I’ve decided to continue the conversation about conservation by talking about my view of animals in captivity.

Like most of these issues, I can talk until the cows come home about this topic, so I’ll narrow my scope to megafauna land mammals in zoos.

The general debate of animals in zoos is a hot one, with well thought out points on both sides. General arguments for zoos are that they provide funding for conservation (or even conservation programs and research in the zoos themselves) and they educate the public about animals they wouldn’t otherwise see. Main arguments against zoos include the concern of the well-being of the animals (especially the megafauna mammals), that the zoos are too patron-oriented in terms of both profit and experience and that perceived educational benefits  are relative. Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013 that revealed the woes of orca whales in captivity, people are beginning to think twice about other megafauna mammals in captivity.

I wrote a short paper last year that explored: under what conditions is it acceptable to place animals in captivity based on biology, natural environment, and conservation status, particularly concerning the polar bear.

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My View: #MeToo

Many women are coming forwardwith  sexual harassment and rape allegations against some of Hollywood’s biggest actors and directors over the last few months including Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and Harvey Weinstein. Not to mention the unfathomable amount of abusers in Hollywood with victims that have yet to come forward. It’s exhausting and depressing to think about, but am I surprised? Unfortunately not. Sexual harassment is a universal experience for all women* and femmes.

Sometimes, these allegations seem kind of far away, but it became especially real when Architects front man Sam Carter defended a known predator whose victims I share mutual friends with and Brand New front man Jesse Lacey was accused of soliciting nudes from a minor.

Not long ago, Sam Carter made headlines for calling out creepy men who grope women at gigs and was met with a lot of positive feedback. After exchanging a few interactions with a known abuser currently under investigation for rape, my friend Ty told Sam about the situation and he replied with “Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I didn’t know anything about that but I’ll wait till proven by the courts [thumbs up emoji],” but quickly deleted his replies when they were met with contention. This is a prime example cognitive dissonance when it comes to sexual assault: when it’s strangers, it’s easy to assume the worst because it doesn’t effect you personally, but when it’s someone you know, it can’t possibly be true. Thankfully, Sam retracted what he said and stood with a victim that came forward, but he should have known better in the first place.

I got into Brand New about five years ago and saw them live three times in 2015: April (Arizona), August (New York) and September (London). A blessing in disguise, I’ve come off them a bit recently with their outrageous ticket prices and insufferable fans. Over the last few days, allegations against the front man Jesse Lacy have come forward, the most disturbing of them being soliciting nude photos from a minor. Jesse Lacey posted a largely incoherent and off-topic apology on the band’s Facebook page that didn’t even address the problem: he was on about how he is a serial cheater but hey, at least his wife still loves him. “Extremely bold move to try and shift the narrative from “Jesse Lacey had emotionally abusive, sexually motivated relationships with minors” to “Jesse Lacey is a serial cheater, please feel sorry for his wife.”

With these allegations, a lot of men will be quick to defend other men and themselves by saying the closest thing that sounds to nails on a chalkboard: “Not all men.” We aren’t here to point the finger at any individual man, but the culture that entitles them to women, enables them to get away with inappropriate relations and shames women into silence.

The #MeToo trend was created in solidarity with those who showed courage by coming forward with allegations that make them relive the horrible experiences, tolerating any backlash they might face and pursuing justice for months or years with, let’s face it, a grim chance of any sort of conviction against the perpetrator.

For the women who are forced to relive their experiences with every new viral allegation, I’m with you.

For all the unexposed predators out there, your time will come.

*Although I use gendered language in this article for simplicity sake, I understand there are more than two genders and acknowledge there are transgender, gender fluid, non-binary, intersex people as well as those who have yet to make up their minds.

My View: Gun Control

“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

That post was made by a political commentator in 2015 and still rings true today, even following the worst massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday. As an American who has been privileged enough to live and travel abroad and experience these tragedies both close to home (in one case, a bit too close) and from the other side of the world, I’ve come to have a certain perspective on the issue of gun control.

I’m sure most Americans have a story of how they have been associated with a shooting. Most recently, I was going out for my friend Lilli’s birthday in my hometown of Tucson when I heard about a shooting in a restaurant someone she knew worked near. The workers in nearby shops were told to lock up and get down. This was also especially close to home for Lilli because her dad is a firefighter and the fire captain was the perpetrator, killing two and himself. I ask you: how close to home do these have to be until everyone is outraged at the lack of gun control?

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” are almost certainly the weakest argument out there. It’s widely known that gun control was highly regulated in Australia after a mass shooting in 1996 and there hasn’t been any since. Under a conservative government, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns were banned and bought back by the government and background checks with “justifiable reason” to own a gun were put in place. In addition to no mass shootings, rate of homicide and suicide with the use of guns have gone down since the gun ban as well. With the gun ban, there was widespread decreased deaths. Coincidence? I think not (watch: comedian John Oliver on guns in Australia vs. the United States).

However, I don’t believe such a gun ban would work here due to our (slow) government structure and misinterpretation of the second amendment. What is an amendment in the first place? A change to the constitution. Who says we can’t change it further? For my constitution enthusiasts, surely you’re familiar that the 18th amendment prohibited the manufacturing or sale of alcohol and its repeal some 15 years later. We need legislation more up to date with the state of gun violence and technology available.

Personally, as an advocate for recreational hunting, a total gun ban wouldn’t be appropriate, even if it was politically possible. I also don’t mind owning simple handguns to shoot recreationally in a range. When you enter these spaces, you are expected to know and adhere to safety procedures and an ethical standard of fair chase.

However, there is absolutely no reason, at all, whatsoever, you need to own an assault rifle. If nobody has these guns, then you won’t need it for “self-defense.” Even the police in lots of European countries don’t carry firearms because gun violence isn’t a problem in the first place.

I’m not proud to be a part of a country where people can continue to make excuses for mass shootings. One innocent life lost was too many.

My View: Liberals vs. Conservatives on Nazis

Welcome back to the continuation of my unsolicited opinion on white supremacy in the United States.

In my last post, I talked about the removal of Confederate statues and Trump’s reaction. In this post, I will react to what the partisan parties are saying and how “free speech” doesn’t exempt you from getting your ass beat if you’re a literal Nazi.

Like I mentioned in my last post, there is no gray area on this issue: you either completely oppose acts or racism or you don’t. Conservatives are the first to defend the freedom of speech regardless of the issue… that is, of course, unless you have anything critical to say about Christianity, white people or men, then all hell breaks loose. The first amendment states that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, which means the government can’t take action against your speech, but that doesn’t allow you to spew hate without retaliation.

Conservatives use freedom of speech as their last refuge for their irredeemable shitiness. People have to take responsibility for their beliefs and be able to back them up with logic, not a piece of paper written over two hundred years ago. Conservatives are also saying that these white supremacists are not representative of their party. But if you support a president that doesn’t condemn white supremacy, you’re okay with this horrid display of racism and thus, racist. Finally, conservatives are comparing white supremacists demonstrations to Black Lives Matter and Antifa. These groups resort to violence and direct action against white supremacists because the police fail to do so. Where white supremacists believe that everyone who’s not white deserves to die, these groups stand against racism, fascism and capitalism, which I would say is a pretty worthy cause.

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My View: Punching Nazis

Long story short: it’s okay to punch Nazis. There was a literal war to stop them last time they took power. Not that I condone war, but that’s for another time… 

Disclaimer: this post isn’t entirely on the philosophy of punching Nazis (we already established it’s okay) but rather white supremacy in America as a whole.

There has been a lot of outcry since the Charlottesville white supremacy rally and I’d like to take a moment to talk about some of the reactions:

Now, on the destruction or removal of statues commemorating Confederate figures. The main argument, even one given by Trump (I can’t believe I’m using his Twitter as the most accurate source to site his voice on the matter, the President of the United States, ladies and gentlemen), is that the removal of these statues would be erasing part of American history. First of all, and correct me if I’m wrong, but the Confederates lost the Civil War and those who want to remember anyone who stood to uphold slavery probably want to bring it back. Not to mention, few such statues and monuments were erected during Reconstruction, most of them were erected during Jim Crow law implementation and the Civil Rights Movement, to remind black people that they will always be subordinate to white people, regardless of the outcome of the Civil War. Also, Robert E. Lee himself was against such monuments and condemned the confederate flag. History, although not proud, can be preserved, but why does it have to be in massive statues staring marginalized people in the face all the time? Why are white people so obsessed with not only preserving, but exalting these racist relics? You don’t see statues of Hitler around Germany for the purpose of “preserving history.” If it were up to me, I would put such figures in a museum where people have to go out of their way to see them.  

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My View: Trophy Hunting

A few weeks ago, I talked about my view on recreational hunting, where I expressed my personal distaste for the practice, but emphasized how important it is for conservation.

This time, I will be talking about a different kind of recreational hunting: trophy hunting. In trophy hunting, part of the animal is kept and usually displayed. Trophy hunting is legal (not to be confused with poaching, the illegal practice of hunting or fishing) but may be restrictions as in recreational hunting. However, its legality doesn’t protect it from criticism. Like other forms of recreational hunting, trophy hunting can drive in massive funds for conservation, with hunters paying tens of thousands of dollars for a single kill, but a lot of animal rights activists are skeptical about where the funds go and criticize the ethics of the practice.

For simplicity sake, I will look into a few points about trophy hunting and case studies:

It’s not sporting: Some conservation-minded hunters criticize trophy hunting as “not sporting.” A lot of hunters take pride in tracking their quarry and the relationship with the outdoors and consider the chase more important than the kill. On the other hand, trophy hunters measure the success on the hunt exclusively by what they kill. I strongly agree with this idea. For example, while male lions are one of the most sought after trophies, they are surprisingly easy to kill. Male lions sleep for about twenty hours a day and are largely sedentary when they’re awake while the lionesses do all the work. That doesn’t sound very sporting to me.

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My View: Recreational Hunting

As I have mentioned, I work for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, a state government agency dedicated to habitat and animal conservation. We get a lot of our funds from selling hunting and fishing licenses, which can be somewhat controversial for some people. As a conservation major also interested in animal ethics, this is where morals and practicality clash for me, personally. For the purposes of this piece, I will only be talking about legal recreational hunting even though I acknowledge there are groups of people who must hunt to maintain their livelihoods.

Now, I will attempt to debunk some of the most common concerns about recreational hunting:

“[H]unting is bad for the environment because many animals are getting killed”: Not true. Bag limits (the number of animals that can be killed to sustain a healthy population) are tightly monitored so that the quantity of animals taken from a population during the hunt will have a negligible effect on the habitat and population as a whole. In fact, without hunting, a lot of animal populations would be out of control. For example, the white-tailed deer is a really important big game species. As settlers moved west, the deer were overharvested for their meat and buckskin. To raise deer numbers again, hunting seasons were reduced, bag limits became minimal and Buck Laws were put in place to take advantage of mammalian polygyny (meaning, one male can mate with many females, reducing the reproductive need for males). However, with the new regulations, populations grew faster than the environment could sustain them (nearly doubled in a decade), leading to starvation. Today, overpopulation and human conflict is still a problem even though 3 million deer are hunted annually. (All white-tailed deer information came from a university module lecture given by Dr. Andrew Smith in September 2016)

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My View: Heterosexual Pride

June has been dubbed “Pride Month” (after the Stonewall riots in the same month in 1969), where those in the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.) community all around the world celebrate their identity and raise awareness with marches, rallies, parades and more.

Recently on Twitter, “Heterosexual Pride” has been trending again. Both in subtle ways, for example, justifying the Pride posters directed towards straight people with slogans such as “I’m a straight man with gay pride,” to not-so-subtle ways such as actually comparing the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community to those of straight people and arguing a place for straight people in the community. I know, right?

My personal experience with these nonces started with Enter Shikari, my favorite band, posting about how disappointing it is to see this trend every year. There were two types of responses that rubbed me the wrong way. First: pretty much ignoring the voices of those who are oppressed for their sexualilty and/ or gender identity. “To be honest why do we need a day to celebrate anything. We are all equal, celebrate unity!” To that, I say, sure, we are all human, but capitalist social, economic and political systems depend on us being not treated equally based on race, gender, class, sexuality and more. But that’s for another time…

Additionally, several people called out the band for being “intolerant” and “heterophobic,” claiming that it’s as bad as being homophobic and citing the “horrific tweets bashing straight [people]” as if they are the end-all be-all of discrimination. Even in Western societies, the LGBTQ+ community is still marginalized and many people are uneducated despite the large presence of the community.

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My View: V.I.P. Experiences

Somewhat recently, I’ve attended gigs with two very different experiences with meeting the band that merited my unsolicited opinion on the matter.

In the past, I didn’t mind paying to meet the band because I was so excited to meet them by any means necessary. However, after several artists speaking out against other artists who make fans pay to meet them, I’ve come to change my mind.

Now, I consider meeting the band and a VIP experience two different things. Meeting the band is usually a simple “hello” (and on occasion a short chat), a picture and an autograph. A VIP package may include watching the band’s performance from the side of the stage, a professional picture with the band, some “free” merchandise, early access into the venue to guarantee the best spot to watch the performance from and more depending on the artist. However, if a band has paid VIP packages available, they will usually not come out after to meet non-paying fans in order to be fair to those that did.

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My View: Mancrimination

Recently, I’ve seen a series of photos depicting ways men* are discriminated against that women don’t experience, some even proposing that men are less equal than women.

I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll debunk the individual posters one by one (note this is movement is from an Indian online magazine and although the movement is asinine, please don’t make any negative comments about the grammar for those who don’t have English as their first language):

“You want gender equality? Take it. I don’t have to hold the door… hold the bags… give my seat.” No, you don’t have to do any of these things, but you should regardless of gender. It’s called being a decent person.

“So fair. When you slapped me I was wrong. When I slapped you I have anger issues.” Again, nobody should be hitting anybody regardless of gender.

“Even PRODUCT discriminate. Short men don’t have heels. Ugly men don’t have make-up. Stupid men can’t be blonde.” There is nothing stopping men from wearing heels or make-up except their fragile egos and hegemonic masculinity.

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