Lesley Fox: Occupy ethical gift giving for the holidays

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      I wasn’t one of the protesters for Occupy Vancouver, but I should have been.

      When the Occupy protests first began, it wasn’t clear to me what they were about and it seemed as though people were just marching because they wanted to “stick it to the man”.

      Fair enough.

      But like many people, I didn’t really understand what was actually being accomplished to dismantle greedy corporations, aside from raising awareness. It also wasn’t clear to me if the demonstrations were just limited to fighting for human equality.

      Not that I think these things aren’t worth fighting for—of course I do. But when we talk about oppression, anticonsumerism and hierarchy, we must include animals and the environment in the 99 percent.

      When doing some more research on the Occupy movement I was surprised to discover that animals and the environment are explicitly included in the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City:

      We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known....

      • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.

      • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

      • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

      • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

      Also, the de facto Occupy Wall Street website states: “Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The US has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies of our nation.”

      While I may have missed the height of the Occupy protests in Vancouver, I can still make up for my absence. This holiday season, I am on a mission to make choices that support people, animals, and the environment all at the same time, and I want to share my ideas with you.

      Don’t give a cow

      In the spirit of the 99-percent movement, my biggest pet-peeve at this time of year is when people donate to organizations to send a cow, pig, chicken, or goat overseas with the intention of helping to eliminate poverty and hunger.

      Giving animals as gifts is never a good idea. It just promotes the idea that animals are commodities and seems to minimize the fact that animals are a huge (and expensive) responsibility.

      It would appear to me that if people can’t support themselves, how can they care for a cow, pig, chicken, or goat? What if these animals get sick? Veterinarian care for farm animals is very expensive, if it’s available at all.

      Also, apparently some of the world’s impoverished don’t even want these animal gifts. An exposé into animal donation programs by an editor of one of India’s largest newspapers revealed the burden that these animals place on families that are struggling to survive.

      As an alternative, there are great organizations such as A Well Fed World, Vegfam, and Food for Life, which provide nutritious vegetarian meals to people who are disadvantaged, malnourished, or victims of disaster.

      If you want to keep your donation local, consider a giving a gift membership for Earthsave Canada, which provides support and educates the community about the health-related, ethical, and environmental issues associated with our food choices. Earthsave and its members organize many events which create awareness and foster a sense of community and connection. Over 900 people annually attend the potlucks, veggie drinks nights, talks, movie nights, and other events.

      Kick corporate greed to the curb

      Locally owned and operated, Nice Shoes is a hidden ethical gem of all things awesome. Not only do they sell only vegan shoes, but they have a huge selection of shoes that are nonsweatshop and made from recyclable or Earth-friendly materials. They have cool ethically-made accessories too—guitar straps, ties, recycled umbrellas, handbags, and more. So if you are kicking corporate ass, you might as well wear nice shoes doing it.

      Warm and fuzzy

      Other ideas for ethical gift giving ideas that honour some of the animal-related principles of the 99-percent movement include sponsoring local orphaned wild animals through the Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. or the Critter Care Wildlife Society.

      My organization, the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, accepts donations to help build exclusion fencing to prevent the cruel trapping of local beavers and prevent flooding to local farmlands.

      Another gift idea is that you can make a donation in memory of a loved one to the Vancouver Humane Society’s McVitie Fund, which helps lower income people pay for their companion animals’ veterinary expenses.

      For something completely different, you can sponsor a pig or donate your skills to the Hearts on Noses pig sanctuary in Maple Ridge.

      We are the 99 percent

      If the 99-percent movement has any hope of truly “sticking it to the man”, we need to work together to put a dent in the pocketbooks of those who hold the animals, the environment, and us captive.

      We can do that by shopping local, buying Canadian, and by buying socially responsible, animal-friendly, and ecofriendly items. We can also volunteer our time, make our own gifts, choose to buy secondhand or perhaps not buy anything at all.

      So, the next time the masses take to the streets to occupy Vancouver, I will be the one carrying a sign on behalf of the animals whose voices weren’t clearly heard this time around.

      It’s the least I can do for the billions of animals that suffer in silence everyday.

      Oh and Adbusters, my cheque is in the mail.

      Lesley Fox is a humane education specialist and animal-rights activist based in Vancouver.



      Lauren M

      Dec 6, 2011 at 3:23pm

      "It just promotes the idea that animals are commodities and seems to minimize the fact that animals are a huge (and expensive) responsibility."

      I agree, but the fact is that the gift of an animal gives the family an opportunity to live sustainably (they have the chance to sell the milk of the animal, etc), whereas the gift of a few meals does not (they are no closer to being out of poverty). I think contributing to a micro-loan program is the best idea.

      joshua chavez

      Dec 6, 2011 at 9:03pm

      If you think the gift of a cow or a goat helps a poor family, think again. If people are so poor how can they afford to feed an animal that will eat them out of house and home. Check out the story of Kamlabai Gudhe a woman who's family was ruined by the gift of a cow. http://www.counterpunch.org/2006/12/16/there-s-no-such-thing-as-a-free-cow/

      Carissa Thorpe

      Dec 6, 2011 at 9:57pm

      Lauren, I disagree with you that 'the gift of an animal gives the family an opportunity to live sustainably.' Far from it.

      You should really try reading the articles that are linked to about it, as animals eat WAY more food than humans do and are thus an unwanted burden on these poor families that can often hardly feed themselves.

      It's really just another form of oppression when these groups push their ideology onto the recipients, the same as when Europeans invaded North America and tried to assimilate native populations to their way of life and diet.

      A better solution is education and skill sharing, including plant-based agricultural knowledge specific to the region, which is something Food for Life Global does as part of their mandate. They also have programs specifically for youth and against the violence inherent in the Standard American Diet (or SAD, which it really truly is). You can learn more about what they do here: http://www.ffl.org/about/aims-and-objectives/


      Dec 7, 2011 at 8:58am

      Great article!!!


      Dec 7, 2011 at 4:42pm

      Thank you for this very well written article!!


      Dec 7, 2011 at 10:32pm

      Thanks for this article! I will definitely not be giving a cow/goat.


      Dec 8, 2011 at 7:18am

      thank you so much for mentioning a well-fed world. we greatly appreciate the support.