Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week 1 at Friday Harbor Labs (with Orcas)

I have been on San Juan Island for a week now and it was been an adventure! I have done prey sampling in False Bay, surveys for marine birds and mammals from the ferry, identified all the different types of gulls and cormorants, and most excitably; watched a pod of orcas pass by the cliff we were on very close to shore!

I went from an 8–5 office job to field trips, going out on boats, experiencing nature on a daily basis, walking through the campus a lot and trying to stay awake during lecture. I love it! It is fun to push my boundaries and do new things. It is empowering to drive a motor boat for the first time. It is exciting to learn so much about the wildlife around me.

The campus is centered fairly close to Friday Harbor along the water. Deer roam freely and eat all day long. One morning I saw 10 deer before breakfast. I get to see kingfishers fly by and barn swallows all over the place. I heard a rumor that river otters frequent the campus as well, but I won’t believe it until I see it.

The dining staff has been incredibly accommodating for my vegan diet, along with other people’s various dietary needs. I have seen everything from vegan pizza to stuffed peppers to roasted sweet potato. The sad thing is, so much of the food is incredibly carb-heavy. It has already been a week and I am getting tired of it. Who knew I became so whole grain based! I am missing my quinoa! Although I am missing much more than quinoa, whole grains is what I am lacking the strongest it. I might even have to talk with the cafeteria to not only suggest using whole grains, but ask her to not make me special lunches, and just give me hummus for the salad bar.

Considering how great everything else is here, that issue pales in comparison. I look forward to the many more weeks ahead of me learning more about birds and mammals and exploring the island! And of course any opportunity to see orcas. That can be a matter of luck, and today I had a lot of it, spending 3 hours at Lime Kiln Park and seeing pods of the killer whales almost at all times. Check out more of my photos at my flickr account.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My wildlife adventure begins!

The next 5 weeks I will be living in a dorm on San Juan Island taking a class on ecology and conservation of marine birds and mammals. I am fulfilling a dream of mine to get back into wildlife biology and pursue a career in which I hope to help animals, especially marine mammals. This is the first step and in the fall I am going to school full time and quitting my day job.

I will not have access to a kitchen at all. Even though I have not been cooking as much lately due to a hectic schedule, I hate the idea of not having that option. I will instead be eating dorm food. They have a vegetarian option, but not vegan, although they know a vegan will be staying there. I have been assured there will be hummus every day and a salad bar, and oatmeal, so I can't do too bad. I am also bringing up some marinated tofu, tofurky, almond butter, trail mix and dandies to help supplement my food supply. I really hope I have a chance to roast those dandies!

So I will report back on the dorm food, but most importantly, my adventures on the island. I plan to see lots of orcas and spend many nights watching the breathtaking sunset at San Juan Island park. I hope to meet lots of great people and make connections for my future career. I want to take lots of pictures of the deer, porpoises, eagles and foxes that grace the island (or shores). I will allow this time to reinvigorate my passion of animal rights and trying to create a world a better place. And I am so excited to see if all transpire!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Oh PETA, how you annoy me!

PETA is sexist and fatphobic. They degrade anyone they can in order to further their message of animal rights. I could go on for days (or pages) about how PETA hurts the animal rights community (and message) with their use of women to “sell” animal rights, or how degrading fat people with their hate hurts their chances of people listening, and how as a fat vegan I am completely disgusted with their treatment of people.

I have heard the arguments about how so many people got involved in animal issues due to PETA, and how the fact they are so accessible allows animal rights to reach more people. There are organizations that can do all the good things PETA does, without all the bullshit. Whenever discrimination and hate is used in a campaign to support animals- it is not effective and harms the movement.

But this isn’t even what I want to discuss today. I read an article about how vegan food is being provided in San Francisco prisons- that is great! Regardless of where a person is on earth, they should be given the option of eating vegan. However, PETA was given credit for this change due to a large protest in the 90s that resulted in mass arrests. PETA had nothing to do with this action, which was a sit-in at Neiman Marcus because they sell fur.

I was arrested that day along with individuals from a large community of smaller animal rights organizations wanting to see the end of the fur trade and made their way to San Francisco for support. We did not have funding from a large organization and we were coming together as a collective to make a difference. PETA was not involved in any way, and them getting credit for this action corrupts what we were doing. PETA is not a community player. If you try to talk with them about the hateful message they perpetrate through campaigns, they will respond by ignoring you, sending form letters or attack.

I felt I had to say something because so often in the media (or assumptions by prison officials), those with the money get the credit. This happens in the corporate world all the time, and happens with PETA way too often. There are so many hard working individuals (and smaller groups) who really care about animal rights and want to make a difference for the world. To me, individuals make a larger impact than non-profits who spend half their revenue on fund-raising. You don’t need to put up a billboard with naked women and controversy to get a message across.

The presence of all the smaller organizations that day, coming together from all over the west coast to form such a strong community was amazing! I miss those days where a united effort drew people in from all over to take a stand and make a difference. There are still lots of organizations out there, so please find one that resonates with you and not let PETA represent what animal rights is all about.