Laurel L. Russwurm's Free Culture Blog

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

PIGS vs. RIBS

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at the farm (that's me at the front on the right!)

Going up to my cousin’s farm was one of my favourite things as a child.  I was in love with their German Shepard dog, Rex, and I liked helping bring the cows in to be milked at night.  It was where I first learned about karma, although I didn’t hear the word for it until many years later.  My sister Lynda wouldn’t let me have a turn holding a piglet, so when he peed on her it was like divine intervention.  I loved talking to the animals, and I loved when a cat sometimes got a squirt of milk from an udder. Or getting to drink warm fresh (unpasteurized!) milk from the big vat.  The earliest visit I remember I was maybe 4 or 5.

The time I’m writing about was the time I learned the hard truth about where chicken dinners came from.  We were all in the front yard between the house and the barn.  There wasn’t much yard in front, really, it was mostly a dirt parking lot separating house & barn where cars and tractors came and went.

That day a chicken was caught, and like Mary Queen of Scots she was carried to a block of wood.  I didn’t understand what was happening, so when the axe came down on her neck in the blink of an eye I was profoundly shocked.

The head lay still on the chopping block, but the most horrific bit was the headless body running around the yard spraying a geyser of blood into the air.  I remember laughter, but I don’t know whose.  Then the drained animal fell down, spent.  I think everyone was surprised that I didn’t find it funny, but I was a soft hearted city kid.  I got angry at the dog I loved when he ran over to lick the blood from the chopping block.

I was very upset, and then horrified when the women sat down to pluck the dead bird.  That was when I learned that we would be eating the dead bird for dinner.  I vowed I would never, and I spent the afternoon pouting upstairs to my cousin’s room.  And then the smell of roasting chicken wafted up the stairs.  And eventually the smell helped my resolve shatter, and I ate the chicken dinner after all.  I was unhappy about it, and mostly I was disappointed in myself.  It occurs to me now that even though I spent a lot of time there throughout my childhood, I don’t ever remember this happening when I was there again.

After that I knew I was a meat eater, and probably always would be.  We ended up moving out to an old farm house in the country when I was ten, so although I was really still a city kid I learned about country life.  We had three quarters of an acre, with an orchard, and dad put in a mammoth garden, in spite of the fact that the only vegetables he would ever eat were peas carrots and corn.  A large part of the garden was flowers, and there was always rhubarb and musk melons (aka cantaloupe) and a pumpkin patch.  Every year he tried to grow watermelon, but the growing season just wasn’t long enough, although I suspect it is nowadays.

Our farmhouse was the original built for the pig farm next door.  The farmer had separated our land, and with the proceeds he could build a big modern house with a granny suite for his mother upstairs, and a basement shower room so he wouldn’t track the barn smells into the house.  The farmer was also a blacksmith who shod the horses of the local Old Order Mennonite population.  I loved watching him shoe the horses, or visiting the neighbouring farm animals.  That was the first time I saw chickens confines to cages for their entire lives.  The best part of living there was the fact we could have a dog; the worst was that the dog would raid the manure pile and bring home the corpses of aborted piglets. This was hard for me as the kid who was always trying to save injured birds and the like.  Of course I was a big fan of “Black Beauty” and “Charlotte’s Web”.  LincolnsRooster_3396

And I still love animals as “people.”  And now a half century later, although I am still a meat eater, and I know it would be difficult to give it up, that I would have to relearn how to eat if I were to ever become vegetarian. Vegan will never even be a possibility.   And yet one day a few years ago I suddenly couldn’t eat pork any more.

All the same, I’m still a meat eater.  My vegetarian and vegan friends have not actually tried to convince me to switch.  But I am learning from them.  These days I have friends who are not only vegan, but working to change the world. And I’ve been learning about some of the trials faced by animal activists.  Did you know, there are even refuges for farm animals?.   Eating animals is bad enough, but making their whole lives a misery is inhumane.  And as it turns out, unfettered animal based agriculture is damaging to the environment.

So while I am still a meat eater, and probably always will be, I can decrease the amount of meat that I do eat.  And I have.

I thought it would be hard to manage one meatless day a week, and as it happens, I’ve been managing at least one (and sometimes more) meatless day each week for some time now.

And it isn’t that hard.

And now that my farming cousin is retired, his favourite pet is a rooster.

We can all change, and we can change the world.


On Saturday, July 16th, 2016, say “hi” to the PIGS vs RIBS  folk in Victoria Park.  The Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance will be in the vicinity of the Clocktower from 4-7pm.  They’ll be handing out FREE literature and FREE samples of plant meats to showcase the vegan lifestyle as more fun – and delicious – than most animal-eaters would expect. Vegan food needs to shed the rumours of being inferior – today is the day to do so!

 

 

 

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

July 15, 2016 at 11:07 pm

Posted in Environment

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Mother’s Day!

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Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 8, 2016 at 6:52 am

Posted in Holiday

Happy Earth Day

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Happy Earth Day

In recent years we’ve gone straight from winter into summer. Although we’ve been having record shattering temperatures in the last few months, we’ve had spring, winter and summer, and then back again. I captured this bee (in photographic form only, thanks🙂 ) on April 19th whilst walking the dogs a few blocks from home. So it looks like it is really spring now.

The natural world is wonderful, and I sincerely hope we humans can stop our race to destruction. The first step in weaning ourselves from our profligate fossil fuel consumption is certainly to #keepitintheground. I hope our governments are clever enough to actually do this.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

April 22, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Citizen Journalism and Misinformation

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TRUEfalse

Today I shared a link to an online article reporting Israel Opens Dams, Floods Agricultural Lands And Homes In Gaza. As it happens, the article was wrong.

Israel Opens Dams, Floods Agricultural Lands And Homes In Gaza - Monday February 22, 2016 15:18 author by IMEMC & Agencies Report -Large areas of Palestinians lands, and several homes, in the al-Meghraqa and Gaza Valley areas, in central Gaza, have been completely flooded after Israel opened its dams towards Gaza.

Misinformation: Real Flooding ~ Bad Reporting

false

The origin of the report ~ and in particular, the misinformation that this flooding was a result of deliberate action ~ at first appeared to be the UK newspaper “The Daily Mail.” The misinformation in the original story reported:

Daily Mail: Hundreds of Palestinians left homeless after Israel opens river dam and floods houses…

Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated yesterday morning after Israeli authorities opened a number of dams causing widespread flooding

But in these days of slashed budgets, even the mainstream media news has only a fraction of the resources they did once ~ actual reporters, field offices, foreign correspondents, fact checkers, proof readers ~ and so what they have left is often employed in ferreting out the news online, which often includes poaching facts or quotes from someone else’s news story.  Sometimes such errors are accidental, but other times they are deliberate attempts to spread propaganda.  Again, with news room budgets being tight, jobs in journalism are thin on the ground, which naturally opens up the possibility of reporting the facts as the powers that be wish them to be, rather than reporting the facts as they are.

Whether by accident or design, in this case, The Daily Mail story was built on a piece from Al Jazeera,which reported:

Brigadier Gerneral Said Al-Saudi, chief of the civil defence agency in Gaza, told Al Jazeera: “Israel opened water dams, without warning, last night, causing serious damage to Gazan villages near the border. More than 40 homes were flooded and 80 families are currently in shelters as a result.”

He added that the dam opening would adversely affect local agriculture as the flooded area included Gazan poultry and animal farms.

“We are appealing to human rights organisations and international rights organisations to intervene to prevent further such action.”

— Al Jazeera: Gazans flee floods caused by Israel’s dams opening

http://web.archive.org/web/20150223231012/http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2965460/Palestinians-left-homeless-Israel-opens-river-dam-hours-Jewish-state-s-electric-company-cuts-power.html

Since being informed that the accusation was false, The Daily Mail has since retracted it, retitling the article Hundreds of Palestinians left homeless by flooding after water levels in Gaza Valley rise by up to 10 feet following heavy rain.  And while the paper has rewritten the body of the article to clear up the misinformation, the closest they come to accepting any responsibility for publishing false information was:

The floods led to false accusations that Israel had opened up dams along the river to intentionally cause the flooding, even though no dams exist in southern Israel.

A spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Palestinian Territories (COGAT) told VICE News: ‘These claims, I don’t know who started them, but they are completely false.

‘There are no dams in the southern part of Israel so we couldn’t open any dams because there aren’t any. I don’t know how these rumours got around.'”

— Daily Mail: Hundreds of Palestinians left homeless by flooding after water levels in Gaza Valley rise by up to 10 feet following heavy rain

Citizen Journalism

For myself, I apologize for misleading anyone.  Part of the reason for blogging about this is to set the record straight.  Especially as I consider correcting misinformation to be an important part of what I do, so the absolute last thing I want to do is spread any myself.

The MSM’s lingering decline has been offset by the rise of citizen journalism online.  There are a growing number of independent digital news resources that are as reliable (if not more) than the MSM.  The fact is that I stumbled into it as I learned the mainstream media is no longer reliable.  If it ever was, it was because competition made truth and accuracy essential.  That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case any more.  If there was any doubt citizens were being failed by MSM news before, Wikileaks removed them.  As journalism prof/mediacritic Jay Rosen put it, “The watchdog press is dead.”

These days, most of the news I get is online.  I trust the informed people I listen to on Twitter or Facebook far more than I trust any mainstream media outlet.  In today’s information swamped world, there is simply no way anyone can know everything.  One reason social media is on the rise is because we need to know things the MSM isn’t telling us.  Whether it can’t or won’t doesn’t matter. We need to know.

Very often people who have important information want to share it, and the Internet makes this possible. Anyone can blog with WordPress, Tumblr or blogger, or post to Facebook or Twitter or Youtube. Specialized information that would once have been limited in reach by the number of mimeographs possible or the cost of postage is now available freely or cheaply online, available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection.

Since I’ve become active online (2009), over time an increasing amount of my time is spent engaging in citizen journalism online.  I’m not doing it because I’ve had anything resembling journalism training, because I haven’t.  Or because I want to make a living at it, because I don’t. But the horizons of my world have opened up with the ability to converse with total strangers around the world.  Even as I’ve been sharing important information I learn more. We need to converse with each other and learn from each other and work together; and yet there are many who profit from our polarization.  There are people who are paid to spread misinformation online, people who pretend to be someone they aren’t to derail change that will interfere with their profits.

When I read something I think important, I might make the time to expand on what I know so I can blog about it, but if it doesn’t fall into one of my particular fields of interest its more likely I’ll share a link to the source material through social media.  Which is what I’ve done here.  Oddly enough, in all the time I’ve been engaged in citizen journalism, this is only the second time anything I’ve shared required a retraction.

This Case

The situation in the middle east is complicated. The situation in Gaza is dire, and has been ongoing without any real hope of resolution for a ridiculously long time.   In recent years the Internet has fuelled a growing awareness of the situation in North America. the result has been the BDS movement.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) is a global campaign targeting Israel,[1][2][3][4] attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the stated goals of the movement: ending Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967, dismantling the Wall, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respecting the right of return of Palestinian refugees set out in UN Resolution 194.[4][5]

Wikipedia: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Right now there is an uproar in Canada because our government has passed a motion condemning the BDS movementl, claiming that bringing such economic and political pressure to bear is anti-semitic, even though BDS political and economic pressure aims to convince Israel to conform to International Law.  If Nations can blithely choose which parts of International Law they will deign to follow without any repercussion (as Israel does in flouting of International Law by encroaching on the what little Palestinian territory remains with new settlements), International Law is meaningless.

In light of the other attacks our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been hit with of late, this blatant suppression of the Canadian right to dissent has upset a great many Canadians, myself included, so it is not surprising the misinformation included in this article slipped past my own personal critical thinking screening.  Clearly there is acrimony, anger and hatred on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, with propaganda arising from both sides.  As in most conflict, neither side is entirely blameless, just as neither is perfect.

Regardless, the original story I posted (along with the other bouncing around the internet) is simply not true.  There was flooding and evacuation, but it was not  a deliberate attack by Israel.  I will strive to be more careful in future.

 

 

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

February 23, 2016 at 10:59 pm

Posted in citizen journalism

The Best of All Possible Valentine’s Days

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Happy Valentine's Day!
Our best Valentine’s Day gift is a surprise Valentine’s visit home from our remarkable son
(who promises to make us home made sushi!)

Hope your day will be as good for you!

xo Laurel

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

February 14, 2016 at 10:00 am

Posted in family, Special Event

Tagged with ,

My NaNoWriMo

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night writingEven on my best day I don’t think I could manage more than 10k in a single day, so I had a pretty good idea I wouldn’t be making it to 50k again this time.

Probably the deciding factor came out of my conversation with my son when he called on my birthday. He asked me if the words I had written were good words…and in fact, they are. I am quite pleased with how this year’s novel is going. And I knew that had I killed myself to scratch up 10k in a hurry, they probably wouldn’t have been very good words.

What NaNo has done is gotten me writing again, even with the political bumps. So here’s to a NaNo experience that worked well for me!

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

November 30, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Posted in copyright

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Happy Victoria Day

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Victoria's Family

As you celebrate Canada’s Victoria Day weekend (which we go to great pains to prevent from celebrating on the actual weekend of the 24th of May ~ her birthday) be thankful you don’t have 9 kids. (This painting only shows the first five of the nine children Victoria and Albert had.) And be careful with those fireworks!

Happy Victoria Day!


Franz_Xaver_Winterhalter’s painting “The Family of Queen Victoria” is well into the Public Domain.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

May 17, 2015 at 7:59 pm

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