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Tag: animals

The Semantics of Meat (with Paul Shapiro)

Semantics play a significant role in shaping public perception about animals and animal welfare. The meat, dairy, and egg industries go to great lengths to remove harsh terminology and replace it with euphemisms that conceal the truth and sanitize violence. In today’s episode, I talk to someone who knows this all too well: Paul Shapiro, Vice President of Policy at The Humane Society of the United States. Join us as we discuss euphemisms and doublespeak used by animal agriculture and the best terms for plant-based and cultured meat. 

Supporters receive an additional conversation with Paul once the interview ended.

Political Action Guide for Animal Issues

[Tweet “Every minute we spend being outraged is a minute we could have spent being effective.”]

Something Wayne Pacelle (CEO of the Humane Society of the United States) said in a talk I saw him give many years ago stuck with me. And he’s said it many times since. About the political arm of his organization, he said he envisions “a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement.” Here’s the gist (excerpted from an interview in Satya Magazine):

“The way things work in Washington and in state capitols across the country is that logic and humane sensibilities can only go so far. You need them in order to be effective, but you also need to amass political power and that comes from working the political system in a way that achieves results. There’s no substitute for being able to deliver votes and having an informed constituency.

I find the NRA’s views on hunting and other issues to be really at odds with my own, but I admire the fact that they train thousands of activists across the country to achieve so much working through the system. I do think that is a model for us, because we have the potential to activate many more people than the NRA does. There are a lot of people in this country who care about guns, but I think many more people are passionate about protecting animals. If we organize them, we can achieve enormous gains and victories for animals.”

As an activist myself and a politically engaged citizen, I couldn’t agree more. There is no question that conservatives are much better organizers / organized when it comes to the issues they care about—especially at the grassroots level. Don’t underestimate the ambition of your local representatives who can not only pass effective animal-friendly legislation in your town or county but who may one day be state senator, governor, federal representative, or president. That’s how it works. 

[Tweet “Don’t underestimate the ambition of local reps who may one day be governor or president. That’s how it works. “]

We need to act. Now. We need to organize. Now. We need to be a resounding voice for animals. Now. I recoil from the phrase “now more than ever,” because our voices and votes for animals are needed all the time—not just when we’re in crisis. But I do think Americans are eager, anxious, and desperate to have their voices heard—now more than ever, so let’s do it.

[Tweet “Our voices and votes for animals are needed all the time—not just when we’re in crisis.”]

Here’s how you—we—can get started, stay engaged, make a huge difference, and help our voice for animals be as strong as the NRA’s voice is for guns. 


  1. The Humane Legislative Fund is dedicated to “educating elected officials and the public on animal welfare issues and electing humane candidates to public office.” Get on their mailing list, contact your representatives about the issues they highlight, make a financial contribution to give animals a voice is congress. 
  2. Use their Humane Scorecard to help you decide who to vote for in elections based on their history of animal-friendly or animal-unfriendly legislation. 
  3. Fellow dedicated and engaged activists and I are in the process of forming a political action committee called East Bay Animal PAC that will be dedicated to electing animal-friendly legislators, passing animal-friendly legislation, opposing anti-animal legislation, and educating legislators and the public on local animal issues. Join our mailing list for more, and consider creating something similar in your own city/county!
  4.  Know who your representatives are—on the federal, state, and local level. I’ve provided a guide below to help you find yours. Take a few minutes to add their phone numbers to your phone!
  5. Don’t be afraid to contact your representatives. They represent YOU! They work for YOU
  6. Read Don’t Think of an Elephant to learn how to frame your issue effectively. 
  7. Follow the cues of the Indivisible folks. Former congressional staffers wrote this guide that is meant to empower compassionate people to effectively engage politically. (One of the things they remind us of is that representatives rely on making their constituents happy so they can keep their job; i.e. get reelected. If you don’t think your voice matters, YOU’RE WRONG!)
  8. Stay hopeful. Despair is paralyzing. Cynicism is ugly. One of my favorite take-aways from the book Hope in the Dark is that the darkness doesn’t mean the future is inevitably evil. The darkness means that the future is inscrutable because it’s not yet written. It’s up to us to WRITE THE FUTURE!  

So, go write it!

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  1. Type “find my local city council member” into a search engine. 
  2. Add their phone numbers to your phone and their address to your address book. 
  3. Call them. Write to them. Get to Know Them. Let Them Get to Know YOU. Find out their positions on animal-related legislation and policies. Educate them about issues they’re most likely unaware of. Thank them for passing animal-friendly legislation. 
  4. Show up at city council meetings. 
  5. Visit them at city hall. 
  6. Donate to their campaign when it’s clear they are animal-friendly. Talk to them about animal-unfriendly positions they may have. They might just need information you have! If they stick with animal-harmful positions, tell them that’s why you’re not supporting them. 
  7. Vote for them when it’s clear they are animal-friendly. Tell them why you voted for them. 


  1. Know who your state legislators are — both in the Senate and the Assembly. Find yours here
  2. Add their phone numbers to your phone and their address to your address book. 
  3. Call them. Write to them. Find out their positions on animal-related legislation and policies. Educate them about issues they’re most likely unaware of. Thank them for passing animal-friendly legislation. 
  4. Make a date to meet with them in their district office or state capitol.  
  5. Show up at the capitol when animal-related legislation is on the agenda. Let your voice for animals be heard. 
  6. Donate to their campaign when it’s clear they are animal-friendly. Talk to them about animal-unfriendly positions they may have. They might just need information you have! If they stick with animal-harmful positions, tell them that’s why you’re not supporting them. 
  7. Vote for them when it’s clear they are animal-friendly. Tell them why you voted for them. 


  1. Know who your federal members of Congress are — both in the House of Representatives as well as in the Senate. Find yours here
  2. Add their phone numbers to your phone — for both their DC office and district office.
  3. Add their email address and mailing address to your address book. 
  4. The two best ways to contact your reps are to call and write a  postcard—not an email. Buy .34-cent stamps for your postcards.
  5. Tell them what you care about. Encourage them to support animal-friendly legislation and oppose legislation that will harm animals. ASK THEM WHAT THEIR POSITION IS on a particular bill or policy. 

Animalogy Loves Your Shares!

Many of you fabulous people have asked the best way to share Animalogy Podcast on social media, so here is a page chock-full of shareables, both graphics and content for tweets and posts. NOTE: This page is continually updated as new episodes are released, so check back for more shareables.

Click on any of the graphics you want to share, then “right-mouse-click,” and save. Direct your followers to or to  iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play to listen to Animalogy. 

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Don’t Get My Goat – I’m Not Kidding

In this episode of Animalogy, we explore the goat-related words and expressions in our everyday language — particularly those formed by the Old English words goat, buck, and kid (such as butcher, “kidding around,” and goatee). You’re going to love it. I kid you not. (Get it?)  

11-Year Anniversary: Another Amazing Love Fest!

Help celebrate the ELEVEN-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the Food for Thought podcast by sitting back and taking in some of the love letters I’ve received from listeners and supporters this past year. The stories are as diverse as the listeners and reflect varied ages and backgrounds, but they all share common threads of hope, transformation, and compassion. 

I hope you are as moved by the letters as I am humbled by them. If you ever once thought that “people don’t change,” then you’re in for quite a treat. And grab some tea or a glass of wine. 

Thank you for all your support and love these last 11 years!

Falconry: Fed Up and Looking Haggard

The practice of hunting wild birds with trained birds — for fun is called falconry. Though it came into its own almost 1,000 years ago in England after the Norman invasion, it continues to have a stronghold in our contemporary English language. I hope I can lure you to join me today as I share all of the words and expressions that come from this blood sport and to hear about the time *I* was roused to try my hand at falconry and why I turned tail by the end of it.

Muscle: Flex Your Mouse

Roll up your sleeve past your bicep, flex your arm at the elbow, and squeeze — or contract — your bicep muscle. Take a look at it. Now, relax it — keep looking at it, and contract again. Squeeze. And relax. What do you see? Movement, right? Do you see an animal? Well, some anatomist did when the word muscle was coined.

A Mouse in Your Muscles!

Supporters receive written transcripts of every Animalogy episode.

The Greatest News on Earth: Ringling Circus is Closing!

(This photo of the elephant is one I recently took in Botswana; free and with his family — the way all wildlife should be.)

While enjoying a delicious vegan dinner at Millennium Restaurant in Oakland with a friend and fellow animal advocate (Kristie Middleton), we got a text: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was closing its doors! We laughed. We cried. We toasted.

We were two of the many activists (full props to Cheri Shankar, activist extraordinaire in Los Angeles) involved in working with Oakland city council members in 2015 to ban the bullhook, a weapon that inflicts pain and fear upon elephants to make them perform such unnatural acts as standing on their head. Oakland passed the ban, and soon after, Feld Entertainment, owner of Ringling Bros., announced that they would be removing elephants from their shows. A victory for elephants, no doubt.

But there was more work to do, and activists in cities around the country wasted no time working to ban all wild animal acts from circuses. Facing the prospect of spending millions of dollars defending an archaic and cruel form of entertainment, Ringling Bros. announced that it would be closing its doors altogether. A major victory for animals, no doubt, but much work remains to be done.

Entire countries have banned wild animals acts, including Mexico, Peru, Greece, Netherlands, and many others, and the United States would do well to do the same before another opportunistic company seeks to fill Ringling‘s void. This will probably be impossible on a federal level with the current administration, but we can do it state by state. At least for today— for a few days—we can at least revel in the awareness that the arc of history bends toward compassion and that thousands of animals will be spared humiliation, confinement, fear, and violence. 

[Tweet “Ringling Bros. said ‘this is not a win for anyone.’ I beg to differ. This is a win for the animals.”]

Jack London for the Animals
We were not the first residents of Oakland to express concern about the treatment of circus animals. 100 years ago, after witnessing the abuse that takes place against performing animals in circuses, our most iconic figure, our own Jack London—author and social activist—wrote two novels (Jerry of the Islands and Michael, Brother of Jerry) to spread awareness to the public about performing animals. In the foreword for these novels, he wrote, “I have a strong stomach and a hard head, but what turns my head and makes my gorge rise is the cold-blooded, conscious deliberate cruelty and torment that is manifest behind ninety-nine of every hundred trained-animal turns. Cruelty as a fine art, has attained its perfect flower in the trained-animal world.”

Because of the awareness he created, the public spoke up, and in 1925, Ringling Barnum and Bailey Circus withdrew all trained animal acts from their performance schedules and remained animal-free for almost five years. Unfortunately, they brought back the animals, but this time, they’re closing their doors for good.

Feld Entertainment, the owners of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, has said in press conferences that animal rights groups should not claim the circus’ closing as a victory—that “this is not a win for animal rights activists. This is not a win for anyone.” I beg to differ. This is a win for the animals. This is a win for every individual who won’t be sold or bred only to live a life of prodding, performing, abuse, fear, and pain. This is a win for the animals, who have—vis a vis their own suffering—put $2.7 billion into the pockets of Kenneth Feld, which is what he is purported to be worth. This is a win for every animal who has ever been separated from their family to be exploited and forced to perform for humans. 

This is a win for animals, indeed. And once you’ve properly toasted, it’s time to put away the champagne, and write some more history. We’ve got more work to do.

For the animals, 

Eating Crow? Try Eating Humble Pie, Instead

If you’ve made a serious faux pas and need to acknowledge it with humility, you might be said to be “eating crow” or “eating humble pie,” both phrases of which involve animals — or do they? 

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Zodiac: A Circle of Animals — Literally

Of the 88 constellations officially recognized by Western astronomy, 40 of them are named after animals — 43 if you count the mythical animals. We’re going to talk about 12 of them today — the 12 that make up the zodiac from Western astrology — ALL of which contain animals. 

After all, the word zodiac is Greek for “circle of little animals.”