Mark Hawthorne, Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering
Mark Hawthorne is the author of two books on animal rights: Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering, which examines the many ways humans exploit nonhumans, and Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism (both from Changemakers Books), which empowers people around the world to get active for animals. He stopped eating meat after an encounter with one of India’s many cows in 1992 and became an ethical vegan a decade later. His writing has also been featured in Vegan’s Daily Companion (Quarry Books) and in the anthologies Uncaged: Top Activists Share Their Wisdom on Effective Farm Animal Advocacy (Ben Davidow) and Stories to Live By: Wisdom to Help You Make the Most of Every Day and The Best Travel Writing 2005: True Stories from Around the World (both from Travelers’ Tales). Mark is a frequent contributor to VegNews magazine. He and his wife Lauren live in California. You’ll find him tweeting @markhawthorne.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody. We’re back and I’m Caryn Hartglass. This is June 3rd, 2014 another It’s All About Food program. Now let’s get right to the next part with Mark Hawthorne, the author of Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering. He’s actually the author of two books. The other book is Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism and we’re going to jump right in and talk about Bleating Hearts. Welcome to It’s All About Food Mark, thanks for joining me.
Mark Hawthorne: Well thank you Caryn. It’s going to be challenging following somebody like Anthony.
Caryn Hartglass: No, I was so glad to talk with him and then I’m glad I set it up this way. I had no idea what it was going to be like but I just finished reading your book Bleating Hearts and I have to spell this B-L-E-A-T-I-N-G. I’m sure the pun is intended but it’s important, Bleating Hearts, and I’m just emotionally exhausted after reading your book. So when I was talking to Anthony I was very inspired and glad to hear that there are safe spaces where people can be talking about this and then making change because we need a lot of change. But first we need to be educated and that’s what this book is all about.
Mark Hawthorne: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: How did you write it? I spent a brief time reading the 499 pages but how do you write a book like this?
Mark Hawthorne: Very carefully. After I had written Striking at the Roots and it came out in 2007 early 2008, I started getting emails from activists from all over the world telling me about the various animal abuses that they were combating in their countries and how they were using Striking at the Roots to help them. It really inspired me and it showed me that not only is animal activism very much alive and well all over the world but there are forms of animal exploitation that the mainstream media doesn’t cover. Or if it covers it, it’s very minimal. So right after Striking at the Roots came out in 2008, I started working on Bleating Hearts. I started gathering research, information, talking to activists, doing some travelling, and just putting together what I see is the bigger picture of all these abuses that are happening. I just broke it down chapter by chapter and took breaks when I needed to. I don’t want to characterize the book as absolutely horrible. There are definitely atrocities in there that will trigger people and I encourage people to just skip over those.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’m a vegan. I’ve been a vegan for a long time and I think it’s so important that all of use eat plants and get to that place, one way or another. But when we know that we don’t need to eat animals to survive, it opens a whole door. If we weren’t eating animals, I don’t think any of these other things would be going on. But we accept all of this exploitation because we say we need to eat these animals, we say we need to wear these animals, and then we need to experiment on them and we need to do all kinds of horrible things to them. And it’s from reading it in your book. It goes from bugs to giraffes and elephants, the big and the small, every animal. If someone can profit on it they do something horrible.
Mark Hawthorne: You’re right. I address the fact that three thousand silkworms are killed to produce one pound of silk. All the way up to the whale slaughter that happens in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary every year. Well, we’ll see if it happens in the next season. The Japanese have been ordered by the UN not to engage in that any longer but we’ll see if they hold to that.
Caryn Hartglass: Well the problem that I’ve had with the whole whale issue and dolphin issue is that when people from the United States tell Japan what to do, we’re being hypocrites because we do horrible things in this country with animals. It’s a difficult argument for us to point fingers and say you shouldn’t be doing this because look at what we’re doing over here.
Mark Hawthorne: It is and I should point out that it was the International Court of Justice in Europe that handed down that ruling. But you’re absolutely right. We kill in this country over nine billion land animals a year for food. We do all kinds of other atrocities including raising and killing animals for fur, using them for animal research, and many other abuses. So we really shouldn’t be pointing fingers from a cultural standpoint however the Southern Ocean Sanctuary is an international sanctuary for these animals and what Japan has been doing is considered illegal. I don’t think that it’s incorrect for the United States or Australia or New Zealand or other countries to be saying Japan shouldn’t be down there doing that and we need to do something about it. As activists we need to speak up.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s just touch on a few different things in this book and I really recommend people reading it. It’s very dense, there’s a lot of information in here, and it’s just unbelievable. Let’s just talk about a few things that are unbelievable. So people like their dogs and cats. A lot of people have companion animals. They say they are animal lovers but they don’t realize what’s behind the pet food that they’re giving their animals.
Mark Hawthorne: Right, well there are a couple of things with pet food. One is that the major pet food companies actually test on animals and they’ll keep them in confinement. Many of them for the rest of their lives in cages and they test the food. Beyond that, there is something called 4D Meat which is meat that’s been essentially not slated for human consumption because of disease or some other reason. It’s just not considered clean for human use. It gets rendered and it goes through a giant processing system where sometimes even flea collars go through that because these animals have been found, sometimes they’re even companion animals found on the road. This turns into like a slurry and it ends up eventually finding its way as an ingredient into all kinds of animal feed, not just what we consider companion animal food but also for the agriculture for farm animals.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s recycling.
Mark Hawthorne: Yes exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s cost effective.
Mark Hawthorne: It’s completely legal. It’s been done for decades and very few people know about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Well we hear more about cows, pigs, and chickens, not enough in my opinion but we do talk about food animals. There have been undercover clips that have gotten out and people are a little bit more aware of them. But there are so many animals out there, I mean, where do we begin. So the seals in Canada have been getting some press.
Mark Hawthorne: Yes the seal slaughter is going on right now in Canada. The two major seal slaughters take place in Canada and in Namibia, Africa. The one in Canada going on right now is really hubris, I think. I think the Canadian government is doing it because they don’t want to be told, as we kind of touched onto begin with, what to do. There’s really very little market for it. The European Union has declared that there’s a ban on seal products in Europe so Canada has been looking toward China and other countries to find a place for these products.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just horrific what’s done. But what is so profound to me is that these animals go to a place where they feel they can be safe to bare their children and they’re not safe at all. When are they going to learn that and if they do learn it, where would they go?
Mark Hawthorne: Yes it’s really tragic because as you say, this is where these seals give birth and this is a nursery for these animals. We’re losing pieces of our environment constantly because of climate change and unfortunately the ice is one of those victims. The seals are losing habitat constantly and it’s just such a tragedy to see these things. Actually, one of the things I talk about in my activism is how activists need to protect themselves from certain images. But if it triggers them, like when I first got into activism, this would be images of the sealers on the ice beating these seals that triggered for me the most horrible nightmares. So that’s one of the things that I have to keep my distance from and when I was writing that section of course, I had to really step back and be careful about how I was characterizing it and how I was describing it. I wanted it to be accurate but I also don’t want people to be so put off by it that they don’t take it in and want to do something about it.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a lot of detail in this book. You talk about the skinning of different animals and how many of them are still alive when it happens. Dogs even. I know this and I’ve read these things before. I think it’s important to read them again from time to time. It’s just unbelievable and personally I like to focus on the joy behind plant food eating, all the delicious recipes, and how good we look and feel. I’m not sure if I’m just trying to protect myself from staying away from the reality but it’s good to check in every now and then and remind ourselves of how awful it really is.
Mark Hawthorne: It is awful and I wanted to be careful when I wrote the book to include information on what people can do about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Mark Hawthorne: So throughout the chapter you find stories of activists and groups working to make change. You also have each chapter ending with long sections about people you can contact, groups you can get involved with, and ways you can personally help. I want this to empower people like Striking at the Roots does. I want people to feel that they can have a voice, that they can make a change, that they can be agents of change, and not just feel helpless after reading the book.
Caryn Hartglass: One of the stories that I liked was about the woman who saw the bile bears.
Mark Hawthorne: Jill Robinson.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. I think it’s so important to look in the eyes of another being, whether it`s a human animal or non-human animal. There’s a connection. Can you just briefly tell that story?
Mark Hawthorne: Sure. Jill Robinson was in Asia and she’s actually from England. She was living in China and she was an animal advocate and heard about the whole bile bear industry. She decided to take a tour of one of these farms and she kind of got away from the group at one point and went downstairs under one of these buildings. She found just cage after cage of these moon bears, Asiatic black bears they’re also called, in these just horrible conditions. In some cases, the flesh was growing into the bars because they had been in there for so long. Each one of them had a tube into his or her abdomen and it was basically milking their bile. The bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a curative. It comes from the gall bladder. She heard this sound in the darkness. She got closer and closer, and she realized that one of these bears was suffering. They all were suffering but this was one who was sort of communicating and vocalizing to her. Jill put out her hand and she said this bear instinctively grasped it. She felt this big paw around her hand and she realized later that was probably not the smartest thing to do because this bear had no idea who she was. She could have been one of the people torturing her.
Caryn Hartglass: It knew. He knew. That bear knew.
Mark Hawthorne: It just completely transformed Jill. She dedicated her life to helping these bears and she founded Animals Asia. They do incredible work. They have two sanctuaries: they have one in China and one in Vietnam. They just recently rescued two hundred bears from one of these bear bile farms. The bear bile farm in China agreed to close and they’re turning that into another sanctuary for bears. It’s just absolutely outstanding and it’s stories like that, that give me hope. It’s stories like that, that I wanted to include in the book to share this information. I was very thrilled that Jill participated in it and was willing to talk to me about her work.
Caryn Hartglass: We were talking early in the program with Anthony Nocella about his work and how he has spaces where people can come together and talk about animal studies and things related to animals in a safe, secure environment. He just briefly mentioned, and how I wanted to talk about this later, how in schools, students have to do dissections and things if they’re in some sort of medical or biological field. You talked a bit about that, about how some students didn’t want to do it and how many of them were made to do it. Their grades were threatened, their performance in school was threatened, and it just took the courage of one in particular to make change. I think there have been a lot of schools that have changed over time. It takes a lot of courage to make change and speak out.
Mark Hawthorne: Right. One story that comes to mind from the book is Jennifer Graham who was a high school student in California. She didn’t want to dissect frogs. She actually brought a lawsuit against the school board and won. Thanks to Jennifer and brave students like her, high students don’t have to dissect animals in schools and they can opt out. It becomes more difficult as you get into college and certainly as you get into medical school but there are changes being made. There are groups like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that are offering alternatives that are working toward change that are making it so schools have humane options, whether they are 3D models or some sort of advanced technology that don’t involve animals. Just offering students ways that they can learn the information without having to conflict with their own models or to contradict their values.
Caryn Hartglass: I guess one of the things that just kept hitting me in this book is there just seems like every product has some cruelty involved in it. You mentioned the process of making a pearl, something small and lovely, and yet horrible.
Mark Hawthorne: They inject a little irritant into the oyster so that the animal puts a coating over this irritant and eventually it becomes a pearl. They kill the animal and extract the pearl. It’s just outstanding for this little thing. We have so many humane alternatives, things that are just as beautiful as a pearl that don’t involve cruelty, at least not cruelty to humans and animals. There’s just no reason for it.
Caryn Hartglass: Another point what you were talking about was leather. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard some people will eat a vegan diet but they wear leather because they feel the cows are being killed for food anyway. The leather is a by-product and they’ll use it. Everybody’s got to make a choice what’s right for them but the leather industry you explained supports the food industry. They both make significant profiting and one can’t do without the other.
Mark Hawthorne: Absolutely. They’re really co-products. Leather is not a really a by-product, they’re co-products. They go hand in hand. I don’t remember off the top of my head the figure but it’s something like forty billion U.S. dollars a year in sales just from leather. As you say, people think that if you kill a cow for her flesh and then you take the skin, it’s not wasted. But there are really so many products like cat skin that are specialty products that are obviously not by-products. They couldn’t be by-products. They’re just part and parcel to the whole business of exploiting animals, they’re considered resources and they’re harvested. It seems like our goal is to squeeze the last penny out of an animal and that’s become standard practice.
Caryn Hartglass: As I was reading, I kept thinking I didn’t want to be a part of the human race.
Mark Hawthorne: Oh no, I don’t want you to feel that way!
Caryn Hartglass: But then you know, I stepped back and you start to feel the beauty and the hope. It’s just unfathomable what we’re capable of and yet I do believe in my core that every person is capable of transformation.
Mark Hawthorne: Absolutely. I wasn’t born vegan. It took me unfortunately thirty years before I recognized what I was doing and decided that I didn’t need to eat animals, that I didn’t need to wear them, and that I didn’t need to exploit them.
Caryn Hartglass: What was the epiphany for you? What was the veil lifting for you?
Mark Hawthorne: I had a couple of events that occurred within a couple of months within each other. I was living in Europe at the time, this was in the nineties, and I decided that I wanted to go to Pamplona and run with the bulls. I was living in Germany, I took the train down to Pamplona, and I did the whole bull run and I thought it was this great Hemingway experience. At the end of the bull run all the bulls go into the bull ring. All the tourists and bull riders go in and sit on the stands. Hundreds and hundreds of people are in the bull ring taunting these steers. They’re not the actual bulls that they’ll fight but they’re these other animals that have smaller horns. They’re hitting them with newspapers and it’s just ridiculing them, I don’t know how else to describe it. I just felt so ashamed to be part of this event. A couple of months later I was living in India. I was living with a Buddhist family in the Himalayas and the only time they would consume animals was when they would drink tea. They would drink what’s called butter tea, this horrible salty thing that they had me try and the only way I could even swallow it was if I thought of it as soup and not tea. There were a couple of cows who lived across the street, across the road I should say, and the other part of the story is that the family I lived with had this big garden. I would say ninety-nine percent of what I ate came from their garden. As it got toward winter, they dug a big hole in the ground, harvested the crops, and they buried it for the winter. They buried the vegetables and fruits, and then they let one of the cows in from across the road to sort of nibble on the stems and remaining crops. I had never been so close to a cow in my life, not withstanding my experience in Pamplona, and I was maybe four or five feet from this beautiful cow. She was just looking at me and I was looking at her, and I realized she has absolutely every right that I do in terms of living and enjoying her life. There’s no reason I need to eat it.
Caryn Hartglass: You looked in her eyes.
Mark Hawthorne: Exactly. I just recognized the beauty in her, her will to live, and for her to enjoy her life and not be abused by humans. So that’s when I decided. I had been living essentially a vegan life for two months already, and I felt physically and spiritually fantastic. I thought there’s just no reason for me to continue this way and so I stopped eating animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Well Mark, I’m glad you had that experience and I’m grateful for this book that you wrote. Everyone should read it. We need to know about all of this and then be inspired to do a lot about it because there’s a lot of work to be done.
Mark Hawthorne: Thank you. Can I mention my website?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes of course!
Mark Hawthorne: People can just go to www.markhawthorne.com and they’ll learn more about it. I really appreciate being on your show Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. Take care.
Mark Hawthorne: Thanks so much. Bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye-bye. Wow. Mark Hawthorne with Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering. Thank you for listening and read that book. I’m Caryn Hartglass and this is another It’s All About Food. Go to www.responsibleeatingandliving.com and watch that Lone Vegan trailer please. Thank you and have a delicious week.
Transcribed 7/14/2014 by Stefan Pavlović