Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reflections From Our Awesome Intern

My work with Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time all started with a phone call. I wasn't sure what to expect at first. This was my first time getting an internship and when the voice on the other side answered, I was surprised by the casualness of the conversation. The voice that answered the phone was Courtney Kistler’s, junior board member of Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time volunteer. She helped me get in touch with Susan, the founder of Rational Animal, and got me going with an itinerary for the time I would be able to work. For the first couple weeks I wasn’t sure of the internship, but volunteering with Courtney and A Tail at a Time’s cats up for adoption at the PetSmart on 117th and Pleasant really helped to keep things in perspective. The work I was doing with Susan for Rational Animal was indirectly assisting
the organization to further helping adoptable animals like A Tail at a Time’s. Watching Susan and her board members discuss their future plans and possible campaigns made me realize that running a grass roots animal welfare organization is very similar
An event that very abruptly brought to my attention how widespread animal suffering is in human society was going to a movie screening at Columbia University with Courtney. The films we saw were From Farm to Fridge and Vegucated. I was already a pescatarian before, but the films were so moving that I even bought one of them on DVD and have decided to become a vegan. The knowledge that making the right choices could affect an animal’s life felt empowering. In working with Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time I felt the same thing. By being knowledgeable and spreading awareness, much like what Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time already does, I could teach others to help fight against animal suffering.
to an entrepreneurial business. It’s difficult, but worth it if it’s for something you love!

My time with Rational Animal and A Tail at a Time has truly helped me grow as a person. I’ve gained better understanding about how smaller organizations need to run and how Susan and her lovely members do it as well as learned how integrated meat is in American culture.

Transitioning into veganism has been very difficult. Giving up certain foods aside, there are a lot of meat-derived products that are in non-meat foods. Looking up how beer is made for example. Apparently some breweries actually use a substance, called isinglass, which is derived from fish bladder to help clarify their product. Strange! My internship has definitely helped me to be more curious about what goes on my plate, or in my glass, before I eat it.

My animal welfare internship has ended for now, but that doesn’t mean I’ll forget the cats in 117th’s PetSmart! Here I’ve got a quick bio for each of my furry friends over there and some tips if any of you reading this are wondering if you’ve got what it takes to volunteer with A Tail at a Time.

Ozzy: A white a grey cat and roommate to Prince and Jordan. He is very playful, and though has been at the PetSmart adoption center for over 5 months, he seems the most adjusted. Unlike most of the other cats Ozzy plays on his own with toys, frequently chasing and batting them. He also loves wrestling with Prince, and is overall very sweet and outgoing.

Pagean (left): An orange, grey and white cat. What’s immediately striking about Pagean is her wide set eyes. Positively adorable! While preferring not to be held too much, I guarantee she will melt your heart with her pudgy face and make you laugh
with poorly coordinated attempts to jump up onto ledges.

Patches: The last of the three teenage cats, Patches is the sweetheart. His Fu Manchu eyebrows and whiskers stand out on his small face. I can’t wait to see what he looks like as an adult! Patches is hands down the most affectionate cat, often going to the others and nuzzling them. He loves being pet too!
Prince: An all black cat. A little guy, him and Ozzy are best friends. He doesn’t like being touched that much, but is quite graceful and gentle. He sort of reminds me of a jaguar! I think that if he were adopted with Ozzy into the same home he’d be able to get over his fear of humans.

Tabitha (right): Plump, like Pajean, Tabitha is our beloved crabby fat cat. Tabitha loves to eat, and for a while would somehow make it into the dry foods container to eat the food before we started hiding it. She doesn't always like to be held, but can be easily picked up and as long as there’s food around, is happy.

Jordan: A white cat with black splotches. He is super friendly and is very easy to pick up. He occasionally jumps from his high cage onto people’s backs. Him and his two roommates (Prince and Ozzy) are all friends!

Linda: Rocking the wild jungle cat look, Linda’s light green eyes and spotted grey and silver coat are quite a beauty to behold. She’s quite a climber though, and has been known to leave scratches (I would know).

Lionel: Complete with his lookalike Mackenzie, he is one of the three teenage cats living on 117th. Quite a jumper, he is very curious, sometimes getting into trouble and loves mealtime—aren’t all teenage boys like that? The only way we could tell Mackenzie and Lionel apart were Lionel’s cute little white feet!

Mackenzie: Similar to the picture posted here, Mackenzie is quite the sneaky cat. She loves eating and often steals food from others during chow time. She can be a bit crabby sometimes, a future Tabitha?Now that you’ve learned a little about A Tail at a Time’s 117th residents, here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of working there!

The number one thing is that taking care of cats is a lot of work. Often the shifts would take about two hours to clean and feed everybody. Doing a volunteer job like this requires some commitment and determination, but all your work will be rewarded in getting to hangout with the cats and see them make you laugh. Another thing that one definitely should know is to expect to get scratched. I’ve gotten a lot of scratches from the cats, but getting scratched a bit here and there can help you get over your fear of the pain. Getting scratched too much of course can pose a health risk because of bacteria potentially harbored under the cats’ nails. Be careful! If there’s one cat that seems to especially not like you and you keep getting scratched from them, keep your distance. Just like how some people can’t get along, you might not be able get along with every cat. I assure you though, that if you keep a positive attitude, taking care of the cats will seem less like a chore. As I continued to volunteer, I really saw each cat’s individual personality come together. By the time it was the end of my internship I had grown so attached to the cats that it was hard to say goodbye! Hopefully by the time I come back to New York City each cat will have found the loving home I know they deserve.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Artivist Film Festival's Animal Advocacy Showcase, NYC

By Rational Animal intern, Nicole Mak
Edited and with contributions by Courtney Kistler

On January 26, 2012, in its eighth annual film tour and visit to New York City, the Artivist Film Festival and Artivist Awards showcased three films focusing on animal advocacy at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Founded in 2003, the Artivist Film Festival uses film to raise awareness for international human rights, children’s advocacy, environmental preservation, and animal advocacy. Each film sought to convey to its audience issues of the animal industry and why vegetarianism and veganism were necessary responses to these atrocities.

The first featured was Together: Dancing with Spinner Dolphins, a short film showing spinner dolphins and their curiosity of the unknown. Only a few minutes long, the film sought to evoke a smile from the audience as they witnessed a dance between a snorkeler and three spinner dolphins. This film reminded us how beautiful we perceive animals in the wild to be, and in comparison to the next two films, eased us into the idea of living peacefully and sustainably with animals.

The second film was called Farm to Fridge by Mercy for Animals. For me personally, it is the most graphic animal rights video I’ve ever seen. As a former omnivore converted pescatarian, I have seen my share of animal rights shock and awe videos. This one, however, didn’t hesitate to bombard the audience with clip after clip of animals on American farms (most of them were factory farms) being castrated, crushed, beaten and hacked in the most inhumane and nauseating ways imaginable. Narrated by
Oscar-nominee and TV actor, James Cromwell, this film takes you on an eye-opening exploration behind the closed doors of the nation’s industrial poultry, pig, dairy, and fish farms, hatcheries, and slaughter plants – revealing the often-unseen journey that animals make from the farm to the American fridge, and eventually to the serving plate.
View entire film online; order free copy.

As I looked at the viewers’ heads in my line of vision, I saw many were looking down. Gasps and whispered cries could be heard all around me as the film revealed that it was common to smash piglets to the ground—headfirst—as a way to euthanize them.

Five minutes into this film I told myself I would become a vegan.

Seeing so much gore when you don’t expect it can be very mind altering. I don't think anyone in the audience left that theater feeling unaffected by that film. It made you hypersensitive. Suddenly you couldn’t help but think about all the animal related items you’d seen that, prior to this experience, you wouldn’t have giv
en a second thought about. As the film played, my stomach felt cold and empty, and I wanted to look away. What convinced me to keep watching was that all of this is real. By looking away we are denying what we, as Americans, demand. The only way to change these horrific animal practices is to face the music. It was obvious what the film was asking us to do: become vegan.

While the first film closed off amidst smatterings of chitchat, the second film left the audience dead silent. The last film tried to comfort and then engage the audience. Vegucated sought to
bring back humor and warmth to the theatre. Filmed in 2005 New York City and at various spots in New England, this 80-minute film is about three omnivores who volunteer (for no compensation, other than several delicious meals, field trips, and life-changing learning experiences) to undergo a complete vegan transformation over the course of 6 weeks. The writer and executive producer, Marisa Miller Wolfson, starred in the film as the provider of this “vegucation” and as intermittent narrator. Similar in tactic to Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Wolfson educated Brian, Ellen, and Tesla and the viewing audience on how to start from the ground up to become vegan.

Marisa definitely made the education fun by taking them to places like Moo Shoes in downtown NYC and Ooh Mah Nee farm animal sanctuary. At one point, the crew spontaneously decided to stop off at a factory farm property and walk right up to one of the buildings. Surprisingly, not one person came out of that building or surrounding area to ask questions. Just outside the building, they discovered an open truck wagon containing the carcasses of two pigs. On the rest of the drive home, the dialogue between Tesla and Brian was heated and passionate. They were truly embracing the facts and sad reality about farm animals in America.

I liked that the film showed each volunteer’s drop in blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight after the mere 6 week period without overemphasizing these metrics. The main focus, really, was to de-alienate veganism. In choosing volunteers who fit the majority of meat and dairy eating Americans and mentioning popular American foods that were already vegan (chocolate frosting??), the film allowed the audience to reconsider their mainstream perception of the vegan next door. Marisa interviewed people on the streets of New York in the beginning of the film, asking them if they could go vegan, and getting pretty much the same response from each one: "No.", "Nah." or "I don't think so." This film took a clever, creative approach and truly broke down that resistance, as exemplified by the three different people who took on the vegan challenge.

After watching From Farm to Fridge, I wanted to be vegan. Watching Vegucated brought encouragement. By seeing the small steps that the volunteers were taking, I realized that I was already taking those steps. The film left me feeling good. Happy for the newly converted vegan and vegetarian volunteers in the film, it gave me a sense that I could do it too. That’s why I’m starting on my road to veganism!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Artists with Animals" Mini-print Notecards for Every Occasion

Article by Nicole Mak, Rational Animal intern

Last month, Rational Animal issued a unique set of 10 mini-print notecards featuring black and white photography of music legends with animals. Through a partnership with the Morrison Hotel Gallery, the premier rock photography distributing company and studio, legendary photographers and their estates have donated their high quality images to this special set. Photographers include Terry O’Neill, Henry Diltz, Robert Whitaker, Curt Gunther, Timothy White, Neal Preston, Herman Leonard, Frank Stefanko and Ken Regan. Musicians in the photos include John Lennon, Brigitte Bardot, Billie Holiday, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, The Beatles, Patti Smith, Neil Young, and Nelly.

Each box contains 10 notecards and 10 envelopes and costs just $20 per box. Our goal is to sell all 2,000 sets of notecards, and we need your help! We have sold 300 so far, so please consider buying a set for you, for a loved one, for a co-worker, or anyone who loves animals and appreciates these rock legends and the brilliant photography that captures the special
moments with all different kinds of animals. They are useful all year round – gifted as a complete set or mailed individually, you use these cards to bring a smile and a chuckle to someone’s face. Write a brightly colored message on the front, fill the inside with confetti and a witty caption; say a thank you or sorry with animal welfare swag! Need to send thank you cards to everyone that gave you holiday presents? These notecards are the perfect solution, especially for those who love rock legends and animals.
The note card set is completely exclusive to Rational Animal, and 100% of all sales will go directly to supporting our media campaigns and programs that educate the public, inspiring positive action for the benefit of at-risk animals.
Buy at the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s SoHo Store, located at 124 Prince St. (between Greene and Wooster St.) in Manhattan or buy online here.

2012 is going to be a big year for Rational Animal – we have lots of programs up and running and some special events and campaigns in the works! Please consider supporting our work for animals through the purchase of these notecards. With your donation you too are helping to promote awareness for our best furry friends!

Again, to buy these cards you can come either to the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s SoHo Store, located at 124 Prince St. (between Greene and Wooster St.) in Manhattan or buy online.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rounding Out 2011 with a Big Gift to NYC Shelters

By Nicole Mak, Rational Animal intern

On December 4th, 2011 Rational Animal Founder Susan Brandt and members Salem Krieger, Christine Hahn, Maggie Hurley, David Glicksman, Thira Goldfinger, and Courtney Kistler delivered handmade beds and cat toys to the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control (AC&C), a municipal kill shelter housing 200 orphaned cats and dogs. All of the professionally shot pictures from this day can be seen here.

Through its Mother’s Comfort Project, Rational Animal once again recruited volunteers to make handmade beds for these lonely animals, in an effort to make them feel more at home. Often the shelter only provides towels for the animals to sleep on, nothing compared to a comfy bed sewn by loving hands! This delivery is just one of many that Rational Animal has been responsible for. Since the project's start in 2008, over 3,500 beds and 2,000 toys have been made and delivered to the AC&C shelters.

One of three throughout the city, the Brooklyn AC&C is home to animals who, if not adopted or placed in a foster home by one of the city's small animal rescue groups, will be euthanized. Because of the short adoption window, the shelter only provides its animal residents with very basic amenities. Housed in small metal cages, without toys or a human touch, it can be easy for AC&C’s orphaned animals to become overly stressed and sick.

The Mother’s Comfort Project was created as a tribute to the late Fannie Shapiro, an animal lover and grandmother of Rational Animal founder Susan Brandt. Having grown up seeing her take in strays, Susan keeps her grandmother’s love for animals alive through Rational Animal’s mission and this project. A picture of Fannie Shapiro with a Baltimore Oriole serves as the Mother’s Comfort Project’s logo, which Rational Animal made into a patch which is sewn onto every shelter bed.

The Mother’s Comfort Project seeks to bring attention to the AC&C shelters as well as educate those on the plight of animal homelessness in New York City. Student clubs are welcome to volunteer. It’s never too early or too late to help an animal in need! Sewing beds allow first time volunteers and veterans to help fight animal homelessness without the emotionally draining effect a shelter visit can bring about.

If you or a loved one would like to donate to this project please visit www.rational-animal.org/get-involved/donate. If you would like to get involved and sew some beds, pleasecheck back here for the next up coming date. Beds are usually sewn every month, at Flirt, Brooklyn, in Park Slope.

If you don't feel you can commit to sewing beds, here are other ways how you can help make 2012 a little warmer for New York’s orphaned animals:
Provide transportation – we need a van for each sewing event: from Chelsea to Park Slope and back, for bed delivery to an AC&C shelter, and from Chelsea to one of the three shelters (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island)
Donate fabric/batting (bed stuffing) – contact maggie@rational-animal.org to donate!
Be a sponsor – your company or brand can sponsor this project, giving you added exposure through our press releases and both web and social media pages. Plus you'll be helping immensely to make unlucky animals in our shelters feel warm and loved.
Become a project manager – help organize and recruit volunteers for sewing and delivery events. We need help getting funding, transportation and volunteers. Help us get the word out!

For more information and pictures please click on the following links:
• Video of our August 14th Sewing Session and BELOW
• Pictures of our delivery by Salem Kreiger, on Facebook
• Learn more about AC&C and adopt an animal today! www.nycacc.org

video