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Interview with Anna Pippus


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This week, we welcome Anna Pippus, BA, JD  and Director of Farmed Animal Advocacy. Following our interview, Anna shares her recipe for Miso Ramen.

Upwards of 750 million farmed animals are killed each year in Canada, making them the largest population of animals under human care. Anna specializes in issues related to farmed animal law, policy, and advocacy, holding degrees in law from the University of Toronto and psychology from the University of British Columbia. Her efforts have contributed to groundbreaking animal cruelty charges and raids, policy reform, and individual behaviour changes that benefit animals. She frequently speaks and writes about farmed animal and animal rights law issues. Anna is a mother of two.

Learn more about what Anna does at annapippus.info and on facebook, instagram and twitter

Tell us about your roles as Farmed Animals Director of Animal Justice and Projects Director of We Animals.

I’m an activist first, so I go where I think my skills will be most useful, and have been (and am) involved with numerous organizations and individuals. I work a lot but I find this work deeply motivating and fulfilling, so although I don’t take much leisure time, I “work to relax.” Working hard for animals is how I cope with my devastation about what’s happening to them by the billions every second of every day. 

With Animal Justice—Canada’s only animal law organization—I do legal advocacy on behalf of farmed animals. Mostly this means finding creative ways to use existing laws to help animals suffering in animal agriculture. Sometimes it means helping animal activists do their work without legal trouble, writing lay articles or reports explaining how the laws fail animals, teaching or speaking about animal law issues, or lobbying for laws and policies to be improved. We will never achieve animal liberation by only changing consumer habits; we also need law reform and law enforcement to reflect changing public norms about morality and justice.

We Animals, which is a long-term photography project of talented photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, is currently transitioning from being a part-time project to functioning more as an organization. I’m helping to push and shape that transition. I think making animal use and abuse visible is a critical aspect of the animal rights movement, so I’m pleased that I can use my unique background and skills to help this project go where it needs to.

How did you get into animal rights and veganism?

I’ve always related to and empathized with animals, and became vegetarian at a young age when I realized that eating animals wasn’t kind and it wasn’t necessary. However, it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I learned about what was happening to animals in agriculture and immediately became not just vegan, but a dedicated and passionate activist. It clicked for me very quickly—of course animals are suffering when they’re used for profit!

I was embarrassed that I hadn’t critically thought about these industries; in retrospect I think I bought into the sanitized version of animal agriculture that we’re indoctrinated into believing from a young age, the one in children’s books and on packaging that shows animals as happy members of a farm family playing a willing role in the food system. As soon as I turned my mind to it, it suddenly became obvious that animal agriculture and other animal-use industries are a living nightmare for animals. Violence against animals is normalized. Waking up to that reality fundamentally changed me.

I went to law school knowing that animal rights law was a field but unsure if or how I could practice in this area. Now I’ve carved out a career path where animal rights law is one aspect of my work as an activist.

How is the law in Canada different for a dog versus a pig?

We are pretty good with dealing with deliberate cruelty against cats and dogs. Not perfect, but we as a society accept that it’s wrong, and our law enforcement system works decently well. Not so with the cruelty experienced by animals in food, clothing, entertainment, and research industries.

Regulatory laws prohibit causing distress to animals, but there’s an exception for “reasonable and generally accepted” industrial practices. In animal agriculture, for example, animals are intensively crowded, mutilated without painkillers, and deprived of just about anything that keeps anyone happy or sane: their families, the outdoors, clean air to breathe, any sort of stimulation.

People sometimes say that if you treat dogs the way you treat pigs you’d be prosecuted for animal cruelty, but that’s not the full story. The reality is, if you were farming dogs for food (they’re eaten in some parts of the world, and it’s not illegal in Canada) you absolutely could treat them the way pigs are treated under the law.

On the flip side, I think there’s a decent argument that even some of these standard industry practices ought not to comply with existing laws, because they aren’t “reasonable” (the legislation requires this), and the more we understand animals and the science of standard practices, the more clear this is. But our laws haven’t really been tested, because farmed animals are so rarely the subject of prosecutions, and we don’t have good avenues of bringing lawsuits on animals’ behalf—yet. This is something I’m working to change with Animal Justice.

Because dogs occupy a privileged place in our homes, the laws are more frequently enforced when they’re abused. There’s a few things going on here. One, their abuse is more visible. We can see a neighbour’s dog, but we can’t see inside a windowless pig warehouse on private rural property. Two, we care about and relate to dogs more than pigs because we understand they’re individuals whose very vulnerability makes them MORE—not less—worthy of protection. When they suffer at the hands of humans we instantly recognize that it’s wrong.

Law enforcement is comprised of humans. That means that like the majority of society, they are uncomfortable with the fact that their eating habits cause animal suffering. Most of us care about animals, and see ourselves as people who wouldn’t harm animals. Most of us also eat animals, and aside from the fact that killing someone is the ultimate harm (depriving a human of their life is considered the most serious crime), the reality is that farming and killing animals is unimaginably cruel.

So there’s this collective reticence on the part of all of us—law enforcement and politicians included—to address the undeniable cruelty endured by animals destined for our plates. On some level, we understand that facing it will take us down a rabbit hole, so we maintain a state of denial, which lobbyists and marketers are only too happy to facilitate.

 

How can others become involved in their own communities?

Everyone can and should incorporate activism into their daily lives! Leave leaflets at your library and community centre, cook for your colleagues or classmates or at a soup kitchen, email newspapers and politicians, wear animal rights t-shirts and put bumper stickers on your car, talk to people about these issues and what they can do, support ethical businesses, talk to restaurants and supermarkets about adding vegan options, host meet-ups for like-minded individuals and sub-groups (I run a monthly meet-up for vegan families for anyone who’s in Vancouver with kids!), write chalk messages on high-traffic sidewalks in your neighbourhood, leave comments on social and traditional media websites standing up for animals (when in doubt, a link to Earthlings is always good).

Challenge yourself to do one thing every day for animals. We are so privileged and their suffering is so profound and widespread, the least we can do is to consciously, every day, make some time to defend them.

Above all, never apologize for supporting animal liberation and boycotting unconscionable animal cruelty by living vegan. It takes a beautiful heart and a lot of courage to be among the first to stand up to an injustice. Not everyone will understand or even be kind to you, but you’re right, and you’re on the right side of history. I think you’re rad.

Why were such lax laws enacted with regard to the treatment of animals?

Some of our laws are very old, and they reflect social norms and knowledge that is now outdated. They come from a time when science and public sentiment didn’t fully grasp that animals could feel pain just like we can (humans are a species of animal too, after all) let alone that they are emotionally and psychologically complex. Religion set out the natural order of things, which was that humans had dominion over animals and the earth (although it has been persuasively argued that such dominion means we need to show mercy to animals and to live vegan). It was also a time when life may have been much harder for humans—we didn’t have the conveniences of modern life, including supermarkets well-stocked with a vast array of healthy and relatively inexpensive foods, so eating animals was more of a necessary evil that people accepted. And finally, this was also before the rise of industrial agriculture and urban living. In short, it was a different universe in the relationship between humans and other animals.

The other important part of this is that our laws don’t explicitly permit the kinds of cruelty that is considered standard practice in animal-use industries. In other words, no laws—lax or otherwise—ever WERE enacted. Rather, industries started using animals in these brutal ways and neither politicians nor law enforcement bodies have yet to really respond with appropriate legal regulation. It’s a collective inertia problem. The animal-use industries are a bit psychopathic that way—I mean in the style of The Corporation—in that their raison d’être involves exploiting animals as much as possible and resisting regulation as much as possible. They’ve been highly effective, and we’re asleep at the wheel, while animal-use industries host BBQs and omelet breakfasts at parliament buildings.

As citizens, we’ve avoided learning the truth about what’s happening to animals because we know it’s so painful. In turn, our politicians ignore the issue because it’s not on the radar of their constituents. But slowly this is starting to change.

If you can believe it, animal agriculture isn’t even regulated. The government isn’t setting standards with the assistant of truly independent animal welfare experts. Nobody is monitoring farms to see if they comply with any laws or punishing offenders. It’s the Wild West for animals. We have a long, long way to go legally for animals.

Do you anticipate that the pig trial will be a catalyst for change for animal rights in Canada?

Anita’s trial is shedding a light on the how backwards our legal system is—it protects property owners’ trivial rights more than it protects animals’ most fundamental interests. This isn’t news for many of us, of course, but it’s the first time many ordinary humans around the world are being exposed to this idea and what it means in practice for animals.

The charge against Anita really couldn’t have been better designed to expose the shortcomings in our legal system, which allows animals to be the property of humans in service to our most fleeting, trivial, and unnecessary desires. Most people instantly understand that causing animal suffering, not relieving it, is what should be the crime.

This trial comes at an important cultural moment—more than ever, we’re starting to grapple with the morality of farming and using animals when it’s so evident that we don’t need to in order to live happy and fulfilling lives. I think the real value of the trial is in the conversations and headlines it’s generating.

For people who don’t already follow you on Instagram, what can they expect to see?

I started my Instagram account to show people how easy it can be to be vegan. I’m really busy as the primary caregiver to two small children and with my career, and I make most of the meals for my little family. I don’t want to sacrifice on flavour, I refuse to sacrifice on health, and yet I don’t have time for anything too complicated or time-consuming. There’s no fancy styling and no unnecessarily complicated recipes. I’m just a super busy mother and professional snapping iPhone pics of the food my family really eats!

I don’t really post recipes because I usually don’t use recipes, and actually I think this is an important skill to develop: learning to cook by intuition. If you learn this, you’ll save time (no reading recipes, measuring ingredients, or cleaning up measuring implements). You’ll also be free to be flexible – you can use up the single sweet potato or zucchini. And you’ll keep things varied! I don’t use a taco recipe, for example—instead, whenever we have tacos they’re a little different, which keeps things interesting.

What is a typical menu in a day of your life?

On weekdays, we usually start the day with a big smoothie with kale, carrot, frozen banana, frozen berries, flax seeds, walnuts, a few splashes of soymilk, water, and some supplements (vitamins D and B12, and DHA/EPA). I’m with the kids at home, so for lunch we usually have leftovers or sandwiches (I love hummus sandwiches, and the kids love PB&J) or something else that’s super simple. I cook a proper meal at dinner, which is mostly what I post on Instagram. And dark chocolate for dessert—it’s a great source of iron! 🙂

On Friday nights we do takeout, which is usually sushi, especially for the kids (they loooove sushi). Weekends we might have pancakes, go to a restaurant (Meet in Gastown and Bo Kong are our faves), graze throughout the day, do some batch cooking of beans or soup/stew/chili, and munch up leftovers. Weekdays have more of a rhythm than weekends.

 

 

Above all, never apologize for supporting animal liberation and boycotting unconscionable animal cruelty by living vegan. It takes a beautiful heart and a lot of courage to be among the first to stand up to an injustice. Not everyone will understand or even be kind to you, but you’re right, and you’re on the right side of history. I think you’re rad.

 

Miso Ramen by Anna Pippus

Miso Ramen

Servings: 4

Ingredients

For the soup

  • 4 cups veggie broth (I use bouillon)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsps minced ginger
  • approx 150 grams ramen noodles (I used two cakes of Lotus Foods millet and brown rice ramen)
  • 1 chopped green onion
  • 1 cup chopped and rinsed bok choy
  • 1/4 cup light miso
  • 2 tbsp tamari

For the tofu

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 lb firm or extra firm tofu, sliced into thin bite-sized pieces
  • 1 to 2 tbsp tamari

To garnish

  • 1 chopped green onion
  • 1.5 tsps toasted sesame oil

Preparation

1. Bring broth, garlic, and ginger to boil.

2. When boiling, add noodles, green onion, and bok choy. Simmer according to noodle package directions, breaking up the noodles with a fork.

3. When noodles are al dente, turn off the heat (they will keep cooking a little in the hot water). Ladle out some broth into a bowl and whisk together with miso. When combined, pour back into the pot and add tamari.

4. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and tofu and cook, turning/stirring often, until tofu browns. Add tamari and toss to absorb.

5. Ladle soup into two bowls. Top with tofu, remaining green onion, and toasted sesame oil.

 

 

Have any comments or questions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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