Poll: Do you think composting with worms is ethical? - VeggieBoards
View Poll Results: Poll: Do You Think Composting With Worms Is Ethical?
Yes 11 78.57%
No 3 21.43%
Voters: 14. You may not vote on this poll

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#1 Old 05-26-2010, 11:45 AM
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edited to add: Votes are not public - your vote is anonymous. You can feel free to elaborate your answer in a post, though!



I would like for people who identify as Vegan to answer this poll only, please.



I have read the threads and have a good idea of the arguments for and against composting with worms. Now I'd like an actual statistical visual.



The question is NOT whether you believe vermiculture (composting with worms) to be vegan or not, just to clarify.



The question is:



Is composting with captive worms ethical? (In worm bins, wormeries, etc.)
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#2 Old 05-27-2010, 08:02 AM
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I just wanted to say thank you to those who have participated so far. I appreciate the input.



I am genuinely curious about this because in another thread about worm composting, there was an assumption made that most vegans would find worm composting unethical. I am not trying to prove this person wrong by any stretch, because I have no emotional investment in what she thinks about it, but it got me thinking about it (which is what good debate should do, no?) and I am genuinely curious about whether "most" vegans would think it is unethical or not.



I know that VB isn't a mass representation of all vegans everywhere, but it gives me a good idea of the general concensus among this group at least, which gives me more insight. There's not a whole lot about this subject (as an ethical practice or not as it relates to animal rights) on the internet at the moment.
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#3 Old 05-27-2010, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by lovely_rita View Post

I am genuinely curious about this because in another thread about worm composting, there was an assumption made that most vegans would find worm composting unethical.

Um yeah, that was me. I've got no problem with you mentioning it in a direct way though. I prefer it to the passive aggression.



As far as it being an assumption, let's ask ourselves why anything is considered vegan, or not, as the case may be. Vegans are against the exploitation of all animals for any human purpose. Why? Because they find such exploitation to be unethical. Nothing else makes any sense. This isn't just an opinion or an assumption. It is a rational assessment of the definition of veganism.



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Originally Posted by lovely_rita View Post

I am not trying to prove this person wrong by any stretch, because I have no emotional investment in what she thinks about it, but it got me thinking about it (which is what good debate should do, no?) and I am genuinely curious about whether "most" vegans would think it is unethical or not.



I know that VB isn't a mass representation of all vegans everywhere, but it gives me a good idea of the general concensus among this group at least, which gives me more insight. There's not a whole lot about this subject (as an ethical practice or not as it relates to animal rights) on the internet at the moment.

Somehow I doubt that the yes voters are vegan.; They are either:

A) Not vegan

B) Don't know that worms are still animals

and either:

1) Don't care, because they are only worms

2) Don't understand what exploitation is



If the worms are migrating to your compost from the soil in your yard by their own choice, great. If they were purchased or obtained in some other way, and are being prevented from coming and going freely, you are using them to suit yourself, in which case this practice is not vegan and not ethical, even if they are just worms. Maybe this looks like extremism to most people. It's not though, it's just maintaining consistency with the ideals of veganism. There are no exceptions to the application of avoiding exploitation whenever practical and possible. Even the lowly worm gets included, unless of course someone can prove worms are plants.



Still not trying to tell you what to do, or attack you. But you did start this thread.

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#4 Old 05-27-2010, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovely_rita View Post

I just wanted to say thank you to those who have participated so far. I appreciate the input.



I am genuinely curious about this because in another thread about worm composting, there was an assumption made that most vegans would find worm composting unethical. I am not trying to prove this person wrong by any stretch, because I have no emotional investment in what she thinks about it, but it got me thinking about it (which is what good debate should do, no?) and I am genuinely curious about whether "most" vegans would think it is unethical or not.



I know that VB isn't a mass representation of all vegans everywhere, but it gives me a good idea of the general concensus among this group at least, which gives me more insight. There's not a whole lot about this subject (as an ethical practice or not as it relates to animal rights) on the internet at the moment.

At the moment, this poll doesn't give a very good picture of this issue since only seven people have replied.



Personally, I would be rather cautious when making claims about what most vegans think, especially on a more, let's say peripheral, issue such as this. Vegans too are a diverse group and have various views even on animal exploitation itself: some are AW as opposed to AR; some support welfare reform whereas others are abolitionists. Of course, some abolitionists for example would say that, if not abolitionism, then at the very least an AR position, is inherent in being a vegan. But for me, 'vegan' is more a practical label, applying to a person's intentions about behavior, and there are other words to use when wanting to discuss, with less ambiguity, the ethical beliefs that a person subscribes to. (Although even an expression like 'animal rights' is used rather ambiguously.)



Personally, I have long ago given up thinking that if I know someone is vegan, that means their moral worldview is similar to mine.

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#5 Old 05-27-2010, 10:25 AM
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I don't really know the answer to that. I think using worm bins is environmentally useful but I suppose it could be seen as animal exploitation.



(Worms really freak me out anyway so I wouldn't ever have a worm bin.)
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#6 Old 05-27-2010, 01:41 PM
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Um yeah, that was me. I've got no problem with you mentioning it in a direct way though. I prefer it to the passive aggression.



Not being passive aggressive at all. I didn't know if you wanted me to use your name, so I didn't, that's all.



I appreciate your input. As well as everyone else's. That's why I'm here. To discuss, learn and share. I have no ulterior motive and I will be the first to say "I'm wrong" if I feel I am. I am a pretty humble person.
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#7 Old 05-27-2010, 03:30 PM
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Isn't it more of a symbiotic thing than exploitation though? I thought the way worm composting worked was that the worms get to eat all the tasty food scraps and we get good soil as a result and everyone wins. Are the worms harmed in some way?

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#8 Old 05-27-2010, 07:37 PM
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Are the worms harmed in some way?



I can't speak for all vermicomposters, but mine aren't. I have never even accidentally physically harmed one of my worms. It's pretty hard to hurt a worm who just lays around and eats and poops all day. When I "harvest" the poo, I do it by hand (it's a pretty small-scale operation) and I try not to even handle them if I can avoid it in case that stresses them out.



On a mental level, I can't say for sure if they are "harmed". From what I understand about worms, I don't think they have a clue that they are "captive". I realize that people used to think this about other animals, I know that argument. But from what we know of worms, I just don't think they care. If this were to be refuted at some point and declared untrue, I'd feel awful and would never vermicompost again.
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#9 Old 05-27-2010, 08:17 PM
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Well, it's not about harm to the worms. It's about allowing them their right to self-determination. We can't be sure whether they know or care that they're in captivity but I would prefer to err on the side of caution and give them the benefit of the doubt.



I don't think anyone has any problem with composting if the worms make their own way into the compost pile; it's when they're captured/bred to be added to humans' compost piles that it becomes an issue.

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#10 Old 05-27-2010, 08:26 PM
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I have a compost pile in the yard. The worms aren't captive though -- they choose to eat my veg scraps. They seem to be enjoying them, as do the squirrels who often throw them about my yard.

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#11 Old 05-27-2010, 08:31 PM
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Well, it's not about harm to the worms. It's about allowing them their right to self-determination. We can't be sure whether they know or care that they're in captivity but I would prefer to err on the side of caution and give them the benefit of the doubt.



I can appreciate this concern. There are a couple threads about this right now, and I posted on the other one that because my air holes were drilled too large, they actually could escape. The holes are bigger than they are. I imagine they'd crawl right out of them if they wanted to? There are 25 holes in all, all around the sides and on the top and bottom. I haven't had even one try to make a break for it, so I assume they are content to be where they are.



But then again.. to reframe this back to the whole pet scenario. When people have cats and dogs, they don't generally just let them come and go as they please. (More so with dogs, unless you have an indoor-only cat, since cats tend to do whatever they want. lol) Would that be considered nonvegan? Because (in your words) we're not allowing them the right of self-determination? This is the point that is getting to me the most. And I'm not saying that because of this, worm composting MUST be vegan. I'm simply saying that if this argument can't also be applied to our pets, then having pets is not vegan either.
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#12 Old 05-27-2010, 09:29 PM
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No, having pets isn't vegan, or at least it wouldn't be in an ideal world. It certainly is never vegan to buy an animal of any kind from a breeder. Adopting animals is a way to make the best of a bad situation; we give the pets a home, hopefully asking as little of them as we can. They can't truly be free in the situation but it is certainly better than simply letting them die. All domestic animals should be spayed/neutered, however, which would eliminate the issue within ~20 years.

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#13 Old 05-27-2010, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by lovely_rita View Post


But then again.. to reframe this back to the whole pet scenario. When people have cats and dogs, they don't generally just let them come and go as they please. (More so with dogs, unless you have an indoor-only cat, since cats tend to do whatever they want. lol) Would that be considered nonvegan? Because (in your words) we're not allowing them the right of self-determination? This is the point that is getting to me the most. And I'm not saying that because of this, worm composting MUST be vegan. I'm simply saying that if this argument can't also be applied to our pets, then having pets is not vegan either.

If we're going to make an analogy from mammals, let's not use companion animals (from shelters, the only right place to get them from) as an example since they will be killed if someone doesn't take them under his or her care. Let's talk about wild animals. Would it be ethical to take wild mammals into human care and restrict their self-determination for human benefit? I think you know the answer to that. I'm not saying that directly applies to worms, just expounding on the analogy you used.

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#14 Old 05-27-2010, 09:44 PM
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Im Vegan, and I love my companion worms.

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#15 Old 05-27-2010, 09:49 PM
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Adopting animals is a way to make the best of a bad situation; we give the pets a home, hopefully asking as little of them as we can. They can't truly be free in the situation but it is certainly better than simply letting them die. All domestic animals should be spayed/neutered, however, which would eliminate the issue within ~20 years



I absolutely agree with you. All my kitties have been shelter kitties and they have all been spayed and neutered. (I've never had dogs in my adult life).



Quote:
If we're going to make an analogy from mammals, let's not use companion animals (from shelters, the only right place to get them from) as an example since they will be killed if someone doesn't take them under his or her care. Let's talk about wild animals. Would it be ethical to take wild mammals into human care and restrict their self-determination for human benefit? I think you know the answer to that. I'm not saying that directly applies to worms, just expounding on the analogy you used.



Fair enough. I see the difference. I'm still not sure it applies to worms in situations where they are well cared for, etc. but I see that it isn't the same as with animals whose only option aside from adoption is death. (I live in a small rural town with one small shelter and it's a no-kill shelter that has never had to turn an animal away, so I feel somewhat distanced from the reality of shelters that euthanize).
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#16 Old 05-28-2010, 12:32 AM
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I don't understand, the worms are captive? Why? If you just put your compost in the garden the worms find their way in one their own and can come and go as they please?



Maybe I'm missing something! But I certainly compost, and worms come in and help freely, and that's not unvegan IMO.
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#17 Old 05-28-2010, 01:43 AM
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well, some people don't have a garden.



I'd get a worm compost bin, in my flat, but I don't produce enough compost fodder for it to work.

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#18 Old 05-28-2010, 05:48 AM
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well, some people don't have a garden.



Oh I see! so they go indoors? I never even knew you could do that.

Now this makes a bit more sense! & I wouldn't think it was ethical then.
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#19 Old 05-28-2010, 11:56 PM
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Without reading the other posts...I feel it is humane and ethical. The worms that are used are colony animals. They live in large groups usually in a big ball of worms. They are not the free range type worms like you might see in your yard. So keeping the worms in a container is not really limiting their movement because I would think the only reason the worms would move from one place to another is to find food, water, or more suitable conditions. If we are maintaining proper moisture, keeping the bedding fresh and clean as possible, and keeping the worms fed, they would have no reason to want to move. This is of course my opinion and speculation. They eat, poop, grow, and reproduce and I never find dead worms (they can live as long as 5-7 years) so they must not be doing too badly.
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#20 Old 05-28-2010, 11:59 PM
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I don't understand, the worms are captive? Why? If you just put your compost in the garden the worms find their way in one their own and can come and go as they please?



Maybe I'm missing something! But I certainly compost, and worms come in and help freely, and that's not unvegan IMO.



Reason is because you are keeping the worms to "harvest" their poop to use as natural fertilizer. By composting outside the worms assist in composting and certainly deposit poop into the mix but it is not pure poop like you would get from a vermiculture setup. Worm castings by many is considered some of the best if not THE best organic fertilizer which is why it is desirable to get the pure poop.
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#21 Old 05-29-2010, 04:46 AM
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Originally Posted by lovely_rita View Post

Is composting with captive worms ethical? (In worm bins, wormeries, etc.)

Captive worms?



Probably not but then no more unethical than keeping birds in cages, fish in tanks, dogs on leads, horses in stables ... etcetera ..



I have a composter that is absolutely alive with worms. They all entered of their own free will and are free to leave of their own free will when they are ready.
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#22 Old 05-29-2010, 05:33 AM
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If you go and buy/catch a load of worms and plonk them in a composter... sure.



I have a compost bin in my garden, all sorts of things have chosen to live in there and eat the table/garden scraps. That isn't unethical in my view.
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#23 Old 05-29-2010, 08:15 AM
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I wouldn't go out and buy worms, or anything of that sort. It is not needed in my case. My compost heap consists of a large wooden box, filled with compost and the bottom is open to the ground. If composting is somehow wrong, I don't want to be right. =/



I don't think anyone has a problem with that. It's buying worms that I have an issue with.

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#24 Old 05-29-2010, 08:22 AM
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Captive worms?



Probably not but then no more unethical than keeping birds in cages, fish in tanks, dogs on leads, horses in stables ... etcetera ..



I have a composter that is absolutely alive with worms. They all entered of their own free will and are free to leave of their own free will when they are ready.



Well, I used the word "captive" because I wanted to be clear in what I was asking - I wanted to be clear that I did not mean worms that are in compost outside, but rather worms that are in a vermiculture bin inside of a house. (Or the bin could be outside, but mine is inside, mostly because where I live it is too cold 8 months out of the year to keep them outside).



I didn't want a bunch of people voting yes and then later coming back and being like "Wait. CAPTIVE worms? Oh no no!" lol.
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#25 Old 05-29-2010, 08:46 AM
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I don't think anyone has a problem with that. It's buying worms that I have an issue with.



Well, the problem with "collecting" these worms without buying them is that the only place you can find them is other people's compost bins or in a big pile of manure. That's the only two places they live, precisely BECAUSE they don't "come and go" like regular earthworms do. Composting worms are red wigglers (Eisenia foetida), also known as "manure worms". They're not the earthworms that you can go and pick up on the road after a rain. Red wigglers are non-migratory so once they find a comfortable place that supplies with a plentiful food source, they stick around.



I will admit that I paid for mine. I don't feel badly about it and I'll tell you why. When I decided I wanted to start composting, it was the middle of winter. I had no access to anyone's outdoor compost and to be honest, I am not going to go picking through manure. Partly because you need at least a few hundred worms to start (ideally at least 1,000) and I can't imagine spending hours on my knees picking through manure to find myself a few hundred worms. There is a guy who lives a few hours from my house and he has about 10 composting bins set up in his basement. He works at the whole foods store in his town which also runs a co-op garden. He uses a lot of his worm poo on those gardens. He also travels around Maine showing people how to compost with worms and he teaches classes in organic gardening, etc.



The "price" I paid for my worms is more of a suggested donation, and it is what helps keep his venture going so that he can reach more people and spread the knowledge of composting with worms. I have no problem giving him $ in exchange for his services. I don't feel I "bought" the worms - more so that I paid him for his knowledge and help. In addition to the worms, he also e-mailed me several times to answer questions and assist me in setting up my bin. When he gave me the worms, he also gave me some educational material about organic gardening, etc.



He doesn't "breed" his worms and then make this huge profit on them. When I contacted him to ask for worms, he literally went down to his basement, opened a compost bin, and scooped up a pail of worms (mixed with compost) for me. Through our e-mails, he made sure that my bin was safe and acceptable and that I knew what I was doing. I thought he was thorough and caring and passionate about his "cause", which I fully support. And I was glad to compensate him for his time and effort.
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#26 Old 05-29-2010, 08:54 AM
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Also, two points because someone will probably ask.



1) He also composts outside at both his garden and at the co-op garden. His indoor composting came about when he decided that in addition to using his own compost, he wanted to get others involved with vermicomposting and he draws from his inside compost bins when he is distributing worms to others. But he does use both indoor and outdoor compost on his own gardening ventures as well.



2) He keeps them in the basement not because he is mean and wants them out of his way. Worm compost can get warm. It is always warmer than room temperature and the guys like to stay cool, and a basement is usually the perfect place for them, not only because it tends to be cooler, but because it tends to be darker and they are not fans of light. I keep mine in my kitchen, but the bin is opaque (doesn't let light in) and when I check on them or feed them, it is always at night with the kitchen light off, using the hall light to see. I don't have a basement but our apartment stays pretty cool.
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#27 Old 05-29-2010, 08:57 AM
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I didn't vote in the poll because I don't identify as vegan. Most of my friends think I'm vegan though I tell them otherwise, but they tend to discount secondary sources of eggs and dairy, and I don't.



I don't compost either, but my understanding is that worm bins are usually stocked with red wrigglers, while compost heaps tend to have earthworms that find their own way there. And that red wrigglers, which are bred for sale, make for superior vermiculture compost. There's probably research on how red wrigglers live in the wild, like how large a territory one worm travels when at liberty, whether they are social creatures, how close they live to their buddies when they're not in a bin. To me it would come down to how closely the captive life approximates the wild life. And like whoever wrote that note on the Vegan Society site, I'd think that whether it's ethical would depend on how conscientiously the composter looks out for their well-being. If I were a red wriggler, I'd rather be sold to a composter than to a fisherman.



I don't see the issue here as hair-splitting, exactly, but it's a pretty good wedge issue that teases out the different philosophies between those who become veg*n for the environment vs people who get into it because of the animals. One doesn't rule out the other of course, and usually it's a combination. But whichever reason got you into it in the first place, I think that would predict fairly accurately which side you'd come down on re composting worms.
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#28 Old 05-29-2010, 09:25 AM
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Joan Kennedy - You must have been writing this as I was writing my last post, because I actually talked a bit about their preferred living conditions in their natural environment, and how worm bins replicate it pretty closely.



And yes, red wigglers are the best composters and they are often used as fish bait. (I would NEVER buy my worms from a bait shop, though I know that some do) Maybe I'd be liberating them from their fate, but I'd also be supporting the bait shop at the time, so no go on that one.



I definitely became veg*n because of how I feel about animals. I honestly didn't really know the environmental impact that factory farming is making until AFTER I made the choice and started reading more about it. I became veg*n after watching Glass Walls.



Now, I would say it's a combination of the two, but it definitely started because I do not want to be a part of an industry that causes suffering.



Having said that, my worms are far from suffering. I have no intent to eat them or to kill them, I take good care of them. While I may not say that I think it is 100% vegan, I will say that I think it is ethical.



Yes, you can compost without worms. However, composting *with* worms creates superior organic compost and the better the compost, the better the soil and the less prone to disease and insect pests the plants are. I think it's a win/win for everyone.
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#29 Old 05-29-2010, 10:09 AM
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However "nicely" he looks after the worms, they aren't his to sell or trade and they're not yours to purchase. They're not parts of a machine you can buy to make your life easier or more convenient, they are creatures with their own motivations and lives, however sentient or conscious they may be. Having a compost bin that animals can move in to if they like because they are searching for food and fulfilling their own motivations is very different from buying them with the view to exploiting them.
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#30 Old 05-29-2010, 10:46 AM
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However "nicely" he looks after the worms, they aren't his to sell or trade and they're not yours to purchase. They're not parts of a machine you can buy to make your life easier or more convenient, they are creatures with their own motivations and lives, however sentient or conscious they may be. Having a compost bin that animals can move in to if they like because they are searching for food and fulfilling their own motivations is very different from buying them with the view to exploiting them.



+1

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