Vegans in Texas

Living as a vegan is one thing; living as a vegan in Texas is something else altogether. There are myths about vegans: we are skinny, undernourished hippies; we are extremists; we are domestic terrorists. Then there are the myths about Texans: we all wear cowboy boots, live on ranches, and raise cattle. But this podcast is going to present a different view of both vegans and Texans. We are going to dispel some of those myths about both and take a look at what is going on in the movement towards animal rights and plant-based eating.

First up is Ken Botts of Denton, Texas, home of the only all-vegan cafeteria in the nation. Denton also boasts a vegetarian society, a vegan store, and a vegan restaurant or two. Ken and his wife, Lori, also run an animal-based service business and are two of the nicest people I have met in Texas. They epitomize the best: gracious, kind-hearted, and working for a better world. Here is Ken Botts.

Tape of Ken Botts

Then there is Nora Kramer, the innovative developer of the Youth Empowerment Action Camp – an all vegan camp that helps kids find their voice and learn how to get active for things in which they believe. I first heard of Nora through her innovative camp and was impressed with the bios of her camp counselors. I lamented I was not a teen for the first time in decades — I would have loved to attend a camp specifically for young activists. Following an interview with Nora for the Veganacious blog, I began following the success of her YEA camp, which has grown from a single location to now taking place in three states.

Tape of Nora Kramer

Ann Mai and a host of enthusiastic young activists comprise The Vegan Club at the University of Texas at Arlington. Ann and company partnered with Animal Rights & Rescue or North Texas recently at a vegan advocacy and food sampling event on campus. It was great to see the enthusiasm and energy of The Vegan  Club.

Chat with Ann Mai of The Vegan Club

Ann also mentioned to me that UTA offers an Animal Studies course, which allows students to consider alternative views about the human-nonhuman alliance through discussion of literature.

Another strong activist changing hearts and minds in Texas is the cookbook author Christy Morgan, known as The Blissful Chef. Christy actually came back to Texas for culinary school and can be seen at local vegan events such as The Texas State Veggie Fair. I reviewed her excellent cookbook, Blissful Bites, on the Veganacious blog.

Christy Morgan of Blissful Bites

While it might seem that all the vegan advocacy is coming from transplants like me, that is not the case. One of the people who worked at the UTA outreach event in March is Margaret Strebeck, a local woman who came to animal rights through the raw food movement. Margaret is a native of Texas and came to veganism later in life, just like me.

Tape of Margaret Strebeck

Thank you for sharing your amazing journey with us, Margaret.

Now on to a couple of Texas natives, Claire Osborne and Adam Little, who best know — as Margaret does — both the challenges and the delights of being vegan in Texas.

Tape of Adam Little and Claire Osborne

Whether one is a transplant or a native of Texas, we are all now Texans. We face different challenges, but we all face them together. It is encouraging to hear a recently arrived Texan like Nora and a lifetime Texan like Margaret have both found Texas people to be receptive, gracious and open to the vegan message. There are now several vegan meetup groups in the DFW area, and many more in the rest of Texas. Austin is a center for progressive thinking and is home to many vegan enterprises, but there are also vegan groups starting up in San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, Denton, Ft. Worth, San Angelo, and Lubbock. Our local markets now carry many vegan products, and there are a number of local vegan and vegan-friendly options available for those going out to eat.

The work is far from over, but it gets better year by year. With folks like Ann Mai and Ken Botts making university campuses more vegan friendly, with enterprising individuals like Nora Kramer and Christy Morgan reaching thousands of people through their respective camps and classes, and local activists like Margaret and many others trying to reach people throughout the area and beyond, Texas is slowly becoming veganized. If this is happening in Texas, heart of cattle country and animal agriculture, this can happen anywhere! Why not make it happen where you live?

Willie Nelson and Waylen Jennings, Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys

Related links:

UNT Dining

MFA Texas Campaigns

YEA Camp

The Blissful Chef

The Vegan Club at UTA

The Shorthorn (Broccoli Bulletin)

Dallas Vegan

Lone Star Plate

Animal Rights & Rescue of North Texas

Podcast #30 – The Road to Raw

Witnessing the Road to Health

I recently watched an inspirational film, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, about a successful man who had overindulged in all the wrong things and whose body was paying the price for his materialistic lifestyle. He was barely into midlife, but his body was bloated, diseased, and wearing out quickly. He was on several medications and he wanted to make radical changes, so he set about a raw juice fast for several weeks and dropped 90 pounds. On his journey he helped other people heal too, using the nutrients in plant foods to recover. Watching two of the men in this video transofrm from bodies with bellies hanging over their waistbands to fit, healthy, and active men was really moving to me.

About the time someone invited me to a raw food cafe in Dallas, I received a review copy of Ani Phyo’s Raw Food Essentials too. Simultaneously, I had been hearing about Green Smoothies seemingly everywhere, and about the high energy eating raw would give you. I checked out the menu at the raw food restaurant and was eagerly looking forward to indulging in this new type of food. Unfortunately, the outing ended up being at a Mexican restaurant in Dallas that offered vegan food – not a bad meal at all, but not quite as adventurous as what I was expecting.  After reading Ani’s book and trying out some of her recipes, I realized there was much more to this whole raw food phenomenon that I had previously considered. It was time to dive in.

Traveling the Road to Raw

One of the few requests I first had when becoming an admin at ARZone (Animal Rights Zone), a (dot)ning site that provides guest speakers from the AR community, forums, transcripts, videos and discussions, was to post one of my favorite recipes on a shared document to go to Lisa Viger at Raw on $10/Day (or less). I shared my carrot/beet/orange salad, which Lisa then turned into a beautiful breakfast beverage. Carolyn Bailey, the ARZone creator, had Lisa develop a recipe that children would like – and she came up with a Mango Ice Cream, sure to please without age restrictions.  Admins Tim Gier and Roger Yates both shared main course meals, with Tim sharing a Marinara recipe and Roger a spicy tofu dish. I tried both with good results, and perused Lisa’s blog further searching for more inspiration. It is a gorgeous food site, with a day’s worth of menus developed weekly.  One of the first things I decided to try was her Pad Thai, a lovely blend of raw “noodles” (created with a spiralizer) and a tangy peanut sauce for the topping. It is difficult to spend any time at all on Lisa’s blog without wanting to dive in and try something. I was held back only by the food I had on hand.

Since I knew that Lisa was a vegan, most likely an abolitionist, and a fan of ARZone, I thought it would be interesting to interview her for the Veganacious podcast, to possibly interest other people in her beautiful blog and an intriguing way of eating a very healthy plant-based, cruelty-free diet. Lisa even gives you the cost per day as well as the nutritional breakdown for each meal, as well as the day’s totals. She even adds helpful hints and beautiful photos to assist you in making these simple foods. I love produce and have always eaten a certain amount of raw food salads and vegetables, along with lots of fresh fruit so this seemed like a great place to discover a more innovative way of appreciating the bounty of plants.

Lisa Viger interview

Rawkin’ On

I am continually impressed with the generosity of so many of the vegans in our community who give of their time and talents to share with other humans and make life better for the animals and all beings on the planet. Lisa is certainly in that camp, a delightful woman who is a talented artist, a photographer, as well as a blogger, who shares her love and joy in discovering raw vegan food with the rest of us.

Another good source for information is Steve Prussack of Raw Vegan Radio. Steve has now joined forces with Will Tuttle in a program to promote veganism and health to the world through The World Peace Diet Facilitator Training program. Here is a clip from Steve’s radio show with some ideas about transitioning to raw foods and how such a change may help promote health.

 Raw Vegan Radio – Steve Prussack

This is just the beginning of one of many interviews Steve Prussack is doing to apprise us of information in the raw vegan movement. Personally, I have no plans to go 100% raw, but will embrace some of the wonderful recipes I have discovered over at Lisa’s blog. Being a vegan has opened up a celebratory world of life-affirming foods to me, and I hope this information about the raw vegan movement will only increase your own exploration of the bounty of the world. I just learned that animal products contain no fiber; is it any wonder that the world is so tied up in knots, pursuing those unhealthy lifestyles  based on the torment and suffering of fellow earthlings, rather than dancing through life with the colorful and delicious foods we were meant to enjoy?

Camera Podcast #24 – Grenades for Peace

Whenever two people decide to live together, there are bound to be fights. The deeper the passion, the stronger the emotions that may arise during disagreements. With both people coming from different family cultures and life experiences, it would be impossible for them to agree on everything that will happen during their cohabitation. While old wounds and vulnerabilities are sure to surface, a few simple rules can help keep things more productive and less toxic. Love should never be blood sport.

The same might be said of animal activism. Passions are strong, with many people believing absolutely that their way is the only way to help animals. When this becomes too deeply ingrained, too rigid, so that other voices are tuned out and dismissed, there is no way for divergent opinions to become voices towards solution.  The path becomes more important than the arrival and anyone seen as deviating from the path becomes “the enemy” with disastrous consequences. A sure sign of this is when discussions  and blogposts degrade into sarcasm, namecalling, condescension, mimicry, ridicule, and atttacks on personal characteristics, as well as rudeness and labeling. It is not acceptable behavior, and it is not a move towards peace. Fighting and disagreeing are fine, but let’s learn to do so appropriately. You cannot start a peace movement with a sledgehammer.

Okay, you can put on your boxing gloves, but no hitting below the belt. Here are a few ideas to keep our fighting fair:

  1. Stick to the issue – no deviating into sidebars or bringing up other points of contention. Make certain your points are based on a solution-focused search, not based on prior history or personal characteristics of the other person. If you are filled with seething resentment, it is time to discover why – it may have nothing to do with the current issue, and it may not be an opportune time to engage in a discussion.
  2. No namecalling. This lowers the bar into emotional assault. If we want to fight for justice, we need to be fair ourselves. (We all fail at times.) This means stop with the labeling. None of us are that one-dimensional. As Kierkegaard said, “When you label me, you negate me.”
  3. Stay current. No bringing up issues from the past. If you are upset with someone who seems to be promoting a campaign which you think is harmful, tell them why. But do not get into what they did that you disliked yesterday or how their stand on another topic has offended you. State your case; then let them make their own decision as to whether they agree or not. Even if they continue to support the cause you dislike, you may have planted some seeds. Let’s grow ideas, not pain.
  4. Stay positive. Start out with the points with which you agree, if there are any. Commend what you can commend; this will help highlight where you diverge. Here’s an example, ‘It sounds to me like you really care or think your are caring about animals, but when you purchase items that cause animals to be imprisoned and ultimately slaughtered, it seems in conflict with those  cares.” Sometimes a specific example will help someone understand your position more than a theoretical point.
  5. Be specific. Offer solutions, not complaints.  It is much more helpful to ask for something specific, rather than just complain about someone’s behavior or affiliations. “Please cap the toothpaste” is more likely to achieve behavioral change than “You disgusting excuse of a human being, you make a mess wherever you go.” Realize, though, it is the other person’s decision to make whether to change or not, not yours.
  6. Remain open to possibilities.  Even great people change and grow, shifting positions as they learn more about a given issue. Allow this for others, too. We cannot spread peace if we are spreading dissension. Keep open to possibilities. Help people learn; don’t just fight with them.
  7. Learn to collaborate, not sell out your values.  I used to work in a locked facility for youth ages 11 to 18 as part of the local juvenile justice system.  After entering the facility, it became apparent to me that there was a lot of tension between the facility staff and the mental health staff. I noticed that the therapists would often violate security measures, like holding the door open for someone, rather than immediately closing the doors to keep the facility secure. Likewise, the security staff had no understanding of the mandate for confidentiality and the process of the work we were actually doing to heal and empower the children. I suggested to the administration that cross-training might help ease tensions, and it did. The security staff ultimately became my best source of information once they learned I had a receptive ear. They would share things they witnessed during family visits or point me to information I might otherwise overlook that proved to be the single most positive source of information for helping in that child’s growth. Later, when I began managing forensic programs, I worked closely on multiagency collaborations with some of the same people. I learned from these experiences that it is important to be able to work with those with whom you disagree.
  8. Listen, don’t just preach  listening in an active state is just as important as talking. Maintain a balance between the two. No one wants to be assaulted with someone else’s viewpoints. If people are telling you that veganism is too hard, listen to why they feel that way.  And then share your own experiences; some of us find it difficult in relationships, or with family, or in social situations. Let that person know how you overcame those situations and why you now see it as easy. Compare and contrast the minor inconvenience or effort with what the animals go through and why in contrast, you find this small thing so easy in comparison. Then offer to help them in their process. Stay open to receiving information.
  9. Respect your opponent’s potential for growth, even if you do not respect their behavior.  ”Hating” everyone with whom you disagree does not promote peace, it promotes polarization. A look around at the current political climate reflects this. If you alienate anyone, you may lose any future chance to educate them and win them to your side. Pull on your own personal evolution to realize that other people have the same potential to change and grow that you have.
  10. Forgive. Remember the saying,”‘Comprendre, c’est pardoner.”  To understand, is to forgive. We all need to be forgiven and we all need to forgive others. Understanding, while difficult at times, heals. Even those who lost their entire families in genocide (Holocaust, Rwanda)* have been able to forgive those who cost them so much. I don’t know how they have been able to do it, but they have. They noticed that those unable to forgive get stuck and were unable to heal. Forgive, so you can move forward.
  11. No bullying.  This means no using your position, your popularity, your power, your collective might, your friendship, your affiliations, to get what you want in a fight. No intimidation. When working with teens, people can often get into power plays, where they try to force their will on the child. In the long run, this always fails. Give the child information and allow them to make good decisions, letting them clearly see the consequences. Use the same tactic in your advocacy. Your respect for others will win more to your cause than all your truths.
  12. Save the baby! - Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Often, someone may have a nugget of wisdom somewhere in their argument. Save the baby, toss out the dirty bathwater, and continue on your path, but with respect for that one thing you took away from the encounter. For example, when someone talks about the importance of making veganism inclusive, rather than exclusive, they are discussing perceptions that some people feel marginalized and excluded. That is important information and something we should all consider. It is about how people feel, not just what they believe.
  13. Can control issues – People get frustrated when they try unsuccessfully to force others to their point of view. It often just alienates the other person, who rightly senses there is no openness, but rather a rigid demand for uniformity in thinking. I know I have been accused, unfairly, of all kinds of motives and poor judgment by people who were displaying pretty shabby behavior and poor judgment themselves. Make your case and give the other person room to decide how to respond. Not everyone thrives on the fine points of theoretical arguments or thinking in terms of absolutes.
  14. Apologize. Accept that, at times,  you will be wrong.  We see things only through our own eyes, but the view looks differently from another’s perspective. If you are unwilling to try to see what they are seeing, you will be unable to help them see your own vista. Sharing perceptions may give birth to something positive – a collaboration, a new understanding, a new outlook. Recently, in my attempt to defend a respected colleague in animal advocacy, I thought I was being neutral — but the other person felt attacked. I apologized, because that was not my intent. It was my own failing and something I need to constantly challenge within myself. Please do so, too.
  15. Say no to Snark – Snark may make you feel powerful and self-righteous, but it only spreads dissension. I have had to re-record parts of my podcasts when I decided the tone was not what I intended, or might be misconstrued. It is easy to let your anger out at those we perceive to be harming our fellowing beings, but it does not help the cause. Direct attacks on ideas are fine, but they should never be directed at an individual — even the one that generated that idea.
  16. Let go – You can’t win them all, so learn to walk away. If you hold too tightly to someone, they cannot breathe; they gasp, they fight to get away from you, and may suffocate. So, too, with ideas – be open to changing daily.  What you perceive on a given Monday is subject to your experiences on Tuesday.  Wednesday, you are a different person than you were on Monday, due to new experiences, new information, new relationships.  Reassess things. Gary Francione used to work with PETA; he no longer supports that organization due to changes within the organization and changes within himself. Each of us has the right to follow our own paths on our own timeframe. If indeed you hold the truth with a Capital “T” – then your views will not change and more and more people will join you. If you fail either in what you propose, or in how you propose it, then you need to be able to respond to people’s perception of you, not just your message. People need space in which to breathe.

Advocates: Flow Like A River

There is a frailty built into fundamentalist thinking, and a dangerous one. It becomes about a rigid adherence to a belief or set of beliefs. Life is about flexilibity and change. It says in the Tao Te Ching:

Yield and overcome; bend and be straight.
Empty out and be full; wear out and be renewed.
~ verse 22, Lao Tzu

Think of one of the strongest elements – water.  Water can be gentle and beautiful, but it can also be powerful and destructive – the difference between a gentle brook and the might and power of a tsunami.  Water flows around things, but it also picks up things, moves those things within it – twigs, leaves, animals join it in is journey. The water in a river never bulldozes, but accommodates and quite often, grows in power and strength as it is joined by other tributaries and creeks. It then joins the ocean, and becomes a mere trickle in the scheme of things. Still, without the journey of the river to the ocean, the movement of water that sustains all life would not be possible.

Be like that river, depositing ideas and knowledge on the shores of other thinkers, and gather up strength in those who wish to join you. Like a river, we must think about the whole picture, not just our small place within the pattern.

17. Use Aikido Advocacy.  When I took street fighting from the local police department, they said I was the student most likely to be attacked, because I was small and appeared vulnerable.  When I then went on to take a class iin Aikido, my size was no barrier. Aikido is all about using the other person’s strength in self-defense. For example, rather than pulling back when someone grabs you by the arm, you would not fight the hold at all, but would move into that person, using their strength in a cooperative way to maintain your own position.

Change the Perception of Abolitionist Animal Activists

I know some people hearing this may perceive that I am suggesting we soften the message, but that is not what I am saying at all.  I am one person that is getting tired of being called divisive, self-righteous, and destructive and I want to do something to change those perceptions. I know those perceptions are there for a reason. There has been a bunker mentality that has kept some of us vegans behind the barriers we have created, where we feel safe, surrounded by like thinking people. We hear the excuse governments give all the time: we have to make war to keep the peace. But you cannot gain peace by lobbing grenades at your opponents.  I hope you will consider following some of these fair fighting concepts too, so our movement can truly be about peace and justice for all beings on our fragile planet. Remember it is not just about ideas, but about perceptions and how me make people feel. Fight the good fight, but please, do so fairly and spread the peace. Otherwise, people are going to be singing this same old song about us. You know what song I mean……

Music on this podcast was: Forget You by Glee; Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer; Peter Wolf’s Growing Pain, Tina Turner’s I Don’t Want to Fight Anymore, Ingrid Michaelson’s The Way I am, Jordan Sparks’ No Air, Stevie Wonder’s You Haven’t Done Nothin,’ The Beatles Martha.

Podcast #23 – Food Fads and Frauds

I can feel the winds of change in the atmosphere. Omnivore, locavore, retrovore, flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan, nutritarians, fruitarians, primativists, hunter-gatherers, paleos, backyard chickens, free range eggs, happy meat that is desperately unhappy, homegrown, butcher your own, farmer’s markets, food co ops and a host of other food fads and frauds are on the horizon.  Even Walmart is getting into the action, promising to make their food healthier and to provide heatlhy fresh foods to what they call food deserts, parts of the globe that are underserved communities. Of course, this would mean more WalMarts, too. What is sustainable and what is pure faddist? What is an honest attempt at ethics at what is just a fraud? How can a vegan advocate respond to these many distractions from what we already know works in the areas of morality, health, sustainability, global warming, and nonviolence? This podcast will look at a few of these food fads and see how they impact human and nonhuman animals, and how they impact the forward momentum of the abolitionist vegan movement.

We all learned not long ago that Omnivore’s have a Dilemma, thanks to Michael Pollan. Looking at the source of the few foods upon which we have become dependent, Pollan researches the genesis of our diets from food science labs to factory farms, from organic growers to foragers and hunters. Pollan has noted that Americans eat about two hundred pounds of animal flesh each year – twice the global average. That’s a lot of animals….

Shift in the Winds by Keith Hintons

Michael Pollan speaks at UC Davis

Flexitarians and Meat-Free Mondays

Then there is Mark Bittman, foodie and cookbook author who believes in flexitarianism. Despite the fact that detrimental impact of animal agriculture on the environment is well accepted at this point, Bittman, rather than espousing a healthy vegan diet, moves to promoting his “Vegan til  Six” idea. He was quoted in a NY Times article,

I decided to do this sort of “vegan till 6” plan. I didn’t have huge thoughts or plans about it. I just thought it was worth a try. Within three or four months, I lost 35 pounds, my blood sugar was normal, cholesterol levels were again normal … and my sleep apnea indeed went away. All these good things happened, and it wasn’t as if I was suffering so I stayed with it…. The animals he consumes are still suffering.Those who go vegan for other than ethical reasons often do not stay with it and do not even follow the advice of their physicians to eat a vegan diet. The problem with these campaigns is that they seem to spend precious time and resources on things that won’t significantly help nonhuman animals and help the human animals feel better about condemning animals to brief horrific lives and torturous deaths. Worse yet, when so-called animal protection organizations jump on the band wagon, they give credence to those who commodify animals and spread the very false notion that these campaigns are morally significant or will allow people to continue consuming animals with a clear conscience. There has recently been a spate of people returning to eating more meat due to the humane certification allowing them feel they are doing something ethical when they are not. Be wary of such deception.

Along with this philosophically weak idea of reducing meat consumption came Paul McCartney and the Meat Free Mondays campaigns. Time to give up those animal products Sir Paul, they seem to be clouding your judgment!

Jordan Wyatt of Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals; Paul McCartney singing Meat Free Monday

Nutritarians and Locavores

Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat for Health, works towards achieving a diet of densely nutritious foods in every bite. While it does limit animal products to the very top of their food pyramid, it still leaves a good amount of blood and suffering, violence and domination, as part of the equation.  “..A nutritarian is a person who strives for more micronutrients per calorie in their diet-style.” Brendan Brazier has also looked at incorporating densely nutritious foods into diets for endurance athletes like himself and others, but he was able to do so with a vegan diet.

Another eating fad are those who believe optimal health can be achieved and the planet saved with a return to the hunter-gatherer state of being. Lierre Keith mentions this in her book, The Vegetarian Myth, as she looks at the importance of the grasslands.  Of course,consuming grass-fed beef has a couple of major problems – one, it kills animals and there is no humane way to murder; and two, it is unsustainable on a scale necessary to feed the people now living on the earth. Lierre Keith suggests that the earth could only support about 300 million people optimally. Who is going to be first to volunteer jumping off?

The Future by Leonard Cohen

A significant movement started just a few years ago is the Locavore movement, who advocate for eating what is possible to be grown within 100 miles of where you live in order to reduce the carbon footprint of our food. From the website Locavore:

Our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before ending up on our plates. This globalization of the food supply has serious consequences for the environment, our health, our communities and our tastebuds. Much of the food grown in the breadbasket surrounding us must be shipped across the country to distribution centers before it makes its way back to our supermarket shelves. Because uncounted costs of this long distance journey (air pollution and global warming, the ecological costs of large scale monoculture, the loss of family farms and local community dollars) are not paid for at the checkout counter, many of us do not think about them at all.

Unfortunately, following this comment site goes on to equate chickens and onions both as food sources. This movement started in the San Francisco Bay area of Northern California in the US – an area that has a wide array of food sources available. The idea of limiting the transport of our fruits, vegetables and legumes or grains makes perfect sense, but to speak of sustainability without addressing the environmental impact of any form of animal agriculture seems less reasonable.If all people tried to become Locavores, they would soon start scurrying to those areas with good soil – hard to find as we deplete the topsoil at seventeen times the rate at which we regenerate it.  While eating produce grown locally is a good idea, it is not possible for all people, nor is it likely to become so. By the way, Locavore was the word of the year for 2007; guess what it was for 2006?  Yup, Podcast!

Backyard Chickens and Farmer’s Markets

An offshoot of the locavore movement is the backyard chicken movement..  But many people are discovering that there is more to chickens than they knew. There are several sites online to assist the hopeful tender of chickens.  One of the recommendations I read in one of their forums is do NOT name the chickens; it makes it too hard to “harvest” them — and we all know what that kind of harvesting looks like. In case you don’t, they even offer photos of the bloody process of separating a chicken from his or her life and his or her head. People think this is a good lesson for the kiddies? Of course the children are objecting to the pending murder of their chicken friends; if only the adults would really understand what the children recognize – that they are chicken persons, not a thing or plant to be harvested. May I suggest a cashew dal? Quite delicious, simply rice, lentils, spices with toasty cashews added in. And no one gets hurt. And rescued chickens that have names and are allowed to live like chickens – that, too is another matter altogether.

The growth of local farmer’s markets has been taking off in certain parts of the globe. These markets allow local producers to sell some of their produce to their own community. Some Farmer’s Markets include music, baked goods, nuts, jams, and an assortment of other offerings. Unfortunately, some now offer grass fed beef, lamb, honey, chickens and free range eggs. Often these goods are more expensive than the mass produced type of vegetables and fruits, but they are often of a superior quality as well. Some cities even have community gardens to allow local residents to farm their own produce on shared land.  Los Angeles had quite a wonderful community garden several years ago, until the city’s financial needs trumped the needs of the community and the land was sold. A film was even made about the meaning it had and the improvement in people’s diets that this small bit of land impacted. The land in question was laying fallow and overgrown – it was an industrial lot that was not being used and was eventually sold. Sadly, with governments of every size and stripe being over budgeted, it would be hard to maintain many of these programs when governmental entities are busy selling off things like their own parking meters to foreign enterpreneurs for a quick dollar.

Paleos, Hunter-Gatherers, and Neo Butchers

In a sentimental look backwards to our ancient ancestors, a group of adults are reverting to primativism and the Paleo diets. These diets are meant to mimic what our ancestors ate before the agricultural transformation — they are part of the hunter-gatherer movement. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to mimic ancient ancestors – their sense of fashion was pretty limited, and have you seen their dental hygiene? Dentists are really important to me. Also, they only lived a few years from what I have heard. This is a diet that relies heavily on meat, fish and produce, with no grains whatsoever. In one segment I heard on one of their podcasts, a devotee was asking why his libido was so down and this guy was only in his early thirties.  Another caller mentioned having difficulty with low energy – she was feeling like she was going to drop over all the time. Other mentioned having problems with their breath from ketosis. Not too enticing to me. On the positive, these grain free, high protein diets reportedly get rid of many diseases and induce weight loss. Might also be good for birth control from what I was hearing. Robb Wolf, a research biochemist, is the author of the Paleo Solution; his website is filled with photos of bodybuilders and rock hard abs. The health of the environment or her various life forms is ominously absent. One Paleo conversion could easily wipe out the benefit of one vegan – luckily, this is not yet a very large part of the recent crop of food fads. Let’s check back and see how their kidneys and hearts are doing a few years down the road. They are having an impact on some vegetarians, though. Here is a clip from The Paleo Solution:aa

The Paleo Solution – Robb Wolf and Andy Dees

Along with the Paleos, are people who want to butcher their own meat. Some folks believe that being part of the process of death somehow excuses them from responsibility for unnecessary death.  Whether an animal is killed in an abattoir or in the back of the barn on a small farm, death is death and killing is killing; it is never anything but despicable when it comes to the unnecessary deaths of other beings. We all know that eating animals and using their body parts is damaging our health and our planet, not to mention what it does to the force of violence in the world. Let’s move forward in our evolution. This elevating the killing of animals to some sort of time honored tradition becomes just another excuse to keep the blood flowing. Traditions are important, but the times, they are a changin’.

Bob Dylan – The Times The Are A Changin’

Heritage Foods and the Slow Food Movement (Terra Madre)

Heritage foods are another trending topic.  With massive agricultural industries taking over from smaller producers, the biological diversity that once kept the world safe has been pretty well eradicated. Some folks are working hard to bring back some of these so-called Heritage breeds, whether from seeds or animals.  It has been estimated that 1500 breeds of farm animals are now near extinction. Many of us vegans would like to see all animals freed from the term “farm” unless it is coupled with the term “sanctuary.” When it comes to produce, many plants and trees have been hybridized to increase shelf life and transportability; in other words, to maximize profit. There now exists seed conservancies, seed banks, and seed exchanges.  There are also well protected underground seed storage facilities, created in an attempt to protect some biodiversity should the world undergo any possible nuclear or other catastrophe.

The increasing control of multinational corporations like Monsanto poses a danger to our food supply and our farmlands. They have GMOs that do not need to be identified to the consumer and have formulated seeds that, even if only carried by the wind, they can then lay claim to on other people’s lands. Many farmers have gone out of business due to lawsuits by these major agricultural industries. In truth, we are nearly all under their collective umbrella and are becoming increasingly dependent on their disturbing practices. Their chosen mono crops are limiting our safety and our options.

Terra Madre and the slow food movement – 1300 chapters in 153 countries. Their missions is to support preservation of traditional foods and ways of eating. While this is a noble goal in many areas, in some ways it flies in the face of practical veganism. Some cultlures have cruelly used animals as a food source. Even now when doing so is counterproductive and unsustainable, tradition is often given as an excuse to continue these types of practices. If the Terra Madreans would take the good and extract it from the unreasonable and immoral, they would have much to commend them. They are an alternative voice that is definitely gaining momentum and quietly trying to effect a revolution in how we eat and live. From a Slow Food website:

A non-profit member-supported association, Slow Food was founded in 1989 to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

The official economic arrangements and the laws that enforce them ensure that hungry and homeless people will be plentiful amid plenty. The shadow system provides soup kitchens, food pantries, and giveaways, takes in the unemployed, evicted, and foreclosed upon, defends the indigent, tutors the poorly schooled, comforts the neglected, provides loans, gifts, donations, and a thousand other forms of practical solidarity, as well as emotional support. In the meantime, others seek to reform or transform the system from the inside and out, and in this way, inch by inch, inroads have been made on many fronts over the past half century.

I love what that says about the shadow system.  Sounds a bit more hopeful than the system that is blocking the sun. Here is a clip from the Terra Madreans:

BBC episode – Terra Madre (DocArchive)

Looking Forward: Veganism is the Answer!

We often hear that with one pending crisis after another, people will return to primitive methods of survival and will fight one another in brutal fashion. Maybe, but that is not what recent history has shown us. During the Katrina catastrophe here in the States, there were few such incidents, and hundreds of incidents of people reaching out to help their neighbors.  Here is a quote from the Slow Food site by Rebecca Solnit:

Here’s the surprise though: in such situations, most of us fend for each other most of the time — and beautifully at that. Perhaps this, rather than (human) nature red in tooth and claw, is our original nature. At least, the evidence is clear that people not only behave well, but take deep pleasure in doing so, a pleasure so intense it suggests that an unspoken, unmet appetite for meaningful work and vibrant solidarities lives powerfully within us. Those appetites can be found reflected almost nowhere in the mainstream media, and we are normally told that the world in which such appetites might be satisfied is “utopian,” impossible to reach because of our savage competitiveness, and so should be left to the most hopeless of dreamers.

It seems a positive that this slow food movement is looking to the shadow side, the hidden parts of human behavior, to forge a new order. It rails against being called hopeless, because it keeps finding evidence for just the contrary. Those of us who care deeply about the lives of animals are part of this move. Maybe all of us contrarians should join forces. What is a contrarian? In common usage, it means someone who invests in stocks when others are selling and sells when others are buying. Vegans are somewhat like those contrarians — we do not buy into the values of the macroculture and really believe in the very best of human nature despite knowing better than anyone else the very worst that such a nature might produce in the realm of cruelty and domination.

As you can tell from this show, some of these food movements are deceptive; some offer ideas that may indeed help preserve food sourcing that has integrity and sustainability in part. One thing, though, no one can really dispute if they read or listen to what is happening in the world: the best single thing you can do for all the beings on this earth is to go vegan. Not one of these other fads can make the same claim.

We have two choices: one is to do nothing, stick our collective heads in the sand and enjoy our lives while we may.  The other is to take action, become a radical realist and quit raping the earth and her animals. The choice is ours. Don’t be distracted by the foodies, the fads or the frauds. Vegan is the real deal, based on an ethical philosophy of nonviolence. Veganism is not about a dietary principle, though; it is about a fundamental belief in respect for other beings and the need for justice for all, and that includes all other animals, too.

One thing seems apparent after researching all the new food fads – people are searching for something new when it comes to food production and lifestyle, and that is good news. The way most of us have been eating and living has not been enhancing healthy lives or a healthy planet. The good news is that veganism provides a simple, clear answer to saving the planet, our health, and our fellow beings. Once you see what has been happening in the world to other forms of life, it is an easy decision to make. Embrace veganism, practice peace.

Everybody’s Changing – Keane

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part-Time Vegetarians – Flexitarians

Vegan Before Dinnertime – Mark Bittman

Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals

Dr. Furhman and Nutritarianism

Slow Food article by Robin Solnit

Hippy-Dippy Soft-Brained Butchery

Paleo Solution

Podcast #22 – Violence and Vitriol

“Evil is an abstraction that enables you to look at someone and not see the person.” a quote from Lee Thorn (via Trisha Roberts)

One of the most important aspects of being vegan is, to me, being part of an international peace movement.  “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields,” said Leo Tolstoy. And even much longer ago, Pythagoras said, “As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. “ A recent study showed a correlation between an increase in violence and the presence of a slaughterhouse within a community. But vegans also know that, while we try to live with the least harm to the earth and other beings, many humans live to maximize capital, remain as comfortable as possible, and acquire the best and brightest toys. Others live to experience the most thrills and chills, to see the most of the world, and to avoid unpleasant realities. Given the real world, the one we hope to change and improve, it is disturbing to find an element of violence within even this vegan movement of ours.

What the World Needs Now clip by Tom Clay

Violence Creates More Violence

On an earlier podcast, I looked at how throwing pies in people’s faces to protest animal abuse was counterproductive – it resulted in negative press for vegans and an upturn in anti-vegan sentiment and anti-vegan book sales. There have been a few notable new ex-vegans that have also, most unfortunately, received violent threats.  This is always a deep irony – for people who do not believe in harming the most vulnerable among us to make threats of violence against another human animal. Do these folks believe that threatening harm is the way to encourage someone to adopt a lifestyle based on limiting harm?  I guess irony is lost on some of us.

Not long ago, I found some ad hominem attacks against a high profile animal rights activist, listed on a thread on Facebook. I was quite upset by this thread, because one of the people attacking this activist was someone who was high profile herself.  This was someone I know works hard for animal issues and someone I had respected in the past.  This thread deteriorated from anything about animal rights and instead focused on a negative yet inappropriate topic about an associate of the activist in question. It was way off point — something that seems to occur when someone is frustrated or angry about another person’s style of activism, personal characteristics, or public stance on an issue. It is never acceptable and always most disappointing. Worse still, it lowers the level of discourse that might actually educate and improve our movement. No one person holds all the answers, nor is one person responsible for all the ailments.  If you do not care for someone else’s activism, work harder on your own. Educate, but do not get into personal attacks – let’s stick to the issues — there are enough obstacles between us and the day animals will be treated with respect for us to avoid creating more obstacles via angry personal attacks.

Military soundoff – What the World Needs Now clip, Tom Clay, part 2

What Constitutes Violence?

Another issue of conflict lies within the definition of what violence means: is it limited to physical assaults only, or are veiled threats and vitriol in the same neighborhood? What is acceptable in the realm of tactics for vegans? An article on Yahoo’s Associated Content challenged those who are “vegangelical” as being too vitriolic for the movement. Some of the examples given seemed in the realm of education to me, but everyone comes from a different place. This writer discussed how someone who was vegangelical might be found on forums telling others that meat is murder – the very idea! You mean there is killing involved, the taking of life? Of course, the fact that is exactly what meat is – the murder of an innocent young being that very much wants to live — seemed unimportant to this writer. To her, this was all about personal choices – for which the animals were not allowed any at all. It is the height of speciesism to eliminate the will and rights of the animals and focus only on what appeals to the human in question – this in effect proves the point the writer was opposing. Irony raises its quizzical head once again.

A guy that self-describes as “Meathead” on Huff Post just wrote an article titled, “Vegans Starting to Sound Like Beck and Limbaugh.” In it he states,

You wouldn’t go into a Jewish Synagogue and yell “Jesus Saves!” would you? And that’s not a flippant analogy, because to some people, the choice to skip meat is religious. God knows, vegans and vegetarians often speak with the zeal and fervor of an evangelist.

In my case, I have read everything from Pollan to Foer, and given my decision to eat meat serious thought. I don’t eat it every day, and I am as horrified by the inhumane conditions under which some factory farms operate as you are. I know the health risks and the benefits. And believe it or not, so have a lot of other carnivores.

So stop preaching. Stop proselytizing. Stop moralizing. You are giving the many intelligent quiet meatless community a bad name.You’re only undermining your own cause.

Craig Goldwyn, ironically, has a subtitle under his moniker that reads Hedonism Evangelist.  I guess preaching is okay if it is mainstream and self-absorbed rather than about concern for the well being of others which might cause someone to challenge their own conscience.  Craig is disgusted by “strident vegans’ who leave posts on meat related articles, but sees nothing wrong in an out loud attack on vegans and vegetarians.  From Pollan to Foer? These guys are hardly presenting widely variant viewpoints. How about some Regan and Francione on your bookshelf, Craig?

So Craig, in the spirit of peace, let’s try to understand one another – what do you say?

You’ve Got A Friend in Me by Randy Newman

A History of Violence Disproves Violence as Solution

On some pro-animal websites there is much violent imagery.  I found a picture of a knife and a gun held in two different hands, the caption reading, “The enemy is armed. It’s time to arm ourselves.” While it is understandable to be angry and frustrated with what is happening to animals, one must carefully weigh the potential consequences that armed conflict might bring. If the root problem is violence, can violence then be any part of the solution?

Kennedy shooting clip, Tom Clay

The recent shootings of innocent people in Arizona beg the question. After Sarah Palin put crosshair imagery on her page targeting Gabrielle Gifford, she frequently talked about “reloading” and has always used guns and hunting as part of her public persona. Yet on her Facebook page, any negative comments have been immediately deleted. For someone who espouses the constitution and the Bill of Rights, well….ironic, huh? I am not suggesting Ms. Palin is directly responsible for the shootings – she did not pull the trigger that killed or shot the elderly and young alike, the politician and the student. She did not slay her political opponent directly. But she did help to create a climate that urges those who are not mentally stable to believe that violence is the answer.  Words matter. Those who use violent imagery, and that includes many who make jokes about poisoning or shooting a public official, are indirectly responsible for the carnage they create. Repeating “Tiller the Baby Killer” without context, with no informative view from the other side, creates a climate for faceless violence. It incites and it is destructive. Sarah Palin is busy protecting her own image rather than taking a socially responsible stand against violence.

Robert F. Kennedy clip, Tom Clay

The Animal Rights Position Rejects All Violence

The animal rights position is the ultimate rejection of violence. It is the ultimate affirmation of peace. The animal rights movement is the logical progression of the peace movement, which seeks to end conflict between humans; the animal rights movement ideally seeks to take that a step further and to end conflict between humans and nonhumans.

Violence treats others as means to ends rather than as ends in themselves. When we engage in violence against others—whether they are human or nonhuman—we ignore their inherent value. We treat them only as things that have no value except that which we decide to give them. This is what leads people to engage in crimes of violence against people of color, women, and gays and lesbians, the poor and the mentally challenged, the animals. It is what leads us to commodify nonhumans and treat them as resources rather than beings who exist for their own purposes. All of it is wrong and should be summarily rejected.

Abraham, Martin and John by Bill Keale

Moreover, for those who advocate violence, exactly against whom is this violence to be directed? The farmer raises animals because the overwhelming number of humans demand meat and animal products. The farmer raises those animals in intensive conditions because consumers want meat and animal products to be as inexpensive as possible. Violence against institutional providers of animal products makes no sense. If we want to end animal exploitation, we need to educate the public about why animal exploitation is immoral. We need to reduce demand for animal products and that can be done only through education–not violence.

Professor Gary L. Francione has stated:

The abolitionist approach to animal rights maintains that those who reject the exploitation of nonhuman animals should be ethical vegans and should engage in creative, non-violent vegan education.

The Rainbow Connection by Willie Nelson

Separate the Person From the Behavior

I have noticed that there exists a subgroup of vegans and animal people who get violently upset about those who abuse animals. They somehow mistakenly believe that by wishing violence on the abusers, many of whom have already been the victim of violence themselves, they somehow show love for the animals.  While it is appropriate to despise the violence, a line must be drawn between the behavior and the individuals.  I know as a therapist that those who are disempowered or were abused may themselves bid for love and, if it is not available, try to identify with the abuser so as to protect themselves from vulnerability and victimhood. When I see a photo posted of someone who does something despicable to a vulnerable animal, I often wonder what happened to that person when they were vulnerable to override the natural repugnance we all feel towards such abuse. I know that further violence will not improve the status quo for animals.

If you do not believe me, look to history for those who effectively changed the lives of millions by using non-violence.

Martin Luther King clip on violence

King’s words still resonate today.

Martin Luther King and Mohatmas Gandhi Supported Nonviolence

King said on June 4, 1957, in The Power of Non-violence:

The end of violence or the aftermath of violence is bitterness. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community. A boycott is never an end within itself. It is merely a means to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor but the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption.

Then we had to make it clear also that the nonviolent resister seeks to attack the evil system rather than individuals who happen to be caught up in the system. And this is why I say from time to time that the struggle in the South is not so much the tension between white people and Negro people. The struggle is rather between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

And he said on May 4, 1966:

Our record of achievement through nonviolent action is already remarkable. The dramatic social changes which have been made across the South are unmatched in the annals of history. Montgomery, Albany, Birmingham and Selena have paved the way for untold progress. Even more remarkable is the fact that this progress occurred with a minimum of human sacrifice and loss of life.

Gandhi took a slightly different approach, based on Hindu philosophy. From the website, Social Changes Now, is this excerpt:

For Gandhi, ahimsa was the expression of the deepest love for all humans, including one’s opponents; this non-violence therefore included not only a lack of physical harm to them, but also a lack of hatred or ill-will towards them. Gandhi rejected the traditional dichotomy between one’s own side and the “enemy;” he believed in the need to convince opponents of their injustice, not to punish them, and in this way one could win their friendship and one’s own freedom. If need be, one might need to suffer or die in order that they may be converted to love (Shepard 4).

Gandhi also firmly believed that if violence was used to achieve any end – even if it was employed in the name of justice – the result would be more violence.

Nonviolent Resistance is Active, Not Passive

Both Gandhi and King used the power of nonviolent resistance to bring oppression to its knees. King stated that active nonviolent resistance is not passive at all. Some who oppose the nonviolent tactics of fellow vegans miss this important point in history. While their frustration is understandable, giving credence to failed philosophies is dangerous.  As Gandhi believed, history demonstrates that violence only leads to more violence.  Look at the state of the world today – we are hardly become a more peaceful nation since 9/11, but have caused many more deaths than those of the perpetrators of that catastrophe. Who has the violence saved?

For us as animal rights activists, the end must be reconciliation and redemption. As long as the energy goes toward punishment and destruction, the movement will be harmed. If you are taking the stand of non-harm towards animals, those animals must also include all human beings, no matter how unsavory their behaviors and beliefs. The minute we cross the line into becoming perpetrators of violence and vitriol ourselves, we contribute to the overall violence in the world.

Peace to you all and to all our fellow earthlings.  Celebrate Martin Luther King day by practicing nonviolence with those who oppress you.  Never forget the end goal. The cause is too big and too important to push aside for momentary gratification. We must remain strong, we must remain tenacious, we must remain resolute, and we must remain the embodiment of peace.

Let There Be Peace on Earth by the African Children’s Choir

Probing the Link Between Slaughterhouses and Violent Crime

Vegangelical: Does It Hurt or Help?

Vegans Starting to Sound Like Beck and Limbaugh

Podcast #21 – Make It Happen!

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There is a lot going on in the vegan world community towards making the maxim, “The World is Vegan If You Want It,” a reality. In several different parts of the world, vegans have started vegan abolitionist groups and meetups. This show is going to highlight a few of them and hopefully encourage you,wherever you are, to consider starting a vegan movement in your own hometown.

Intro

Auckland Abolitionist Vegans Association

We are going to take a quick spin around the globe to visit some of the spots where abolitionist vegan groups are sprouting up.  Our starting point is New Zealand, where there is the Auckland Abolitionist Vegan Association, started by Elizabeth Collins of NZVeganPodcast fame, and abolitionist activist William Paul.  They already have the bones of a website started; you can find them at http://www.aabva.org.  Elizabeth and William have already been doing stall work, tabling and leafletting on the streets of Auckland for some time.  As their group increases in size, expect great things to come from both of these dedicated vegans:

I am very briefly going to say that myself and William Paul have decided to start the Auckland Aboltionist Vegan Association. We are being very up front about being an abolitionist group, putting it in the name, and we are hoping to get people to help us do vegan outreach.  Right now we are just beginning. We do have a website up, there is really nothing on it but it will be the website address, aabva.org, and we have business cards that we are going to give, and the cards say   on them, “Creative Nonviolent Vegan Advocacy,” because that is exactly what we are planning to do. We are going to have some resources out there, we are going to create a nutritional pamphlet because most of the resources we have are from America and thought they are very helpful, and I do plan on taking a lot of the facts and figures from them, we want to adjust it to a New Zealand audience. So, we will replace pounds with kilos because we don’t use pounds over here; and there are some foods that are recommended that don’t really pertain to NZ. We don’t have a lot of vegan ready-made food. There are certain things that are not easy to get here, they are unbelievably expensive here, like organic maple syrup and agave nectar, those things are so expensive in New Zealand. We do hope to get some grassroots activities going, attend more events, hold events of our own, cookouts and bakesales, all the things that groups all over the world are doing, so that’s us, the Auckland Abolitonist Vegan Association. We will keep everyone posted once we have more things happening. Thanks for doing your podcast and for allowing me to be on it and thanks for everything you are doing.

Thanks so much for participating, Elizabeth. And what a wonderful way to start off, there in beautiful New Zealand, where these two dedicated abolitionists are really making some sparks fly, generating some energy, for the New Year! Next point: Canada, I think we need to sail away……

Sail Away by Randy Newman

Montreal Animal Rights Group

Travel over to Canada, and you will find that Chris Poupart and a group of dedicated abolitionists have started a group called Montreal Animal Rights Group.  This group is just getting off the ground and already shows quite a few local people interested in joining the work ahead.  Chris recently designed from abolitionist message tees that are printed in both English and French, helping to make all of us abolitionist vegans more visibile in our various communities. I just received mine! The front has the big green V with a leaf on one side, and the back says, “I am vegan: Ask me why!” I know I better have an answer ready. Thanks so much Chris for creating abolitionist vegan message tees. More on Chris later in this podcast.

Truckin’ by The Grateful Dead

Phoenix Area Abolitionist Vegans

Next, we are going to truck on down to the U.S. of A. Then travel down to Phoenix, Arizona in the southwestern U.S.  The Phoenix Area Abolitionist Vegans, a group started by well-known Brockway Hall blogger Ken Hopes, seems to be alive and thriving. Like most of the above groups, The Abolitionist Approach website is linked in order to increase understanding about the issue of abolitionism.  Quotes from Gary Francione are also found on many of these mentioned sites. Arizona is a very conservative state, and it is wonderful that Ken and his group have become a progressive voice in the area. Thanks for all you do, Ken, and best wishes to your group.

Now, we are going to truck on over to Texas!

Dallas portion of Truckin’ by The Grateful Dead

Animal Rights and Rescue of North Texas: A Vegan Abolitionist Group

Traveling east across the U.S., this time to North Texas, in the middle of the heartland of the United States.  A new group, the Animal Rights and Rescue of North Texas, is due to have their kick off meeting in January in the Arlington, Texas area, just South of Dallas and Fort Worth in the MidCities area.  The stated purpose of the group is to maintain a group of rescue-ready individuals to assist animals in the event of any man-made or natural occurrences, to do vegan outreach, establish humane education, support local shelters and sanctuaries, and be a voice for vegan abolitionism in the North Texas area.  Like in the Invercargill area, this is an area rife with animal exploiters, from rodeos to hunting ranches, from slaughterhouses to cattle ranches. This is a yahoo meetup group, so the group will have their support and system, but also have those expenses occurring.  The upcoming new Vegans Directory sponsored the group for our first six months; we will see if there is enough interest to support the $12/month fee for the duration. Our first planning meeting in January will also be showing the new film, Bold Native, it’s a dramatized account of direct action animal rescue and even includes

those working on welfare regulations, the problems with vindictiveness, and the injustice inherent in the AETA — it should be a good jumping off point for conversation.  The film includes some actual footage from undercover videos including a vivisection lab. It shows the callous and cruel way the monkeys are treated with permanent plastic collars that can be inserted into restraints so the animal is held captive as they use them for experiments.  A group of macaques was recently freed from those plastic collars here in Texas, down in San Antonio, at the Primarily Primates sanctuary. While the Texas area does have a lot of horrific things going on for animals, there are also groups here trying to improve on the status quo – an abolitionist group is one way to see if we can grow any interest. Right now there are only two abolitionists that I know of in the group and a few vegans, but with education within the group, that is sure to change. That is why it is so important, even if there is just one of you, to start a group and see what might develop.

Time to sail away again….

Sail Away by Christopher Cross

Invercargill Vegan Society

Heading back to our starting point, New Zealand, a mecca for animal exploiters, lives the Birdman of Invercargill. Jordan Wyatt, peacefully caring for a few rescued chickens and sharing their beauty and personalities with the rest of us, recently started the Invercargill Vegan Society.  With a total membership of one, Jordan has allowed a few of his fans to become honorary members. I am one of his biggest fans – well, truth tell, I am only about 1.524  meters tall, or five feet, but I am very big in enthusiasm for Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals, the Jaywontdart podcast, and his CWNA blog.  Jordan is a great example of what one isolated vegan can accomplish. I first met him via Twitter, where he had asked for feedback about a letter he wrote to his local newspaper. He is often on local NZ forums, challenging thinking and quite often, given the high percentage of animal-related businesses in the area, catching unfair flack for his abolitionism. All he needs now is one more abolitionist to assist him in getting the word out locally. Jordan has already had IVS business cards all printed out, so he is ready to join the global abolitionist vegan network. If you live near Invercargill, contact Jordan for information about joining his abolitionist vegan work. You can find out his contact information at http://www.coexisting.co.nz/. Or give him a Tweet  @jaywontdart.

Everybody Has a Seed to Sow, The African Children’s Choir

Get Ready for Future Ex-Omnivores!

Let your heart of hearts take you down that road, everybody’s got a seed to sow. Don’t hold yours in your hand; wherever you are, drop that seed, plant it, watch it grow. Become part of an even more exciting new synchronicity that is growing.  The foundation for a worldwide vegan federation is in the planning stages, with bylaws already underway.  La Coopérative pour la Développement Végane, or The Cooperative for Vegan Development is in the early stages. The purpose of the federation will be to link all these various abolitionist groups into an umbrella organization to share resources, utilize information for internal education, and plan federation events. This is yet another reason to develop an abolitionist group in your area. It may be just you for awhile; it may be just you for an entire year. But sooner or later, another abolitionist or interested party may join you, and then the numbers and momentum are sure to increase. If not, at least you will be part of the global network of vegan abolitionist groups. Right now, we just need to get things ready, so as the word spreads, we can assist all the future ex-omnivores with their vegan transformations.  In fact, right now, there is an abolitionist waiting for a group to start in Boston Massachussetts, another one in Hialeah, Florida…. and another one – well, maybe right where You live. What are YOU waiting for? It’s a Vegan World If You Want It, and so do I; we can’t keep waiting for the world to change – we have to Make It Happen!

Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer

http://www.aabva.org/

http://meetup.com/Animal-Rights-and-Rescue-of-North-Texas

http://coexistingwithnonhumananimals.blogspot.com/

http://nzveganpodcast.blogspot.com

www.TheWorldisVegan.com

Primarily Primates Macaque Rescue video

Seeds to Sow, lyrics by Michael Smith:

Chorus: (in Lugandan)
Kimu nkimaanyi
Buli muntu alina ensiigo
Omutima gwo gukulung ‘aamye
Buli muntu alina ensiigo

Some people sing it to express
While others hear another call
Some people speak with subtleness
Some don’t rely on words at all
But let me tell you ’bout…

One thing I know
Everybody’s got a seed to sow
let your heart of hearts
Take you down the road
Everybody’s got a seed to sow

Podcast #20 – Vegan Survival Kit

Vegan Survival Kit

Anyone who has been a vegan in an isolated environment knows the challenge of maintaining one’s equilibrium in the face of being a minority of one.  Even with online support, it can become tedious to deal with the daily onslaught of questions, queries and putdowns.  Worse yet are the criticisms from within the movement, from people who are a bit ahead (or a bit behind, depending on your perspective) on their vegan, human journey. Then there is the constant barrage of reality checks that come from listening to podcasts and reading articles about the dismal state of the human-nonhuman alliance in the world today.  Global warming, ocean destruction, factory farming, animal extinction, human overpopulation, deforestation, hunger, desertification, exploitation scream out from every corner of the world. And then, don’t forget to smile and radiate health when you go out in the community -  you have to represent a healthy veganism, don’t forget!

When undergoing clinical training as a psychotherapist in graduate school, we were taught not to “bleed out” for our clients, not to take their tragedies inside of us, or we would not live to help that client or any other in the future. First priority was learning self-care.  As a manager working with forensic mental health clients, I was told that stress was the number one enemy – be sure to take time for renewal, massages,meditation and other healing arts.  Now that I am working in animal advocacy, I know I have dropped some of these ideas from my daily regiment with disastrous results.  This has been one tough year. It is time to build a vegan survival kit; want to come along?

Build Your Own Vegan Survival Kit

How can vegans and especially vegan activists maintain a positive attitude and high energy with such draining endeavors going on?  This podcast is going to look at how to get your bounce back and keep it there. It is terribly important to learn these skills so you will not burn out.

  1. Connection. First of all, do a real lifestyle assessment. Is your work and play in balance? Are you getting emotionally nourished while you give of yourself to others?  Do you have a healthy support system? Do you have others with whom you can talk and share? Are you around positive people who understand you and value you? If the answer is no to any of these questions, please consider what you can do to change the social dynamics in your life. No local vegan groups? Start one of your own. Yahoo meetups are available most anywhere. You need to take good care of yourself or you won’t be of any use to anyone else, and that includes the animals.
  2. Time.  Are you setting limits on how long  you work? On how much time you spend doing outreach? On the computer? On taking on new projects?  Are there things you can let go of? Put off for awhile? Setting goals may help you to focus, not waste time, and limit how much time you spend spinning your wheels or going into overdrive.  Some times you just need to slow down; other times you just need to focus. Look realistically at how much time you spend on activism and veganism and determine if it is a reasonable amount of time for a mere mortal. Time management skills definitely belong in the vegan survival kit.
  3. Body. Are you eating a healthy, balanced vegan diet consisting primarily of fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes or grains? Are you actually cooking most of your meals or eating them raw? Are you exercising daily, and working up a sweat at least three times a week? Do you stretch, do yoga, meditate, or practice any other stress reduction techniques? Are you getting out on your bicycle, going for a run or walk, and using your body enough to keep it fit and healthy? Do you sit in a comfortable chair at work or at home when you are blogging, writing, or podcasting? Do you take breaks and stretch, move, breathe? Do you walk barefoot on the earth occasionally? Do you take time to feel the sun, wind, or rain on your face and body? Don’t neglect your body; keep it healthy.
  4. Spirit. Are you nourishing your soul? If you love music, are you taking time to play, dance, sing, listen to music? If silence heals you, how often do you get to enjoy it?  If there are birds outside your window, do you watch them, listen to their song? The earth, for all her scars and troubles, is still a beautiful place. Join her and be part of her healing process. Lay on the grass.  Listen to a waterfall. Watch a bug crawl along the sidewalk. In your own way, give thanks for participating, even during these difficult times.  Be glad you can make a contribution; she needs us every one. And so do the animals.
  5. Humor. Maintaining a good sense of humor is critical for keeping your head above those treacherous waters that bring you down. If you want to retain that bounce in your step, you have to develop a good sense of humor. Try keeping a file of those cartoons that you find humorous, and foster friendships with people who know how to laugh.  Try not to take yourself too seriously; keep things in perspective.  Instead of that action film, try a comedy. Laugh every chance you get; it is really healing and, while I am not a doctor, I have heard that it is good for the immune system.
  6. Joy. There is a book called, The Artist’s Way, which is all about renewal to keep creative juices flowing. When I remember to follow the simple dictates, it works well. Here is one of the suggestions: schedule weekly blocks of time to do something that you enjoy. That simple; you determine how much time and you figure out the details. If you love photography, spend four hours a week walking about seeing what you might capture on your camera.  If you love to swim, take a dive in the ocean.  Sit in a cafe and savor every drop of coffee. You need to schedule this block of time each and every week, though.  Think of it as a date with yourself. It is really worth it in the renewed energy and creativity that you will gain. Find something you enjoy, and don’t let a week go by without it.
  7. Explore. Maybe you need a vacation, a change of scenery. If you cannot jet off to Paris or sail to the Bahamas, perhaps you can check out something local you have always wanted to see. Do you really know the backroads nearby, or that little winery up the road? Isn’t there an old thrift shop or antique store you have always wanted to visit?  Something you have always wanted to try? Pick up that drum at the thrift store and start down a new road. Begin a journal, learn to paint, volunteer at the animal shelter. If time is short right now, think about the trip you want to take someday; then make someday happen. Make a list of local outings you might take — then start taking them!
  8. Breathe. One of the best stress relievers is to breathe deeply, letting go of your stress as you exhale.  Remembering to breathe deeply throughout the day is very rejuvenating. Stick reminders on your computer, your bathroom mirror, wherever you might notice them.  When you see them, stop and inhale deeply, fully….then slowly exhale. Stretching, too, can help you recover and get you through a tough day. Stress accumulates, so that is why it is important to take deep breaths periodically throughout the day. Remember to breathe!
  9. Simplify. Life can get pretty hectic these days, with demands for work, finances, time, and energy.  Remember, this is the life you are creating; make sure that it is the one you want.  Simplifying life does not mean creating an empty life, but rather one that emphasizes what you value.  Things can often own us more than we realize, with maintenance and upkeep, cleaning and insuring, taking the joy out of the original acquisition.  Sometimes letting go can create a vacuum that can then be filled. Overscheduling activities is another way we often distract ourselves from what we really love.  If you find yourself scurrying from one appointment to the next, stop and rethink your priorities.
  10. Attitude. The old saying about an attitude of gratitude has some wisdom within it. Keeping a positive outlook is good for the soul and the body, too, as well as the mind. Make certain that you are around positive people where you have choice, and trim out those that bring you down, or limit their access to your heart and mind. Finding things for which to be grateful keeps you focused on the positive. It is important when doing the difficult work of trying to educate people about how their choices are impacting others and working towards social justice.

That very old tape admonishes us, “Don’t eat meat.”  Beware of “bootleg hooch” too. When making changes, integrate one change at a time. Find out what works for you; then make that change second nature before you take on another change. Even positive change can be a form of stress, so take steps slowly and incrementally. It takes a while to develop new habits, so expect some backsliding. Don’t let it defeat you, just know it is part of the process.

Activists and Caregivers Must Be Vigilant About Self-Care

Taking good care of yourself is doubly important if you are a caregiver, whether of a child or an animal.  Children tend to pattern their own self-care based on what they experience as a child, so do not think by martyring yourself you are teaching your child what he needs to learn.  If you are responsible for the well being of a nonhuman animal or animals, it is important that you stay healthy so these beings can survive, too. Remember that you are the role model for your children; if you want them to learn to care for themselves, you need to demonstrate good self care. That is what you want them to learn, right?

There is important work ahead. Taking good care of yourself can help you go the distance. Disclaimer: this is not professional advice, it is what I use in my Vegan Survival Kit. I hope they will be helpful in your survival kit, too. As for me, I am heading out to have some fun. Why don’t you do the same?

Clips:

  • Take Good Care of Yourself by Wardell Quezergue
  • On and On by Stephen Bishop
  • I’m Yours by Jason Mraz
  • Moon Dance by Van Morrison
  • Make ‘em Laugh by Donald O’Connor
  • Who’s Taking Care of You? by Sheila E and the E-Train
  • My Father’s Eyes by Eric Clapton
  • Peaceful Easy Feeling by the Eagles
  • Blue Skies by Karrin Allyson
  • Button Up Your Overcoat by Annette Hanshaw
  • What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

Podcast #19 – Mincing the Myths

We are on a voyage to an uncharted world, trying to develop a new world paradigm, while trying to challenge the old destructive ways of thinking at every turn. When people become aware of the status of animals in the world, of their complete subjugation by human beings, the first instinct is often to find a cause and work on it. While this is an understandable impulse, it usually does little to further the cause of animal rights.  These impulses tend to keep people locked into the status quo, using all the existing structures created by animal exploiters, and then attempt to ameliorate the worst abuses within them.  But the abolitionist approach suggests we need a larger ambition, a wider perspective. We need to reach beyond the stars in order to make a significant change in thinking towards nature and other forms of life. We need to fundamentally change how we see ourselves within the broader context of the earth and our part within it.

There seems to be much animosity and disrespect within the vegan community, sadly, towards animal rightists of the abolitionist persuasion.  Why is this so?  To better understand this, I began taking notes on some of the misunderstandings I came across on forums, Facebook, Twitter, and in chats.  I am here to mince some of these myths about abolitionism.

Myth #1:  Abolitionists don’t DO anything for the animals, they just talk.  This is certainly not so!  Most of us have occupations in addition to our advocacy, yet somehow find time to teach classes, write books, debate, publish journal articles, maintain forums, prepare podcasts, create and develop radio shows, create and maintain blogs and websites, create and develop multiple vegan businesses, offer commentary on misinformation in the media, rescue nonhuman animals from shelters, attend graduate school, take part in tabling or stalling, leafleting, and other forms of outreach, foster animals, rescue animals, directly care for animals, develop resources for other vegans, and generally work tirelessly for the animals. While this may be less tangible than pointing to a specific group or organization you are trying to help, it may also provide a much more significant impact for the animal rights movement in general by getting the word spread round the globe about veganism and what is happening to animals. One omnivore will consume about 20,000 animals in their life; what other form of advocacy has the potential to save so many animals?

Myth #2: Abolitionists expect people to go vegan overnight. Anyone who has done any outreach or online advocacy knows this is simply untrue; we realize people will or will not go vegan according to their own time frames. We believe, though, that it is important to advocate for veganism rather than half measures and let the individual decide how best to take positive steps in that direction. Diluting the message by including terms like veg*n or vegetarian may mislead the public. Anything short of veganism means exploitation of animals, something no animal rights activist would want to promote. By all means, meet people where they are; just don’t join them there. The idea is to get them to move, or consider moving, towards veganism.

Myth #3: Abolitionists expect everyone to go vegan. False. We would have to have our heads in the clouds to think so; it would deny our own experience with outreach and education. We are, in fact, aware of the work ahead. Since we do not receive the kind of gratification some of the animal organizations receive by claiming victory for individual campaigns while the big picture continues to get worse and worse, we have to be satisfied with education. We have no way to judge exactly how effective our methods are, but we all see more and more people contacting us, see more and more people calling themselves abolitionists, more folks unwilling to take anything but a stand for justice. And we share information where we can so that we will become as effective as possible. But the bottom line is this: we do not deviate from what we consider to be the moral baseline: veganism. We do not look at it as being the most someone can do, but the least.

Myth #4: Abolitionists don’t respect vegetarians.  This is totally unfair. It is not about respecting or not respecting vegetarians; it is about not accepting vegetarianism a morally relevant stance for animals.  Any stance, such as vegetarianism, that continues to exploit animals is not acceptable. If someone embraces vegetarianism for ethical reasons, then we would try to teach that person why that is not as ethical as they may think. But disrespect is not part of the equation at all. Our starting point is to respect other human beings. Most of us, by far, have not always been vegan. We understand change takes time and education.

Myth #5: Abolitionists are divisive.  The perception is that abolitionists are splitting the movement in two, when in fact there are two very different movements.  I think this is due in part to a complete misunderstanding of the basic principles of the abolitionist approach towards animal rights. People who are busy working on one campaign after another with so little meaningful success might understandably get peeved with people who appear to do nothing but teach and who won’t cooperate with individual campaigns. It is not because we do not care about the animals involved, we just are aware of the total failure of welfare reform as a whole. Expect abolitionists to challenge you if you are promoting activities that keep the focus off the Big Picture and onto Little Picture Issues. Abolitionists tend to focus on the need for a major shift in how human beings relate to other beings. We do not wish to be distracted with campaigns that will not take us there.

Myth #6: Abolitionists could save more animals by urging things like Meatless Mondays and vegetarianism (the “big tent” approach). On the surface, programs like Meatless Mondays sound good – they may encourage some folks to decrease their use of meat once a week, right? The problem here is that there is no consistent moral position within this program and it may, in fact, move people away from veganism, thereby confusing the public.  We do not want meat-free Mondays, we want to support veganism – no exploitation, seven days a week.  Measures that assure people they are doing something morally coherent when they are exploiting other beings is not moving them to the correct end point. While individuals may chose to go vegan in stages, if they clearly understand the moral stand for animals means veganism, then they will make those decisions with a clarity of purpose and will be less likely to stop before they reach the goal. Imagine if all these types of programs would pool their resources and speak out loudly for veganism – how much different the public’s perception would become!

Myth #7: Abolitionists are too extreme.  This seems particularly speciesist, because no one would accept advocating for more half measures when it comes to issues with humans beings, such as rape or pedophilia, yet these moral issues continue on and on despite being illegal for thousands of years. Standing up for animals means advocating for an end to all exploitation, not just some. It only seems extreme to people who are deeply entrenched in the status quo. Abolitionists are working towards a new paradigm entirely.  We do not believe that animals are ours to commodify. We believe they have intrinsic value that has nothing to do with us.

Myth #8: Since the world is not going vegan overnight, we need to concentrate on welfare reform to bring relief to the animals right here, right now.  This is another intriguing charge, because welfare reforms rarely bring any relief to animals and may in fact increase the number of animals that suffer.  Consider Mercy for Animals giving kudos to Costco for carrying so-called humane veal – if an animal rights group thinks there is anything humane about removing a calf from its mother to be slaughtered, I would like to know what it is. So-called humane farming methods may allow humans who are concerned about animal treatment to believe that a certification means they are not buying into suffering; in fact, meat eating and dairy consumption appear to be increasing and every animal that carries those stickers has been slaughtered, most while babies.  So-called free range eggs are not free at all, leaving chickens in an ammonia-soaked hell inside an enclosed warehouse, where some chickens die because they are unable to walk to the feeding area, so overgrown and untenable are their young bodies, bred for food alone. Even if the conditions, however, were pristine, the bottom line is this: the animals would be used and manipulated for another being’s desires; they would never be allowed to exist as free living animals. We believe we must keep the focus on USE, not TREATMENT. Outreach advocates have been reporting more people telling them they buy only “humane-raised” beef or veal or chicken, believing the animals live in bliss. This is a myth and should not be perpetuated.

Myth #9: Abolitionists act like the purity police. This one may be valid at times, for everyone has a different idea where the lines should be drawn. Some people, in their zeal to give a voice for the animals who are unable to do so, are not always as nuanced as they might be in spreading the word.  The attacks some people rightly bristle against may need to change in tone, rather than in content. Sadly, sometimes a tone is misinterpreted within media such as Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere.  In any case, vegans of whatever persuasion should be respected for taking that step, at least, in an effort to change the world. None of us gets to make decisions for other people and none of us may determine another person’s timeframe.  Attack ideas, not people! Remember to keep your passion for the animals, not for proving a point. The work is about education, not assault.

Myth #10: Abolitionists are a cult.  A cult requires a charismatic figure that manipulates people to follow their will, often against the followers’ best interest.  Abolitionism fails on all counts – there is no “leader,” but rather several renowned advocates for Animal Rights, with most people working independently and reaching out to one another for further education and support.  The large animal organizations are much more cult-like in that they do have a designated leader and many adherents that support them – yet to call them a cult would be ludicrous.  So it is to call abolitionists cult members, too. They are, for the most part, independent, non-mainstream, people with a strong devotion towards righting a horrible injustice in the world that is at the heart of so many other injustices for many, many billions of beings. There are few followers and many independent spirits in the Animal Rights movement.

I hear mainstream vegans say, “We need to all work together,” but maybe not. Maybe we just need to learn to respect one another and give each other space. I do not see myself working on any individual issues in the near future, for the abolitionist view would suggest that the more vegans who work on educating the public about how animal use is unjust, the quicker that there will be a large enough mass of vegans to in fact change how the world operates and bring true liberation to animals. I have to do what we all have to do, that which we believe we can be the most effective.

We are on a voyage to an unknown destination, based on our vision of possibilities.  If you are vegan or interested in veganism, then I hope you will join our spaceship to tomorrow. The only limitation is in our ability to envision the world we want.

Clips from this episode:

  • Theme from Star Trek
  • Jive Talking by the Bee Gees
  • What Can I Say by Boz Scaggs
  • What Do You Want From Me by Adam Lambert
  • Misunderstanding by Genesis
  • People Get Ready by Aaron Neville

Podcast #18 – Effective Advocacy

We have all had our epiphanies that resulted in our adopting the vegan lifestyle, whether it was something we read, something we saw, or something we heard.  Whatever the source of your veganism or interest in veganism, once you have made the commitment to a vegan lifestyle,
u may want to reach out and educate others about what you have learned. As a vegan, you may be able to advocate for veganism as part of your normal daily activities. You may not need a kiosk, a street stall, or a website to get involved with vegan advocacy.  Try wearing a vegan shirt; suddenly you are an ambassador for the cause. Always remember to be a great example of healthy joyful veganism when you wear it; those casual questions and comments can really help people think about their own consumer choices and make real the injustice towards animals that is globally pervasive.

Sharing vegan food is always a good form of advocacy, especially if the food is beautiful and delicious.  One of my favorite ways to share food is to offer it at a gathering, then let people know it is vegan. They are often so surprised; many have prejudices that vegan food is dull and flavorless, as if the bodies of dead animals are naturally delicious. Somethings are upside down in this vida loca, right? It is up to us to turn things on their head. Consider hosting a Vegan Food Fair where you live. These events promote veganism while giving free vegan food to interested participants. Sometimes this can take place within another event, such as an environmental expo, a vegetarian street fair, or an animal adoption gathering.

Abolitionist Vegan Advocacy

When searching for ideas for positive vegan advocacy, I went to the collective experiences of other abolitionist vegans to see what works for them.

  • On Gary Francione’s Abolitionist Approach, he suggests three main steps: first, go vegan yourself. Secondly, share veganism with others via creative vegan education. And third, adopt a non-human animal that needs a home. Professor Francione also recently interviewed a couple who is doing street advocacy in a place not particularly hospitable to veganism, and they have had a very positive experience.  Be sure to hear his recent podcast, Commentary Number Twenty.
  • Another vegan who does street advocacy is Elizabeth Collins, who also shares with a wider audience during her podccast, NZVeganPodcast.  Elizabeth recently shared a story about learning to really listen to people that might ask you a simple or easy question — they might really want information of you. Respecting the questioner increases the likelihood you will get more conversation with the person and also that you might be able to impart more information to them. At the very least, it will improve their opinion of vegans if they are treated respectfully.
  • During a recent Animal Rights Zone chat, Minku Sharma said that in order to avoid being accused of vegangelizing, you need to “get to know who you’re talking to and how they feel about the issue. That way, it’s easier to know what to say.” He likes to talk about rights by talking about his own journey to becoming vegan. People are less resistant to personal experiences than they are towards theories.
  • Paola Aldana and Trisha Roberts both produce wonderful videos which as disseminated on YouTube. These help get the abolitionist message out to a wider audience, are perenially available, and are then sent out over social networks like Facebook and Twitter to an ever widening audience.  One of my favorites is Vegan, You Look Like Hell (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19uB5rJJtcw) which takes a poke at all the ridiculous comments we vegans received from those “concerned” about us. Trisha Roberts has created an entire library of videos which lends her beautiful voice to the abolitionist principles, making it very easy on the ears and eyes to learn about the movement. Be sure to subscribe to both of these and share them on your social networking sites, too.

More Ideas from Experienced Vegan Advocates

  • Chris Poupart has created some abolitionist vegan message tees and sweatshirts, available online for anyone who wants to get the word out. Not only that, but he is helping to develop an animal rights group collective that may grow to include an international collective of local abolitionist organizations. I appreciate Chris for many reasons. One thing that I have found so helpful is his support on Linked In threads, where I used to be the only abolitionist challenging the welfarist rhetoric.  Since Chris has come aboard, there are becoming more and more people supporting his clear, rational responses. It is a great kind of advocacy that gets the message through to those who are already vegan but do not yet understand abolitionist principles.
  • Harold Brown, the farmer turned vegan, has turned his vegan advocacy towards teaching veganic farming practices, working on farm workers rights, and thinking in terms of the larger issues of interconnectedness. Will Tuttle ofThe World Peace Diet, has discussed a “radical inclusion” that brings nonhuman animals into the larger moral community. Living our lives with that sense of interconnectedness can also help us connect with other soon-to-be vegans.

Are you a teacher, a mentor, an ambassador, a cheerleader, an artist,  a writer, a musician, a craftsman? Do you have computer skills, technical knowledge, or an abundance of enthusiasm? Think about what you bring to the table that you want to share with the world. Many artists are sharing their work presenting the personhood of animals to the world. Sam Tucker and Emmy James, both teens, are working on animation that draws attention to the problems inherent in animal agriculture. Sam is also in a band and hosts a radio show that profiles abolitionist principles and vegan band members. Emmy also has a podcast which brings abolitionist information to the public as she pursues her interest in animation.

I have seen many abolitionist vegans challenge anti-animal stances on Facebook threads, tweets, articles and blog posts, thereby raising the volume of the abolitionist vegan message. Use a Google search to find such sites; support fellow vegans in their efforts to educate and inform.  There are also many online venues, such as Linked-In groups like Vegan Professionals and Ethical Vegans where you may present the abolitionist approach and thinking to other vegans.

  • Roger Yates recently mentioned a vegan mentoring program of Neil Lea, called Vegan Buddies where a more experienced vegan may mentor newer vegans and help them in their process. He mentioned that Vegan Ireland now has an electronic version of that program to assist and encourage new vegans. Great idea! I know working with juvenile offenders, those with mentors had the greatest chance of success. If it works that well for offenders, it is an idea worth carrying forward in other areas.
  • Jordan Wyatt, one of my favorite vegans, is tremendously creative and tech savvy. He has not only created nad participated in several podcasts, but also is co-inhabitor with several beautiful chickens. In fact, if you think you have seen beautiful chickens, you need to see these gorgeous, healthy happy birds. He has videos of these birds eating falafels off his plate, playing in the snow, and munching chips off the ground. I have shared some of his photos and posted the photo of a so-called “free range” chicken next to it – someone in my Facebook circle, a distant relative, wrote me that she was shocked to see those birds; the difference was striking. Sharing those beautiful birds can be a positive way for people to see something about the animals so many casually eat without any consideration.
  • Matt Bear created a popular video that has been widely disseminated, A Life Connected, which introduces many people to veganism. Eric Prescott’s series, I’m Vegan, introduces individual people to the public, literally putting a face on the movement. With such diverse people, it helps others related to the face of veganism.
  • Dan Cudahy, author of his tremendously helpful blog, Unpopular Vegan Essays, says to start with a purpose. The strong purpose will keep you interested and the use of social networking may help you to reach a wider audience.  Podcasts, he suggested, is another way to reach more people.

Advocacy for Individual Vegans

One thing most of us can do is to start a local animal rights group. Here in northern Texas where I live, it might be difficult to start an abolitionist group, but an animal rights and rescue group would take off and be well received.  Many people are concerned about animals and want to save them, but do not yet have the connection with the many ways animals are exploited. If the group’s goals include acceptance and promotion of veganism and abolitionist principles, but all are welcome to come, it might be possible to spread the word and recruit a solid group of volunteers.  Coordinating with local rescue organizations, shelters and sanctuaries would also translate into direct action, peacefully done,  on behalf of animals.

There are many online sources if you want to leaflet.  I recently called our local Farmer’s Market to see if I might be allowed to leaflet and table there; the person who manages the market was delighted to have someone with new information, particulary with information that improves health and the environment, too. Our area is one that has been designated as having one of the highest rates of obesity in the nation.  I would not be allowed to bring any vegan food, but all the literature, information and videos would be fine.  I have slowly been gathering and printing information for that use.

Another good idea for doing outreach is through the organization, VegFund.  If you want to give out vegan food and set up a Vegan Information table at your local whole foods market, contact the store manager and arrange to come for a specified period, say four hours, once or twice a month. Then contact VegFund and they may be able to help you with the expense of the vegan food. The store might also be interested if they want to promote their vegan products and they may see you as providing a service for their customers, too. Just be sure to develop a good relationship with the manager and with the customers so you will stay as a welcome presence.  Our local WFM is known for their positive customer service. It would be delightful to participate in their ambience and congeniality while at the same time promoting abolitionist veganism.

Think about participating in a local vegan festival, or starting your own. Some vegans have joined vegetarian festivals and increased the vegan presence there. I coordinate showing animals in need of homes on line with several different local animal shelters. I have found them to be receptive of having vegans involved in their activities and allowing us to have brochures available for interested people.

Another source of getting information out are your local veterinarians. Not all vets are vegan-oriented, but more are becoming aware of what is happening to animals and many are concerned. It might be worth a call to see if they will allow you to leave some flyers in their office. Especially if they know you are involved in local rescue work, they are likely to see you as a positive force in the community. If nothing else, they may allow you to leave information about your animal rights group there.

Another needed avenue which might be open to vegans is humane education. Some schools allow speakers to come in and speak to the children about the importance of our relationships with animals. Some have curriculum which may allow for outside speakers. Make certain you understand the developmental stage of any children with which you work.  Helping young people to broaden their thinking about animals can have a long-term impact on others around those children, too. Call your local school district to inquire.

Some progressive organizations like to have guest speakers who are knowledgeable about topics that appeal to their audience. Unitarian Universalists have a division that is pro-vegan and have many progressive-thinking individual members.  They may be open to having you come as a guest speaker for a Sunday service to talk about veganism and abolition.  Contact your local UUs to see what is possible.

Contacting stores and restaurants, requesting information about vegan products or the need for them, is also helpful. I have found that talking to restaurant and store managers nearly always ends up in a positive exchange.  While some national chains have not been as open, many have been very responsive. The more of us that are contacting them, the more likely they will begin to see veganism as a positive force and a market they want to pursue.  I am currently contacting dozens of businesses daily regarding the directory I am developing, The Vegans Directory, and find that even those that do not claim to be vegan often express interest and take the time to point out certain products that are vegan or what they are doing to become more ethical and sustainable.

Many libraries allow people in the community to create library displays.  Such a display would be seen by hundreds of people throughout the time it is available.  Contact your local library to find out what their guidelines are.  Make certain your display is colorful, simple, with a clear and positive message.  A vegan message with an abolitionist bent would be able to capture the many ways in which veganism improves the world, whether peace, environment, animal rights and justice, health, habitat protection, and broadening our sense of connectedness on the earth. Anyone concerned might then be able to contact you or your group, or go online to find out more about abolitionism.

Another suggestion if you are living in an area where you are working solo: find other vegan soulmates online. Join a forum or group where you will connect with people and get to know them. There are millions of us around the world; you are really NOT alone. But it helps to know that there is this person or that working on the same exact issues, dealing with the same difficulties, all around the world. The collective support can really help sustain your individual efforts, too.

Most important of all, cherish one another. While we may have small differences in outlook, anyone who respects the rights of all living beings has something profoundly significant in common with you. I have received some of the most wonderful correction, and rightly so, from people who know just how to do so lovingly, without injury. I have also had the same from people who were not as wise, which caused great pain and really caused me to reconsider whether I could sustain the work I was doing under such emotional assaults.  All of us have traveled different paths; no one knows what another’s journey has entailed. If we try to keep a modicum of respect for all other beings as part and parcel of who we are, we increase the likelihood that we will be good representatives for nonhuman animals. Showing empathy to other humans reflects our basic value of empathy for all living beings. Want to learn something about acceptance and forgiveness? Think of an animal that you know. Consider the dog you ignored in the morning, who nonetheless greets you with a hopeful wag in the afternoon. Then go out and advocate of their behalf. You may not need to do much to become an effective advocate; you may just need to recognize opportunities when the present themselves. You bring a message of hope to the world; find your vegan voice, and go out the get them!

Circle of Compassion article – Will Tuttle

Chris Poupart’sAbolitionist Tees

Ask A Vegan program – VegFund

Unitarian Univeralist for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – vegan article

Abolitionist Vegan Outreach information:

Abolitionist Approach pamphlets

Veganism – A Guide to Non-Violence

Veganism – Black and White

Clips:

Point of View by Robin Williams

Empathy by The Mosaic Project

Happy Talk by John Pizzarelli

(All available on iTunes)

Camera Podcast #17 – Wooly Bullies

When most of us think of a lamb, we get images of a baby’s room, with mobiles twirling over a crib and fluffy white stuffed animals ready to receive a child’s love.  Or maybe we think of that little white newborn lamb, sweet and innocent, laying in the green grass next to his mother, a vision of innocence and purity.  There are of course many religious images of lambs, too – they represent dependency upon the shepherd, a parable for a human who must trust his god or higher power; or they may represent the innocent who is a sacrifice for the guilty, a more unjust practice than that would be hard to imagine. One thing is for sure – whatever we visualize, we do not visualize the reality for these gentle creatures today.

(Nursery music)

Vegans Do Not Wear Wool!

Many people do not understand why vegans do not use wool, since it is often misperceived as a harmless commodity. But nothing could be further from the truth – this is a cruel, bloody and vicious industry that causes immense suffering and cruelty for the animals.  Sheep have been bred to have especially thick wool to make them more valuable to wool producers, especially breeds like the Merino sheep. But those thick coats also leave the animals prey to fly strike, a situation where the thick folds of their skin harbor infestations of maggots which can eat their flesh in their hindquarters near their points of elimination.  To avoid fly strike, many farmers use a technique called mulesing, in which the sheep are pinned hind quarters up, all four feet together, and a wide strip of their skin is removed without anesthetic by instruments like gardening shears. This leaves a wide, bright red, and most painful raw area where the flies are less likely to strike; it also leaves the sheep in agonizing pain. They are in effect partially skinned alive. While the farmers excuse this practice as being less harmful and painful than the potentially deadly fly strike, the truth is this is a manmade disorder exacerbated by the trait-specific breeding mankind has unleashed on the sheep.

Other cruel practices included punching a hole in the ears of the lambs a few weeks after birth, docking their tails, dehorning them, toothgrinding, and castration. These practices are often done without anesthetic and without sensitivity to the animals.  Then there is shearing in order to steal the lambs’ wool.  Shearers work by volume and therefore cut the lambs quickly, often leaving cuts, nicks and infections in their wake. None of this is pleasant for the animals. For a lamb, the approach of a human often means pain and cruelty; humans are clearly bullies to these young and innocent animals.

(Wooly Bully)

Commodification of Lambs is Widespread

Lambs are used for their meat, their milk, for wool, for their internal organs, for lanolin production and as living drug factories.  As cruel as the wool industry is, it is only one of the several ways lambs are commodified. The internal organs of the lambs are being used for research with an eye towards replacement parts for humans, many of whom have worn out their own organs in part due to eating animals.  So how to resolve their health issue? By using more animals, in an insidious vicious cycle of abuse and speciesism.

Lambs Used for Food

Lambs killed for meat are usually no older than three or four years, when their normal lifespan is nearer twenty years.  Some are sent off to slaughterhouses, the horrors which most of us have seen all too often to dismiss casually. But even more unfortunate are the lambs shipped off in live transport to the Middle East and North Africa. If they survive the voyage over the sea, where they are taken off their normal food and may starve, they are then dragged to unregulated slaughter, where some are dismembered while still fully conscious. The emerging ethnic demand for lambs as a food source has increased the likelihood of very young lambs and smaller lambs sent to slaughter to meet these preferences.

Predators are also frequently killed off if they pose a threat to profits, rendering the sheep as an industry a threat to animals such as kangaroos, coyotes, and wolves as well as the lambs themselves.

(Wooly Bully refrain)

Pharming – Lambs as Living Labs

The hybrid of traditional farming and pharmaceuticals has created a new industry, PH pharming. Lambs used in the PHpharming industry are prepared for blood products and collect the antibodies humans need towards creating antivenom for snake bites and chemical components for certain drugs. Baby lambs are immunized every four weeks for about 18 weeks; they are then bled monthly and their blood is used for rattlesnake antivenom and other pharmaceutical purposes.  The animals are bled from age 1-1/2 years to about 7-1/2 years old and are kept in herds raised specifically for this purpose.

Lambs are used for orthopedic research, spinal cord research, heart valve replacement, ovarian frozen transplant experiments, lung transplantation, and many other types of research to aid human beings in their quest for perennial health and longevity. Chimeras are lambs who have had human stem cells injected into the lamb as a fetus in order to create organs for potential donation to humans waiting organ donors. Lambs are also used as a research model, as a test kit, and as pharmaceutical production units – transgenic animals or pharming. Lambs are currently used in treating emphysema, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, and thrombosis.

(Wooly Bully)

Entertainment – Lambs used For “Fun”

Mutton busting is a rodeo game for young children from 4 to 7 years old. The young children ride the sheep until they fall off. The children, of course, are well equipped with helmets and padding, but the terrified sheep are on their own. Imagine having a human put on your back surrounded by the same beings yelling and screaming as you run out into the arena. It doesn’t sound like much fun for the children, either, since most just fall off in short order.

Another way sheep are used for entertainment is in sheep fighting, a popular sport in many countries. Usually the sheep are aged between 3 to 7 years. This sport is extremely hard on the animals as their fighting is head-butting. The animals are raised specifically for fighting so one shudders to think how they are prepared for these battles for life.

Young lambs are often subjected to the rigors of petting zoos, where they will become vulnerable to a series of moves, unsafely kept in small enclosures with a variety of children of all ages and sizes.

And let us not forget the recent debacle on Hell’s Kitchen where live lambs were found as if the participants were going to have to slaughter their own lambs, following the live crayfish incident.  Such appearances of animals must be doubly difficult for them psychologically since they have no way to make any sense of it at all. And the truth? It makes no sense at all, truly, that people should find this kind of insensitivity and downright cruelty entertaining. People, buy a video game or go for a walk and leave the animals alone.

(Wooly Bully refrain)

Lambs Used in Making Cosmetics

Lanolin is another commodity that has been created from the use of lambs. It consists of a complex mixture of esters, alcohols, and fatty acids and is used in adhesive tape, printing inks, motor oils, and auto lubrication. Lanolin is also used in cosmetics and in many pharmaceuticals. Virtually all cosmetics and beauty aids, such as lipsticks, mascara, lotions, shampoos, and hair conditioners, contain lanolin except of course, those made by vegan companies.

Lambs Used for Their Skins

Then there are sheep skins which are removed from the carcasses after slaughter. They are treated in a process called tanning and made into a very soft leather which is in high demand. Sheep skin is commonly used for making the chamois cloth that you wash your car with, although non-animals synthetic materials will do the job. A small number of skins are preserved as sold as sheepskins, with the wool still attached, often found as rugs, covers, and throws.

Another insidious use of the lamb comes from Karakul sheep bred for their skin. These lambskins come from the skin of a newborn lamb, 1 to 3 days old. Such newly born lambs have tightly-curled, shiny, black fur. Karakul lambskin is also known as Persian lambskin. This offensive product is typically made into garments, such as coats and skirts, and used as trimming, edging, or lining. The Karakul fur trade accounts for about 12% of the world’s fur business, and means a lot of dead newborns. It is hard to stomach that one species could devise so many ways of kidnapping and murdering the babies of another, yet here we are, kidnapping these young lambs for totally superficial purposes. In today’s world, there is no excuse, because there are so many synthetic options for garments. We do it because we can, we do it because we are bullies.

(Wooly Bully refrain)

Lambs in Dairy Production

Sheep cheeses comprise about 1.3 percent of the world’s cheese production, with increasing demand in the gourmet and ethnic markets. Some of the world’s most famous cheeses were originally made from sheep’s milk: Roquefort, Feta, Ricotta, and Romano. Sheep’s milk is also made into yogurt, butter, and ice cream. The United States is a large importer of sheep milk cheeses. Unfortunately for the lambs involved, they are subject to mastititis and infected udders, loss of their young, short lives and ultimate slaughter, much as are dairy cows.

Lambs as Landscape Management

While sheep have been use for centuries to control unwanted vegetation, grazing as a fee-service is new form of business enterprise. Sheep are known as the best livestock to use to control unwanted vegetation, such as fuel breaks, noxious weeds, and invasive plants.

(Nursery music)

While we may think about a child’s nursery, or present gifts with adorable little lambs embroidered on a baby’s nightie, the truth is that we humans have no respect at all for these precious little beings. To us, they are nothing but blood products, experimental subjects, a plastic wrapped tray of meat, a new fur coat, a bit of sport, a cheap lawnmower, or a new warm sweater. They are yarn, they are lipstick, they are skin cream.

So no, vegans do not wear wool, use any of the other products that come from these animals, do not eat them or wear them or ride on them. We believe that the animals have a right to their own lives, with their own kind, and are more significant as free living animals than they could ever be when reduced to a pot of lotion or vivisected in experiments or worn in winter woolies.  It is time to stop the madness towards other species and leave the animals alone. It is time to stop being such incredible bullies.

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Creative and quirky vegans to check out: @veganism on Twitter, Snargleplexon on Facebook, and a blog at spacevegans.com – creative but also substantive. Be sure to check out articles such as Sleight of Ham about B12 issue.

Also, check out Wing-It Vegan for wonderful recipes, crafty ideas, and best of all, she even shares her bloopers so you won’t feel too intimidated by her wonderful photos and creations.

Music: Little Lamb by Verne Landon and Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs

Snargleplexon

Wing-It Vegan

Sheep101