While nobody wants an animal factory in their back yard, it is critical that we band together and work to make sure that these things are “Not in ANYBODY’S Back yard. Also, there is a much bigger story to what is happening that I’d like to share with you.
The Kansas governor, Kansas Department of Agriculture and elected officials in the City of Tonganoxie and County of Leavenworth have disregarded their constituent’s wishes to not live near animal factories, so it is important that citizens of Kansas see and address the much larger picture of what is going on here. People also need to be aware -- satellite "grow-out" houses (the CAFO's) will be scattered throughout northeastern Kansas to supply the Tonganoxie slaughter-processing plant, whether it is situated in Tonagnoxie, or in some other Kansas locale. If Tyson succeeds in getting their plant in -- ANYWHERE in Kansas -- we are all still at risk of having these other, "chicken factories" in our back yards which will have profound, long-lasting negative impacts on our water cleanliness and scarcity, air, soil and livability of much of our state -- and will even the harm our future economic opportunities. Look for example at what has happened to the American rice farmers as a result of Tyson (and other chicken producing companies) feeding arsenic-laced chicken feed to chickens for years. The arsenic passed into the chicken feces, got spread on farm fields, and now almost all domestically produced rice has such high levels of arsenic in it, that more educated American consumers are purchasing only rice grown outside the US. If our public officials TRULY want to support America's economic well-being, they need to embrace a broader lens -- rather than the one they allowed themselves to be exclusively exposed to all these months that they were in secret meetings with Tyson!
While nobody wants an animal factory in their back yard, it is critical that we band together and work to make sure that these things are “Not in ANYBODY’S Back yard. Also, there is a much bigger story to what is happening that I’d like to share with you.
I feel a particular solidarity with our neighbors in Tonganoxie and Leavenworth County because a few years ago, my rural residential neighborhood, outside of Lawrence City limits to the northwest, fought a similar threat. A local developer petitioned the city of Lawrence to island annex a 160 acres that was outside of the zone of growth as outlined in Douglas County’s Horizon 2020 planning document, and to rezone it to heavy industrial. This parcel was surrounded on all sides by rural residentially zoned properties, where families like ours, had built their dream homes on small acreages.
Keep in mind -- when looking at this table -- The population of the US has more than doubled since 1909, and this chart is showing average consumption per person -- so the ACTUAL numbers of cows, pigs, and chickens being raised for food in this country has actually gone up far more than what you'd think from this graph. On top of that, we have an export market of meat from these animals too -- also not accounted for here. In other words, the environmental impact, and the number of people having to live with horrific animal factories close by, is far far greater, compared to 1909, than you would ever guess just from this data here.
Be sure to look at my page with 150 articles explaining the harms associated with Tyson Click HERE.
My father looks back with shame at how, growing up in the 1930s/40s, it never even occurred to him that there was anything wrong with elderly black women having to give up their seat on the bus to HIM—a fit, young, white male. He was raised to value fairness and justice – but could not see this injustice that his culture taught him to NOT see, which privileged him at the expense of others. Similarly, some people in the early 1800’s, who, worked to end slavery, opposed women’s suffrage. Today we have some who believe racism to be wrong, but support discrimination based on sexual orientation. Culture desensitizes and enables harms by teaching what is," normal, natural or necessary" to the way of life we are accustomed to. So what injustices are we not seeing -- that future generations will?
The United Nations says that animal agriculture contributes more to climate change then transportation. Using prime farmland to raise animals or grow their feed, increases food insecurity for the global poor, removes habitat from free-living animals and grass-fed systems are worse than conventional, because grass-fed animals use more land, grow more slowly, emit more greenhouse gasses and consume more water before finally being killed for meat. In fact 70% of the water in the western half of the United States is being used for animals or growing crops to feed to animals. During California’s drought, watering one’s private vegetable garden in some places was illegal, while it remained permissible to grow alfalfa, which is one of the thirstiest crops, and is grown only to feed animals, all over California – with much of it being shipped to China and to feed Midwestern “grass-fed” cows. Meanwhile an enormous body of science suggests meat, dairy and eggs are unnecessary for health and that populations consuming the most animal protein, have increased incidences of heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, impotence, osteoporosis and many cancers.
Most people can see that animals have complex emotional capacities and suffer immensely from injury, loss of freedom, having their babies taken from them or sensing they are about to be killed – just like us. Most people agree it is wrong to cause harm to an animal for reasons other than our survival, yet here in America, it is not only unnecessary for us to exploit animals to live, doing so is now placing the human population at risk, via climate change, freshwater depletion, biodiversity loss, and the chronic diseases eating animals promotes.
You can do something to address all of this: GO VEGAN
Click HERE for a printer-friendly version of this essay you can download, print and share.
The Peaceful Revolution
In 1942 President FDR – husband to social justice hero Eleanor Roosevelt, signed an executive order that forcefully removed law-abiding Japanese-Americans from their homes and put them in prison camps. There was little outcry. In the 1970s, our government, along with medical doctors forced African American men to endure late stage syphilis just to see what would happen. Few with knowledge of this objected. American history began with violently removing the native people. Ardent abolitionists of the 1800’s opposed giving women the right to vote, and today there are caring people who staunchly support civil rights for people of color but oppose marriage equality for LGBTQ identifying individuals. In the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, we learn that a large American hospital in the 1950’s injected cancer cells into hundreds of patients without consent, and the only people to object were three Jewish doctors – whose views were marginalized as being, “overly sensitive,” due to the Holocaust having just happened. History is full of similar examples prompting Albert Einstein to say, “The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
One of the most egregious examples of the human capacity to look away and disregard injustice against others is the Holocaust, which prompted us to ask, “how did so many, “normal” people allow such a thing to happen?” The classic experiment by Stanley Milgram sought to answer this, and suggested that over half of us will go along with things that we know harm others if environmental conditions are right, saying, “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process." However, some cultures (and by implication their cultural practices) appear to be less vulnerable to this phenomenon. So it’s worth asking ourselves...What can we do, to promote compassion and foster conditions that make individuals less likely to ignore injustice, and more able to put ourselves in the position of others so that we won’t, “look on and do nothing” when injustice is threatening someone else?
While increasingly the main vote we have is how we spend our dollars, the power of veganism is not due to its boycott of violently produced consumer goods. Rather it is the ripple effect that results each time one of us stands firmly in solidarity with justice, nonviolence and compassion. This inspires those around us to consider their own choice of where to stand. Every major human caused tragedy that has ever plagued the world, was enabled to occur for one main reason: Human beings have the capacity to ignore injustice happening to those we have been taught to, “otherize.” Throughout human history, no group has been more victimized and exploited by this phenomenon than the non-human beings that we eat, hunt, experiment on and use for our entertainment. With BILLIONS of thinking feeling, “others” tortured and killed every year.
By embracing a vegan ethic, three times a day, we participate in an activity that seeks to prevent our complicity in violence and exploitation against the vulnerable, and actually changes brains in ways likely to create more peace and justice in the world. (According to neuroscience research, our thoughts and actions alter brain structure in ways that make it more likely we will have more thoughts and engage in more actions along the same lines.) The example of how we live each day – by modeling a conviction to practice non-violence and compassion for the most vulnerable in our diet, and in what we buy and wear, may be the single most powerful action any of us can take at this time in history. Furthermore, if those in power are successful in drilling more, and thwarting US actions to reduce worldwide carbon emissions, by becoming vegan, we reduce our own carbon and water footprint enormously – but even more important the example we set has a huge ripple effect that could be powerful!
We don’t know what the next few years will bring, that’s why now, more than ever before, becoming vegan matters. Please join this peaceful revolution.
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This post adds substance to my Previous Post, How Co-option of Grass Roots Activism Played Out in KC's First VegFest.
When I was making good money working in the corporate world, I had little time to work for good causes. So I put more emphasis upon donating to charities, and hoping that my charitable donations were actually being used in constructive ways. But there is growing evidence that many non-profits not only spend egregious amounts on, "administrative costs," but actually facilitate activity that donors would find disturbing if they were fully aware of what was going on. So increasingly we rely upon third parties to tell us WHICH charities are best. But what happens when those charity evaluators are corrupt?
This 8 min video by Shark shows shocking conflicts of interest are present in Animal Charity Evaluators and their top-selected charities, and one central figure -- a well-known, well-respected figure in the Animal Protection Movement appears to be the common denominator with all of these.
This group called, ACE (Animal Charity Evaluators) tabled at AR last weekend and was actively promoting the idea that people should ONLY give money to ACE's top 3 animal charities in order to have their money do the most good. They had a slick brochure they were passing out that made them look very credible in evaluating WHICH charities were worth giving to. But without critical thinking, those reading this brochure would fail to realize it was essentially using the standard marketing trick I was trained to use when I worked in the corporate sector: reframing the issue to emphasize THEIR criteria. Furthermore, upon closer scrutiny ACE's criteria, which they suggest come from published research, rely too much upon assumptions and bias rather then truly quantifiable facts.
While I think the Shark video linked above is excellent and makes many important points, I totally disagree with their suggestions for reforming and rehabilitating ACE. The evidence presented suggests that this group is so profoundly corrupt --that nothing short of its complete dissolution would be an appropriate response. Further the facts presented lend even more credence to suggestions that I have been hearing for some time, that the top three groups that ACE seeks to enrich: Mercy For Animals, The Humane League, and The Good Food Institute Are also too entangled with this corruption for any person of conscience to support them.
For a more in-depth look at this issue, please be sure to read my previous post.
When I heard that a new group, Voices for Animals Kansas City (VFAKC aka VegLife KC) was planning to host Kansas City's first VegFest, I was thrilled. Although it seemed odd that they didn't reach out to the longest running animal right's group in the area, Animal Outreach of Kansas, and invite them to participate, I didn't start to have concerns until AOK's founder, Judy Carman inquired about tabling at the Vegfest and was informed that to have a table would cost her 300.00 dollars -- the same as for food vendors, even though she wasn't selling anything, and didn't have that kind of budget. My concerns grew when I found out HSUS and Whole Foods (one of the largest meat retailers in the US.) were both sponsors.
How would messaging at the vegfest be impacted by its sponsors?
Sponsors provide money expecting to get something. Non-profits typically sponsor expecting to expand membership and increase revenue. In the case of VFAKC's/ KC VegLife's Vegfest --- HSUS wasn't just a sponsor, but also provided one of the speakers -- Paul Shapiro.
KC's first VegFest was free and open to the public, and my family went and mingled with other attendees. Our intent was to support and promote veganism by talking with others. When we talked with non-vegans, we shared literature that encouraged veganism. When attendees told us that they were already vegan, we discussed the issue of co-option within the movement and provided them the flyer pictured above (front) and below (back).
Overwhelmingly the people we met expressed gratitude that we were raising awareness of this issue. At no point were we loud or disruptive in any way. We simply spoke respectfully one on one with individuals, and heard no objections.
But in weeks following the Vegfest we heard from a number of people that VegLife's Vegfest's main organizer, Dave Swarts, was upset when he learned after the fact that we had been providing this literature to people and he was seeking to block us from attending next year's Vegfest. Dave told others (incorrectly) that we were distributing "Humane Watch" literature. Humane Watch is a well-known front group for animal exploiting industries, that also is very critical of HSUS. Mischaracterizing our hand-out and the website it linked to in this way, may cause those supportive of HSUS to not even look into the substance of what we were saying. After hearing how upset Dave was and that our actions were being misconstrued, my daughter reached out with an email to Dave asking to set up a phone call to discuss what happened, hoping that they could better understand each other's perspective.
12 days later, Dave Swarts replied to my daughter with the following emailed statement and he copied me too:
It is ironic that Dave used the words, "conflict with our brand" in his statement. If we are both working to help animals, why would his biggest expressed concern be his "brand"? Perhaps this definition of co-option HERE can shed some light:
When the vegan movement began in 1944 with the coining of the word, "vegan," it was clearly defined as the exclusion of all forms of exploitation of animals. Keep in mind -- factory farms were not yet known. Nearly all animals were raised on family farms like those being promoted as "humane" by organizations like HSUS.
What does it mean if we begin to ally with those who are profiting off of the exploitation and killing of animals? What is left of our movement, if we are no longer clearly opposed to exploitation and killing of other beings? What does that make our movement a movement for?
Does messaging matter?
One of the speakers at KC's VegFest was Paul Shapiro, a VP at HSUS. As a segue to his endorsement of cultured meat, (Which I have raised concerns about in my post, Cultured Meat, Yellow Rice, Cage Free Eggs, Have YOU Been Duped?) Paul told the audience a tall-tale about how whales benefitted from the transition from whale oil lamps popular in the 1800s to kerosene lamps -- a tale that I have deconstructed in my post, Dangerous Myths that Threaten Animals. Paul used that tale as a metaphor for why people who care about animals should now endorse cultured meat.
Paul also made the following Orwellian statement while on stage:
"We should accept that not all animal raising is the same...In fact if all animals were raised that way [on small farms] we might go do something else with our lives...because there'd be maybe bigger problems."
Why is VFAKC/ VegLife KC providing a platform for sentiments contrary to real justice for animals? I shudder to think how this messaging (which also included suggesting that ethically, its better to eat beef than chicken) might have influenced attendees. How many people on the verge of considering veganism -- because a vegan spokesperson/leader suggested that embracing or working for "humane" meat/dairy/eggs is a morally acceptable alternative to veganism, will now become consumers of, "happy meat?" instead of embracing veganism? Might this translate into economic benefits for sponsors like Whole Foods and HSUS?
IF you are involved with the group Voices for Animals -- or for that matter, ANY group that is partnering with entities which might present a conflict of interest, I urge you to speak up and raise awareness. Go to their events and dialogue with others who attend. If you are not sure what constitutes a conflict of interest, Tribe of Heart Defined it Here:
Who is VFAKC / VegLife KC advocating for -- the animals or their sponsors?
PLEASE do all you can to keep the conversation about industry co-option of grass-roots animal advocacy alive! If you attend VFAKC / VegLife events, make sure others there know what is taking place and share information. Share this post on your social media, email it to friends who may not be on FB. Print out some of the articles that I have linked to and share them with others. The animals need us to speak up!
If you'd like to know more about how conflicts-of-interest are undermining grass-roots activism and decades of work by sincere activists on behalf of other beings, read Invasion of the Movement Snatchers and When Animal Groups Promote Happy Meat, and watch the video, Happy Meatopia. I would also encourage you to read this excellent post by Gary Francione explaining how the Vegan Society of the UK -- THE very first vegan society ever -- founded in 1944 by Donald Watson has also been, coopted/rebranded.
Something else just bought to my attention is this 2012 article:
Justice For Animals, Respect for Advocates -- Ideas too Dangerous for Corporatized Animal Advocacy?
Also -- here is the front and back side of one piece of literature HSUS was distributing at this event:
In this age of reductionist sound bites, fake news, and viral stories, I'd like to address one of the myths that some animal advocates have been touting. Stories matter. They may foster beliefs which can lead us to support actions that are actually harmful.
Multiple stories being told now support the idea, that when it comes to helping animals, historically, technology has done more to decrease harm to animals than anything else, so we who care about animals, should emphasize and support new technologies that might decrease animal exploitation over and above discussing ethics and justice if we want to do the most good.
So one story describes how whaling, which in the 1800's was the major source of fuel for oil lamps throughout the US, began a dramatic decline in the 1850's because kerosene suddenly became available. The takeaway message we are being told, is that the fossil fuel industry (and the new technology it enabled) was great for whales. This story is being used to encourage animal advocates to support the cultured meat industry (a new technology -- but one which also currently requires animal slaughter -- but not as much compared to obtaining meat from a live animal) and the story tellers say is the best hope of reducing harms to animals. Some well-known vegans, employed by large non-profits are devoting their time and resources to promoting cultured meat over and above working to shift the cultural paradigm through authentic vegan advocacy.
So let's take a closer look at the facts. Was the discovery and widespread adoption of petroleum based fuels really beneficial to whales?
It's estimated that 236,000 whales were killed by humans in the entire 19th century -- (a span of 100 years) which included 1846 -- considered the year of, "Peak whale oil." Compare that number to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil spills are a repeat consequence of obtaining petroleum. This single incident was estimated to have killed 25,000 marine mammals. And while most of those individuals were not whales -- that number is just a fraction of all the animals that perished from this accident. But more to the point an article in Nature suggests that in the century beginning a full 50 years AFTER the introduction of kerosene, (that is from 1900 to 2000) the whale genocide caused by humans was 3,000,000. That's a ten-fold increase a full 50 years after the introduction of a technology, that we are now being told was hugely beneficial to these creatures, and the justification for why we should now embrace cultured meat technology, which as it stands right now, has known ethically problematic aspects.
if you want real justice or to meaningfully reduce exploitation and violence of other beings, go vegan and work to raise awareness about veganism as a moral baseline. Most of us already agree that it is wrong to hurt animals unnecessarily, and here in America today, we don't need to intentionally harm other beings in order to live.
I've been hearing a lot lately about a new technological advancement that will allegedly save untold numbers of animals and reduce the egregious carbon footprint of meat. It's called cultured meat. Proponents claim that by using a few cells from a cow, pig, chicken or fish and applying cutting edge biotechnology, it will soon be possible to make those cells grow into meat for humans to eat without having to actually raise and then kill an entire animal.
Multiple start-ups have jumped on this idea, and investors are lining up. While the hype proliferates, it's hard to find much transparency from most of the companies trying to lure investors. Without digging deep, you'd be inclined to think we are on the verge of producing meat obtained without having to engage in violence against other beings. But that is not the case.
That's why I have been disheartened to see well-meaning animal advocates jump on the bandwagon to promote cultured meat. Lured by promises of saving animals and then given salaries that make it less likely they will ask hard questions, some animal advocates are now collaborating with animal exploiters -- talk about a conflict of interest. At the present time, producing cultured meat requires ongoing infusion of serum from slaughtered animals, meaning ongoing violence is required to produce it. Proponents claim that this hurdle has been theoretically overcome -- but to my knowledge, no one has yet made this work. Meanwhile, most of the start-ups remain vague about what they are actually doing while trying to avoid real transparency. But one entity, The Cultured Meat Foundation is being honest and is openly disclosing some major hurdles that currently have no solution. But if history is any guide -- the exploitating industries need not worry about this --if they can get some well-meaning animal advocates to collaborate, or to endorse this product they will be more likely to persuade a skeptical public to overcome their revulsion to this technology and buy it.
Once that happens, producers of cultured meat may be less motivated to solve the problem of needing an ongoing supply of newly slaughtered animals to produce it. That won't matter once they have enough people willing to eat it, it will be profitable. But what will matter is that decades of work by grass-roots activists committed to raising awareness that we can live better lives and have more peace and justice by embracing authentic veganism, could be co-opted and neutralized.
Meanwhile, the very people who are likely to be the most resistant to give up eating meat -- the passionate grass-fed, or "natural" crowd will be the hardest to convince to eat cultured meat -- which they rightly view as a cousin of GMO's.
Cultured meat, yellow rice, cage-free eggs -- all three of these are PR wins for egregiously unjust industries. In each case, these are touted to justify, what are otherwise terrible injustices. They serve to placate an undereducated or ethically numbed public, and are highly effective PR even if they never actually live up to their promises. Just look at yellow rice. For over 20 years GMO companies have pointed to it as justification that GMO's can save humanity. But yellow rice has never actually prevented vitamin A deficiency in any population, because major technical problems have never been solved -- but pro-GMO folks for two decades now have held it up as THE example that some GMO foods can actually be good for humanity -- and not just shareholders. (The evidence shows otherwise.) Cage-free eggs is another example. Praised by some animal-advocating groups as better than eggs from battery caged hens, the term cage-free has made it ok for some who claim to care about animals, to continue to economically support exploitation of chickens, while changing the conversation from the injustice of enslaving other beings to condoning enslaving them when it is done with less torture.
Now we have proponents of cultured meat justifying their support of this new technology by suggesting it will help our population transition away from harming animals. To substantiate their perspective they like to point out how development of the automobile (technology) helped animals because it made possible the elimination of the horse and buggy, which was so terrible for horses. So let's take a closer look at the horse and buggy analogy. How many of those who use this example have actually asked this question...Did replacing the horse and buggy with the automobile really result in less harm to animals? Consider how many animals are in fact killed by cars. Consider how the rapid proliferation of highways that must be built for cars impede's migration of many animals. Consider the necessity of fossil fuel to run cars and the devastation that extracting these fuels has heaped upon marine ecosystems and caused many other harms to the environment -- all of which have caused great harm to animals. It is clear that replacing the horse and buggy with the automobile exponentially increased the harms to animals.
At the present time, cultured meat requires violence against other beings, and genetic engineering has no place in a healthy, just food supply. Please if you care about animals and justice for all, work for veganism, not cultured meat and GMO foods.
Donald Trump is not the cause of our problems. Neither is Terrorism. Trump and Terrorism are symptoms of a culture in decline and a level of consciousness that is prevalent. Most of us struggle to support families and afford health care and these sometimes justify our participation in things at odds with our values. My working for pharmaceutical giant Merck is one example. Years before I finally quit, I knew I was a cog in a company actively undermining health and well-being and even our democracy! It was a trade-off I consciously made in order to have health insurance and the privileges of a living wage. Here’s another example many can relate to -- purchasing chocolate that incentivizes child slave labor (instead of spending a bit more for chocolate that is fair trade.)
Donald Trump’s power and wealth are so beyond comprehension, that if he never earned another dime he could still provide an incredibly privileged existence for his entire family, long into the foreseeable future. Why doesn’t he embrace policies that facilitate justice for the less privileged, compassion for others, and stop trying to punish/silence/scare his critics?
Even if only a tiny bit of what we hear of Trump’s conflicts-of-interest and intentional misrepresentation of facts is true, it’s an egregious record. He has been filmed bragging about his extramarital, aggressive, unwanted sexual advances. Yet most of his supporters appear to be people who consider themselves people of faith or with high moral standards. People unaware of or willing to overlook these things are keeping him in power. Why are they and a majority of our senators, continuing to make Trump our most visible “role model” the driver of our national conversations and the most powerful individual impacting our democracy?
In the final chapter of my book, Compassionate Souls – Raising the Next Generation to Change the World, The case is made that compassionate parenting built on a foundation of attachment, with firm, non-violent boundaries, that meets fundamental needs of our species, is key to creating a better world. That plus a just economic system (including food and healthcare) is key to preventing terrorism too: People who believe they have access to a decent life, plus a worldview that embodies the golden rule (and have good mental health -- which is facilitated by having fundamental needs in childhood optimally met) don’t engage in terrorism, bullying nor seek to enrich themselves to unfathomable levels by doing things that harm others.
It is possible to live in relative peace without real justice – just look at China. Will that be our future -- giving up important freedoms to end terrorism while becoming slaves to an economic engine that benefits only a few?
A widespread change in consciousness is the only way for there to be widespread peace AND justice, and how we raise children is critical to this. Too many of our cultural norms are contrary to the fundamental needs of our species -- like removing babies from mother at birth, forcing newborns to sleep alone or not allowing them to “nurse on request.” making babies or children cry it out alone, spanking them, discipline that is punitive, and/or fails to uphold healthy boundaries...all of these set humans up to feel, “not right” inside, and make us more vulnerable to materialism or to exploiting, bullying or harming others, in our pursuit of what we want. That plus an educational system that encourages competition and acquisition of stuff rather than valuing collective well-being, cooperation, and pursuit of knowledge, is causing extraordinary harm to everyone on the planet.
But each of us CAN be the change. We must open our eyes, be willing to change ourselves and then respectfully dialogue with those who hold different points of view. Here are Five things we can do right now, to be the change:
Even if initially you are unable to persuade anyone to join you in these things, each time one of us stands firmly in solidarity with justice, non-violence and compassion, it inspires others to consider their own choice of where to stand. Without enough people doing just this, power and money will always push the culture towards injustice and inequality. So please, BE THE CHANGE! It is our only hope.
I have an entire page dedicated to Passover, with recipe links and my freely downloadable Haggadah for Holistic Nonviolence on this page.
Writing this post is presenting some additional challenges. I just pulled a tray of these Matzahs from the oven, and although I was able to restrain myself from eating them long enough to take a few photos of my finished product, I can't seem to stop eating them now, which is making typing this post harder than usual.
After several disappointing attempts, I finally came up with something that not only tastes good and stays together, but also remains fairly flat instead of having the edges curl up after baking. I've been making all sorts of oil-free crackers for many years, but none of them so far would work as a substitute for matzah because they just didn't look the part at all.
Now I should warn you --what I have created here, would not pass muster with any Orthodox rabbi in terms of being kosher for Passover -- a special type of kosher that involves a lot of additional rules, like for example you have under 18 minutes from the time you mix the flour with water before you get it into a hot oven -- otherwise yeast might start to grow and cause the matzah to be leavened. Furthermore It is a mitzvah -- in fact a commandment, to eat properly made matzah on the first night of Passover, but to fulfill this, matzah must be made of one of these five grains -- wheat, spelt, barley, rye or oats. No exceptions. Some people who are gluten intolerant do eat oats -- if they are grown, handled, and processed to prevent cross contamination. But others do not. For very observant Jews, who are gluten intolerant and don't eat oats, this presents a conundrum that I do not have a solution for. But for those, who want to honor the spirit of Passover by having seders, and retelling the story of liberation from slavery -- and aren't concerned with following all those rules, my recipe may be just the thing you were looking for to make your seder inclusive for those who don't consume gluten. It's actually a very simple recipe, but does take time to roll out the dough thinly. This recipe makes six large crackers -- or one big tray (15 x 20 inches). So you might wish to double it.
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup white rice flour
additional rice flour for rolling out dough
1/2 cup water
2 TBS ground golden flax seeds
1/4 tsp guar gum
Unbleached parchment paper
I think these taste great without adding any salt, but if you are used to a fair amount of salt, you might want to sprinkle some salt on these right before putting them into the oven.
I also think they taste best right out of the oven -- but have found that several days later, you can reheat them in the oven right before serving them and they are just as good.
One final note I'd like to add is that some traditions consider legumes and rice to be verboten during Passover. The Chabad website has written about this subject Here. But I am troubled by this perspective.
In essence as I understand this, back about 800 or so years ago, some rabbis got the idea, that out of an abundance of caution, beans and rice and other healthy plant-deprived foods that are clearly NOT chometz (one of the five special leavened grains) should be avoided on Passover. This tradition took hold in some, but not all geographic areas, and has now become a source of division amongst Jews from different places.
It appears to me that Chabad's only concern about this custom is the fact that it divides Jews. But they completely ignore an important problem here, namely that this custom has the additional consequence of encouraging and increasing consumption of meat, dairy and eggs (all of which they do consider Kosher for Passover).
There are several problems with this:
1) Environmental organizations have stated that animal agriculture is a major cause of the most serious environmental problems facing humanity today,
2) In order to obtain meat, dairy and eggs, humans must engage in the practice of making other beings into, "chattel property" and "owning" them, which seems contrary to the spirit of Passover.
3) Eating meat, dairy and eggs, has been clearly shown to contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many cancers -- the leading causes of death and disability in the Western world today.
4) Rearing animals for food, means large amounts of grain and beans get fed to animals -- a very inefficient use of resources (it takes many pounds of grain to produce a single pound of meat) contributing to food insecurity for the poorest humans, while 70% of grain grown is for animal feed. Also while many areas of the US experience drought, the major use of water is for animal agriculture.
I think it is time that Jews speak up, and encourage religious leaders to address this glaring hypocrisy that undermines many of the important ideas that Torah appears to embrace: feeding the hungry, healing the world, protecting human health, compassion for animals, and taking care of G-d's creation.
About 20 years ago as the new mother of an infant, I spent some time in Australia. Just prior to this I had left my job as a microbiologist for a large multi-national pharmaceutical company and was deeply interested in the conversation that was happening at that time around the issue of vaccines. I knew that vaccines were one of the greatest success stories of modern medicine, but I had a friend who had not had as much science education and she did not share my view. Out of concern for her children, I decided to delve into the topic -- so that I could educate my friend and shine a light on the nonsense that she had fallen prey to.
Compared to now, it was a very different atmosphere in terms of being able to discuss vaccines and vaccine policy. Paul Offit was not yet the poster boy for mandatory vaccination, and one could actually ask questions in public arenas seeking to understand the real evidence regarding both the safety and efficacy of individual vaccines, without being vilified as, "Anti-vaccine," or "Anti-science." Today those labels are used to immediately shut down meaningful discussions. Additionally, doctors and scientists who advocated informed consumer choice for parents, were not subject to well-orchestrated attacks from those seeking to revoke their medical licenses or discredit them as professionals. I spent a lot of time as a new mother at the medical library researching vaccines and then calling the CDC over and over, as well as calling my old immunology professors to discuss my findings, and try to make sense of everything I was learning.
Also at that time, the vaccine schedule was not as extensive and did not include the chickenpox, or HPV vaccines -- both of which may actually have negative public health outcomes as a growing body of evidence suggests. For example while we've seen a decrease in Chickenpox cases since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine, shingles has increased significantly -- which is concerning because it's a more dangerous and more expensive disease to treat. This is consistent with mathematical modeling done around the time of licensure that predicted increases in shingles might result from use of the chickenpox vaccine. Meanwhile the HPV vaccine has misled young women into thinking that they no longer need to get PAP smears, which when used regularly, have been shown to be nearly 100% effective in preventing cervical cancer, while the Gardasil vaccine is only about 40% effective at this, and there is no data showing that protection lasts even 15 years -- long enough to protect the pre-pubescent girls it is being given to at the time they really need it. Newer studies now suggest that the introduction and marketing of Gardasil, will result in increases in cervical cancer in industrialized nations as compared to what we had prior to use of this vaccine. However, due to the intensely charged rhetoric, and the advertising purchasing power of pharma which influences the types of stories the media covers, few people know that these two vaccines actually have no science to support their public health benefit. However, a law passed in 1986 gave vaccine manufactures and doctors immunity from liability should anyone be harmed by any of the vaccines on the federal pediatric vaccine schedule and that has drastically impacted the economics around vaccinations -- and thus our public policy. (keep reading....continues after photo...)
When I arrived in Australia after I had started researching vaccines here in America, I learned about some of the differences in their health care system. But the most interesting thing that I noticed while in Australia in the mid 1990s, was the very different view that medical personnel there had about the flu vaccine, as compared to their American counterparts. In America, pharmaceutical PR had already done a superb job of influencing doctors and policy makers with regards to the flu vaccine -- as most were enthusiastically endorsing it, even though there was almost no good research showing it's efficacy. However, big pharma's efforts with regard to promoting the flu vaccine had not yet saturated the land down under, and this manifested in a very different view amongst health-care personnel there. Over and over doctors, nurses and pharmacists there told me, "Well everybody knows that the flu vaccine is a joke." On top of that I also learned that many people reported having had, "flu-like symptoms" following getting the flu vaccine after not having had any flu-like symptoms for many years prior to being vaccinated.
Since it has been many years since I've been to Australia, I don't know what their attitude towards the flu vaccine is now, but in America, flu vaccines were and continue to be big business. The World Health Organization points out that vaccines are the fastest growing sector of the pharmaceutical industry, and they expect that next year in the U.S., sales of the influenza vaccine alone, will be nearly 4 billion dollars. No wonder we are inundated with advertising, and pressure from "community partners" to get our flu shot. Like the ubiquitous, milk mustache campaigns trying to persuade us that dairy will improve our health, many have no idea how much science contradicts both of these marketing ploys.
The Cochrane Collaboration is a global independent network of researchers free from commercial sponsorship. They conduct and publish meta studies to help inform health decisions and are widely viewed as one of the least biased, evidenced-based sources of medical information. In 2014 they did a review of influenza vaccines, (which I'd encourage you to actually read for yourself by clicking on that link) but here are a few things I screen shot from that document (below). In a nutshell, this meta study, found a very small benefit of flu shots overall. But since as Cochrane points out they were unable to assess the real impact of bias on this subject, it is possible that even the small benefit they found is over-optimistic (keep in mind too that most published studies are designed and funded by those who stand to profit from sales of flu vaccines. For a long time, we've had plenty of evidence that when studies don't turn out in ways that supports pharma's sales -- that data never gets published -- it just disappears -- since those funding it often have researchers sign contracts to not publish any results without permission from the pharmaceutical company.) It is also important to note that Cochrane said, "The Harms evidence base was limited." meaning that they were unable to accurately assess the risk-benefit of flu vaccines. Below are screen shots from Cochrane's study....(keep scrolling down though I have even more to share!)
Then in 2015, The New England Journal of Medicine published a flu study that is featured prominently on the CDC's site HERE which purports to show that influenza vaccination makes one less likely to be hospitalized for pneumonia, if they do come down with the flu. However, I interpreted their data quite differently. The study looked at 2767 people admitted to the hospital with Pneumonia and found that 162 of them had laboratory confirmed influenza, while 2605 did not. It is worth pointing out that what most people think of as, "The Flu" is actually a set of symptoms such as a respiratory tract infection along with fever and aches and pains. There are many other infections (including food-borne illness!) that can have these symptoms, and more often than not what most people call, "The Flu" is NOT influenza. I have never seen evidence, nor even a theoretical basis to suggest that the influenza vaccine might prevent any of these other, "flu-like illnesses".
Of the 2767 people who were hospitalized with pneumonia, 162 of them tested positive for influenza, leaving 2605 who were hospitalized for pneumonia that was not caused by influenza. The first thing I noticed when looking at this data was this: Influenza looks to be a rather minor contributor to hospitalizations for pneumonia (since only about 6% of those with pneumonia were positive for influenza.) That means most cases of Pneumonia severe enough to lead to hospitalization come from other causes -- including "Influenza-like viruses" that the vaccine would not be expected to offer any protection against.
But here is the bigger point I'd like to make. The authors of this study suggest that their data show that influenza vaccination protected people who got influenza from going on to be hospitalized with pneumonia -- because only 17% of those positive for influenza had gotten the vaccine, compared to 29% of those who had other flu-like illnesses (and had gotten the flu vaccine. ) But is it not equally valid to suggest that perhaps these different numbers are not due to the flu vaccine affording protection from pneumonia -- but rather the fact that having had the vaccine actually increased the likelihood that if exposed to "flu like illnesses" one would go on to be hospitalized for pneumonia? Just based upon the data in this paper aren't these two perspectives equally plausible explanations for the 17% versus 29%?
Given that people undergoing chemotherapy are known to be more vulnerable to infectious disease -- because we understand that exposure to toxic substances can negatively impact the the ability of the immune system to respond optimally to infections, is it not possible that injecting toxins like aluminum, formaldehyde and foreign proteins and other common vaccine components into the bloodstream might likewise make one more vulnerable to certain infectious diseases too? This paper offers no evidence to support that my alternative interpretation is any less valid then the one that the authors of this study put forth.
Furthermore, there is evidence that injections (like vaccines) can actually increase the odds that exposure to a vaccine during an epidemic can make a person more likely to experience more serious symptoms, (example: Polio Provocation) so it seems reasonable to me that something like that could be the explanation for the data presented in this study -- namely that getting an influenza vaccine, far from simply being ineffective, may actually increase one's odds of ending up in the hospital with pneumonia. Again keep in mind -- that this study also shows that the majority of cases of people having what may seem like, "the flu", is not influenza -- and clearly that group is NOT benefited from the flu vaccine and may even be at greater harm.
Let me restate this another way: These data suggest that for most people influenza presents a very small risk that they will be hospitalized with pneumonia. They are much more likely to end up hospitalized with pneumonia from infections other then the influenza. If they have gotten a flu vaccine and then get sick with something besides influenza, this study suggests that they will have an increased risk of being hospitalized with pneumonia.
Add to all this, evidence that US Flu Death Figures May be More PR than Science. Barbara Loe Fisher has a nice article HERE explaining all of this too, with a lot more references to the peer-reviewed literature. Even the CDC's own surveillance data shows that usually about 80-90% of what most people seek medical care for as, "The Flu" turns out, after laboratory testing to not be caused by the influenza virus. You can read CDC's figures HERE.
I believe that each vaccine needs to be looked at carefully to see exactly what science exists to support its public health benefits. Given that we have many examples of the pharmaceutical industry intentionally misleading the public regarding the safety or benefits of various prescription drugs (Vioxx being the first that comes to mind) Why should we expect these same players to suddenly be more ethical when it comes to vaccines, especially when they have extraordinary legal protections from liability should vaccines (unlike other pharmaceutical drugs) injure or kill anyone, and they have the US government mandating that many of us must purchase these products. The economic incentives to overstate the benefits, and minimize, or even hide the risks appear to be far greater for vaccines than any other pharmaceutical products. Given the fact that health care personnel are not trained to analyze health care policy, nor assess the risks and benefits of drugs, but instead to simply implement established guidelines, and the fact that drug manufacturers work extremely hard to influence both health care workers and policy makers, I encourage everyone to do their own research and critical thinking on this issue.
No matter which candidate you supported, one thing is absolutely clear – this election has been the most intense and divisive of our lives. While the KKK celebrates its outcome with a rally, and reports of bullying and racial harassment are exploding nationwide, others are taking to the streets across the country in protest. Although most pundits were wrong in their forecasts of who would win, one book, The Fourth Turning, by Strauss and Howe got it eerily right, predicting decades ago that based upon historical cycles, America would be ripe about this time, to put into power those embodying nationalism, and advocating reductions in civil liberties. That book also suggests that HOW we manage this turbulent time, could determine whether we will still have a democracy, or even IF the US will even survive.
In 1942 President FDR – husband to social justice hero Eleanor Roosevelt, signed an executive order that caused thousands of law-abiding Japanese American Citizens to be forcefully removed from their homes and put in prison camps. There was little outcry. Up until the 1970s, our government, in collaboration with credentialed medical doctors deliberately forced African American men to endure late stage syphilis for the sole purpose of observing what would happen to them, and few people with knowledge of this objected. The history of America begins with our founders violently removing the indigenous inhabitants from their ancestral lands. Shockingly, some of the most ardent abolitionists of the 1800’s opposed giving women the right to vote, and today there are caring people who staunchly support civil rights for people of color but oppose marriage equality for LGBTQ identifying individuals. In the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, we learn that a large American hospital in the 1950’s injected cancer cells into hundreds of patients without their knowledge or consent just to see what would happen – and the only people to object were three Jewish doctors – whose views were marginalized as being, “overly sensitive,” due to the Holocaust having just happened. History is full of similar examples prompting Albert Einstein to say, “The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
One of the most egregious examples of the human capacity to look away and disregard injustice against others is the Holocaust, which prompted people to ask.…”how did so many seemingly average people allow such a thing to happen?” The classic experiment by Stanley Milgram sought to answer this, and suggested that over half of us will go along with things that we know harm others if environmental conditions are right, and Milgram said,"Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process." However, some cultures (and by implication their cultural practices) appear to be less vulnerable to this phenomenon. So it’s worth asking ourselves…What can we do, to promote compassion and foster conditions that make individuals less likely to ignore injustice, and more able to put ourselves in the position of others so that we won’t, “look on and do nothing” when injustice is threatening someone else?
Having raised two children to adulthood as vegans while teaching them the ethical basis for this lifestyle, I have been happy to see how this practice has laid a foundation for each of them to think critically about what is going on in our world and how their personal actions may impact injustice happening to others. From speaking up to a bully who was threatening a peer, to expressing concern about planned classroom activities that would harm animals, I have been heartened over and over to see my children risk disapproval in social situations because they believed that by failing to speak out, they might miss an opportunity to prevent harm.
While increasingly the main vote we really have is how we spend our dollars, the real power of veganism is not due to its boycott of violently produced consumer goods. Rather it is the ripple effect that results each time one of us stands firmly in solidarity with justice, nonviolence and compassion. This inspires those around us to consider their own choice of where to stand. Every major human caused tragedy that has ever plagued the world, was enabled to occur for one main reason: Human beings have the capacity to ignore injustice happening to those we have been taught to, “otherize”. Throughout human history, no group has been more victimized and exploited by this phenomenon than the non-human beings that we eat, hunt, experiment on and use for our entertainment.
By embracing a vegan ethic, three times a day, we participate in an activity that not only seeks to prevent our complicity in violence and exploitation against the vulnerable, but actually changes brains in ways likely to create more peace and justice in the world. (According to the latest neuroscience research, our thoughts and actions alter brain structure in ways that make it more likely we will have more thoughts and engage in more actions along the same lines!)
While we may feel powerless to impact what our leaders are doing, the example of how we live each day – by modeling a conviction to practice non-violence in our diet, and in what we buy and wear, may be the single most powerful action any of us can take at this time in history. Furthermore, if those in power are successful in drilling more, and thwarting US actions to reduce worldwide carbon emissions, by becoming vegan, we can still significantly reduce our own carbon and water footprint enormously – and again, through the example we set and by educating others, this action could have a huge ripple effect and be powerful!
We don’t know what the next four years will bring, that’s why now, more than ever before, becoming vegan matters. Please join this peaceful revolution!
If you would like a printer friendly version (shortened to fit the front and back of a single page of paper) of this essay to share with others, it is downloadable HERE.
I have taken on the position of Volunteer Coordinator for ECM's Veggie Lunch. I am so excited and honored that Kim Brooks has given me this opportunity and agreed that Veggie Lunch will be entirely vegan while I am coordinator. I got my feet wet with the first veggie lunch -- where I believe we set a record for the largest quantity of chick pea (faux) tuna salad ever made in the state of Kansas. At one point, we had four different people with potato mashers attempting to flatten chicken peas at one time in an industrial sized pan.
While in general I prefer to make and eat cuisine that is free of oil, and sugar, and low in salt, that will probably not be the case for the food that I will be preparing for Veggie Lunch. This is for several reasons -- the first being that when scaling up food to serve a large number of people -- using oil does make the food prep a bit easier. Secondly I am aiming to serve a population that is use to high levels of sugar, salt and oil, and I expect cares more about taste, then reducing their future risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes. In addition, the food budget is very limited. The tricks I typically use to make vegan food taste good to those who typically eat the standard American diet (like using dates and nuts for the sweeteneing and the fat) are far more expensive than sugar and oil. So for those reasons, I am going to be a bit more flexible in my menus for Veggie Lunch. That said, the food I prepare will be made using only naturally gluten free ingredients -- although a separate table will continue to provide bread generously donated by Wheatfield's Bakery, and I will do my best to prevent it from cross-contaminating the food on the main table.
However, I will not be the one preparing veggie lunch every single Thursday. As before my arrival here -- student groups will be invited to prepare the weekly meals intermittently too -- and while they will be required to make the food 100% vegan -- they will not be required to make it gluten free, that will be up to those cooking.
The Fall 2016 ECM Veggie Lunch program opened on August 25th. Here was what was served (pictured to the left along with some of the volunteers who helped make the food).
Tossed Salad with Goddess Dressing
Baked Potato with choice of Sauteed broccoli and onions and cheesy sauce
Chick Pea "Faux" Tuna Salad
Wheatfield's Bread (on a different table)
The food was very well received and loved by everyone that I talked to. I promised that I would post the recipes on my blog....so here they are:
1 cup of sunflower seeds (rinsed)
2 cups water
2 cloves of garlic peeled
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 T lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground yellow mustard seed
Place the sunflower seeds into a powerful blender with half of the water (one cup) and blend on high until thick and creamy. Then add the second cup of water and all remaining ingredients and process on high until completely blended and creamy. Stores well refrigerated for about 5-7 days -- shake well before using.
Sauteed Onions and Broccoli
1 head of broccoli -- chopped
1 onion diced
San-J Wheat Free Tamari (organic)
Saute the onion in the oil until it starts to brown, add the chopped broccoli and continue stirring until it turns bright green. Sprinkle with tamari, remove from heat and cover and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.
The Cheesy Sauce Recipe was posted to my blog Previously
Find it HERE.
Chick Pea Tuna Salad
4 cups of cooked (or canned) chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
1 TBS Kelp Powder
1-2 TBS Wheat Free Tamari
1 TBS Lemon Juice
2 stalks celery finely chopped
3 TBS finely diced onion
1/2 cup vegan Mayo (We used Just Mayo purchased at Walmart)
1) Drain the chickpeas and place them into a flat-bottomed container. Using a potato masher, partially smash the chickpeas - but leave them in chunks.
2) Sprinkle the kelp powder, tamari and lemon juice over the chickpeas and stir well to evenly distribute.
3) Add in the celery and onion
4) Stir in the vegan Mayo
Our youngest daughter is about to head off to college while our older daughter has landed back at home after her own graduation. Between the two of them and their friends, our house has been busy with a flow of wonderful young people full of energy and idealism. I love the lively conversations we've been having while sharing delicious meals, and feel incredibly blessed for the time we've had together. One of the big topics of conversation around here lately -- especially now that I have decided to run for a position on the board of the Lawrence Community Mercantile, is free speech.
To my surprise, I have learned that my daughter's generation -- especially those educated at more selective liberal arts schools, often do not share our family's view that free speech is an extremely important legal right, that we need to watch closely and protect. In fact one of my daughter's friends said that she didn't think free speech was that important -- and that she thinks it is MORE important to be able to restrict speech considered offensive -- especially when it is racist or derogatory to religion.)
So I wanted to share some quotes from this FABULOUS book we've been reading. It has really opened our eyes. The book is called Unlearning Liberty -- Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. Here are just a few passages that we loved:
It may be very tempting for high school students entering college to have sympathy for the advocates of speech codes, but that is only because they misunderstand the purpose of the First Amendment and lack knowledge of the legal, philosophical, and historical principles that support it. The First Amendment exists to protect minority point of view in a democracy, and anything that undermines it necessarily gives more power to the authorities. It is ultimately the best protection of the weak, the unpopular, the oddballs, the misfits, and the underdogs. If the only price that we have to pay for this freedom is that we sometimes hear words that we find offensive, it is well worth it.
One predictable result of working so hard to prevent offense is that students quickly learn that claiming to be offended is the ultimate trump card in any argument. After all, if you knew you could immediately win an argument by calling the other person’s position offensive, wouldn’t you be tempted to use that tactic?
Prohibitions on hateful speech do nothing to stop hate, but they let resentments simmer, and they also prevent you from knowing who the hateful people even are
Probably the simplest but most successful argument for restrictions on speech I hear today is that censorship can protect people from hurtful or bigoted speech. The implicit question I run into all the time on campuses is, “Can’t censorship be acceptable if one’s intentions are pure, compassionate and generally good?”
History tells us that the answer is flatly “no”. I cannot think of a single anti-free-speech movement in American history that did not sprout from someone believing that they were fighting for truth, justice, decency, and goodness itself. This is so common a friend of mine has an acronym for it: the “GIRA Effect,” standing for “Good Intentions Run Amok.”. John Adams thought he was saving the country from ruin by instituting the Alien and Sedition Acts. Northerners who believed that abolitionists needed to be silenced thought they were preventing a bloody civil war.
Having pure intentions, steadfast goals, and an unwillingness to consider that you might be wrong is the formula for some of the worst evils mankind has ever wrought upon one another, from inquisitions to the twentieth century’s disastrous experiments with totalitarian utopias. As pushy as those of us who defend civil liberties may seem, the right to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience rests on a deep-seated humility: I know I am not omniscient, and I suspect you aren’t either. Therefore, I have no right to tell you what you can’t say,
A system that allows for censorship must necessarily put actual, flawed people in charge of deciding what does not get to be said. This is probably the most important reason to take that power out of the hands of authority. Even if we think authorities should be empowered to regulate opinion, they are likely to be too self-interested and self-deceived to do it fairly or, even, competently. Time and time again, those with the power to censor see criticism of themselves as what needs to be banned.
Unlearning Liberty can be checked out from the Lawrence Public Library by clicking on the image of the book above.
I have been told it is offensive when I suggest there are ethical problems inherent in consuming animal products no matter how well the animals are supposedly treated. I have been told that in touting the science showing a whole-foods vegan diet can prevent or reverse our most common killers, while producing fewer greenhouse gasses and using less water than one based upon meat and dairy I am demonizing those with medical conditions that require them to eat meat.
I realize that there are individuals for whom the benefits of meat eating outweigh the risks, like, children with severe epilepsy not helped by drugs. When they are put on a ketogenic diet (consuming no carbs and just eating meat and dairy) they have fewer seizures. Although not without serious long-term hazards, compared to the certainty of continuous seizures --the long term risk of all that animal protein, pales in comparison. Who cares about cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and kidney disease down the road, when they are just trying to have a little time without any seizures? But I disagree that in providing the honest facts about the many harms of meat and dairy, I am demonizing those with no better options.
In the not-too-distant future, we will likely have lab grown meat that could be sustainably produced without needing to exploit any more animals. Like the genetically engineered human insulin that enables diabetics to live without killing pigs for insulin, lab-grown meat could provide a non-violent alternative.
But the question we should be asking is why are rare examples of people for whom the benefits of meat and dairy may outweigh the risks being used to silence those pushing for a non-violent change? It's similar to the argument that since Inuits living in remote regions, probably couldn’t survive without eating meat, it is somehow an injustice to suggest that the rest of us should.
There may be some people with particular health issues – rare genetic disorders, or allergies to every known plant, who really couldn’t survive without eating animals, but for the vast majority of humans, not only is that not the case – but overwhelming amounts of data, suggest that the current demand for meat and dairy, is posing a very real threat to the continued survival of humanity. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that situations such as these may be excusable based on the circumstances, but something that is excusable can still be morally wrong. For example, if two humans were stranded on a desert island and one canabilized that other to survive, we would recognize that this is excusable due to the circumstances, yet at the same time it would still be morally wrong because it involved killing someone against their will. What is fundamentally important though, is that most people already agree that it is wrong to unnecessarily cause harm to animals. And if you think it's wrong to kick a dog just for fun, then it's also wrong to eat meat and dairy just because they taste good. If we can live healthfully without eating meat and dairy, eating these things means we ARE unnecessarily harming animals
So I don't understand why people who say they value peace and justice, would spend any time trying to justify or defend continued exploitation of animals for meat, dairy or eggs, which require us to engage in intentional, violence against other beings. If the time and money being spent to try to justify this outdated, violent tradition, were instead used to figure out how to help those few who really do have legitimate challenges to being vegan, we would all be much better off.
For the record, I typically avoid casinos. The gambling thing seems exploitative of those who can least afford to gamble and the noise, sounds and blinking lights of the slot machines jar my senses, plus I find the lack of windows oppressive. But worst of all is the SMOKE! Casinos are one of the few places left where people can legally burn tobacco in the faces of others indoors.
Yet in spite of all that, and in contrast to my usual behavior, yesterday I ventured inside of one. My husband and I were passing by the Hollywood Casino on our way home from somewhere else, when he mentioned to me that he had a credit to spend at this one, that was not transferable to anywhere else and he had noticed that they had some ladies handbags in their gift shop...and wondered if I might need a new purse. (And I DID.)
For a gift shop it was incredibly sparse. The major items they had, were souvenir glasses, a few polo shirts and ladies handbags - lots of them. I assumed that since it was a casino, the purses were probably all leather...but I started looking at them anyway, and now I am so glad that I did! About half the purses there had tags on them that declared them, "VEGAN." The clerk told me that this was because many of their customers are looking for products containing fewer toxic compounds. (Leather of course fails miserably in this regard.) People in Casinos are looking for non-toxic goods...REALLY? (I myself was looking for a breathing mask hooked up to an oxygen tank!) Anyway it was so exciting I bought myself TWO new purses. I felt like a kid at the carnival redeeming my tickets for prizes!
(Guest Post by Marla Rose of Vegan Street)
From within the vegan movement, I have always observed a tendency toward painting one another as either hard-line ideologues or compromising doormats and the tinderbox that is online communication has only made things more fractious. This is also nothing new. What is new, though, is the attitude that I’ve seen pushed with more and more frequency and more and more certainty by mainstream vegan “thought leaders” that by making concessions on our vegan practices to accommodate those who are inconvenienced, confused or threatened by them, we are making strategic advances for the animals. In recent months, I’ve even seen some make the wholly Orwellian claim that by eating animal products on occasion, we are actually helping the animals overall by appearing to be less extreme, more approachable, just generally nicer. It seems that by eating animal products on advantageous occasions, we can help to assure their eventual liberation, or at least the liberation of their future generations. This line of reasoning only works, though, if you have bought into the false dichotomy that it is more beneficial to be helpful and pragmatic than to be judgmental and dogmatic.
In the world I live in, though, there are many ways to live as a vegan within the brackets of these polarities that do not rely on an obvious straw man caricature as the boogeyman. According to this convenient duality I’ve seen pushed with an increasing confidence, vegans can only choose between being supportive, smart pragmatists or angry, irrational ideologues. While I will wholeheartedly agree that all of us need to communicate better, I also believe that it is entirely possible to not behave like shrieking militants while still maintaining our commitment to veganism. If we bend over backwards to accommodate what we think people are threatened by, if suddenly eating something with “a little egg” or “a little butter” is the difference between someone thinking we’re reasonable and that same person thinking we’re puritanical, where do we draw the line? What if someone who I really want to appeal to thinks it’s dogmatic that I won’t eat bacon? What then? Do I eat the bacon? Why end there? A little beef? I am to understand from our new pragmatic leaders that we should eat cows over chickens. Why not just make it a regular part of my life to consume some beef and dairy to be more accommodating and model for the world that eating cows is preferable to eating chickens? Why not? Maybe I will become the ultimate vegan by not being vegan anymore. This may sound absurd and rightfully so but it is the obvious outcome of the Orwellian claptrap I’ve seen championed by thought leaders in the vegan movement for the past year or so: The best vegans are the ones who are not even vegan at all.
I came home tonight pretty upset and heartbroken after hearing yet another vegan speaker promoting this view of the helpful pragmatist and the out-of-touch idealist, an out-of-touch idealist who is so very extreme that he or she won’t even intentionally consume animal products. As my husband said when I came home and told him about it, here we are, closer than ever to gaining legitimacy and beginning to make real inroads for creating change and the real challenge to our progress is coming not from well-funded industries or powerful special interests but from within the vegan movement. By making the term “vegan” so nebulous and shape-shifting it for what we see as strategic gains, we are cutting the ethical basis out of our social justice movement. Those are our own hands doing the cutting. It’s not industry. It’s not special interests. We are on the precipice of powerfully positive change and here we are voluntarily holding the scissors. Snip, snip, snip. Cut that pesky meaning from the word. Let’s make everything all nice and neat and non-threatening.
All of this is to say that I will not knowingly consume animal products because if someone’s convictions about living with compassion and justice are so tenuous and flimsy that I need to eat yogurt-covered pretzels in order to convince them that I am a reasonable person, this is not someone I am going to focus on influencing. I will move on. I will continue to show that it is entirely possible to be a vegan who maintains her standards while remaining friendly, welcoming, engaging, accessible and helpful. Just as I wouldn’t expect domestic violence activists to engage in “a little battery” to convince the public that, hey, they’re not so high and mighty with their whole anti-violence thing, we should not be expected to compromise our values to be effective. We can be effective without it.
I have gotten dozens and dozens of messages from people over the years who have learned about veganism through positive but honest advocacy and they are deeply grateful for being able to access and unlock this incredibly rich, rewarding and empowering reservoir they never knew was inside of them. Their intelligence, strength and basic goodness was respected. These are people who had never envisioned themselves as vegan but saw the possibilities because their capacity to grow was trusted. Intentionally eating some animals to score perceived tactical points with “normal people” violates the very foundational premise of veganism, which is that we don’t knowingly use other animals for our purposes. This isn’t about purity; it isn’t about judgment. It’s simply about consistency and believing in the foundational principles of veganism. As my husband said when we talked about it, we have worked really hard for this word vegan to mean something and to bring awareness to not only what it means but also why we do it. People who largely eat a vegan diet but advocate eating some animals on some occasions under the pretext of effectiveness need to call themselves something else. This isn’t splitting hairs. They are simply promoting something other than veganism. Oh, and, hey, look at what just showed up in my Google alerts this very morning: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry... . Sample quote: "I think 'seagan' fits a huge need for vegans who want variety and, for health reasons, they now realize they can eat this." Yup. When animals are eaten by vegans, we are truly in an Orwellian reality of our own doing. My sincere apologies to the animals. The “vegans” have sold you down river.
My thanks to Marla Rose, Co-Creator of Vegan Street for allowing me to post her essay here on my blog. Be sure to check out VeganStreet's wonderful collection of over 500 Memes HERE
NEW -- I have a whole page on Mothering and Dairy HERE
(Also -- Read my post about Protein HERE)
There is overwhelming evidence that a whole-foods vegan diet has many benefits throughout the lifespan. One benefit in particular, is that eating lower on the food chain (ie just plants) reduces one's exposure to pesticide residues and toxic chemicals like mercury and DDT. This is particularly important when it comes to pregnancy and lactation, since some environmental contaminants can impair neurological development, alter immune responses and even increase the risk of cancers. I have been vegan since before conception of my two now grown-up life-long vegan daughters, both of whom are grateful that we raised them as vegans. A diet emphasizing beans, and greens with fruit, other vegetables and small amounts of raw nuts and seeds is the basis for optimum health. Pregnant and nursing mothers, eating a whole foods plant based diet, and taking sublingual B-12, vegan D3 (if they aren’t getting daily sun) and an algae based DHA/EPA supplement give their breastfed babies superior nutrition, while minimizing exposure to pesticides, and heavy metals. This will benefit brain function and reduce the likelihood that their children will ever develop many of our most common chronic diseases, like Diabetes, Asthma, Coronary Artery Disease, Kidney Disease and Breast and Prostate Cancer to name a few!
Although very little research has actually been published that compares levels of breast milk contaminants between long-term vegans and omnivores, in 1971 the New England Journal of Medicine published an account of a small study which did find the breast milk of vegans was lower than that of omnivores, and stated that in every single contaminant measured, the highest levels in the vegans was lower than the lowest level in the omnivores:
Pollutants in breast milk of vegetarians.
It would make sense for this to be the case, since basic biological principals show that there is bio accumulation of environmental toxins as one moves up the food chain, and humans eating an omnivorous diet essentially sit at the top of the food chain – with their breast-fed babies being at the very top. Together, the studies linked to below suggest that complete avoidance of meat, dairy, eggs and fish -- especially the longer this can be done would likely contribute to having breast milk that is lower in most major environmental contaminants, since the highest dietary sources of two of the more common and clearly harmful toxins, DDT and PCB’s are animal and fatty foods: http://www.watoxics.org/chemicals-of-concern/pcbs-and-ddt
However the following study clarifies the issue a bit more as it suggests that fat from plant sources is NOT associated with breast milk contamination – unlike fats from ANIMAL foods:
Relationship of dietary intake to DDE residues in breast milk of nursing mothers in Beirut.
A study that took place in Ireland looked at a specific class of toxic compounds, similar to dioxins, which appear to be ubiquitous in the environment. They tested 100 different types of foods and reported that dairy products, fish, meat and eggs were the largest sources of dietary exposure to these toxic compounds:
Polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs) in Irish foods: Occurrence and human dietary exposure
Breast milk from The Netherlands was far more contaminated than breastmilk from Hong Kong – In spite of Hong Kong being more industrialized. I would expect that this reflects differences in consumption meat and dairy between the two populations.
Comparison of dioxin and PCB concentrations in human breast milk samples from Hong Kong and the Netherlands.
This study, sought to show that pesticide residues in organic goat milk was within safe ranges, but the more important point I see here is that the levels were as high as they were, given that the animals were being fed only organic foods. This demonstrates the idea of bioaccumulation. When you eat animals you are eating their lifetime exposure environmental toxins, and some of those toxins are excreted into their milk.
Assessment of health risk from organochlorine xenobiotics in goat milk for consumers in Poland.
This study found positive associations between egg eating (in addition to meat and fish) and dioxin concentration in human breast milk.
Maternal risk factors associated with increased dioxin concentrations in breast milk in a hot spot of dioxin contamination in Vietnam
And these may be of interest too:
Assessing infant exposure to persistent organic pollutants via dietary intake in Australia.
Organochlorine pesticides residue in breast milk: a systematic review.
This study’s data suggests that concentrations of pesticides in a breastfed baby may be even higher than what is found in mother.
A novel model to characterize postnatal exposure to lipophilic environmental toxicants and application in the study of hexachlorobenzene and infant growth.
At first glance, this study appears to suggest that fish consumption is the only dietary factor linked with increased contaminants in breast milk. However, when you consider that this study had only 125 participants, and given the tendency for homogeneity of diets regionally in Japan, it is likely that there were few if any women in the study even eating a plant based diet for comparison -- certainly not enough to allow for statistical significance if differences were found. A classic example of the “sick population” bias rampant in many nutrition studies.
Maternal body burden of organochlorine pesticides and dioxins.
All the women in this study had multiply contaminated milk and all of them ate a similar omnivorous diet including meat, dairy and eggs.
Dioxins and furans in breast milk: a case study of mothers from southern Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Here's a really great article seeking to explore risks vs benefits of breastfeeding vs formula in light of the fact that humans sit at the top of the food chain (but not vegans!) Lots of good information about benefits of breast milk!
Contaminants in Human Milk: Weighing the Risks against the Benefits of Breastfeeding
Dr Kradijan’s “MILK LETTER” written to his patients is very good:
Finally, I'd like to leave you with this to think about. I still think of myself as a "nursing mother". The memory of the intense feelings of love and attachment that I felt as my babies nursed is still profound. I realized then, that much of what I thought of as, "LOVE" for my children was very hormone driven. Each time my milk flowed, I'd have an even more overwhelming desire to be with my babies. It would have been very upsetting if someone had tried to interfere in my ability to nurse and care for them -- and even worse if someone had actually taken them from me! I know that I share that feeling with lactating females all over the world -- including those of non-human mothers. When I see someone eating cheese or drinking cow's milk, I cannot help but feel sad for the cow mother who had her baby stolen from her so that humans could take the milk she made for her baby. That is one of the most compelling reasons why I remain vegan.
When I worked as a microbiologist for Merck and Co. Inc, I spent time in commercial hatcheries. Although I could easily spot the cruelty in those places, for a long time after that I was still unable to spot the cruelty when I visited friends who were raising chicks in incubators to have backyard eggs. I think it was because of my education -- beginning with classroom chicken hatching projects -- that had taught me to NOT see the injustice we forced upon chickens, I literally, "Did not see," the injustice of depriving baby chicks of the experience of being raised by their own mother, just so humans could eat their eggs -- something we do not need to do, and which the science now clearly shows is actually causing harm to the humans who do this! Below is my compilation of reasons why I now oppose backyard chicken farming.
1) It supports industrial animal agricultural operations. Most backyard chicken farmers purchase baby chicks from commercial hatcheries. There is much cruelty in commercial hatcheries. For example chicks who get under the wheels of carts are left half-smashed and still alive for hours on the floor. Others get their tender innervated beaks singed off with a hot iron. They are slammed into stationary vaccination needles so rapidly that some get the shots in the eye or die from the roughness.
2) Most backyard farmer's chicks have been sent through the US Postal service. This may take up to 72 hours during which time they have no food, no water, no warmth. Not all of them survive this abuse -- and the hatcheries know this -- so they usually include a few extras to replace those killed in the transport process.
3) Most hatcheries suffocate or grind up alive the male chicks. There is no market for them as they are the wrong breed to use for meat production. But some take a more humane approach and use the males as live, "packing material" in their shipments of female chicks to farmers -- letting their customers figure out what to do with these unwanted individuals.
4) Even if you can find backyard farmers who do not get their chicks from commercial hatcheries you are still perpetuating violence and exploitation of other beings. Most cities only allow the keeping of hens, not roosters. Since about half of eggs hatch into males, these birds are not wanted. Even in places where keeping them is allowed, most urban egg farmers don't want them, as they are not useful for producing eggs, take up space and cost money to feed and house. And they crow loudly. So most males are either killed at birth, allowed to live for awhile and then killed and eaten, or set loose in areas that they are not adapted to survive in, or they end up at animal shelters.
5) Backyard poultry increase rodent populations in urban areas. Even under the most well-maintained conditions, the straw and feed that is put out for the birds, is a huge draw for mice and rats.
6) The natural reservoir for influenza is birds. All strains of human flu started out as bird flu. Bringing human populations into close repeated contact with birds (chickens and ducks) exposed to wild bird populations increases the possibility of a new strain of influenza making the cross species jump.
7) Chickens and their feces often contain pathogenic organisms like Salmonella, and Campylobacter. When it rains, runoff from a yard with chickens can find its way into neighboring yards spreading these bacteria. Privacy fences do not prevent this, and children playing in other yards are more likely to be exposed via playing in the dirt or cuddling with cats and dogs who have also been exposed.
We not only don't need to raise and kill animals for our survival, doing so contributes to the major environmental problems plaguing humanity, is an inefficient use of limited resources, is exploitative of other beings and harms human health. If you are reading this, please go vegan. For more on this topic visit:
What's Wrong With Backyard Eggs?
How would you feel, if someone in your suburban neighborhood, frustrated with industrial agriculture and it's egregious crowding of animals, and use of antibiotics and hormones, decided to take matters into their own hands? How would you feel if they use their little subdivision yard to house, raise and then kill animals to eat the meat -- and maybe even sell a bit of it to others? Supposing these neighbor's traditions included eating cats and dogs -- and they were killing these animals in their backyard too? Would this bother you? How would you feel if children in the neighborhood were to grow up learning to accept this sort of violence as normal and not be bothered by it -- would you consider that a good thing? Would you like to see the routine killing of cats and dogs in back yards become completely acceptable in our community?
I just found out that the Lawrence Planning Commission Staff have recommended revising the current city code to legalize back yard slaughter of small animals as part of their plan to enable and embrace "urban agriculture" and I'd like to explain why I find this so incredibly disturbing.
I first began educating people about the health and environmental benefits of eating plant based nearly twenty-five years ago and pointing out, especially to young adults, the horrific and completely unnecessary violence required to turn feeling, thinking beings into meat. Overwhelmingly, people would say to me, "If I had to kill an animal myself, I would never eat meat," demonstrating humanity and the natural aversion to violence against animals that most people have. When I asked people to consider what was the moral difference that enabled them to support killing some animals (cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, fish) for the frivolous reason of taste or habit, while opposing killing other animals (cats and dogs) whom they would sometimes welcome as part of their family, this would at the very least, cause most people to pause and consider the cognitive dissonance of this double standard.
In the past ten years however, with the growth of the small local farm movement, I have witnessed a change in many young adults in our area in terms of how they react to my raising concerns about the violence required for producing meat. Increasingly I am running into well-meaning college-aged men and women, who have developed relationships with small local farms. These idealistic young people may have been motivated initially by their opposition to the violence of factory farms. But after connecting with and volunteering on local farms they came to embrace certain types of violence. While at first many found killing animals distasteful, after forming meaningful relationships with mentors (the farmers) who had already become desensitized to specific types of violence, these young people learned to accept it as well. As evidence that this represents a spreading of "desensitization to violence," when I ask those who are volunteering on these farms what moral difference justifies killing a pig for food, but not killing a dog for the same reason -- they are very quick to assure me that there IS NO DIFFERENCE -- and in fact, they would now just as soon kill and eat a dog -- if that was our culture.
Now you may argue that the current regulations being considered would NOT legalize killing cats or dogs in our city neighborhoods -- only traditionally eaten farm animals -- so my concern is misguided. However keep in mind -- increasingly our communities are multicultural -- and other cultures eat cats and dogs the way ours eat chickens and pigs. Not only is there absolutely no morally relevant criteria by which you can justify killing one and not the other, but to allow the killing of chickens for food, while disallowing killing cats, is a type of racism -- favoring one culture's practices over another. At some point, likely such codes would be challenged on these grounds -- and if the legal killing of some animals had come to be accepted in our urban neighborhoods, it is more likely the resolution of this disparity would legalize killing cats and dogs -- rather than the abolishment of killing. So if this disturbs you, the time to speak up is NOW.
From a public health/safety standpoint, what the Lawrence City Commission is considering is also problematic. The majority of infectious diseases plaguing humanity have come from our domestication and use of animals. Bringing more animals into urban areas, only increases the chances that we will have animal diseases adapting to human populations -- this is in fact THE cause of newly emerging strains of flu -- all flus were originally "bird flu."
I fully support urban agriculture using plants and allowing people to turn their lawns into food gardens, but I think making it easier for people to raise animals for food in urban areas is a dangerous backwards step. I urge you to contact the Lawrence City Commission and our mayor and city manager (see contact info in red below) and do all that you can to keep this from happening.
As per David's recommendation ( in the comments below) here is who you can contact in the City of Lawrence to try to keep these new urban animal agriculture and slaughter provisions from going into effect....
Tom Markus (City Manager) 785-832-3400 tmarkus@LawrenceKs.org
Mike Amyx (Mayor) 785- 842-9425 email@example.com
Stuart Boley firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Larsen email@example.com
Matthew Herbert firstname.lastname@example.org
My older daughter, Sarina, is in her final semester as an undergraduate in biochemistry and policy studies at Grinnell College. Below is a recent article that she wrote, that I am sharing here as a guest post. (My thanks to Ronaldo for the photo that he took of the two of us.)
Food Justice: The Real Victims
by Sarina Farb
Imagine this scenario: You suddenly find yourself transported to a time or place where public stonings are legal and a socially accepted form of capital punishment for things like adultery. I’m certain that most people who are concerned with social justice would agree, that regardless of cultural traditions, stoning someone to death for a non-violent offense is absolutely abhorrent. Now that you are in this place, imagine that a public stoning is happening in front of you, and hundreds of people are throwing stones at a woman accused of adultery. Regardless of your place in the crowd and whether or not you throw a stone, you realize it will likely not make any difference to the suffering and terror the woman is experiencing. You also recognize that you have no hope in that exact moment of getting THIS stoning called off.
What do you do?
Do you say, “My one stone won’t make a difference” and join the group mentality? Or do you sense that even though your choice won’t have any effect, it would still be wrong for you participate? I believe it is clear in this scenario that we have a moral obligation NOT to participate in the stoning, and that REGARDLESS of the direct physical impact of our choice, our non-participation makes a strong statement that we reject stoning people to death. Now lets change this scenario up a little bit to discuss a social injustice that our own society currently accepts as normal.
I lead a student group on my college campus called ‘Advancing Animal Compassion Together’, and we organize a variety of events and campaigns. The group’s fundamental goal is to raise awareness of, and END a largely invisible injustice in society: the exploitation, domination, and use of non-human animals for human desires. This includes the use of animals for food, fabric, transportation, and entertainment. Non-human animals are sentient beings with rich emotions, who much like us, desire to live their lives on their own terms, safe from harm and premature death. That said, I recognize that most people do not yet see using animal flesh and secretions as an injustice. For me and many other vegans, we feel like we are witnessing something akin to a legal and socially accepted stoning that no one else seems to see. When we speak up by tabling, and postering, we are simply trying to share with others what we see, and stop a culturally condoned injustice.
Over my four years at Grinnell College, people have raised a number of issues regarding my group’s efforts, and some feel that our discourse promotes food policing, harmful neoliberal rhetoric, and offensive analogies. So I want to be clear about why we do what we do. To really understand though, it is important to look at this issue from the victim’s perspective, in this case, the animals that we breed, raise, confine, and kill at our whim. And yes, meat dairy and eggs ALL inherently involve exploitation and harm regardless of how sustainable and “humanely” they were raised and killed. We (humans) make choices for the animals we own based on how we benefit most. We dictate when they breed, when they are weaned, when they are separated from family members, and when and how they will die. So my group’s issue is not with Factory Farms (CAFOs), but rather with the exploitation, objectification, and property status, of non-human animals. For as long as animals are chattel property, human economic and personal interests will always outweigh the animal’s interests.
Overwhelmingly the biggest use of animals in society is for meat dairy and eggs, so while my group’s goal is to end all animal exploitation, our focus often goes straight to the food system. Furthermore, both as individuals and as a society, we are most invested in animal exploitation for food, because so many of our daily practices and traditions are directly constructed around consuming animal flesh and secretions, and thus many people are very emotionally attached to this exploitation. This is why vegans often provide meat, dairy and egg, alternatives, and talk about diet so much. But I want to be clear: veganism is NOT a diet! It is an ethical principle that exploitation of non-human animals is wrong, that applies to all parts of our life including what we eat, wear, and participate in. Diet is just the main area where every individual has a chance EVERYDAY to make a statement about who they are and what they stand for.
I value a variety of different tactics and forms of activism in social justice work, including focusing on individual choices and action, as well as institutional divestment and systemic reform. I think social change results from a multitude of angles and both top down and bottom up approaches have their place. I find it problematic to assume that promoting personal lifestyle choices are part of a harmful neoliberal rhetoric, or that personal action has no impact on oppression in our society. Supply and demand is very real, especially for things like meat, dairy and eggs, because we literally vote with our fork three times a day. Furthermore, this “personal choice doesn’t matter” narrative only serves to absolve individuals of personal and moral responsibility to align their actions with their values. Such rhetoric can even be harmful by disempowering many individuals by suggesting their actions cannot make a difference. However, adopting a strict vegan ethic is NOT just a simple boycott or mode of ethical consumption. Rather, our promotion of veganism is about making a loud, clear, personal and political statement, as with the stoning scenario, that we reject the exploitation and use of animals for reasons of culture, convenience, and palate pleasure.
While much of the organizing and current social justice work on Grinnell campus is focused on building power networks and coalitions to find strategic institutional targets to address widespread systemic injustice, my group has chosen a different approach for addressing animal oppression. This is primarily because there are critically important differences between non-human animal oppression, and oppression of humans within our capitalist system. While most already regard all humans as individuals with explicit rights (which are not always respected), our society still collectively views and treat animals as property. Additionally, it is entirely possible to produce plant foods and other goods without intentional exploitation, yet it is IMPOSSIBLE to ever produce animal products without exploitation since the products are literally made from the bodies of oppressed individuals. Under this framework it becomes clear that while divestment strategies may be more impactful for addressing things like exploitation of undocumented human farm laborers, unless and until we create a paradigm shift where our society no longer considers animals to be property, such institutional approaches will fail to create real change for the billions of beings exploited and slaughtered for meat and dairy. Institutional and moderate reform such as divestment from CAFOs does nothing to challenge the property status of animals. So instead, we run educational and outreach campaigns such as tabling outside the dining hall and postering in bathrooms to challenge the notion that animals are objects to make food and fabric from. Each and every one of us holds immense power. Encouraging and supporting individuals in adopting a vegan ethic is fundamentally what is most important. We are confident that institutional change will follow, once public perception of animals changes. For now, we are simply here as messengers speaking up on behalf of the defenseless victims whose screams are ignored. We cannot FORCE anyone to stop supporting violence and exploitation, we are simply pointing out that consuming meat, dairy, and eggs, IS directly FORCING exploitation and violence on others. What you chose to do with this information is up to you.
So when we encourage you to go vegan or say that veganism is the social justice movement of today, that does NOT mean that we think racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of human discrimination are solved. It is only a recognition that we have at least come to a point with those movements where race, gender and other irrelevant criteria no longer provide a culturally condoned basis (in the U.S.) for individuals to be harmed in order to benefit those with power. However, in sharp contrast, the irrelevant criterion of species IS still providing the justification for non-human animals to be harmed to benefit the more powerful (humans). We need the vegan movement today to change the societal notion that it’s okay to own and exploit beings. The root of all oppression stems from “othering” groups of individuals based on these irrelevant criteria. A true intersectional approach must recognize that speciesism* as a form of sanctioned discrimination, is no different than racism or sexism. Every oppression is unique, but suffering is still suffering, and killing is killing. However, the parallels I am drawing here are between the system of oppressions and the attitudes of the oppressors.
So please, think of the animals, who are individuals that don’t want to die or be ripped from family members, before you eat bacon or ice cream. And if you ever have questions, comments, concerns, or would like support in going vegan, please reach out to me personally or our group. We are more than happy to provide resources, answer questions, and give you our full support.
*Speciesism is essentially the discrimination and exclusion of individuals from our moral community based solely on their species and whether or not they are human.