Recently a Facebook fan commented on our page (after many other comments had already posted) in response to a post we published about Edith, our latest rescued chicken. I decided to publish this exchange because it was a good example of the misguided yet all too common notion that veganism is like a religion.The implication is that vegans prostletize like evangelicals and try to convert people to their beliefs.
We create our human ecology with our behavior. This is how we establish relationships with our external environment that includes other people, individuals from other species, and the entirety of ecosystems. Our behavior and the relationships that arise from it are at the center of every issue that troubles us: human overpopulation, loss of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, poverty, the violated rights of individuals from other species, climate change, waste, and social and economic injustice, to name a few. The good news is that we can make better choices.
While vegans often hear from non vegans that the vegan lifestyle is “not for them,” the new leader of a company that sells vegan products to at least a majority vegan customer base should be held to a higher standard and perhaps a more thoughtful and courageous assessment of what veganism is all about. Instead Bate’s makes a transparent appeal to the majority, a majority that is grossly misinformed about the true ethical and ecological impacts of their food choices.
Some argue that since nonhuman animals eat other nonhumans in the wild, our use of animals is “natural.” There are four responses to this position. First, although some animals eat each other in the wild, many do not. Many animals are vegetarians. Moreover, there is far more cooperation in nature than our imagined “cruelty of nature” would have us believe.
Today I read and commented on a post on James McWilliams’ blog about the issue of sentience in insects. James urges us to take the possibility of sentience in insects seriously and consider what implications this could have on the vegan position of non violence to sentient beings. I agree. One commentator prompted me to think and respond more than the others. Here is our exchange:
In preparation for my workshop series called Overcoming Objections to a Vegan Diet in Chicago, I have been busy researching, writing and compiling the best information I can. It’s been an amazing learning experience, particularly from non vegans who have expressed their objections to me personally as well as the veteran vegans I have gotten to know who have shared with me the breadth of their experience on this aspect of communicating with the largely non vegan majority.
Being dismissed as an extremist isn’t the worst thing in the world. But as a new animal activist, I used to unconsciously dread this accusation. I carefully worded my responses to avoid it at all costs. No more. Now liberated from fear of being labeled extreme, I whole-heartedly encourage others to abandon their fear. The notion that other species, too, are deserving of respect and justice is not far-fetched, let alone extreme. It’s simply a logical extension of the principle of equal consideration that we already accept. This principle has been expressed in texts as ancient as human civilization itself.
“Any time consumers of meat, eggs or dairy advocate for ‘humane’ treatment of farm animals, they confront an unavoidable paradox: the movement to treat farm animals better is based on the idea that it is wrong to subject them to unnecessary harm; yet, killing animals we have no need to eat constitutes the ultimate act of unnecessary harm.”
I expect to garner some criticism for this post, but sometimes I think we need to face our demons and question what matters to us. To my dismay, I’m finding just too many vegan and animal advocates lately who appear to be afraid to embrace the dominant truth that embodies our cause. The core message of respect for animals is being diffused, diluted, and sometimes even sabotaged in a desperate attempt to appeal to as many other arguments for going vegan or supporting animal rights as the opposition can fling in our direction.
The following is my response letter to horse activist, Karin Hauenstein, regarding pending horse slaughter legislation in the US. I’m sharing this because my response prompted me to raise some important questions about veganism as a form of activism and the merit of single issue campaigns in the larger context of animal advocacy.
I respect the fact the some have food allergies, and some are serious and life-threatening. The fact that these allergies are real threats to their health and survival has been well-documented. On the other side of the spectrum is a growing chorus of people today who are claiming to be allergic to almost everything imaginable — except meat and cheese and eggs. Isn’t that interesting?
A while back I wrote about a demonstration in Paris calling for the closure of all slaughterhouses. Why the hell not? Killing is killing. Stop killing animals for a food source we don’t really need was the simple and clear message from the group of over 450 French demonstrators that day. Just the other day I learned about an open letter James McWilliams sent to Whole Food Market which I found to be a brilliant plea with the same clear and courageous message that the French demonstrators delivered. And today John Mackey, the CEO of WFM responded with the letter that follows.
I write with a simple, if revolutionary, idea: close all your meat counters. Every single one. Forget (for the moment) dairy and eggs and all the animal-based products dependent on systematic suffering that you believe are integral to a robust stock price. We can deal with these items later. For now, as a step toward a better future, just shut down the meat markets. Forever.
In 2007, I wrote a newspaper editorial, which was republished in 2009, arguing that Michael Vick’s dog fighting was, as a moral matter, no different from our consuming animal products. I have received literally thousands of responses to that editorial. Many people agree with my position; many people have said that the editorial provoked them into thinking about veganism; many have said that they have become vegans after thinking about my argument. But no one–no one–who disagreed with my position has been able to articulate why what Vick did was any worse than what the rest of us do. That is because there is no coherent way to distinguish what Vick did from what everyone else does.
“Real change is about making social justice for everyone, any gender, sexual orientation, race or species. Many people I know demonstrated for social justice last summer, but weren’t vegan. This summer they are, and they call for justice for all animals. This is how the social revolution in Israel is evolving and I hope we’ll be seeing this kind of transformation in other countries.”
Vegan From the Inside is a A 2011 survey conducted by nutrition expert Janice Stanger Ph.D. that shatters six common myths about the vegan diet. 2,068 vegans from the United States and around the world candidly shared the joys, rewards, and challenges of their diet and lifestyle. If you are a vegan or considering veganism, let this study support you on your journey and give you the resolve you need to keep going strong!
“Casein, one of the proteins in milk, crosses the blood-brain barrier and becomes something called casomorphins. Yes’m, that sounds a lot like morphine—because casomorphin is also an opiod. Nature designed it that way so young mammals would enjoy nursing, come back for more, and live to reproduce themselves.” “Human milk has only 2.7 grams of casein per liter. Cow’s milk has 26. And because it takes, on average, ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese or ice cream, you’re looking at a lot of casein and resultant casomorphin.” The result is a major opiate addiction that can cause people to have serious withdrawal symptoms.