For people who are not Christian, this holiday has very little to do with celebrating the birth of Christ, and while Christians may lament this, holidays should be inclusive. Inclusive, of course, having a much more expansive meaning for vegans than non-vegans. And while I've never given the word Xmas all that much thought (or use, except when I didn't have enough space), I've been seeing it a fair bit lately and all of a sudden its appropriateness struck me with full force today.
Because that X really does sum up what happens, doesn't it?
Even folk who believe that a birth should be the focus of this event, do so by reveling in the deaths of billions of sentient beings. We literally snuff out the lives of countless others, putting a big ol' X through their existence (see how that word has an x in it too?), and think nothing of it. Most holidays involve the deaths of other beings on a massive scale as well, but I've never seen the hypocrisy of Christmas as a religious holiday quite as clearly until now.
X brings to mind:
a dead cartoon character's eyes when marked with x's
and incorrect when used as the opposite of a check mark
X, one letter with multiple meanings, including a literal death sentence on a day that for many humans is supposed to be about birth. How odd. How sad.
Actually, there are a number of them, but here are four examples.
Why is it assumed that when vegans get sick it's because of what they don't eat, yet when non-vegans get sick it's not assumed to be because of what they DO eat?
Why are vegans often asked if they support abortion, yet pro-life folk are rarely asked if they support ALL life? A surprising number of anti-choice proponents favour capital punishment, for example, yet this isn't often thought to be hypocritical even though the hypocrisy charge is lobbed against pro-choice vegans all the time.
Why are humans murdered while other animals are killed -- it's the same action with the same consequence is it not?
And lastly, why are vegans routinely accused of being judgmental, but non-vegans who judge the lives of other animals as less important every time they stuff them in their mouths are not? Eh, tell me that!
I stole the awesome cartoon above (don't remember from where now), but it's from the talented Vegan Sidekick who also has his own website where you can find images in categories (how cool is that?), and books (which I may just have to buy), so go give him some love! Seriously, right now. No point in waiting. ;)
Canucks celebrated this holiday back in October, but I wanted to post a quick thank-you to all vegans living south of the border. Keep doing what you're doing, keep calm, and vegan on. Oh, and enjoy the tofu. ;)
No no, not mine (at least, not yet, snort) or anyone we know, or even of this blog (although I can't blame you for wondering where I've been -- this post was first drafted nearly a month ago!), so let me explain.
Not to sound morose or anything, but this concept has actually gotten me quite excited. I mentioned obituaries in my last post and how when you reach a certain age you both read and understand their appeal a bit more. I've even had to write one myself a few years ago (for my step-dad), but when I read the one published for my own dad this past summer I was disappointed at how generic and bland it was. This is it?, I wondered. A couple of lines indicating age and relatives left behind are all you get for having lived almost 88 years? It seemed unnecessarily sparse, and gave no indication as to who and what this man was all about.
But it got me thinking as to how I want my own life represented once I leave this earth for good. (And hopefully I will have left Earth a bit better then when I arrived.) I want it to capture not so much what I have done, but an idea of who I was. I would love for it to read something like; our sister/partner/friend (depending on who does the writing) was smart, funny, creative, kind and generous. She was also sassy, strong-willed, opinionated, and could be a real pain in the ass. And she would completely agree with this assessment if she were able to read it! More importantly though, I would want it to mention what I was most passionate about -- veganism.
In fact, I want it to be more than just a mention. What I really envision my eventual obituary being is a public statement and declaration of my vegan beliefs. Wouldn't it be great to have the last written words about you (unless you're famous I would imagine these would be the last) be a testimony about what was most important to you, and an appeal for others to go vegan as well? So, being a bit of a control freak, I intend to draft at least the vegan portion of my obit and indicate in my personal effects containing my will that I want this included. My last wish, if you will.
And why not? In other obituaries you see requests for donations to certain charities (why not request that they go to your favourite vegan/animal rights organization?), Bible quotes (why not an animal rights quote that has great meaning for you?) or work, sports, and other extracurricular activities. So why not a powerful statement about what you stood for, and what you hope future generations may achieve that so far we have not? Yes, make your obit count! Let's start a new trend and let your vegan voice speak from beyond the grave, boo haha.
p.s. I waffle between thinking there may or may not be life after our bodies give up the fight (what happens to that all former energy otherwise?), but IF my dad still exists somehow on some plane or another, I could see him shaking his head and uttering one of his favourite Dutch proverbs Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg, which roughly translated means, "Just act normal, that's crazy enough" -- sorry Dad, no can do! ;)
Because I don't have as much time as I'd like these days but still want to keep posting on a somewhat regular basis, I thought I'd jump on the popular #ThrowbackThursday bandwagon and hitch a ride myself, snort. After all, why not recycle and reuse some of the material I've written over the past five years while I work on new stuff? Besides, it might be fun to look back and see what still resonates.
The twist? Well, not really a twist, but instead of republishing the entire post, I'll likely just link back to it and perhaps provide some additional commentary. This post, for example, will deal with the advantages of being an older vegan. Okay, maybe some of the disadvantages as well. Like this:
But before you read the holy-crap-that-was-written-back-in-2011? post (and yes, it IS true that when you get older time flies by even faster), I want to add a couple of things. First, while I still agree that reaching out to younger people makes sense and is a good idea, I believe even more strongly that discounting the power and influence of the boomer generation is a bad mistake. For better AND worse, this population demographic still has a big say in how our society operates (for example, they're not willing to think of themselves as old the way previous generations may have, and quite a few of them don't even want to retire), so if we can get this group to say no to animal use and abuse while they still have the political and economic power to make a difference, then we should encourage that as much as possible.
Second, when you get to a certain age, obituaries start to become more interesting and you finally begin to understand why older folk find them so fascinating. You also start to think more in terms of what you've done with your life so far, and what is important for you to accomplish still before kicking that proverbial bucket. And if you're lucky, and finances permit, you may even start planning what vegan and animal rights organizations will inherit whatever you have left. Another reason, I would think, for agencies not to discount the older vegan.
Thirdly, whatever happened with CarpeVegan? They're linked in the original post, but it felt to me that while they started out with a bang, they more or less sputtered out. They still publish occasionally, but the site really didn't take off as I thought it would. Pity.
Finally, I want to take the opportunity here to introduce you to another delightful older vegan (yep, we're everywhere) who is proof that blinders can be removed at any age, and that much good can come of older-generation-vegans spreading the word. So, please say hello to my friend Vegan Grammie Annie!
And, finally finally, it occurred to me during the prepping of this throwback post that revamping old posts can be just as much work and just as time-consuming as composing new material, but hey, anything to get me writing, right? ;)
As y'all know, I love Esther, and her two dads, and the fine job the three of them are doing in raising awareness. "The Esther effect" has proven to be strong and far-reaching, and what I particularly like is the positive and joyful approach this trio embodies. One heart at a time is their strategy, and I think it's a smart one. With all the misery that animals face and activists are witness to, it's easy to forget that being vegan should also be fun and life affirming, so it's nice to have Esther and her dads remind us of that. Plus, saying Yes (to life, compassion, love) is, in my opinion, a stronger way to get folk to stay vegan rather than just focusing on the No (to cruelty, suffering, death) in getting them to go vegan.
But what some of you may not know, is that I also like making up words -- as the animal industrial complex shows, language can be manipulated to hide all sorts of evil, and one of our tasks as vegans is to strip away the veil (notice how evil and veil are almost identical) of words that make cruelty invisible -- and Esther has been a rich source of inspiration. Thus, here (in no particular order) are my top favourite five new Esther-inspired words and definitions:
Estheresque: similar to statuesque (as in being striking, majestic, magnificent) Estheresque takes it one step further to include any quality that matches her impact on human consciousness
Estherapy: better than booze, massage, and perhaps even chocolate, a visit to Esther's Facebook page is bound to lift your spirits and make you smile
Esthercise: okay, this one I didn't make up myself (saw it in a FB comment), but the word brought to mind images of brief spurts of running at top speed, sandwiched in between bouts of napping and eating, and somehow, this exercise regime seems appealing even to me
Estherache: pain brought on by not having at least a daily dose of Estherapy
Estherology: future scholarly study of Esther and "The Esther effect" leading to countless Sociology, Psychology, and Anthropology courses featuring this life-changing porcine loveliness
One of my all-time favourite adjectives though is one coined by Esther's dads themselves: Esther-approved (what a creative and gentle way to describe a better way of eating and living!) and confirms for me that these two men deserve all the respect, admiration and attention that they're receiving. May these sweet Canucks stay humble and gracious, and continue to inspire and effect change. Campbellville, here I come! :)
Read the following this morning, and liked it so much I decided to look for more. :)
For those not familiar with Farley Mowat, he was a crusty but popular Canadian icon (he hated that label but I'm gonna use it anyway) who authored forty-one books (which I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read any of yet), a noted environmentalist, a lover of nature (not all environmentalists necessarily love nature I've come to suspect), an important critic, and an influential figure.
And while he wasn't vegan (although I like to think he eventually would have become so), he nonetheless was a champion for other sentient beings and certainly recognized the destructiveness of the human species.
For two in-depth articles on this rascally one-of-a-kind national treasure, click here and here, but I'll let Mr. Mowat have the last word:
“It is to this new-found resolution to reassert our indivisibility with life, to recognize the obligations incumbent upon us as the most powerful and deadly species ever to exist, and to begin making amends for the havoc we have wrought, that my own hopes for a revival and continuance of life on earth now turn. If we persevere in this new way we may succeed in making man humane ... at last.”
As you know, t-shirt activism is one of my favourite ways to spread the vegan word. This past summer (yikes, can you believe we're already talking about summer in the past tense?), I got three new ones and pretty much wore them all the time. The first Captivity Is Cruel tee got a few nods and "I like your shirt" responses:
The second Not Your Mom, Not Your Milk tee got the most polarized response ranging from a cold stare (given by a Farmers Feed People in Cities clad person, snort), to an enthusiastic "You're vegan? Wow, my respect for you has just gone way up" exchange with the checkout clerk (thanks again, Monika, in case you're reading this!) at my grocery store. I didn't hear it, but apparently, the otherwise-hip young couple behind me were rolling their eyes and saying how veganism was too extreme while M and I were discussing the tee.
And grocery stores, by the way, are one of the best places for vegan tee advocacy because when people are stuck in line, you've got a captive audience. Did I ever tell you about the time when a teenager behind me excitedly told her mom to look at my Food Is To Eat, Animals Are To Love shirt, and the five people behind them promptly demanded to see it too? Now THAT made waiting in line worthwhile. :)
But the vegan tee that got the most response this summer was the sweet and gentle Friends, Not Food, as it elicited a smile from just about everyone who saw it. It also got quite a few "oh, that's SO cute!" responses as well as initiating a couple of more serious discussions. But what I really liked about this t-shirt in particular was how it seemed to get non-vegans to see their food in a different light. I swear I saw at least one mental light bulb going off!
So, as a cooler fall begins, my tees will get a final wash before they're put away for their well-deserved rest. They did a good job this year, and will be summoned for vegan duty again next summer, along with a few reliable others. :)
Actually, we do, but it's so little known (I only ran across it myself a while ago) that it hardly even registers in Google search. Try looking for its cousins, and you'll find misogyny (hatred or dislike of women) coming back with a scary 1,640,000 results, misandry (hatred or dislike of men) clocking in at 1,100,000 results, and the more equal-opportunity term misanthropy (something I definitely fall prey to on occasion) yielding 542,000 results. But misothery? A paltry 1,780 results is all you'll get.
A shame, really, since the term itself (coined by Jim Mason in 1993) contains the resulting misery for animals right within its letters. I like this term, I really do. And it reminds me of the dangers when we don't have proper names for things so commonplace, so underlying just about everything, and yet so silent. Remember the world-changing effect when Betty Friedan described the problem that has no name? Naming is powerful, necessary, and exciting too.
The word misothery may have an awful ring to it, but I'm glad I found it, and will be adding it to my arsenal of tools to fight animal and human exploitation. Because these two types of exploitation are linked, with the one enabling and the other perhaps begetting, but definitely reinforcing. And who knows, maybe one day, certain acts of animal use and abuse will be seen more widely for what they really are: hate crimes based on species.
p.s. if you agree that this term is a damn fine one, and deserves a wider audience, please help pass it on :)
Two weeks ago, I wrote about being speciesist as I found myself feeling both relieved and guilty when I discovered that the dead animal I removed off the road was not a dog or a cat but a raccoon. Upon reflection though, I think one of the factors that made me less upset involved human responsibility. Or irresponsibility, I should say. While it's always sad when a sentient being meets its end, living near humans (especially when we've encroached on their habitat) is risky for wildlife. And even though humans shouldn't strike an animal on purpose and should do their best not to run over them again in passing, squirrels, raccoons and rabbits who scamper across the road risk being hit.
Cats and dogs, however, have no business being on the road and unless they happen to be feral, it's up to humans to make sure that they're not. In other words, when I see a dead cat or dog on the road, I blame their guardian. All dogs should be leashed when walked (I always cringe when I see dogs off leash on the sidewalk because you never know what will cause them to suddenly dart onto the road), and cats supervised if let outdoors. No, when dogs and cats end up dead on the road, it's not so much an accident I feel, but a dumb decision leading to needless death. And that, I think, is partly why I get more upset with certain species getting hit by cars.
A reader mentioned being more moved to tears about stories involving animal than human suffering, and I wonder if the same element is at play here. Most animal suffering is intentional in some way or for the benefit of human desire (e.g. factory farming), so when we see, for example, stories about chicken or pig barns going up in flames, it's even more heart-wrenching because we know that raising animals for food isn't even necessary. It's based upon human greed and appetite, and a complete denial about a sentient being's emotional life and a right to live their lives as free from human harm as possible.
Stories of human suffering though, are often self-inflicted, and involve humans doing stupid things to each other when they should know better. Unlike natural disasters, man-made disasters usually reflect greed at some level, meaning that humans are at least partly to blame. Actually, one could argue that certain natural disasters are the indirect result of climate change and global warming, which are the more direct result of humans not being as bright as they claim to be. While any kind of suffering is to be lamented, there's a greater innocence where animal beings are concerned, especially when it's through direct human action.
Familiarity, though, is also a key factor. We respond differently to beings that we identify as being more similar, or that we have more knowledge of. It is thought, for example, that folk tend to think of cats as being so cute because their round faces and pleading meows remind us of human babies. (For an illuminating discussion of how we, women especially -- myself included! -- infantilize other animals, please read the comment section of veganelder's post.) People have begun to respond to Esther the Wonder Pig on a large scale because they can perceive her personality (through the photos and words her dads share) and realize that when they eat pork, they're eating someone who could be Esther, someone who shares traits with humans that they can recognize. They're experiencing what Krissa means when she wrote, "...the more interactions and experiences that one has with different species, the more it's revealed that we are all the same."
So am I speciesist? Likely (probably, given that I wouldn't max out all of my credit cards if my cat got sick, but maybe would for a relative), but it's a matter of degree. And just as it's foolish to claim that because no one can be 100% vegan one shouldn't even try, recognizing speciesism when it rears its ugly human head (are all species speciesist though?) is better than not recognizing or acting upon it at all.