Canadians have already celebrated this happy/horrible occasion back in October, and I've blogged about it over the years in more traditional ways (type Thanksgiving in the search bar if interested), so this time I thought I'd approach it a bit differently:
And while the line above may have come from a schmaltzy movie (which may be an unfair representation as I only vaguely recall seeing bits of it), I think it has a lot to say to both vegans and non-vegans alike.
The first sentence struck me as summarizing a typical view that many non-vegans hold of us: having a holier-than-thou attitude, defining our goodness by what (we would argue who) we won't eat, unnecessarily restricting ourselves from what others view as both tasty and healthy, and excluding folk who don't measure up to our definitions and expectations. And to a degree, they're right. That is, we place undue emphasis on things like meat, eggs and dairy, when as Norm Phelps says,
As vegans, we are not "giving up" meat, eggs, and dairy. We are giving up cruelty and killing. p193 Changing The Game
He's right. It's not about the animal products per se; it's about avoiding the suffering and death that go into the making of those products. But that's not quite right either. Or at least, not right enough. What vegans really try to do is not view animals as products or objects at all, but as beings with the right to live their own lives in their own ways. In other words, we try to respect all sentient beings and remember that our cause is about them, not us.
And in that sense veganism is about inclusion. Including all animals into our circle of compassion, consideration, and showing awareness of their needs and wants, which often mirror many of our own. Family, companionship, safety, security, joy, play, food, shelter, and above all, life. But in many ways, vegans are quite good at excluding others. Other vegans who don't share our philosophies and strategies (I'm guilty of this, for sure), vegans who we feel aren't vegan for quite the right reasons, and non-vegans who are willing to step part of the way onto the vegan path, but not the whole way.
We sniff with disdain at vegetarians, flexitarians, reducetarians, and those who are only veganish, even though the demand for analogs of all kinds is often driven by those who aren't ready to give up animal products altogether. In other words, we bite the hands of those who are helping to feed the demand for less animal suffering. This doesn't mean I wouldn't encourage those individuals to go vegan, but I wouldn't denigrate them either for what they're willing to do right now.
So maybe what vegans need to become better known for is what we say yes to. Instead of being equated with deprivation and restriction, veganism might expand more if it was associated with something that's joyful and celebratory. Not that a misanthropically inclined individual such as myself would be a good role model, snort. No, I'm thinking more of folk like Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and Esther's amazingly upbeat dads.
Perhaps if we aspire to be more like them, and to pass on the message in a more positive way, we wouldn't have such a hard time persuading people to go vegan. Maybe we need to become less No people and more Yes people. Maybe being vegan, and even veganism itself, needs to be more fun. And maybe we need to embrace and recreate a truly inclusive veganism that better reflects that.
Then again, we can't lose sight of why most of us became vegan in the first place: to stop the torture and killing of other animals. So if it's not about us, what should our pleasure and fun have to do with it?
As usual, I'm thinking out loud. What are your thoughts on this?
Yep, it's true. Just found out on Friday that a new employee in our retirement home is vegan. Unfortunately we'll rarely work together as our shifts are different, butjust knowing that I'm no longer the only vegan at work is sweet to say the least. Now I have no idea why this person is vegan (health, environment, ethics), how long she's been vegan, her theoretical inclinations (she could be a draconian Francione-inspired absolutist abolitionist* for all I know, snort), or even if she's a person I'd like. That's to say, we wouldn't necessarily get along just because we're both vegan.
But no matter. The fact that there will now be two of us may just double the impact. Because while I haven't "converted" anyone at work over the past five years, I HAVE normalized veganism for them. That is, they now know someone who's vegan (even if they don't work in my department), have asked questions about being vegan (including the perennially popular But where do you get your protein?), and are aware of at least one person bucking the status quo when it comes to animal consumption, and piping up whenever she hears a self-serving Mmm... bacon.
But doesn't everyone know a vegan by now? Perhaps, and in a bigger city this wouldn't even warrant a post. However, I live in a small town (population under 25,000) with strong rural roots and not much history of questioning animal exploitation. And the home where I work is a Christian one (a bit of a conflict of interest for me as I don't identify as Christian), where hierarchy and human supremacy have an even stronger ideological foothold than in the secular world. So I see it as even more significant that in this small town and this small workplace there are now two of us living and modeling a do as little harm to other animals as you can ethic. Can't wait to welcome her, and to see what unfolds! :)
p.s. in the wake of the Paris attacks, here's a thoughtful and insightful look by Andrew Kirschner at how all lives don't matter
* for the record, and if labels matter, I consider myself a pragmatic abolitionist
Yep, it's that time of year again. Tomorrow we commemorate World Vegan Day, which in turn launches World Vegan Month, woot! It's a time to celebrate:
anyone who has recently decided that consuming other animals is not okay
anyone who's been vegan for more than a year, 5 years, 10 years, or 20+ years!
the fact that more people than ever actually know what vegan means
the fact that even non-vegans are consuming more animal alternatives
the explosion of vegan products in the marketplace
the abundance of healthy good-for-us and good-for-other-animals food
the almost endless choice of vegan recipes and cookbooks
any new legislation that helps decrease or eliminate animal suffering
more information and more books on animals rights than ever before
the proliferation of animal rights courses at law schools
too-many-to-mention vegan sites and blogs all at the click of a button
crowdfunding vegan initiatives
animal sanctuaries near and far
and most of all, the lovely beings we all fight for
Better yet, tomorrow we get an extra hour to celebrate our progress as a movement. Animal liberation may seem far off, but change IS happening and will continue to accelerate. So how do we celebrate? You could find and hug another vegan, or check online and see if there are any activities planned for your area. You could send a "Happy World Vegan Day" card, or donate to your favourite organization. Or, you could do what most people do to celebrate a special occasion -- eat! :)
But the best way to honour the day, in my opinion, is to honour those at the centre of it all. So go hug your animal companions, and if possible, spend some time with farmed animals. Soak up some of their wisdom, show your love and appreciation, and continue to make this planet a better place for ALL her inhabitants.
Just in time for Monday's Thanksgiving (or Columbus Day for those in the States), here's a recipe for yummy kid soup as a lovely side dish. It's quite simple really -- take a big-sized pot, fill with water or stock of some kind, carrots, onions, celery, leeks (or whatever else you have in the fridge), and one small to medium-sized kid. The younger the better, as its flesh will be more tender and tasty. Bring liquid to a boil, insert kid, and simmer for at least two hours to enhance flavour. Serves 4-6.
A couple of notes for those a bit squeamish. Just as when you toss live lobsters into hot water, the thrashing around is nothing more than a reflex response. Please do not anthropomorphize and ascribe pain, as these creatures can't process pain given their lack of a complex nervous system. And as observed hundreds of years ago by the father of modern philosophy René Descartes (1596-1650), without thought, reason, speech or soul, animals are little more than organic machines, thus we needn't worry about how they're treated unless it affects other humans.
If you're still concerned, keep in mind that it's just "one bad day", and as long as a kid had a happy enough life for its first 20 weeks or so, then your responsibility is absolved. Plus, in keeping with rising consumer demand, you can now acquire kids that have been raised humanely. That is, they've been given a little bit of sunshine (but not too much as paler flesh tastes better), a little bit of room to move around, and an artificial milk-based formula to fatten these tykes up in record time. Also, organic, antibiotic-free kids are now widely available as well.
And if you're still uneasy, use humane stunning methods to ease your conscience. Better yet, get someone else to do the work for you and obtain a kid de-haired and pre-chopped. Much easier, less messy, more convenient.
Oh, another tip. Make enough in one batch to have leftovers, because boy is this soup even more delicious the next day. So get cooking, and enjoy! ;)
October 2 is World Day for Farmed Animals, and in looking for an image on Google, I came across several graphics with sweet lambs, ducks or calves sporting an enthusiastic "Happy World Day for Farmed Animals!" caption. Totally understand, and yet the word happy threw me off a bit as life for farmed animals is anything but happy, no matter what day it is. I truly hope no one still believes that farmed animals lead an idyllic life as illustrated in the awesomely cute image below, with the exception perhaps for those lucky enough to live in a sanctuary.
I even ran across one image that really had me gobsmacked until I went to the blog where it was linked to (not the blog mentioned in the pic) and realized that the dairy farmer in question was so thoroughly indoctrinated that they truly believe all sorts of nonsense such as: cow's milk is nutritious for humans, cows enjoy being milked by mechanical means, dairy farming is a noble and praiseworthy endeavour, blah blah blah.
Reality for farmed animals, as we all should know, is the exact opposite of happy and then some. Words like misery, suffering, cruelty, torture, hell and death are the words that I associate with this day (and every other day that sentient beings continue to be farmed), and it's up to vegans to remind others of the horrors that no farmed animal is spared.
Some are even willing to show their solidarity for farmed beings by participating in a one-day fast, and I would urge you to do the same if you can.
But whether you're able to fast or not (disclosure: I'm working that day and the physical nature of the job will prevent me from doing so), there are 364 other days where you can make your position on farmed animals and every other form of animal use known. Join others in the fight to make the rest of human society (ha ha, almost used the W word here, veganelder) wake up to the fact that animal use is not okay. Let's try to make each day a truly happy day for other sentient beings by:
letting them stay alive
letting them stay together with their offspring
letting them stay together with the friends of their choice
letting them participate in their natural instinctual behaviours
letting them make their own choices as much as possible
(Don't like the phrase "letting them" in the list above, but it shows the absolute power human beings have over others they deem less valuable.)
While the thought of trying to make the world go vegan can be as daunting as trying to imagine world peace (although as veganelder pointed out in my last post, the term "human society" is usually more accurate than world), it can be more manageable when broken down into bits. And while there's no magic formula or easy 7-step process (this world would have become vegan already if there were), we too quickly forget about the power of one. Because the power of one multiplied exponentially can bring about change in ways we can't even possibly foresee. Who would have thought, for example, that a lone image of a deceased boy on a beach could be such a rallying point in the current refugee crisis?
What does the power of one look like? It can be:
one pamphlet or book that finally opens someone's eyes
one video or documentary that really hits home
one blog post that inspires
one image that galvanizes collective outrage
one muffin or meal that makes someone realize animal parts aren't needed
one day powerful enough to scare the ag industry silly e.g. Meatless Monday
one consumer product popular enough to cause lawsuits e.g. Just Mayo
one mentor or role model
one animal's world that has completely changed by being rescued
What can YOU do? That's up to you. There's lots of choice and enough to do, so pick what suits you. Pick what you love or what you're good at (often the same thing), because sticking to something and being able to do it over the long haul helps everyone. Keep in mind also that one thing isn't the same as a scattered or frantic do something, do anything approach, but a strategic focus that when multiplied can have real results. Reread pattrice jones' inspiring blog post Effective Activism, peruse 100 Ways to Change the World for Animals Part 1 and Part 2 from OHH, and:
Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And go do that. Because the world needs people who've come alive. -- Howard Thurman, American theologian and civil rights leader
Finally, remember that if nothing else, act as if what you do can make a difference, because it CAN and it DOES.
And an ever-changing one at that. A family situation has come up that will require even more of my time and attention, so I'll be taking a brief blogging break. Hope to be back by no later than the end of summer -- yikes, only about four more weeks! In the meantime, keep cool, keep calm, and vegan on.
Oh, a couple of thoughts, and one more it's-a-strange-world-indeed graphic. Enjoy, and see you soon.
Every successful social-change movement has involved a multiplicity of people using a multiplicity of tactics to approach a problem from a multiplicity of angles. Some people push against the bad things while others pull for the good alternatives. Some people work to undermine destructive systems from within while others are knocking down the walls from without. We all need to recognize that and find our place within a multifaceted struggle, being sure to be generous and appreciative of those who are working towards the same goal using different tactics. -- pattrice jones
Because I’ve discovered the secret to the best kind of activism – it’s whatever kind you actually do. -- Cassandra Greenwald
p.s. one last strange, sad and cautionary tale of how even some vegans can get it all wrong...
Because if you don't see how seemingly different types of oppression are similar and interconnected (that is, the roots are the same but the affected party may be different), then you won't be as effective in whatever advocacy work you're doing.
The above is part of a comment I left on a previous privilege post back in January, and is something that has fascinated me for a long time. That is, how folk can recognize their own particular form of oppression well enough, yet be seemingly privilege-blind when it comes to other forms. Before I continue though, I found an excellent article recently on what privilege really means, which I would encourage you to read because privilege by its very essence can be so damn hard to see, especially when we're the ones reaping its benefits.
(pausing while you finish reading)
While it may be tempting to think that once we recognize one form of oppression all the other ones are instantly easier to see, unfortunately, that's not the case. While some well-meaning vegans, for example, have been quick to point out that "all lives matter" when they see #BlackLivesMatter, do we really have the right to do this if we don't understand white privilege better, and recognize how we're complicit in a racist system? And how do you deal with or prioritize multiple oppressions when all of them have an impact?
Privilege and oppression can seem almost limitless, and perhaps they are. Are we all endowed with privilege blinders? I'm beginning to think so. Let me illustrate with a few more examples. One of the first labels I adopted and still wear is that of feminist. Considered a dirty and threatening word by far too many, feminism as its basic goal seeks gender equality. That's it in a nutshell. So why every single person isn't in favour of this concept baffles me. Wouldn't allowing everyone to be their true selves instead of conforming to rigid and outdated gender stereotypes be a win-win for all? (I'm not being naive here, as I realize that many individuals and institutions benefit greatly from inequality despite its high price.)
And while you would think that those who identify as feminist would seek equality for all women, this isn't always the case. Women of colour have often argued that feminism doesn't include them. Same for those who aren't middle or upper class. Some women who are sex workers say that feminists too often portray all of them as victimized prostitutes, rather than women who are choosing how they earn their income. There are also those who dispute that all pornography is automatically bad or demeaning. They would argue that it is sexism, not sex that should be demonized, and some feminists are making their own pornography. Then there are feminists who are accused of being transphobic, a claim that's difficult to refute when some of them insist that only women-born-women qualify as real women, and that only they should be granted access to women's and feminist spaces.
Another group that vegans often lament for not seeing the oppression of other animals are members of the LGBT community. And it IS frustrating when folk who legitimately fight for the ending of oppression based on sexual orientation don't feel there's anything wrong with oppressing beings who happen not to be born human, even though they have desires and relationships just like we do. But is it that surprising? Because you would think that those who are discriminated against because of orientation are more likely to support all other orientations. Not always.
While it may be better now, there was a time when identifying as bisexual would get you a lot more flak from those who didn't identify as straight, as from those who did. And while neither group particularly liked "fence sitters", it wasn't heterosexuals who were more committed to kicking you off. But even today biphobia is alive and well. How many bisexual characters are there on TV? How many have there ever been? And how many of those characters are misidentified, like Piper (on Orange Is The New Black) who's called ex-lesbian instead of bi? Notice also how most people think almost exclusively in terms of gay or straight, male or female, black or white. We're addicted to binary thinking, and don't seem to like anything in between. Gosh, how many times haven't you heard the phrase, you're either vegan, or you're not? ;)
As you can see, privilege and oppression are not simple at all. Certainly not as simple to understand and combat as just using words like sexism, racism and speciesism. And while everyone is likely marginalized in some way, please do realize your privilege if you can put check marks in front of white, straight, middle-class, cis (those who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth) or male. Just sayin'.
Of course not. It not only sounds ridiculous, it IS ridiculous. But that's how I often feel about the term non-human animals too, even though I understand why it's used, and use it on occasion myself. So this post is about how we name the beings we care about and fight for, because after seven years of being vegan it's something I still haven't been able to resolve. Obviously I'm not alone in this what-to-name-other-animals quandary, as the more-than-qualified Vegan Feminist Agitator herself wrote a brilliant post on this very topic not so long ago. And I considered linking to her post and leaving it at that because I really don't want to repeat her many good points, but, my need to muddle through this in writing with you in the hopes of finally solving this maddening linguistic conundrum proved to be stronger. Ready?
So, what do we (what do you?) call other animals when you're trying to convey that humans are animals too? Because sadly, we often forget or even actively squash our own animalness when trying to differentiate ourselves. Specifically, how do you refer to other beings who* are animals but not human animals? And how can we do this without implying that human animals are somehow superior, or the norm? Because as we know, naming is crucial in how we identify and interact with others. Naming is not neutral, is not objective, but determines from the outset how something or someone (or whether something is in fact someone) will be treated. [* Spelling and grammar check suggested who should be that. Naturally I disagreed.]
The problem of course with the term "non-male humans" is that it posits male humans as the norm and places female humans in the category of Other. (Now I would argue that in practice we still act as if women deviate from the norm, but at least our language reflects an ideal of treating men and women as equals.) Unfortunately, the term "non-human animals" does the same thing (in this case positing human animals as the norm), except that it doesn't sound as ludicrous. Perhaps this is because we're so used to the term, or because speciesism is ingrained enough that even vegans haven't quite outgrown our outmoded language.
Back to the question: How do we refer to other animals?
humans and other animals
insert your term here
Of those eight terms I try to avoid using animals as much as possible because for most folk that word excludes humans. I also try (but often fail) to avoid non-human animals for the reasons discussed above. Humans and other animals is a bit cumbersome so I tend to shorten it to other animals. I like sentient beings quite a lot, and will often use that, in addition to beings or other beings. The only term that I haven't really used even though I see it a fair bit is earthlings, not because I don't think it appropriate, but because for some odd reason (maybe I've read or watched too much sci-fi?) the word always makes me think of Martians. And I mean always, snort.
Sadly, I slip and sometimes find myself using animals (see how ubiquitous animal use really is?) when I don't actually mean to, so I wish I could settle on one term once and for all. One term that is clear, compact, and sounds just right.
What about you? How have you solved the problem of what to call those not called Maria? ;)