Friday, July 31, 2009

What I've Been Reading

The interwebs have been abuzz over the past few weeks with all of the abolitionist animal rights blogging that's been going on, as well as with the discussions that often follow. No mention of the pieces that have been published and circulated widely this week could be made without bringing up the recent essays by Prof. Gary L. Francione on his Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach website. His most recent, just from today, is called "Creative, Non-Violent Vegan Education--Easy and Effective". It's a culmination of sorts of several pieces he's written on the topic over the past while, as well as of a request for input he issued using the social networking site Facebook to ask his fellow vegans what they do to engage and educate others about veganism. When there's so much frustrating misinformation being passed around by animal welfarists about how regulating the existing horrors inherent in animal agriculture is the only possible way to have any impact upon the status quo, it's heartening to see that vegan abolitionists who take the rights of nonhumans seriously are plugging away nonetheless, working hard with great energy and enthusiasm to change that status quo.

(ETA:
Speaking of things that are heartening: I'd mentioned a few days ago that Vincent J. Guihan, abolitionist and soon-to-be published vegan cookbook author, has resurrected his We Other Animals blog. In the tradition of Twitter's generally well-intentioned #followfriday (or #ff) ritual, I'd like to point out that We Other Animals is a positive kick-in-the-pants blog that every serious vegan abolitionist should bookmark, add to their readers of choice, or at the very very least, visit frequently for updates. Check out today's "The Pseudo-Zen of Regulated Animal Use Activism" if you need convincing from the man, himself, that "thankfully, not everyone is taken in by the absence of thinking". Do it!)

Vegan Before Six Turns Into "Vegan at Lunchtime"

I really wish that Mark Bittman would just get over his obsession with clinging to the word 'vegan'. I really do. A few weeks ago, I wrote about his public proclamation that his mostly plant-based (i.e. omnivorous) diet had led to his supposed protein deficiency. In today's "Bitten", Mr. Needs-To-Get-a-Dictionary slippery sloped himself into what he describes as yet another type of veganism. Yes, folks: Once upon a time, according to Mark Bittman, you could be a "vegan before six". Today, according to Mark Bittman, a meal that includes animal-based ingredients can be called "almost-vegan". And why fish sauce? "I swear it made the dish – though it would have been okay without it," he wrote. Throwing in a teaspoon of a substance derived from dead animals just for the sake of your tastebuds is about as "almost vegan" as having a chicken's leg with rice and a salad. It sounds as if he's well on his way to soon living out the VBM (vegan between meals) scenario Mary Martin presented in a recent satirical post on her blog.

The truth is that (as Martin points out as well), veganism isn't just about diet. It's ridiculous to call yourself a vegan every single time you put something into your mouth that isn't animal-derived. As Prof. Gary Francione states on his Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach website:

Veganism is not merely a matter of diet; it is a moral and political commitment to abolition on the individual level and extends not only to matters of food, but to clothing and other products, and to other personal actions and choices. It is important to recognize that just as an abolitionist with respect to human slavery cannot continue to be a slaveowner, an abolitionist with respect to animal slavery cannot continue to consume or use animal flesh or animal products.

Veganism is also a commitment to nonviolence and it is imperative that the animal rights movement be a movement of peace and nonviolence.

So why is an omni foodie like Mark Bittman, who demonstrates over and over again that he has no concern whatsoever about the plight and enslavement of animals--why is he so obsessed with clinging to a word that stands for the complete opposite of what he represents? Oh, to be a fly on the wall of one of his therapy sessions. Just once and either before or after six. I'm not picky.

(ETA: The answer to my question via Prof. Francione's blog post "In Defense of Bittman".)


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Episode 9 of The Vegan News

Part I of Episode 9 of The Vegan News is out today. In it, Adam Kochanowicz travels to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary in Colorado to talk to Michelle and Chris about the myth of "humane" farming. Listen to Michelle and Chris tell Adam about how all of the sanctuary's residents are former victims of the same types of small-scale farms too often promoted as supposed cruelty-free operations. Aside from letting the animals' stories convince visitors otherwise, Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary volunteers also take the opportunity to educate those who stop by about veganism. Part II of Episode 9 shuld be up tomorrow, so stay tuned for more. In the interim, enjoy Part I:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Should Vegans Endorse Meatless Monday?

Over the course of the past year, I've read about and have occasionally referenced the hot trend that's currently being promoted by foodies, environmentalists and even some animal welfare organizations. It's called "Meatless Monday" and is a revisiting of the voluntary rationing encouraged by the US government during the war years. In 2003, the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health jumped on it to start a public health awareness campaign. Clicking through the "Meatless Monday" website, it becomes obvious that the campaign's sole purpose is indeed to promote better human health. The site spells it out clearly in its FAQ section that the campaign isn't about promoting veganism or vegetarianism--it's about "moderation". The regular consumption of eggs is touted as nutritionally desirable and the consumption of low-fat dairy and fish are also presented as being nutritionally sound options. In fact, the consumption of fish is even encouraged.

So who's supporting this movement? Foodies like Michael Pollan have promoted it and
it's even been endorsed by self-described vegan authors with a penchant for Paris exceptions. Kathy Freston, Oprah's once-upon-a-time fad vegan cleanse guru, also promotes it, adding a 'tsk' or two for those who don't eat the flesh of nonhuman animals and who aren't themselves supportive of the campaign:

I know that some vegetarians pooh pooh Meatless Monday as not enough. I'm sympathetic to that view, but I think it's unnecessarily strident. For people who think that going totally vegetarian is too challenging, the Meatless Monday campaign offers a gentle entrée into the idea of eating without eating animals. My hope is that people will use the campaign as a stepping stone -- first one meatless day per week, then three, then five, then seven. As we lean into meatless eating -- switching out more and more meat meals for meatless meals -- we end up feeling better, both physically and ethically.
Is it necessarily true, however, that cutting back on eating the flesh of nonhuman animals one day a week will lead to someone's "switching out more and more meat meals for meatless meals"? Prof. Gary L. Francione argues effectively against touting vegetarianism as some sort of gateway to veganism, as have others.

Furthermore,
is it not misleading to present the not eating of the flesh of nonhuman animals as being somehow more ethically significant than not consuming their products (e.g. dairy, eggs, honey) or not buying clothing made using their flesh or fur? It seems to be a change that's really more a shuffling around that just reinforces the view and treatment of nonhuman animals and their products as commodities, rather than an actual step forward in any sense. For instance, an omni friend of mine emailed me this morning with a link to a news article about the campaign, telling me excitedly that she intends to stop eating "meat" on Mondays. Since she knows that I'm a vegan, she said that she'd thought that I would be happy to hear it and would be glad about what she called her "small contribution towards veganism". When I asked her why she had decided to hop aboard the bandwagon, however, she told me that it was mostly due to environmental concerns.

So, what was on her plate today? She had an egg omelette for breakfast this morning, a Greek salad for lunch, and was planning to have a frozen cheese pizza for dinner. Sure, she's not having a
hamburger today, but that's little consolation for the chicken enslaved to produce the eggs for her omelette, the goat confined and impregnated to make the feta cheese for her salad, and the cow confined and impregnated to make the cheese for her pizza. It's also little consolation for the chicks, goats and calves considered "by-products" of these processes who are either slaughtered if male, or reinserted into the whole cycle if female. When she expressed her disappointment that I wasn't applauding her decision, I started to explain to her that I don't view eating a steak as being any more ethically problematic than eating a dairy ice cream cone. She then asserted to me that she was "doing [her] part" and that I should at least agree that it was better than nothing. Is it really, though? Is it better to let someone think that eating cheese is more ethical than eating fried chicken, or that not eating nonhuman animals on a Monday makes eating them somehow more alright the rest of the week?

Regardless of Freston's 'tsk', I have to say that it troubles me to see fellow vegans advocating the "Meatless Monday" campaign, especially when they attempt to argue on ethical grounds that it will somehow lead to less nonhuman animals being harmed or consumed. To begin with, the idea of promoting it feels too much like managing a lottery for nonhuman animals. Got the winning ticket? Lucky you (although it's not so lucky for the the animals whose flesh will be consumed from Tuesday through Sunday)! It's important to remember that the campaign isn't "Animal-Free Monday" and that it completely side-steps the issue of animals enslaved for their "products"; I simply can't accept this as being, in any way, a productive component of anything resembling vegan education. So why are vegans endorsing it?

Some vegans like dietitian Virginia Messina
view Meatless Monday as a good opportunity for advocacy; I agree that it can certainly be used as a springboard, as long as it's not condoned, which honestly just sends out mixed messages about the reasons one should continue to view nonhuman animals as things or property. I'd also like to hope that vegans aren't holding out for that one symbolic single day a week that ethically compartmentalizes the consumption of various parts of nonhumans to educate others: We need to take each and every opportunity we can--not just on Mondays.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare: Making the Case"

These are from a talk given by Professor Gary L. Francione on May 11, 2008 in the Brighton Town Lodge, outside of Rochester, NY. Here are Parts 1 through 5. The volume is a little on the low side, especially in Part 1.

ETA: While looking for more information on this talk, filmed by Rochester Indymedia, I found a transcript of it here, for those who are interested.







"Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare: Making the Case" - Second Half

These are from a talk given by Professor Gary L. Francione on May 11, 2008 in the Brighton Town Lodge, outside of Rochester, NY. Here are Parts 6 through 10. Once again, the volume is a little low, so you'll need to adjust it on your computer.









New Updates at Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach

I linked to one of Professor Gary L. Francione's recent blog updates in a post below but wanted to draw attention to them in a separate post. "On Vivisection and Violence" discusses violence in the animal rights movement while "Truth, Love and Liberty" discusses hypocrisy in the animal welfare movement, highlighting a recent party thrown by HSUS to promote a boycott of Canadian seafood.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Anonymous Guest Post on Language and Terminology

A My Face Is on Fire reader sent me an email yesterday to comment on the discussions that have been going on pertaining to language and the attempts to co-opt and water down or redefine terms. He said that he didn't know where to stick it in comments to other posts and gave me his permission to just post it outright. I'm going to do that and refrain from commenting. I think that it's worth a read (although I really don't think that I'm as much of a pain in the ass as he states).

----------

I spent many years working as a technical publications writer and manager and, after a career change, attended graduate school to become a professional librarian in academia. One of the challenges of writing, editing, indexing, publishing, classifying, abstracting, and archiving any document is description – what is a document about, what is the document’s subject coverage. And a critical part of any successful description effort is controlling the vocabulary. In information science, this comes under the heading of Authority Control. In short, that means consistently using the same word or phrase, spelled the same way, to mean the same concept. Other terms may be narrower, broader, synonymous, closely related, or deprecated, and authority control is how information professionals define and regulate the specific usage of terms and their relationships to each other.

When attempting to find a document and retrieve it by subject or concept, you would want the person who described the document to be precise and accurate in their use of terminology. Similarly, you would also want the same level of attention to detail from the person who wrote the index for the document. Respectively, the words they chose are the proxies for the whole document and the concepts found within. Vocabulary matters.

Vocabulary has both denotation and connotation and influences your cognitive maps. And by extension, your world view. In her blog, Mylène has addressed this area of concern over and over again. So, who controls the words and their meanings? Who has authority control? Unfortunately, to our everlasting annoyance, us information professionals’ work is very much ex post facto. We describe what is, not drive what will be. So, no matter how amazingly precise and accurate our use of terminology is, we can only ever be descriptive, never prescriptive.

To illustrate my point, I present some quick thought exercises:

Which is the correct usage: Black, Negro, Colored, African-American, or African American?

Which is the correct abbreviation for electronic mail?
email
e-mail
E-mail
Email
E-Mail
EMail
eMail
e-Mail

What exactly is the distinction between twitter and tweet?

You can choose the word and spelling and meaning you think is most correct, but who is the final authority: a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a writing style guide, a glossary? Okay, but what source of authority did the writers of those documents use then? Anyone can invent a term or appropriate an existing one to mean something new or different. Thought leaders, like Gary Francione for example, develop a new term and concept, or may appropriate one, to articulate a new and different way to view the world. However, it does not get into a recognized authority as such until someone decides there is a wide community or societal consensus on the usage of that term. For example, somebody decided at the New York Times what term and usage was the correct one for United States citizens of African continental ancestry. Actually, the NYT has made that choice more than once, as their interpretation of the correct term and usage has changed many times in the history of the publication. Often, this was ahead of such changes in most other publications, including dictionaries and encyclopedias. Where the NYT has led, many publications followed – the NYT became an authority for other publications. You get the idea.

So, back to Mylène, her blog, and her crusade for authority control. If an author gets a cookbook published with word the “vegan” in the title and the content of said cookbook is not vegan, then the term becomes diluted and the connotation shifts a little. If that happens enough times, the denotation of the term may eventually become essentially useless in common usage. Conversely, if the usage of the term “vegan” is consistent in publications, it can enter into, and maintain its integrity within, the common lexicon. At that point, the consensus will mob those who violate the integrity of the term. Until that happens, interested parties have to keep after authors and publications to meet a standard of integrity and to accept sometimes nascent authorities on terms and usage.

Be assured, that PR firms understand this dynamic intimately. The easiest way to disrupt this process is to corrupt the authority source that everyone accepts. Control the vocabulary, control the meaning.

And that, whether she knows it or not, is why Mylène is such a pain in the ass to authors and publications that don’t bother to do their homework, or have been co-opted, and end up releasing sloppy, slovenly and/or skewed words to the public that misrepresent the form and function of vegan abolitionism. Mylène is a mob of one, and I look forward to the day when she can retire from the authority control business and hand the effort over to librarians and info geeks like me, who select, categorize, classify, and compartmentalize so that the public can quickly and effectively find the high-quality information that they want by looking up words and concepts that say what they mean and mean what they say.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Special Update on Latest Vegan Freak Radio Podcast

Bob Torres just mentioned on Twitter that "audio problems" have delayed the release of the latest episode of Vegan Freak Radio. Stay tuned for updates, or follow Bob on Twitter @veganfreak for the latest news.

ETA: It's up now.

Peter Singer and the Catering of HSUS Events


The Arkansas Times published a review today of a new restaurant in the city of Hillcrest. Calling it a "burger joint" with a menu that makes it seem like a "gastropub", the article describes it as

the latest among, suddenly, many practicing a gourmet, organic brand of localism. Which is to say, its meat is “grass fed”; its produce and bread local, and its condiments, fries and just about everything else house-made. Michael Pollan's sphere of influence knows no bounds.
It seems that this new locavore fast-food lovers haven features an item that's been eliciting snickers from across the board:
The Peter Singer ($9), named, cheekily, for the “Animal Liberation” author, stands out in particular. It starts with what must be the answer to Miller's kitchen quest to find the ideal patty — a half-pound slab of ground lamb, pork, beef and roasted garlic. That comes topped with roasted tomatoes, basil mozzarella and basil mayo and on, as all the House's burgers are, a Boulevard Bread Co. bun.
Whether or not the intention was to take a good poke at him, any serious animal rights advocate familiar with the increasingly public slippery sloping of Singer's opinions and influence since the publication of his unfortunately misnamed book, Animal Liberation, can appreciate the actual lack of irony in it.

Maybe if they get on board with HSUS' "Saves the Seals" campaign, they'll get to cater the organization's next fundraiser! They can find out all about HSUS' requirements for such things right here in Professor Gary L. Francione's recent blog post on his Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach website.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adam Kochanowicz Interview w/Gary L. Francione: Update

The last two installments of Adam Kochanowicz's recent interview with Professor Gary L. Francione are now available. Part three can be heard via Adam's Vegan Examiner article here. You can also hear all four installments by visiting the audio resources section of Professor Francione's Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach website.

Bob Torres, who produces the Vegan Freak Radio podcast with his wife Jenna, tweeted earlier this evening to announce that a new show will be released sometime tomorrow morning, featuring an appearance by Professor Francione. You can follow both Bob (@veganfreak) or Jenna (@pleather) on Twitter. You'll find the podcast on the Vegan Freak Radio website, along with many of Bob and Jenna's previous shows.

On Consistency

Vincent Guihan at We Other Animals wrote something today that anyone and everyone involved in animal advocacy needs to read. An excerpt:

They'll know us not by our words but by our works,and if our works promote a kinder, gentler slavery rather than an immediate, unconditional and unequivocal end to that slavery, then regardless of what we tell ourselves or others, there is no meaningful difference between "liberation" and "exploitation".
The rest of it is here.

N.B.: For a stellar example of a complete lack of consistency, check out this story about HSUS' "Save the Seals" cocktail reception, held at a swanky DC restaurant called Policy to promote their boycott of Canadian "seafood". Then check out the restaurant's menu, which aside from featuring a wide variety of all types of animal flesh and excretions also happens to feature PEI mussels. (The link to the original story about the HSUS reception was obtained from a tweet by Professor Gary L. Francione. You can follow him on Twitter @garylfrancione.)

Because Vegans Eat, Too

I've said it before: I don't cook as much as I used to these days, but I still read cookbooks voraciously and still spend a lot of time keeping track of what sorts of things some of the vegans I know (and even some of those I don't know) are whipping up.

For instance, mihl over at seitan is my motor posted a recipe today for Penne with Creamy and Hot Pasta Sauce that's a near-perfect balance of 'health' and 'comfort' food.

A couple of days ago, the folks at Hungry Hungry Veganos shared an idea for an easy-to-make Portabello Mmmmushroom Sammie that sounds like the perfect quick-fix lunch when you don't want to get in over your head stirring pots and pans.

Speaking of mushrooms (and noodles, if not pasta), Sinead at Kitchen Dancing posted a recipe a few days ago for Smoked Shitake Slurp. Break out the chopsticks!

(And now--after tormenting myself sifting through these blogs, with all of their amazing food photos--it's time for lunch...)

Supply and Demand: Enabling the Cycle of Slaughter of Nonhumans

I read some blog posts earlier today by someone who'd commented here recently in a discussion concerning the difference between welfarism and abolitionism. The individual decided to set up a blog to comment further on some of the points raised and debated, coming to the conclusion that

[I]t’s not the capitalist followers of big business that are to blame (i.e., furriers, factory farmers, vivisectionists, etc.). It’s not welfarist organizations whose operations only thrive because their “non-profit disguised as for-profit” business model thrives the best within the capitalist structure - take down PETA, and some other welfarist organization will rise up to take its place, following along the same lines as mink farms and animal labs, in which the dissolution of one (farm or lab) will inevitably lead to another that takes its place. And, finally, it is not the individual who is at ultimate fault; we have all been brainwashed daily to believe that the food we eat is not a moral wrong.
I found it particularly disconcerting that this commentator would choose to assert that individuals are somehow absolved of any sense of accountability when it comes to consuming animals and perpetuating the cycle into which animals are bred and raised specifically to be slaughtered. Maybe I've read too much Sartre, but I'd like to think that we live our lives at least somewhat deliberately, with every action triggered by a bona fide decision to follow through with that action. Sure, we may sometimes lack sufficient information to make the right decision, but to generalize that "we have all been brainwashed daily to believe that the food we eat is not a moral wrong" side-steps so much.

On his Unpopular Vegan Essays blog, Dan Cudahy wrote about how individuals do perpetuate the cycle, mostly by feeding money into a system that regulates how the animals that continue to be raised to be eaten by them are treated, yet stopping short of making the conscious decision of actually (and effectively) removing themselves from the cycle altogether. As Dan wrote: "We cannot regulate the holocaust. We need to stop it by going vegan and encouraging others to do the same."

How long will we shirk responsibility? How long will we shrug off any sense of accountability? As Dan wrote, "It is a classic circular farce and would be a knee-slapping hilarious example of human stupidity if it were not so tragic." It's up to each and every one of us to work towards stopping the cycle and we need to realize this now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Connecting the Dots

Last week, a smallish dairy farmer wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper, going on about how "God's law frees people to love unconditionally" and then gushing about how up to 1000 people from the area, as well as from all over Canada, had come together a few months ago to help him in a time of need. Early this spring, there had been a story in my local paper about an event that apparently triggered warm fuzzies. This same dairy farmer's barn had collapsed in the middle of a cold January night. He and his family had managed to get around 20 cows out and then over the course of the next day or two, local firefighters and neighbours came to assist them to free the remaining 70 or so from the fallen structure. The local paper had featured a front page photo of him, smiling broadly and with his face smooshed up to that of one of the cows. People were not, of course, patting themselves on the back for having saved the cows for the cows' own sake; the kumbaya moment had to do with having helped save the farmer's "livelihood". Unconditional love, indeed.

I remember the story well, not just all I could think of at the time was of how these cows were just things with a cash value to the farmer (as well as to the community that pitched in to help him). I also remembered the story because a friend (who knew that I was vegan) had ended up emailing me about it, inviting me to a hamburger and hotdog barbecue that was being held to raise money to help build a new barn. She added in her note that she had figured that even if I chose not to eat anything, I'd be interested in helping the farmer build a new "home" for the cows, and that at the very least, I'd have compassion for the poor man who'd lost the uninsured structure in which the cows had previously resided. I declined the invitation.

I got an email a few days ago from a former coworker who, years and years ago, would take great joy in mocking me for being what she called "a big wuss" for not eating animals (because obviously, bucking the status quo and removing oneself from participating in animal slaughter is a cowardly act). She'd recently obtained my email address from a mutual acquaintance. She mentioned to me that over the years she's "become an animal lover" and has been volunteering at one of the local companion animal shelters, fostering kittens for them. She joked that she hadn't become an "animal rights nut like [me] yet" and added that she fosters the kittens on her small hobby farm--where she also raises chickens and a few goats to fill her family's freezer each fall. She was emailing me, she said, to invite me to a fundraiser for the shelter, adding that she figured that if anyone would be eager to get the word out, it would be me. The fundraiser? Yet another barbecue.

In both of these situations, I took advantage of the opportunity to try to connect some dots by explaining why I would not support the activities in question. In neither of the two cases did the individuals in question get it, because in their minds, certain animals exist to end up on our plates. In their minds, that's just the way it is.

We have a lot of work to do.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Adam Kochanowicz Interviews Professor Gary L. Francione

Just a handful of days after being interviewed by Elizabeth Collins of the NZ Vegan Podcast on the differences between welfarism and the abolitionist approach to animal rights, Professor Gary L. Francione is on the interwebs again to discuss those vast differences in much greater detail. Adam Kochanowicz, Vegan Examiner and host of The Vegan News, was fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with him last week. The first part of their interview can be heard here at Examiner.com and provides a really excellent suscinct introduction to what actually constitutes the abolitionist approach to animal rights. In the second part of the interview, released today at Examiner.com, they drill down further to discuss the complete inefficacy of incremental welfare reforms, with Adam serving as an effective devil's advocate to ensure that welfarist (and new welfarist) supporters' claims are properly addressed. Both parts of the interview can also be accessed in the audio resources section of Prof. Francione's website.

I can't be adamant enough about how potentially eye-opening these interviews will be for those who either haven't given much critical thought to the huge essential differences between the welfarist and abolitionist approaches to animal advocacy (and how nonsensical it is to believe that incremental welfare reforms will lead to the abolition of our use of animals as property), as well as to those who currently embrace these incremental reforms, thinking that "something is better than nothing". Prof. Francione describes the misrepresentation of their efficacy, stating:

It is analogous to saying, "We've got to do something now about torturing people, so let's make sure that everybody getting tortured is sitting on a padded chair as they're getting the electrical shock supplied. That's really not going to get anybody anywhere and it's not going to lead to the abolition of anything.
I think that in light of the reactions of various new welfarists and others involved in animal-related movements to the recent discussion that took place here between HSUS supporters and abolitionists over the differences between the terms, the theories and their practical applications, that it's crucial for people to get their facts straight. Not only does the confusion between welfarism and abolitionism need to be sorted out, but efforts to blur the significant distinctions between the two both need to be prevented and discouraged. To quote Ward Chanley: "Just as you cannot reasonably claim to be a vegan who eats flesh, you cannot reasonably claim to be a welfare abolitionist.” Ward's full piece concerning the attempts at language appropriation to blur the lines between two aforementioned essentially different philosophical approaches can be read here. As he states, the need to avoid lumping one approach in with the other isn't merely about squabbling over words:
It goes deeper than which group of persons has the “right” to use the abolitionist label. The issue is that the abolitionist approach has a very clearly defined underlying first principle: we reject ANY welfare regulation, whether or not people may think that such a regulationist approach will “eventually” lead to animal rights, because the fundamental issue is USE and not just treatment.
Additionally (and even more problematically), as Prof. Francione pointed out in the comments below concerning the history of language appropriation by welfarists:
Welfarists (what I called "new welfarists" in my 1996 book "Rain Without Thunder") then tried to blur the distinction between concepts that are quite clear in a very deliberate attempt to stop debate and discussion. They took the position that welfare reform was an appropriate strategy to pursue despite the rights critique because there was no real difference between the rights and welfare approaches and that these approaches were compatible.

The same is happening now with the use of "abolitionist."
If the abolition of the exploitation of animals--of their use as property--is to happen, there needs to be clarity and consistency concerning both why and how it needs to happen. The debate needs to continue--not to be silenced. I don't believe in browbeating, but I also don't believe in sending mixed messages. If being unwavering in educating others that veganism should be the moral baseline of the animal rights movement leaves someone seeming less snuggly, then so be it. If insisting that it's morally inconsistent to both a) support regulating the continued usage of animals, and b) attempt to co-opt the term "abolitionist" to define oneself offends some who are convinced otherwise, then so be it. I'm more interested in presenting sound, logical arguments and saving animal lives than I am in hand-holding people into continuing to delude themselves and to confuse and misdirect others. And there's no shame in that.

ETA: Angel Flinn recently wrote a rock solid piece that I recommend called "Animal Welfare Reform: Total Denial, One Step at a Time". Take some time to read it, as well as the debate that follows it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dribs and Drabs in the Media

It's not surprising to find yet another article like this that classifies fish eating as a type of vegetarianism (calling it "pesco-vegetarianism"). It's also no surprise that its author discusses the supposed dangers of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in any diet lacking animal flesh (or other animal products), or that the author describes vegans as "sometimes" consuming honey. The mangling of such stuff in the media has become quite commonplace.

What did catch my eye, however, was that in an article about eschewing the eating of animals, the only reasons given that anybody would choose to do so are "eco- and health-friendly reasons". No mention of ethics. No mention of concerns for animal rights, or even of concerns for animal suffering. It felt like the strangest compartmentalization. Has it really come to this?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stop the Presses! Mark Bittman's Become Protein-Deficient!


Someone kindly sent me a link earlier to a Mark Bittman piece from yesterday's New York Times. In Tara Parker-Pope's "Well" column in the health section of the paper, Bittman explains how while training for the New York City Marathon, he was informed that he's not eating enough "'complete' proteins". In fact, it seems that he just hasn't been getting enough protein at all. He lists the credentials of nutritionist and Today TV show regular Madelyn Fernstrom, and states:

We met, she heard me out, then immediately declared my diet to be on the “low end” protein-wise – which, she said, “would certainly cause fatigue,” especially since I eat mostly vegetables and don’t typically consume “complete” proteins (code-word for animal products).
So what's an omni foodie trying to pass himself off as a supposed "part-time vegan" to do?
I started eating a “concentrated protein,” usually tofu, a can of sardines, an egg thrown onto whatever else I’m eating, or something equally simple, right after six-miles-or-longer runs.
So here's the scoop: Bittman's obviously not an abolitionist or any sort of animal rights advocate. He's not a vegan. He's not even a vegetarian. He's a trendy food writer who's tried to cash in on the rising popularity of veganism, attempting to co-opt the term to sell his book. I certainly don't expect him to defend a plant-based diet any more than he already has for the limited reasons he has (e.g. personal health, the environment). However, the reference to needing "complete" proteins (or of the supposed need to combine proteins), whether or not for "athletes", has long-since been dismissed by even the most mainstream of non-vegan-friendly bodies as completely unnecessary. Plus, the whole idea (his token reference to tofu aside) of needing to consume "concentrated" sources of animal-based protein to not "often run out of energy halfway through even four-mile runs" had me rolling my eyes more than a little. Some of the comments were especially annoying, especially one where Tara Parker-Pope added a note describing Bittman as "mostly-vegan" and attributing his protein deficiency to that fact. Mostly vegan? Really?

I would certainly never try to encourage someone to go vegan for health-based reasons, since it's not about personal health: It's about our usage of animals for our own selfish and trivial purposes. On the other hand, it really ticks me off to see someone who's getting so much attention as a purported food expert now trying to spread the word that anyone exerting themselves physically needs to eat animal flesh to stay healthy. I really hope that someone takes him to task concerning this soon.

Stewart White of The Business Spectator Minces Words

OK, I'm kidding. President of Food Media Club Australia and "The Digestive Tract" columnist for The Business Spectator, Stewart White went on the anti-vegan rant of the week today. Somewhere in the middle of all of it, he plugged eating pigs to fight diabetes, citing the results of--an Australian meat industry funded study! Go figure.

Some highlights? First:

Vocal minority food zealots can be so tedious. They are invariably self-righteous, ill-informed “believers” who have some flaw in their existence that gets them liverish about something and they will bang on ad infinitum in their blinkered and myopic crusade.
Then:
If it weren’t for the fact that these fanatics dig into their anthropomorphic chaff bag of skewed anecdotes from which to launch these sallies – on the face of it there would be a modicum of logic in the argument – but changing a person’s eating habits – changing lifestyle habits – are not done easily as most sane people who’ve ever tried to do – or not do something – would attest.

A quantum leap into vegetative boredom is a big call for anyone to seriously adopt and maintain from a lifetime of a normal omnivorous diet. So get over it. Modifying is the buzz word here. Modify the diet – make incremental changes – and it will stick … hopefully.

Today I read how there is a health issue with sprouts on the veggie market. There’s a whole lot of salmonella going down with mung, alfalfa and other mouth-watering sprout offerings. I have to say, I’d prefer to take my chances losing weight with one of 15 heart foundation approved cuts of lean pork than a gusset-filling gastro dose from alleged human grade fodder.
His use of the term "logic" was almost endearing. I think that I've written "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" papers in junior high-school that reflected a bit more maturity than this opinion piece by an obvious Australian meat industry mouthpiece.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

NZ Vegan Podcast Episode 32 - Interview with Professor Gary L. Francione

Another episode of Elizabeth Collins' NZ Vegan Podcast is out. In this one, she interviews Professor Gary L. Francione to talk about the abolitionist approach to animal rights and how it differs from the new welfarist (or regulationist) approach. They mention the recent exchange between supporters of both sides that took place here on My Face Is on Fire.

For further reading, please check out Professor Francione's recent (and brilliant) essay on his Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach website. In it, he describes how and why welfarism is completely ineffective in resolving the problem of our usage of animals and that the "abolition of animal exploitation requires a nonviolent revolution–a revolution of the heart".

Look for Professor Francione's latest book in the very near future. The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? (co-authored with Professor Robert Garner) should be published by Columbia University Press by sometime this fall.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Number 457

Thanks to Dan Cudahy from Unpopular Vegan Essays for the heads up on this short (but effective) SlideShare presentation that lets you have a look at the true cost of milk.

Let The Boston Globe Know that The So-Called "Vegan Cook's Bible" Isn't Vegan

Pat Crocker's crept into the news again (well, into a newspaper, anyway). The Boston Globe's T. Susan Chang reviewed The Vegan Cook's Bible today. Chang calls Crocker "a fearless cook who is not afraid to use a complete arsenal of techniques to generate drama on the plate". What she neglects to mention, however, is that (as was discussed here a month ago), part of Pat Crocker's arsenal includes honey as an optional sweetener. Heck, she even lauds the consumption of fish at the end of her book. Chang obviously misses the point about veganism by referring to herself as having become a "reluctant and temporary vegan" during the five days she spent testing the book's recipes on her family. She also misses the point about veganism by advising her readers at the end of her article: "[I]f you're already vegan, there’s plenty here you’ll like".

You can leave a comment on The Boston Globe's website at the end of Chang's review of The Vegan Cook's Bible.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Vegan News Episode #8

Another episode of The Vegan News is out--Episode #8 can be enjoyed right here. Aside from covering the latest that's of interest to vegans, host Adam Kochanowicz also responds to a voice-mail from a younger listener requesting information on how to prepare easy vegan lunches to bring to school everyday. He obliges with a show-and-tell of various food items in his pantry. It's a longish episode and (as with previous episodes) is very well worth watching. Support this show made by vegans for vegans!

Incidentally, Adam's featured in a two-part interview with Elizabeth Collins of the NZ Vegan Podcast this week. I just read her update about it on Twitter, so I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet; I'm looking forward to doing so as soon as I can fire up my iTunes.

HSUS' Paul Shapiro Reaches Out to Meat Industry


HSUS has been keeping busy trying to reassure farmers who raise animals for their products or for slaughter that HSUS is no threat to them. Back on July 1, I wrote about an AgriTalk radio interview with HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, where Pacelle seemed to engage in a lot of damage control to assure the meat industry that HSUS wholly supports the continuation of animal agriculture. Yesterday, Lancaster Farmer (a trade publication of sorts based in Philadelphia) published an interview with Paul Shapiro, Senior Director of the HSUS' Factory Farming Campaign, that seemed to do more of the same sort of damage control. The former founder of welfarist organization Compassion Over Killing emphasizes throughout this interview that HSUS' concern is on making the animals comfortable--as they're raised for human consumption. For instance:

LF: What do you think is the most serious threat to animal welfare posed by agriculture?
PS: (Extreme confinement) is not the only threat, but it’s among the most serious. The top three (examples) are veal crates, battery cages for laying hens and gestation crates for pigs.
He elaborates upon HSUS' goals with regards to animal agriculture by stating that
[they] are supportive of raising the bar on farm animal welfare. That means working with farmers who want to help their industries move away from some of the most extreme forms of confinement.
And just in case anyone still thinks that HSUS is comprised of a bunch of wacky fringe-dwelling animal rights activists seeking to end the enslavement and slaughter of all animals, Shapiro makes it crystal clear just who and what they are:
Just think about it — we’re the largest animal welfare charity not only in the country, but in the world. Do you think that an organization that didn’t take mainstream views would be so influential? Just about two-thirds of Californians voted for the proposal we put on the ballot ... If you look at the breakdown of the vote, we won the majority of virtually every demographic ... even some of the largest ag counties.
So what does the "largest animal welfare charity in the world" do with all of those contributions that well-meaning folks fork over, thinking that they're helping them fight the good fight on behalf of animals? Well, it seems it's mostly spent on getting retailers to buy animal products. Shapiro says:
By working with retailers to drive demand away from the more inhumane practices and toward better practices. For example, take eggs. Just four years ago, only 2 percent of eggs sold in the country were cage-free. Now, that’s about 6 percent, and a lot of that has to do with our work moving retailers to cage free producers.
Ask the folks over at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary what sort of victory a 4 percent increase in cafe-free eggs really means to the chickens. They'll show you if you're willing to handle the truth. Is this really and truly what HSUS views as being in the best interest of an animal's welfare? It certainly does nothing to defend or protect their rights. In fact, crunching numbers seems to be what's important. The rest of the interview is spent discussing various issues, such as regulationism in general and the profitability for egg farmers to go cage-free. For instance, Shapiro states that
Of course, the profit margins on cage-free eggs tend to be greater than on cage-raised eggs, so you’d imagine (it does help the farmer). [...] The egg industry’s own economic analysis demonstrates that it costs producers less than a penny per egg more to convert to and produce cage free eggs.
When asked about his own dietary preferences, Shapiro states that he's a vegetarian, but tempers it by stating his reasons for being vegetarian, as well as how HSUS manages to appeal to both those who choose to consume animals and to those who eschew their consumption:
Animal welfare is one of them. Personal health is another. Concern about global warming is another. I think that one of the important aspects of our campaign, (though), is it’s attractive to both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Whether we eat meat or not, all of us can agree that animals who are raised for food should be able to turn around and extend their limbs.
Is this really raising the bar for animals, though? For those of you who refrain from consuming animals or their products, are this organization's ideals the sort of lowest common denominator at which you feel comfortable throwing your financial support? Or behind which you'll throw your vocal support? Shouldn't the non-usage of animals be the starting point? Shouldn't veganism, as abolitionist blogger Dan Cudahy put it, be your minimum standard of decency? It's certainly not HSUS'.

As Professor Gary L. Francione states, veganism should be the
"moral baseline of an animal rights movement"--no exceptions. Anything else just endorses the perpetuation of their consideration and usage as property--as things. If this is the sort of "mainstream" stance that Paul Shapiro and the people at HSUS are embracing, then I think that vegans and animal rights activists supporting or sitting on the fence about HSUS need to do some serious re-thinking of their own positions.

The Sexy Vegan's Poutine

As a Canadian, there was no way that this reference to vegan poutine was going to slip by me for too long. This is from Episode #8, back in November of 2008. More of his videos can be found here on his website.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Since When Is Self-Preservation Ethical Eating?

Scanning through things in the news early this morning, I found yet another article that seeks to blend interest in supporting local farmers and in eating healthily with the idea of not harming animals. This new "conscientious consumer" fad has lumped so many things in together that they've become interchangeable to some as they're each given equal moral weight. It's enough to make you dizzy to read these pieces like this one from Tuesday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Take, for instance, the 20-year-old described as the first exemplar of conscientious eating who "doesn't want to hurt anything or anyone as she goes about her life" so she eats meat from "animals who are raised on the range, not in a cage". According to the article:

For decades, ethical eating was largely limited to vegetarians and vegans, who don't eat milk or dairy in addition to forgoing meat. But the movement has grown to include many kinds of foodists.

Their reasons are many: Some want to improve their health. Others hope to sustain the environment or to stop the mistreatment of animals. And a growing number of people hope to support local growers and businesses, rather than out-of-state — or even out-of-the-country — conglomerates.
So, how is it that wanting to improve your health makes you an ethical eater? I always thought that was just about self-preservation. And although I've certainly understood some of the ideals behind the locavorist tendency to buy from area farmers, I can't help but sense that it's turning into this whole us vs. them mentality, where it's no longer so much about protecting the environment anymore as it is about not supporting outsiders. But I digress...

The article goes on for the next few paragraphs to talk about people's interest in buying fresh local produce for health reasons. I glimpsed the word "vegan" for the second time in the article, only to find them describing a token vegan couple who run a vegan deli:
The Menseys chose to give up meat and its byproducts after learning more about the antibiotics and steroids used in some animals. Mensey said they both want to take care of the "best investment" they have on the planet, their bodies.
What does wanting to avoid polluting your body with chemicals have to do with veganism, honestly? I guess I'd hoped that in an article that's purportedly about ethical eating that someone--anyone--would have thought to actually discuss not consuming animal products at all for ethical reasons, rather than talk about veganism in terms of self-motivated health concerns, which really aren't what veganism is about. The article drones on about Oprah, healthier eating, organic foods, eating locally and includes a quote from some guy who "aspires to be more of a vegetarian" but who eats fish and chicken, because "'[i]f you eat meat that's high in fat, it's not good for you'". It's not exactly "good" for the party being eaten, either.

I thought that maybe there'd finally be some focus on animal ethics upon reading the title of the article's next section, "Treatment of Farm Animals", but then read its first paragraph:
Another factor is the environment. Rhodes believes a lot of land that is used to grow grains for animals in confinement could be used to grow crops to help curb worldwide hunger.
Aha! So it's wrong to confine animals since they eat up grain that could be used to feed hungry humans. Got it. The article then quotes a token vegetarian who is "opposed to concentrated feedlot operations" and quotes him as saying something about carrots not suffering when they're eaten. This vegetarian goes on to quip about his friends who are "devoted carnivores" and how he juxtaposes himself with them as someone who's thought about what he eats, while they have not. I can't help but think that he hasn't really thought things through, since if you really think about what you eat, not eating animals or their products at all (and the ethics of not doing so because they have an interest in not being eaten or enslaved) should, at the very least, be some sort of consideration on your radar, shouldn't it? At least, you'd think that it would have gotten a passing mention in a newspaper article about ethical eating. But who's really thinking these days, anyway?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What to Eat

Once again, hours away from lunch, I find myself glancing through the latest posts of some of my favourite concocters of tasty vegan eats. I do so bravely, clutching a section of pink grapefruit while itching for ideas of what to make for dinner this week.

I'm always on the lookout for veggie burger recipes and cookbook author Bryanna Clark Grogan offered one up on her Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen blog last week, just in time for Canada Day and 4th of July celebrations. Bryanna shared some suggestions for making grillable kebabs, as well as two recipes for barbecue sauce and her Mushroom-Tempeh Burgers. I'm definitely going to give the burgers a try this weekend if I can fire up my feeble little Hibachi.

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Sinead from
kitchen dancing posted a recipe a few days ago that included two of my favourite foods: beets and lentils. Her recipe for Lentil and Beet Salad calls for mustard, so she threw in a recipe for a homemade whiskey mustard for it. It looks like a really simple recipe that would taste anything but simple.

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I should also note that veganf has a really neat bento blog called
Disposable Ardvaarks Inc.. Along with recipe ideas, including this recent post from last week for garlic scapes (Garlic Scape Infusion, Garlic Scape and White Bean Hummus and Potato Salad with Avocado and Garlic Scapes -- does it get any better?). If the recipes won't get you, the gorgeous photos she takes of the dishes she somehow manages to find time to assemble for her vegan family of six will leave you absolutely amazed.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Gilmer Dairy Farm's Edopt-a-Cow Program


A friend tipped me off to an eye-roller of a program being run by a place called Gilmer Dairy Farm that's being geared towards kids and their teachers. The program is called Edopt-a-Cow and it allows individuals or classrooms to "adopt" a cow and follow her "calving schedules" and machine-like milk production (they call it her "Cowography") and to view her pedigree. Take, for example, nearly-seven-year-old Kathy Sue, otherwise affectionately known as GDF #234. Kathy Sue's been successfully impregnated a whopping five times in her almost nine years, each time having her calves taken from her so that her almost 100,000 pounds of milk could be sold off to humans who don't need it.

The point of this program seems obvious. Under the guise of giving kids a close up and personal view of dairy production, it actually gives the whole thing a cold and detached spin. The cow becomes a machine with a cute nickname. No mention is made of the fate of her offspring or of the cruelty inherent of her being separated from each one so that the milk she produces to nourish him or her is taken from from her until her very last drop is produced and she is forcibly impregnated again. Gilmer Dairy Farm, however, presents the program as a teaching aide that helps kids learn to create charts and plot graphs, how to write business letters and most hypocritically, to "use the [cow's] pedigree to help teach the students about their family trees". Everybody knows that breeding programs are all about family, after all. Of course, no dairy propaganda--er, program--would be complete without a whole whack of educational links designed to make kids think that dairy farms are full of love and sweetness. I'm guessing that the Edopt-a-Cow program conveniently leaves out the fate that awaits Kathy Sue once she's too old to birth any more babies.

Although this page is from the NZ Dairy Cruelty website, the same information applies to cows in other countries like the U.S. and Canada concerning the ordinary lives of dairy cows. If you're concerned about the plight of animals humans raise for their flesh, but still consume milk products while reassuring yourself that there is less harm inherent in the dairy industry, think again. These sentient non-humans undergo immense suffering at various points in their lives. It is impossible to deny the repeated violations of the interest each one of those cows has to live a life that does not involve being enslaved, forcibly impregnated, having her offspring taken from her just after birth, and in the end, led off to slaughter.

There is no logical manner in which someone who chooses not to eat animals for ethical reasons can defend continuing to consume dairy. If you are merely seeking to somehow remove yourself from the cycle of animal slaughter, then every single male calf taken from its mother that ends up on someone's dinner plate is testimony to the fact that you're failing miserably. Furthermore, to promote vegetarianism where dairy consumption is presented (or defended) as one step further along the ethical path towards veganism is wrong-headed and speciesist.

For further information on resources to go dairy-free, visit the Go Dairy Free website or do a simple Google search for alternatives to dairy. Do Kathy Sue and others like her a favour--go vegan!

Links on My Face Is on Fire

I'm just scrawling a quick note to say that I'll be purging and reorganizing the links in the right sidebar over the next week. Some of the categories overlap and I need to find a way to put some order into them. If you have a vegan or abolitionist animal rights site or blog you think would be a good fit and would like to do a link swap, please drop me a line at m.of.the.maritimes at gmail.com.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Eva Batt and What Other Abolitionists Have Been Discussing Lately

A little over a week ago, Nathan Schneider of the Vegan Abolitionist blog "resurrect[ed] a bit of vegan history by posting an essay by early vegan advocate and longtime Vegan Society member Eva Batt. Batt wrote "Why Veganism?" in 1964, around 10 years after she'd gone vegan herself, and close to 20 years after the term was first coined by the Vegan Society's founders. Today, 45 years after the essay was written, some of its facts concerning food or animal usage may be a bit dated, as practices have changed over the years. Worth nothing, though, is that in 45 years, some of the more heinous practices in so-called "animal husbandery" have not changed at all. For instance, while describing the failings inherent in following a lacto-vegetarian diet, Batt wrote:

If, however, we were to compare degrees of cruelty, it would be clearly seen that of all the "food animals" the cow suffers far more than beef cattle. For the whole of her life, this soft-eyed, docile animal is regarded siply as a milk machine. She is kept going with drugs and "steamed up" with hormones, injected with anitbiotics, and still has to suffer the horrors of the slaughterhouse when she has at last become unprofitable.
Overall, much of what she wrote is still valid and the spirit in which she wrote it is more than significant. It's a piece of history in the vegan movement, but it's also a call to eschew the use of all animals which still resonates today.

Elizabeth Collins of the NZ Vegan Podcast wrote about Nathan's blog post on her own blog a few days ago and read the piece aloud on her most recent podcast, reflecting upon the points in the essay that she felt were most relevant and on how she feels it would make an effective introductory essay on veganism for many non-vegans. In her post, she also pointed out that Adam Kochanowicz (of Abolition Vegans) discusses Batt's essay in Episode 7 of his Vegan News video podcast. Please check out what Elizabeth and Adam had to say about Bett's essay and take the time to have a look at the piece itself.