Monday, November 19, 2012

Veganic Bread?

I don't do product endorsements. Actually, what I mean is that I have never endorsed a specific brand of any type of product on My Face Is on Fire before (at least not deliberately or in a way in which I wrapped a post around said endorsement). It's just never really come up and the truth is that it gets so tricky sometimes to figure out who owns what and which vegan company just got snapped up by which Mega Corp that it's never interested me all that much. Then several weeks ago, I got a friendly email from a representative of a company called One Degree Organic Foods asking me if I'd like to try out their bread.

Now, the funny thing is that if you scroll through the hundreds of food photos I've posted on this blog every month or so for the last few years, you'll see that bread doesn't turn up often. Well, bread loaves of the sort you slice don't turn up often. My obsession with pizza precariously held in check, the only wheat based baked things you'll find more often than "almost never" are wraps, pita bread and the odd organic kamut roll. After checking out the One Degree Organic Foods website, though, I found myself too intrigued to shrug off the offer. See, One Degree's breads are not only organic, but they're veganic. The company sources its ingredients from farmers who use only plant-based fertilizers to grow their non-GMO crops and uses these ingredients to make their healthy and wholesome Canada Organic and USDA Organic certified bread.

It also used something called QR codes which mean little to a more often than not unplugged Luddite like me. Apparently this means that each loaf of their bread has a code on it that can be scanned with a gadget like a smartphone (I wish someone would offer to send me a free smartphone to review for my blog!) so that the purchaser can get detailed information on each ingredient used in the bread. I couldn't try this out myself, but will take their word for it that it works.

What I was good at, on the other hand, was finding things to do with the bread. I was sent a loaf each of their Lentil Grain, Ancient Whole Wheat, Flax and Spelt and Sesame Sunflower breads. My favourites were definitely the Lentil Grain and Sesame Sunflower and I hope to track them down locally in the future. I did ask 2-3 times if I could obtain some coupons for a blog giveaway, but no dice. All I can leave you with are some photos of various ways in which I sampled and devoured some of the crazy amount of bread I was sent.

Organic tofu marinated in soya sauce, ketchup, sesame oil and dried onion flakes, dredged in multigrain flour/nutritional yeast and pan-fried with sliced red onion. Tomato, pickles, avocado and ketchup on lightly-toasted veganic Ancient Whole Wheat bread.
Avocado mashed with lemon juice, crushed garlic and scallions, grilled portobello (it's in there!), tomato and Dijon on One Degree Veganic Sesame Sunflower bread. Broccoli slaw tossed with red bell pepper, parsley and sesame/lemon dressing.
Veganic Lentil Grain bread topped with mushrooms, nooch gravy, cheddar Daiya and fries. Peas on the side.
Flax and Spelt toast with Earth Balance and nooch and a big smear of organic strawberry jam.
Cabbage slaw with Vegenaise. Pickles, tomatoes and Tofurky slice with Dijon mustard on Lentil Grain bread.
Grilled Daiya cheddar  sandwch on Lentil Grain bread. Broccoli slaw tossed with red bell pepper, parsley and sesame/lemon dressing.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Adam Kochanowicz Interview w/Gary L. Francione

Conducted in 2009 at the Rutgers School of Law in Newark, this interview is a must-see for anyone interested in learning more about speciesism and the abolitionist approach to animal rights advocacy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why I Won't Support Single-Issue Campaigns

What Is a Single-Issue Campaign?

Prof. Gary L. Francione, who's written about single-issue campaigns (SICs) extensively in his published work and on his on his Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach website, defines it simply as such:
A single-issue campaign involves identifying some particular use of animals or some form of treatment and making that the object of a campaign to end the use or modify the treatment.
Basically, instead of focusing on educating the general public about how all animal exploitation is wrong, a spotlight is put on a specific type of use or treatment. Welfarist groups often initiate SICs which focus on how animals used for human consumption or entertainment are treated -- on the size of their cages and the other conditions in which they continue to be enslaved. However, SICs can sometimes confuse advocates by seeming to focus on use, and are thus sometimes misunderstood as being abolitionist in nature.

Why SICs Aren't Abolitionist

I had a conversation with an animal activist friend the other day about groups that wrap their fund-raising around single-issue campaigns (SICs). We were discussing the differences between welfarist and abolitionist activism and how or why it is that activists who are vegan and who don't personally condone animal use -- even sometimes those who self-identify as abolitionist -- may end up participating in some of these SICs. While a few of these groups occasionally do engage in some degree of vegan education and very vocally disassociate themselves from animal welfare groups, they nonetheless keep their main focus on more highly-publicized protests based on eliminating one specific type of animal use, often concerning some "hot button" form of animal exploitation such as the wearing of fur or consumption of foie gras.

Some animal advocates, abolitionist or otherwise, interpret these groups' activities as consistent with striving to abolish -- instead of regulate -- the use of other animals and then extrapolate that these SICs are somehow small steps towards eliminating all animal use. These campaigns often involve fundraising, whether lobbying and public relations costs or legal fees and -- let's admit it -- they're easy sells to a non-vegan public comprised of folks who, for the most part, honestly don't want to think of themselves as participating in any sort of cruel activity. The truth is that they are on different levels counterproductive and inconsistent with an abolitionist approach to animal rights, whether or not the SIC itself seems focused on the use of other animals.

When an animal advocacy group singles out something like the wearing of fur as particularly worthy of its ire, it's generally not all that difficult to get people on board to either scrawl their monikers on petitions or to send a cheque off in the mail. Fur isn't really something which any more than a fairly small minority of the non-vegan public tends to wear and it's generally associated with wealth and disposable income. Basically, it's easy to point a finger at it since most of us don't wear it and we associate it with excess or vanity. It's easier to point at it than to get all up close and personal with our own speciesism and to question the decisions we make each day when we involve ourselves in the cycle that leads to the habitual enslavement and slaughter of so very many others.

When an animal advocacy group gives members of the general public this easy out instead of asking them to reconsider their own speciesism -- to reconsider the mindset that leaves them thinking it's altogether alright to consider participating in this cycle, how does that change things for those other animals? How is this effective in bringing about an end to speciesism? It becomes evident fairly quickly how regardless of whether they focus on treatment or use, promoting SICs is counterintuitive to addressing the speciesism which underlies the casual shrugging off of what so many deem "ordinary" animal exploitation.
"One of These Things Is Not Just Like the Other"

The problem with presenting one particular form of animal use  as somehow being of greater moral relevance than another form of use is that it makes it appear that other forms of animal use are less relevant -- maybe even excusable . Advocates single out fur and picket outside a fur store filled with coats most ordinary folks couldn't afford anyway or circulate petitions which even non-vegans I know myself who collect leather shoes and purses like dryers collect socks wouldn't hesitate to sign, sharing in the advocates' indignation. After all, fur is cruel -- heinous and unnecessary. Cute Italian pumps, on the other hand, are "irresistible", and cheeseburgers are "delicious". If fur is single-out, though, then what about leather? If veal is singled out, then how about the dairy industry? Your tuna may be "dolphin-safe", but that doesn't do a whole heck of a lot for the tuna, does it?

Problems also arise when advocates believe that striving to end one single type of animal use will chip away effectively at the the prevailing mindset held by an overwhelming majority of people that all other animals are ours to use in whichever way we desire. Henry Thoreau once wrote: "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one striking at the root". By picking "easy sell" campaigns and convincing non-vegans to find certain forms of animal use in which they don't ordinarily engage outrageous or repulsive, nothing effective is accomplished in terms of addressing the everyday types of animal use in which most people engage and which most view as normal, ordinary and acceptable.

In fact, perhaps the greatest danger when it comes to SICs is that non-vegans often latch on to them and let themselves be lulled into thinking that by throwing $20 or $50 into the pot -- a donation to help the goodly animal advocates fight the Big(gest of the) Bad(s) means that they've truly done their "part" -- that they've done "enough" for other animals and can carry on with the ordinary and everyday types of animal use in which they engage which in turn leads to 150 billion animals being slaughtered globally each and every year just for human consumption.

Veganism as Moral Baseline and Message

I've not scribbled any earth-shattering revelations here. If you've leafed through some of Gary Francione's books or have spent some time on his website, you'll already be familiar with much of what I've written -- possibly even in much greater nuanced detail than I've articulated. If you've ever spent time reading the now-defunct Unpopular Vegan Essays blog (and many other abolitionist blogs along with it which have come and gone over recent years), none of what I've presented here should be new to you. Sometimes things just need to be re-emphasized, though. Sometimes when we get swept up in wanting to do the right thing, we forget that what may feel right -- may feel good -- isn't necessarily what's most effective in the end. And in the end all that truly matters is that we shift the status quo permanently.

For more information on SICs presented by folks much more knowledgeable and wordsmith-y than this wee blogger, read this and this. Don't hack at the branches, reach for the low-hanging fruit, cherry-pick causes and (a whirlwind of analogies and metaphors aside) confuse someone into thinking that anything other than taking non-human animals seriously -- and rejecting their use in all facets of our everyday lives where and when we can -- could ever be enough. Going vegan is the very least we can do and spreading this message to the overwhelmingly non-vegan public is, in fact, the very least that all animal advocates should do. At least it's the very least we should do if we earnestly want to bring about an end to the continued enslavement, torture and slaughter of others. Think about it.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Bits and Blurbs in the News

On Being Full of Beans About Veganism

"Hooray! Superstar So-and-So has gone vegan!"

Call me cynical, but each time I read something akin to this, my heart continues to beat its same old kathump and my attention is sooner-than-later diverted elsewhere. Most of the time, what is meant is that "Superstar So-and-So" decided to adopt a plant-based diet for a while to lose weight for a role or to cash in on some sort of PETA-related media attention. It's often temporary and sometimes partial and since the focus is merely on diet and is usually for self-concerned aesthetic or health reasons, at some point or another during a slow news week, someone in the media tries to dig up a gotcha moment and succeeds.

Such was the case with Houston Texans running back football player Arian Foster, who just a few months ago was featured on Ecorazzi for having adopted a "vegan diet" and Foster himself boasted of being "vegan" on Twitter.  Now what's splattered all over the news this week is that Foster's veganism includes eating meat.
“I’m not in a cult,” Foster said. “Nothing’s going to happen to me. I just wanted a piece of chicken. It wasn’t like temptation. I felt like I could use one.”

“I’ve been dabbling back and forth,” Foster said on his diet. “I just like to eat healthy. The whole vegan thing, a lot of people are really interested in my food. … I’ve had meat since I said I don’t eat meat anymore, but I like to stay with the plant-based foods, but every now and then, I’ll eat something.”
So there you have it, folks: Veganism is a diet and if you don't feel comfortable having the occasional piece of meat while on it, you're in a cult. Now if you'll excuse me, I think that I just saw something shiny out of the corner of my...

Monday, November 05, 2012

PETA: Redefining "Tasteless" One Campaign at a Time

Earlier today, Jezebel featured a YouTube video uploaded by PETA Europe on October 31, purportedly "in honour of World Vegan Day". Jezebel described it as "horrifying" and summed it up as follows: "Hey guys, with a plant-based diet, you will be able to leer at women, like, all day, waving your genitals at them while you grimace in a vaguely menacing way." If that sounds like a melodramatic overreaction to you, I assure you that it's not. Check it out for yourselves:

Some of the comments left in response to the video on YouTube:

"Go home PETA. You're drunk."
"This is the stupidest video ever. What are you trying to tell us???"
"So if you join PETA your ding-dong turns into a plant?"
"Go vegan and you might improve your sex life. Do drugs and you might land a job with PETA."
I don't even know where to start with it, myself. It's lewd on so very many levels and is unfortunately not that far-removed from what I've come to expect from PETA. Your thoughts?