Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What This Vegan Eats

It's been a while since I've splattered food photos all over the blog. Here are some of the things I've been whipping up over the last few months. Over the next few months, I hope to start work on another blog which will be specifically geared towards food and with recipes and tips on eating healthily and inexpensively as a single vegan. I'll keep you posted!
Lentil dahl with onions, spinach, tamarind, a bit of coconut milk, chilies, various Indian spices, garlic, ginger and lemon juice (and potatoes added). Yu choy sauteed in a wee bit of olive oil and hot curry paste. Multigrain flatbread.
Tater tot poutine. Tater tots, mushroom-nooch gravy, Vegan Gourmet mozzarella, organic ketchup.
Whole wheat pita pizza w/tomato sauce, crushed garlic, oven-roasted zucchini and red bell pepper, corn, crumbled tempeh (pan-fried w/tamari), mozza Daiya and corn.
Mushrooms, red bell pepper and Spanish onion marinated in a fig balsamic on organic mesclun greens. Grilled open-faced sandwich of jalapeno-garlic Daiya and breaded Gardein "chicken" strips on organic cranberry-apple spelt bread. Merlot.
Romaine, cuke, plum tomato, mushrooms, scallions, radishes, chopped Gardein breaded "chicken" strips, black olives, sesame & chia seed, French dressing.
Homemade tempeh and mushrooms in a maple-soy marinade and pan-fried. Spring greens topped with strips of red bell and drizzled with remainder of maple-soy marinade.
Maccheroncelli topped with mozza Daiya and a chunky homemade sauce.

Kimchi noodle soup. Tofurky Italian slices, tahini-nooch kale salad, cashew Camembert, tomato and sweet-red-pepper-mustard on multigrain bread.


Mushrooms and hot banana peppers marinated in fig balsamic vinaigrette, tahini-nooch kale salad and chipotle-speckled mushroom-y quinoa.
Nori rolls for dinner! I used 4-5 each of avocado, oven-roasted red pepper, shredded raw carrot, scallions, pan-fried smoky-sesame tofu, cucumber and cooked butternut squash.
Gardein Meatless Ground pan-fried with onions, broccoli, cheddar Daiya and chipotle seed. Vegenaise and locally-made sauerkraut. Whole wheat pita.
Massaged kale, lemon poppy seed dressing, red grapes, almonds, orange bell pepper, scallions, roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, organic alfalfa sprouts, scallions, garlic gomasio.







    
Potato-tofu Indian coconut curry over quinoa (also w/carrots, peas, tomatoes, onion, garlic and various seasonings).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Eat Your Icons: Matt Frazier


I have a lot of vegan friends and acquaintances who have very well-established and well-enjoyed exercise routines and who get a thrill out of pushing themselves to be as fit as they can. They twist and balance at yoga class, run half-marathons, participate in triathlons and have clocked in enough kilometres on their bikes that I'm sometimes embarrassed to refer to myself as a cyclist. I follow and applaud their accounts of participating in triathlons and am often envious of their resolve, thinking that in the right context (i.e. with a motivated cycling buddy) I could probably end up pushing my own self further. It's easy to make excuses when life's filled with distractions, of course, but I'm straying a little from my topic.

Many of these athletic vegan friends and acquaintances are familiar with the names of the more popular vegan or strict vegetarian professional athletes and of those who are currently writing books or otherwise maintaining programs in which the public can participate to shape up. They drop names like Scott Jurek, Carl Lewis, Brendan Brazier and Matt Frazier and mention books, performances, interviews. I have to admit that aside from my French-Canadian genetic predisposition to keeping my ear to the ground on some hockey-related matters that I don't pay much attention to sports or to athletic competitions. Those names are "familiar" to me, but I couldn't tell you if they were runners, body-builders, football players (and so on) without playing with Google.

One of those familiar names came up a few times yesterday -- Matt Frazier's -- and I couldn't help but visit his website to see what all the fuss was about. Someone had posted to an animal rights email list of which I'm a member that Frazier had recently posted "rules" on his website for his vegan fans to follow. What Frazier's in fact done is share the rules that he follows as a self-described vegan in a piece called "My Rules for Navigating Vegan Life in a Non-Vegan World" -- and yes, I wrote "self-described".

Eight Rules

Before he even begins his list of rules, Frazier hauls out those old tired vegan stereotypes -- the ones usually brought up to shame vegans or shut them up. Although he says that he's fed up with how "we" vegans are seen as "extreme, preachy elitists who think we know what's right for everyone and that the world should be forced to eat like we do" he's quick to add that we apparently collectively bring it upon ourselves. He uses the words "militant" and "inflexible" and tells his readers that his list is an attempt to illustrate that vegans don't have to be like that. He says his list of rules developed from "habit". Let's have a look at just what those "habits" are.

Rule #1 Don't Eat Animal Products

Duh. That's a no-brainer, right? If you're going to be a vegan, might as well not eat animal products, right? Except that Frazier has exceptions. He will still "knowingly buy and eat something with honey in it". He's "working" on this, he says, but right now for the sake of convenience, he will still knowingly consume it, knowing all the while that it's not vegan. Then there are other exceptions...

Rule #2 Don't Turn Down Non-Vegan (but Vegetarian) Food That's Offered at a Friend's House

If it's "butter [...], sprinkled cheese or eggs", Frazier says he'll "eat the meal and be grateful". Grateful for what? That he didn't bring something vegan to the meal to eat himself just in case a situation like this came up? 
Most vegans learn early on that it not only takes some of the heat off your host to bring something, but it ensures that if mix-ups occur, you can still all eat and be merry. Is he grateful that his relationship with his friend is so fragile that his friend would blow a gasket or be forever deeply wounded if Frazier didn't compromise his ethical beliefs for the sake of appearances?

Frazier almost draws the line at meat, saying that the situation "hasn't arisen yet" but the thing is that there is no difference between consuming dairy, eggs or flesh. Frazier presents non-meat animal products are more permissible or ethical and in the process guilt-trips vegans who are consistent about not putting animal products, whether flesh or secretions, into their mouths.

Rule #3 If a Restaurant Screw up the Order and Serves Non-Vegan (but Vegetarian) Food, Either Give it Away or Eat It


Quantity matters, says Frazier. An entire cheese pizza, he'd give away. A little cream drizzled on a dish? He would eat this and states that he has. He talks about "honoring" the animal and about how not eating what's presented is tantamount to "making a scene" and is counterproductive for veganism. Funny, but I thought that consuming animal products was counterproductive for veganism, but I guess that I have an altogether idea of what it means to be vegan than does Frazier. He talks about "wasting food" but I can't help but recall a quote from my friend Dan, an excellent former blogger, who once wrote: "I am vegan for precisely the same reason that I am not a cannibal." Would Frazier be talking about so-called food waste if he was offered up a dish sprinkled with a tiny amount of flaked flesh from a human baby's arm? Or breast milk taken from an enslaved woman forcibly raped and who's had her baby taken from her? Would consuming that dish or giving it away "honor" that enslaved human victim? Why is it different for other animals to Frazier?

Rule #4 Don't Make a Scene

A good vegan is a quiet vegan, according to Frazier, and too many vegans. Given Frazier's previous rule, one is left to assume that making a "scene" is pretty much just saying anything at all and sending back a dish rather than eating it. Frazier talks about how this makes vegans look "weird" and that being seen as "weird" leaves veganism off-putting to non-vegans.

Rule #5 Don't Complain About not Having Options

I tend to agree with this to a certain extent. Frazier's delivery is of the severe finger-wagging variety, but the thing is that if you get yourself sucked into a situation where your options will be limited, it really is up to you to contact (for example) a restaurant in advance to make arrangements or to ensure that you have food. You can always email a place after the fact to suggest to management that they include more vegan-friendly options on the menu, but inform yourself of your situation and options beforehand and just figure something out.

Rule #6 When Someone Asks About Healthy Eating, Don't Pounce

Frazier here expects vegans to high-five someone for eating "healthier" animal products and says that he won't bring ethics into the discussion. There's absolutely no reason whatsoever that vegans should feel compelled to tell someone who's cut out bacon in favour of chicken breasts "That's great!!!11". There's also no reason to view someone's choosing healthier animal products as in any way whatsoever leading to veganism, which is grounded in ethics. By all means, don't pounce, but don't applaud animal exploitation, either.

Rule #7 Don't Argue About Diet

Basically, Frazier says here that whether you bring up health or ethics, that debating whether a strict vegetarian diet is better will result in failure because people are just too emotional to hear what you have to say. So there goes tabling and leafletting or doing anything whatsoever that's education and involves engaging others. According to Frazier, it just won't work. Just become an awesome athlete, Frazier suggests, so that people become envious and want to copy your diet. Uh... yeah.


Rule #8 Don't Buy Non-Food Animal Products

I was surprised to read this heading since I figured that Frazier was pretty focused on the whole notion of veganism as a diet. But even here, Frazier talks about not bothering to research products -- deliberately opting to not inform himself -- and he lumps beer and alcohol into this, as well.


So?

To his credit (kinda, sorta), Frazier admits that his list is incomplete. But he talks about "moving towards 'pure' veganism" as if his deliberately choosing to ignore and gobble down animal ingredients is a sort of ordinary veganism. He also brings up that he hasn't given much thought to circuses and zoos and to "keeping animals as pets" (which he says he now has second thoughts about, when 3-4 million animals are needlessly killed in shelters in the US alone each and every year, just for the horrific "crime" of being unwanted).

Let's face it. Matt Frazier's so-called personal rules are an absolute mess. They present vegans' choosing to consume animals as not just "OK" but as desirable -- as the right thing to do in situations that are easy to avoid and easy to handle in ways where you're neither left having to compromise your ethical beliefs, nor looking like an asshat while remaining consistent. But like so many other self-described vegans who've become icons, Frazier's trying to appeal to a larger audience, so it's probably more expedient for him to excuse away people's awkwardness and balking, rather than giving them the encouragement to do the right thing and to not let themselves be embarrassed about it. It's a shame, but it's really no surprise, is it?



------------------------
Note (2013-07-18): Frazier has since posted an update to his article, stating that rules #1-3 no longer apply to him and that, moving forward, he won't be making exceptions to consuming animal products. No mention of rule #8, however, where he discusses not researching ingredients in alcohol or non-edibles. In the comments to his article, he says that although his own feelings have shifted re: rules #1-3 that he would still advise others to feel OK with lapses or exceptions. Even more problematic is that he also reiterated that he no longer thinks feels right about adopting "pets" now that he's vegan and he stresses that non-vegan "vegetarianism" is still better than eating meat. Hopefully he will come around, but I'm happy to see that he's at least expressed an interest in seeking some degree of consistency in his own practices while self-identifying as a vegan.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Feeling the Love, Whole Foods Style


Abby Bean from over yonder at A (soy) Bean shared a particularly well-captioned photo on Facebook this morning that left me slowly shaking my head. "Now they're just purposely being antagonistic," she wrote of it.  It's a shame they couldn't share some of that love with the cows.

(Check out her review from late last May of Saf Restaurant, an actual vegan restaurant located in Whole Foods Kensington in London in the UK.  Between the mediocre fare and the "happy meat" signs lining its stairwell, it sounds like a bit of a joke on the vegans who haplessly wander into it.)

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Finally: Abolitionist Animal Rights at AR2013

Gary L. Francione (to the right) addresses the crowd during his debate with Bruce Friedrich.(Photo sourced from FARM's Facebook page.)
(The following is a guest post by New York City vegan and environmental activist, Demosthenes Maratos, who attended the conference and presented on a panel discussing "Externalities of Animal Abuse". Demo very kindly agreed to let me share his experience at the conference with My Face Is on Fire readers and I'm very grateful that he took the time to write down all that he did. I truly wish I had been able to attend, but Demo's words leave me feeling as if I have.)

-----------------------------

I’m not at all a morning person, so in my truest form, I was late making it down to the 500-seat Plaza room at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel Saturday morning.

When I arrived, the room was already filled to the point where people had assembled outside the door and in the hallway to hear Professor Gary Francione’s first-ever presentation at the National Animal Rights conference. I pushed my way through the crowd assembled in the hallway and found a spot way in the back to stand for the presentation. It took me a minute or two to comprehend just what was going on.

Some back-story: At least a month and a half earlier a friend and I were exchanging email messages about whether this day would ever actually happen. There was some concern expressed about whether Professor Francione would be given the freedom to present whatever he wanted or whether he would in any way be censored by the organizers. I remember my friend distinctly saying that Francione would likely just give his usual talk on veganism as the moral baseline and that the organizers need not be concerned.

Back to the Plaza room: I quickly realized that every single chair in the 500-seat banquet room was filled and that more had been brought in to accommodate the assembled crowd. Still not enough, attendees of the conference were standing, kneeling and sitting in the last remaining bits of floor space unoccupied by chairs or other attendees. I found out later from the organizers that they estimated the room to have had 800 or more individuals in attendance that morning. After having taken in the magnitude of the crowd, I focused on what was being presented. I remembered the conversation with my friend about “his usual talk about veganism,” but that was not the case today. To their credit, the organizers (Farm Animal Rights Movement or FARM) allowed Francione to present exactly what he wanted. And boy, did he. Within minutes of my arrival, right there on the screen in front of the packed Plaza room was a PowerPoint slide showing the now infamous 2005 Animal Rights International letter to Whole Foods’ John Mackey. The letter, written by Peter Singer and signed by practically every major animal welfare organization, praised Whole Foods for having adopted “humane” treatment standards for raising and killing sentient creatures.

Allow me to put this all into perspective. The mainstream animal advocacy movement has wholly shunned Professor Francione since his 1996 book Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement critiqued the emergence of “new welfarists” as doing the animals more harm than good, and animal welfare reform as ineffective in ever leading to animal liberation. For 17 years he has been called controversial, divisive, or a traitor by many in the mainstream animal advocacy movement. And as I would find out later from a conversation with Francione, he was also on the receiving end of death threats after the book’s release.

While continuing his writing and lecturing (the author of four additional books since 1996, including the newly-released e-book, Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals), Francione had never been asked to speak at FARM’s National Animal Rights Conference. When I inquired as to why that was the case at last year’s conference, the answers from FARM organizers ran the gamut from “we don’t think he will come” to “we think he will go over his allotted time” to “we think he will be critical of the work of other groups”. They were right on the last one, but without ever asking, they would never have known whether he’d accept an invitation or go over his allotted time. For the record, going over one’s allotted time is something pretty much every presenter at the conference does. Myself included… oops.

But now Francione was standing at the podium, 800 people in attendance, including a veritable who’s who of animal welfare leaders (Paul Shapiro from HSUS, Nathan Runkle and Matt Rice from Mercy For Animals, Melanie Joy of Carnism Awareness, Action Network, Bruce Friedrich, Nick Cooney and Gene Bauer from Farm Sanctuary, Erica Meier of Compassion Over Killing, and others from Vegan Outreach, PeTA, The Humane League, etc) - in other words, some of the very people whose work Francione has very strongly disagreed with. Of course, he wasn’t simply standing there. He was now meticulously outlining how the mainstream animal rights movement had lost its way, how welfare reforms were a giant step backward, and how industry collaboration had drained the movement of its integrity. And he was doing so with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation, which Francione admitted to be doing for the first time ever.

His hour-long presentation discussed, among other things, how welfare reforms would happen anyway as industry strived to cut costs and increase market share, how activists should never seek to aid industry in making animal exploitation more profitable, how welfare campaigns actually make the public feel better about animal exploitation and how they actually encourage continued animal use by making people think that they can discharge their moral obligations to animals without ending animal use in their own lives, how incongruous sexist campaigns like “Veggie Love Casting Session” are to a movement seeking to liberate one group of oppressed individuals by exploiting another group, and how making moral distinctions between different forms or exploitation (i.e. single issue campaigns, the promotion of Meatless Monday) does not shift the paradigm from animals as exploitable things to beings worthy of our moral concern.

Francione’s presentation was met with spontaneous outbursts of applause throughout and ended with a rousing standing ovation from at least half of the jam-packed room. Considering the welfare-dominated environment in which he was presenting, it was spectacular to be party to it all.

An hour later, I was back in the Plaza room witnessing a similar scene. Having this time arrived early I saw the 500 seat room being packed to capacity with more than a hundred additional chairs being brought in to accommodate the crowd, and still a few hundred others having to sit, stand, or kneel on the floor. My partner and I grabbed two of the chairs being brought in and were seated in the front row, to the left of the dais awaiting the debate between Gary Francione and Farm Sanctuary’s Bruce Friedrich. After a brief welcome, introduction, and explanation of the debate format from moderator and World Peace Diet author, Will Tuttle we were under way. The format: Francione and Friedrich each had 10 minutes for an opening statement, followed by 25 minutes of audience questions and answers, and concluding with a 2-minute summation from each presenter.

Francione presented his position first, and without the aid of a PowerPoint presentation this time he carefully began by outlining, as he’d done in his morning plenary, that veganism should be the moral baseline of any movement concerned about animal rights. He continued that there is no evidence to indicate that making exploitation more 'humane' advances toward the abolition of exploitation, and offered the comparison of placing animals that will inevitably die for palate pleasure in bigger cages being akin to torturing a prisoner on a padded water board. He went on to argue that we have had animal welfare laws for nearly two hundred years, and yet we now exploit more animals in more horrible ways than at any time in the past. He added that “to the extent that animal welfare reform raises consciousness about animals, it merely reinforces the notion that animals are things that we are entitled to use if our treatment of them is 'humane' and facilitates the continued acceptance of exploitation, which is characterized as meeting that standard." Later, Francione concluded his statement by saying that there is no way one could advocate for bigger cages (or another reform) without taking the stance that those conditions are morally desired and that consuming animals produced under those conditions is ethically acceptable. “You promote "happy" exploitation whether or not you think you are,” he said.

Again, Francione’s 10-minute opening statement was met with outbursts of applause from the assembled crowd, and another stirring standing ovation from half of those in attendance.

Bruce Friedrich then took to the podium and began, as he so often does, with the same joke, “Did people hear that Bill Gates bought the Seattle Times this morning?” But before he could deliver the punch line, someone from the audience shouted it out, “Yeah, he buys it every morning.” Friedrich appeared disappointed.

Friedrich’s presentation began with statement that he was abolitionist and that he and Farm Sanctuary were working towards their ultimate goal of animal liberation. He failed in my estimation, however, to convince me of that fact. Simply saying something doesn’t make it so. But I digress. He continued that animal welfare reforms do help animals and that they shift the paradigm towards animal liberation. With the use of PowerPoint he juxtaposed a slide of pig in a gestation crate with a slide of a group of pigs in cage free confinement and claimed that this was a significant improvement for the animals suffering right now. He did the same thing with a slide of hens in battery cages and hens in cage-free confinement and added the claim that the switch from one form of confinement to the other would spare millions of animals from misery. He attempted to prove his point by presenting the Kansas State University study entitled U.S. Meat Demand: The Influence of Animal Welfare Media Coverage, which he argued, demonstrated that media attention to animal welfare issues in the past decade resulted in “significant negative effects on U.S. meat demand” and were leading to veganism. Or as Friedrich said, vegetarianism, since he continues to use those terms interchangeably.

In what appeared to be a attempt at winning audience support, Friedrich, unfairly in my opinion, used another slide depicting a pig named Julia and said that she and her babies were saved as a result of a gestation crate ban and were now living out their lives at Farm Sanctuary. How does that work exactly? This went unexplained and unquestioned and seemed to imply that pigs get to go to sanctuaries immediately after a crate ban. 
Friedrich’s presentation also received sporadic and supportive applause throughout, and at its conclusion, it garnered a standing ovation by half of the attendees in the room. It seemed more boisterous to me and included hooting and hollering. More on that later.

When it came time for audience members to ask questions and/or comments, better than twenty individuals made their way to the microphone positioned near the front of the room. Of the questions I remember, one was from a woman employed by The Humane League and who has a relevant interest in the outcome of the debate. She asked both debaters to talk about what type of vegan outreach they’ve done, but specifically asked Francione, “What do you do besides Facebook?” Clearly intended to imply that all Francione does is use Facebook, it was obviously a “planted” question. After all, Francione has written numerous books, he teaches and lectures internationally, he blogs, he podcasts, and let’s face it, he doesn’t subscribe to the model that one needs to work within a organizational structure to be effective. Yet, here he was having to defend his use of Facebook, which he did commendably enough in outlining how without much in the way or resources he was reaching thousands and getting 400 emails a day concerning the abolitionist approach. But the question was clearly designed to set up Friedrich to rattle off a list of welfare campaigns and claim that it was abolitionist vegan education.

For anyone astute enough to notice, it was a contrived question with the intention of supporting Friedrich’s position. Another audience member commented that he felt the debate seemed to center around either promoting welfare reforms and/or promoting veganism. He added that there should be another position presented, and if I understood him correctly, he was interested in seeing bans on different forms of exploitation rather than simply regulating conditions within that exploitation. Friedrich responded by thanking him for his question and different point of view and added that Francione and he admittedly did not go over every position during the debate.

Towards the end of the question and answer portion of the debate, Nick Cooney, Founder of The Humane league and now Compassionate Communities Manager at Farm Sanctuary was either given or somehow commandeered a wireless microphone to ask a question from the back of the room. It was not only rude (at least 15 audience members were waiting patiently in line for their turn to ask a question,) but it was also very much another “planted” question.

Unknowing attendees may not have realized who was asking the question or that Cooney, who remember works for the same organization as Friedrich, was asking the question of his colleague, but it seemed clear to me that it was an attempt to bring the conversation back to the Kansas State Study. I don’t remember his exact phrasing, but his “question” went something like, “Bruce, can you elaborate further on the study you referenced earlier about how welfare reforms save millions of animals?”

As an aside, and for those who may not know, Cooney has a history of this sort of disingenuous behavior. In August of 2012, Paul Shapiro, Vice President of Farm Animal Protection at the Humane Society of the United States wrote an article for the online blog, Food Day in which Shapiro encouraged readers to eat more vegetables. Among the “planted” comments by many of Shapiro’s colleagues and friends (all of which are still there to be read,) Cooney, using his own name, posted a comment that said something to the effect of, “Thank you Mr. Shapiro, I’m glad you brought this issue to my attention. I’ve been eyeing all those yummy looking meat alternatives in my grocery store and you’ve encouraged me to try them.” After being summarily criticized by others in the animal rights community as dishonest and disingenuous to have pretended to be an omnivore (Cooney is vegan) who just happened upon the article and was influenced by it, the comments were taken down.

Friedrich used this “question” to again make the case for the validity of the Kansas State Study, which Francione quickly challenged. Saying, that the study does not say that welfare campaigns have resulted in any actual decrease in consumption. Rather, he explained, “it says that demand, measured over an approximately ten-year period, did not increase as much as the authors would have thought if media attention on welfare issues had not increased.” He added that animal consumption is increasing but it did not increase as much with respect to pigs and chickens and that may or may not have had anything to do with animal welfare measures, and any decrease in demand may very well reflect a shift to fish, eggs, dairy products since the authors defined those as non-meat 
items.

Friedrich kept insisting that the study indicated both an overall reduction in animal consumption and that it was the result of welfare reform. Francione again challenged that this was theorized, and with zero evidence to back it up it was merely correlation not causation. Francione went on to encourage the audience to read the entire study for themselves and not take any one’s word for it.

More than a handful of attendees were left without time in the schedule to ask questions and they were asked to return to their seats.

Friedrich received the most raucous applause from the assembled crowd, which was again filled with a veritable who’s who of animal welfare leaders and their supporters. I wouldn't base it all on cheering, however. Francione, to my knowledge, did not even announce publicly that he would be speaking at the conference. And remember, this conference has long been dominated by welfarist organizations. All of which employ colleagues, friends, and peers of Friedrich, and all of whom knew to show up in opposition. Some of them were visibly not very happy to be hearing disagreement with their work, especially in front of a crowd that normally fawns all over them. Their cheers were the only way to voice their dissatisfaction. It was expected.

After the debate, Francione made his way to the spacious foyer outside the Plaza room where conference sponsor tables were set up. Francione was provided with his own table to promote his new eBook. Once there, a seemingly endless stream of conference attendees had gathered in a line to seek him out to talk to him, to discuss points he made, or to meet him for themselves. In some cases it was an orderly line where people waited their turn, in others instances attendees had gathered around the table informally for a group conversation. This scene literally went on for hours, five straight hours to be exact. Person after person after person wanted to engage him in conversation. It wasn’t until the foyer began to fill up with those attending the conference banquet and awards ceremony that Francione and his assistant could think about making an exit. That however, was short-lived as they could not walk more than a few steps before being stopped again.

The distance from Francione’s table to the escalator leading to the main lobby and hotel exit was no more than a hundred and fifty feet. But it took them another hour to walk that distance as more and more people wanted to ask questions and interact with Francione. Finally at the foot of the escalator and the group gathered at just about five or six individuals, Eddie Lama of The Witness recognized Francione. The two made eye contact, but the old friends couldn’t believe whom they were seeing. They embraced and someone snapped a picture. Shortly thereafter-another old friend walked by. This time it was Shirley McGreal, founder of International Primate Protection League, who recognized both Francione and Lama and the three had their picture taken together. After all was said and done, Francione left the Hilton Mark Center nearly 12 hours after he arrived.

My take on the debate: At a conference that has traditionally been dominated by regulationst ideologies, Gary Francione had everything to gain, while Bruce Friedrich had much to lose. Regardless of how any of us might have called it (I personally happen to think Francione's arguments were and are more effective) the winner was Francione. Exposing 800 people to the abolitionist approach, many of who are brand new to the movement, there were bound to be people who were moved to consider his point of view, and for him to win over new supporters (I spoke to a number of them). That's a win in my book. In Friedrich's case, attendees learned nothing new and I spoke to no one who was moved to reconsider their position and support his. His supporters remained his supporters. Having witnessed the events of the morning, afternoon and into the early evening of Saturday June 29th, I can honestly say it was a thing of beauty to behold.

In the hours after the debate, while many of us conference goers were discussing the day’s events and our thoughts on who had won, I heard something interesting from a friend. He happened to overhear a conference sponsor tell a colleague that if Francione were invited again, he and others would pull out of next year's conference. It seems evident that some felt threatened by Francione’s presence and did not take kindly to being challenged on the merits or their work.

Of course being challenged isn't about posturing and nitpicking so much as it is a very much warranted criticism of how many organizations are going about setting things back for the very animals they claim to be "helping". Frankly, when welfare reform is criticized, the response is too often to ignore the substance of the argument and claim that the critic is being “divisive” or “too idealistic”. This is not helpful to a useful discussion and seems only designed to prevent people from considering the message. Abolitionists like Francione have for far too long been painted with that broad brush. It’s insidious and it needs to stop.

------------------------

For those of you who weren't present at AR2013 to hear the Francione/Friedrich debate, here's an unofficial video taken of it by an audience member. Enjoy!