Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ethical Purchasing – Are The Boundaries Being Confused?

(The following is a guest post from Grumpy Old Vegan. I approached him yesterday about elaborating upon a few posts he's recently made on his Facebook page concerning boycott campaigns being mounted by vegans against certain plant-based ingredients or products. He kindly agreed to do write a piece for My Face Is on Fire. Here it is below.)

"Ethical Purchasing – Are The Boundaries Being Confused?"

As we know, the primary purpose of veganism as the moral baseline of animal rights is to adopt a way of life which avoids, as far as is practicably possible, involvement in any form of exploitation of nonhuman animals. With around 60 billion animals being exploited annually in the meat, dairy and egg production industries it is hardly surprising that food tends to be the main focus of veganism and vegans are not only concerned with ensuring that no animal products are included in their diet but also naturally inclined to consider related issues such as the environmental impact of food production and its effect on wildlife, support for fair trade agriculture, GM crops and ethical purchasing of manufactured food products.

However, there appears to be an increasing tendency for those with a particular interest in such issues, often initiating campaigns to support their views, to imply that certain non-animal food products are ‘not vegan’ and that those using them are ‘unvegan’. I will give two examples to illustrate the point and explain why such implications could be problematic.

Firstly, palm oil. While the destruction of Indonesian rainforests for palm plantations is undoubtedly an environmental and ecological disaster as are its consequences to wildlife, palm oil is clearly not an animal product. Since it is made from the nuts and fruit of the palm and no animals are directly exploited in the process it is a vegan product. Indeed, it is the forest itself being exploited with the timber gathered from clearances also providing a valuable cash crop. If we are concerned about any impacts on wild animals from palm oil production, is there any substantive moral reason why we should not be equally concerned with, for example, the clearance of Brazilian rainforest to grow soybeans or the impact of plant agriculture on small mammals (often used as a reason to debunk veganism)? In addition, most of the campaigns relating to palm oil are speciesist. There are many species affected by rainforest clearance but they rarely get a mention, orangutans being the focus. Presumably this is because they are ‘like us’, absolutely no reason to give them moral precedence over other species. What vegans should be doing is educating others to reject speciesism and consider all animals when considering their position on ethical consumption. 

The use of palm oil is now almost endemic and it is included as an ingredient in a vast number of products, both vegan and non-vegan. This has given rise to the suggestion that a number of specifically named vegan products containing palm oil should be avoided, problematic for similar reasons to those given in summary below.

Secondly, avoiding vegan products supplied by companies associated with non-vegan products. Please note, this is a very different situation from avoiding companies involved in direct exploitation such as those which test on animals. As an example I will cite the recent widely-circulated suggestion that vegans should avoid ‘Silk’ soya products because the brand is now owned by Dean Foods, the largest dairy producer in the US. In fact, ‘Silk’ is an Alpro brand and Alpro as a company was purchased by Dean Foods in 2009. Any ‘boycott’ would therefore necessarily need to include all Alpro products and other brands such as ‘Provamel’.

In the case of large corporations, expecting ethical purchasing decisions (or even widespread boycotts) to have any economic impact on them is optimistic in the extreme. Even if Dean Foods stopped manufacturing vegan products altogether it would have no impact on the volume or profitability of their dairy production because the demand would still exist. Surely animals would be better served by vegans supporting such brands and convincing non-vegans to switch from dairy and use them? In addition, how can we reasonably expect a demand-driven industry to continue to produce existing vegan products and introduce more vegan alternatives if vegans themselves start avoidingthem? If we managed to unravel all the corporate entanglements out there we would surely find ourselves with a very long list of companies and products to avoid! Also, where is the line drawn? For example, do we avoid stores which sell animal products in addition to vegan products? How is this issue rationalised it on a general, rather than personal, basis?

In summary, while issues such as those mentioned undoubtedly provide information (which is valuable), the implication that ‘this is what vegans do’ makes veganism seem rather more complicated than it actually is, particularly to non-vegans who already often regard going vegan as difficult. Accusations that vegans who choose not to comply with the suggested actions are ‘not vegans’ are particularly distasteful.

We should be making it as easy as possible for non-vegans to switch in the first instance because this is the only way that demand for animal products will reduce. The basic tenets of veganism are not complicated so let us not inhibit vegan education by attaching a list of supplementary ‘rules and regulations’ to the fundamental message. Help people to stop consuming animal products first then give them the information to adjust their lives according to their individual circumstances and personal views but without turning information into mandatory requirements.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hey Vegan, Can't You Take a Joke?

And so, yet another non-vegan has weighed in on what is or isn't proper behaviour for vegans. A few days ago in her "Plant Strong Diva in Chicago" column on Chicago Now's website, Ashley Gilday (who?) took a poke at vegans with a heap of exaggeration served up with a good dose of shaming. She describes herself in her bio-blurb as having had a spiritual awakening a year and a half ago which has supposedly left her following a "predominantly plant based diet" so that "the foods [she decides] to eat actually help others". She calls her column a "hub to educate", yet in her list of 
"11 signs your vegan diet may be out of control", Gilday replaces an opportunity to educate with one to merely reinforce stereotypes and to both ridicule and guilt-trip actual vegans for their personal lifestyle choices (i.e. even in situations where no other people around them are even remotely affected by these choices).

The first "sign" she describes perpetuates the stereotype of the screeching angry vegan who has apparently been left friendless for constantly verbally assaulting his friends and family members at meal-time when they consume animal products. The funny thing about this is that, the odd social maladept aside, most vegans probably actually try to shift the focus from themselves at mixed meals with non-vegans. I tend to just focus on eating what's on my plate, not really caring to have someone start in on why the X or Y on her own are too delicious to give up, or--if it's known or comes up that I'm vegan--challenging me to explain why I think eating X or Y is wrong in the first place. I remember how an ex's mother would always tell everyone at the table "what a shame" it was that I couldn't have this or that item to see for myself what I was missing, which would always lead to some new-to-me relative of the ex's asking "why" I "couldn't". These are not conversations I wish to have when sitting across a table from most non-vegans. It's neither the right time nor place and leaves me just as uncomfortable as it might the non-vegans who'd get honest answers out of me. But I imagine that even merely responding honestly at all might be deemed offensive or inappropriate by Gilday.

Her second "sign" shames vegans who prefer to keep their food separate from animal products when it's prepared on something shared, like a grill. This reminds me of a story I shared in a blog post a year ago:
"I remember years ago how an ex had been questioned about my veganism by a friend who was hosting a barbecue to which we'd been invited. I think my ex had mentioned that there was no need to worry about me and that I'd just bring something to eat that needn't sit on the grill. His friend asked what the big deal would be in having food which had been cooked on or alongside ground meat. Without skipping a beat, my ex asked:
'Do you find the idea of eating feces revolting?'

'Well, yeah.'

'What about eating something cooked on something that had just been covered in feces?'
The conversation ended. I got a chuckle out of how he'd handled it, crudely--yet effectively--comparing one form of revulsion (e.g. stemming from moral reasons) to another. The comparison obviously doesn't apply for all vegans and it is quite a bit more nuanced than that. But to some, myself included, the idea of biting down into a piece of flesh that once belonged to a living someone is really no different than the idea of biting into something covered with a little bit less of that someone's body, and I'd no sooner voluntarily do either than I would if feces were substituted for the animal flesh. If that makes me extreme of difficult, then so be it."
As someone who admits that she continues to consume animal products, Gilday obviously cannot easily wrap her head around the idea that someone else might not want to eat food with another animal's fat or blood splattered on it. It's alright that she doesn't "get it" since she hasn't connected the dots where her own consumption choices are concerned. It's really unfortunate, however, that her supposed "spiritual awakening" left with an urge to ridicule those who actually do take other animals more seriously than she does.

A third "sign" perpetuates the whole "health nut vegan" stereotype, making a joke about one's skin being permanently tinted orange from drinking too much carrot juice. Har har.

A fourth perpetuates the decades-old "hippie eco-nut vegan" stereotype with a joke about living in a hemp-based tent in your parent's backyard. (I can't help but wonder at this point if Gilday has even ever met a vegan.)

The fifth exaggerates ingredient sourcing for vegans with a joke about only drinking wine "from an organic, sustainable farm that is 100% vegan". The funny thing about that is that I have non-vegan friends who will actually seek out organic wines from small producers, mostly to avoid additives. And so what if somebody wants to consume more ethically-grown products, including those grown using veganic farming methods? Everybody's on a "conscientious consumer" kick these days -- not just vegans. (Maybe she's just watched too many Simpsons episodes.)

The sixth "sign" is just a mean-spirited dig in which she takes another kick a the "hippie eco-nut vegan" stereotype. "You've stopped bathing," she writes. What does bathing or not bathing even have to do with veganism? Right. Nada.

Her seventh "sign", a joke about side salads, might be funny if not for the eye-roll inducer which preceded it. It's left seeming totally out of place on her otherwise unfunny list.

Her eighth "sign" about only eating raw fruits and vegetables is a dig at raw foodists and also has nothing to do with veganism.

Her ninth "sign" is just another take on the fifth, again mocking those who opt to source veganically-grown produce as if this somehow offends her. (I guess that Gilday may just have some strange personal attachment to animal faeces. Who knows?)

Her tenth "sign" involves a topic that too few (and yes, most especially Gilday) take the time to research adequately before passing judgment. It involves feeding cats and dogs plant-only foods. She says it's "cruel" when vegans do so. The truth is that dogs thrive on a "vegan" diet. Like humans, they are omnivores and their nutritional requirements can all quite easily be met eating a variety of plant-based foods. As for the issue of feeding cats, who are obligate carnivores? I've been on the fence about it for years and have generally avoided weighing in on the topic. Part of the reason is my own lack of success with my feline family, part of it involves a few frightening stories from trusted fellow abolitionists whose own cats have experienced medical complications after being fed plant-based fare. That being said, Gary L. Francione has recently been endorsing the work of Dr. Andrew Knight, who promotes carefully planned strictly vegetarian diets for both cats and dogs. Knight is a European Veterinary Specialist in Welfare Science, Ethics and Law and a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and his website contains detailed information based on extensive research.

Her final "sign" was pretty much the last straw for me. She dredges up the stereotype of the neurotic and emaciated vegan to set up how restricting your diet too much is akin to suffering from orthexia nervosa, a disorder characterized by the avoidance of foods deemed unhealthy. References are often made to it in anti-vegan articles in mainstream media to undermine the validity of our not shrugging off the occasional eating of animal products, as if it's unthinkable that someone would actually want to be consistent in his or her ethical choice to reject animal exploitation.

You don't even have to go through the entire list to realize that her main goal in writing her piece was more malicious than educational or informative. She ends the whole thing using words like "balance" and counsels her vegan readers to not "let [their] new diet and lifestyle isolate [them] from [their] friends, family and peers". The not-so-hidden message is the same one Vegan Outreach spews, arguing that vegans should opt to play fast and loose with their ethical choices when around others lest they alienate or offend non-vegans and convince them that veganism is "too hard" or just plain kooky and extremist.

Want to convince someone that animal exploitation is wrong and to go vegan? Don't ask about the eggs or dairy in that restaurant veggie burger. Accept that slice of cake from your coworker with a smile, pretending that's not cream cheese frosting on it. Perish the thought that you should not guzzle down that iced tea because you noticed honey listed in the ingredients! I mean, they're only bees, right?

They're only chickens.

They're only cows.

Friday, June 21, 2013

When Non-Vegans Write About Veganism, Revisited

It is becoming more normal than not, isn't it? Non-vegans are all over mainstream media talking about their on/off again or temporary plant-only diets and then weighing in on "how to go vegan" or on "what it's like to be vegan". So the general public reads these articles and is left thinking that if it appeared in such-and-such a publication or on such-and-such a website that it must be right. You've read the articles, I've written about the articles. There's no need for much context, since we've seen it all play out before. What we really need to start doing, however, is to dig in our heels to stop this rebranding of the word "vegan" and to educate people about what truly rejecting animal exploitation is all about.

The Latest

Someone called Kevin Powell recently wrote a semi-autobiographical and semi-instructional piece for Huffington Post on how (not) to be a vegan ("Why and How I Became a Vegan"). According to his write-up page, Powell has written for everyone from Rolling Stone to Esquire and The Washington Post. (An aside: I really have to wonder if getting to write for major publications has more to do with connections than talent, since I so very often see folks with heaps of credentials who either can't research or can't write, or in a case like Powell's, jump on bandwagons and then completely misrepresent lifestyles they obviously do not understand and then try to present arguments less coherent than a cranky toddler's protests against having to go to bed.)

The problem with Powell' involve two things he conveys explicitly in his article about "why" and "how" he became vegan: The first is that he believes that veganism is a personal choice about one's own consumption and that vegans should mind their own business when it comes to others around them who choose to continue to use animals. (More implicitly, it's that same old shaming of vegans have the audacity to actually express aloud that it's wrong for other animals to be exploited.) The second thing that's conveyed is that veganism is a diet and that this diet leaves room for the occasional consumption of meat, dairy or eggs to avoid hurting other humans' feelings. Basically, this is that other sort of backhanded shaming that implies that, even when minding their own business, it's rude for vegans to be consistent about sticking to their ethical principles. In Powell's world, refusing to occasionally consume animal products seems to make you an asshole.

"How To"

Powell starts off immediately by cautioning people to take it very slowly and to get professional medical advice if going vegan. I'm all for doing things right and think that most people--whether vegan or non-vegan--could benefit from a consultation or two with a decent progressive nutritionist. That said, I can't help but think that Powell makes it sound right off the bat as if switching to a plant-only diet is a horribly risky thing to do. Like Powell, I'm no medical professional, but from personal experience and anecdotes from others, I have to say that I think that getting a good book or two about nutrition and bookmarking some reliable sites featuring menu ideas or vegan-friendly recipes would probably benefit most people more than talking to a general practitioner, given how little training most ordinary doctors receive on the subject of nutrition. (Of course, if you have a pre-existing health condition, that's another story and since this really isn't what I want to focus on about his piece, I don't want to overstate anything about this cautionary tone he sets, so let's move on.)

"Veganism" as a Personal Choice

Powell describes his transition to veganism, which he inadvertently ends up defining as his voluntarily eating and exploiting animals whenever it seems like a good idea. He's "stuck" to veganism, he says, "except when [he has] had little to no choice but to eat fish in certain heavily fish-based cultures/communities [he's]visited internationally" (lest he "insult the customs and traditions" of his hosts). Not eating animals or animal products also seems to risk offending others closer to home and so Powell leaves himself another out to consume animal products:
I likewise bend the veganism rule for specific holiday gatherings with my mother here in America because, well, she is my mother and dinner with her is sacred and important and I do not take that for granted as my mom gets older. And my mother ain't trying to understand why I do not eat meat, seriously.
One can't help but wonder how often Powell "bends" his dining rules given that someone's not understanding his supposed "veganism" is a good enough reason for him to not stick to his guns. One just as quickly stops wondering, though, when he leaves no doubt whatsoever that his personal interpretation of the term is just plain ol' meaningless:
I do not care if other vegans say my way is not veganism. I say yes it is because anyone who knows me knows that my lifestyle has become very vegan-centered. One day I hope to even wear clothes and footwear on a daily [sic] that are vegan-based. That is how focused I am about living a vegan life.
Vegan-centered, eh? He doesn't even consistently adhere to a plant-only diet and although he does state that he uses home and personal products which aren't tested on or derived from animals, he admits that his clothes contain animal products. But don't tell him that eating other animals or wearing their fur and/or skin is not what "veganism" is about, 'cause he really doesn't care what anybody else thinks veganism is or isn't.

Powell makes it clear that as much as he isn't interested in having anyone clarify to him whether veganism makes room for varying types of deliberate--and easily avoidable--animal use, he's also more or less unconcerned about others' animal use: "I would certainly marry a woman who eats fish or chicken. That does not bother me, although I would prefer to marry a vegan." Along with this, he states that all he would ever ask of others is that they be more "mindful" of what they consume; he insists that he would never "shov[e] the way [he] see[s] things in terms of meat-eating vs. no meat-eating down people's throats". His purportedly being "vegan" is just a matter of "opinion". It's a personal choice.

Vegan Voices

So? Yet another non-vegan who is presented as a reliable and somewhat authoritative voice ends up making a mockery of the whole notion of rejecting animal exploitation. It's nothing new, yet it's still troubling. This ongoing rebranding of the word "vegan" seems to have become disheartening enough to some bona fide vegans that a few have suggested that the word should be tossed to the wayside altogether rather than defended. Worse is that as the word continues to get co-opted and misrepresented, the public becomes increasingly confused about what it is that we owe other animals, hearing that even self-described vegans believe it's OK to throw back an occasional pork chop or glass of chocolate dairy milk from time to time.

Powell's made a "choice", yes, but that choice has nothing to do with veganism. Shame on the Huffington Post for publishing yet another misinformed and badly written piece about not being vegan.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Sender" Responds


So a few weeks ago, I noticed on Twitter that someone with the handle "95PercentVegan" was following me. I was sitting at the coffee shop and rolled my eyes a little thinking "not again" and although I hardly ever tweet anymore except to retweet the odd music-related thing, I decided to challenge them on their misuse of the term "vegan". We exchanged a few tweets, mine sort of half-hearted, since this song's just getting so old.
MFIoFV: There is no such thing as being 95% vegan.
95%Vegan: We would respectfully disagree from a nutritional and mathematical viewpoint.

MFIoFV: Veganism is an ethical lifestyle that rejects animal exploitation. It's not a diet.

95%Vegan: With due respect, you miss the point. Reducing animal exploitation is a vast improvement over what is happening now.

MFIoFV: I am talking about the definition of veganism. You can no more be 95% vegan than you can be 95% celibate.

MFIoFV: In shrugging off some animal use, you're condoning it and communicating that it's sometimes OK to exploit animals.

95%Vegan: As a clinician, I am in the business of helping people reach their nutritional goals; not cater to those with an all or one agenda. We wish you the best. For more information, you can see our blogs at
I found things to do. I had litter-boxes to clean, rhubarb to pick, friends to hang out with. A few days later, I sent two final tweets.
MFIoFV: But slaughtering animals is "all or nothing". Veganism, by definition, rejects all easily avoidable animal exploitation.
MFIoFV: Veganism isn't a health fad or diet. You're grossly misusing the term to cash in on its popularity. That's shameful/misleading.
Unsurprisingly, there was no further response to this on Twitter. The folks running the "95% Vegan" site are, of course, promoting a diet that revolves around the nutritional benefits of eating more plant-based foods. They've read their Pollan and their Bittman; they likely have a dog-eared copy of The China Study kicking around somewhere. They've actually trademarked the term "95% Vegan" (no, seriously) and have a book coming out. I say "they" when the two who seem behind it are a Dr. Jamie Knoll and an attorney called Caitlin Herndon. With their matching white-blonde hair, they could easily be mother and daughter.

I was a little surprised to received a brief follow-up to my Twitter exchange from my friend Michael a few days later (check out his great mostly music-related podcast MikeyPod,). He told me that the 95% Vegan folks had apparently written a post on their site to defend their facilitating the continuation of others' animal exploitation. I waited until I'd gotten home and had kicked back with a half-beer before trying to find their site. I suspected there would be more eye-rolling and was right. In their piece, they take issue with my assertion that in promoting their so-called 95% vegan "diet" they are condoning animal exploitation; they then attempt to make a clumsy case that veganism is in fact a diet, and that it is unreasonable to expect people to ever forego more than 95% of the animal products they choose to eat.

"Dietary" Vegans

In their post, they ask that people (like bona fide vegans?) who disagree with them "respect that there is a difference between ethical vegans and dietary vegans". They elaborate that someone may indeed choose to be a "dietary vegan" for ethical reasons but that their main concerns are ensuring their good health via what they choose to inset into theirs gobs. They then embark on a confusing attempt to co-opt the term "vegan" by starting off with the claim that a vegan diet is indeed a diet as per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which seems to use "vegan diet" synonymously with "strict vegetarianism".

The thing is that a "vegan" diet is "vegan" in the sense that you can call a bottle of shampoo that's free of animal ingredients and hasn't been tested on animals a bottle of "vegan" shampoo. But using that vegan shampoo no more makes you a vegan than eating a "vegan" diet makes you a vegan. The term has become shorthand to qualify "something which vegans can consume". I usually try to use "vegan-friendly" when I think to do so, but but use the shorthand, too. The thing is that it makes about as much sense to me to talk of "dietary" veganism as it would to talk about "hair-care-atary" veganism.

If the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (or anyone else's) uses the term to denote a mere diet and of whether it (or anyone else) uses the word "vegan" to describe someone who adopts such a diet (while otherwise continuings to provide demand for animal exploitation), so what? The word has actual documented historical origins that show how it was intended to encompass so much more than just diet. At its root was the issue of animal exploitation. It is bizarre to me that two women who seek to start yet another fad diet, one focused strictly on health and with little regard for the question of the ethics of animal use, would so tenaciously cling to their choice to use the word "vegan" to describe any aspect of what it is they are trying to do.

Gimme That Old-Time Non-Violence

One of the arguments they attempt to develop on their article to support their shrugging off some animal use is that, in the history of the world, there has never been a 100% vegan culture. Therefore, they present it as extremist and "radical" that anyone would expect anyone self-describing as a vegan to actually strive reject more than 95% or so of his or her own animal use. Oh, they feel for us kooky radicals with our zany compassionate beliefs, but they make it clear that expecting others to embrace a stance condemning violence towards other beings is no different than pushing religion on someone. In fact, they bring up the American Vegan Society's initial ties to Jainism and state that although they view the concept of promoting non-violence towards others as "beautiful", that, at the end of the day, it's just another "religion".

"Veganism Is Just Too Haaaaaaard!!"

According to the folks at 95% Vegan, expecting others to be willing and able to give up a favourite food forever is prohibitive and mean. They suggest that pointing out that someone shouldn't eat this or that is tantamount to guilt-tripping them and that it sets them up for repeated and certain failure. Basically, they appear to make no distinction between nagging someone on a health or weight-loss diet about eating an off-limits treat and pointing out to someone who wants to self-describe herself as vegan that a certain food contains animal products. In the end, Jamie Knoll's goal is to make sure that her clients enjoy the benefits of a healthier diet that's mostly comprised of plant-based foods, but that they also get to indulge themselves in animal products "without having to be perfect". What she presents as "veganism" is no different to her than absolutely any other fad diet and (regardless of a few token mentions of factory farming), has almost nothing to do with ethics.

"Every Little Bit Counts!!"

The article ends with a finger wag, an assumption and some bad math.

Them: Shouldn't animal rights advocates who want to see an end to the consumption of other animals' flesh and secretions be grateful that she and her partner are pushing a diet that encourages people be "95% vegan"?

Me: This makes the mistaken assumption that someone who consumes a largely plant-based diet and who otherwise continues to participate in the exploitation of others is a "type" of vegan. Although the large majority of animals raised for human use do end up on supermarket shelves, animal ingredients are insidiously found in all kinds of other non-food related items and exploitation may occur in all kinds of other contexts. What they do in advocating a largely plant-based diet for health reasons doesn't address the horrible speciesism which underlies society's belief that other animals are ours to use.

Them: "Do you mean to tell me that cutting out 95% of animal exploitation is still condoning animal exploitation?"

Me:  Shrugging off--and even high-fiving, as they seem to do--someone's occasional consumption of animal products because of that person's cravings or taste preferences is indeed condoning continued animal exploitation. Not addressing all of the other non-dietary areas in which folks provide demand for animal products is indeed (albeit less directly) condoning continued animal exploitation. So, yes. Yes, they are condoning animal exploitation. Worse is that they're qualifying their doing so as "vegan". Furthermore, cutting out approximately 95% of the animal products one eats is not cutting out 95% of one's overall animal exploitation.

The piece ends with the lauding of the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's supermarket chains as promoting and providing a plentiful array of vegan options and an assumption is made that because they do so, no vegan would ever criticize them for continuing to sell meat and other animal products. The "95% Vegan" diet promoters lump themselves into this, as if to say that since they promote a 95% plant-based diet, that it follows somehow that no vegan should have the nerve to criticize them for promoting that 5% non-vegan indulgence.

As the "Sender" who triggered this mess of an sad defence of their co-opting the term "vegan", I have to say that they really have no idea of where I was coming from and obviously no clear idea of what an actual vegan abolitionist animal rights advocate would think about Whole Foods or how it placates the general public about its continued consumption of other animals. The one point where a comparison would be apt, though, is this: Neither Whole Foods nor the so-called 95% Vegan website (or forthcoming book) are vegan. The diet's promoters ask whether their pushing the concept of a 95% plant-based diet leaves them condoning animal use, but in their attempts to refutre this, they merely end up reinforcing the obvious.

And they're still following me on Twitter!