Sunday, October 11, 2015

On Absence from Blogging

I've been talking about blogging with a friend whose advocacy I've respected for a long while. I've had more than a few people ask me why I haven't been writing for the last year. It's weird looking back at how I used to blog so frequently, whenever a relevant story or opportunity arose and then at how my own responses have diminished in frequency. To cite "burnout" would be obvious, I guess. The politics in animal advocacy have left me feeling a bit fried. I used to find strength in my involvement, but not so much these days. That's not to say that I haven't felt the urge to recognize or applaud others whose work I've continued to admire, appreciate and promote. A lot of my advocacy has shifted over to the sharing of articles on Facebook on My Face Is on Fire's page and I've spent a large chunk of time maintaining and moderating an international cuisine page there, as well.  I've commented there, for sure, often rambling on in status updates. I've just neglected to update the blog. I hadn't realized how much I'd stayed away from it until this week, when I noted that I'd only posted twice this year.

I hope to get back into blogging. I've spent more time being introspective, I guess, than in paying attention to the politics in the movement. I've kept an eye on some of the discussions had. There've been so many. I hope to feel more comfortable sharing my own insights into all of it as an abolitionist vegan, as I've done before, but adding more to it. I'd like, I think, to drill down a bit more, to explore how things affect vegans on a day-to-day sort of level -- to continue to offer support to fellow vegans who forge on and who strive to share the vegan message with others. I'd like to be more earnest about some of what that entails while continuing to share how essential and simple it is to make changes to our lives once we've identified and chosen to reject the speciesist views we're taught to embrace from the ground up our entire lives. We need to support each other as vegans. When it comes to animal advocacy, we need to support each other as abolitionists. I don't expect activists who've been hurt by others to support those others, but would like to see less of that hurting going on. I'm not talking about glossing over facts and honest discourse here, or about silencing valid criticism. There needs to be honest discourse. We need to be challenging each other. We do. But we need to consider being each other's sounding boards first and foremost. We can criticize constructively if we leave our egos out of it and focus on the fact that billions of lives depend on our getting our collective shit together. Particularly when the alternative for most who are paying attention is to listen, instead, to the blaring welfarist voices championing SICs and more "gentle" forms of animal exploitation.

I want to keep writing. I need to keep writing. That said, so many others are doing it so very well that I plan to spend some time here highlighting them. Their work as abolitionists has been inspirational to me, regardless of their political allegiances. I can't not continue trying to do something, because the overwhelming majority of the people around me continue to use others -- to contribute to their torture and slaughter. My friends and family contribute to the torture and slaughter of others. So this little bit that I can do to try to get people to reconsider their own participation in all of this is the least I can do over and above refusing to participate in it myself. It's the very least I can do.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Veganism is Ethics in Action

Striking at the Root

I've seen a few people on social networking sites post this recent article by Ginny Messina, aka The Vegan RD. It's called "Preventing Ex-Vegans: The Power of Ethics" and stresses the importance of raising the issue of ethics -- the moral reasons we should not participate in animal exploitation -- when talking to others about veganism. Basically, Messina points out what has seemed to me over the years to be obvious. Unless we strike at the root and address speciesism and make our animal advocacy about the animals, other humans are less likely to take animals seriously enough to leave them alone in a meaningful and permanent way. If one was to skim over the article and was already convinced that talking about ethics is key when talking to non-vegans about what we owe other animals, the takeaway from the article could very well be that Messina reiterates this.

Whatchoo Eating?

Messina points out how using health or dietary arguments can fail. So many welfarist groups concern themselves with health-related arguments, stressing that a shift in diet will lead to improved health and appearance -- to weight-loss and to a sort of untouchable state of being where mosquitoes will never again gnaw on you and you'll never again experience the sniffles and will forever safeguard yourself against cancer and any number of chronic diseases. It only takes one experience refuting any of such claims, whether from an ordinary lapse in someone's immune system to stave off a bad seasonal flu, the failure to become sylphlike or a symptom of something more insidious perhaps passed down thanks to genetics, exposure or previous habits to leave someone rejecting such arguments. Worse is when vegans who actually do get sick (as humans are wont to do) are singled out as having gotten sick because, of course, they've been deprived of proper nourishment and of the magical benefits of consuming various parts of another sentient being's decaying body or secretions. Worst is when vegans start shaming other vegans for not being glowing-skinned exemplars of perfect health or for not being of a weight deemed ideal by mainstream society.

Veganism = Vegan Diets = Vegetarianism?
It's problematic to me that Messina uses the terms "vegetarian" and "vegan" interchangeably and that she seems to equate eating a plant-based diet to being vegan. The term "vegetarian" involves the likelihood of continued involvement in animal exploitation, so it seems weird to talk about how to motivate people to remain either vegetarian or vegan with a focus on ethics being key. Plant-based eating or following a so-called "vegan diet" also involves animal exploitation in other areas. The thing is that the animals who are exploited and/or killed don't care whether or not they end up in our bellies. Vegans realize that it's not that animals and their secretions are eaten that's the issue, but that animals are exploited and treated as things in the first place. Veganism isn't just a diet. So when Messina writes that "[o]ne of the reasons people abandon vegan diets is that they lose faith in its benefits" she's right in the sense that people's interest in fad diets waxes and wanes according to results and expectations, especially if those expectations rest upon claims which are "far-fetched". But it's when she equates following a plant-based diet to being vegan -- i.e. to losing one's interest in a plant-based diet as potentially leading one to become a purported "ex-vegan" that the article becomes a bit problematic for me. She writes that "health" arguments may motivate people to go "vegan", but the truth is that all health-based arguments do is motivate people to change what they put into their mouths, mostly. Vegans reject participation in animal exploitation. A health-based argument may lead someone to eschew -- to some extent or other -- eating animals and their secretions, but it won't convince anyone to stop buying leather shoes, wearing beeswax lip-balm, taking the kids to a petting zoo or to not buy a purebred puppy from a professional breeder.

Messina states that "the problem of ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians is a serious one". Honestly, I'm perfectly alright with ex-vegetarians and don't see them as a problem at all. I'd love vegetarians to become ex-vegetarians and to choose, instead, to reject their participation in animal use and to go vegan. There is absolutely no ethical difference between someone's eating and otherwise using other animals on all levels (e.g. your average non-vegan), someone's partially limiting the animal products they put in their bellies and otherwise continuing to use other animal products (i.e. your average vegetarian), or someone's completely limiting the animal products they put in their bellies and otherwise continuing to use other animal products (i.e. your average plant-based diet follower). They're all speciesist. They all involve complicity in the continued victimization of other sentient beings for humans' pleasure and convenience. So, yes, Messina is right that there needs to be a focus on the ethical arguments to not use those other sentient beings. Except that you can't really use ethical arguments in any sort of clear, consistent and unequivocal way to bring about permanent change to how humans view others in terms of their being ours to use when you lump in deliberate exploiters with vegans.

In her concluding paragraph, which seems to deliver the clear message that ethics should drive vegan advocacy, Messina unfortunately again focuses on variations of animal use, talking about "vegan and vegetarian diets'. Yeah, ethics is important. But so is figuring out where we should be consistent and unequivocal. It's stilly to talk about ethics when promoting a so-called "vegan diet" and even more so when talking about a "vegetarian diet". I mean, if you're going to talk about ethics, how on earth can you talk about propping up what are, honestly, choices which allow for animal exploitation? If Messina wants to deliver a message concerning how to get people to both go and stay "vegan", then it really confuses the issue when she focuses on diet or says "vegan or vegetarian" without explicitly emphasizing that what we need to accomplish in talking about ethics is educating folks that using animals at all, whether we're eating them or their secretions or otherwise contributing to their exploitation, is wrong.

Friday, January 30, 2015

How Not to Be an Annoying Vegan?

College Education Fail? 

Hot on the heels of her article from November called "How to be a vegan without being annoying", Castleton State College's The Spartan's own staff writer Jorah McKinley has offered up yet another badly-written rant to serve as filler for her paper. In an attempt to drill home the point to all that standing up for yourself (never mind standing up for other animals) is annoying, McKinley copied and pasted her previous article into a new document to submit to her editors who, in turn, managed to prove that either 1) Castleton State College's journalism program is in trouble, or 2) The Spartan is in desperate need of a proofreader with a minimum elementary school education. McKinley omits the first sentence from her previous article to update her reader that she has apparently been "a vegan" for a whopping eight months now. 

Of course, she misrepresents veganism as a diet, self-identifying as having herself "adopted a vegan diet", so at least it's clear that she's writing about vegans from the outside looking in. (Although it may explain some of what seems to be her animosity towards vegans, it neither excuses it, nor does it excuse what's ultimately just poor writing all 'round.) She begins by introducing her reader to all kinds of hostile stereotypical caricatures of vegans (whom she lumps in with vegetarians).
I realized that there are a lot of vegans and vegetarians who are just terrible. We all know the type. They’ve got their condescending tones and their upturned noses and their crunchy vegan granola. Nobody likes these people, no one. Don’t be one.
It's sort of amusing that she should use the term "condescending" to describe tone, given the tone of her own article. Worse, though, is that she actually encourages her non-vegan readers to pass the article along to non-vegan friends. You know? To help them not be annoying. It's pretty simple, McKinley tells her vegan and non-vegan readers. She writes that the "one rule" that's not meant to be broken lest you become one of those awful creatures is that you never talk about veganism. In case you might not get it, she spells it out in caps for you: "DON’T TALK ABOUT IT!" It's not meant to be discussed in your "everyday life", she tells us. It's a "personal choice" she repeats to her readers (while reiterating that she interprets veganism as being a "diet").
They [sic] way you choose to eat is a personal choice. Not every single person you come into contact with needs a full description of the moral high ground you think you’re standing on. So DON’T talk about it unless someone asks, which they probably won’t, because no one cares.
Because obviously saying anything about veganism is preachy and awful and should be kept to oneself unless someone asks. And if they ask? Then for the loving sake of pete, don't have the rudeness to give someone an honest answer! You can either (according to McKinley) 1) be an asshole and freak out on them, or 2) keep it to yourself. There's really no grey area, McKinley makes clear. You're either a stealthy vegan or you are condescending scum, "[p]ushing you’re opinions on innocent and unsuspecting bystanders".

This is the message McKinley not only seeks to deliver to those she would view as her "fellow" vegans to more or less shout them down, but the message she wants to make clear to all of the non-vegans at her school, to spread her own animosity by fostering it in the rest of Castleton State College's students. What a true hero she is to her school's vegan students, staff and faculty, no? (Ssssh!)