25 April, 2011

19 January, 2010

You're vegan, which means that you're judging me.

This one isn't quite a statement, as much as it is an observation. It's a culmination of so many different questions, that it's hard to pinpoint it to any one of them, which is why I've tagged this one with so many of the questions. To be honest, I've been uncomfortable with addressing this issue for a while now, but I figured that I'd better, or else I'm letting the issue get the better of me.

Before I move forward, it may help to give a bit of background on my own journey to veganism. I was born and raised as a vegetarain. My mother would take the family to various vegan potlucks. I knew what veganism is from a very early age. I may not have known their full reasons for it, because as a kid, people mostly feed you platitudes like, "I'm vegan because animals are my friends." To a 10 year old, this is not only condescending, but also unhelpful.

My own reason for being vegetarian didn't come to light until I'd questioned my mother about it, who later on thought it over, and came back to me with, "We don't like to kill animals. It's not right." "Oh, so that's why dairy is OK, right?" "Yeah, exactly."

It was the best I had at the time, and I went about my life blithely unaware of the intricacies of it. Finally, I heard Bob and Jenna Torres, of Vegan Freak fame, go through and explain it in terms that made sense to me. It clicked in my head, but not completely. It had to sort of percolate in there, and I had to make the leap when I was good and ready for it. When I did, there was no turning back. It's been one of the easiest decisions I've ever made.

Notice what I said there. Easiest decision that I have ever made. Not my husband. Not my parents. Not someone screaming angry slogans at me in the streets. The decision that I made, after weighing the arguments in my own mind, and coming to my own conclusions.

At the end of the day, you're going to have to live your life on your own terms. If you're comfortable with what you're doing, then there's really not much I can do to change that. If you're not comfortable with what you're doing, you might want to examine why.

Either way, realise that I have extremely limited mental real estate. At the end of the day, I haven't got the time to judge you. You're doing a fine job of that on your own.

18 December, 2008

Would you make an exception because I cooked it just for you?

I'm a cook, and for me, food means more than just nourishment (although that is an important factor!), so I sincerely understand where this sentiment comes from. When I cook for someone, however, I always take into account their needs. My dear friends Blue (name changed) and Lilly both despise tomato. This means that when they come over to eat with me (or we eat out together), I ensure that there's no tomato to be had in their food. I have other friends who are watching their weight. When cooking for them, I either omit the fat, or severely restrict it, so that they can enjoy themselves too.

These two scenarios are based mainly on likes and dislikes, and things where the only person whose life is affected is the person making that decision. It means that if you truly did care about me, you'd ask me what my likes and dislikes and needs are. It's not about you (when you're cooking something for someone else), it's about the person who's going to be eating it. Just as I wouldn't serve peanut butter sandwiches to someone with a gluten and nut allergy, I'd ask that you don't serve animal products to a vegan.

Unfortunately, the animals that you killed to make me that "special something" didn't have a choice in the matter. That's the worst part of it all.

29 June, 2008

What Does it Mean to Do "Enough"?

Hey Everyone,

P_M here again, this time with a specific user in mind, so if someone with the s/n "anastasia" is reading this then thank you for your review of my last post and this is for you.

The question I'm answering today is a bit specific. I personally cannot tell you, the individual reader I've never met, what it means for you to do "enough" for the the sake of the billions of non-humans that face death and exploitation everyday on this planet. I can't tell you what to do or how to do it, because lets face it, if I did I'd be a stuck up power mad authoritarian jerk or just a person with way too high an opinion of herself and an overestimation of her influence. That said ,what I can do is give you some questions to ask yourself next time you feel hopeless or powerless.

Next time you watch an Animal Rights video and get that feeling like you aren't doing enough, ask yourself these questions, and remember... "enough" is standard based on love. Think about it. If someone you love almost if not more than yourself gets sick, enough becomes no less than everything you can possibly do to comfort and assist them, right? But if one those distant relatives whose names you'd forget if they weren't on your Christmas card list gets sick, enough might be a prayer and cheap get-well card. If you want to get technical about it "enough" also has a bit to do with the severity of the situation, our moral responsibilities to other beings and other factors but, as I happen to be a bit sentimental right now, I'll say that love has a bit to do with how a person looks at those other factors. (you may feel free to agree or roll your eyes at me, but since you're still reading this I can only assume that on some level you care what I think)

Any way, These are the questions that you should ask yourself to help you assess whether or not your doing enough for the cause of Animal Rights.

1. Am I vegan? - step one to taking down animal oppression is always a bit obvious (STOP SUPPORTING IT). this is the one I'd insist on. No, vegetarian isn't gonna cover it. No, don't even step to me with "cage free" "humanely raised" "read fairy-tales to and cuddled before killed" products. Going vegan is the "prayer and cheap get-well card" equivalent from my example, using the example of a sick person, anything less ranges from ignoring them to slapping them.

2. What good am I doing already by just answering yes to the first question?
3. Knowing the answer to the previous question, do i feel the need to do more? - remember this one

(If you answered yes to the last question keep on reading, if it was no, congrats your doing enough for you)

4. What do I feel comfortable doing ( leafleting, feed-ins, screenings of AR films ect.)?
5. Am I doing it and doing it effectively to inform the public of what they are supporting (factory farming, animal agriculture, legalized murder/torture) and what they can do to help stop it ( go vegan)?
6.Am I making time to do non-activism related activities that I love and other things ( like eating and sleeping as i should and not abusing the animal that I can help the most (yourself)?
7. What good am I doing by answering "yes" to question 5?
8. repeat question 3 and note in ( ) that follows it
9. If you answered yes to question 5 and still feel that you must do more, (which, if you did what i asked in #8, and are still reading is the case) Is there anything else I can actually do? - get creative.
10. Can I do it without answering "no" to question 6?

If at any point in time you answer "no" to question 6, stop!!! You're doing too much. you're probably a wonderful person to feel such a need to help, but if you burn out...well...how much can you really help anyone?

Don't let anyone (yourself included) make you feel like a bad person or a lazy activist because your definition of enough involves less activism than someone-else's. And you're not obsessed or radical if "enough" for you means doing more than others either. Like I said, It's a standard measured in love, and any amount of love, or effort, is important and has meaning far greater than what we can see in the moment.

I hope this helps,
yours ( because doing this is part of my "enough"),

PS. anastasia, don't give up the art if you love it. It'll keep you sane. Thanks again (for the idea for this post)

20 May, 2008

Commitment and Me, or How Important is it to stay focused?

Hey All,
P_M back after what feels like a long struggle with commitment, namely my commitment to Animal Rights, and in part to my status as a proud, and joyful vegan. ( the vegan part never faltered, the "proud and joyful" part got side tracked).

At the tail end of this struggle, I'm still trying to figure out the logistics of how to focus on activism and veganism and not block out other interests, or to let my other interests stop me from being the best activist I can be, but here's what i've learned so far.

There has to be a balance.

veganism encompasses so many parts of who I want to be, that I sometimes obsess over it and while making Animal Rights the center of my world felt good for a bit, it also made me resent the podcasts and chat rooms i'd loved before. After a while, it was like that fifth container of Toffuti soy ice cream, too much of a great thing.
Likewise, not having enough animal rights in my life made me feel like I was losing a part myself.

I dont know what balance will mean for you but figure it out and keep it in mind. It'll keep you from burning out and ward off friends who try to say that you're a fanatic or a zealot.

Its important to stay focused, but if you drive yourself to distraction trying to be all vegan or activist and dont leave room for every other part of who you are, you wont be focused you'll be insane.

yours as long wanted and allowed,

05 May, 2008

I eat moss. Apples and moss.

Lentils for special occasions.

VEGANS EAT FOOD. Yes, I screamed that. And when I say 'food', I do not mean sticks, I do not mean plain raw tofu, I do not mean dry iceberg lettuce with sprouts. I mean foooooooooooood.

Let's start with some breakfast food you might should you find yourself an herbivore. There are delicious and nutritious vegan alternatives to non-vegan breakfast foods you may be used to. Many cereals (even a lot of the sugary, popular ones) are “accidentally vegan” and you can just pour soy, rice, almond, or one of the other many vegan milks out there on top of it. Scour your local health-food store for brands of vegan waffles, because they do exist, or find a recipe and make your own. Same for pancakes – a surprising amount of regular mixes are vegan and you can simply use non-dairy milk/butter with them. Make toast and spread it with jelly, peanut butter, or vegan butter/margarine. Make a smoothie with fruit and soy yogurt. Spread a bagel with vegan cream cheese or peanut butter. Have a bowl of oatmeal (most brands are vegan) with dried fruit and peanut or cashew butter in it. Have some granola like the hippie you are. Scramble tofu with spices and veggies. Take that scrambled tofu and throw it in a tortilla with potatoes and vegan sausage for a breakfast burrito. Top a rice cake with nut butter and fruit. Fruit by itself is always a good, light, healthy breakfast. Make muffins the night before and heat a few up in the morning. Break out of the breakfast mold and just heat up leftovers from the night before – I love having miso soup for breakfast. If you’re in a hurry, take a banana and a bag of dry vegan cereal with you – take a bite of the banana and then dip it in the cereal, it’ll stick. You can also find individual juicebox-style soymilk cartons to take with you. One meal down, and did I use the word 'sprouts' at all?

Lunch and dinner I'll lump in the same category. There's much than salad, that’s for sure. Not that salad isn’t great and healthy. But salad is just one of the many, many things that vegans eat for dinner. A vegan cookbook, or even a veganized recipe from a non-vegan cookbook, is a great place to start. But you don’t necessarily need a cookbook every night. Like with breakfast, in most cases you can simply replace what you used to eat with its vegan equivalent, and there are also a lot of delicious vegan dishes that don’t rely on these substitutes. Use mock beef crumbles in pasta sauce instead of beef, or just leave them out and use nice fresh tomatoes and herbs. Make quesadillas or burritos with roasted vegetables and beans. Have a bowl of soup made with veggie broth instead of chicken or beef broth. Top a baked potato with vegan sour cream, vegan butter, broccoli, mock bacon bits, nutritional yeast, or whatever other toppings you can think of. Stir-fry veggies with rice or noodles and teriyaki sauce. Make veggie and seitan kabobs. Use beans in chili instead of meat. Explore different ethnic foods you may not have tried, like Indian, Mediterranean, Thai, or Japanese food. Peanut butter and jelly is a classic. Mashed potatoes can be made with vegan butter and non-dairy milk. Replace chicken with seitan in casseroles. Use silken tofu instead of eggs in quiche recipes. If you want comfort food, try macaroni and vegan cheese. Roast potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, pepper, and salt. Marinate tempeh in barbeque sauce. Have a sandwich with vegan lunchmeat slices. Grill portobello mushrooms and serve on buns with fries. I'm done thinking. No twigs.

Snacks are of course important. Let's see...popcorn with nutritional yeast (Act II Butter Lover’s is ironically vegan, or make your own), grapes, bananas, pretzels, granola/energy bars, fruit leathers, melon, a bagel half with peanut butter, soy yogurt, frozen juice bars, trail mix, peaches, applesauce, crackers, oranges, pita/veggies and hummus, cherries, chips and salsa, peanuts, cashews, almonds, or other nuts, dried fruit, oven fries, apples and peanut butter, sandwiches, cereal, rice cakes, plums, muffins, vegan ice cream sandwiches, graham crackers, vegan nachos, salad, or rice crisps.

Vegans! eat! food!

You're so brave/strong/etc.

I really do not understand why this even comes up. So many times have I told people about my veganism, or heard stories of others doing the same, only for the person to say "You're so strong!" or something along those lines. I understand that this person is just wrapping their head around the idea of veganism, the idea of giving up some convenience for some principles, and that if you've never really been vegan it does seem like a gargantuan choice with lots of struggle, but, really....

it's not.

Are you strong for not enslaving another human being even though it would be easier for you to have someone else do all your work?

Does it take courage and grit for you to not use gender epithets (e.g. slut, skank) even though other people around you may do so?

I don't wake up in the morning biting my lip, thinking about all the challenges I've brought upon myself for being vegan, glad I've got moral steel instead of mere moral fiber.

I just wake up. I wake up and live my life in line with my ethics, square against the things I think are wrong and cruel and shameful, celebrating the things I think are good and true and beneficial for the world. That's all I do. That's what veganism means to me, and it's not hard at all.
It seems hard to non-vegans simply because it doesn't seem ethically necessary to them. It seems difficult to me to, say, never wear the color green because one thinks it's unethical. I can't wrap my head around why wearing green would be morally wrong, so, to me, it seems unnecessary, overly hard, and I think a person committed to not wearing green would indeed need some fortitude. Same thing with being vegan! An omnivore can never truly step into a vegan's pleather shoes (without ceasing to be an omnivore), so the task of consuming absolutely ZERO animal products might seem daunting, but for us it's the exact opposite. It's just what we do. Hell, it would take strength for me to not be vegan! It might be more convenient, sure, but silencing my conscience would take pounds, tons, endless amounts of strength, far far more than being vegan ever would.

26 April, 2008

"The Animal Was Already Dead (By the Time It [S/he] Reached My Plate)"

I'll respond to this in two ways.

Response 1:

This statement might be true if you scraped roadkill off the highway and ate it. (Although even then, there is a valid argument that you should leave the heap of rotting flesh to the scavengers who are truly dependent on it.)

The meat on your plate (and, indirectly, the eggs and dairy products on your plate) came from animals who were created and killed only for one reason: You, and others like you, were going to buy the flesh, bodily fluids, and eggs from the animals. In other words, you are financing - in effect, dictating - that those animals be killed. They are killed because of your demand.

If you stopped eating meat, fewer animals would be killed. If many people stopped eating meat, the number of animals killed would drop precipitously.

The choice is in your hands: You decide whether animals are going to be bred and killed for your pleasure.

Response 2:

You're not that stupid. You know this rationalization is bogus. Imagine an alien shooting and killing you, chopping up your body parts, and feeding it to another alien who says "The human was already dead."

You may not be an expert on animal agriculture, but you know that animals are killed because the meat industry can bank on people like you buying the killed animals' flesh.

So I have to ask, why bring up such a flimsy, illogical, unsupportable defense? I think it's ultimately because you have a conscience. You know at some level that killing - and inflicting torture - for pleasure is wrong. Instead of confronting that harsh realization, you make up woefully unconvincing excuses. It's an avoidance mechanism.

With full respect and best intentions, let me make this proposal: Don't fight your conscience. Superficially, maybe you get some satisfaction from making up excuses for doing something that you know is wrong. Maybe they're even clever sometimes. But you're not fooling yourself or anyone else - or the victims. Moreover, it's never really satisfying when you engage in activities that you know deep down are morally troubling. There is still turmoil inside, and one way or another, it will manifest itself, and it could be ugly and could get in the way of your leading a fulfilling life.

Give in to your conscience. Thank God and/or biology that you have one. It is perhaps humanity's best feature, and saving grace. Follow your conscience, honestly, even though it may be difficult at times, and you're likely to have a truly satisfying life, and help others - humans and non-humans - do the same.