Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Who you callin’ Vegangelical?

Published on September 3, 2009 by   ·   57 Comments Pin It
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Guest Blogger and Girlie Girl Army Boy Sgt, Ari Solomon writes a blog that every vegan alive will wish s/he had written;

Recently I’ve heard some perplexing criticisms of veganism. They go something like this: vegans are extremists, vegans are so preachy, veganism is like some fanatical religion, veganism is a cult. There obviously is some misunderstanding going on and I’d like to try and stamp out this issue once and for all. I realize I can’t possibly speak for all vegans, but this is how I see it:

First of all, veganism is clearly not some religion or cult. There is no Church of Vegan. Veganism is a philosophy. Donald Watson first coined the term “vegan” in 1944. This was how he defined it:

The word “veganism” denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practical – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

Sounds pretty simple right? Well, nowadays people become vegan for all different reasons. They might go vegan because of health reasons, or perhaps they’ve read that animal agriculture is the number one cause of global warming. But, if someone is an ethical vegan, that means they’ve chosen to open their mind and heart to the suffering of animals. They want to alleviate unnecessary suffering where they can. (There are actually some people who feel that unless you go vegan for ethical reasons that you’re not really “vegan”, but that’s a whole other story.)

You can actually buy this shirt for $17 on zazzle.com

You can actually buy this shirt for $17 on zazzle.com

Here’s where things get interesting. While many of us may feel a certain attachment to the food we eat (cheese, anyone?), there is actually no human dietary requirement for animal foods. It’s true. You don’t need to eat meat, dairy or eggs to live.

In fact, Dr. Colin Campbell, who conducted the foremost study on human nutrition for over 40 years, detailed in his book “The China Study” how a vegan diet is actually better suited for optimal human health. This means that people eat animals not because they have to, but because they want to. Now, of course I’m not talking about people who live in countries where food is scarce and they’ll die unless they eat animal foods. I’m talking about you and me. People who shop at the supermarket where tofu, beans, rice, grains, fruits and vegetables are mere feet from meat, dairy and eggs. We have a choice.

In case you’re not up to speed, over 98% of all meat, dairy, and eggs produced in the US comes from factory farms. The conditions in these places are truly horrendous. Animals are crammed in spaces so tight they can’t turn around. They literally go insane, lying around all day and night in their own feces. They never see sunlight, have their beaks, horns and genitals cut off (without anesthetic) and are horribly abused by stressed and desensitized farm workers. We kill 10 billion animals for “food” a year in this country, that’s over 27 million animals a day. Most of those animals are birds, and all poultry (chickens, turkeys, ducks, and rabbits… yes, rabbits are considered poultry under the law) are excluded from the barely enforced Humane Slaughter Act.

Now, before you start at me with some “humane meat” “happy meat” bullshit please take note that ALL animals, whether they are raised in the nastiest of factory farms or grass-fed, free-range, blah blah blah, are all sent to the same slaughterhouses. That’s right, your organic steer is being sent to the same hell as a downer cow and will meet the same ghastly end. If you are a “humane meat” consumer, please take a moment and meditate on the whole concept of humane killing… bloody, fearful, struggling, screaming, despairing humane killing. It’s never pretty and it certainly isn’t “humane.”

There is a video making rounds on YouTube that shows a lone cow shaking in terror as she contemplates walking down the kill chute. She walks forward, then back. Animals can hear and smell the violence and death that awaits them. Their last moments are ones of abject horror and suffering. If you wouldn’t condemn your dog or cat to such a fate, how can you pay for others do it to these poor animals?

So. When a vegan is talking to a meat-eater about these issues, he or she is not “preaching”, “trying to convert”, or any such thing. We’re not telling you what to eat. We’re telling you what you’re eating.

Since animals can’t speak a language humans can understand (though I think the screams and terrified moans that fill slaughterhouses should be pretty much universal – all living beings want to live) it’s up to us to tell their stories and inform people of the suffering that goes on conveniently out of the public eye.

If, as a meat-eater, being exposed to this reality bothers you, it is not the fault of the vegan. Lashing out or making up endless excuses doesn’t change the stark scientific fact that animals are suffering because of our taste buds. Your neatly packaged chicken breast, all wrapped in pristine plastic, was once part of an animal that felt fear and pain. It’s called responsibility and culpability, and we’re all to blame.

Now, you may try to argue that eating animals is a matter of personal opinion or choice, but again I’d have to disagree — this is not about your opinion versus my opinion, this is about animal suffering. You can’t discuss your “personal choice” of eating animals while leaving animals completely out of the conversation.

Think of it this way, if you were walking down the street and saw someone beating their dog, would you try to do something to stop it? The same principle applies here. Since eating animal foods is a question of want and like versus need, killing a sentient being, when there is absolutely no need– except for someone’s pleasure– becomes simply unnecessary and merciless.

And if we say we care about cruelty to animals then it’s time we start caring about ALL animals. Yes, dogs and cats are companion animals but in terms of suffering our canine and feline friends feel the same as a pig, cow, chicken, lamb, or turkey. To pick and choose species in terms of whose pain we care about is incredibly hypocritical and inconsistent. Sorry, but if you’re eating veal parmigiana or turkey sandwiches, you don’t really care about animals. You may care about dogs and cats but you certainly don’t care about birds and baby cows.

So, who’s the real extremist? The person who tries to stop unnecessary suffering by cutting out animal products, or the person who says, I like the way that tastes so a sentient being needs suffer and die?

Who’s the real fundamentalist? The person who simply speaks the truth about where food comes from, or the person who knowingly chooses to ignore it, listening only to the falsehoods of the meat and dairy clergy? Isn’t the latter more akin to choosing to believe the earth is 5,000 years old despite clear evidence to the contrary?

The reality is that veganism couldn’t be more different from religion. While religion is based on faith, veganism is based on facts. Animal suffering is not some ethereal concept, it’s very real.

All animals deserve to be free from unnecessary pain, fear, and suffering at the hands of humans. How can anything less claim to be humane? Do I want more people to go vegan, is that why I talk and write about it? Of course, but it has nothing to do with me or some group that I belong to. It has to do with the animals who suffer everyday so that we can eat them, wear them, and do whatever we want to them simply because we can.

Veganism is the practical response to a social injustice. Instead of vegangelical, the word should be veganlogical.

Ari Solomon is the President and co-creator of the celebrated vegan candle line A Scent of Scandal . After graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Ari first worked as an actor in New York and Los Angeles, and later hosted the wildly popular ARI’S HOLLYWOOD UPDATE on Miami’s Y-100FM. Now a prolific activist and writer for animal and human rights, Ari’s letters have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, and The Advocate.

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Readers Comments (57)

  1. elaine says:

    I hesitate to leave a comment that has even the teeniest criticism, ‘cuase I know I risk getting virtually beat up (internet-style).

    Here’s what’s on my mind: I’m *mostly* with you.

    However, what you just wrote is VERY evangelical in its style, which is why many people (even me, who’s been trying this vegan thing for five months now) often perceive some vegans as, well, evangelical and a little off-putting.

    You are RIGHT that people don’t need to eat animal products. You are RIGHT that the environment would thank us if factory farms ceased to exist. You are RIGHT that animals can sense pain and that there’s an illogical way we traditionally think of animals (some as “OK” to eat and others not).

    However, I truly think that the weight of cultural norms is such that it’ll take a LONG time before EVERYBODY goes vegan (and I actually don’t think that’ll ever happen).

    I think a wee bit of consideration for where people are coming from — “Hey, I’m just having a hamburger! It’s pretty normal, you know!” — actually goes a long way toward getting people to listen to what you, and so many other vegans, are saying. People generally think (however wrongly) that it’s a bit much for others to criticize what they eat. They liken it to, well, 7th Day Adventists or Mormons or similar sitting next to them on the bus and handing them a pamphlet on Jesus. Even committed Christians (like me) find that offensive. Hence the evangelical comments toward vegans…

    Thanks for writing this, and (I hope) thanks for “listening” to me. I think the movement toward incorporating more plant-based foods into our collective diets is a great one, for reasons of health, ethics and the environment. :) Elaine

  2. cathy says:

    Ari I could not have said it better myself. If it were not for a wonderful, sweet, anonymous vegan handing me a pamphlet, I would have figured out much later that I was meant to be vegan. I was not offended in the slightest. Kepp up the wonderful words, they help!!!

  3. Krysta says:

    Amen! Nothing erks me more than when I’m at a dinner party or a restaurant or even if it just comes up that I’m vegan, and everyone immediately has to say “I could never do that because…” or “oh gosh, you don’t want to hurt the cute little animals?” or some other dismissive or defensive phrase. They almost always have questions “where do you get your protein?” “Don’t you miss ice cream?” “but what if you were on an island”. And it leads to me answering them…which leads to them getting more pissed and defensive and dismissive.

    A lot of my omni friends simply say “I don’t want to hear it” because they already know, they just don’t want to have to take the uncomfortable step toward making any change.

    I think Elaine has some really good points. Compassion has to extend to all beings, even humans: imperfect, meat eating humans.

    I was an omnivore at one point, and it wasn’t my judgemental vegetarian sister or a self righteous vegan friend who turned me, it was the most patient, compassionate and loving person.

    With that said, I don’t think you were preachy at all Ari, and your compassion and generosity is an inspiration to me. Love to see your blogs on here :)

  4. josh hooten says:

    ari, thank you for writing this, i hope it hits the mark with people who choose not to look at what their appetites inflict. i was this way, way back when, and i ain’t proud.

    i’ve always been perplexed about how vegans get this rap for being evangelicals and preachy amongst left leaning folks but if you speak out against the war or racism or sexism or homophobia or other issues that cause pain and suffering people are ready and happy to hear you out and to learn from you. but talk about veganism and all of a sudden there is nothing they can learn from you and you are preaching? i hope folks who are right on, politically, in other areas read what you wrote and think hard about it, with an open mind and examine their hesitancy on this issue. once i did, i was embarrassed at how long it took me to open my mind to this issue when i cared deeply about other issues.

  5. Amy A says:

    Nobody rocks a post like Ari Solomon..another great one!

  6. Cadry says:

    Thanks for speaking your truth, Ari. As vegans I think we’re regularly challenged by the balancing act that is doing our best for the animals and being honest about a emotionally charged subject while also being compassionate to the listener. For others who are curious about veganism or finding ways to communicate more effectively I highly recommend Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast on ITunes.

  7. Susan says:

    Ari, you are a voice of reason, and I’m so glad to have you representing for me! xoxo

  8. Eric Milano says:

    Elaine,
    I think you have a valid criticism of vegans (at least your second one). The two “criticisms” I heard were:

    1. The world is never going to all go vegan
    and
    2. We meat eaters don’t like feeling like we’re being preached to.

    As for #1, (the world is never going to all go vegan) this may or may not be true, but I don’t think it matters. If the world was full of people who went around murdering babies, and that was just how it was, would that mean non-murderers shouldn’t even try and wake others up to what they were doing? I don’t think it does.
    (and of course the murder of babies is pretty much what vegans are against here anyway. animal babies anyway)

    As for #2, (We meat eaters don’t like feeling like we’re being preached to) I think this point is something vegans can really learn from. We can be very quick to forget what it was like when we ate meat or milk or eggs (and most of us did at some point) and how resistant we were to hear or see what was really going on… Or if we were told what was going on, we forget how easy it was to not allow ourselves to “go there” and not allow ourselves to truly empathize with what it might be like to be that animal. How easy it was to consider it for a second, and then just gloss over it and continue with our lives. We could all take a lesson here and be much more effective if we had “a wee bit of consideration for where people are coming from” as Elain puts it. Especially since it is a place where most of us came from ourselves. People are resistant to change. They don’t want to hear that they are wrong or causing pain and suffering. And so its a tough line to walk… Too harsh and we turn people off and probably do more harm to those animals we are trying to save. But if we just clam up completely, we risk having no impact at all. Tough one, but I definitely see your point. I think the answer is that when a vegan looks at a meat eater, they might try to see them as themselves when they ate meat. Look with love and empathize with them the same way you empathize with animals. And then say what you want to say to them from that standpoint

    This is not to say that I found Ari’s blog too harsh myself. Only that I see where Elaine is coming from in terms of vegans in general.

  9. So beautifully put, Ari.

    Nearly every vegan I know (myself included) once uttered the words, “Oh, I love animals, but I could NEVER be a vegetarian.” It is amazing what we are capable of once we get honest with ourselves about exactly what we’re contributing to.

    Thank you for speaking so eloquently on behalf of vegans and animals!

    xoxo

  10. elaine says:

    Just to clarify: I didn’t mean to imply that I thought that Ari’s blog was too harsh, just that I can “hear” how non-vegans would hear it. For me, personally, it’s totally fine.

  11. Mikko says:

    Ari– thank you for writing this.

    Elaine and others– with all due respect, I think you miss the very point Ari was trying to raise:

    Why is simply telling the truth about food “preaching” or behaving like an “evangelical?”

    Isn’t the opposite true?

    Being an evangelical is insisting that the Earth is 5,000 years old, when it clearly isn’t, and resisting and denying any information to the contrary. Isn’t that a lot more like the meat-eater who doesn’t want to hear where food really comes from, and what really goes on?

    If someone told you that an item of clothing you were about to buy was made by child slaves, would you castigate them for “preaching” to you? If not, why not? Because the victims of food are “only” animals?

    I understand the impulse to give people a break over eating meat because of social pressure, culture, tradition, etc. It’s just a hamburger. Except that isn’t. And people need to know that.

    Tradition is no defense for cruelty.
    If people hadn’t spoken out, we’d still have slavery, child labor, and women treated as property in this country.

    Sure, some people may get defensive when you inform them. Some may get annoyed, but all are indeed informed. What they do with the information is their choice. Some people may actually change.

    One thing is certain: by remaining silent, you’re taking away people’s power to change.

  12. Mikko says:

    Just to add: Professor Melanie Joy has excellently sought to reframe the debate over our meat-eating ways by coining a new word: Carnism.

    From her upcoming book’s jacket:

    In “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows,” Melanie Joy explores the invisible system that shapes our perception of the meat we eat, so that we love some animals and eat others without knowing why. She calls this system carnism.

    Carnism is the belief system, or ideology, that allows us to selectively choose which animals become our meat, and it is sustained by complex psychological and social mechanisms. Like other “isms” (racism, ageism, etc.), carnism is most harmful when it is unrecognized and unacknowledged.

    “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows” names and explains this phenomenon and offers it up for examination. Unlike the many books that explain why we shouldn’t eat meat, Joy’s book explains why we do eat meat — and thus how we can make more informed choices as citizens and consumers.

  13. Larry says:

    Once again, I bow down to my friend Ari.

    The world is a better place because you’re in it.

    :-)

  14. Mandi says:

    Awesome post. I the love the quote by Donald Watson, it sums up veganism very nicely.

    You are fabulous, Ari.

  15. Vanessa says:

    Brilliant piece!
    I do not preach, yet I have been accused of it. People start asking me questions about why I am vegan or “what about eggs…”, and I just answer them honestly. Suddenly they are offended and I am preaching.
    And how many hours have I had to endure dumb-ass preaching from meat-eaters about my diet. Why can they offer unsolicited comments and get no flack but when I answer a question I am preaching? I think it just stems from the guilt that every meat-eater feels on some level. Vegans must be seem as extremists to assuage that guilt.

  16. elaine says:

    Mikko (and others) — I see your point(s). And I’m happy to hear of Joy’s book. I will certainly read it.

    As a sociologist, I have to say that although you are certainly right that tradition is a very poor excuse for allowing what you see as immoral, unethical practices to continue, I think you *might* be underestimating the power of tradition to keep people acting the way they do, and reacting as they do to hearing that what they do is not OK. (I assure you I write better in academic pieces!)

    The point I was trying to make was NOT that tradition should excuse unethical behaviors, but that unethical behaviors persist if they are seen as normative, and certainly meat and dairy consumption is.

    Another thing, which I can only briefly summarize, because I don’t have my hands on the article right now, is this: in some places on this planet, plants DO NOT grow well. In some places, people rely on meat and dairy in part because if they didn’t they would, indeed, starve. For those of us living in the USA and making good salaries, there is NO excuse, really, for persisting in eating meat and dairy (other than tradition). For people in impoverished places, without access to food shipped from afar (which is another environmental issue), keeping and eating livestock frankly makes sense.

    What do you think? I think, in part, veganism is a choice that is most realistic among the (relative) wealthy.

    In peace, Elaine

  17. Haley says:

    This is amazing.

  18. Annabella7 says:

    If you can look as hot as you do in the photo on a vegan diet, we should ALL be vegan! xoxo – A

  19. Ariela says:

    Another great post Ari!

    I especially love this: “We’re not telling you what to eat. We’re telling you what you’re eating.”

    So true! Vegans are labeled as preachy and extremist all the time, but we just speak the truth and the facts.

  20. Joan says:

    Thank you Ari for another incredible post. Saying ‘ you took the words right out of my mouth’ is not enough, but all I have. Please keep up your posts and all the incredible, insightful work that you do on behalf of animals. You are a true angel !!!!

  21. Jamie says:

    you make me want to go vegan

  22. Mikko says:

    Hi Elaine–

    I totally agree with you that the power of tradition is formidable, which is precisely why I feel it’s so important that we all speak out about the issue.

    I do think that we all tend to overestimate the population of the world that cannot subsist solely on plant foods. It might indeed be difficult in Greenland, or the Himalayas, but where else?

    I think the developed Western world has actually falsely promoted this idea that without meat, people would starve, because most people here– perhaps subconsciously– tend to view meat and dairy as somehow “better” and more nutrient rich than plant foods, a fallacy actively promoted by billion-dollar companies who profit from animal foods. Another unfortunate promoter is the Heifer Project, a misguided effort if I ever saw one.

    However, if we really look at a country like Ethiopia — prone to drought and very poor — we find that food traditions there are mainly vegetarian/vegan. People simply cannot afford to raise cattle, and if they do, it’d be suicidal to kill them instead of keeping them for milk.

    In discussing Ethiopia’s infamous famine, it’s important to keep in mind that it didn’t occur because of a shortage of plant foods. As Ethiopia’s population was starving, its government was exporting the country’s edible soy crop to feed Europe’s meat-cattle herds so that the Western world could eat steak.

    I find that many meat-eaters say as their defense: well, in Greenland/Himalayas/on a deserted island you couldn’t be vegan, to which I say: but you don’t live there. You live in Los Angeles.

    But as you rightly point out, being vegan represents the hardest task for the poor… ironically more so here, in the United States, than in Ethiopia. When a “happy meal” costs less than a head of broccoli, what is a broke family to do? That is another outrage that must be challenged and changed.

  23. elaine says:

    Mikko — Thanks for responding!!

    Your last paragraph hits the proverbial nail on the head. It’s something I’ve written about in my blog; those of us who are relatively well-off should not expect those who are truly struggling to be able to make the same choices we make.

    The fact that “bad” food is cheaper than “good” food makes parenting and raising kids really hard. Camp food, for instance, is HORRIBLE! (My latest blog addresses that.) And, even on a good salary (like my husband’s), the grocery bill difference between a week’s worth of all-vegan (and many raw) foods and a week’s worth of “conventional” family food is startling.

    I’d like to see more people discussing how to get kids to change over to a vegan diet; I’m having a mighty hard time with mine (12, 9, and 4).

    Elaine

  24. Ari Solomon says:

    Hi Elaine —

    I’d just like to add that the reason why so much meat and dairy seems so inexpensive is because the government heavily subsidizes the meat and dairy industry. There should be no reason why an organic head of broccoli is more expensive than a hamburger. It makes no sense. A lot more resources (food, water, electricity, etc.) is needed to produce meat than plant foods. The fact is that Americans are not paying the true cost of meat and dairy because our tax dollars are being used to offset them. It’s an issue that seriously needs to be addressed, especially when you have children being put on cholesterol lowering meds as young as 6 years old. It’s a crime that parents are made to feel that fruits and vegetables are out of reach, while crappy ground beef is so cheap. The meat and dairy lobby spend millions each year to make sure this doesn’t change. Hopefully citizens will start demanding that wholesome organic plant foods become more accessible than factory farmed garbage. Just my thoughts.

  25. Chloe says:

    Elaine – it’s not more expensive to make a huge veggie soup, pasta dish, or rice n beans than it is to make steak or chicken – it’s far cheaper! Raw/ organic/ luxe items are another story… but bulk protein (beans), carbs (grains), and veg (local farmers)shouldn’t cost you any more than a meal w meat. I DO suggest (for kids) transitional foods like veggie dogs/ burgers/ nuggets (the Gardein brand is divine as is the Field Roast brand and they are still cheaper than meat products!). Check out this blog for tons of links on support for veg families and kids: http://girliegirlarmy.com/blog/20080812/eco-veg-living-101/. I know tons of vegan families who used transitional foods at first (vegan meats/ cheeses) to help the phasing out of animal products. Then clean up their diets more and more.. :) I can’t imagine it’s easy… but I do know many parents who have done it successfully and the results (kids start behaving better, less colds, less sore throats, etc) seem to be amazing!

  26. elaine says:

    If the “behaving better” happens, I’ll let you know. :) My kids have always eaten lots of Fruit and vegetables, so that part of the diet is not a change. But replacing regular dogs/burgers/mac and cheese with vegan or vegetarian options is proving a HARD sell!

    And I did know that bulk items like you mention are indeed WAY cheaper (my husband and I were “economic vegetarians” in grad school for that reason). :)

  27. I know that is how I feel, but to see it in words, is completley different. And I could explain it to people until the cows come home (pun 100% intended) and they still will not get it.

    Oh thee educated ones get it, but don’t care. I had a friend tell me once when a mutual friend just declared her turn to vegetarianism, that he did not care how animals were treated, that animals were put on this Earth to serve us. And that is one of the main reasons I don’t talk to to a whole lot of folks about my dietary choices. For I find myself still getting angry and upset and I don’t want to bring myself to their level.

    Again, this was a fantastic article, thanks for the fantastic read. And Miami…that is where I was born and raised.

  28. Chrissie Eden Vazquez says:

    You think transitioning kids is hard, try transitioning a full grown man who has never given a moment’s thought to his diet because he’s been slim his whole life!

    My experience with trying to make a radical dietary change (and I already know this will illicit a very wide range of reactions, which is why I’m sharing my personal experience):

    I was pretty solidly vegetarian for awhile when the time and money were easier to come by. My transitional process was difficult, b/c I was never cooking just for myself, I had to feed the little mister as well.

    When you frame it in an every day perspective…

    Most people don’t think about what they eat from day to day. And most wouldn’t realize how many animal products they consume per week if it wasn’t put on paper and shoved in front of them to look at, because the idea is so normalized and schedules are so intensive that it’s unremarkable for the average worker bee to shove an animal product in their face every meal of the day. My fiance had no idea how many he was eating until I had him start keeping track of what he ate at each meal he consumed outside of the house vs what I was cooking at home.

    The results were surprising, and as a result, he def cut a lot of meat and animal products out b/c he realized it was too much. And he looks and feels better for it, honestly! But it was not easy at first.

    It’s hard with kids, too, I think, b/c unless of the way adolescent dynamics work. Unless you run with a like-minded crowd, it’s stressful anticipating a potential situation where you have to explain your diet to your peers especially at the age where kids are looking for acceptance. What kid wants to be the odd one out when everyone else is getting milkshakes? If your kids are really resisting, it can be a # of reasons, not wanting to be the odd ones out, don’t understand the reasoning why the change, or they just like their food as it is!

    Luckily yours, Elaine, have always eaten lots of fruits and veggies, but for kids who prefer processed foods or don’t do anything green, when parents try to force them, the attempts are met with meal mutiny.

    It’s the same thing with a total lifestyle change dictated by diet such a veganism. You can’t force them, it will have to come in time with transitional food or with plain ol’ talking about it so they understand your perspective…and time. I think everyone has a right to decide what they eat, kids included. 9 and 4 might be a little tougher and they’re just gonna have to suck it up to a degree b/c you’re feeding them, but I think at 12, a kid has enough personality to make their own call–and make their own food if they don’t want to go with the family flow! If I didn’t want what my mother made for dinner, the options were sulking hungrily or getting in that kitchen and making what I wanted. Not a bad thing–everyone should learn how to cook anyway!

    I can speak to food restrictions leading to social situations that require some tweaking. I have omni friends & vegetarian/vegan friends…but no matter which cats I’m rolling with, usually I’m the only person in either group that is gluten intolerant.

    So basically, I’m screwed. For me, seitan = satan. Traditional pasta is the enemy. And my in laws…are Italian. Very. And that alone makes my life VERY hard sometimes, especially when I’m not on my home turf.

    As my schedule and lifestyle changed drastically, attempting vegetarianism for me consisted of massive amount of concentrated effort trying to get around my dietary restrictions and being pissed about it. It was miserable, frustrating, and sometimes a plain ol pain in the ass to ppl around me.

    Holidays are a perfect example. I come from a big ethnic family, I’m marrying into a big ethnic family. I think enough said there!

    When I started my current schedule as a full time broke student and a freelancer, most of my vegetarian days I’d eat a pb&j on spelt bread, load as many fruits as I could fit in my bag, and have a salad or some steamed veggies for lunch/dinner and keep it moving. And it was freaking miserable.

    I was always hungry. Always carrying too much or too little food. And always pissed.

    PERSONALLY (as everyone’s reasons for what they eat are different), I will remain an omni because I simply don’t have the luxury of that much $$ OR control of my life on a given day to devote so much time to thinking about my food beyond avoiding things that will make me sick.

    Just humbly offering a different perspective.

  29. Chloe says:

    Ms Chrissie.. I promise you – being veggie is cheaper any day of the week (and twice on sunday) than being an omni. UNLESS of course you are going to fancy organic restaurants every night of the week. Eating meat is akin to eating your dog.. there is no other way to “slice” it. I really want you to watch EARTHLINGS and then talk to me more about this. I so respect you and your (highly intelligent!!) voice.. and I know you respect mine. None of us are vegan because we don’t like the taste of meat. It’s annoying for all of us sometimes. We all have big meat-eating ethnic (well, some of us!) families.. We do this plain and simple for the animals. Because eating animals is ethically wrong. And girrrrl.. if all you were eating when veg was steamed veg and pb&j, then clearly you didn’t get any vegan cookbooks or frequent more vegan restaurants to get more cooking ideas. I never eat either of those things.. and mostly eat new things every single day. You are so creative.. and that’s what cooking is all about! I know so many vegans who have no luxuries (ie are broke and have many allergies, etc) and they make it work. It’s really mind over matter. The minute I saw EARTHLINGS (and did the real deal research on eating animals by reading THE CHINA STUDY, et all) – I couldn’t in good conscience participate any longer in eating animals.. no matter how inconvenient it can (sometimes) be. Walking my dogs in the middle of the night certainly is not convenient for my beauty rest.. but I wouldn’t consider them being uncomfy for one hot second. Ya feeling my analogy? TBC…

  30. Ari Solomon says:

    Chrissie,

    If you think it’s miserable to be vegan, imagine what the animals have to endure to become your food. They are kept in the most abominable conditions. It might be inconvenient for us to be vegan sometimes but put yourself in their shoes. Every time you sit down to eat you have the power to save a life, to not contribute to unspeakable suffering and fear.

    I don’t know if you have dogs or cats, but if you do please watch an undercover video from a factory farm and then imagine your dog or cat in there. Would you be OK with he/she being abused like that and then slaughtered? Imagine the fear and terror these animals experience. In terms of suffering there is no difference between a pig, cow, or chicken from a dog or a cat.

    I’m not a parent so I would never speak to that other than to say that kids are people and obviously are going to make their own choices. But you have to make YOUR own choices as well. Please go out and buy or borrow a vegan cookbook, buy in bulk to keep cost down, and do your research. I can attest that being vegan is no more expensive than being omni. If you live in a city like New York, San Fran, LA or any American metropolis, it’s the easiest thing in the world. I have four friends who are gluten-intolerant (one of them has MS and avoids it for health reasons) and they are vegan and they never want for anything. They’re thriving! There’s even a vegan pizza joint in LA now that does vegan gluten-free pizza!

    As far as your big ethnic family, they should respect your values. You’re an adult and you’re entitled to make your own decisions on what you will and won’t put in your body. All families have disagreements, that’s life.

    Times are changing and being vegan gets easier everyday. Don’t let the status quo trump your values.

  31. Jeremy says:

    There is nothing more expensive about being vegan, period, unless, like Chloe said, you’re eating at fancy organic restaurants everyday.

    As for the idea that is offensive to tell people where there food comes from, I think its offensive for people to blindly consume and consume and consume countless tortured and murdered animals because they’re to selfish to “sacrifice” certain tastes or to stupid to understand where it comes from. Think about how many animals most people will eat during a lifetime, its absurd and disgusting. To think of the amount of animals I consumed in my 31 years of pre-vegan life makes me ashamed and sick to my stomach.

    This is not a debate, there is no positive side to this issue. EVERYTHING about animal consumption is bad, and this is a fact. From the suffering of the animals, to the suffering of the environment, to the suffering of your body.

    Thank you Ari for your brilliant writing and your tireless fight in this lifelong battle to stop suffering.

  32. I often find that people who accuse vegans of being “preachy” are simply constructing a straw man to tear apart. Thanks for writing this Ari. I am so offended when people compare my veganism to a religion. Like you said, it has nothing to do with faith, and everything to do with the very real animals. No leap of faith needs to be taken, just a pair of open eyes.

  33. I’d love to ask a couple of questions – which I hope can be taken in the spirit of knowledge-sharing. I know there is bound to be a lot of variation among vegans, and I’m really interested in hearing some of the responses to my “objections” (if you could call them that) to veganism.

    Let me say that I’m totally, 1000%, against animal suffering. That being the case, in my book there is no defense for factory farming whatsoever. It is a huge abomination.

    But I love farm animals. I love family farms. And even farmers, usually I love them too. I love chickens, cows, goats, sheep. I love animal products that *can* be obtained humanely, like eggs and wool.

    So what becomes of farm critters in a vegan world? Because they are getting less and less common. As family farmers are retiring, the only ones left on any large scale will be agribusiness horrors. The rest of us can barely afford our dogs and cats, much less pet donkeys, sheep and goats. IMHO, the challenge is partly ethics but mostly economics, and many more people would make ethical choices if it were economically viable.

    I guess what I’m asking is if there is any room within a vegan framework for ethical stewardship of farm animals – and even humane slaughter? And is there any way to do our parts for animal welfare without demonizing rural America?

  34. chloejo says:

    SDF: I urge you to review humanemyth.org. There is simply no way that “humane” means of taking skin, embryo’s, or hair from animals can be ethically harvested, unless you are doing it yourself and your animal is perfectly cared for. Happy meats, much like eggs and wool are straight up myths. I’ve been to “humane” and “free-range” farms to visit and see with my own eyes.. and the look in those animals eyes were of pure horror and fear. When true animal loving scruples are in place, there is no room for animal consumption in any way. Please read this blog on wool: http://girliegirlarmy.com/default/20081117/baaaah-baaah-black-sheep/. Nobody is “demonizing” rural America.. not sure how you came to that hypothesis. Please elaborate, as most rural Americans I know are not farmers.. and want to do what is best for their families..
    xCx

  35. Chloe, you are so right. Humanemyth.org is an amazing resource – and if anyone claims to be 100% opposed to animal suffering, slaughter is just not an option. What we must always ask is, what dos the animal want? Because they can’t speak in a language we validate, we must pay attention to instances in which they show dissent – crying out, struggling to escape, demonstrating their ill to live and will to care for their young and socialize and roam and do what they will do.

  36. Ari Solomon says:

    spotted dog farm: I think farm animals are wonderful beings. They are loving, intelligent, and have very unique personalities. And if you truly love them like you say you do, you should respect their right to be free and their right to simply live. Humane slaughter is an illusion. There is nothing humane about killing an animal — especially when it’s completely unnecessary. We don’t need to eat animals in order to live.

    If you truly adore farm animals and want to spend time with them, please visit a farm animal sanctuary such as Peaceful Prairie, Farm Sanctuary, or Woodstock Animal Sanctuary. See first hand how those animals are cared for and allowed to live out their lives in peace. No threat of slaughter. No threat of human exploitation. No threat of abuse. It’s a truly remarkable and life changing experience.

    Anytime we use animals for their flesh or by-products we make them commodities. We turn them into money making machines. This is only for human benefit. But what about the animals? What have they to gain from being slaughtered at a fraction of their age? What does a farmer do when their sheep stops producing enough wool or their chickens stop laying enough eggs? They kill them. Not very nice if you ask me.

    I’d like to leave you with this quote from Alice Walker. I think it’s an incredibly beautiful sentiment because it’s so true:

    “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”

  37. I understand the perspective of not consuming animals on any level – although I’m still not sure if I agree with it, especially in cases of wool, eggs and other products where slaughter is not necessarily involved. Yes, there are plenty of ways that raising animals for wool etc can be cruel, but I have seen, and I believe in the future of humane sheep farms. For folks who believe that animals should not be domesticated, and domestication equals exploitation, well, I guess that means the end of a whole lot of critters, but that’s a whole nother discussion.

    I think it’s very important to differentiate between factory farms where suffering is endemic and institutionalized, and farms where suffering – and slaughter – may be likely but not necessary. Regardless of whether vegans intend to demonize rural America, farmers (in my experience) feel very much condemned by vegans – hence the term “vegangelical” and other backlash. And sure, there are rural people who don’t farm, but farming is perhaps the most defining activity associated with rurality (pls forgive my shorthand if it doesn’t work for you). I still think that it’s fair to say that veganism is more common within urban culture and values, and I’m definitely getting the impression that vegans condemn farming with animals, usually a rural activity.

    It’s easy to say that eating a cow = eating a dog, slaughter = suffering, and domestication = exploitation – and maybe all those points are important for activism. But nevertheless, there are many distinctions and nuances and that’s the dialogue I was hoping to have.

  38. Sorry, Ari, I didn’t see your response before I posted mine. It sounds as if what you are basically suggesting is taking animals out of the economic realm. My point is that that will also, mostly, take them out of the human realm. There is no “free” for farm (or any domesticated) animals – talk about myths! Some species could feralize but most will die out. In my more pessimistic moments, I think that there really is no free any more, anywhere, there is only captive and captor. Farm Sanctuary etc are wonderful but temporary stop-gap measures, unless they become zoos, in which case the animals are still there for our purposes. What I’m missing is a vegan vision that is realistic and that preserves human-animal relationships.

    I’ve also got to say that I reached out in blogland very sincerely, and now feel as though I’m being lectured. The truth you proclaim is not self-evident, even to an animal lover (and yes, I do in fact love them as much as I say, tyvm).

  39. Ari Solomon says:

    spotted dog farm: Would there be less farm animals if we stopped treating them as commodities? Yes. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We breed billions of farm animals every year just so we can slaughter them. We breed so many that it’s destroying our environment. Even forgetting the animals for a second, it’s to our own detriment. Animal agriculture is the undisputed number one cause of global warming.

    As far as human-animal relationships, I think possibly the only animal that has actually benefited from humans is the domesticated cat. Other than that, animals have historically been used and abused at our whims for food, entertainment, clothing, and vivisection. Cats and dogs included. You seem to be looking at this issue from only one point of view. Please try to put yourself in their shoes.

    Don’t forget that we domesticated cows, goats, chickens, etc. They didn’t walk over to us and ask us to take care for them and breed them. Herding culture began around 10,000 years ago. Before that, animals were wild, as they were intended to be.

    I don’t know exactly what animal liberation will look like because it’s never been achieved before. But I do know that human-animal relationships, as fuzzy and warm as we might think they are, usually end up in an early death for the animal (with the exception of companion animals). All living beings want to live.

    Imagine that a “superior” race offered to take care of you. They’d give you food and shelter but would slaughter you at a fraction of your age to eat you. Is that an arrangement you’d be cool with? Cows can live to be 25 years old but are slaughtered between 2-4 years old. Chickens can live to be 15 years old but are slaughtered at barely a year. Ostriches live to be 75 years old but are slaughtered after only two years. Are you starting to get the picture?

    As for sanctuaries, I don’t follow your logic that they will become zoos. Sanctuaries take in abused animals, rehabilitate them, and let them live out their lives as peacefully and as naturally as possible. The mission of a sanctuary is much different from a zoo.

  40. Mikko says:

    spotted dog farm:

    The following is truly not meant to be snarky or sarcastic, just to make you see things from a different perspective.

    When people ask me to define “humane slaughter,” I suggest: think of the person you love the most, and then imagine how you’d like to kill them– not because they’re sick, or because they’re suffering, or because they want to die– but because you want to kill them for your own convenience. Then apply that chosen method to the animals you want to kill “humanely.”

    Will farmed animals die out if we cease farming? Unlikely. But even if they did– is that really a reason to keep a system of mass exploitation and killing? Couldn’t that same argument also be made for China and Korea… if they stopped farming dogs and cats for food, wouldn’t the number of those animals drop dramatically? Also, if I were an animal forcibly brought into this world only to be confined, exploited, and then killed at a fraction of my natural lifespan, perhaps I’d rather not be born at all than endure a brief life of misery.

    Can eggs and wool be humane? Yes, I believe they can, if you *personally* care for the animals until they pass on peacefully at the end of their natural lifespan. Trusting any corporation or mass operation to do that for you is just wishful thinking. Any time a living being has been commodified, they’ve been treated as an object. How is the GAP, for example, going to make millions of sweaters humanely from wool of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of sheep? And what is the need for that, anyway, when animal-free alternatives exist?

    Just my thoughts.

    Peace.

  41. […] to our friend Ari, who is often a guest columnist on GGA, and who owns the snarky, yummy vegan, soy-candle company A Scent of Scandal forwarded locavore and […]

  42. Chloe says:

    SDF: With all due respect, I think you are coming across as pretty ignorant. There is NO humane way to produce eggs unless you are personally raising and caring for those chickens yourself. Muelsing (a normal part of wool production) usually leads to illness and is terribly painful. Did you read the blog I posted? Whenever you begin to use animals as A COMMODITY and not as sentient beings of the earth who have just as much a right to be here as you and I — you then fall into the agriculture trap. The animals are then a business and not beings. Please (before responding) have a REAL look at humanemyth.org. I’m not sure you did…

  43. Chloe says:

    SDF: In addition……. when you are working with animals for wool or egg production – with all due respect – where on earth do you think all those animals end up eventually? The SLAUGHTERHOUSE like every single other animal in a factory farm.
    Also, according to experts, “Males only generate 75 percent of the wool females produce; consequently, most are killed at birth because they are not as “profitable.” The females typically endure lives of loneliness and boredom and suffer from painful bone deformities and other ailments caused by severe confinement.”
    And re eggs: I’ll let humanemyth.org or farmsanctuary.org answer that for you…

  44. I’ve already acknowledged that factory farming sucks beyond belief. I’m well aware of farming practices that involve culling (killing) when animals are no longer productive.

    I still maintain that there is a world of difference among farming practices. There is a sustainable farming movement, certified humane farming programs, as well as rescue farms. They may not all do things the way I would, but they are not all the same as factory farms in terms of these practices. And at least in the case of wool alternatives, the production of synthetic fibers generally causes more damage to the environment than sheep farming.

    Here’s a post from Judy, a farmer in my fiber guild, following the passing of her angora goat Cindy. Judy is not as rare as you might think. I’m sharing her post in full:

    Hi, spinners and fiber folks,

    Cindy had what appeared to be a large tumor on her udder, which I found yesterday when I was doing hoof care. She’d been acting a little “off” but I hadn’t a clue what was wrong until she lost her balance and landed on her side, and I could see her belly. She’s been in pain for a while, now Dirk and I look back at her behavior, just several
    subtle changes. We brought her over to the vet this a.m., after a huge picnic all day yesterday and this morning of fresh greens of all of
    her favorite types, and lots of molasses and ginger snaps, ’till she was so full she couldn’t hold any more. I’ve experienced dealing with
    families of suffering patients, over-treated when the outcome is dismal. This is what we were up against. She was eating, could still walk, but had a very bad condition, and was in pain and bleeding, and the vet said her chance of surviving this, after aggressive treatment, was “very slim.” So she’s now able to lie down and rest for the first time in a month. We hadn’t noticed that she was sleeping standing up, leaning on her elbows. I now realize she’d been in pain for a while, and feel so bad that I didn’t have a clue that she was, until yesterday. She’d had a bad time over winter with wet pastures and hoof problems, and had antibiotics and ongoing hoof care and trimming. It took about 4 months for her hooves to mend, and this summer, with the dry pastures, they looked normal, for the first time in a very long
    time. Come winter, based on the past couple years, it would have been just as bad or worse. We were used to seeing her on her knees when her feet hurt, which is why I was rinsing her feet with dilute betadyne yesterday, and found her real problem.

    She was our very first animal, 13 years ago, a spoiled bottle-fed twin, and we’ve kept her spoiled and as well cared-for as well as we
    knew how all these years. It feels as though we’re at the “beginning of the end,” losing her, since she taught us about how to care for ruminants from the very beginning–and about how goats don’t stay
    inside fences very well at all… She was the “queen of the pasture,” and always took what she wanted, until just lately when she started
    backing off from the fray and we fed her separately so she could get as much as she wanted before the others came to try and finish it for
    her, instead of so she wouldn’t take the food the sheep were eating because she could!

    I wish I didn’t have to make decisions about life and death, because I don’t know if I’m making the right decision, and it’s final–no second
    chance. Elaina and Joy say a good shepherd is the shepherd who cries– and we are. She was so special, the real personality on this pasture,
    and things will be much less colorful now. But she’s no longer in pain, and won’t suffer any more. But that doesn’t end our pain. Letting her go was very hard. I wanted so much to be able to “fix her” and have her be healthy again, but that just wasn’t possible. So I’ll try to focus on being glad she had all the good things to eat
    yesterday and this morning, gathered from our place and the roadside, so she had all she wanted of the very best browse available, and she didn’t have to work for it this time.

    Thanks for listening,

    Judy

  45. Ari Solomon says:

    spotted dog farm — You are missing the point entirely. Please go back and read what Mikko wrote. How would you like someone you loved to be killed? And not because they’re suffering or terminally ill, just because you want to sell their flesh or their skin. Does that sound humane to you?

    As for these sheep farmers, I do not know them or whether they care for their animals or not. But with millions of wool garments being made every year to satisfy our hyper-consumerist culture, there is NO WAY we can make that level of consumption humane. Why would we even want to when there are so many other fabrics out there that come from sources which cause no suffering at all. I bought a fabulous fleece hat and scarf last year that was fashioned from recycled bottles. They were inexpensive, warm as hell, and caused no suffering to any being. Why would we choose otherwise??

  46. Chloe says:

    If you LOVE animals, then you shouldn’t want suffering for any creatures. Promoting wool is promoting suffering. No matter how you may try to “spin” it.

  47. I’m not missing your point, I’m making a different one. I was at least halfway on board with the initial post – unlike most of the people you are presumably trying to reach. Vegans would really be better served by having a real dialogue around the many complex questions rather than serving up insults and condescension along with their soy milk. I know it’s really hard when you care so passionately, but that’s why people think it’s vegangelizing – and why I’m full-on weary of being bullied by y’all.

    Chloe Jo, I’d appreciate it if you would delete my comment with Judy’s nice eulogy to her goat, I posted it to give you a different perspective – the face of farming that I see – not to have her memory spit on as mere spin.

    Thanks, Mikko, for sharing without alienating.

  48. Chloe says:

    Funny how when it makes sense it’s “bullying”… keep loving your pit bulls and eating steak/ wearing wool/ using products that test on animals.. and ignoring that hypocrisy.

  49. You have no idea what kind of choices I make, and I certainly don’t ignore the hypocrisy. I do think it’s better to treat people with kindness – we are all animals, after all.

  50. Ari Solomon says:

    spotted dog farm: With all due respect, treating animals (both human and non-human) with kindness is at the very heart of this discussion. Killing or exploiting animals, when there is absolutely no need, is never kind.

  51. kinderegg says:

    I am a live and let live person when it comes to views. However I may point out that a vegan diet has never been shown to be healthier than an omnivorous one. Humans evolved eating meat and it is represented in our very physiological makeup; stereoscopic vision for example and gastro-intestinal bacteria designed to dissolves complex proteins found in animal flesh. Our closest relatives (chimps and bonobos) are also are omnivorous
    I am a person who spends much time outside, I work outside, and I can tell you I have witnessed nature be incredibly cruel from cats playing with their prey to deer munching on helpless baby birds. Life is cruel. It is a pampered and detached person that does not believe this. There is no such thing as inhumane treatment of animals because the human response to an animal in the wild is to kill it and eat it. This is why wild animals run from us.
    Also plants are alive and as much entitled to life as animals why you make a distinction between that is interesting to say the least. Factory farming of crops is as environmentally degrading as is the factory farming animals.
    I believe with many of your views, such as sustainable farming practices. I have boycott all animal factory farming practices and eat only meat from what I hunt and fish. I wish I could farm only what I eat too but it is not practicable. Bon appetite.

  52. Ari says:

    kinderegg:

    1) “a vegan diet has never been shown to be healthier than an omnivorous one” Please familiarize yourself with a book called The China Study. It’s based on over 40 years of research and is heralded as the most comprehensive study on human nutrition ever conducted. Dr. Colin Campbell is a pioneer in the field. He’s not an animal rights activist in the least. You know what his findings show? That a vegan diet is best suited for optimum human health.

    2) “Our closest relatives (chimps and bonobos) are also are omnivorous” This is true… about 1%-5% of their diet consists of meat from bugs and small animals. I wonder what percentage of the average American diet is from animal products? I’m thinking a lot more than that. And let’s not forget, we’re humans, not chimpanzees. Chimps and bonobos don’t shop at the supermarket or use guns to hunt.

    3) “the human response to an animal in the wild is to kill it and eat it” Are you joking? Do you literally expect to me to believe that the average person looks at a deer, a rabbit, a lamb or a horse and their first response is to rip it open with their bare hands and eat its innards? Because that’s what true carnivores do. I don’t think so. If a human was starving I think they’d do what they have to do to survive but something tells me, since you have time to type this from a computer with an internet connection, that you’re not starving.

    4) “plants are alive and as much entitled to life as animals why you make a distinction between that is interesting to say the least.” If you can’t see the difference between plants and animals with regards to suffering might I suggest you go back to high school biology. Animals have a brain and central nervous system which allows them to feel pain. Plants don’t. Until science says otherwise, it is a fact that plants don’t feel. Animals do. And that’s not even going into the animal psychology of fear, stress, and anxiety.

    5) “I have boycott all animal factory farming practices and eat only meat from what I hunt and fish.” Really? What about when you go to restaurants? If everyone had to hunt their own meat, society might look at it differently. If everyone had to skin their own calf or lamb and get their hands bloody, if everyone had to hear the screams and moans an animal makes when it gets its throat slit, if everyone had to look into the eyes of a terrified animal… perhaps then more people would reach for the tofu instead of the chicken breast at the market.

    6) “I am a live and let live person” — Then practice what you preach. Let the animals live in peace. It takes 15 pounds of grain/soy to produce one pound of meat, so if you’re vegan it frees up a lot more food — for those 1 billion starving humans on the planet. How about letting them live?

  53. Chrissie Eden Vazquez says:

    If I’m reading correctly into their comments, I think what spotted dog and kinderegg are getting at is that everything is commercialized because we are consumers and you can’t absolutely control where everything we use or eat comes from, period. My criticism of the lifestyle is its being portrayed as one that is absolutely cruelty free, when the fact is that as a consumer, you cannot be sure that ANYTHING you purchase did not cause harm to another living being.

    Products cannot be billed as cruelty free, because you’re still buying them from a source beyond your control. Maybe eating a solely plant based diet is animal cruelty free, but can you tell me for certain that your greens were picked by salaried employees with health benefits and not migrant illegal workers whose children can’t get an education b/c they have to constantly move? I’d call the working conditions of most migrant workers cruel, inhumane, and offensive to my views…

    But these things are out of my locus of control due to the industrialized nature of our society. I don’t know if Juan got paid for picking my salad. All I can do is write letters to my representatives telling them that I support immigration reform, and support fair labor initiatives. Great for me, helps me sleep at night. But maybe Juan the Picker’s 14yr old son is still running around with a 3rd grade education.

    Maybe I’m not going to eat meat OR veggies because they are produced under deplorable conditions for workers who are unprotected. I have a grape vine and a fig tree in my back yard, and from now on, I’m only going to eat grapes and figs because it’s the only food source 100% in my control and I don’t have to feel guilty about the pigs or the Mexicans that suffered to feed me so I don’t chip my French manicure or have to quit my job to devote my life to raising my own food.

    To a logical person, that sounds insane. Cuz it is. Where would I go to raise all of my own food? How would I afford the land? How would I get there? Where would I get the materials to get started? How would I harvest? How would I grow enough variety of foods to get all the nutrients I need? I dunno. I’m American. I’m a consumer.

    The grain and soy that isn’t fed to cattle is in no way ever going to GO to those starving people, because the farmers growing them are doing so for profit–to sell it, not to give it away. The reality is, there IS no food shortage. It’s not that there isn’t enough food to go around, there isn’t enough people who have the resources or will to ship it to people who are hungry when they can SELL it instead and turn a profit. Whether it’s to a cattle farmer or a bread company, that land, those seeds, that farm equipment, fertilizer, hired hands, etc, all cost MONEY, and a lot of it.

    Veganism helps perhaps support a healthier body and environment, but it doesn’t solve or even begin to address global hunger, so Ari’s point #6 is moot with regards to freeing up food to help people. That kind of idealism belongs in college–before you take your economics class. The American way of life is money driven, and is centered on consumerism. The American & global economic systems are designed to keep an unequal balance of power, wealth, and resources. IMF & World Bank are the people to talk to about the starving people in the world! Not eating animal products doesn’t stop those animals from being commodities. it doesn’t stop them from being slaughtered. And not feeding that grain and soy to cattle doesn’t put it in the mouths of hungry people.

    I think the definition of an “average person” should be expanded upon for accuracy to spell out that it means “an average American person with an internet connection, supermarkets, and disposable income” because in the countryside of Sierra Leone, where my best friend’s mother comes from, you’re damned right that the first reaction when one sees an animal in the wild is to kill it and eat it if you’re hungry, b/c you might not get a chance to eat again! We wouldn’t know that because there IS no wild here, nor is there any shortage of food, resources, or relative economic stability & comfort to permit us choice.

    My BFF never had a pet in her life b/c domesticating animals for companionship is not in her family’s culture, b/c animals were commodities to be sold or used for food products. Theirs is an agrarian culture, and one that has existed for quite some time in strict survival mode due to the political and social upheaval there–again, things we have never dealt with here in our comfy First World zone.

    I come from a big ethnic farm family, too, but my parents came here in the 50s and at this point have lived in NY longer than they lived on farms, so we’re a little more American/urbanized. My mother eats tofu–she’s the one who introduced me to it–but she’s raised a chicken and killed it, plucked it, and hacked it with her own two hands, and she’s just as comfortable with doing that as she is with keeping finches and calling them cute names in a baby voice. There was no Whole Foods where she comes from. In fact, there was no City Hall, either. You’d go to town every couple of years when you could leave the farm long enough to register the kids. My aunt’s birth certificate wasn’t filed until she was 3 yrs old b/c that was when my grandparents had the time to take her and the new baby to town to register them.

    That’s something readers and commenters on this blog can’t even begin to fathom. The idea of how people live differently from you is so foreign it’s like a movie. And I can say this with confidence because it’s that foreign to me, too! I was raised in relative American privilege compared to my parents’ young lives before they came here. Hell, I had a dog and a guinea pig when I was a kid! And an Atari! And running water!

    As a first generation born in the States, I have observed that those with a more Americanized culture and upbringing have a more hands off approach to food matters. My uncle in FL keeps bees. I’m like, Uh, Uncle Joe, why don’t you just go to Winn Dixie and get some honey? It’s like $3. Because *I* would never have the time to keep a hive, let alone the notion to, because my Americanized behind can go to the store and pick some honey up and be back to put it in my tea before it gets cold!

    We ARE pampered and detached. We don’t do a damn thing for ourselves to survive other than make this abstract thing called money. We work at jobs that the current structure of society has created for us, we make this idea of money which is stuff printed on paper, and we give it to someone else to make our clothes, raise, transport, and even cook our food for us, build our homes.

    The fact that we even have time to sit around and discuss this indicates we’re spoiled! We have nothing else to worry about! Living in the States affords me the luxury to have the time to contemplate these things, all from the relative comfort of my home with my Mac and my satellite tv and my fridge full of food and no one threatening to rape me, chop up my hubby with a machete, and burn my house down.

    Life, for plenty of people that are not you and me, SUCKS. The moral issue and quandary of food (other than the issue of people not having any) is a First World blessing and curse. No one cares about our discussion in Kenya. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/08/world/africa/08kenya.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=kenya&st=cse

    And while I’ve never been there, and there’s nothing I can do for them, I feel a helluva lot more troubled by these people’s circumstances than ours right now. Chicken or tofu?! Pffft. Fuck us!

    Maybe I’m a cynic, but I will agree with kinderegg that life is cruel outside of the safety of one’s comfy little city apt or cozy suburban home. I think the topic is an interesting one to debate which is why I indulge in my First World privilege to participate. However, at the end of the day, I don’t feel important enough in the grand scheme of things that people should care what I do or don’t eat when there are people starving to death. Who am I to be so full of my choice?

  54. kinderegg says:

    Ari

    although I do not profess to reading the “china study” a quick search in the journal of medicine quickly found critics of his work. What Dr Campbell did prove is that a vegan diet CAN be a very healthy diet. However his findings did not take into account that the chinese have stomach cancer rates 40% higher than americans. Also ignored the fact that the diets of Massai and Inuet both almost exclusively animal based have heart disease rates as low as the Chinese.
    I agree with you that americans eat too much meat and that it is killing us. However the point I am making is that an ominivorius diet has been a part of our species for longer than humans have been humans.
    Humans have been hunting for the duration of their existance and it is ingrained in us in some way. Observing a deer and thinking it is cute as opposed to food, is something that is a very recent part of the human experience. Possibly only for the last 100 years and is still absent in many parts of the world. Bush meat is a huge part of the diet of many developing countries. So in essence I believe it is only a privledged few that don’t see an animal and think “if I can kill that I can eat it.”
    From a biological stand point plants do not have a central nervous system, but they do react to herbivory in many ways aka a response to pain. Perhaps the way they feel pain is different than humans and higher animals do. The arguement is in the realm of philosophy not biology. For that matter fish, invertebrates and many amphibians lack the brain functions to feel pain from a biological stand point. Having killed all of them myself I would attest that they most certainly feel some sort of pain. I however do not believe the right to existance and the right to life boil down to whether something can feel pain in the same facility that I do.
    Just so you know I am working on my masters in biology and when I eat out I eat vegetarian.

  55. Bea Elliott says:

    Going back to the original post: “Veganism is the practical response to a social injustice. Instead of vegangelical, the word should be veganlogical.”

    I totally agree. But the series of comments took the expected course from “humane” meat and wool to “I only eat what I kill”. It is difficult when so many wish to avoid the essence of the ethical implications of animal use. The essence is our speciesism.

    Yet for so many reasons beyond animal rights which include health issues, sustainability, pharmacutical abuse, zootonic pathogens, and ecological damange; the choice indeed does become “logical”: Go Vegan.

    For any who read this on their computer or shop in a large air conditioned grocery store, there are endless alternatives to a SAD diet. Stating these facts as true should not be construed as “preachy” – just honest.

    Thanks for a great post and for all you do. :)

  56. Paul Nichols says:

    Ari you are so hot you make me want to eat your meat.




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