Campaigning for animal rights without mentioning veganism is like demonstrating for marriage equality without acknowledging the existence of gay and lesbian couples. When resources are limited one must understandably prioritize, but in a manner that is rational and most effective. It doesn’t make sense to focus on relatively minor uses of animals such as fur, or elephants in circuses, while many billions of animals are still being killed and carved up every year for food. Particularly when those minor issues are presented outside the larger context of morality-based veganism. Breaking up and diluting the vegan message fundamentally changes it, leaving both the general public and many animal advocates confused and missing the point.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I’ve been making this pie for over ten years. The only changes I’ve made include precooking the crust for a few minutes before adding the filling, and substituting maple syrup for honey when I went vegan four years ago. Both changes improved the taste and overall quality. My experience is that anyone who likes pumpkin pie really likes this particular pie. A few people have been reluctant to try it when they learned it contained tofu. I can’t understand aversion to tofu, having eaten it all my life. I suggest instead telling people that it contains soy. Don’t forget to let people know that it’s vegan. Serving delicious vegan food is an excellent form of vegan education.
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/3 cup Canola Oil
2 to 3 tablespoons Cold Water
15 ounce can Pumpkin
2/3 cup Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
2. Add oil and mix.
3. Add cold water gradually and mix until uniform.
4. Shape dough into flattened round and place between
two sheets of 15” waxed paper.
5. Roll pastry 2” larger than inverted pie dish.
6. Remove top piece of waxed paper and place crust
into a 9” pie dish, then remove remaining waxed paper.
7. Pre-bake crust for 5 – 8 minutes, then remove from oven.
8. Blend tofu in a blender or food processor until smooth.
9. Add other filling ingredients and blend until uniform.
10. Pour filling into pie crust.
11. Bake in preheated 350º to 375º oven for one hour.
Filling will firm up fully when chilled.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Petition To Change Human Beings' Zoological Name
WHEREAS "complex" describes human beings far more comprehensively than does "sapient" and so the Latin complexus describes human beings and differentiates our species from others more accurately than does sapiens;
Whereas human beings act based on names and descriptors, accurate or not, at least as much as on demonstrated reality;
Whereas calling themselves by the inaccurate name Homo sapiens promotes and perpetuates an attitude in human beings of their own exceptionalism & superiority;
Whereas Carolus Linnaeus acted non-scientifically when he invented the name Homo sapiens - deferring to a belief in human exceptionalism & superiority based on established religion, to avoid persecution due to the lack of legal protection for free speech & thought in his time;
Whereas calling themselves by the inaccurate name Homo sapiens and deeming themselves inherently superior to and more worthy of consideration than other beings is a factor in human behavior that unjustly and to humans' and all other beings' disadvantage destroys other beings and disrupts Earth's ecosystems & biosphere;
Whereas, as long as the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature and the scientific community generally sanctions use of Homo sapiens for human beings, those who strive to teach ecology and ethics and to reverse ecologically destructive behavior and its consequences will be in the untenable position of referring to the beings perpetuating such behavior as sapient;
Whereas recognizing hyper-complexity rather than sapience as their distinguishing trait, human beings will be more likely to establish a less-unjust and less-destructive relationship to other beings and the rest of nature than they have wrought to date;
Whereas the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature is accepted worldwide as the authority on species names and therefore is in a position to change human thought and behavior for the better by giving our species a more accurate name;
THEREFORE, Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc., located in Glenside, Pennsylvania, USA, with members and supporters throughout the human world, urges the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, c/o The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK, to change human beings' species name to Homo complexus and to announce this change to the scientific community and to the human world generally.
Respectfully submitted this 5th Day of August, 2008.
Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc.
Friday, October 10, 2008
The measure would take effect in 2015, and would set minimum space requirements for chickens, veal calves, and breeding pigs; allowing them to stand, turn around, and stretch their limbs. It would mostly affect the state’s egg-laying chickens—now housed in battery cages—since producers have already eliminated the use of crates and cages for newborn calves and pregnant sows.
Many people, including those who think of themselves as animal rights supporters, believe Proposition 2 is a reasonable measure worthy of their support. I probably would have felt the same way three years ago when I was collecting signatures needed to get a similar proposition on the ballot in Arizona.
One winter evening while gathering signatures at a large outdoor public event, someone remarked to the volunteer I was working with: “What’s the point? They’re going to be killed anyway.” We both thought that was an insensitive and illogical attitude. Yes, they are “going to be killed anyway,” but why not still try to make their lives a little better?
A year-and-a-half went by before I again gave what he said much thought. But when I did, it dawned on me that while he may have been coming from a different perspective, he had an excellent point. Why are ethically motivated vegans and major animal protection organizations wasting time and money on efforts to regulate exploitation, rather than putting those resources toward abolition? The problem is not the size of the cages. It’s not about cubic inches or efficiencies of production verses degrees of cruelty. This is about basic morality. We should not be breeding, enslaving, and killing these animals in the first place. It is unnecessary and unjustified. Any and all efforts by individuals and organizations that purport to be advocates for animal rights should be directly focused on reducing and ultimately ending this horrific behavior.
Not only does proposition 2 represent the wrong approach, it’s morally bankrupt. Proposition 2 reinforces the property status of nonhumans, adds legitimacy to their continued exploitation and oppression, while conferring little or no benefits to them. It sends the message to consumers that it’s okay to exploit animals, up to and including killing them, as long as it’s done “humanely.” But calling unnecessary killing “humane” does not make it so. We should not seek to regulate something that is fundamentally wrong to begin with. As a civilized society, we don't regulate rape or human slavery. We prohibit such behavior. The fact that there is currently insufficient political will to outlaw the raising and killing of animals for food doesn’t mean that Proposition 2 represents an acceptable interim alternative. Nor does it mean that it’s the only alternative.
If the big animal advocacy organizations that are behind Proposition 2 would abandon these types of efforts and instead steer their dollars and talents to vegan education, perhaps we can begin to see some real results.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
However, a distinction should be made between legislative measures (including ballot propositions and initiatives) that merely regulate practices, and those that prohibit or abolish a category of animal use. Recently one of my vegan/animal advocate friends brought to my attention an initiative on the November 2008 ballot in the US commonwealth of Massachusetts, known as the Greyhound Protection Act, that will ban dog racing. Rather than seeking to regulate how the dog racing industry operates with respect to its treatment of the animals—which conveys the message that the practice is acceptable if done with certain restrictions and minimum requirements—this measure will outright prohibit dog racing in Massachusetts after 2010. My friend made the point in his posting to a local vegetarian society website message board, that this is something that both abolitionists and welfarists can get behind. I agree. While it doesn’t take the place of vegan/abolition education, this is an effort that can coexist alongside it. I have supported it through a donation to GREY2K USA, one of the sponsoring organizations. The other groups sponsoring this initiative are the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and the Humane Society of the United States. If this measure passes, it remains to be seen to what degree it may raise awareness about our use of animals for food, which is by far where most of the cruelty and exploitation of nonhuman animals takes place. But at least it will end the barbaric practice of dog racing in Massachusetts and pave a path for similar bans in other states and jurisdictions.
Recently one of my vegan/animal advocate friends brought to my attention an initiative on the November 2008 ballot in the US commonwealth of Massachusetts, known as the Greyhound Protection Act, that will ban dog racing. Rather than seeking to regulate how the dog racing industry operates with respect to its treatment of the animals—which conveys the message that the practice is acceptable if done with certain restrictions and minimum requirements—this measure will outright prohibit dog racing in Massachusetts after 2010. My friend made the point in his posting to a local vegetarian society website message board, that this is something that both abolitionists and welfarists can get behind. I agree. While it doesn’t take the place of vegan/abolition education, this is an effort that can coexist alongside it. I have supported it through a donation to GREY2K USA, one of the sponsoring organizations. The other groups sponsoring this initiative are the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and the Humane Society of the United States. If this measure passes, it remains to be seen to what degree it may raise awareness about our use of animals for food, which is by far where most of the cruelty and exploitation of nonhuman animals takes place. But at least it will end the barbaric practice of dog racing in Massachusetts and pave a path for similar bans in other states and jurisdictions.
My friend made the point in his posting to a local vegetarian society website message board, that this is something that both abolitionists and welfarists can get behind. I agree. While it doesn’t take the place of vegan/abolition education, this is an effort that can coexist alongside it. I have supported it through a donation to GREY2K USA, one of the sponsoring organizations. The other groups sponsoring this initiative are the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and the Humane Society of the United States. If this measure passes, it remains to be seen to what degree it may raise awareness about our use of animals for food, which is by far where most of the cruelty and exploitation of nonhuman animals takes place. But at least it will end the barbaric practice of dog racing in Massachusetts and pave a path for similar bans in other states and jurisdictions.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
The impact of this move on local residents will be minor if not insignificant, as the several-thousand-years-old cultural tradition of dog eating has declined in popularity in recent decades, more than replaced by an alarming increase in the consumption of animals more familiar to western diners, such as chickens, pigs, and cows.
Like South Korea, which banned dogs from menus during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Chinese officials are trying to avoid negative publicity from Westerners who might consider dog eating to be barbaric and backwards, while they’re attempting to present a modern forward-looking face to the world. The measure is a reaction to Western speciesist thinking in which it’s considered acceptable to eat some types of animals (like pigs and turkeys), but downright horrific to eat other types (dogs). This attitude is based on our cultural tradition of viewing certain animal species as food, and others as cute and cuddly companions.
However, looking at the situation more objectively, dogs and pigs—along with humans—all share the capacity for emotion, and the desire to avoid pain, suffering, and death. They all have unique personalities and exhibit self-awareness and curiosity. In other words, other than the fact that some of them are not human, all of them essentially conform to the definition of “person.” From a moral standpoint, eating dogs is no better or worse than eating cows, chickens, pigs, or fish. That seeing dogs listed on restaurant menus in Beijing may offend or upset foreign visitors, says more about Western speciesism than China’s comparative level of civilization and modernity.
Even if this ban covered all of China, and was permanent rather than temporary, I would not support it. Anyone who considers themselves to be supportive of animal rights, who favors this or similar measures, ought to stop and reconsider. In much the same way that banning capital punishment for white people would fuel racism and strengthen the concept of white supremacy, this ban does little other than to reinforce speciesism and the concept of dogs as “special.” It has no practical effect, as restaurant patrons who might have ordered dog flesh will most likely substitute some other species of animal on the menu. Nor does it represent incremental progress, as there is no intention of making the ban permanent, expanding it to other parts of China, or broadening it to include other animal species, milk, eggs, and other uses of animals. In this instance like so many others that abolitionists are critical of, the idea that exploiting animals is wrong, is not lost; it’s not even addressed.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
A new pamphlet on vegan/abolition education is available for download. Created by Gary L. Francione and his colleague and partner Anna Charlton, the tri-fold pamphlet addresses the moral inconsistencies involved in how we view different animals. It points out that while we all agree that the infliction of unnecessary suffering and death on animals is wrong; almost all of our uses of animals are for trivial reasons.
By far our largest use of animals is for food. Some startling statistics are provided, such as 53 billion animals (not included fish and other sea animals) killed worldwide each year for food consumption. Animal agriculture’s detrimental effects on the environment, and on human health are explained; along with the wasteful inefficiencies in terms of land use, water use, and the effects on the world food supply of feeding grain to animals instead of directly to humans.
The authors explain how the property status of animals greatly limits what can be achieved through legislative animal welfare measures or efforts to improve industry treatment standards. More “humane” treatment offers very little for animals, and actually encourages people to continue to consume animal products, while doing nothing to address the idea of ending animal exploitation.
The last portion of the pamphlet presents veganism as the solution. Veganism works to decrease animal suffering and death by directly reducing demand. It’s simple, nonviolent, and sets a positive example for people around you.
At the end is a link to Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, where more detailed information on the topics summarized in the pamphlet can be found.
The pamphlet, which can be downloaded here, may be printed double-sided, then folded. It’s a great low-cost tool for your own education, to give to friends and family members, or to distribute to the public. Hopefully those who read it will begin thinking about these issues.
August 13, 2008 Update: Subsequent to this posting, the creators of this pamphlet have made it available in additional languages. There are now versions written in German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Polish, with more to come.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Hopefully Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary will be able to place these ads in more publications. That will depend on financial donations.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
About a year ago while searching the internet, I discovered a series of YouTube videos titled Roast the Vegan that unfortunately are no longer available. The host articulately and creatively presented various arguments for veganism. Most of those arguments were familiar to me and mirrored my views. But one point caught my attention because it hadn’t occurred to me before. She asserted that eating meat is not a personal choice. Then she explained that the collective result of a few billion people making that choice is the killing of many more billions of animals every year. I noticed that a few times during the videos she referred to a nonhuman animal as “someone.”
Suddenly I realized that I had overlooked something remarkably obvious. Living all my life in a culture where speciesism is so deeply and extensively rooted, and where the institutions of animal exploitation are largely taken for granted, even as an ethically motivated vegan, I had failed to recognize that eating animals is as far from a “personal choice” as there could possibly be. It’s a choice that profoundly affects the lives of sentient others. It’s a choice that results in systematic enslavement, suffering, mutilation, rape, and violent death, for no better reasons than entertaining our taste buds. Understanding this, my thinking about animal rights and veganism would begin to evolve.
While I believed that in an ideal world everyone would follow a vegan diet and lifestyle, until that point I hadn’t made the jump to thinking that abolition could ever happen. I never gave it much thought. Instead I was resigned to the idea that there would always be a substantial portion of the human population that would choose to eat animal products, even though I considered such a practice to be barbaric and archaic. In retrospect, that kind of thinking made it easy for me to buy into welfarism, which is the pursuit of more “humane” methods of exploitation.
Continuing my knowledge quest, I soon understood that the animal rights cause was about fighting oppression and discrimination; and that all forms of oppression, discrimination, and exploitation were similar and connected. I now felt an obligation to do more—specifically, to educate others about the consequences of our everyday choices.
It’s now fully apparent to me that whether you prefer your bird eggs scrambled, sunny-side-up, folded into an omelet, or boiled in the shell; is a personal choice. How thoroughly cooked you like your pig muscle tissue and how you like it seasoned, and whether you decide to have chocolate ice cream or strawberry ice cream for desert; are personal choices as well. But deciding in the first place to consume the eggs, the meat, and the dairy, is clearly not a personal choice.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I find it particularly unethical when a corporation purports to be something that it’s not, especially regarding concern for animals, the environment, workers, etc. Such is the case with Chipotle Mexican Grill, a chain of “fast-casual” restaurants across the United States.
A substantial portion of Chipotle’s website is devoted to its “Food With Integrity” philosophy, which is described as food that is “better tasting, coming from better sources, better for the environment, better for the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals and grow the produce.” Other sections of the site boast of “naturally raised” artisanal and organic meats free of added hormones; tout “sustainable practices”, “family-farmed”, “seasonal”; and describe working with dairy suppliers to eliminate synthetic growth hormones in their sour cream.
In the section titled “Steve’s Vision” founder and CEO Steve Ells recounts opening his first Chipotle in Denver in 1993, and how at the time he had no idea that the number of restaurants would eventually grow to several hundred. He expresses his love for cooking and the challenge it represents. He mentions that he continually strives to improve things.
Then he describes how he learned about factory farms by reading an issue of a newsletter written by food writer Ed Behr that focused on Niman Ranch, and an Iowa hog farmer named Paul Willis who “raised pigs the old-fashioned way.” He delves into the cruel practices of factory farming and contrasts them with what he calls “old school animal husbandry naturally raised”, which his company has embraced to “help create a more sustainable food chain that emphasizes the welfare of people, animals, and the land.”
Ells says that “Learning about this dark side of modern agriculture made me want to find out how we could do things differently.” But incredibly, he doesn’t seem to consider the killing of animals to be part of that “dark side”.
The company now buys most of its meat from several small niche-market suppliers, who avoid the use of antibiotics, and provide their animals with more space, better bedding, and vegetarian feed.
While it doesn’t surprise me, I think it’s horrific that Chipotle suggests to people on its website, in its advertising, and on its in-store menu boards, that they are doing something conscientious, or morally superior, by eating cows, pigs, and chickens that have been enslaved in a somewhat nicer way before being sent off to their deaths.
Chipotle commodifies these animals by referring to their flesh as “artisanal” or “organic”, as if it were talking about loaves of bread or bottles of wine. By framing the exploitation in the contexts of “naturally raised” and “Food With Integrity”, Chipotle rakes in profits as it attracts customers who are perfectly willing to spend more money to eat “humanely raised” animals without guilt.
The company claims that “Food With Integrity” isn’t a marketing slogan, but that’s precisely what it is. Because if Chipotle was really concerned about the welfare of animals (or the health of the environment), they wouldn’t have them on the menu.
This is an example of how the promotion of “happy meat” at best perpetuates animal exploitation, and at worst, increases it. Not only does Chipotle offer the public absolutely nothing in the way of incentives to stop eating animals, it provides insincere reasons for them to continue to consume them as usual.
Ells wraps up by writing: “we know that at the end of the day, we can't judge our own integrity. That's for our customers to decide.” Well here’s one customer who’s decided that Chipotle’s “Food With Integrity” philosophy, lacks integrity.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
My favorite post is the most recent one, dated May 2, 2008, and titled Letter From A Vegan World. In this powerful piece, Lucus describes in detail the physical and emotional suffering that animals raised under “humane farming practices," are only vaguely aware of. Lucus criticizes the welfarist mentality that pushes “humane” meat, dairy, and eggs, and seeks reformed exploitation; justified by the idea that social change in the form of a vegan world, won’t emerge anytime soon, if ever. She writes that such thinking represents “a fear of action, a failure of will, a self-defeating attitude and, ultimately, a self-fulfilling prophesy.”
I could not agree more. Her words offer me hope. I’ve been looking around for some progressive animal protection organizations to donate to. I’ve decided that Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary will be one of them.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
People who live with companion animals recognize that the canine or feline members of their household have unique personalities and rich emotional lives. They think of these animals as nonhuman persons. But the animals whose flesh and secretions end up on the kitchen table, and the animals whose skin and hair cover furniture and hang in closets, are cognitively just like cats and dogs. There is no difference.
The bad news is that we have a huge moral inconsistency going on here. The good news is that it’s relatively simple and easy to fix.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
The Chicago Diner, a vegetarian restaurant in
I went to their web site a couple days ago to purchase a gift certificate. That’s when I noticed their new “MEAT SUCKS” t-shirts for sale. Immediately I recognized that the stylized text printed on these shirts conveyed a morally confusing message. “MEAT SUCKS” implies by omission that dairy and eggs don’t suck, that these other animal products that most of us eat are morally more acceptable, and that removing them from our diets, or removing them from the restaurant’s menu, is somehow not as important.
But the reality is that animals used for their milk and eggs are enslaved, tortured, and ultimately killed, just like the animals whose flesh is eaten. Milk and egg production on the scale required to meet global market demand, is seriously detrimental to the environment. From a health standpoint, there is little difference between meat, dairy, and eggs, the consumption of which has been linked to a host of degenerative diseases.
Yes indeed, meat sucks! But so does dairy, eggs, and all other forms of animal exploitation.
The six principles of the Abolitionist Approach to animal rights may be read here.