The Animal Activists’ Handbook

Click through to purchase on AmazonThe Animal Activists’ Handbook (by Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich) holds many useful pockets of truth and pragma amidst some arguably more obvious pieces of advice. I particularly enjoyed reading it because I personally feel as if when I gain more and more earnest conviction for what I believe in, the more my passion can radiate outwards to inspire others. This delightfully quick but very powerful read strengthened my conviction for helping animals in two crucial ways – it reiterated the extent of the suffering which animals are enduring this very moment, but it focused on how this should not be as overwhelming as we initially perceive it to be, because changing hearts and minds is more doable than we might assume.

Perhaps the part of the Handbook which resonated with me the most was the statement that “our lives should be an advertisement for a purpose driven life.” I very much identify with the notion that we should live as if others would follow our example (check out the blogpost I wrote along the lines of this type of philosophy: here) and the Handbook mentions how when trying to get others to do the same with regard to animal welfare, its as basic as helping people to understand that the compassionate choices we vegans and vegetarians hold dear to us are simple extensions of the values we all already hold. It demystifies, de-radicalizes, and eliminates the foreignness associated with eradicating meat from our diet. Since a cruelty-free lifestyle does not require one to “forsake modern life or overthrow a government,” this method of helping others to see that society is designed to conceal the realities of meat, divorcing it from the actual animal, helps people to disassociate veg eating from connotations of extremism, militance, and unfeasibility.

Bruce FriedrichThere would be felony charges if what happens to farm animals happened to dogs and cats. Facts like this, compounded with the realization that the horrible videos we watch are just “discrete representations of continuous suffering” often take us down a dangerous path; I, for one, have often been too abrasive and confrontational with the people closest to me regarding vegetarianism/veganism. I can rationalize by saying my hostility was simply a means to a more ideal end, and I hold the people closest to me to higher standards (which is true and I don’t regret it), but nonetheless, the Animal Activist Handbook highlights the importance of adopting an attitude of empathy instead of succumbing to a combative mindset. This could not be more crucial in today’s society where stubbornness and enmity are all too pervasive and people revel in keeping up their defenses; kindness, understanding, and love are truly the only ways to win. The Handbook details an analysis of Malcom Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” theory, looking into people who turned mere fads into deeply permeating trends, and, not surprisingly, those who held friendly, optimistic demeanors were consistently responsible for said feat. It is easier said than done, but if your motivation is derived from your awe-inspiring potential to make this world a more loving place, it is your obligation to sublimate your anger and disgust – it is your obligation to remain truly positive and hopeful.

Gunita Singh is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying political science. She can be reached via email at breakfastclubsandwich@gmail.com.

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Maple Farm Sanctuary Visit

Last weekend, the weekend of November 30th, a handful of members of the BU Veg Society and others from the Boston area community trekked to Maple Farm Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary that provides lifelong homes for animals that have faced abuse and abandonment. The sanctuary is located in Mendon, Massachusetts and lies roughly forty-five minutes west of the Boston University campus. Needless to say, the drive was well worth the wait, and upon our arrival, two volunteers who were eager to show us around the facility and introduce us to the animals greeted us. Founded in 1998, Maple Farm sanctuary lies solely on the generous donations of people who care to provide housing, food, and veterinary services to the non-human animals that need it.farm2

 Our group last weekend was a mix of vegans, vegetarians and omnivores and it is my sincere hope that every one of us gained insight on the unique nature of each and every animal. I hope that everyone was able to see, as we moved through the stalls and met animals such as John the pig, that non-human animals, much like humans, are individuals, each with feelings and personalities.

farm5Personally, I reflected on the way in which individual history shapes the personalities on non-human animals in the same way that our own pasts shape who we are today. In particular, I was reminded that non-human animals too can be subject to mental illness just as we are. I was particularly struck by the story a cow, Cassie, who suffers from extreme agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We were informed that she had been kept in the dark for the mass majority of her life and for this reason was incredibly photosensitive. It was only through careful reintroduction to light and cautious sensitivity to Cassie’s history of being abused and maltreated that the selfless volunteers at the sanctuary were able to finally install a window in her stall. Today, Cassie is able to venture from her room for a few minutes at a time and receives music therapy to help calm and sooth her.

While my experience at Maple Farm Sanctuary was certainly exciting and fun, (I had a truly amazing time getting to know everyone and better connecting with those who I have met before) it was also enlightening. My experience at Maple Farm Sanctuary better illuminated the real world consequences of our food choices, while at the same time showing me how a fulfilled life can be lived by the animals that are rescued. Sometimes it is not enough to simply watch a video on factory farming or read a book on speciesism (though these are also crucial to understanding the extent of cruelty against farmed animals); it is also important to visit facilities such as farm sanctuaries because they bring to light the severity of violence in our food system, and the legitimacy of our fight as people who care about the well being of non-human animals.

When you come face-to-face with a creature that has experienced cruelty as a direct result of your personal choices (and the choices of a nation), it can be hard not to feel guilty. But this guilt can be transformative and constructive, aiding you in effecting meaningful change in the lives of animals.

I drifted away from the group towards the end of the tour, as we were wrapping up, to visit the charming and curious llamas in their pen and they rushed overfarm4 to greet me as I approached. They looked at me inquisitively and I stared back at them and something overtook me. The moment was powerful. I could not and cannot possibly conceive of subjecting that beautiful creature, or any creature, to slaughter, simply to satisfy my desires. Though we did not speak with word, those two llamas really brought home the message of why I choose to be vegan and I remain steadfast in my resolve to not treat animals as commodities.

Finally, we must not forget the purpose of farm sanctuaries; they exist solely because factory farming does too. If our food system didn’t work in the way that it does, these centers of refuge would not be necessary. And so, this unfortunate fact reminds me of what I can do to ensure that all animals can live out their days as the animals at Maple Farm Sanctuary do, beginning with my food choices.

If you are further interested in getting involved with the Maple Farm sanctuary, you can submit a donation here or you can become a volunteer here. The sanctuary is always looking for hard-working and compassionate volunteers to help them around the facility with a variety of projects. The Boston University Veg Society hopes to return to the sanctuary in the Spring semester to volunteer our services. You can also visit and like their Facebook and check out their Café Press online store! A portion of the proceeds goes towards supporting the Maple Farm Sanctuary.

Lindsay Crockett is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences studying Biology and WGS studies. She can be reached via email at lmcroc@bu.edu. 

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Looking good y’all

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Sikhism: A Life of Truth and Compassion

On Wednesday the 29th, the Sikh Association at BU put on an event in remembrance of the 1984 genocide against the Sikhs. It was an emotional night for me. Sikhism has played a huge role in my life – both the absence of it and the presence of it in my daily life have equally shaped me. I was particularly reflective that night because of the continued mentioning of the value of the Sikh turban throughout the event. Sikhs (mostly men, but also some women) wear turbans as a physical signature of their identity – it is a way for us not to shirk away from our duties, to be proud of who we are and to show that to the entire world. It is a way for people to recognize us, so if someone is ever in need, they can decipher a Sikh and know they will go out of their way to help.

When I was in high school, my hair was shoulder length and all the colors of the rainbow. Eventually I started growing my hair out, and now it’s back to its full length and I wear my kara – a bracelet on my dominant arm, which reminds me to act with righteousness and to do good deeds. Last night reiterated to me the value in standing for something, but not just doing so privately. I will always maintain it is better to exude with pride what it is you stand for than to keep your convictions living inward, where it cannot radiate outward and inspire others.

Arguably, my more visibly punk exterior from the past was a way of displaying my convictions, and should not be seen as being of lesser value than my current manner of presentation, but I take pride in the way I look these days because I have evolved to see how my faith has shaped my current ideologies and practices in ways I once did not realize.

Immediately following 9/11, my mother and I put pamphlets about Sikhism in our neighbors’ mailboxes, wrote articles for the local newspaper, gave public service announcements and talks at schools and on the radio, and overall worked tirelessly to prevent the hate and discrimination that was being targeted toward my community. Sikhs were being murdered – innocent family men who happened to wear a turban as an article of faith were being beaten, taunted, and even killed. I remember when I was nine and helping my mom distribute literature at the supermarket, my mother asked a woman “Do you know about the Sikhs?” The lady responded by saying, “I’m sorry, I just moved here from Pennsylvania.”

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Ignorance is a disease in which we all have our own ways to quell its spread, and there is still much to be done.

My mom’s work is still ongoing, and it’s proven necessary in light of the Oak Creek shootings in August. A large portion of my fuel to fight my fight, is drawn from the brutality I see against beautiful animals whose chances to live a fulfilling life are cut terribly short; but, the underlying motivation to be aware of the fight to begin with comes largely from my faith.

https://i2.wp.com/i50.tinypic.com/2hp639y.jpgAll Sikh temples, called gurudwaras, offer a free meal which all people of all walks of life are encouraged to enjoy. The meal, called langar (meaning “anchor,” for we all sit on the floor to eat it as equals), is always vegetarian. Two of Sikhism’s biggest truths are to share what you have with others and to live a life of truth (the third is to meditate) – and in my case, I try to share the privilege of a good quality of life to animals who are denied sunlight, safety, food, water, comfort, company of family, and the right to deliberately secure what they want as a product of their impressive volitional capacities.

I think all Sikhs should be vegetarian or vegan for a number of reasons. Sikhism’s gurus– or teachers – are the only religious leaders to fight and die for the protection of otherfaiths; Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru of the Sikhs, was martyred for Hinduism as well as Sikhism during a time when India’s Mughal rule was attempting to impose Islam on all people. Therefore, inherent in Sikhism is the necessity of dismissing the all too prevalent concept of “otherness.” During a time when women would be burned alive upon the death of their husbands, Sikhs spoke out against the disgusting notion that a woman was nothing without a man in her life, showing the revolutionary focus on 100% equality more than 500 years ago. Guru Nanak, our first guru, was born into a Hindu family but rejected the caste system practiced by the predominant religion of the time. His fundamental appreciation for the equality of all was resounding, eventually leading to the Sikh way of life. Living a life of truth, a staple of Sikhism, involves introspecting upon the role we play in society, our relationship with ourself and our world, and evaluating whether our deeds are as pure and positive as thy can be. Our relationship to animals is a paramount issue worth reflecting upon, as many neglect this aspect of our lives despite the magnitude of its consequences.

Sikhism’s progressive nature, fiercely egalitarian platform, and rejection of hierarchy – when extended to their logical conclusion – ideally would lead to the realization by self-identified Sikhs that non-human animals should not be seen by us as commodities with instrumental value, but as companions, placed here by God, to be respected for having inherent value.

By Gunita Singh

Gunita Singh is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying political science. She can be reached via email at breakfastclubsandwich@gmail.com.

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An Introduction to Speciesism and Why it is Wrong

The vast majority of people within a commercial and consumer food economy don’t think about the source of their food. In industrial society, food is experienced as a product: a few flashy images, a commercial jingle, and the flavor in their mouths. In this system, we see certain kinds of nonhuman animals exclusively as food. In America we kill and eat 10 billion “food” animals a year. The majority of these animals spend their lives in massive industrial operations called factory farms, where they are raised in grisly conditions. Some are purposefully kept hungry, none are given sufficient nutrition, and all babies are separated from their mothers. Through our system of food production and consumption, we are collectively oppressing nonhuman animals. How is it that we see this happening around us and allow it to continue… yet when humans are subjected to similar conditions, we are horrified beyond measure? If we are to follow a consistent system of ethics, there would seem to be no reason to inflict vast suffering simply because those who suffer are not human. This disparity in the valuation of human and nonhuman animal life is known as speciesism. In his book Animal Liberation, Peter Singer makes a strong case against this long-standing and institutionalized oppression ofnonhuman animals by humans. His argument can be summarized as follows: Suffering is bad, and thus inflicting suffering with no outweighing benefit is immoral. Humans inflict suffering on nonhuman animals with no outweighing moral benefit in the vast majority of cases. Therefore, the human treatment of nonhuman animals in the vast majority of cases is immoral.

Some argue that because animals are raised in factory farms, they don’t know any other life and therefore don’t suffer. We know from our own experience that this is not true. Many humans have only known suffering, and we recognize and grieve their suffering. Just because someone doesn’t know anything else doesn’t make his or her experience less real. The only animal for which we have detailed knowledge of suffering–ourselves–makes it clear that suffering is not purely relative. If we look closely at the living conditions and behavior of “food” animals, a strong case can be made for their suffering. For example, hens are shoved into overcrowded cages, usually in complete darkness, with no room to stretch their wings, let alone sit comfortably. After visiting an egg farmTexas naturalist Roy Bedicheck said, “To me they seem unhappy.” One might object that calling them “unhappy” is simply a projection of human emotions. We don’t know what their experiences are like, and so we don’t actually know they are unhappy. However, we can observe their behavior and make inferences. For example, in the cramped cages, it is impossible for hens to build a nest and lay eggs in private. This creates much distress for the hen, who “tries again and again to crawl beneath her fellow-cage mates, to search there in vain for cover.” Hens’ instinct to lay eggs in privacy has been indicated by a study in which the hens worked just as hard to reach a nesting box as they did to reach food. In another study, they were released from their cages into a yard with straw, and they immediately started to build nests– “even after more than a year spent in a bare metal cage” (115). Furthermore, in their natural state, hens don’t turn to cannibalism; in the overcrowded cages, cannibalism is common. By seeing these behavioral differences, we know something is wrong. To say they are in pain is not a projection of human emotion. Rather, we’re looking at behaviors, and their behaviors are clearly suggestive of stress and pain.

In egg farms, around 6 to 7 chickens are crammed together inside a cage.

As a solution to factory farming, Singer advocates vegetarianism, or a meatless diet. At the time he wrote Animal Liberation, vegetarianism was largely unheard of. It is much more widely practiced today, even though the majority of people maintain that eating meat is natural. But how does one define natural? Trying to make sense of what is natural is almost impossible. Some say that if we’ve done something for centuries, then it’s natural. This, however, is a naturalistic fallacy, meaning that they are taking a descriptive claim about how things are and making a normative claim about how things should be. The same argument could be made for any atrocity that we practiced for centuries yet condemn today, such as slavery. Humans have owned slaves for centuries, yet at no point has this been “natural.” Even if we could prove that meat eating is natural, it does not follow that factory farms are natural. My earlier examples of the hens show just how unnatural the conditions for food animals are. They are taken out of their state in nature and shoved into a system that thwarts their natural instincts. Even if meat-eating itself is “natural,” the conditions that produce meat in a factory farm are not.

By now the majority of mainstream society is aware of the atrocities of factory farming. Yet most of us don’t do anything about it. We tend to find a way to justify it, usually with faulty logic, or we ignore it completely. Many of us continue to eat meat “without pausing for an instant to think that they are eating the dead body of a once living creature, or to ask what was done to that creature in order to enable them to buy and eat its body” (105). This is largely due to the fact that in consumer society, when something, or someone, is turned into a commodity, we become separated from its value, whether that is the labor time of the worker or the moral status of the living being. Through the system of exchange, living beings lose their moral status as they are turned into commodities whose value is based solely on the benefits we receive from them. Singer writes, “The unchallenged assumption is that humans may use animals for their own purposes” (145). This is how speciesism becomes institutionalized. We are socialized to view species as consumable, which blinds us to the possibility that they are sentient beings with their own interests. Our food system warps us into speciesists.

Some have justified the subordination of nonhuman animals by arguing that our capacity for reasoning makes us more intelligent than nonhuman animals, and thus nonhuman animals are not deserving of equal moral status. Yet the same kind of justification pops up when structural prejudices give rise to widespread oppression. White colonists believed Native Americans were less intelligent and so exploited and killed them for their land. American capitalism was built on the backs of enslaved Africans who were considered “private property” and also believed to be intellectually inferior. Women, too, have been oppressed by the belief that they are intellectually inferior to men. Today most of us agree that these prejudices are both immoral and groundless. So Singer asks us, “If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit nonhumans for the same purposes” (6)? Some might be offended by the comparison of the suffering of animals to that of indigenous people, Blacks, and women (or any oppressed group). However, In The Dreaded Comparison, Spiegel notes that this “is offensive only to the speciesist… To deny our similarity to animals is to continue struggling to prove to our masters… that we are similar to those who have abused us, rather than to our fellow victims, those whom our masters have also victimized” (15). He is not implying that the oppressions of humans and that of nonhuman animals are identical, but rather that they share the same basic relationship– that between oppressor and oppressed. Whether it is sexism, racism, classism, transphobia, or speciesism– all forms of prejudice seem to stem from a worldview that leaves out the interests of some other beings.

In the Elements of Moral Philosophy, James Rachels asserts that the minimum conception of morality is an effort to follow reason while treating each being equally. Thus morality requires impartial consideration of each individual’s interests (6). With this view, our moral sphere must include any individual with interests. Most people, as speciesists, do not believe nonhuman animals have interests. But what does “having interests” entail? At the very least, if an individual has the capacity to suffer, then that individual has an interest in not suffering. Singer writes, “If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration” (8). If a nonhuman animal can suffer, which we have shown that it can, then its species membership is morally irrelevant. And if we don’t want to base our discriminations on morally irrelevant categories, then we shouldn’t discriminate based on species. Therefore we need to give equal consideration to the similar interests of human and nonhuman animals. It is important to note that equal consideration does not necessarily mean equal treatment. For instance, although all humans should have the right to freedom of religion, this wouldn’t make much sense for groups of other species. However, it is imperative that we stop viewing animals as consumable commodities, and start viewing them as sentient beings with whom we share the planet, and who have their own purpose. We are collectively witnessing a massacre in our own backyards, and we have a moral obligation to put a stop to it.  

By KC Mackey

K.C. Mackey is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying philosophy and religion. She can be reached via email at kcm2188@gmail.com.

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Feeding a Black Nation Presentation by Breeze Harper

Part I

When I discovered that there would be a presentation on intersectionality, I was very, very excited. As a bit of background, I am a woman of colour and a vegan. In all honesty, I have experienced that most events that are geared towards discussing veganism do not interest me, as many of them blatantly disregard the importance of intersectionality and are geared towards a mostly white, neoliberal, upper-middle class audience.

Therefore, Harper’s presentation seemed like a very promising opportunity for a fresh, new perspective on veganism that keeps in mind other equally important oppressive systems such as sexism, classism, and racism.

Harper’s presentation discussed her thesis, which was still a work in progress. I personally thought that her introduction to the presentation could have been better rehearsed, but its content was great nonetheless. Harper’s thesis critiques the work of Queen Afua, writer of the book Sacred Woman, which sees veganism as a way to decolonise one’s self and to “heal the black womb.” Queen Afua speaks of a matriarchal society in Southern Egypt, long before colonization and slavery, where women were seen as sacred, and where the most sacred bond was that of a mother and her child.

This society also had a plant-based diet. In contrast, is the European society of the same era: a violent, patriarchal society. Therefore the question is raised: Why do we look towards European, or otherwise, white, Western cultures, in order to heal the black womb? Why do we look towards the violent, patriarchal culture of the colonisers? Harper explained how during slavery, the black womb was seen as a unit of production, much like a factory that is good for nothing more than breeding slaves. The body of the black woman, therefore, is in need of healing from generations of abuse. For this reason, Queen Afua advocates a return to the vegan diet of matriarchal Southern Egypt.

That said, my main issue with Queen Afua, which was a topic touched on (but not thoroughly enough in my opinion) by Harper is how heteronormative and cis-sexist it is, as well as how it assumes that the black woman is naturally partnered with the black man and returns to the concept of a nuclear family which consists of a black woman, a black man, and their children who are seen as the future of a black nation. As Harper is queer and also in an interracial marriage, I expected her to discuss how problematic this view is, and was disappointed that it wasn’t discussed with more depth.

However, I was very happy that Harper discussed in depth the problem with veganism and classism, which also is not discussed enough by Queen Afua. Being vegan, and being able to live on a healthy vegan diet, is a privilege, as most people do not have access to things such as fresh produce, etc. I was especially happy that Harper advocated food justice movements such as the Food Empowerment Project.

Part II

Another very, very important point that I really was thankful that Harper discussed was the concept of “cruelty-free” food. Many foods and products seen as “cruelty-free” are derived at the expense of workers in less developed countries who work in slave-like conditions, and therefore to truly produce “cruelty-free” products, one must also look at the source. This is a topic that in my opinion is usually ignored by most vegan speakers, and for this reason I was very happy that she discussed it.

All in all, I really enjoyed Breeze Harper’s presentation and think that it was a very educational and eye-opening experience for all those who attended.

Breeze Harper’s recap of the trip and reading list of materials mentioned in the presentation is located here on her Sistah Vegan blog.

– Naomi Sianturi

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White Privilege & Veganism: The Luxury of Being Single-Issue

Looking back on the day I became a vegan, I realize I was already unconsciously undergoing a process of political radicalization. I had been introduced to activism through learning about the War on Drugs and mass incarceration in the U.S. As I started to dig deeper into these problems, I had a disorienting wake-up call in which I realized that the War on Drugs wasn’t its own separate problem, and that, in fact, there are no “separate” problems. All the problems we face are parts of a whole interconnected system of oppression. We in the USA live within a mainstream value system in which structural ableism, racism, sexism, cis gender privilege, heterosexism, and classism are the norm—and all these forms of discrimination intersect. Upon this discovery, I felt like I was becoming “enlightened.” I started to see oppression everywhere—in the media, in my textbooks, in my own language and that of my friends—and it made me sick.

We are sitting on land that was violently stolen from indigenous people and built largely by enslaved Africans—and this is the foundation of our system. I rejected this system and vowed to do everything I could to help heal the damage that has been done. I made a pretty big step when I joined the Occupiers and started learning for the first time about the true nature of “privilege.” Having white privilege means I get to ignore my race most of the time—as a white person I don’t see the world through a filter of racial awareness like people of color do. Having class privilege means I do not fear being hungry or homeless. I can live where I choose. I can afford to attend a private university. And I have consistent access to foods that nourish me.

I became a vegan when I finally faced the truth of animal oppression and factory farms. I faced chickens shoved into cages, unable to flap their wings or see the light of day. I faced cows being violently penetrated with metal rods without their consent in order to be impregnated—only to have their babies stolen, and either killed on the spot or shoved in a cage to become veal. The thing is, I knew about factory farming before I went vegan, yet even with this knowledge, I still ate animals. When I didn’t pluck up the courage to face the gruesome details, it was so easy to push the cruelty out of my mind as I bought the turkey sandwich and bit into the turkey flesh.

It was so easy to eat meat because everyone else was doing it. Then I realized it was yet another form of negative socialization: we are all taught to be complicit in this horrifying massacre—the slaughter of 10 billion nonhuman animals a year. I started resenting my former meat-eating self and indeed all meat-eaters. I wanted to shake them and make them feel the guilt that I did. I wanted everyone to reject the system like I had. I wanted everyone to become a vegan on the spot (the night I became a vegan, I went home and said that my whole apartment should become vegan, which was met with some discomfort to say the least). And I thought that everyone could and should become a vegan.

In my first 5 months of being a vegan, I somehow forgot or ignored everything I had been learning about privilege. I was developing a vegan philosophy without critically reflecting on my whiteness. As a white person, I don’t have to consider what food is culturally appropriate. I don’t have any special ties to food, like my vegetarian Cuban housemate who feels disconnected from her culture because she chooses not to eat food such as Cuban bread (it contains lard). As a white person with class privilege, I don’t have to worry that veggies are more expensive than meat and cheese. I live 5 minutes away from 3 vegan restaurants at which I can easily afford to eat. The fact that many poor communities and communities of color don’t have access to food that is not only culturally appropriate but also allows them to be as healthy as possible never once crossed my mind.

I didn’t stop to think about how racial formation and racism negatively affected our food system. In poor communities and communities of color, the food that is accessible is not only unhealthy, but also follows a chain of cruelty, from the factory farms to the dinner plate—and it’s very rare that any other option is available. I never thought about any of these things until I started frequenting a blog called “Vegans of Color (because we don’t have the privilege of being single-issue).” Shortly after, I was introduced to an anthology called Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Health, Identity, and Society. After reading the first essay, I realized I had been blindly promoting veganism through a white/Eurocentric view of the world. I didn’t realize that for many vegans of color, there is an additional struggle of reaching out to people in their communities who dismiss veganism a “white thing.”

Animal rights activists of color are often criticized for trying to liberate animals while their own black and brown brothers and sisters are still being oppressed. Sistah Vegan taught me about true food justice and nutritional racism. For instance, if you’re a BU student, look at the posters outside CVS next time you walk past it. One of them shows a young man of African descent drinking cow’s milk. This is painfully “unmindful” as Sistah Vegan editor Breeze Harper has said about a similar ad, considering that 90% of African-Americans are lactose-intolerant. Both ads are clear examples of nutritional racism, meaning that we base our understanding of nutrition and health on the notion that most people have a Euro/Anglo-Saxon relationship to food.

I too was basing my approach to veganism on the notion that everyone could and should eat only a plant-based diet when this is, in fact, not the case for everyone. It is mostly only the case for white, class-privileged folks such as myself. Throughout my journey I’ve learned that it is so important to read books, blogs, and articles written by veg*ns of color, especially women and queers, and prioritize these voices over white voices. Through this, I’ve developed a more critical eye for both manifestations of white supremacy, as well as my own privilege, but I still have a lot of work to do. We all do. At a recent animal rights advocacy presentation, I asked the speaker, a cis-gender white male, how to approach veganism with people of different cultures, ethnicities, and classes. He said that he hadn’t given it enough thought (most white folks don’t, myself included), but that animal cruelty is a cross-cultural issue.

While I agree, it doesn’t address the problem of how food justice is underrepresented in poor communities and communities of color. Indeed this issue is very rarely addressed in the mainstream vegan movement, which is, in the words of Breeze Harper, “dominated by ‘white class privileged 1st world’ epistemologies, logic, rhetoric, and ontologies.” We have to start bringing these issues to the forefront.

That’s why I’m going to Breeze’s talk on the intersectionality of oppressions and how it relates to food justice. Tomorrow, Thursday, at 6:30 in SAR 101. If we want our animal rights activist efforts to be properly directed, we need to understand how structural racism operates in our society. We need to learn how to incorporate mindfulness and anti-racism in our everyday lives. We need to understand different ways of knowing and being in the world.

K.C. Mackey is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying philosophy and religion. She can be reached via email at kcm2188@gmail.com.

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Food MythBusters

Last week, members of the Veg Society attended an event sponsored by BU Student Government entitled “Food Mythbusters.” The event was a screening of a new short by the same name followed by a brief discussion with representatives of different food and sustainability organizations. Attending the event were students from several student groups, all having a shared interest in food, the environment, and social justice.

The film focused on dispelling some of the myths around our food system. It asserted that we do not need corporate, industrialized agriculture to feed the growing world population. It highlighted that small, organic, local agriculture is just as productive as our current system, and much more sustainable in the long-term.

The individuals in the audience at the event probably did not need to be convinced by the film that corporate controlled agriculture is not the right path. However, the film is a powerful tool to be used when talking about sustainable agriculture with people who aren’t yet on board with these progressive ideas.

While the film touched on important points, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking what the film could have addressed and didn’t. The myths discussed in the film do not top the list of the myths that I often hear when discussing the food system. At the top of my list is the notion that we can eat as much meat, dairy, and eggs as we want and, as long as we use CLF light bulb, ride a bike, and recycle, we don’t have to worry about the impact we are having on the planet.

This film could have been a tool to inform people that animal agriculture is one of the top sources of water and air pollution, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions. It could have highlighted how eating more vegan meals is one of the most powerful ways an individual can help stop the destruction of our planet. These are two topics most discussions of sustainable food like to conveniently avoid, and it’d be nice to have a short, effective film that addresses them.

“Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.” – The Guardian 6/2/10

I understand that it may be unreasonable for me to expect the film to address the issues that matter most to me, and that it was intended to combat the notion that we need industrial agriculture. However, based on the research I’ve done, we wouldn’t need corporate agriculture if the demand for meat wasn’t so high. The rise in the demand for meat in the last 50 years is correlated with the rise in industrial agriculture. Among local and organic food advocates, it’s popular to criticize the huge monocultures of soy and corn that require massive amounts of artificial fertilizer and pesticides.

However, given that the vast majority of all corn and soy is fed to livestock, it stands to reason that if we didn’t need to feed it to livestock (i.e. if we didn’t eat meat), we wouldn’t need these destructive farming practices. Rather than just arguing against the idea of corporate agriculture, the film could have demonstrated that an individual can fight corporate agriculture with her every day food choices by choosing not to eat meat.

While aspects of the film disappointed me, it was really great to see different student groups come together around such an important issue. I hope to see this kind of collaborative environment at future events.

Graham Boswell is a junior in the College of Fine Arts studying cello performance. He can be reached via email at exewye@gmail.com.

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Boston Vegetarian Food Festival

The 2012 Boston Vegetarian Food Festival was truly incredible for a multitude of reasons, and high on that list is the fact that I got to stand next to the sensational Rachel Atcheson all day! (She was working at the Humane League booth and I was helping Andrea Hornbein of AKA Marvelicious cookies sell her vegan, organic cookies). The Festival, which took place at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College, was filled to the brim with positive energy and buzz about health, gustatory delight, and animal advocacy.

 

The vibe of a space where a wide spectrum of people are all drawn toward one thing is always inspiring; whether at a concert where thousands of people sway to the same rhythm or at a temple service where everyone clasps their hands and feels moved by a common presence, it is always a phenomenal experience to be joined by people who care about the same things as you.

At the food festival, hundreds of people enjoyed delicious food samples of spicy Indian food, raw vegan granola bars, savory bakery treats, and the revolutionary Daiya cheese substitute. Rad shirts were available for purchase and people also had a chance to learn more about organizations like The Humane Society of the United States, Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition, and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society.

Among my favorite vendors was the vegan Field Roast grain meat company who offered the most amazing faux meat completely out of veggies and grains, which I thought was fantastic for people like myself who try to avoid soy. The Vegan Proteins vendor offered great tasting protein shakes for vegans and vegetarians who seek to get more protein.

Oh! I also learned about this charming vegan bed and breakfast called the Caroline Cottage in Cape Cod (in the town of Centerville). So, if any of you want to get away for the next long weekend with a special someone and enjoy great scenery and hot vegan meals, check them out!

Sponsored by the non-profit Boston Vegetarian Society, the festival is an absolute must for people who want to expose themselves to the various vegetarian and vegan options available to us this day and age. Other highlights: I heard numerous languages, had my very FIRST vegan donut, and met some unbelievably friendly and down to earth individuals with whom I will be remaining in contact.

For those of you who made it out, I hope you had a blast, and for those of you who were unable to come, next year, a very pleasant experience is in store for you!

– Gunita Singh

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Fall Comfort Food: Vegan Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheese!

I have been waiting nearly a year to make vegan mac n’ cheese because every recipe I came across just seemed SO time consuming and SO expensive and just SO much more complicated than the powder+water+butter= Mac n’ Cheese I had been used to making for the first 17 years of my life. The glorious day FINALLY came a week ago when I went to a Fall Glam Housewarming/Potluck/Party and I was looking to impress an inspiring group of lady power vegans and let me tell you it was well worth the extra bucks and the extra efforts!

I found a recipe online by googling “best vegan mac n’ cheese” (easiest way to find awesome vegan recipes: google it) and low and behold I got a pretty darn good lookin’ recipe that included hidden things like potatoes! onions! cashews! carrots! and shallots…

which I actually just assumed were scallions

but clearly are not

but still tasted DELICIOUS in the mac n’ cheese!

 

What is so great about this recipe is that the cheesey sauce is actually made out of all those wonderful vegetables! So even though you feel like you’re eating a meal full of carbs and gooey nutritionally void deliciousness, you’re actually eating carbs and nutritionally packed deliciousness! HELL YEAH VEGANISM!

So without further ado, I bring to youu, the recipe! (The original can be found here but I altered it so there’s more sauce, more whole grains, scallion, and butternut squash!! YAY for experimental/ accidental/ spontaneous cooking!)

Ingredients!

  • 14-16 ounces whole wheat macaroni
  • 4 slices of whole grain bread, torn into large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons + 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
  • 2 small/medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

What You Do:

  1. Cook macaroni in a large pot until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
  2. In a food processor, (or your roommates old blender!) make breadcrumbs by pulverizing the bread and 2 tablespoons margarine to a medium-fine texture. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, add scallions, potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, onion, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.
  4. In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Add softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender and process until perfectly smooth. Mmmm cheesy sauce!
  5. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Spread mixture into a 9 x 12 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared bread crumbs, and dust with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown.
  6. Nom with friends!


^_____^ Happy Eating! ❤ Abby

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10/17 Meeting Reflection

The October 17th BU Veg Society meeting was a huge success. Our exceptional Tori Brown led a necessary discussion on activism, specifically, on the merits of leafletting. We discussed how leafletting can be an intimidating prospect at first, but a great dialogue between seasoned leafletters and novices then emerged, quelling many fears. I hope some of the new faces I saw were reassured by the consensus that negative remarks from passers-by and confrontations with recipients of our literature almost never happen!

One new member, by the end of the discussion, mentioned that she wanted to help us design some new leaflets and perhaps work her way up to distributing them. This was super exciting, along with the participatory energy of our new and old members alike.

We also began brainstorming ideas for next semester’s events, which to me, was the most exciting part of the meeting. The Veg Society has been off to a phenomenal start event-wise so far, and to keep the momentum going would be such a great thing for the animals, as well as for the activists among us who hope to keep enriching themselves and learning.

Sitting in a great big circle can perhaps, for some, be reminiscent of our elementary school days, but in fact, it highlights the value of a truly Socratic environment, seeing as though the Veg Society prides itself on its non-heirarchical structure.

Finally, Peace O’ Pie vegan pizza was delicious as always!

Hope to see you all at our next meeting.

– Gunita Singh

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