For those of you who missed Peter Singer’s presentation. Enjoy!
For those of you who missed Peter Singer’s presentation. Enjoy!
The 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.
There 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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
Zoe Weil invites her audience to settle down for an hour and a half in her one-woman performance “My Ongoing Problems with Kindness: Confessions of a MOGO Girl.” As an educator for the Institute for Humane Education with a passion for kindness, Zoe envisions herself as a modern-day superhero. But her performance does not set out to convince you of her perfection.
Her blatant honesty and willingness to confess some of her less than MOst GOod choices appeals to the humanity within us all. Most importantly, if you appreciate vulgarity, Zoe’s confessions will make you laugh uncontrollably. As she points out, drinking the milk of another animal is just as natural as fornicating publicly.
Standing calmly on the carpet beneath her, Zoe confesses, “When you work for the Institute for Humane Education, it does not behoove you to cultivate a reputation as bitch!” Although her main job is as an educator, this performance draws out laugh after laugh. Speaking mainly to a crowd concerned with making MOst GOod choices a part of their decision making, it is quite comforting to be reminded of other’s failures in the pursuit of kindness.
It is impressive to watch one woman boldly narrate her journey in the pursuit of human rights, animals rights, and environmental advocacy. Her educating does not focus entirely on convincing us that vengeance and driving gas guzzling cars are bad. Instead she helps teach us that a MOGO lifestyle is a process. As many of us on the path to consciousness and advocacy can relate, we must realize our mistakes and correct them in order to progress. She even goes so far as to confess her deep, deep obsession with William Shatner and an incident in which she admits, “He was a little alarmed.” Her personal confessions are an invitation for all to join in the cleansing process of advocacy and compassion.
Zoe puts it well when she reminds us that there are people, systems, and attitudes that make understanding and compassion challenging! Humorous stories of teenage “vindictive acts of rage and revenge” are juxtaposed with inspirational comments on her personal initiatives towards MOGO. Her pride in vengeance resonates in you as deeply as her description of the horrendous conditions of veal and egg production.
Zoe’s intentionality with making MOGO choices is complemented well by her courage to call herself out on her own faults. The honesty is refreshing and the comedy is relaxing. Her performance is a great reminder that kindness is the root of activism, not judging people’s mistakes. Her vision of education is more fun than you have ever probably experienced. Rather than the traditional schooling values focusing on preparing you to compete in a global economy, she invites you to enter a world of learning focused on teaching interconnected rights and problem solving.
At the corner of Cambridge and Brighton lies a Boston vegan’s haven. Nestled in Allston, and all on the same block, you will find Grasshopper, a vegan/vegetarian Asian fusion joint, Peace of Pie, vegan and gluten-free pizza, and Fomu: Alternative Ice Cream and Café. On Saturday, October 13th, friends, family and members of the Boston University Vegetarian Society gathered at Grasshopper, not only for lunch, but also to participate in a workshop presented by Farm Sanctuary’s own Nick Cooney, titled “Effective Animal Advocacy 101”.
In 2005, Nick Cooney founded The Humane League, one of the most effective animal advocacy organizations in the country. Currently, Nick is the Compassionate Communities Campaign manager for Farm Sanctuary, and a board member of The Humane League. Nick is also the author of Change Of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change.
For the most part, anyone reading this blog, or attending BU Veg events is already committed to changing the plight of farmed animals through personal eating choices. But what Nick sought to remind us this past weekend was that in addition to practicing the theories of vegetarianism and veganism in our own lives, as vegetarians and vegans we also have an obligation as activists to help others effect meaningful change for animals and to help shape compassionate communities.
It is simply not enough to practice veganism; we must reach beyond ourselves in order to maximize our impact.
So what does effective animal advocacy look like? Nick honed in on some key points starting with the fact that effective change can start in understanding resistance. From day one we are indoctrinated to believe an array of myths about meat and animal products and thus it is understandable that some may be reluctant to change. Remember that when engaging with our friends, family and peers, we do not just aim to change eating habits, but an entire way of life, to alter a worldview.
To be frank, our task is not easy, and tensions may rise as you attempt to engage in purposeful dialogue, but we must accept any step, however small, as a step in the right direction. A person who decides to reduce their red meat intake still creates change in terms of reducing animal suffering.
Nick also touched on the importance of story telling. It is common practice when leafleting or protesting to throw out the numbers. The facts of the livestock industry’s impact on our planet are startling. They are terrifying. But often times, the numbers are not what prompt change in someone’s everyday life. They exclaim, “Oh that’s terrible!” and they move on.
While statistics highlight the breadth of the enormous task of reducing animal suffering that lies before us, unfortunately, people are not necessarily always interested in the numbers. Most people, however, always care about other people. Given that animals are people too, with personalities, thoughts, and feelings, a more effective way of evoking change can come by telling the story of just one animal, by making it personal.
And lastly, Nick noted that attaching a social context to going veg can sometimes be helpful in swaying the opinions of who you are trying to persuade. By no means is “everyone’s doing it” a good reason to become a vegetarian and in turn, an animal activist. However, it can be a starting point.
As more and more people become aware of the impact of meat and animal product consumption on our planet, and on our hearts and minds, the notion that vegetarians and vegans are healthy, conscientious and informed citizens shifts to the forefront of the social stage and going veg becomes accessible.By bringing to attention the fact that “everyone” is going veg, we do not aim to convert vegetarianism and veganism into fads, but instead to demonstrate that the lifestyle is conceivable and worthwhile.
Encouraging us to share vegetarian and vegan foods with non-veg friends, and to leaflet and engage in meaningful dialogue, this past weekend Mr. Cooney provided important insights to what it means to be veg: the needed change isn’t just personal. Instead, our influence on others is our real impact on this world.
Lindsay Crockett is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Biology and Women,Gender and Sexuality. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past Sunday after Matriculation, Veg Society tabled at SPLASH!, the student activities info fair on Nickerson Field. Though it got a little wet towards the end, we had a great time leafletting and talking to all of the new members of the Boston University community! In total we met over 130 folks interested in the world of vegetarianism and animal rights. If you didn’t get a chance to sign up to receive our newsletter, email email@example.com!
We can all agree that in recent years, Boston has become quite spoiled with veg food establishments. With blessings like Veggie Galaxy, Peace O Pie, Grasshopper, My Thai, Veggie Planet, Life Alive, True Bistro, and most recently, FoMu (more on that later), eating out veg in the city is more of a present than a problem. Wherever you are over the summer, might be quite the opposite. Here are some tips for staying veg when you’re not in Boston!
Prepare! Though this may seem like a simple thing, it really makes a difference in how you eat. Try these tips on for size: Make yourself meals before going out or going to work. Check the Internet for local veg establishments in the area. Try to plan out where you’re going to eat in advance and look at that establishment’s website – or call them! Go grocery shopping for yourself or your family and try to eat out as little as possible as well to avoid missing meals.
Ask! Don’t be afraid to pester a server or employee about what’s in their food. After all, they should know! Instead of saying you’re vegan or vegetarian, tell them you have allergies – people are (sadly) much more apt to take you seriously when you tell them. Ask to see ingredients specifically as opposed to just asking if something is vegan or vegetarian. If your server can’t help you, ask for someone in charge. Use the Internet to look up if an ingredient or an item is veg-friendly.
Read! Skimming the plethoras of veg blogs, books, and news that are out there help to keep you stoked on the veg! Check out awesome things going on here: View animals rescued from factory farms at FARM SANCTUARY. Read sites like VegNews, Vegansaurus, Vegan.com, Reddit Animal Rights, Reddit Vegan, VegWeb, & more. Check out books like Eating Animals, Meat Market, Animal Liberation, and more!