Guest Post: Veganism in Futurtopia

Dear friends, if you’re familiar with On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberationyou might recall this challenge (at pages 43-44):

The greatest challenge we face is imagining humanity without the master role. Is it our fear of free animals’ power (over our children, our dogs, our cows, the back yard at night, the woods our government claims for the people, our own bodies) that keeps us from imagining another identity for ourselves?

 

What would we be without our self-appointed mastership over the rest of living communities on Earth? How would you, as a vegan, imagine a future identity for ourselves?

Here is Ria Del Montana’s conversation starter. Thank you, Ria, for sharing this piece with VeganPlace.


Veganism in Futurtopia

Being that animal liberation and a shift to veganism are central to animals being free, what will the free world of the future look like? To release others from human reign, domesticated pigs and dogs, cows and cats will be cared for until they go feral. But with humans’ infrastructures of civilization strung across the planet, where will their freedom take place? And with wildlife and nature as a whole in peril, where is their freedom? A return of land for rewilding requires a substantial decrease in the human population. Increasingly young people are voluntarily having fewer or no children based on many factors, including Earth ethics. As humans reconnect with wild living, Earthcare will grow stronger.

Capitalism and industrialism, built on models of infinite growth from exploited natural ‘resources’, prompting people to view animals as ‘products’, wildlife habitat as mining fields,  and pets as a profit market,  are the antithesis of a free world.  Beginning with herding, civilization’s founding premise is the domestication of animals. Thing is, domesticating animals served as a devise setting the stage for domesticating wild plants into food monocrops, which brought on human overpopulation. Agriculture and its human overpopulation set wildlife habitats into death spirals. Humans inadvertently became Earth’s parasite.

The more humans disconnect from wild life in wilderness, the more they long for a return to it. But there’s no going back, only forward. What social character will the human take in the future vegan world? They will rekindle their lifeway of togetherness.  Comparative anthropologist Layla AbdelRahim lays out human origins as humans living embedded in wildlife as bands of foraging frugivores, symbiotically benefitting their habitat community in their ecosystem role as seed spreaders. Human origins point a path to how humans can still live free with others – with an ethos of mutualism replacing the failing ethos of domestication.

For modern humans to expand their circle of compassion to all is challenging in the context of the world they’ve degraded. During the transition ethical choices are confounding, such as those pitting wild animals against animals humans bred into existence. Top predators keep populations in balance and need to be reintroduced, which may shift humans too toward their original position as prey. But how many humans suffer and die, directly and indirectly, from civilization? Humans can act to protect themselves, but to release their predatory Earth-destructive ways, the human ape needs to come to grips with itself as an occasional prey species, as much so as any ape.

As quickly as civilization’s systems are expanding, their tangible and intangible foundations are weakening and bound for collapse. Even after the advent of civilization, some humans everywhere opted to live life freely as possible, instinctively sensing how to live on their own terms, based on an intuitive sense of fairness with others. Some humans have always tended to, defended and restored the wild. Rewilding of the human and the planet began long ago. The question is, will vegans realize it is their calling too?

As to the basic question, reflective of The Great Forgetting of lifeways and dietways before agriculture, what will a wild vegan eat? From the mindset of mutualism and freedom for all, as the land rewilds humans will have The Great Remembering of the bounty of foraging opportunities.  They will be not only more nutritious, but delicious.

Ria

 


Banner image:  Annie Spratt, New Forest National Park

Statement of Support for the Vegan Justice League

“We may not pay to kill animals, but our taxes still do. It’s time to end animal agribusiness subsidies. We need to lobby.”

— Vegan Justice League

The Vegan Justice League intends to effect change in the U.S. Farm Bill, which encourages farmers to produce meat and dairy. Taxpayer-funded subsidies, the League observes, let animal agribusinesses produce a surplus well above market demand.

Of course, a vegan would say all animal products are “surplus”; and, as a vegan, that’s what I say. That’s what the League thinks, too.

Why focus a campaign simply on the subsidies in animal agribusiness? Because the subsidies essentially force us to undo our work. Vegans are funding the damned farms. Or the farms that would be damned if only vegans had a level playing field. 

Plant- and nut-derived dairy replacements and flesh-food analogues, together with the vegan culinary scene, are the financial success story of the decade. U.S. residents want artisan cashew-based cheese. We’re replacing barbequed flesh with vegetable kebabs. Thanks to the vegan movement, the population now knows:

Dairy’s not necessary.

Meat’s no treat.

Still, animals are bred, managed, and killed in droves every second. The industry evades normal supply-and-demand dynamics by way of bailouts and subsidies under the guise of insurance extended to animal husbandry corporations.

The Vegan Justice League intends to deploy billboards and professional lobbyists, and to call politicians out for accepting funds from animal agribusiness—focusing on ag-heavy North Carolina, Texas, and Washington state.

Authentic Sustainability

Behind the much-vaunted term “sustainability” is a growing awareness that we’re depleting the Earth’s water and forestland. This is not just about us and what we’ll have left to use. Other animals in natural bio-communities must have viable habitats to survive and thrive. That vital space is lost to deforestation for feed and grazing, and it’s eroded exponentially on a heated Earth.

Animal agribusiness can make no authentic sustainability claims. It’s nothing more and nothing less than a worldwide traffic in introduced species—yet it gets a pass because we presumably need to consume animals. That presumption no longer stands. 

As for the argument that farmers need to make a living, that is an argument for redirecting their business to growing food—not feed. Staying stuck in an unsustainable model is not the way businesses and their people will thrive.

Shifting from animal flesh to a plant-powered humanity stops massive ecological harm, and offers a way to stop deforesting, and to make space for re-wilding proposals.

A recent study carried out at Oxford University reports on one of the most thorough examinations ever undertaken on the impact of agribusiness on the environment. It involved nearly 40,000 farms, and 119 countries. And it showed that by becoming vegan, we could shrink our individual carbon footprints by as much as 73%, and reduce land use by 75%, saving an area equivalent to the size of the U.S., the E.U. and China combined.

Understood in this context, veganism is not extreme. It is a rational commitment to stop greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss now.

Moreover, while leaders of struggling people hope for food aid for millions, animal agribusiness is a massive funnel of feed crops to billions of cows, chickens, and aquatic animals who are bred to be eaten. Consumption of flesh, fish, dairy and eggs takes a massive toll on the environment, the climate, and a finite Earth on which everyone in the world depends.

It is also a frivolous use of our talents to exert systematic dominance over other conscious beings.

Veganism appropriately responds to urgent human safety, social justice, and environmental ethics questions. Veganism understands that our most powerful stance is:

  • The permanent boycott of flesh and dairy products.
  • Conscientious objection to industries that displace, capture, breed, buy, sell, control and exploit beings who, as we do, have an experience of life.

We hold the ethical, environmental, and health-conscious high ground. Yet we are undermined every day by the misdirection of our own dollars.

We do have the power to change our relationship with the rest of our bio-community. Active objection to the investment of our tax money in animal agribusiness is one element of our power.


Banner credit: Architect of the Capitol. Images within text: Allie Smith and Alexander Mils, via Unsplash.

Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest

Outreach on the vegan response to all beings’ health and climate happens SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER – because the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey Environmental Commission is connecting the dots.

The group hosts this year’s Vegan Fest at Lower Columbia Park. The event starts at 10am. Bold Arts will offer creative dancing for kids, while educational sessions focus on health and the environment. I’ll be a climate panelist (11am-12pm).

Sustainable Berkeley Heights is also a host and organizer of the Vegan Fest, which happens in Lower Columbia Park, 411 Plainfield Avenue, New Jersey, behind Columbia Middle School.

Come back on Sunday 22 September for the vegan cook-off.

Apocalypse Fatigue: How Do You Cope?

We’ve been hearing a lot about what will happen in 2050 if humans don’t change our ways.

Make that 2021.

As far as our abilities and circumstances permit, we must change the way we think and live.

The change must be radical — root-level.

The change must encompass deep empathy and awareness.

This is our challenge if we live on Earth now.

‘Unprecedented’: more than 100 Arctic wildfires burn in worst ever season

After posting an update similar to this on Facebook, I took a look at my vegan friends’ replies: It’s already too late.

It’s True, of Course. We Can’t Go Back.

For so many aspects of the Anthropocene, it is — quite suddenly — way too late to turn back the clock.

Still, I want to live by that adage about planting the tree even if we know the world will end tomorrow.

In fact, better than planting the tree is leaving the trees where they are in the first place. As vegans, that’s essentially what we do.

Even if the world as we know it will end tomorrow.

Ethics Count Anyway.

There are reasons, I suspect, that we have an ethical faculty, and we strive to heed its guidance.

We are, at the end of the day, embodied energy in the universe. We’d do well to represent what we most respect — flawed and confounded though we might be.

Never before has a generation faced what we’re facing now. Sure, the Anthropocene was put in motion long ago. But here we are, the late-20th and early 21st century people, witnessing the results.

Let me ask. How are you coping, as an aware vegan on the edge of the human-driven bio/geological breakdown?

While there is still so much to love, protect, respect, admire, enjoy, adore. While it is never too late to love.

Of Course, Vegans Felt the Trauma All Along.

We knew we’d lost the aurochs forever, while purpose-bred cattle cover the world.

We saw pet shops and pet supply stores smother the land that was once the home of the wolves and wildcats — free-living forebears of pets.

We knew the cattle, the calves, the pigs, the birds, and sometimes horses too, were passing by, a stone’s throw away on the ever-widened roadways, en route to their death at the hands of tired and injured workers.

We knew about the animals caged in university labs. We knew the zoos had captured polar bears and orcas, the federal government was killing free-living carnivores by the hundreds of thousands, and dolphins were forced into everything from TV acting to “assisted therapy” to fancy dinner entertainment. We knew we’d exhausted the bees.

We Became Aware of Our Membership in the Master Class.

So, some time ago, our unconscious allegiance to our own kind turned into conscious critique.

And the pain of a conscious and critical mind, we knew, is nothing like the pain the animals feel. We came to know survivor’s guilt as an unspoken element of the vegan experience.

After the fabulous vegan food was cleared off the table, we went home and thought to ourselves: The most vital nourishment is understanding, support, and love from another who knows.

It still is.

A few years ago I wrote:

Consider that a transformation of our human identity will spare us, and every other biological community on Earth, from enduring an endless string of gradually or abruptly worsening emergencies whose roots we fail to address. Consider, if you will, relinquishing the human assumption that the Earth is ours.

That’s new territory. We’re going to need skills. We’re going to need each other.


Banner photo: Jacqueline Godany, via Unsplash. Chart: U.S. Department of Energy via NOAA. Not sure who deserves credit for the term “apocalypse fatigue”; but the term’s been around at least a decade.

Eating Flesh: How Do We Frame The Question?

A debate is running about what humans will eat when we stop eating meat.

Why? Our most sustainable protein on Earth is the bean. Beans, lentils, and peas grow in harsh climates with little water, in financially poor regions. They self-fertilize, capturing nitrogen from the air and fixing it in the soil, so they don’t need the synthetic fertilizers that are running off the land and killing the ocean.

Yet some vegans, of all people, are promoting “clean meat” that is actual flesh, made in the lab from real animal cells. No doubt most readers will have heard some self-identified vegans touting this new future of food.

Do they have a point? This is a matter of question framing. And I think we need to lay out what the questions are.

Read on…


Banner photo credit: Niklas Rhöse, via Unsplash.

A Job to Do

The laws of New York City permit renters to have guide dogs or service dogs despite no-pet clauses in their leases. And New York City renters with chronic mental illnesses may have emotional assistance animals. (NY Civil Rights Law § 47-b.)

What does this say about our failure to find ways, even in the densest of human communities, to look after each other?

And what does it say about our regard for animals we claim to breed as “a member of the family”?

Ellie Moffat of the Vegan Justice League says:

I have told another vegan, about dogs used as K-9 or seeing-eye dogs, that I think it’s wrong. He said that a dog is happiest who has a job to do. But it must be awful for dogs who sit around all day inside the house in the suburbs waiting for their owner to get home.

Step back and regard the pattern here. We human beings have every sort of justification for breeding domestic animals onto this planet in ever greater numbers. Animals not just to eat, but also to herd the animals we eat, or clear our lawns of geese, or guard us, or amuse us, or lend us emotional assistance. These animals who perform “assistance” roles for us embody the hijacked genetic lineage of the free-living animal communities. The cats and the wolves who once walked over deserts and tundras on their terms.

We’d never personally hunt wolves or undomesticated cats. Shall we, though, agree to the trapping of their wild hearts, trophy-like, into living beings whose purpose is to amuse, guard, or console us?

Ellie continues:

I feel like a service pet has a sad life. I’ve seen service dogs with signs on them that say Do not pet me or Ignore me. I’ve also seen service dogs whose owners couldn’t possibly ever play with them. I live by the Family Court building. When I walk by the K-9 unit cop car, the dog in there is always alone in the parked car viciously barking. Happy dogs don’t act like that.

They don’t.

To the deeper point, animals were not put on this planet to come to our physical or emotional rescue—whether we classify it as crime prevention, services for disabilities, or a broader, often more “happy” companionship role that pets typically serve.

Veganism is offended by support for the concept of service pets. This is clear, given the vegan principle’s opposition to human dominion, of which domestication of the wolves and the forest cats are harrowing examples.

If we’re asked what we think of dogs who perform any specific services, vegans need to offer cogent answers.

And we probably need to think a lot more thinking about how we ourselves can create safety, companionship, and emotional assistance in our human communities.


Banner image: Gabriel Forsberg via Unsplash.

What to Do on Kentucky Derby Day

We humans excel at making use of other animals, extracting wealth through that use, exhausting them, disposing of them. This week, the 145th Kentucky Derby will showcase these habits.

Frivolous, frenzied pressure surrounds the horse called Omaha Beach, who is dubbed most likely to win. Because the racing industry is all about ROI, this horse and the others will run so hard their lungs bleed. Racetracks use a diuretic called Lasix to stop the horses from bleeding through their noses.

UPDATE: Just three days before the 2019 Kentucky Derby, Omaha Beach was removed from the race, having come down with breathing problems associated with a trapped epiglottis. Inflammation of airway structures can cause a horse’s epiglottis to get stuck in folds of tissue, according to Equus Magazine.

Trainer Richard Mandella calls Omaha Beach “a kind horse. A horse that’s easy to be around.” Evidently we are just sensitive enough to perceive kindness in the other animals—even as we amuse ourselves at their expense. Even as horses continue to die in professional racing. Fatalities include Kentucky Derby horses Barbaro (April 29, 2003 – January 29, 2007) and Eight Belles (February 23, 2005 – May 3, 2008)…

And as long as the horse breeding business exists, so will the auctions and the killer buyers. Tens of thousands of horses, including racehorses, go to slaughter each year. With horse slaughter disallowed in the United States (it stopped in 2006), the unwanted animals just get a longer, more excruciating journey over the Canadian and Mexican borders for a slaughter. Don’t kid yourself about this. That $3 million purse isn’t buying sanctuaries for four-year old horses, either.

The racetrack industry is under scrutiny for drugging horses in the Triple Crown events. HR 1754, the Horse Racing Integrity Act, would create a nationwide standard for testing in racing horses, implemented by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Churchill Downs, Inc. opposes the Horse Racing Integrity Act. The major animal-advocacy groups back the bill.

Given the temptation to push boundaries to win, the racing industry will keep tormenting horses—drugs or no drugs. If we’d ask serious questions, we’d find no integrity exists in horse racing.

And this Saturday’s Derby would be the last.

This Saturday, let’s all refuse to don bonnets. Let’s decline to stick mint leaves in glasses. Let’s stop making light of this event, making bets on this event, and allowing its realities to go unmentioned. Let’s act upon a baseline of decency, speak up in our social circles, and start treating horse racing as the blood sport it is.