I post this as I’m about to go off to see 600 or so other Vegetable People at the North American Vegetarian Society’s annual Summerfest.
I love being part of the vegetarian movement. Vegan comprises the beginning and ending letters of vegetarian. The vegans have always been around the movement, insisting that it apply its principle consistently. In 1944, a few members the Vegetarian Society in England went out on a limb and publicly objected to the confusion in the wider Vegetarian Society membership about the use of animal milk. They formed the vegan offshoot expressly to bring vegetarianism to its logical conclusion.
The vegans weren’t discussing “food choices”; they were talking about commitment. They aspired to a society in which no one would think of oppressing or not as a choice. They refused to take a seat on the throne over all creation. They rejected our identity as Earth’s grand apex predator—a role that has never belonged to us.
John Wesley, vegetarian founder of Methodism, articulated the vegetarians’ rejection of all forms of human-privileged bullying:
I am persuaded you are not insensible to the pain given to every Christian, every human heart, by those savage diversions, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, horse racing, and hunting. Can any of these irrational and unnatural sports appear otherwise than cruel, unless through early prejudice, or entire want of consideration and reflection?
Readers interested in a broad-brush yet brief history of the vegetarians can take a look at the overview I wrote a few years back for the Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice.
So this week, in keeping with the best of vegetarian thinking, the North American Vegetarian Society’s annual Summerfest, a five-day conference in Johnstown, Pennsylvnia which draws upwards of 600 people, expressly dedicates itself to helping vegans and aspiring vegans find friendship and support. I’m giving several presentations this week, and two will be audio-visual. Below, two brief summaries. Looking forward to seeing some of you. Whether or not you come to Johnstown, please feel welcome to comment here.
Love and liberation,
Farms and Fish: Is “Organic, Sustainable” a “Step”?
Thursday 3 July at 10.00 a.m.
Everyone’s talking about reducing their “footprint” (or “foodprint”). “Local” and “sustainable” are the buzzwords of the day. But what changes are actually occurring; and are they meaningful? Turns out the changes are often meaningful, but not in a good way.
Half of people questioned in a survey said they are willing to pay more for “sustainable” labels—quite a few of these folks were willing to pay a 20% markup. So companies want to get in on the action, and this sector, which is supported by charity heavyweights, has actually displaced old methods and is driving a damaging global market for fish feed crops, as fish farming is poised to double by the middle of the century. I’ll explain the difference between, on one hand, buying “sustainable seafood” and “local” or “free-range” or “grassfed” or “organic” animal products, and, on the other hand, opting out in terms of real effects. This presentation will show the effects of our decisions with the varnish of corporate hogwash removed.
Vegetarian Responses to Climate Change, and How to Explain Them in Ordinary Conversations
Saturday 5 July at 10.00 a.m.
Completing a second law degree, this time in environmental law, has informed me intensively on climate change. Being vegan has also informed me; the first climate talk I gave at Summerfest was a plenary ten years ago. Now, to put all this together, with up-to-the-moment climate knowledge, for a one-hour session (including participants’ questions and feedback)!
Climate is a big subject. But we can focus it with a few key insights and ideas. In this session I’ll provide some easy-to-remember conversation points, and bring the latest knowledge into a format useful for everyday decisions. This session will also include a discussion of why the main purported solutions—whether high technology, cutting back, or eating “local”—aren’t cutting it at all, and what kind of grassroots leadership is needed and possible at this point.
Thanks to Robin Lane of the London Vegan Festival for unearthing John Wesley’s quote, which comes from WORKS: Rev. J. Wesley’s Journal (1756) at page 612. Photo credit: Jason Pompilius.