About Lee Hall

A commitment to a great cause is a solid foundation to build our inner lives upon, and also one virtually guaranteed to bring turbulence into the course of our lives. This is an experimental diary. If things go well, it'll help myself and others on a parallel course. See you at veganplace.wordpress.com

Over Thanksgiving

Here we are again. Time for traditional family convocations, violently superimposed over older traditions, older communities. And here again, as in every year for years running, this day named for gratitude is enveloped in political distrust and ethical chaos.

I’ll visit someone who needs a visit, who used to live next door. Then I’ll be at SuTao vegan restaurant, insulated, liberated, nourished, and deeply grateful. If you are vegan or becoming vegan, I’m grateful for you, too, and your intrepid hope. Thanks for your faith in your personal potential. Thanks for refusing to disrespect life. Thanks for declining to slaughter, conquer, or wall life off.

Whose Tradition?

We’ve regained a sense of stability at our vegan tables. And yet, for us too, there’s more to acknowledge. What is Thanksgiving’s message for the people dragged against their will to this continent? Or for those who lived here long before it became the “New World”?

With each passing year we learn more about this holiday’s chain of title. About the Black truth-tellers who renamed it a day of mourning. About the Indigenous people robbed of their own traditions and personhood.

At the 1637 Pequot Massacre, English colonizers orchestrated the killing of hundreds of Indigenous adults and kids, and the burning of their village. The colonizers began giving thanks annually for their own successful migration, which erased cultures and traditions that had evolved over ten thousand years. According to Philadelphia Magazine:

Thanksgiving was made an official federal holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, less than a year after he authorized what remains to this day the nation’s largest ever mass execution — the hanging of 38 Sioux men in Mankato, Minnesota in December 1862.

Since 1970, First Nations people have gathered for a day of mourning every Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock. All told, the United States has taken more than 1.5 billion acres of Indigenous land.

And the site of the Pequot Massacre, now Mystic, Connecticut, is today packed with tourist draws, including “encounters” with captive beluga whales, rays, Harbour seals, California sea lions, and African penguins.

Two Hundred and Forty Miles South of Mystic…

In the town of Wayne, Pennsylvania, within walking distance from where I live (if you want to risk being hit by a speeding car), is a Post Office mural. Brightened by spotlights, it shows the triumph of General Anthony Wayne over the dying body of an Indigenous human being.

An eagle glorifies the conquest. A bridled horse waits to carry the general to the next act in a grand drama of colonial looting. The artifacts would turn up, one day, in museum displays.

The town on the Philadelphia Main Line once called Louella became Wayne, in tribute to the local Revolutionary leader and Indian fighter. Here are those words on commemorative signage. This is how history gets twisted up and how our minds do.

We need to reclaim our minds and our time. In this spirit, let me share words that Lynn Kennedy posted on this blog and I’ve repeated in years past. Lynn works in the area of mental wellness and substance use with Indigenous people in what’s now called Canada.

The effects of colonization continue to impact current generations. Across North America, more and more people are being awakened to the injustices being done to Indigenous peoples and people of colour and are speaking out against the injustices being wrought on these peoples. I hope this extends to the continued barbaric injustices to farmed animals, and the impact on our natural world and our collective futures.

With that same hope, I’ll offer this recipe for Cashew Nut Roast. Robin Lane gave it to me 39 years ago. I was 22 and just turned vegan. I’ve made it yearly, ever since. For me, it turns an unthinking celebration of false memories into a healthful insistence on learning from the truth-tellers.

Healthful and Humane Roast

It starts with two cups of coarsely crushed cashews, like this. (Crushing the cashews can easily be done by hand, by carefully running a rolling pin or jar over bagged nuts.)

In addition to the cashews, we need:

4 ounces of dry brown rice

6 ounces of rye toast crumbs—including the caraway seeds (or add a dash of celery seed)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 large, ripe tomatoes

4 tablespoons (organic) olive oil

Up to ¼ cup (organic) vegetable broth (depends on the consistency you prefer)

2 teaspoons brewer’s yeast

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried thyme

A squeeze of lemon and a pinch of ground pepper

OK! Now cook the rice until it’s tender and mix it with the ground cashews. Chop the onion and garlic and heat those up in your oiled pan to slightly brown them; chop and add one of the tomatoes; simmer it all until it’s soft and add a wee bit of broth.

Combine all of the above ingredients to press into two loaf pans or glass pie baking dishes. Slice the second tomato and use to decorate the top, sprinkle pepper over the tomatoes on top, then bake for 30 minutes or a bit longer at 350 degrees F / 175 C. Cut the cashew nut roast into slices to serve as a main dish, or make it a side dish as an alternative to bready stuffing.

Enjoy! May the turkeys stay free, living, evolving, in the web of life. Each day, for them and for us, is an important day. May we visit someone who needs a visit, walk gently through the woods, and celebrate life, which unfolds every day, despite our society’s perennial quest for stuff(ing). And may we contemplate how, in such a busy world, an honestly humane humanity can gather together, and what we will say to each other when we do.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

Today Is World Vegan Day. Here’s What (I Think) It Means.

Defining veganism in 1951, proponents explicitly connected their vegetarianism with a liberation call, based on a stated conviction that humanity has no right to exploit other living, feeling communities.

The results they sought? Honestly humane agriculture. And the rise of a movement to stop humanity from continuing to derail other animals’ evolution.

Donald Watson said the vegan movement would be essential to any future on Earth that includes humanity. We’re here and we’re human, so let’s do this thing.

Happy World Vegan Day, friends.

Continue reading here.

Image source: The Vegan Society

We’d Be Better Without the Border

Ghost Robotics trained the robot dogs near El Paso, where the conditions—oxygen depletion, dangerous heat—are known to overwhelm border guards. An announcement for the project from the Department of Homeland Security is peppered with inane dog jokes.

Consider the depths of this profanity. The borderlands once belonged to the indigenous people of Mexico, and to the coyotes and wolves, to the agave-feeding nectar bats. And to the pronghorn—antelope-like beings who cannot jump fences.

Is it any accident that the Real ID Act of 2005, by which the U.S. government imposes its authority over state identification cards, allows the waiving of federal, state, and local environmental laws on the borderlands?

Full article published today at CounterPunch.

Photography: pexels.com/@davidpeinado

“The Deer Aren’t Wearing Kevlar® Vests!” A Word on Gun Control in the United States

Gun control advocates are quick to insist that they’re not interfering with hunting and hunters. On 60 Minutes this week, again, Joe Biden repeated the punchline: We can do without military-grade rifles; the deer aren’t wearing Kevlar® vests! Ha ha ha. We can explode deer bodies with regular old guns, so come on, man! Let’s just ban the assault weapons!

When we understand ourselves in, and as, animal life…we know the gun debate is indeed about hunting. Targeting people in a grocery store, or stalking deer in the suburban woods… it’s a continuum. We the People have a penchant for treating other lives as our targets. 

Some beings are more targeted than others. Whether one is placed in the crosshairs because of foreignness, race, class, species, or other perceived vulnerability, all are the subjects of ruthless de-personhood. 

The Warning Calls of Prairie Dogs

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson wrote, in the Foreword to On Their Own Terms – Animal Liberation:

…I considered the warning calls of prairie dogs. They include one to announce that a human is approaching, yet another when a human approaches with a gun.

Finding out about others without desiring to use or have them, intimidate or subordinate them may be the hardest thing of all for humans to do.

I write this from Pennsylvania, where the greedy lobbyists for Sunday hunting (they always make claims about the revenue hunting brings to the Commonwealth) recently got what they wanted.

When we reverse this bloody thinking, when we work to designate parks and their surroundings as gun- and trap-free zones, we stand for the birthright of conscious, living living beings, human or non-, to prevail over the gunmakers.

I dream of the day that guns (along with whips, jail cells, bird cages, spurs, bombs, and fishing poles) may only be found in museums. As a vegan, I work for the day.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

Persuasion (How Did I Change and Why Won’t They?)

How do you persuade other people to be vegan?, vegans ask.

Why won’t the people closest to me go vegan?

What is it about some people? You can tell them the truth, but they 

just… 

won’t… 

change.

How do you let people know that there’s something they’ve yet to know?

Only when I became vegan did I really “get” what I believe. 

  • Feminism.
  • Anti-racism.
  • Respect for migrants. 
  • Class-consciousness. 
  • Any and every commitment to renounce domination dynamics. 

Only when I became vegan did I understand the rejection of mastership at the deepest level. It meant relinquishing an all-purpose privilege I wielded every day of my life.  

Strange How People Seek Protection in Their Right to Domineer.

They don’t want to give up what makes them great. Human exceptionalism is a lot like patriotism. 

Sometimes, people say they can’t part with a tradition that’s always been woven into the cultural fabric. They don’t want to feel like the loose thread.

All of this is unspoken. And it’s generally off-limits to discussion. Thus the notion that vegans won’t shut up about veganism. (Popular joke: How can you tell someone is vegan? Don’t worry; they’ll tell you.) 

But people talk about domination of animals and biocommunities all the time. Without noticing. As they engage in their everyday activities.

Vegans cannot help but seem vocal when we refuse to take part.

Is Veganism a Rejection of Culture?

Culture has many beautiful, transcendent aspects—social, artistic, political, philosophical, material. Culture develops and binds us through the centuries. We admire it. We’re proud of it. 

Culture has a troublesome inner lining, and that’s our sense of our own supremacy.

Step outside the privilege, and we can sense that we haven’t earned culture. We’ve perverted it.

I think we can appreciate culture, yet shake ourselves apart from it. True understanding will do that. It’s transformative. It’s the paradigm shift within. You can’t have it and not act on it, and you’ll be acting contrary to culture.  

Know this, really know this, and you’re not comfortable presenting veganism at a superficial level. You’ll give up your potential for popularity or career advancement rather than become the “soft seller” who calls for “steps in the right direction” and talks of adjustments to the system as great victories.

Some say people don’t want to contemplate change at the deepest level. By silencing radical (root-level) calls for change, they miss their own internal opportunity for a paradigm shift.

Here’s what I’d like to ask of every vegan I know. Understand veganism as deeply as you can. Impart it to someone else at that same, transformative level. Go for the low-hanging fruit in situations where there’s no other path, yet never lose the yearning to touch one soul and spark transformative change.

Simplicity Takes a Lot of Work.

The more I think, speak, and write (but mostly think), the more I believe I can be most useful by being clear. No jargon, no coined terms except vegan

I want to live as a messenger for the few things I understand and commit to. So I think that’s key. Making a radical and urgent message clear and simple.

Because if we think we know a meaningful and urgent thing, and want to spread the message, shouldn’t we strive to explain simply, with clarity? Rather than speaking in jargon or telling others they don’t understand the issue, we’ve got to explain, and explain simply. Simplicity, for humans, is an achievement. It takes a lot of work to identify a principle’s key elements.

Science Is Real…

Yet, contemplating most important things, our grasp of science falls short. Consider climate breakdown. Consider the chaotic and delicate interplays of biocommunities. If there is no striving for a deep, ethically powered understanding of a subject, then scientific breakthroughs serve as setbacks.

We live in a society that believes profit can drive innovation and engineering can fix our problems. And that many of us can enrich ourselves in this life by gravitating to whatever profiteering generates and holding on.

Other beings lose habitat and find their lives in turbulence as we plunder Earth and manipulate its living beings. All in the name of finding solutions to the new problems we create as we solve the old ones.

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson says our original sin is pseudospeciation—which, to Jeffrey, means the belief that we are superior. That belief in our own primacy led us to domesticate others.

Arguably that sin is past the possibility of redemption. But if we never question it, then no matter how great our culture was, or how ingenious our engineering was, we’ll pass back into the universe numbly, no better for all we witnessed in all the days of our unexamined Earthly lives.

______

Banner photo by le vy

Sea-Greenwashing… One of Those “Realistic” Sustainability Ploys

Even fancy journal articles and stuff from climate think tanks tell us U.S. Americans love our cars, trucks, animal products, and lawns too much to change. They say policy makers must confine their planning to “realistic” responses.

But we’re grownups. We can accept that affluence based on destruction is meritless and unsatisfying. We can acknowledge that our consumption patterns affect what’s produced and what policy makers do and say. And we can change. We can live our lives based on the principles of caring, respect, and simplicity. We can stop investing in hype-addled surrogates, and become nature conservancies ourselves.

The above is an excerpt from my full article, published today in CounterPunch.

Power to the Peacemakers: This Is Vegan Action

One of the key ideas I derive from veganism is its stance of conscientious objection to all war: human-on-human, and human-on-nonhuman. I think it’s important to develop this principle because it speaks to how vegans show up in the world.  

Militant vegan advocacy strikes me as an oxymoron. I’m not a vegan because we are fighting. I am vegan because we are cultivating. This is not passivity. I think of cultivating as an active, creative, sustainable and strong approach to advocacy.

The thoughts below are asymmetrical and partially stream-of-consciousness. Your comments, including pushback, are welcome, and will inform my thoughts. Thank you for reading, for thinking, and for commenting as and when you’re so moved.  

🌻

The Gender Factor Has to Be Checked 

Let me say there is nothing essential about maleness, in my opinion. My approach is feminist, but I do not subscribe to the notion that gender is a firm binary. Gender is fluid; it’s contextual; it’s a performance by which we, to the extent our society allows freedom of expression, define ourselves. I am not assuming anyone has a set personality or advocacy style related to a set gender.  

That said…

If we wanted to perpetuate a movement in which male activists controlled most situations (and I’m talking about my culture’s traditionally conceptualized “manliness”), then we should do a militant movement. We should do everything we can to promote vigilante justice, take on the system, and overcome it by force. 

Non-male human beings and nonhuman beings tend to lose out when force is the way goals are met. We should stop glorifying forceful heroics and start crediting the cultivation, the nourishing, the collaborative work, and the mutual aid. 

🌻

The Capitalists Control the Weapons

Here’s an example of an online claim that our movement must be militant:

The capitalist sytem is the enemy. We’ll never get justice for animals without toppling the corporate-run society. Millions of companies exploit animals. They’ll never accept an abolitionist movement. Justice must be done by force. I’m trying to start a revolution here and free farm animals. People need to stop being so [ableist word].

We’re going to topple the government and industries? So, we burst into the boardroom of X-Ploiter & Co. and tell them we stand for animal liberation and we’re calling the shots. 

Even if the board members wanted to cut off their corporation’s connection with animal use, they can’t. What will the activists do? Shoot them all? 

Allow ourselves to be provoked into choosing militancy, and we feed State violence. Police and the military provoke dissidents to violence, because that’s where they have an advantage over dissidents. Then, the police state grows stronger and broader and incapacitates more activism.

🌻

The Importance of Knowing Our Goals

Even in some alternate world where militants could overpower the police, what’s the next society supposed to look like? We can destroy the economy and have our veganism in a torn-down culture, where we haven’t laid the new groundwork for fair modes of provision and exchange. What could possibly go wrong?

And to “free” commerically bred animals isn’t the vegan goal. Commerically bred animals can’t achieve freedom from human keepers. Freedom for animals raised in confinement would be abandonment. And it’s the kind of thing that wreaks havoc on biocommunities. 

In short, freedom for domesticated animals is a contradiction in terms. In a vegan scenario, human-dependent animals would stop being bred into dependency.

The vegan ideal promotes and defends untamed, naturally evolving animal communities. 

This point is not pedantry. Using force for a goal that doesn’t make sense makes the use of force more wasteful still.

🌻

The Importance of Not Getting Sidelined

As Donald Watson’s cohort did, vegans can work on creative vegan projects and keep putting our diverse talents to work as a positive force.

If we’re sidelined by the State, our cultivation is sidelined as well. When asked in an interview about direct action, Watson spoke to this point:

To use an analogy, I sometimes see, when on my walks, people climbing up vertical cliffs with their ropes and I sometimes think, there is an alternative way of getting to the top and getting the view, by just going a few hundred yards sideways, and walking up a valley. 

…if people want challenges, there is no shortage of sensible, humane, safe, challenges to get engaged in. I would never take up rock-climbing, and dangle on the end of a rope, that might be weak in one spot. The strength of a chain is its weakest link, and so is the strength of a rope, and if that rope breaks, as inevitably, I think it will, sooner or later, I would probably get killed. And then I wouldn’t be able to proceed with whatever peaceful work I’m on earth to do. 

There’s something to be said for being able to proceed with whatever peaceful work we’re on earth to do.

🌻

When Militancy Ascends, Principle Is Drowned Out 

When members of any group engage in their worst conduct when they act for their cause, there are others left frustrated, unheard, and concerned that what’s drawing the most negative attention is being mistaken for the ethic.

I’m not talking about people who sabotage blood sports. I’m not talking about people who hold signs up to disrupt a circus or rodeo. Most of these activists are engaged in acts of public education or actually interrupting an act of violence. 

I’m talking about people who want to convince me that society can be scared or forced into ending their own habits of terror and force. 

Transgressions meant to scare or harm others are wrongs, even if the end goal is righteous. Why be intimidating? Why promote the ability to exert force as the way to righteousness? 

We have finite energy and time, and we can use it to create messages that shift mindsets. Because yes, we can get allies to go vegan. There are plenty of opportunities to create. Marches. Art. Talks. Writings and educational activism. Start by getting everyone who is forward-thinking on board. 

This is not a battle to fight. This is a human identity to cultivate. Because veganism works. Over the course of four decades, I’ve witnessed it daily. Veganism inspires people. Veganism transforms lives. Veganism is direct action.

🌻

Time Is Short and the Vegan Message Needs Cultivation

It’s not a controversial ask: Be vegan and act with respect because it’s better than oppressive relationships, poor nourishment, and ecological degradation. It’ll be good for everyone. 

Vegans will undermine human supremacy person by person, in a way intimidation by its very makeup can never do. One day we’ll wake up and products made in connection with our dominion over animals and nature will be the rarity, not the norm. Then government will lose excuses to subsidize them.

Extinctions, mass exploitation and killing, and the immediate dangers to individual beings are URGENT. I understand, and I feel this sense of URGENCY every day, every hour I’m alive. I’m not arguing for a slow pace. I’m saying progress will happen faster if we offer a message others can understand. 

I’m saying other people’s decision to relinquish their master role will not come from shame or intimidation. It will involve a change of heart, a shift in our collective psychology. 

In that vital sense, there is no enemy. We’re all in this ethical question together: Is Homo sapiens entitled to dominate and use the rest of the planet’s inhabitants?

Vegans will prevail if humanity survives. Domination of nature will fall away if humanity cultivates an identity that can thrive in harmony with Earth’s web of life.

If you have made it down to this point, thank you so much for spending your valuable time reading these thoughts. I might add another part later to explore the legal elements of the tactics question. But at the moment I need to concentrate on slides to present at the Vegan Climate Summit!

Love and liberation,

Lee.

Those Cute Lambs

Vegan leaflets often include cute, vulnerable animals like lambs. How could you eat an innocent lamb, the leaflet asks? 

I agree with the sentiment; it strikes me as cruel indifference to imagine a young sheep and think, So what? I’ll have the rack of lamb.

And yet every time we see a cute lamb, vulnerability is further embedded in our collective psyche…

Read the full article here.


Banner photo source.

On Their Own Terms: Eighteen Nutshell Narratives

This is a narration of the 2016 book On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century, abridged and adapted for audio, and read by author Lee Hall in 2022.

Although quotations are left as they were written, this work is created with a commitment to gender-free language as far as possible.


Here’s One Audio File With the Combined Nutshell Narratives


And below is an index of links for each of the 18 nutshell narratives making up On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century in audio form. 

Feedback (positive, building-on, or critique) welcome. I’ll be listening to the combined, 1-hour-and-52-minute audio file now that it’s posted as one piece. If you find anything that could be clearer, let me know. The beauty of indy-publishing this is that glitches can be fixed!

NUTSHELL NARRATIVES (2022)

  • ABOUT THIS BOOK: “About This Book” lays out the book’s context and why it needs to exist. This is the first of a series of nutshell narratives putting each chapter into audible form.
  • FOREWORD by Dr. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson: “Finding out about others without desiring to use or have them, intimidate or subordinate them may be the hardest thing of all for humans to do.”

PART ONE: TO CARE, AND TO BE FAIR

~* AN INTERLUDE OF GRATITUDE *~

PART TWO: TO LIBERATE 

APPENDICES

  • Appendix 1: A Liberation Workshop. If you believe the work of radical change starts with a written plan, here is a possible template.
  • Appendix 2: Making Vegan Guides and Leaflets. Thoughts on creating an intro to veganism for the vegan-curious.
  • Appendix 3: Veganism Defined. Updated language for the classic 1951 pledge of allegiance to our planetmates.

Find Me at the Vegan Climate Summit

FRIDAY, 22 JULY 2022, 8-11 PM (EDT: the New York/Toronto time zone).

Let’s converse about the diet-climate connection and go deeper still. Why do we assign ourselves the right to displace habitat with systems that are not only massive emitters, but also massively aggressive to the natural web of life?

Human domination of the planet is the big issue we need to address. It’s also the most entrenched problem humanity has ever had to face.

But we cannot go on living as we are. We need to rethink our identity as a species on a living planet.

Please come to the Second Annual Vegan Climate Summit if you can. It would be great to see you there.

To register, tap “Going” on this event page.

Event co-ordinator Kyle Luzynski of Project Animal Freedom is a patron of the Art of Animal Liberation. Project Animal Freedom has a very gutsy goal: cultivating a fully vegan Midwestern U.S. by 2056 through a strategic, chapter-based system.