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

Wisdom We Have Forsaken: Jack McMillan on the Covid Crisis

So tired of it all, all the endless “debate” and confusion and angst about this current Covid crisis. It’s making me dizzy. 

It’s real, and we are dealing with it I guess best we can…or not. And it will play itself out as it will, in spite of how bogged down we are in all the confusions and all these competing theories and all the varied and disparate solutions surrounding this real yet unreal crisis. We’re all enmeshed in the tertiary branches of this unfolding saga of chaos and confusion, which is understandable, yet we also need to think about the deeper existential crisis facing us, and try going to some of the roots of our obvious dysfunctionalities as a society and as a species.  The real crisis, beneath the surface of this one, seems to me to be how we have given up our authority to think and feel for ourselves and tap into our own inner wisdoms about life, from which come simple revelations and even simpler answers. We are totally alienated from our connection to life and nature. We are living in a closed system of human alienation from the Earth, stuck in the prison of our out-of-control brains disconnected from the simplicity and wisdom of our hearts. Mind informing heart instead of heart informing mind.

And within that disconnect, we have become, as a collective, lost in space and swirling in a tower of babble, now in its current iteration over this virus. But it’s been going on for at least 10,000 years, this babble and disconnect, ever since we stopped being humble mammals on this Earth, and decided to leave nature and subdue, commodify, and dominate “it”, and our fellow animal beings whom we have recast as “its”. 

“It” “worked, for thousands of years, while we always had new frontiers to exploit, whether of other lands, other peoples, or other fellow animal beings, and we could always export our war on life, and import the spoils. And we are now so disconnected from our hearts, and our immediate sensibilities, that we do not even notice, or care about, the ravages in our wake, or that we slaughter over 70 billion fellow animals per year, over 150 million every hour, and trillions of marine beings, for mere titillation of the taste bud. And yet we tell ourselves, in an ultimate of conceit and arrogance, that we are oh-so-kind and caring. As we willfully continue our assault on life, and remain steeped in our prevarications when the Earth and the animals, and now a Covid, ask “What are you doing!?”

But now we have run out of new worlds and new victims to oppress. And it is now coming full circle and closing in on us. Like an organism that has walled itself off from its natural input-throughput relationship to the greater sustaining whole, and begins feeding on itself with a cancer of dis-ease, and in a pilot’s death-spiral, mired in a delusion and an illusion of an altitude of superiority, all the while steering ourselves, in an increasingly rapid descent, toward inevitable annihilation of both self and the mountain.

And on the way to that, we have all manner of self-made crises — coronavirus, climate chaos, species extinction, massive biodiversity loss, looming ecosystems collapse, world hunger, resource wars, ocean death…and on and on and on, while we fiddle and quibble.

What’s the underlying cause of it all? Connect all the dots and we can easily see that it is our arrogant sense of superiority, our hierarchical thinking, and our other-ization of those we perceive to be “lower” than us, who we can then objectify and commodify. Stripped of their personhood, we close them off from our hearts and from any consideration of their sovereign and sacred interests.  

It starts with fellow animal beings we so easily brutalize, and moves on to the Earth “it”self, in a wanton assault to serve our misperceived needs. And it then extends into our human realm, with all manner of injustices heaped upon those we perceive as of lesser “value”. And then it all comes full circle back to us, living in a world of massive injustice and misery and stress and chaos, and existential angst that seeps into our very souls.

Look closely and you will see that everything we have done to the outside world comes back to us and becomes externalized and internalized in our own collective and individual worlds. The suffering and misery and chaos we sow returns to us. And still we twiddle and quibble.  

Bottom line, all the looming crises and issues and problems we see and fret about, and protest and rail about in a sinking futility stem from one source: Our massive failure of heart and compassion toward the “other”, and a refusal to see and feel how the “other” is us, and one and the same.

We talk about humanity being “one big family” but we don’t really believe that or feel that. We talk about having respect for the Earth and fellow animals, and we doubly do not really believe or feel that, and we wage war on both, and then war on each other in a reap of our disconnect.  

Then we say, we must solve human issues first. But that is upside down thinking. “As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields” (Tolstoy). It must start there. We will never have peace and harmony in the human realm as long as we massively violate the laws of peace and harmony by brutalizing our fellows. And it then becomes, by simple extension of that mindset and heart-set, easy to brutalize and exploit our fellows that are human animals, and our fellow Earth.

As we have seen and experienced now for eons, all our talk and “efforts” of “peace” and “justice” has only amounted to an ever-increasing babble of lament over the failures of same. Perhaps it is time to recognize that our humanocentric approach to life and problems IS the problem in the first place. An approach borne of self-consumed selfishness. “Remote from universal nature”, it can only feed upon itself, and its host. Perhaps it is time to flip the script upside down.  

The slogan “Earth First!” meant something, and something deep. As in a family, altruism is what gives life and sustains the life of the family. “For it is a giving without hope of getting” (Cross). Yet the giving returns the getting 10-fold. It’s the magic of it, in a beautiful revelation of the wisdom of life itself. All it takes is a leap of faith into it. No babble needed.

Fellow animals and the Earth first? Compassion and altruism just might do the trick, where singular human-centered selfishness has failed, throughout all these ages of futility, now closing in on us and the world.

So here we are, caught up in the next virus of our selfishness of insensitivity, and the beat goes on.  

This coronavirus is just the babble of a perversion of another word of exactly the same letters — CARNIVOROUS — now scrambled into a prevarication of the truth that is right in front of us and that has been calling to us for so long now. We are all one. What we do to our fellow animals and the Earth is what we invariably end up doing to ourselves. Sow destruction and misery and murder, and, by the natural laws of life, it returns to us with a proper vengeance, 10-fold in a reverse terribleness of a wisdom we have forsaken.  

The current coronavirus is real. Yet it is just a concretization of something far deeper, and a manifestation of something far more vile. We can hammer away at that concrete, as we are doing, but all it is doing is creating a rubble we will stumble over and then rebuild with brick and mortar into the next monolith of our myopic mindlessness and ruthless heartlessness. Wake up, humans. What we sow we reap. And then what we reap we sow again, ad infinitum. We must stop railing against the reap while ignoring the sow.

And we have to stop making this so complicated. Want to end resource wars, stop climate change, end world hunger, avoid these zoonotic viruses, heal our Earth, create a healthy and just society, save fellow animals from our brutality, and heal our spiritual malaise? Just go vegan now — dietarily, ethically, environmentally, and justly. The rest will naturally take care of itself. Nothing short of that will ever bring peace and harmony to our world. Or end the babble of our discontent.  

—  Jack McMillan. Founding board member, Cleveland Vegan Society.

Banner photo: Adam Nieścioruk, via Unsplash.

Two-Minute Video Message for Earth Day

Earth Day is this coming week: Wednesday the 22nd of April. Maybe it’s fitting that so many of us will be staying at home.

Let our quarantine mean halting our continual invasions of nature, our trafficking of Earth’s other living communities…

Let us practise social distancing from the habitats of others.

Here is my message on YouTube.

Sunday 19 April: Veggie Pride Online

As you might remember, I march and speak at the NYC Veggie Pride Parade event annually and would normally be up in NYC this weekend! Well, now everyone can be present for the live, online event. Kudos to Maggie Sargent, with support from Joel Mittentag, for producing the event online. NEW DATE! To attend live online this Sunday, 19 April 2020, go here:

https://www.facebook.com/veggieprideNYC/

This will be a Facebook Watch Party… HERE IS THE LINEUP:

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Veggie Pride Parade banner by: Rachel Bea.

Examine Your Own Cultural Practices, Senator Cornyn

Senator John Cornyn, justifying Donald Trump’s use of “Chinese virus” and other inappropriate names for COVID-19, says:  

People eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that. These viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people, and that’s why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses.

But outside of making a case for veganism, who gets to call anyone out for animal use?

Kindly read my latest article for CounterPunch and share it further if you’re so inclined.

Vegans Coping With COVID-19

So, how is everybody this weekend?

My freezer is jammed with vegan Indian dinners that I got at Trader Joe’s before Friday the 13th, when a declared national state of emergency sunk in (and Tom Hanks got COVID-19: that was a big yikes! moment for the jetsetters of the Philly burbs). Suddenly, frozen items started selling out as fast as staffers could stock the freezers.

Starting yesterday our local vegan restaurant SuTao closed its doors for two weeks.

Vegan restaurants are generally small, independent businesses, and will be hit hard. Their staffers are unlikely to receive any of the federal government’s weirdly patchy emergency paid leave. (The bill, just passed, guarantees sick leave only to about 20% of workers. Staffers of big corporations including McDonald’s and Amazon are left out. Staffers of companies with fewer than 50 people will be left out because of exemptions. And the bill simply wasn’t drafted with independent businesses, tip-earning workers, high-turnover sectors, or artists and educators in mind.) Point is, most vegan-run businesses are taking a heavy hit. Kindly support them when they reopen.

I’ve had to stop work on planned public presentations as the college events aren’t happening. But I’m not the worst-off here. People who sell their goods where people meet – vegan festivals or physical stores – could go out of business.

So, on top of fear of the virus itself, vegan craftspeople, vendors, educators, writers, and creators have the agony of watching event after event get cancelled around the arrival of Spring and the month of Earth Day and we have to find the ability to connect with people through videos, Zoom interviews, or the written word. The people at Patreon, which now enables all my vegan advocacy to happen, have been wonderfully supportive and caring. I mean the people running it as well as my patrons. If you are a vegan educator, writer, or artist I recommend Patreon not only for its platform but also for its efforts in creating a sense of community.

What COVID-19 TELLS US ABOUT OUR COLLECTIVE FUTURE
Speaking of community, we human apes need to find ways to share our prosperity, or we’ll share our inability to survive. Real “resilience” in the face of changes in climate, and land and ocean health, must mean we become capable of widely empathetic responses. And real resilience must involve asking deep questions about why the climate, the land, and the waters are changing.

We can’t simply conquer the coronavirus threat. Consider our interconnected, sprawling population, and the way infections will evolve with the climate crisis. There will be more of this. What are we going to do about it?

Well, veganism will help, insofar as it means:

  • Living a low-carbon, resource-frugal life.
  • Stopping the farm run-off that compromises the oceans and kills off marine bio-communities.
  • Halting deforestation and human incursions into the space of the free-living beings (i.e., staying out of the way of “wildlife”).

I think we have to think of self-isolation in terms of letting up on our continual invasions of nature. Have we given some thought to this?

Stay well if you can, live simply if you’re not already forced to, and keep up your outreach.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

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Banner image: [Friday 13 March 2020 1700 local time] at Trader Joe’s grocery in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Restaurants are shut, and vegan Indian dinners are getting hard to find!

On the Claws of a Dilemma

Vegans and Cat Rescue

For a vegan, caring for a cat is no easy feat. Dogs have broader diets, so the case seems easier. Many vegans buy or make vegetarian dog food.

But how do we feed our cats? Products have been created and called vegan cat food, but are they safe?

Christina M. Gray, et al. published “Nutritional Adequacy of Two Vegan Diets for Cats” in 2004 in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association. The study tested two products, which proved nutritionally inadequate. The study also discussed in biological terms why cats are strict carnivores.

(The makers of the tested cat foods later vowed to improve quality control.)

Thousands of cats may be fed plant-based foods (although the product makers run into complications applying the nutritional rules), but comprehensive nutritional data attesting to safety continues to be lacking. And there’s an ethical problem in trying to make that data sufficient. Frankly, it’s testing on cats, which itself is not vegan.

We Can Apply the Vegan Principle to Our Diets, and Cats Can’t

Imagine we’re feeding a child. When asked if the vegan meals we serve are safe and nutritious, we confidently quote the Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: “Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”

Now, what about the animals in our homes? Shouldn’t we be able to confirm we’re ensuring appropriate nourishment for them as well?

Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, issued by the (U.S.) National Academy of Sciences.

The most current and comprehensive study of the daily dietary needs of dogs and cats is Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, National Research Council (2006), published by the National Academies Press. Here are two excerpts, from page 313:

  • Dogs differ from cats in that they are not strict carnivores but fall more into the omnivorous category. This fact allows a great deal more latitude in ingredient selection and formulation. It is entirely feasible to formulate an adequate dog diet using no animal tissue-based ingredients.
  • Generally speaking, strict vegetarian diets, when fed alone, are not nutritionally adequate for cats, even though such diets can be made sufficiently palatable to be readily consumed.

What’s in Your Cat Food? Maybe That’s Not the Real Vegan Issue

Cats and dogs have been changed from wildcats and wolves. Selective breeding separated them from their potential to evolve in nature. It also made them dependent on human care. These are the unpleasant facts.

The vegan principle—and honest love—calls on us to end the selective breeding of other animals. Not to assume wildcats and wolves should be ours to have and hold, or that they must participate in a vegan ideal.

We go to great lengths for the animals we know and love, yet many people will not or cannot. That’s why dogs, cats, and other animals raised as pets are steered to shelters by the millions annually—and many don’t come out.

Furthermore, no dog or cat is vegan, as veganism is an anti-domination principle—not simply a list of allowed ingredients.

Social justice is elusive in human relations; but we strive for it. We need to also strive to be fair members of the community of life on Earth.

Selective breeding and forced dependence aren’t fair, nor can they be.

What Can We Do, Then?

Let’s understand pet breeding for what it really is. Until the 1800s, keeping animals as pets was an aristocrat’s hobby. Relatively recently, it exploded into a multi-billion-dollar industry. How can vegans deal with this situation? Rather than try to make cats eat plants, we can consider:

  • Talking about pets. Calling out the custom. Defending the life and freedom of undomesticated cats and dogs, including the wildcats and bobcats, the wolves and coyotes. They are the ones being erased as selective breeding becomes the norm.
  • Speaking out against pet breeding—whether done through high-volume companies, local businesses, or someone’s home.
  • Supporting local trap-neuter-return (TNR) groups that care for, while gradually phasing out, groups of cats outdoors.

Some will say this challenge could ultimately lead to a society without “companion” animals.

Is that so bad? I’m not asking a glib question.

Can’t we care about other animals, and derive joy from their presence on this Earth, without controlling, having and holding them? Doesn’t the feeling that we could do that make us empathetic—and vegan—in the deepest sense?


Banner image by A.R.T.Paola, available here.

On Making Others Do Disgraceful Work

My friend Lois Baum recently gave an invited sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rochester, NY. In the sermon, Lois quoted a statement attributed to an animal liberation summit, circa 2010: 

Veganism is a moral and ethical way of living; the practice of non-cooperation and non-participation in anything that exploits nonhuman animals, humans, or the environment. It is a moral baseline for our conduct and how we are revealed to the world.

A spot-on description, I think, of the connected ethic of a vegan life.

Making Others Do Disgraceful Work 

And it leads me to think again about the humans who do the disgraceful work of killing living animals and turning their bodies into commodities for human consumption. 

I do not believe vegans should invest in undercover investigations of these employees’ actions. Some people disagree. Here is my logic.

Time and time again, the “successful” undercover investigation means:

  • Workers get caught, punished, and driven out (and many if not all of them are leading the most exhausted, marginal, and fragmented of lives already).
  • The company increases surveillance of the workers who remain.
  • If regulators do suspend the company’s business, the business usually tidies up and reopens.
  • The case against the company involves employees’ failure to follow regulations. It is never about real caring, real fairness, and it’s definitely never about justice. (Injustice is heaped on, as workers’ precarious lives slide into worse ruin.) 
  • Arguments resume on whether “ag gag” laws should tighten up to prevent undercover investigations, as the company swears up and down that it is now adequately self-monitored.

One of the points made by early vegans is that we shouldn’t expect other human beings to do disgraceful work for us, work which we’d avoid doing ourselves.

That, I think, invokes an empathy and fairness principle. It does not assume that we should blame these employees for doing what they do…badly.

Animal agribusiness is all unfair, and so many humans are implicated. Only a few people are vulnerable enough to be cast out of society for the way they do it.

The New Year’s Day Dog Show

In just an hour, the New Year’s Day AKC Dog Show will air on Animal Planet.

You know, many vegans fault people for consuming some animals even though these same people love their dogs.

If you love your dog, the vegan asks, why do you eat a pig?

But that question has its own problem. It generally presumes dogs are well off in their lofty, loved perch in society. And that presumption is unfair. 

Dogs have long been considered offshoots of agricultural production by breeders, and by the agencies that have arisen to regulate them. Let me explain.  

Donald Trump Jr., Mongolian Sheep Killer

Mongolian dignitaries made an Eastertime pilgrimage to see the Trumps at Mar-a-Lago. And whoosh…By September, Donald Trump Jr. had a Mongolian permit to kill one of the world’s few remaining argali sheep.

Read on, in this weekend’s edition of CounterPunch.

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Image licensed by CC0 / Public Domain