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

It’s an Animal Liberation Thing; They Wouldn’t Understand.

I’m talking about pollination. It’s not what they say it is.

They say it’s significant because we need it for our almonds. They talk about conserving bees to the extent they can get them to keep working to produce our food supply.

They don’t talk about the interest of the bees.

We can exploit the beejeesus out of animals until, one day, legal panic sets in because we’ve just about cleared them completely from the face of the Earth.

American Bumble Bees Are in Crisis.

The population of American bumble bees dropped by 89% in the past two decades. The bees no longer live in much of the United States. What if the bees are listed under the Endangered Species Act? Will we see increased attention to bee habitat? Agribusiness could have to make changes. We might need to look at the impact of pesticides, climate crisis, and sprawl. Grazing businesses, “green” energy sites, and real estate developers are all implicated in sprawl.

The National Association of Home Builders has opposed ESA listings for other bee communities, so we can guess what they’ll do here. At its core, home building sprawl is a human population issue.

The Answer Is as Plain as the Peas on Your Plate: Go Vegan.

Stop supporting grazing. Just stop. Join the conscientious objectors. We don’t need animal ag. It’s bad for us, for other living communities, and for the Earth as a whole.

Farm animal waste, runoff, and feed operations are detrimental. The very complexity of animal agribusiness multiplies the harm done by our food systems.

We can opt out today, right this second.

And there’s more to being vegan than what’s on our plates. Consider human population a vegan topic; let’s talk about it (without xenophobia). Consider how we maintain our immediate physical surroundings. What we do to the climate, we do to habitat. And what we do to habitat is at the core of veganism.

Good Gardening Helps: Veganism Respects Our Shared Habitat.

Leaf blowers not only emit toxic gases; Doug Tallamy has explained that when leaves are banished, the land loses a form of temporary stormwater holding, and therefore leaf blowing exacerbates erosion and flooding. And bees have connections with leaves. Some bees and wasps try to nest under leaves.

Homo suburbanus has decided that lawns are necessary, and that chemicals are needed to maintain them. Common lawn sprays are tested on animals. What kind of people are we, that we’d blind rabbits to have a dandelion-free lawn that repels bees?

Native plantings matter so much, in so many ways. Never mind the birdfeeders; get natural nourishment rooted in any green space you might have. Of course there is a money incentive that keeps the landscapers in their old habits. Contracts for toxic chemicals communicate entrenched economic relationships among human businesses. But new relationships can be forged.

New year; new us. We need to strive to coexist with the naturally evolving life on our patch of Earth. This is a matter of liberation ethics.

When the U.S. Military Enlisted the Mexican Free-Tailed Bats

This is a guest post by Ben Wunderman, who writes:

This story is pretty much accurate as far as I could research—most of it is supported by a few sources. The biggest question is to what extent Donald Griffin was involved and at what stage, but he was involved. That was actually the element that surprised me the most.

Why talk about Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis)?

Because being “free-tailed” is a pretty cool thing, as is being identified as Mexican yet also being among the most widely distributed mammals of the Americas. They can “jam” the echolocation calls of a rival bat species using an ultrasonic vocalization. They are said to have the fastest horizontal speed of all animals – although they have resisted measurement. 

They also have a weird military backstory that confirms their lack of interest in being subject to human interference.

An enterprising Pennsylvanian, Lytle Adams, went to Donald Griffin (or FDR went to Griffin; it is unclear) after Pearl Harbor with the idea to use Mexican free-tailed bats to carry and detonate incendiary payloads over Tokyo. Adams had visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park and had the bright and highly questionable idea there. Griffin didn’t seem too wild about it (hard to tell), but FDR approved it and the project was launched.

The result?

Most of the free-tailin’ bats escaped their confines (bombs attached) and exploded a fuel tank that burned down the Carlsbad Army Airfield Auxiliary Air Base in New Mexico and destroyed the test range.

The Plowshares ain’t got nothing on the Mexican free-tailed bat.

Photo credit: Ann Froschauer USFWS Public domain, via Pixnio / cc 0

Dominion: A Matter of Interpretation?

God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying:“Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”
Genesis 1:28

It doesn’t matter whether we interpret dominion as domination or stewardship. An authentic call for respect would transcend it…

And looking back on the Judeo-Christian context of the dominion directive, we know we’ve been “fertile and multiplying” our way to the Anthropocene age. What are the consequences for climate, for life on Earth as we know it? 

Read more: Published today at CounterPunch. 

Banner image: dominion

Sweets for the Season? Consider the Source

So Nestlé is wooing vegans with dairy-free versions of coffee creamers, ice creams, and Kit Kat bars. PETA says it’s excited about such products. Yet the very point of veganism, as defined by its originators, is to grow an anti-exploitation movement in “historical continuity with the movement that set free the human slaves.”

What’s the point of Nestlé’s few token vegan labels if the company relies on human trafficking for its cocoa? How can Hershey have the gall to sell their barkTHINS® with fair-trade labels when a rising number of youths are doing dangerous work on cocoa plantations to cater to their company?

Today, 1.56 million children are harvesting beans on cocoa plantations of Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana, the origin of more than 70% of the cocoa sold by big brands. Local traditions in which youths move among extended family circles have been exploited to facilitate human trafficking. And the major chocolate sellers are “not merely purchasers of cocoa from Côte D’Ivoire,” states a current lawsuit over chocolate slavery which names Nestlé, Mars, and Hershey. The big chocolare companies, says the lawsuit, are “the architects and defenders” of this degrading system.

Is There a Simple Way to Get Ethically Made Chocolate?

A number of U.S. grocery and drug chains stock chocolate-covered coconut cubes (the ones in the blue bags) from Ocho. While this company is new to me, its website does state:

We officially partner with Fair Trade USA to ensure all of our cocoa was produced according to rigorous fair trade standards that promote sustainable livelihoods and safe working conditions, protection of the environment, and strong, transparent supply chains.

It’s interesting to find this, too, in Ocho’s Frequently Asked QuestionsAre monkeys used in the harvesting of the coconut in the OCHO Coconut bar? Our suppliers do not use animals in the harvesting of coconut fruit. That said, not all Ocho items are vegan.

Divine Chocolate is also showing up in the retail chains now. The company has a long history of working with co-op farmers in Ghana. The company has a number of dairy-free offerings. The 85% Dark Chocolate Bar With Turmeric and Ginger is…divine.

When Elegance Matters, Choose a Small-Batch, Artisan Producer.

It’s the gifty time of year, so allow me to talk about an artisan chocolatier whose founder I actually know: Lagusta’s Luscious. Lagusta writes:

We believe the earth is a source of astonishing richness that must be respected, so we use good ingredients that are good to the earth. We believe animals are not on this planet for us to use, so we do not use animal products… We work closely with small farmers and producers in our beloved town of New Paltz, New York and across the country to source truly ethical ingredients.

Peanut Caramel Nougat Bar, by Lagusta’s Luscious

The source of the chocolate itself is República del Cacao, in Ecuador.

If we buy chocolate, it’s incumbent upon us to consider the source. Imports rise in winter months, so now is an excellent time to raise awareness, to shift away from any items sold by the multinationals, and to support businesses that respect our planet’s astonishing richness.

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This is an abridged version of a longer piece describing the trafficking of youths for chocolate plantations. Read more at CounterPunch.

Photos: Bonbon Assortment and Peanut Caramel Bar With Nougat, courtesy of Lagusta’s Luscious.

The Whole Thanksgiving Thing

So, what’s everyone doing for Thanksgiving?

For me, it’s a time to gather with local friends who affirmatively appreciate being vegan. This year, I’ll be the one to host a very small gathering of friends with a vegan feast from SuTao, our best local vegan spot.

The last time I accepted an invitation to a non-100% vegan holiday gathering was more than twenty years ago. I know what I’m missing and I couldn’t bear it. That’s me. Most vegans do have ties to relatives and things are complicated. That said, no vegan I know has ever been grateful to sit at a table focused on a big greasy stuffed dead animal.

Over the last decade, I have heard an increasing measure of honesty around this time of year, at least about the human misery in this holiday’s chain of title. The truth is seeping in about the Native Americans who mourn their lost ancestors on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Heaven forbid anybody bring that up at the table! Never even heard about it for most of my life.

At the 1637 Pequot massacre, Europeans killed hundreds of indigenous adults and kids, burnt their village down, banned the word Pequot, and began giving thanks annually for having so quickly obliterated a community that had evolved over ten thousand years. It didn’t take the Puritans long to domesticate their violent memories into the official holiday called Thanksgiving. The place, now Mystic, Connecticut, is today packed with tourist draws, including an exhibit of trapped beluga whales.

My surroundings are similar in Chester County, just west of Phildelphia, where towns commemorate genocide. In the town of Wayne, a mural on the Post Office interior wall depicts General Anthony Wayne triumphantly standing over the body of an indigenous person. This sordid tribute to domination is highlighted by ceiling lights.

Also appearing in the mural, like props on a stage, are an eagle appearing to glorify the conquest, and a bridled horse, ready to be used in more of the same.

In nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park, too, there’s a statue of this same general. That’s the Park where the U.S. government annually baits and shoots deer, driving them off to ever-narrowing strips of greenery along the surburban roadways. Did I mention that the National Park Service puts out an education package about the Trail of Tears?

I live on a multi-unit property where the buildings have names that glorify the European settlement period: Kings, Patriots, Militia, Flintlock, Settlers, Puritan, Pilgrims, Colonial, etc. In that period, millions of acres were seized and granted to states for the land-grant colleges which, as Harold Brown tells us, etched animal husbandry into the development of the country. The descendants of displaced indigenous people have never received compensation. Their sacred ceremonial sites were pillaged, and the artifacts locked in museum displays.

Indigenous languages and ecological knowledge are nearly extinct. Everyone is harmed by the loss. In this time of climate crisis, much of what’s going or gone could be life-sustaining. We need thought, conversation, planning and action to restore what’s salvageable, to try to repair wrongs. We need to come together to create a mental shift in humanity.

Why is our task so hard? Because our cultural nomenclature is based on the dominator mentality and its much-vaunted exploits. Local leaders changed the name of the town Louella, Pennsylvania to Wayne, in tribute to the local “Indian fighter” general. You’d think they could have contemplated calling the place Sorry Does Not Cover It, Pennsylvania. Not yet.

So, the endless distractions just keep on not-ending. Preparations for traditional gatherings can be distractions when those traditions are just what we need to transcend. We need to reclaim our time, and focus on our potential…

To crowdsource

A refusal

To war any more on the bio-community

A refusal

To war against, or wall off, so-called other people.

This is a commitment worth celebrating.

Let me finish by quoting one of this blog’s readers, Lynn Kennedy, who works with Indigenous people in Canada in the area of mental wellness and substance use:

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 hope, here is a recipe for Cashew Nut Roast that Robin Lane gave me when I was a new vegan. It’s a nutty roast I really love to make. It can stand for turning the unthinking celebration of false memories into a healthful insistence on telling the truth.

Cashew Nut Roast

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients (organic when you can):

½ pound cashew pieces 4 ounces of brown rice 6 ounces of rye toast crumbs—including caraway seeds, or a dash of celery seed. 1 medium onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 large, ripe tomatoes 4 tablespoons olive oil Up to ¼ cup 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

Preparation:

Cook rice until tender; grind cashews. (This can easily be done by hand by carefully running a rolling pin or jar over bagged nuts.)

Chop onion and garlic finely and heat in oil until they are slightly brown; chop and add one of the tomatoes; simmer until soft and add the broth.

Combine all of the above ingredients and press into two 9-by-5-by-2½-inch loaf pans or glass round pie baking dishes. Slice second tomato and use to decorate 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 as a side dish as an alternative to bready stuffing.

May every reader feel the support of vegan friends this season.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

(Every Day Is) World Vegan Day

Today, the First of November, is World Vegan Day. And isn’t it great to watch the word getting out? Since the term was coined in 1944, much has unfolded.

The people who started things off first called themselves the non-dairy vegetarians. They weren’t breaking away from the vegetarian movement that arose in Britain and the United States in the 1800s. They were taking its mission seriously.

Veganism Is No Mean Feat. 

To emancipate other animals, vegans set out to “renounce absolutely their traditional and conceited attitude that they had the right to use them to serve their needs.”

Free-range farming was never a step in the right direction for them. The founding members considered the animal farms of England unacceptable—no matter that these farms were free-range and familiar features on the landscape. Why? For one thing, the grazing animals would be killed when they outlived their use to their owners. For another, covering the land with purpose-bred animals had ruined ages of natural evolution of animal life in untamed habitat.

So, what would they use in their recipes? “Fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains and other wholesome, non-animal products.” They would opt out of “flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey and animal milk and its derivatives.” Vegans drew this line in their effort to create honestly humane agriculture. 

It’s a Call for Liberation.

Defining veganism in 1951, the Vegan Society asserted:

“[V]eganism is not so much welfare as liberation, for the creatures and for the mind and heart of man; not so much an effort to make the present relationship bearable, as an uncompromising recognition that because it is in the main one of master and slave, it has to be abolished before something better and finer can be built.”

So these agitators explicitly connected their vegetarianism with a liberation call, based on a stated conviction that humanity has no right to exploit other aware beings for our ends. 

Society co-founder Donald Watson, who pointed to the Essenes as one example of a group that had conscientiously avoided animal exploitation, must have also been inspired by Frances Power Cobbe, founder of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. Present, too, at the time of the Vegan Society’s formation were opponents of “cruel sport”; the vegans merged these anti-exploitation initiatives into an animal liberation platform with personal commitment as its basis, and an emphasis on continuous public outreach to raise awareness of, and challenge, humanity’s ordinary uses of animals.

Why November?

When people at The Vegan Society resolved to set aside day to celebrate the movement, they first considered the 2nd of September. That was the birthday of Donald Watson, who put together and sent out the first copy of Vegan News—and many copies to follow—and was the best known of the Society’s founders. But Watson wanted nothing to do with the “great person” narrative. So the group settled on November, the month Vegan News was first printed.

Good call. The vegan principle has a long history and doesn’t need to be credited to any one person. 

It’s up to every vegan to be veganism’s representative.

Donald Watson in the garden—like every other vegan.

Why the Word Vegan?

The term vegan was adopted in the 1940s by Vegan Society founding members Donald Watson and Elsie Shrigley. Dorothy (Morgan) Watson had first offered the word to Donald—at a dance they both attended. (Thanks to Patricia Fairey and George D. Rodger of The Vegan Society for this intriguing piece of information.) The word came from the first three and last two letters of vegetarian—“because veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion.”

To be a vegetarian means having a certain diet. To be a vegan means making a commitment to respect. 

Vegans know animal agribusiness is hazardous to our health and to our environment, and that animal husbandry involves unjust treatment of other conscious beings. We won’t participate. Nor do we want to be at war with free-living animals. 

As World Vegan Month Begins, Don’t Make a Wish. Make a Commitment.

And for those of us who have already committed, what’s left to do? In our time ahead, as the word vegan spreads through the grocery aisles, let’s think about the meaning of vegan as a movement. The way it encompasses kindness, solidarity, and respect. We won’t always agree, but we can we figure out how to disagree without hurting, and to agree without competing. We can strive, with integrity, to work through our differences and cultivate community.

Here’s one thing we should be able to agree on from the start. Turning animals into our things is a ruthless habit, regardless of whether the results strike us as cruel or cute, and it’s a habit humanity can break. 

Of course, the vast scale of animal use presents a major challenge, now as ever. But here’s the key. We “consumers” can make our own decisions about what sorts of consumption we’ll accept.

Veganism is direct action.


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Image sources: The Vegan Society (Birmingham, England).

World Vegan Day…

…the First of November, is just days away. Need a simple resource for World Vegan Month outreach in Novemberor any time? Vegan 101 is a free slideshow you can use. It includes 100% evergreen material suitable for general audiences. An extra slide provides notes for presenters.

Enjoy or download any time, from this page. And best wishes for World Vegan Month!

Liberation or Bust

For several years, I served on the board of Primarily Primates, a Texas primate refuge. During that time, I sponsored Lee, a Java (Long-tailed) macaque. Caged, tattooed, wearing a restraining collar, Lee had served as a model for toxic reactions to chemicals. The refuge removed the collar and sent it to me, together with this portrait photo.

A Java (Long-tailed) macaque who got out of the lab alive.

It’s not hard to imagine being a trapped macaque. Macaques are very much like us in their physical and mental responses. Should they have rights?

Arguably so. But several cases have been made for the personhood of great apes, and that line of advocacy has yet to pan out in any meaningful way. Imagine how long it would take to get to the case for macaque rights. And even if, by some miracle, we one day win rights for all of the primates of the planet, and even if those rights, by some miracle, receive international assent, what will the state of the biosphere be by then? Would our recognition of their personhood ensure that they, and the other beings of the edge of the forests, can live on their own terms?

It hardly seems possible. Respect is a tall order. In the literature of governments, Long-tailed macaques are called vertebrate pests. Translation: Humans dragged and dropped Java macaques around the world and now these primates pick crops out of our farms. 

In their native territories, Java macaques face continuing habitat loss. They are subjects of “culling due to human-macaque conflicts.” They are stalked to be eaten and for so-called sport. They are snatched and bred and sold into the international trade for research. They even have a laboratory trade name: cynomolgus monkey.

Restraining collar worn by macaques in the toxicology lab.

Because they gravitate to the edges of forests, they’re visible. In places such as Java, they’ve been presumed abundant. But everywhere they are, they’re stalked.

The late Ardith Eudey, who, with Shirley McGreal, founded the International Primate Protection League, and who for many years chaired the IUCN Primate Specialist Group’s Asia section, rang alarm bells about the severe threats to long-tailed macaques, including the trafficking of these primates to labs. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature did take note, reclassifying Macaca fascicularis from abundant to vulnerable. If we are entering a pandemic era, the quest for vaccines and treatments will continue to promote the lab primate trade, even as humans keep driving climate turmoil and expanding agribusiness, deforestation and sprawl. The primates of the forest’s edge do not have time to spare.

It’s All Connected: Earth Restoration; Animal Liberation; Human Rights.

And this is what animal liberation has to be about. Creating root-level sanctuaries: habitat where once-targeted beings are off-limits to exploitation and able to live where and as they’ve evolved to live. Every element of nature that sustains them carries ethical meaning. This is something our law, which has blessed our systematic exploitation of other animals, is not yet equipped to understand.

In 1805 the Supreme Court of New York, in Pierson vs. Post, addressed competing claims to the body of a hunted fox. When declaring that full physical control over an animal creates ownership, Pierson vs. Post cited legal influencers going back as far as the second century A.D. It’s time for something completely different: knowledge that respects natural biological communities as a whole, and for their own sake. Otherwise, “sustainability” dialogues will keep prioritizing humanity’s interest in extraction, excavation, and exploitation.

In 1972, Christopher D. Stone published an article titled Should Trees Have Standing? Law, Morality, and the Environment. The piece urged judges to consider the case law that reclassified human slaves as legal persons, asserting that progress for the classes of previously rightless humans could guide the evolution of rights for living beings. The debate made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice William O. Douglas cited Stone’s piece in the 1972 case Sierra Club v. Morton, involving an effort to protect an undeveloped wilderness. Alas, Justice Douglas wrote for the dissent.

Still, the idea percolates. Pittsburgh in 2010 passed a rights-of-nature provision to stop a fracking project. People in the United States, Ecuador, and elsewhere have worked on ways to appoint legal guardians to represent biological communities in courtrooms, and to direct compensation for violations of nature’s rights into eco preservation and restoration. This sort of legal work has meaning, I think. Of course, I also think it has to be accompanied by a vegan commitment at the deepest level. Perhaps the synthesis between these quests can offer a comprehensive framework for respecting animals and nature on their own terms.

Banner photo: Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis). Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. By Gary Houston (Universal Public Domain CC0 1.0). Portrait photo: Primarily Primates, Inc.

A strategy for saving the world

Those trying to sell you aquatic animal products will tell you what persuades you to pay them. And yes, people need work. But don’t they need work that sustains our planetary life support system?

Thank you for your own vital work, Violet’s Vegan Comics.

Violet's Vegan Comics

Vegan children’s comic,The English Family Andersonchapter 4, concludes.

For the whole story, clickhere 🙂

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If you want to read this vegan children’s story from the beginning, click here.

A new story begins here on Monday. Have a great weekend! 😀

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