(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).

Interdependence Day

As we war amongst ourselves, our artificially created groups, deploying hazards across constructed borders, impeding the natural movement of humanity and nonhumanity alike, 

We also war on others 

In our great biological communities.

Industry celebrates our independence from nature 

Or dominance over it.

This is our decision. We could, instead, celebrate interdependence with our world. 

I write, just before noon, attuned to the distant calls of mourning doves.

Those who stalk mourning doves in the United States and Canada often use the singular term “hunting dove” thereby erasing the individuality of these birds. They know the birds will come for seeds. To get more targets to shoot, the hunters plant wheat, sorghum, corn and poppies, millet and sunflowers.

Is there anything sweeter than the thought of a dove eating sunflower seeds?

I heard fireworks last night, the 3rd of July. I heard the resident geese call out when the noise started.

There will be more explosions tonight.  

Photo by John Duncan, via Unsplash.

A Feral Thanksgiving

This is the year we’re not supposed to gather for Thanksgiving. Of course, many of us revamped this celebration years ago. It was uncomfortable at the outset for those whose families glossed over a lot to create a show of togetherness. Then we became vegan, and the fetishistic rituals focused on giant bird bodies looked sadder and more grotesque every year.

Uttering our regrets came as a multi-layered relief, even if we felt vaguely guilty or guilted by relatives who clung to tradition.

We regained a sense of normality by meeting at vegan tables. And yet, for us too, there would be much more to acknowledge. What was the Thanksgiving message for the people dragged against their will to this continent? Or for those who lived here long before it became the “New World”?

Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered for a day of mourning every Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock, recalling the Pequot people and their fate in the place now called Mystic, Connecticut. At the 1637 Pequot massacre, as many as 700 indigenous adults and kids were slain and their village burnt to the ground, clearing the land for European expansion. The Puritans outlawed the name Pequot, and began giving thanks annually for having so quickly exterminated the native community. We’ve got a walk-in closet full of skeletons here.

The Covid-19 stay-at-home guidance offers us time for a deep, collective breath — and for deep and collective regrets. 

Last Thanksgiving…

Colin Kaepernick spoke at the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Ceremony, in recognition of an Indigenous occupation of the former federal prison on Alcatraz Island. “Thank you to my Indigenous family,” Kaepernick said on Thanksgiving 2019. “I’m with you today and always.”

Kaepernick told Twitter followers that the U.S. has stolen 1.5 billion acres of Indigenous land.

It seems fitting to question the domestication of our historical memories into Thanksgiving. And maybe that’s harder to do as we decorate our doors and our tables in crimson and amber hues, and gather in kitchens to bake root vegetables and cashew roasts.

Maybe we need a long autumn weekend amidst the bare trees and chilly air to consider Plymouth Rock, to hear Colin Kaepernick’s words, to remember those who were never at the table, and to think about how, on such a busy planet, a human family would gather, and what it would say when it did.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

Happy World Vegan Day, Friends.

Much has changed in 2020. But what’s driving the virus crisis has been going on for ages: the animal use that causes zoonotic diseases. We can confidently and accurately say that a vegan humanity would never have known much of the pain we witnessed this year. Our resolve and our work continues. Love, strength, and best wishes on World Vegan Day and always.

Vegan Place

On this day, I’d like to return to a memory related to Vegan Society co-founder Donald Watson. How interesting to find that the most well-known founder of veganism knew, and said, that the movement would be essential to any future on Earth that includes humanity.

I think it’s also very interesting to learn, as I did from Patricia Fairey, that the name “vegan” was proposed for this movement not by Donald Watson, as we often hear, but by Dorothy Morgan Watson.

For some time after visiting Donald’s and Dorothy’s gravesites, I thought it would be a nice gesture if the vegan community could come together and order headstones, and I should work on that project. Yet I’m ever more keenly aware that I’m only here for a little while. And I can imagine Donald saying, “That’s a nice thought. But go out, speak, write for the vegan cause. The churchyard…

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Radical Resilience

Vegan Summerfest, scheduled for the first week of July at the University of Pittsburgh campus in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is cancelled. Even if Gov. Tom Wolf opens up Cambria County by July, the social distancing rules make a conference for hundreds of people logistically unmanageable.

Previous participant surveys show that numerous Summerfest attendees commit to becoming vegan each year. For many vegan-curious people, the event’s blend of social and educational elements clicks. But the virus does not discriminate based on the intent or benefits of an event.

I’m disoriented by the loss of Vegan Summerfest 2020 and everything it stands for, and yet I have been warning that these disasters would unfold since I was first invited to speak at Summerfest 16 years ago. This is not to be “oh-well” or glib. This is damned upsetting. Here we have the results of one group of apes abusing its privileges on the planet. With this group’s global population as dense and intrusive as it is, a dangerous virus can move through physical bodies and natural settings quickly.

Veganism should be part of the global response. It will help us become respectful members of our greater biological community, because vegan living frees people from having to work in viciously unsafe, unhygienic, and macabre animal processing settings. Veganism is health-affirming. It is comparatively protective of land, air, and bodies of water. It is low-carbon, low-methane, and generally more resource-frugal than other approaches to living.

I’d like to help my fellow human apes make these connections. Supporting whatever might be in us that warrants the term sapiens.

We’re never getting to “normal” again in our lifetimes. Infections change as climates do, so it’s time to expect much more of the unexpected — whether it’s resurgences, mutations, new viruses, or the other stuff that’s coming along with biodiversity breakdown and climate crisis. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

No time like the present to make real, root-level changes. In the months ahead, I’ll be pressing some key points:

• Can quarantine mean a respectful (rather than user-oriented) attitude to nature?
• Can social distancing mean refraining from invading the remaining forests?
• Can we transcend the culture of confinement?
• Can the human apes find ways to stop hoarding the prosperity we get at our environment’s expense — undoing incentives to extract and store?

Remember that “resilience” in the face of crisis means asking deep questions about why our modern crises emerge. And that “affluence” is not a reservoir, but something that flows.

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.

Come Up to Berkeley Heights on the Equinox!

On Saturday, Sept. 21, at 11 a.m. – noon, I’ll be at the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey Vegan Fest. Can you join me for the Climate-Focused Educational Panel in Lower Columbia Park, 411 Plainfield Avenue, behind Columbia Middle School (near intersection of Hamilton Avenue)?
And there’s lots more going on at this Berkeley Heights, NJ festival, which goes on for two and a half days. Check out the timetable.
Kim Diamond, who has been working for months on the event, says,
Everyone can make a positive, impactful difference on both the planet and their health by just being mindful…The Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission and Sustainable Berkeley Heights want to demonstrate how simple this can be.

Diamond, who chairs the Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest 2019 and serves as president of Sustainable Berkeley Heights, adds:
The goal of Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest 2019 is to educate the public through interactive events, so that people can learn more about how to incorporate small changes into their daily routine that benefit the environment as well as themselves.
Frankly, it is my hope that a good number of attendees make some  big changes in their lives. Yet arguably this starts with a blend of little adjustments.
Not making changes, given the consequences to our only home planet, will make our lives far harder.
Here’s a preview for each of the three days of events:
  • Friday, Sept. 20 – Yoga from 6- 8 p.m. at The Grove Park, 200 Connell Drive.
  • Saturday, Sept. 21 – Educational panels and children’s activities, starting at 10 a.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 22 – Vegan Cook-Off (starters, main dishes, desserts), 1 – 3 p.m.
The town government hosts a Vegan Fest event website. Visit it for more details.

Photo: Mike Kenneally via Unsplash: “Fresh Salad”

Summerfest Schedule Now Posted

Are you coming to the North American Vegetarian Summerfest this year? If so, please find me so we can get some time in person! I’ll be in the hallway near the main Living Learning lobby a lot. Watermelon shows up there frequently and, from time to time, so does  Miyoko Schinner’s artisan nut cheese. 
As for presentations, I’ll be offering:
  • The Environmental Impact of Eating Sea Life. Current status of Earth’s aquatic habitats and communities. Is the “sustainable seafood” concept helping or making things harder for sea life to survive and thrive?
  • Why Vegan? Vegan for Your Health, for Environmental Healing, for Fair Food Sources, for Animal Liberation. (Maureen and Vance: You are quoted in this one.)

Photo credit: Jason Pompilius

  • Climate Change: Is It More a Fossil Fuel Problem, or a Diet Issue? Comparing these emissions sources. Of course there is a lot of overlap between animal agribusiness and fossil fuels. This session will offer information on the science basics, plus a few less discussed aspects of the dichotomy. It will conclude with a call for a movement of Dietary Divestment for the Climate.
This is an event I can recommend. It draws more than 700 attendees from all over the continent. It offers a positive, refreshing atmosphere with endless conversation (I mean that in a good way!) and several days of really fabulous food that will inspire you and tune up your support network for the coming year.

If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get ANIMAL PRODUCTS Out of the Kitchen

That’s the topic of a presentation I’ll offer on 9 September 2017.

Hurricane Harvey’s unfolding tragedy is connected to climate change—which is, in turn, connected to animal agribusiness in a very big way. Equipped with the facts, let’s encourage people to stop eating like there’s no tomorrow or they could be right.

Is veganism really about climate, though?

Yes, squarely. Without a well-functioning atmosphere, advocating for habitat preservation and animal liberation is spitting into the wind. Climate crisis is an urgent subject for everyone to discuss, but this “inconvenient truth” has never been adequately addressed by policy devoid of a vegan perspective.

This presentation will take place at the 3rd annual Vegstock Festival, which is now seeking . . .

Activists · Artists · Authors · Doctors · Dietitians · Musicians Cooks · Chefs · Farmers · Foodies · Gardeners · Growers · Healers · Thinkers · Speakers · Students & Teachers for the Vegstock Vegan Festival. And folks to spread the word.



Presented by Wildflower Vegan Cafe, the vegan restaurant in Millville, NJ and the Millville Development Corporation. Time and place: 10am-4pm Saturday, September 9 2017. 501 North High Street, Glasstown Arts District, Millville NJ 08332.

“If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Animal Products Out of the Kitchen” is made possible by dedicated patrons of the Art of Animal Liberation.