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:

______________

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.

Saturday 12 August: The Chester County Vegan Festival

Our local vegan crew in Chester County, Pennsylvania, known as CARE, founded an annual vegan barbecue back in 1991. On Saturday 12 August, the legend continues! Here is this year’s poster.

One of the big highlights is the food we offer, including the famous Chester County mushrooms, local corn and other late summer delights from Pete’s Produce, and samplings from local businesses including SuTao vegan cafe, where CARE volunteers regularly meet.

Summer CARE fest - food

The real cage-free deal: The food at CARE’s Vegan Festival is local, beautiful, and delicious.

If any of readers are around the area, join us on Saturday 12 August at Hoopes Park in West Chester from noon until 4 pm. Let me know if you’d like to have an exhibit for your group, vegan business, or animal-advocacy project.

The Chester County Vegan Festival.

The Chester County Vegan Festival.

Because this is a local event, there will be plenty of time and space to just hang out with the presenters and exhibitors. Confirmed speakers at this year’s annual Chester County Vegan Festival are author Vance Lehmkuhl, Lydia Grossov of From A to Vegan, the American Vegan Society‘s Freya Dinshah, Eric Nyman, founder of Wildflower Vegan Cafe, and Liqin Cao of United Poultry Concerns.

Click here for Liqin Cao’s view of the trouble with the backyard chicken trend.

Much respect to these activists, who have been in the movement for decades and provide us with excellent models or vegan integrity, consistency and kindness. I look forward to enjoying the Chester County Vegan Festival with them—and you, if you can make it.

Since 2014, This Event Is Called the “Chester County Vegan Festival”

For years this annual event was called the CARE VeggieFest. CARE’s mission involves more than a diet, though, and that’s where the name change to vegan comes in.

The word vegan reflects a dedication to live as a conscientious objector to animal use. It takes into account the importance of fair food distribution, our personal physical and mental health, and the health of communities, including the entire bio-community.

The first people calling themselves vegan did so in 1944. The word itself was thought up by Dorothy (Morgan) Watson, then adopted by a group of about two dozen like-minded people who noted it contained the first and last letters of the word vegetarian. The founders of The Vegan Society essentially declared their commitment to the Alpha and the Omega of the vegetarian movement, which was historically ethics-based, and, when taken to its logical conclusion, frees all animals, the finned and feathered, the egg-laying, lactating, and honey-making animals…

Vegan. The word’s call to principles represents the best we can offer people who like to eat their vegetables, and take their vegetarianism seriously.

We do have a policy for the event that speakers and exhibited items are expected not to suggest that any given method or equipment used in animal husbandry is better than any other.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

VegFest in Buffalo, NY: A Slideshow About Caricatures and Memes

Animal advocacy produces many images in which selectively bred animals appear as cute, contented, and wanting to delight you or be friends with you. And generally we don’t regard it as needing further thought. It’s the imagery of endearment. Post adorable piglets, and maybe it’ll make people who keeping doing those bacon posts on Facebook see bacon in another way?

Popular advocacy images: What do they display or conceal about humanity’s relationship with all others?

On Sunday 6 August at the Western New York VegFest in Buffalo, I’ll present Cuteness, Memes, and Animal-Liberation Imagery: A Slideshow and Discussion.
We’ll look at how endearing imagery can work against animals and their defenders in a way the movement
has yet to explore.
This presentation asks: Does popular animal-advocacy imagery reinforce animals’ vulnerability? Is so, why should this matter to us?
Is there something we can learn here from the effects of race-based caricatures? What do we know about the power of imagery from the abolitionist struggle? To say all oppressions come from a common impulse, as I wrote in On Their Own Terms, isn’t to say that various groups are the same, or that the kind of inequality they’ve faced is the same. And facile analogies don’t help. Claire Heuchan has observed how “Black experience is regularly placed on a par with animals as a provocation.”
This is why it’s so important that the slideshow’s concept does not set out to compare caricatures reflecting white supremacy with caricatures that justify domestication. Distinct struggles against systems of domination should be known on their terms, even as they teach about the common source — the human urge to dominate and control — and ask ourselves how we’re challenging or continuing it.

Thanks to my patrons who make it possible for me to give up days of shift work to contribute this effort to the WNY VegFest. If you’d like to help this outreach continue, consider supporting it with a regular contribution (which can be as modest as $1 per month) on Patreon.