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

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. 

Veganism Is Direct Action for the Climate

Without getting too number-focused, how can we explain, in vivid and memorable language, the real and measurable impacts a vegan makes for climate and animals (humans and others)?

Just as important: How do we share this information before it’s too late?

Lee Hall holds an environmental law degree with a focus on climate change from Vermont Law School. A 39-year vegan, Lee wrote the “Nonhuman Rights and Human Sustainability” entry in the Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

EVENT DETAILS: 17 June 2022, 6:00 pm at the American Vegan Center, 17 North Second Street, Old City, Philadelphia. Open and free; KINDLY REGISTER HERE.

Shop for Tahini. International Hummus Day Is Coming.

Now you know. The 13th of May is the tenth International Hummus Day, when “millions of people around the world” will be “celebrating their love for hummus”—as millions of people would do anyway, because hummus is a staple throughout the Middle East and a mainstay in casual restaurants throughout Europe, and in many major cities worldwide.

Every day is hummus day but if we’re going to have some extra hummus conversation, OK. Let’s make some hummus this week.

Why make your own instead of simply buying the Sabra hummus in the stores? Because the Israel-based Strauss Group—which co-owns Sabra with PepsiCo—has been funding the Israel Defense Forces’ Golani Brigade. This year, Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine has rallied to stop serving Sabra hummus in Harvard’s dining halls, given Sabra’s financial links to the IDF.

What are Israel’s military forces doing at the moment?

As Jeffrey St. Clair writes on Twitter: “According the anodyne language of the Guardian, the forced mass evictions of more than 1000 Palestinians is so that their land can be `repurposed` for a military base…”

The court ruling that enables the expulsion of a thousand people in one of single biggest expulsion decisions since the 1967 occupation.

Veganism means opposing oppression wherever it thrives. That, of course, goes for opposing the oppressive projects of our own country, our own social group, and our own species. It’s about recognizing oppression, and learning about it, and conscientious objection.

Make It at Home: Hummus With Salad and Pita

First, here are the ingredients for the hummus. Don’t forget the pita bread to got with this. And scroll down past the hummus to get the salad recipe.

Ground cumin

3 garlic cloves

2 cups cooked chickpeas, either home-cooked (they’re the best) or canned. Keep the cooking liquid

6 tablespoons of tahini (sesame butter)

The juice of one fresh lemon

2 tablespoons organic olive oil (optional)

One bunch of parsley

Options: paprika and cayenne, salt and pepper to taste

In food processor, purée the drained chickpeas with tahini and blend in a teaspoon of cumin, the lemon juice and garlic, and, if desired, one tablespoon of the olive oil. As you’re puréeing, add a bit of the reserved cooking water to arrive at a smooth consistency.

When the mix is smooth, spoon it into a bowl and stir in the spices to taste. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil if desired. Serve on a nest of fresh parsley.

To make the Medditerrenean salad, gather:

The torn leaves of a head of romaine lettuce, 3 diced tomatoes, 1 sliced cucumber, 1 sliced bell pepper (seeds removed), 1 small onion and 6 radishes, thinly sliced.

And for the salad dressing, whisk together, according to your preference:

Olive oil, parsely, fresh lemon juice, a minced garlic clove and minced mint leaves, and salt and pepper.

Toss the salad ingredients and serve dressing on the side. Enjoy it all with toasted pita bread. Especially on International Hummus Day.


Photo credit: Nataliya Vaitkevich

(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.