“The Deer Aren’t Wearing Kevlar® Vests!” A Word on Gun Control in the United States

Gun control advocates are quick to insist that they’re not interfering with hunting and hunters. On 60 Minutes this week, again, Joe Biden repeated the punchline: We can do without military-grade rifles; the deer aren’t wearing Kevlar® vests! Ha ha ha. We can explode deer bodies with regular old guns, so come on, man! Let’s just ban the assault weapons!

When we understand ourselves in, and as, animal life…we know the gun debate is indeed about hunting. Targeting people in a grocery store, or stalking deer in the suburban woods… it’s a continuum. We the People have a penchant for treating other lives as our targets. 

Some beings are more targeted than others. Whether one is placed in the crosshairs because of foreignness, race, class, species, or other perceived vulnerability, all are the subjects of ruthless de-personhood. 

The Warning Calls of Prairie Dogs

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson wrote, in the Foreword to On Their Own Terms – Animal Liberation:

…I considered the warning calls of prairie dogs. They include one to announce that a human is approaching, yet another when a human approaches with a gun.

Finding out about others without desiring to use or have them, intimidate or subordinate them may be the hardest thing of all for humans to do.

I write this from Pennsylvania, where the greedy lobbyists for Sunday hunting (they always make claims about the revenue hunting brings to the Commonwealth) recently got what they wanted.

When we reverse this bloody thinking, when we work to designate parks and their surroundings as gun- and trap-free zones, we stand for the birthright of conscious, living living beings, human or non-, to prevail over the gunmakers.

I dream of the day that guns (along with whips, jail cells, bird cages, spurs, bombs, and fishing poles) may only be found in museums. As a vegan, I work for the day.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

Persuasion (How Did I Change and Why Won’t They?)

How do you persuade other people to be vegan?, vegans ask.

Why won’t the people closest to me go vegan?

What is it about some people? You can tell them the truth, but they 

just… 

won’t… 

change.

How do you let people know that there’s something they’ve yet to know?

Only when I became vegan did I really “get” what I believe. 

  • Feminism.
  • Anti-racism.
  • Respect for migrants. 
  • Class-consciousness. 
  • Any and every commitment to renounce domination dynamics. 

Only when I became vegan did I understand the rejection of mastership at the deepest level. It meant relinquishing an all-purpose privilege I wielded every day of my life.  

Strange How People Seek Protection in Their Right to Domineer.

They don’t want to give up what makes them great. Human exceptionalism is a lot like patriotism. 

Sometimes, people say they can’t part with a tradition that’s always been woven into the cultural fabric. They don’t want to feel like the loose thread.

All of this is unspoken. And it’s generally off-limits to discussion. Thus the notion that vegans won’t shut up about veganism. (Popular joke: How can you tell someone is vegan? Don’t worry; they’ll tell you.) 

But people talk about domination of animals and biocommunities all the time. Without noticing. As they engage in their everyday activities.

Vegans cannot help but seem vocal when we refuse to take part.

Is Veganism a Rejection of Culture?

Culture has many beautiful, transcendent aspects—social, artistic, political, philosophical, material. Culture develops and binds us through the centuries. We admire it. We’re proud of it. 

Culture has a troublesome inner lining, and that’s our sense of our own supremacy.

Step outside the privilege, and we can sense that we haven’t earned culture. We’ve perverted it.

I think we can appreciate culture, yet shake ourselves apart from it. True understanding will do that. It’s transformative. It’s the paradigm shift within. You can’t have it and not act on it, and you’ll be acting contrary to culture.  

Know this, really know this, and you’re not comfortable presenting veganism at a superficial level. You’ll give up your potential for popularity or career advancement rather than become the “soft seller” who calls for “steps in the right direction” and talks of adjustments to the system as great victories.

Some say people don’t want to contemplate change at the deepest level. By silencing radical (root-level) calls for change, they miss their own internal opportunity for a paradigm shift.

Here’s what I’d like to ask of every vegan I know. Understand veganism as deeply as you can. Impart it to someone else at that same, transformative level. Go for the low-hanging fruit in situations where there’s no other path, yet never lose the yearning to touch one soul and spark transformative change.

Simplicity Takes a Lot of Work.

The more I think, speak, and write (but mostly think), the more I believe I can be most useful by being clear. No jargon, no coined terms except vegan

I want to live as a messenger for the few things I understand and commit to. So I think that’s key. Making a radical and urgent message clear and simple.

Because if we think we know a meaningful and urgent thing, and want to spread the message, shouldn’t we strive to explain simply, with clarity? Rather than speaking in jargon or telling others they don’t understand the issue, we’ve got to explain, and explain simply. Simplicity, for humans, is an achievement. It takes a lot of work to identify a principle’s key elements.

Science Is Real…

Yet, contemplating most important things, our grasp of science falls short. Consider climate breakdown. Consider the chaotic and delicate interplays of biocommunities. If there is no striving for a deep, ethically powered understanding of a subject, then scientific breakthroughs serve as setbacks.

We live in a society that believes profit can drive innovation and engineering can fix our problems. And that many of us can enrich ourselves in this life by gravitating to whatever profiteering generates and holding on.

Other beings lose habitat and find their lives in turbulence as we plunder Earth and manipulate its living beings. All in the name of finding solutions to the new problems we create as we solve the old ones.

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson says our original sin is pseudospeciation—which, to Jeffrey, means the belief that we are superior. That belief in our own primacy led us to domesticate others.

Arguably that sin is past the possibility of redemption. But if we never question it, then no matter how great our culture was, or how ingenious our engineering was, we’ll pass back into the universe numbly, no better for all we witnessed in all the days of our unexamined Earthly lives.

______

Banner photo by le vy

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

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!

#Pride, #AnimalLiberation, and #BlackLivesMatter

June is Pride Month — dedicated to, and celebrated by, LGBTIQ+ and allies worldwide.

I believe animal advocacy, at its best, works to challenge and transcend domination wherever it is found, and I think that belief explains why so many vegans from the movement’s earliest days have conscientiously objected to war.

It’s why so many of us sense that heterosexist oppression stems from the same place as human supremacy.

This month 51 years ago, at Stonewall Inn, an interracial group including nonbinary and transgender people rose up against vindictive policing. They rose up against bigotry, hate, and hurt. Their pain and their courage combined to open up new pathways to self-actualization for the rest of us. Pathways to respect. To love. To many more acts of protest, and to unforgettable times of joy and celebration. 

And yet the torture and death of George Floyd reminds us, again, that — as far as we have come — the struggle for human freedom is still grotesquely immature. It tells us respect still takes a back seat. And it is a setback for every living being on the face of this Earth.

Pride month 2020 is a time of sorrow because of yet another murder in a pattern of authority-wielding murders, another profound loss to the collective conscious soul. Why? Why can’t we just be decent?

The Art of Animal Liberation must be committed to human dignity and respect for nonhuman life as a dual striving. The loss of George Floyd makes the reason all the more intense, and the need to speak up for the #BlackLivesMatter movement all the more urgent. 

My CounterPunch bio identifies me as working for animal liberation. It feels right to have that bio follow a piece about the selective way “looting” is discussed in connection with #BlackLivesMatter protests. It feels right to spread the word that we’re all on this planet together, and no one is free as long as bullets, cages, and chokeholds rule our culture. Authoritarianism has got to go. Humanity must change now. There is no more “I won’t see the change in my lifetime, but…” because now we’re bracing for the storms of a distorted climate. It was always time for respect to ascend, and the very existence of a future, for us, should not be taken for granted.

Banner Photo: Mike Von

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.

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.