What Is Veganism? [Audio Clip]

…is part of a collective offering, based on the definition of veganism from the people of The Vegan Society who set the movement in motion. I doubt I could improve upon that striking piece, nor need I try. Yet prompted by conversations with Will Anderson of GreenVegans.org, with James, Jenny, and Harold of HumaneMyth.org, with Bill Drelles and Jack McMillan of the Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance, Chris Kelly in Texas and many other thoughtful people, I enjoy revisiting the early definition to convey it in today’s words. Here, in an audio version.

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.

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.

For Vegans, Earth Day Is Every Day

Last year for Earth Day I had the pleasure (and challenge) of introducing On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century to the Cleveland community. The Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance reserved space in the Cleveland Heights Public Library.

If you want to demolish the belief that people just want memes and platitudes (or don’t go to libraries), the Cleveland vegan community is your gang. Cleveland’s vegan movement is committed to thought, debate, intellectual and cultural work, and growth. I’m very lucky to know the Cleveland activists.

Today, for Earth Day, I revisit:

Earth Day slideshow (presented in Cleveland Heights, later published by Carolyn Bailey of ARZone). Selected slides from the presentation are included.

Feel free to start up some conversation here on any of the slides.

A hat tip today and every day to my fellow vegans. You’re determined to cultivate a way to human sustenance that stops ravaging the planet. For vegans, Earth Day is every day.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

A Reason to Be Vegan

I am vegan for the planet. For our biosphere, really: for the sake of all of Earth’s living communities. Veganism is an environmentally conscientious stance, understood in conjunction with the deep empathy and respect that’s the essence of the vegan principle.

Yes, of course, I am vegan for the cows, pigs, sheep, and all the footed, finned, and feathered ones I spare from Death Row; but then, the deep empathy in veganism means respect for their ancestral communities in nature. It means defending their right to live on nature’s terms, not the terms of animal breeders. That means sparing animals from being systematically turned into our pets, too.

Can we agree that deep empathy (which enables care) and respect (which is the basis of a liberation philosophy) are the essence of veganism? If so, do we say so?

Or is the deepest-rooted reason for veganism neglected in our advocacy?

Especially now, posits Bill Drelles, a vegan in Cleveland, it’s important to ask questions about veganism’s essential ethic. Bill points to the electoral triumph of Donald Trump as interwoven with a distrust of intellectual and factual argumentation, and wonders if there are any lessons here for vegan advocates whose outreach has become increasingly based on health and climate-related arguments.

To argue that vegan living makes you healthier or environmentally friendlier, Bill observes, you’ll have to rely on facts, projections and analyses. If published, such work is typically met with opposition through conflicting articles, books, and other media—coming from parties with the resources to overwhelm truths even by creating just an element of doubt (as climate change deniers do).

Photo by Jen Kaden.

Bill Drelles. Photo by Jen Kaden.

The ethic at veganism’s essence, though, doesn’t rely on facts, assumptions, and analysis. It comes from the heart—timeless, and articulated clearly and succinctly by Donald Watson and supporters.

Are today’s vegans familiar with the origins of veganism, and what its creation was based on?

Time is never wasted when spent delving into the vegan community’s originating principles. For regardless of the factual or logical relevance of the environmental, health, social-justice, and other motivations for being vegan, central to veganism is our forthright, conscientious objection to warring on other living communities—our respect for their lives lived, to the extent possible, on their terms.

Advocacy using compelling, science-based arguments does play an important role. That’s because if the vegan movement’s essential principle is its foundation, then such arguments are part of the superstructure.

But the main thing, Bill says, is this. Deep empathy and respect for the Earth’s living communities must be known as the foundation upon which our environmental and health-related arguments stand.


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