Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations
One last hurrah is on the holiday season horizon–the New Year’s celebration. The holidays (regardless of which ones you celebrate) are a time fraught with pitfalls for ethical vegans in a speciesist world. Gifts…food…gifts of food…argh.
Food. You can always detect the vegan at the omnivore holiday party, surreptitiously rifling through the pasta salad with a serving spoon, attempting to determine if it’s “safe.” Likewise, the vegan (or veg*n) is the one whose face brightens at the sight of a huge salad bowl then darkens upon realizing that the lovely greens are covered with crumbled bacon. And bacon vinaigrette. Tsk.
Then there’s the gift-giving, and by that I really mean the gift-receiving. Because you can bet your Moo Shoes that ethical vegans give vegan gifts but don’t always receive them. If you’re a new vegan, the giver probably simply forgot. Sure, it’s central to your life, but let’s face it, the majority of people don’t experience the world through an exploitation filter that’s always switched to ON and always set to HIGH. Maybe the giver doesn’t realize that ethical veganism isn’t just a diet, but an all-encompassing lifestyle–with all its concomitant commitments. The giver probably doesn’t know about our compulsive label-reading, and wouldn’t recognize some ingredients as animal-based anyhow. Heck, most vegans need a cheat sheet from time to time, amiright?!? Wool? Leather? These things are as common as breathing air…I mean, who even thinks about this stuff–or where it comes from?!? (OK, vegans do.)
Case in point: We received a small bag of chocolate-covered espresso beans. Yum! The chocolate was dark (yay, no milk products) and all systems were ‘go’ until we spied “shellac” in the ingredient list. Noooo! Sometimes obfuscatingly called confectioner’s glaze, shellac is the resinous secretion of the Southeast Asian lac beetle. Aside from exploitation of a life form, this is just downright repulsive, IMO. (No, gelatin isn’t the only thing you have to worry about in your candy!) Check your Reese’s Pieces ingredients for ‘resinous glaze.’ They also contain milk–beetle juice and cow juice–for a vegan double-whammy. Thought you’d wanna know.
Today’s Sunday “Peanuts” comic strip features Linus writing a thank you note to his grandparents for a Christmas gift while Lucy harasses him. With that as a prompt, herewith (and without harassment) are pre-written, fictional thank you notes for your convenience. If you received any of these gifts, just change the salutations, adapt the details to fit your needs, and you’re on your grateful, compassionate way.
Thank you for thinking of me. It’s so like you to say that the beautiful blue color of the merino wool sweater matches my eyes, but the truth is, my eyes are red. From crying. The sweater got me to thinking about the wool industry and the suffering it causes sheep.
See, there’s this industry practice called mulesing (named after a guy whose name was Mules) where sheep have strips of flesh cut away from their rear ends without anesthesia. It leaves raw, bloody wounds (sorry, Grams, I know you’re sensitive) that prevent re-growth of wool in an area that attracts flies. The flies lay eggs that hatch into maggots in the folds of wooly skin, and the maggots eat the sheep’s flesh. It’s a nasty business, Grandma, and even if sheep aren’t mulesed, their tails are still painfully docked and they’re exploited as wool-producing commodities instead of sentient individuals.
Gosh, sorry to go off on a tangent, Grams…thought you’d want to know. Much love…
Dear Mr. Matthews:
Thank you for the tie–wow, company colors AND bearing the corporate logo. I hardly know what to say! I also noticed that it’s 100% silk. Did you know that silk worms are killed by the hundreds of millions every year in the silk industry? And that roughly 15 silkworms are killed to produce one gram of silk? (I know how you love facts and figures!)
Remember our little “spat” at the company picnic last 4th of July? Ha ha, when you joked that I was unpatriotic for not eating an “all-American” pork hotdog and for passing on the red, white, and blue Jell-O gelatin mold of Old Glory? Well, even though silkworms aren’t sentient like pigs, I still subscribe to a policy of “do no harm” where living beings are concerned. You won’t find silk boxers in my underwear drawer, either, Mr. Matthews, not that I ever want to find you rummaging around there, ha ha. Just thought you’d want to know. Respectfully…
Dear Aunt Louise:
Thank you for the angora-cashmere blend socks. They are sooo soft! And since I’m soft-hearted, I can’t help but think of the suffering endured by the rabbits and goats who produced that fur. Most of it comes from Chinese producers who don’t let compassion get in their way–witnesses say the bunnies actually scream when their fur is ripped out–yes, ripped out. Kinda how my heart feels when I rub those beautiful, soft socks against my tear-stained cheek. I guess I thought you’d want to know, Auntie Lou, cuz you’re a softie, too. Love & hugs…
Dude! Thanks for the leather-bound journal. So thoughtful of you to suggest that my “stunning prose” (you’re too kind!) should be recorded in something classier than a spiral notebook. But as a vegan, I eschew (love that word!) the use of leather–remember how our plans for an after-work, rec league basketball team almost fell apart?…until I was assured that the ball was made of rubber or a synthetic composite??…and you guys were all so exasperated??? Yup, crazy ol’ vegan me!
Anyhoo, lots of people believe that leather is simply a byproduct of factory farming and, well, what the hey. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Leather is actually an important co-product, and beyond that, lots of leather is produced in a global leather industry found in places like India and China–bad news for animals, dude. Hey man, figured you’d wanna be in the know. Cheers!
Thanks for NOT giving me a gift certificate for UGG boots! I figured it was just good-natured ribbing on your part when you “threatened” me with that, knowing I would never go around schlepping the skin and wool of an abused, slaughtered sheep on my feet. (You’re rolling your eyes, aren’t you?!?) As for the “milk & honey” spa products gift set you sent instead, thanks, sis. I suppose it might do wonders for the skin, but milk is meant for baby cattle and honey belongs to bees. This wrinkled old carcass of mine (go ahead, rub it in that I’m the oldest!) will do fine with plant-based emollients. Just thought I’d mention it, you know, FYI. Also, that mom liked me best. Love…
Dear Cousin Phil:
Gee, Phil, a bacon gift basket bearing a tag that reads, “To my favorite vegan.” Thank you, Phil–for remembering I’m vegan.
You’re a jerk, Phil. Just thought you’d want to know.
- More on shellac and the lac insect: Shellac & Forest Products Export Promotion Council.
- More on vegans and wool here. For recent news from merino australia, click here.
- Angora from bunnies here; cashmere from goats here.
- Singer/song-writer Pink narrates a video on sheep abuse.