Sexism, ageism, speciesism: To fight one -ism, must we embrace others?

Would you card this woman?

Kathleen Stachowski     Other Nations

It was sheer curiosity that drove me to it. Honest! Saw a link, clicked, ended up at PETA Prime scoping out the “Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50” contest. As a vegan over 50–and a curious one at that–it made perfect sense to check it out. Perfect sense, and who’s abashedly defensive?!? Ha ha.

But what is PETA Prime, I wondered–AARP for animal rights activists? The Baby Boomers’ PETA? Although any mention of age is hard to find, the model at the top of the page has laugh lines and silver hair, and at the “about” page there’s this: “Let’s celebrate the wise people we have become and learn to make kind choices together.” Ah, yes, “the wise people we have become.” Collecting all that wisdom took us around the block a time or two.

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The wilderness vegan: Hold the cheese ‘n’ skeeters, please!

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

Let’s say a couple–fairly new at describing themselves as vegan–is backpacking with friends in the Beartooth Mountains along the Montana/Wyoming border. Let’s say the mosquitoes are so thick–zillions of them, dense clouds of them–that they risk inhaling them (check), swallowing them (check), and swat them by the tens in their tent (check, check, check!). They find them floating in their oatmeal and coffee, and plastered into their couscous (check, and check). In spite of the blood-letting, they have a glorious hike above 10,000 feet elevation, are appreciatively reminded of their place in the food chain (this is grizzly country), celebrate one friend’s end-of-chemo first-year anniversary, and return happy and rejuvenated with over 100 bites each. Continue reading

Do You Know What It Means for a Vegan to Miss New Orleans?

Douglas Doneson

No matter how many cups of Yerba Mate I drink or how many lamps I turn on (or off) to get the right lighting, I can’t focus on my law school work. After living in New Orleans for close to six years my body knows Mardi Gras is approaching. It knows I should be there. Anyone who has been to the New Orleans Mardi Gras knows that once the thought of Mardi Gras comes to mind, so many good memories are recalled and flow throughout the brain.

One memory that always comes to mind is the amazing food New Orleans has to offer.  This is a funny thought for me because I am vegan. I actually stopped eating meat, while working at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans in 2007. But for some reason when I think about New Orleans, food is always the first thought that come to mind. Not surprisingly, New Orleans has a pretty small selection of vegan restaurants.  One of my favorite qualities of New Orleans, its stagnancy, is also its worst enemy.  Continue reading

The Ethics of Veganism, Cont’d

David Cassuto

In keeping with my earlier promise to highlight well-argued pieces on both sides of the veganism debate, here is a piece by former vegan and author George Monbiot, which explains why he has now concluded that meat-eating (not, however, the factory farm system) is ok.  There have been a number of thoughtful responses to Monbiot.  Here is one and here’s another.

Real American Hero

Seth Victor

Megan Coffee is a superhero. She is a doctor from New Jersey who has been giving free medical care to the people in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and is the only American doctor still working at Haiti’s largest hospital. With no income for her work, she gets by on the kindness and hospitality of the locals. Oh, and all the while she’s maintained a vegan lifestyle. Triple kudos to her for showing that you can be an incredible humanitarian and still make a huge difference for animals. You can read the story here.

Another Veganism Hit Piece

David Cassuto

I tend to agree with most of the commentary I’ve seen so far on this hit piece on veganism in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Harold Fromm’s poor reasoning and almost brazen ignorance of the subject matter render the essay undeserving of a thorough critique. What does merit critiquing is the Chronicle’s decision to publish it.  Continue reading

Carnism vs. Ovo-Lacto Vegetarianism

David Cassuto

Interesting colloquy over at Dorf on Law between Melanie Joy (author of Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows:  An Introduction to Carnism) and Professor Sherry Colb.  The discussion deals with the respective locations on the ethical continuum of  “carnism” and lacto-ovo vegetarianism.  The colloquy is entitled “Part I,” so there is surely more to follow.

Gluttony

Seth Victor

            Gluttony is the big sin, the flagship of cruelty against animals, and because of that it is the hardest for me to put into original words. So many advocates before me have written so well about the consequences of over consuming animals. The message is simple, and is articulated best by Michael Pollan: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. That is a message aimed at fixing American health problems, which stem from our poor diets. In becoming better eaters, we will also become better stewards to animals. The poor treatment of factory farmed animals is a disaster, and it leads to the downfall of our health, our environment, and our economy, to say nothing of the animals who live in hell because of our dietary indulgences. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are an apt topic for any of the sins, but I’m sticking with the obvious one.  That the omnivore’s dilemma is the biggest and most oppressive issue in the animal rights world should come as no surprise to any of this blawg’s regular readers. For those of you just visiting, take some time read this post. Or this one. This one, too. It’s kind of a big deal.                Continue reading

Vegetable Protein — The Untold Story

David Cassuto

Why is it so scary that plants have protein?  Even as more and more veggie recipes appear in food sections of newspapers, discussions of plants´protein-rich nature remain conspicuously absent.  This is true even when a nutrition-breakdown accompanies the recipe.   Continue reading

Pondering Michael Vick & Grandma´s Turkey

David Cassuto

From the Recommended Readings Desk:  This from Sherry Colb over at Dorf on Law — a very thoughtful essay furthering a discussion begun when Gary Francione lectured at Cornell Law School.  Among other queries, the piece explores the relative morality of dog-fighting vs. cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.  The name of the essay is ´Animal Rights, Violent Interventions and Affirmative Obligations´ and is well worth the peruse.

Announcing “Our Hen House”

David Cassuto

Mariann Sullivan & Jasmin Singer

Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer are two of the jewels in the crown of the animal advocacy movement.  Both women have labored tirelessly on behalf of the voiceless for many years and in many ways.  Now they have a new way.  Their new project is called Our Hen House and is much more than blog.  It is, in their words, “a central clearinghouse for all kinds of ideas on how individuals can make change for animals.”  Below is some skinny from an email blast inviting people to the site.  It is a great thing they’re doing.  But don’t take my word for it.  Go and see.  And then stay and help.

Dear Friends,

You might be wondering why you got this email. If you’d like, please click “unsubscribe” below, and please pardon the intrusion. But if you’re interested in learning about Our Hen House — a new project that we’ve gleefully begun — then read on… Continue reading

Go Here, Read This

David Cassuto

This is a very interesting piece by Stephanie Ernst.  She argues that the crusade against factory farming undermines the larger animal rights movement by creating safe rationalizations for the consumption of local, “humanely raised” animal products.

Here’s a little taste:

It’s time for the vegan/animal rights movement to stop battling factory farming. And by that, of course, I mean that it’s time to stop presenting factory farming as the enemy, as the sole problem, when the problem is not confined to factory farming. Why? Continue reading

Fasting on the Bayou

David Cassuto

I blog from New Orleans, where I am attending the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) annual meeting.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, tomorrow is the meeting of the Animal Law section. 

Today I field tripped with the Environmental and Natural Resource sections.  We first visited a swamp and marshland (there is a difference between the two) and after lunch, we toured the lower Ninth Ward to see both the remaining devastation from Katrina as well as some fascinating and hopeful rebuilding efforts (including Brad Pitt’s Make It Right project).  All in all, it was a wonderful day spent with great colleagues witnessing both the struggles and triumphs of the natural and human world. 

There was one rub, though.  Continue reading

More on the Vegan Dialogues

Matthew Blaisdell

This is a summation/expansion of my comments (see post & comments here) relating to the NY Times Op-Ed in which the writer likened the killing of animals for meat consumption to the Holocaust.

I know only about as much as the general public regarding animal rights/law.  I do think that the issues involved are fascinating, difficult and complex.  What strikes me is what I will call the ‘moralizing’ tenor of much of the dialogue.  I call these dialogues ‘moralizing’ because, to me, they rely on assumptions about ethics applied to a code of behavior, and are imbued with strong judgments about those behaviors.  What has been happening is that those who focus on the ‘immorality’ of factory farming have been attacked for not subscribing to the ‘immorality’ of eating animal products.  For example, see a selection from the postings made by a friend of mine:

“Actually, I think many meat eaters are a self-righteous bunch … I long ago gave up trying to convince meat eaters to change after I realized that theirs is much less a rational choice, than a thoughtless submission to a base urge.”

To me, such statements (as well as those likening the consumption of animal products to murder or the Holocaust) are either intended to introduce the listener to this moral code by way of a provocative statement, or to communicate to a listener who subscribes to the same moral code.  I am concerned with is the first of these motives.   Continue reading

Vegan With a Vengeance

Tara Dugo

On November 22, 2009, the New York Times ran an op ed that discussed, of all things, veganism.  (Previously discussed on this blawg on November 24, 2009 and November 27, 2009.)  The op ed, which was written by Gary Steiner, a Professor of Philosophy at Bucknell University, really delved into the issues that vegans are faced with in today’s “meat-crazed society.”  While both entertaining and impassioned, Mr. Steiner asked the readers of the New York Times to basically think before they ate this Thanksgiving.  He also discussed that, just because the turkey that you are buying is labeled “free-cage” or “free-range” does not mean that the animal that you are about to ingest lived a long, comfortable life.  Instead, its life was “short and miserable” just like the turkeys that lived their short lives in factory farms.  One theme that ran throughout his article was the idea that nonhuman animals are exploited for man’s satisfaction and that this is the result of man’s feelings of superiority, since man is intelligent and compassionate.  As Mr. Steiner so perfectly stated, just because animals may not think on the same plane as humans, does not justify us using them as “organic toys.”

Mr. Steiner’s article is clearly a comment on the property paradigm with regards to animals.  It is the fact that animals are property in the law that they are exploited for human usage.  Enter veganism.  Strict vegans, as Mr. Steiner pointed out, have an abolitionist ideology when it comes to animal exploitation.  While this ideology is largely on the fringe of societal thought, a small shift is beginning.  More and more individuals are adapting a new attitude towards animals, realizing that they are, and certainly should in a legal sense be more than property.  The mere fact that the New York Times published the article by Mr. Steiner shows that animal welfare and veganism are making their way into minds of the mainstream.   Continue reading

Where Have All The Rational People Gone?

[The following post is written by one my Animal Law students who prefers to remain anonymous –dnc]

I read an article recently that really offended me. The article was written on November 21, 2009 by Gary Steiner and was published in the New York Times Op-Ed section (Steiner’s piece has already been discussed  on this blog here).

The first line in this article that bothered me actually did not originate from him. He quotes Issac Bashevis Singer in his story “The Letter Writer” as saying that the killing of animals for food is the “eternal Treblinka.” For those of you who are not aware, Treblinka was a Nazi extermination camp. In one year there were 850,000 people killed there. The problem I have with Singer’s comparison is that there was no benefit whatsoever to the Nazis by killing these people. Of course many Animal Rights activists do not think it is right to kill animals for human benefit, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone who denies that the humans who do kill animals gain a benefit from them. In fact, I think the whole issue is whether it is right for humans to kill animals for their benefit. You may not feel the benefit is justified, but we are not talking about wanton slaughter like there was in Treblinka.

Please just read this short article about Treblinka at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treblinka_extermination_camp, and then I feel that you will agree that to even repeat this ridiculous comparison destroys any validity that could possibly have come out of this article. That is my problem with Steiner. What would possess him to read this ridiculous comparison and then quote it? Obviously he read it and said something to the effect of “hey, wait a second, that’s right. Slaughtering animals for a benefit to human’s is exactly the same as a mass extermination of humans for absolutely no reason.” And then he decided to quote it. All I can say to him is, well I think Abraham Lincoln said it best, sometimes it is “better to remain silent and be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

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