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Esther The Wonder Pig's Dads

I recently interviewed the beautiful gay dads of Esther the Wonder Pig on Vegansaurus! Pretty fun!

Thanks to her dads Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter, tens of thousands of fans get to peek into the surprising and always adorable daily doings of Esther The Wonder Pig, the clever, undeniably photogenic 400-pound pig! It’s truly a delight each day to browse Steve and Derek’s witty status updates and glamorous pics of Esther living her genius, safe, and cozy life in Toronto with her loving dads and dog siblings!

I interviewed Esther’s loving dads about life with Esther, how she came into their lives, and their future plans to continue spreading awareness about pigs as pets, not food.

Click here to read my interview with Esther The Wonder Pig’s Dads on Vegansaurus!

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Bleating Hearts by Mark Hawthorne

If you’re thinking of reading an animal welfare-themed book this year, make it Mark Hawthorne’s breathtakingly well-researched and expertly written new book, Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering. Following his activism-focused first book Striking At The Roots, Hawthorne examines the many unseen sources of animal abuse, mistreatment, murder, and exploitation rampant in our world.

Bleating Hearts features lesser-discussed stories in animal welfare that are incredibly relevant in our modern times. As a vegan who considers herself to be relatively well-informed, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know about many of the specific animal abuses mentioned in Hawthorne’s book. There’s literally so much shit that people do to abuse animals that Hawthorne has painstakingly uncovered, it’s almost unreal. Hawthorne isn’t out to shock—he’s out to inform, providing generous research and sources to show the reader her blind spots and shines light on societal blights many of us have no idea about.

Vegansaurus! Review of Bleating Hearts

Continue reading my review of Bleating Hearts on Vegansaurus!

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Never Read The Comments On Queer Vegan Food

The infamous “Never Read The Comments” tote bag guest poster Jamie J. Hagen spotted after Vida Vegan Con this year.

Today, Queer Vegan Food readers are in for a major treat: a really amazing guest post by writer/activist and scholar Jamie J. Hagen. I’ve long been a fan of Jamie’s writing and strong feminist-vegan social media presence, and am SO excited that she volunteered to share this personal and important post about the feminist implications of comment sections on online articles and blogs.

Jamie’s discussion is drawn from her experience as an editor of queer lady site  Autostraddle, and other sites. As a speaker at Vida Vegan Con this year, Jamie led a discussion about how to keep comments sections respectful AND maintain healthy discourse. It’s got my wheels spinning; How do online communities enforce respectful commenting while simultaneously encouraging healthy debate?

I’d love to hear what others think about the comments sections in blogs and whether you think Jamie is right that feminist spaces can benefit from a well-enforced comments policy. Her great questions allow us to consider our own experiences with comments sections, and I’d encourage anyone who feels moved to share to do so.

And now, the post you’ve been waiting for… ~ Sarah

Why I Read The Comments: A Feminist Argument For The Value Of An Engaged Comment Community

By: Jamie J. Hagen

As a freelance writer I’ve received incredibly adamant advice to read the comments. I’ve also received incredibly adamant advice not to read the comments. The worth in responding to comments is a somewhat contentious and confused topic, often overshadowing the potential value of an engaged comment community.

During my time as a Contributing Editor to the girl-on-girl culture website Autostraddle I became a big fan of the potential for conversation and community in the comment space. As a regular writer and reader of the website, I value Autostraddle’s efforts to promote a “safe-space” conversation with a well thought out comment policy.

Their comment policy begins, “We have really funny readers, and we love getting to know you and hearing your opinions. Dialogue with readers is so important to us, in fact, that we are working hard to make sure that Autostraddle remains a safe place for discussion as we get bigger and better.”

Covered in their policy are issues such as bad faith, fat phobia, and trans* inclusion and this has led to many constructive, fun, lively conversations moderated by Autostraddle community moderators. Further vegan, queer food for thought: Some of the members of Autostraddle’s comment community became best friends and even lovers during Autostraddle sponsored events and other offline venues. Some readers aren’t out as queer anywhere but online. Some readers don’t find support for their thoughts and feelings as queers anywhere but on online. Knowing the editors, writers and the comment community are all invested in creating a space to support queer readers who may not find that type of support anywhere else is constantly lauded by many community members.

When writing for other websites I seek to bring this same ethic in responding to the comments. For example, while writing for PolicyMic.com it was made clear that promoting our pieces by engaging with the commenters was encouraged, essentially required, to be a successful writer for the site geared towards a millennial crowd working to create a bi-partisan political dialogue.

From the perspective of someone who has been involved in Autostraddle and other feminist comment spaces I pitched the “Comments Are Your Friend” workshop for the vegan blogging conference Vida Vegan Con II conference in May of this year. As I imagined the workshop, it would offer a space to create a conversation about whether people read the comments, why or why not, and how we can make sure we participate in self-care when writing and commenting about the personal as political. Only after learning I’d be welcomed to host the comment conversation at Vida Vegan Con II did I discover the “Never Read the Comments” tote for sale at Portland‘s vegan grocery story Food Fight – so there‘s that!

At the workshop I opened the conversation for all to share their experiences with comments. Many attendees spoke to the difficulty of discussing vegan politics on personal spaces such as Facebook, but agreed there was a valuable opportunity to educate readers on the web about veganism by simply responding with a non-judgmental factual comment when possible. Attempting to change the minds of those trolling websites to get a rise out of writers certainly seems a fools errand, but a well-articulated comment left in response to a nasty or confrontational comment may reach dozens or even hundreds of readers.

Jamie Hagen and Laura Beck of Vegansaurus and Jezebel At Vida Vegan Con Conference

Jamie Hagen, Laura Beck of Vegansaurus and Jezebel and panel participants at Vida Vegan Con Conference

It’s hard to ignore the impact of gender-based and homophobic attacks endured by female and queer writers online. The recent campaigns by Facebook and Twitter to address violent and repetitive rape threats and the posting of rape videos on their networks speaks to the extent of the problem. Because of this reality, I feel those of us with the ability to build and structure a more feminist space in a blog’s comment community should consider and explore taking the time to do so.

Writing about queer politics, vegan politics or any other ethically charged topic can lead to some difficult and exhausting conversations. Creating a valuable comment space requires work, a well-developed comment policy and the ability to enforce it.  Whether a writer chooses to read or engage with the comment community will vary on context, time commitment to community building and meeting the needs of her own self-care.

Do you have experience engaging with constructive conversation in your comment space? If not, do you think a comment policy and more active engagement from regular readers and writers could shift the tone of a comment space?

Jamie Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen is a writer and doctoral student of Global Governance and Human Security at the University of Massachusetts, Boston with a focus on gender and feminist security studies. As a freelance writer Hagen has covered queer and vegan politics, news, and culture for publications such as RollingStone.com, One Green Planet and Autostraddle

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The Vassar Eat Issue

As an alum of the college, former assistant staff writer at the publication, and ethical queer vegan, I’ve been pretty heartbroken since I received my copy of the Spring/Summer 2013 Vol. 109 Issue 2 of Vassar, the alumnae/i quarterly of Vassar College. I got chills when I saw the theme of the issue was “Eat.” Before perusing, I sensed that there was a significant chance that this issue theme would be grossly mishandled. I suspected that Vassar would likely glorify eating (and exploiting) non-human animals by highlighting the work of notable non-vegan alums like Anthony Bourdain, and other so-called food celebrity alums.

It turns out I was right about my suspicions: “Eat” issue is one of the most troubling things I’ve ever seen branded with Vassar’s name. There’s too much offensive material in this 91-page volume to cover all of it, but I’ll share some highlights:

On page seven, the article “The Gritty Life of a Food Activist” profiles a white male alum with a five-o-clock shadow staring at a dead pig head, ostensibly of one of the “heritage” varieties he purports to care about saving through–you guessed it–raising them to be slaughtered:

“[Heritage Foods]‘ mission is to preserve rare breeds of turkeys, pigs, cows, lambs, bison, tuna, salmon, chicken, ducks, geese, and goats by creating a market for them…Martins believes that eating heritage breeds is the only way to save them.” (p. 7, Vassar,  “Eat” Issue).

Anyone who has read Carol J. Adams’ work The Sexual Politics of Meat can understand the unique sexual politics related to a (white) man presiding over a dead pig’s head, ostensibly one he’s helped kill in order to “save” it. Hmm.

Page 16 features a recipe for Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) complete with shrimp pictures, courtesy of Vassar alum/cookbook author Penelope Casas. Yikes. No vegan option in sight, no explanation, just meat-eating continuing to be perpetuated as the norm and something to be celebrated.

Next, on page 17, there’s an article called “Conscience in the Kitchen” discussing how chef Seth Caswell cooks “fresh oysters right from the shell.” I couldn’t believe the article title. Where, exactly, is the conscience in Caswell’s cooking? I can only assume the writer is referring to the fact that Caswell works in a LEED-certified kitchen when he serves “ever-popular chicken Parmesan” The truth is, meat is not conscionable on any level, and certainly not to the chicken who needlessly gave his/her life.

Page 18 features an alum who runs a restaurant called “Fish Fowl Beef Pork”–I’m gagging. Of all the amazing work Vassar alums are doing in the world, they have to feature someone whose work glorifies killing fish, birds, cows, and pigs? There’s even a mention of this guy’s “grilled Sullivan County fois gras” — besides being incredibly cruel, I have to ask: is Fois gras even legal anymore?

Perhaps the worst article in this issue is “Greener Pastures,”on p. 21 featuring Justin Leavenworth ’96, who is characterized as an effeminate “skinny jeans-, hipster glasses-wearing guy” who somehow finds a way to get along with his fellow “macho men” of the meat industry. If this isn’t a classic sexual politics of meat trope, I don’t know what is. The message is, look, even effeminate Vassar men can be “manly” by showing they know what’s what about killing animals. There is so much wrong with this article, I don’t even know where to start. How about this:

“Some ranchers mistrust the grass-fed movement, considering it a way to move the country one step closer to the ‘liberal vegetarian ideal.’” (p. 21). Side note: Vassar editors, who, exactly, do you think your readers are?

Then there’s a fudge recipe with animal products making up about 50% of the ingredients hailed as “Vassar tradition,” no vegan option included. One could easily substitute coconut milk for the butter and cream and it’d be amazing. Why wasn’t a vegan option even considered? There’s way more offensive material in this issue, but I’m exhausted already. And yes: Anthony Bourdain gets his obligatory profile as well.

Based on my experience working for the Quarterly during my Senior year of college, I recognize that the primary function of the publication is to inspire alums to donate to Vassar through emotional stories relating to the school and its notable attendees, faculty, staff, and community members. What better topic to relate to our emotions than our food, our sustenance, our culturally-linked second heart? I get why the editors of this magazine chose this theme. But writing about food in a way that completely ignores vegan perspectives is really limited, and ignores the great work Vassarians do in this arena.

Couldn’t Vassar editors have chosen to profile even one vegan perspective? We have many notable vegan alums, including but not limited to: Haley Burke, a cancer center doctor living and working in Texas; Pulin Modi, a force for good in this world at Change.Org; activist Lauren O’Laughlin, and on and on.

There are also lots of other incredible current Vassar student vegan activists, like Ali Seiter, Alan Darer, Rocky Schwartz, and more. I met some of these activists at the Marti Kheel Ecofeminist Conference at Wesleyan, and THEY are what makes me  proud to call myself a Vassar alum. Vassar does great work in the field of human- and non-human animal welfare; why not highlight it, or at the very least, refrain from mocking it?

I’m pretty happy to report that there was at least one vegan mention in the publication–my contribution to Defiant Daughters: 21 Women On Art, Activism and The Sexual Politics of Meat gets a nod in the Mixed Media section on p. 40.

Final words: I am really disappointed by this issue of Vassar. It doesn’t include or recognize perspectives that are central to many Vassar community members’ activism. It certainly doesn’t make me feel inspired to pull out my wallet. Despite this, I am going to remain hopeful that the good work Vassar students, faculty, alumnae/i and others continue to do in this world for human- and non-human animals will ring far louder than puff pieces aimed to rake in donations.

I encourage anyone interested to e-mail the Director of Alumnae/i Communications, Editor Elizabeth Randolph and let her know what you think about this issue. She can be reached at elrandolph@vassar.edu.

Thanks.

UPDATE: Lagusta Umami of Lagusta’s Luscious has confirmed Foie gras is currently legal in New York State, but banned in California.

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This week, to celebrate our April birthdays, Courtney and I traveled to Colorado to enjoy a little vacation. Even though it snowed most of the time we were there, I was excited to see Colorado for the first time and connect with friends, vegan noms and activities located in the Rocky Mountain area. Here are the places we ended up visiting in Denver and Boulder, Colorado:

Boulder, Colorado

Dushanbe Tea House

1770 13th St. Boulder, CO

The tea menu and the gorgeous decor are the real reasons to visit Dushanbe Tea House, which is a local treasure. They also have several vegan options on their menu, which can be enjoyed alongside a freshly brewed tea or infusion.

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The Thai Panang Curry (with tofu option) dish at Dushanbe Tea house.

The Thai Panang Curry (with tofu option) dish at Dushanbe Tea house was delightful–it had a great spicy kick.

Drinking a delicate green tea at Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, Colorado.

Drinking a delicate green tea at Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, Colorado.

Interior view of Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, Colorado.

Interior view of Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, Colorado.

Alfalfa’s Market

1651 Broadway  Boulder, CO 80302

Alfalfa’s has tons of great vegan items, including fresh produce and local vegan treats and snacks. Boulder is a hub for many organic food companies, including BoBo’s, Goodbelly, and many more. It was a great place for us to stock up on snacks, organic toiletries and breakfast items to keep in our hotel fridge. I recommend checking it out over or at least in addition to Whole Foods if you’re in the area and need groceries or green juice–they sell that too.

Alfalfa's vegan-friendly market in Boulder

Alfalfa’s vegan-friendly market in Boulder

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant

2010 16th Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302

The Asian Mizuna Salad  at Leaf Vegetarian

The Asian Mizuna Salad at Leaf Vegetarian.

The Asian Mizuna Salad  at Leaf Vegetarian. Made with wakame seaweed, mizuna, jicama, carrots, snap peas, bamboo shoots, sesame sweet chili vinaigrette.

The vegan soup of the day at Leaf Vegetarian. Made with squash and a delicate broth.

The vegan soup of the day at Leaf Vegetarian. Made with squash and a delicate broth.

The Kitchen Next Door

1035 Pearl St.
Boulder, CO 80302

When dining with a non-vegan friend, we found plenty to enjoy at The Kitchen Next Door, including homemade kale chips, beet-infused salads and a wonderful homemade hummus. Great choice if on Pearl Street, if you love craft beers, or if you’re dining with non-vegans. There’s also free music on many nights.

Menu selection from The Kitchen Next Door

Menu selection from The Kitchen Next Door. Loved the kale chips!

Here are some more pictures from our wintry explorations in Boulder:

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Courtney Pool and Queer Vegan Food, hanging out by the river in Boulder, CO

Boulder, CO in the snow

Boulder, CO in the snow

Boulder, CO in the snow

Boulder, CO in the snow

Denver, Colorado

Nooch Vegan Market

3360 Larimer St., Denver

What’s not to love about Nooch Vegan Market? Located in a cool part of Denver, there’s aisles of vegan treats and staples to enjoy, plus clothing, dog treats, household products, super-friendly staff. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in town.

Nooch Vegan Market in Denver, CONooch Vegan Market in Denver, CO Nooch Vegan Market in Denver, CO IMG_2777 IMG_2778 IMG_2779 IMG_2780IMG_2782

City, O City

206 E. 13th Avenue Denver

City, O City offers tons of vegan options, though it’s not a fully vegan establishment. I got the baby kale salad and tried their homemade kombucha and onion rings. Everything was great! I forgot to snap pics but if you go, definitely check out their on-tap kombucha and some of the great vegan offerings.

City, O City in Denver, Colorado

City, O City in Denver, Colorado

Thanks for checking out my blog post on some vegan adventures in Boulder and Denver. There are more vegan-friendly places to check out than the ones we visited, so please share them in the comments if you know of them or link to beloved blogs/companies if you’d like to share your favorites!

 

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I did a fun interview with the wonderful Vance Lehmkuhl of VegCast. We chatted about veganism, Philly, and The Queer Vegan Food Cookbook.

Mentions: Defiant Daughters Carol Adams Ashley Maier Food Empowerment Project lauren Ornelas Hip City Veg Vedge Restaurant Nicole Marquis and more . . .

Listen: http://www.vegcast.com/vegcast114.mp3

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vegansaurus

I recently wrote a blog on Vegansaurus! in response to articles suggesting you can’t be a healthy high raw vegan. My post, entitled “Eating raw will not ruin your life!” offers insights into how I think about high raw foodism in the overall context of a healthy vegan lifestyle. Some of you lovely readers eat high raw diets, so I thought you might be interested in jumping in on the discussion happening over there.

To read the article and get involved in the discussion about high raw veganism on Vegansaurus!, click here.

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When Lantern Books asked me submit a piece to the anthology Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat (Lantern Books, March 2013) I was thrilled to put to paper some of the many ways that Carol J. Adams’ work has impacted my life and activism career, and to share how my relationship with my brother Asher grew due to our mutual love of Carol’s book The Sexual Politics of Meat and shared commitment to veganism.

The anthology, edited by the fantastic Kara Davis and Wendy Lee with a foreword by Carol J. Adams, features 21 pieces by women artists, feminists, vegans, chefs, professors, and writers from all backgrounds. All proceeds from the anthology go to the wonderful vegan multimedia collective for change, Our Hen House. Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House and I actually share a section in the book entitled “Fish and Frog,” and I recently did a piece for Our Hen House’s online magazine that relates to my essay in Defiant Daughters, which you can read by clicking here.

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Here is the description of the book Defiant Daughters from Lantern Books’ website:

One writer attempts to reconcile her feminist-vegan beliefs with her Muslim upbringing; a second makes the connection between animal abuse and her own self-destructive tendencies. A new mother discusses the sexual politics of breastfeeding, while another pens a letter to her young son about all she wishes for him in the future. Many others recall how the book inspired them to start careers in the music business, animal advocacy, and food. No matter whether they first read it in college or later in life, whether they are in their late teens or early forties, these writers all credit The Sexual Politics of Meat in some way with the awakening of their identities as feminists, activists, and women. Even if you haven’t read the original work, you’re sure to be moved and inspired by these tales of growing up and, perhaps more important, waking up to the truths around us.

My chapter, entitled “Brother Knows Best,” includes the ways in which my coming out as vegan and queer were interconnected, and how Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat helped me recognize these interconnections. It also discusses the ways in which my friendship with my brother Asher and our mutual commitment to helping animals helped me through it all. Here is an excerpt from my piece:

Unlike his hand-me-down t-shirts and jackets that ended up in my closets, my brother’s vegetarianism fit me well, and I made it my own. When he went off to college, Asher granted me access to his bookshelf, which included his treasured science fiction and war books, french novels, and dog-eared copies of classics we were made to read in high school. Many of his books collected dust in his absence, but when I reached the end of high school, one precious book on his shelf shifted everything in my world: The Sexual Politics of Meat.

The red cover immediately stole my attention. A striking image of a woman in a sexualized pose, with portions of her body demarcated as cuts of meat, was both familiar and disturbing. Its cover offered an immediate opportunity to consider the connection between the consumption of women and animals.

Reading the book at age seventeen, I realized that it was hypo-critical for me to be vegetarian and not vegan, since I believed so deeply in animal welfare and human welfare (my primary reasons for abstaining from animal flesh). I knew that eating cows was out of alignment with my ethics after my brother helped me to see how meat comes at the price of animal suffering, but this text illuminated an entirely new way of understanding how animal agriculture of dairy products reveals the ways in which females are particularly exploited.

Understanding the mechanisms of privilege and power that reinforce the eating of animals helped me recognize how I, a woman coming into my non-normative sexual orientation, related to the animal agriculture industrial complex. As I uncovered universal truths about the connections between oppression toward women and animals, it was in no way coincidental that I came out as a vegan and a lesbian the year I turned eighteen.

Thank you for reading! I am so honored to have been a part of this collection; the other writers are incredibly talented and truly carry the torch of Carol’s work, more than 20 years after The Sexual Politics of Meat was first published. I hope you’ll check out the book when it comes out in March. You can pre-order by clicking here. Additionally, you can “like” the book’s Facebook page and stay tuned for excerpts posted by other contributors in anticipation of the launch.

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Today’s Our Hen House episode features lots of amazing interviews (Jasmin’s family! Vedge owners and more!), and I was lucky enough to be one of them!

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I love Jasmin and Mariann and it was fantastic to meet up with them for groothies, the green smoothie at HipCityVeg alongside Courtney.

Click here to listen to the Our Hen House podcast and our interview (which begins around 28 minutes in).

:)

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Alessandra and I first met virtually, tweeting back and forth and following each other’s vegan lifestyle blogs. It didn’t take long to realize we have a lot in common: Alessandra currently attends my alma mater (Vassar), and she is also a passionate ethical vegan. Since we were officially acquainted a few months ago at the Marti Kheel Ecofeminist Conference at Wesleyan University, I got to meet the truly compassionate, ethical, tough-minded and kind woman behind the glorious high raw vegan cuisine and vegan commentary Alessandra posts regularly on her fantastic blog Farmers Market Vegan.

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Meeting the wonderful Alessandra Seiter at the Marti Kheel Ecofeminist Conference at Wesleyan University.

Alessandra’s post today discusses her views on the importance of taking a stand against animal abuse, and how important it is to be outspoken when it comes to flippant, non-vegan-friendly, animal-exploitative, politically incorrect remarks from non-vegans.

The ability to deal with non-vegan criticism can make-or-break someone’s commitment to a vegan lifestyle. I’ve known plenty of aspiring vegans who have caved to pressure from family, society, partners, friends. It’s not always easy to break free from expectations from those close to us or from society at large, and I commend Alessandra for approaching the topic from a place of understanding.

Drawing parallels between oppression against animals and against other groups, Alessandra suggests that vegans who “speak” for animals who are voiceless are often treated in hostile ways and that this should not be tolerated. I am so grateful she agreed to write a post for Queer Vegan Food, and I think her choice of subjects is incredibly relevant to the topics frequently discussed in this blog, including looking at interconnected oppressions, and how identity politics play a role in our vegan lifestyles.  Alessandra’s guest post is thought-provoking on many levels and I know you’ll find it as enriching as I have.

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Guest Post: “Yes, I Do Find That Offensive”

By Alessandra Seiter

Back in my junior year of high school, on a bitingly cold day in the dead of winter, I and twenty-some classmates shivered and chattered our teeth whilst our teacher lectured at the front of one of many rooms in the school that boasted a broken radiator. Glancing toward the back of the room, I noticed in outrage that a slightly ajar window invited even more freezing air to permeate our veritable igloo of learning, and promptly scurried to shut it. However, after struggling by my lonesome to yank the window closed, I had to enlist two of my fellow classmates to aid me in carrying out the deed, which inspired my teacher to interrupt his own lecture with a flippant, “Oh, just eat a steak, Ali. Then you’ll be strong enough to close a window by yourself.” Nevermind that the awkward angle of the window rendered it difficult to enact enough leverage upon it to close it; nevermind that the subzero temperature had partially frozen the windowpane into its frame; nevermind that most of the rest of the class couldn’t close the heavy windows single-handedly, either. No, my teacher decided to pinpoint my veganism as the cause of my supposedly unique frailty, and even deemed it necessary to do so in the form of a pronouncement to a large group of students.

“Oh, just eat a steak, Ali. Then you’ll be strong enough to close a window by yourself.”

Granted, this particular teacher often made lighthearted jokes about his students, such as when he asked my friend, clad in a vest of white lace, if she planned on attending a tea party later that day. When she responded, “No, why?”, he followed with, “Well, I’m just confused as to why you’re wearing a doily.” Teacher grins, friend blushes, classmates giggle, and lesson resumes without much incident. However, even though our teacher never intended for his insouciant comments to seem malicious, nor did anyone usually interpret them as such, his infamous steak comment left me feeling quite belittled, discriminated against, and even attacked. Did he really have to perpetuate the stereotype of vegans as protein-deficient weaklings to further disenfranchise a compassionate, conscious lifestyle? Didn’t he understand that veganism comprised an integral aspect of my identity, rendering me utterly incapable of and opposed to abandoning the vast majority of my beliefs and values by “just eating a steak”?

Didn’t he understand that veganism comprised an integral aspect of my identity, rendering me utterly incapable of and opposed to abandoning the vast majority of my beliefs and values by “just eating a steak”?

Would he have ever made a similar remark, just as demeaning to one’s steadfast moral system, toward someone for their religious beliefs of any other underrepresented identity? In response to my own three rhetorical questions above: 1.) I remain fully certain that my teacher didn’t regard his steak comment as derogatory of a legitimate ideology, but simply as a playful jab at my petite figure. 2.) No, he almost definitely misconstrued veganism as merely a set of dietary habits existing independent of ethics or social justice. 3.) Absolutely not, but considering his aforementioned assumed misinterpretation of a vegan lifestyle, he wouldn’t have considered veganism as a touchy subject deserving the use of politically correct language—in other words, he probably viewed my decision to become vegan as just as arbitrary as that of my friend to wear a lacy vest, and thereby just as harmless a subject of his blithe derisions.

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I experience less extreme, yet just as upsetting, instances of this widespread failure to understand veganism as an intrinsic element of one’s character quite often in my everyday life. For example, the non-vegans with whom I dine (aka, most of my eating companions) seldom ask if I would feel uncomfortable if they consumed animal flesh and secretions around me. Additionally, my aunt recently told me about the successful Christmas party she hosted, emphasizing the enormous platter of various fish and shellfish that she served to her delighted guests, and became rather offended when I reacted with less enthusiasm than she expected. While home from college for winter break, my mother requested that I help her prepare appetizers for a holiday party that she and my father planned to attend later that night—appetizers in which she insisted upon featuring goat’s milk cheese and Parmesan-filled pesto—and raised her eyebrows in skepticism when I explained my discomfort in doing so. Finally (though I can recount a plethora of further examples), a couple months ago, I broke into tears while my good friend and I discussed the isolation and lack of support for my veganism that I felt in my immediate community; my friend’s genuinely concerned response of, “So why don’t you just stop being vegan?” underscores the mainstream perception of veganism as a trait more akin to one’s hair color than to one’s deepest moral values. News flash non-vegans, aunt, mom, and friend: yes, I do find all of these things offensive.

“So why don’t you just stop being vegan?” underscores the mainstream perception of veganism as a trait more akin to one’s hair color than to one’s deepest moral values.

To those who view my veganism as a private choice I made willy-nilly to prove my nonconformity/help me lose weight/highlight my “hippie” image/change my eating habits in silence, with no intention of spreading the urgent reasons that compelled me to do so/etc., I’d like to offer these insights into why I’m vegan and devoted to remaining as such for the remainder of my life: to show non-exclusive compassion for all beings. To cause as little harm as possible to the world around me and all of its inhabitants. To expose the egregious animal cruelty perpetrated on every single factory farm in existence. To oppose the corrupt triangle of animal agribusiness, the government, and the pharmaceutical industry that profits immensely from influencing people to eat the meat and dairy products that underlie our country’s health crisis. To advocate for the exploited and deeply traumatized individuals employed at slaughterhouses. To combat the mindset of desensitization to violence and suffering with which the vast majority of people currently live. I could go on.

So no, I can’t just “eat a steak” or “stop being vegan,” because to do so would require me to either contract amnesia and forget every smidgen of information I’ve gathered about the dire implications of eating animals, or to metamorphose into an altogether different person with a new brain, personality, and belief system. Veganism defines who I am, just as does sexuality for many involved in the gay rights movement, or as did race for many involved in the civil rights movement. But because mainstream society often fails to accept veganism or animal rights as legitimate social movements, most folks wouldn’t consider eating a hamburger, waxing poetic about the cheese plate one ordered at a restaurant last night, or demanding respect for their personal eating habits as offensive toward the vegans with whom they may interact. I’d like to argue that vegans deserve just as much consideration as others who speak for underrepresented groups in terms of what those outside the groups deem as appropriate to say to them, and would urge people to ponder that, for example, justifying the decision to eat meat by insisting that humans have done so for a significant number of years parallels justifying the decision to own slaves based upon the same reasoning.

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If individuals support any sort of movement involving human rights, environmental protection, or a general decrease in violence, I say that looking down upon veganism as an insignificant personal choice rather than respecting it as a powerful call for justice undermines the progressive, liberally-minded ethics said individuals have worked to cultivate. I remain confident that once people begin to understand veganism as a deeply ingrained set of values and beliefs, they’ll start to ask for more information concerning the activist ideals of a vegan lifestyle, and thereby discover the toll that eating animals has taken and will continue to take on billions of sentient beings, on our planet, and on our personal health.

To conclude, I’d like to leave you with this quote by Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson: “If you want to know where you would have stood on slavery before the Civil War, don’t look at where you stand on slavery today. Look at where you stand on animal rights.”

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resizedA passionate animal liberation advocate with a penchant for writing and healthy living, Ali Seiter intends to devote her professional and personal lives to speaking out on behalf of the victims of animal agribusiness, both human and non. She currently attends Vassar College as a prospective English major. In her limited spare time, Ali enjoys practicing yoga, biking, baking gluten-free bread, and blogging at Farmers Market Vegan. You can find Ali on her blog, on Twitter as @FarmerMarketVeg, or on Facebook.

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