Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Guest Post’ Category

Today’s guest post is from my friend Hana Low, a tireless vegan activist, radical nurse-to-be, and force for change for human- and non-human animals. I’m grateful to Hana for submitting this amazing guest blog on whether vegans should get the flu vaccine. While I’m definitely glad that I got my flu shot–this is a particularly rough flu season, even for healthy, young people–flu vaccines are definitely a complicated topic from a vegan perspective, as they are not currently totally vegan.

As vaccines can be a sensitive topic on the internet among vegans and non-vegans, I’m posting this with the disclaimer that, overall, I very much believe in them, and spend a great deal of my time working to improve vaccination rates nationwide. As always, only respectful comments will be allowed. Any comments including personal attacks on either myself or Hana will not be admitted. I’m also not interested in generating a major debate about whether vaccines in general are awesome. There’s (unfortunately, in my opinion) plenty of other places to engage in those discussions elsewhere on the internet.

With that being said, I invite you to enjoy Hana’s thought-provoking post and invite you to share your questions and comments at the end.

Flu vaccine on Queer Vegan Food

Guest Post By Hana Low: Vegan Musings On Egg-Based Vaccines

Last week, Queer Vegan Food’s Facebook page posted, “Got a flu shot. Yay medicine. Just wish vaccines were all vegan…,” which expresses my complicated feelings about the ubiquitous use of animal products in this messed up world. Animal exploitation is so commonplace that animal (by) products are used in the production of everything from bicycle tires to glue. I agree with what Erik Marcus writes in The Vegan Guidethat we must do what we can to reduce harm (including harm to humans) wherever possible, and not obsess about attaining some impossible level of veganness in a flawed world.  (Better to spend the energy feeding and educating nonvegans, I say.)

I had to get a flu shot for nursing school, and no vegan version was available to me. Because viruses like the flu need host cells to replicate, both the nasal flu mist and the shot are typically produced in chicken embryos, and have been for decades. This is a problem: for the chickens who would need to produce hundreds of millions of eggs for the vaccine doses, for people with severe egg allergies, for public health professionals concerned about vaccine shortages in the case of avian flu, for immunocompromised patients, and for the environment.

Clearly, we must develop egg-free and animal free alternatives. Some options being developed replicate the viruses inside plants (!) or in vitro animal systems. The Picky Veganin a great post about her decision whether to get the flu vaccine as a vegan, writes that in vitro animal cell systems are still not vegan, but I would happily take a flu shot developed in vitro, because it would not have required the continued use and harm of a sentient being. I do think that the ideal, if scientifically possible and medically adequate, would be growing the vaccine in plant-based systems or consensually obtained human cells sustained on animal-free cell culture media.

The use of eggs in our flu shots is disturbing, and some folks have cited veganism as a “religious belief” that should exempt them from occupational requirements. Though my veganism guides my thinking and decision-making every day, I felt okay about getting the shot because the purpose was to protect vulnerable patients (though in my community-based dream nursing job, I wouldn’t need to get the shot anyway.) Some may disagree with me, but I interpret a refusal to get the vaccine for work as violating vegan principles of causing least harm, because by being unvaccinated health care workers could expose patients to infection and indirectly kill them.

The Picky Vegan mentioned taking a flu treatment, the antiviral Tamiflu, which, because it contains gelatin, is not vegan. However, if the difference between staying miserably, dangerously ill and getting well informs someone’s choice to take a medication, I would still affirm them identifying as vegan. As a public health type, I support preventing illness rather than treating it, even though vaccines aren’t 100% effective. Other vegans may forgo the vaccine and risk the non-vegan meds, rather than definitely take a non-vegan vaccine, which is their choice, though hopefully medical/scientific development will alleviate this problem.

We should absolutely develop human-based and in vitro alternatives to vivisection, which is better for animals but also for human health and safety. I think it’s up for individual people to decide where they fall in terms of medicines and vaccinations. We shouldn’t police one another’s choices because we don’t know one another’s medical needs and life experiences. As vegans, there are some good reasons for and against the flu vaccine. Some may decide their priority is preserving their and others’ heath, whereas other people may decide they aren’t at an occupational or health risk and go without. They should consult their healthcare providers and make that decision on their own consciences. I believe we all should do the best we can to reduce harm to all living beings, have grace for one another, and ride on!

[Editor's note: For more great perspectives on the vegan vaccine debate, I recommend Choosing Raw's post, Vaccinated and Vaccinated, Revisited, The Picky Vegan's Vegan and the Flu Shot. Also, if you're looking for a free and secure way to track and manage your vaccine information, I recommend using the app BeImmunized.]

hana for cavp

Hana Low is a queer and genderqueer ethical vegan of color living in Denver, CO. Shortly after becoming vegan they became interested in feminist-vegetarian politics and the connections between veganism and other struggles of liberation. They believe that veganism should not only sustain non-human animals and the environment, but also the human workers who produce our food, and that embracing the rich variety of plant-based foods on our planet is integral to building a sustainable future and healing one another from generations of unhealthy eating. Hana supports anti-violence work in the human realm as a board member and volunteer for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, which works to end violence against and within LGBTQ communities in Colorado. A nursing student at the University of Colorado, they aim to bring intersectional analysis and radical gender/sexuality inclusion into often conservative medical practice. After graduating, Hana hopes to support first-time families in child development as a nurse home visitor for the Nurse-Family Partnership. And, because happy folks make for healthier communities, they also enjoy making art (musical, visual, and verbal), dancin’ the night away, sharing delicious food in good company, and two-wheeled transport. Follow Hana on Twitter

Read Full Post »

Hampton Creek Foods Just Mayo, Eat The Dough and Chipotle Mayo. Photo via Vegansaurus!/Megan Adamson-Jackes.

Hampton Creek Foods Just Mayo, Eat The Dough and Chipotle Mayo. Photo via Vegansaurus!

I’m told that back in the day, we plant eaters had to make our own veggie burgers and milk our own nut milks. Now, if we want to make our own veggie burgers and strain soaked almonds through our nut milk bags, so be it–but we have choices. These choices allow us to be lazy vegans if we want to, but they also allow for people with tons of expertise (aka food scientists or professional chefs) to develop and refine ingredient combinations that the average vegan just doesn’t have time for.

Of course I think it’s wonderful to enjoy a whole foods, plant-based diet, but I think it’s a huge step in the right direction that we vegans can be lazy if we so choose, and are able to pick up packaged vegan foods as easily as omnivores. In the past, vegans wanting legit-tasting, cruelty-free mayo had to enjoy Veganaise (which isn’t bad, but isn’t great either) or make their own from scratch. Now, we have Just Mayo by Hampton Creek Foods, which offers a superior-tasting vegan mayonnaise that really behaves like it should–thick, creamy, slightly tangy and easily spreadable. Hampton Creek Foods’ team of very talented food chefs and scientists were no doubt involved in its creation! Learn more about the development process on Our Hen House’s podcast featuring Hampton Creek Foods CEO Josh Tetrick.

Silver Hills Bakery gluten-free vegan bread and Just Mayo: A perfect sandwich combination.

Silver Hills Bakery gluten-free vegan bread and Just Mayo: A perfect sandwich combination.

I tried Hampton Creek Foods mayo on Silver Hills gluten-free vegan sandwich bread. It went so well with the avocado, tempeh and tomato fillings! I also love that Hampton Creek Foods is getting national attention. You can check out just a bit of the press they’re getting here, here and here. Oh, and did I mention Bill Gates is one of their investors? You KNOW this company is going places. Perhaps what I love the most about Hampton Creek Foods products is that their target demographic actually isn’t us vegans–it’s omnivores, and their smart marketing campaigns use verbiage that make it very easy to see a new possibility for the millions of chickens who are abused, enslaved, and lose their lives in order to create mayonnaise for someone. This is a very promising path to the future, indeed.

Hampton Creek Foods also sent their Chipotle Mayo (which was not my bag but I could see others loving it) and their “Eat The Dough” gluten-free vegan cookie dough. Absolutely awesome cookie dough, I can’t wait to grab some in stores at some point.

Connect with Hampton Creek foods on Facebook to stay updated on the latest news and to find out when they’re selling in a store near you.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

proxy

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.

img_01641

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.

rss.jpg

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.

tumblr_lls0n7yAJI1qina4lo1_500

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.”

___

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.

Read Full Post »

Greetings, Queer Vegan Food readers! Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Ellen Degeneres egg posts. The discussions have been enlightening and I think very useful in figuring out how our vegan movement needs to address the backyard egg movement.

Today, I am beyond excited to post this article written by guest blogger Jessica Zafonte! In this guest blog, Jessica calls attention to unique queer-vegan issues within the gay parenting-themed American television series “The New Normal,” which airs on NBC and is co-produced by openly gay Ryan Murphy and out lesbian Ali Adler (both of whom also work on the series Glee, another LGBTQ-themed show). Jessica calls attention to how animal welfare is portrayed in this series, and her discussion about the show’s portrayal of how the privileged gay characters (both of whom are wealthy, male, and able-bodied) relate with animal welfare concerns on the television series is excellent and needed. LGBTQ issues and animal welfare issues are inextricably linked.

Jessica asks us to consider why an opportunity to showcase a meaningful connection between oppression against animals and LGBTQ folks was squandered when the television series made a muck of the topic of animal welfare during a recent episode. Jessica wonders if the show’s creators fear that in order to portray gay themes to mainstream audiences, they cannot simultaneously work against oppression of other groups (or even, I would add, non-privileged gay groups)?

I invite you to read Jessica’s fascinating, well-written and insightful post, and to leave a comment and share your thoughts on her post and this topic:

Guest Post: “The New Normal” TV Show’s Attitude About Food Animals

By Jessica Zafonte

the-new-normal-utah-new-home__oPt

I know that in order for our society to awaken to the cruelty and injustice behind raising and killing animals for food and for our culture’s consumption to move towards a more compassionate diet, the topic will need to enter the public discourse and become a mainstream debate. However, as I’m sure many of you can understand, currently when the mainstream media address any animal issues they are usually frighteningly misinformed and one-sided. I often wish that a given newspaper article/news segment/ TV show just chose to ignore the subject rather than address it in such a biased or unhelpful way. But I think it is important to remember that before any societal norm can change, it has to be discussed by those on both sides of the issue. It might seem like things are getting worse before they can get better.

This topic came to mind after watching the Thanksgiving Episode of NBC’s new show, “The New Normal.” For those of you not familiar, the show is based around a gay couple who hire a surrogate to carry their child. The antagonist of the show is the uber-conservative, angry, homophobic, racist, etc. grandmother of the surrogate mom. Although the show is cheesy and gets most of its laughs from playing off of stereotypes, it does promote a progressive and pro-gay rights message. When I read the synopsis on a recent episode on Hulu though my heart sunk. It stated that upon going to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, two of the main characters decide instead to rescue all of the turkeys at the farm. Sounds like a good thing, no? But I knew it was too good to be true. Sure enough, while the “pardoning” of all the turkeys motivates the characters to initially acknowledge that Thanksgiving is about peace, compassion, and forgiveness, they ultimately regress to their old ways of thinking about these animals.

TheNewNormalseason1e09

Characters on “The New Normal” prepare for a dinner party.

The more flamboyant half of the gay couple takes the daughter of the surrogate (don’t get bogged down in the details) to an organic farm where they can buy a “hormone-free, antibiotic-free” turkey. (Since the surrogate is pregnant of course, otherwise it would be perfectly fine to put these sorts of additives into the human body). They are then horrified when the farmer tells them to pick their turkey and that he will kill it right in front of them (as the camera zooms into a bloody tree stump and axe). The duo is horrified – it was their understanding that they’d be buying something already killed and wrapped up- something that didn’t look like the living thing it was! Yes, I like this! Demonstrating the disconnect between living animals and the food we eat! Upon returning home, with the rescued living turkeys in tow, the closed-minded grandma, known for her offensive and ignorant lines, is appalled that the family won’t be eating turkey for their holiday meal, insisting that “meat is American” and that “vegetables are for poor people.” At this point I’m really excited.

tofurkeyThis seemed like it was turning out to be a humorous commentary on what is now a growing awareness of the harm and unhealthiness behind animal agriculture! The character making these ridiculous statements is the one that always says the things that are “wrong” and “non-progressive,” after all. But, to my great disappointment, it was all downhill from there. After numerous comments about how stupid and dirty the turkeys are, the family sits down to their tofurkey dinner and then proceeds to be so revolted by the meat substitute that they all simultaneously spit it out onto their plates. Cut to the last scene where the little girl goes off to school and the mother snickers at the turkeys and tells them they will make a “delicious Christmas meal.” End scene. Heart drops. Blood pressure rises. So even a show that attempts to convey an important message of compassion and tolerance to a wide audience, which inevitably includes many prejudiced or closed-minded folks, just cannot extend this kindness and acceptance to animals?

Gays have been oppressed, marginalized, and physically and emotionally attacked throughout history – but I think we all derive hope from the fact that the public sentiment is finally changing. Yet the show proceeded to focus this same cruel and unjust treatment on living, breathing, feeling animals. Even the characters who were undeniably created by the show’s writers to stand for acceptance of an “alternative” lifestyle, tolerance of those difference from us, and compassion towards those we may not understand, acted inconsistently with their own moral fibers.

I often feel similarly after receiving google alerts that I set up for the words “vegan,” “animal rights” and “animal welfare.” Some of the articles that they lead me to are from inside the animal agriculture industry, where the authors bash animal activists for being extremist. One such article said something to the effect that only farmers know what is truly best for their animals, not animal activists. After my blood stopped boiling I began to think that maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing. First, Big Ag is getting scared of those on the side of animal welfare. If we weren’t a threat to the way they run their businesses (aka torture animals) then they would not be discussing this in the first place. (See this somewhat encouraging article in “Alfa Farmers,” acknowledging that the animal rights movement includes some “very influential people,” are “well-funded” and worries that “in the future, will one out of five people be vegans?” And that they cannot “underestimate our society’s ability to change.”). Second, the more publicity a topic is given, the greater chance that someone who has not yet made his/her mind up on the issue or even though about it, will begin to. Change doesn’t happen before discussion and a fight. Just like that famous Mahatma Gandhi quote: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I think right now our movement is somewhere in between the” laughing at you” and “fighting you” stage.3950908873_when_you_are_right_you_cannot_be_too_radical_design_answer_3_xlarge

But the underlying question is why the public sentiment on this topic is so negative, even among educated, caring, progressive individuals? Is caring about animals just TOO progressive? Is veganism really that radical? I know that a lot of us tend to live in our vegan bubbles but when we step out of them we realize that many people do see our lifestyles as extreme and our way of thinking as “outside the box,” to put it mildly. But not long ago, a non-heterosexual lifestyle was seen as the exact same way, and still is by many people. The same is true throughout history of our view and treatment of other races and cultures. In today’s age, is having no compassion for and killing/eating animals the great equalizer?

Is this the issue on which conservatives and liberals, gays and straights, blacks and whites can agree on? And if so, why? Is an iteration of the common enemy theory? Do we, as a society, always need to be marginalizing some group in order to function? I don’t think so. I think that the animal agriculture issue is one that most of society is still uneducated about, especially as farm animals become more out of the public eye than ever before, closed behind factory farm doors. So while I sometimes wish that no one would even touch on the food/animal issue if it is going to be done in a misinformed, hypocritical, closed minded way, maybe this is actually the first step.

me and SophieJessica Zafonte is a vegan animal lover and attorney. She worked as a criminal prosecutor in Brooklyn before becoming an associate at a large law firm practicing patent litigation.  Jessica lives in New York City with her boyfriend, three cats rescued off the streets and fifteen mice rescued from a lab.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 578 other followers