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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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Today, I saw this video of Alicia Silverstone (created by PETA) showing the horrors of the down industry. Yesterday, I flew first class on U.S. Airways (I snagged some miles that were set to expire from a family member) and the seats were leather, the airline forgot my vegan meal, and didn’t have any vegan options on board (the airline provided their first class passengers with a “food” option of either feminized animal protein-laden pasta or dead chicken carcass slathered in barbeque sauce).

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Today, I’m thinking about those who wear fur, who eat foie gras, who buy  “gourmet” meats to celebrate holidays or promotions. Everywhere I look, especially around the holiday season, I see ridiculous examples of the skewed ways some in our culture envision luxury.

Why is it that the most coveted things in our society are often those sourced from cruelty towards human or non-human animals?

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Why has luxury become synonymous with cruelty in so many cases? When I think about the true meaning of luxury for me, it has nothing to do with exerting dominance over another creature or person.

My definition of luxury includes: getting to spend time with loved ones, feeling creatively inspired and having the time to act on this inspiration, getting to travel several weeks or months of the year, enjoying really special gourmet vegan meals at restaurants sometimes, having the freedom to choose my schedule, sleeping on an organic mattress, etc. Notice that my definition of luxury does include some material things: I would certainly survive and would be quite happy without gourmet vegan meals and designer vegan apparel, but since we’re talking about luxury and not “necessity,” this is my list. What my definition of luxury does not include is exploiting and killing innocent creatures for my personal benefit. It does not include eating “fine” chocolate sourced from child slavery. I call for a culture-wide re-examination of what we consider to be luxury–for the animals, for our fellow humans, and for the planet.

What does luxury mean to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments . . .

Note: I realize that flying is terrible for the environment and while I can say that I’m trying to fly less these days, it’s still a big deal. Just because I’m vegan doesn’t make it innocuous.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Since my recent post discussing how once-vegan Ellen Degeneres announced on her show that she gets her neighbor’s backyard chicken eggs, lots of comments poured in from folks with thoughts and feelings all across the egg-eating spectrum. My goal in writing the post was to foster respectful debate about this situation, and I was grateful to see that happen both here and on Vegansaurus (where I wrote another version of the post). Since there have been so many responses to my original post, I’m dedicating another post to discussing some of comments I received and including some more backyard egg info from experts.

A lot of us have strong opinions about this, and I have learned of many different perspectives on the issue. I thank everyone who commented here and elsewhere. I’m glad that most of us were able to talk about these issues in a compassionate way, because disrespectful dialogue gets us nowhere. Gena Hamshaw reminded me that it is possible to assert strong opinions or disagreement while remaining compassionate towards others. I always admire Gena’s courage in standing up for her beliefs, and I take her advice to heart!

Gena said:

I think every situation like this is an opportunity to a) find ways to educate and voice our beliefs, even in the face of disagreement, and b) stay true to ourselves while also realizing that others will do as they see fit.

Below, I’ve decided to share some of the other comments that stood out:

1mamabird said:

I must admit that I too indulged in the consuming of back yard eggs. I bought them from an old farmer who loved his chickens. He’d sell the eggs for a few extra bucks in his pocket. I was excited that I could eat eggs occasionally guilt free knowing that they were happy and well cared for. I asked him if they were raised for eating. He said he never eats his chickens. So I’d basically buy them for family and would eat one now and then myself. His hens have stopped producing for the last few months. He mentioned that he’ll get more if they don’t start laying soon. I asked what he’ll do with the others? He said so calmly that he’ll just ring their necks come January. I’m so sad for those poor babies. You just never know. A lesson learned for me big time! But believe me, he got an ear full. Maybe he’ll re think his decision. I know I have.

I think this speaks a great deal to the evolutionary aspect of many of our vegan journeys. While some of us go vegan “cold tofu,” many of us go back and forth and take time to figure out exactly what eating choices align with our ethical beliefs. It is also startling to see how our impressions of animal treatment can vary from reality, even from the nicest-seeming farmers and pleasant-looking backyard setups. Thank you, 1mamabird for sharing this!

Gena also noted the particular danger of someone like Ellen who comes from an animal rights background espousing the virtues of “happy” animal products.

Gena said:

Silly though it may be, people do feel motivated to go vegan and validated in their choice when celebrities are selling the lifestyle. And they feel nervous, insecure, and threatened when celebrities jump ship (which they so often do: Nathalie Portman, Lea Michelle, etc.). It’s a particular bummer because Ellen was an animal rights-oriented vegan, and this may encourage some of her followers to take the “happy meat/eggs/milk” route, instead of the vegan route.

Many others shared that they consider themselves to be (mostly) vegan, but do make some exceptions for eggs (which some pointed out would make them ovo-vegetarians, not vegans). Others shared they have eaten backyard eggs but no longer do for various reasons:

Clem said:

I’ve consumed eggs once since I started eating a plant-based diet: when I went to visit my parents, who have since moved to South Africa, where it’s not as easy to be vegan as it is for me in the UK. They have chickens in their garden, so I had no problem eating those eggs… I hope that Ellen is going to do the same thing if she does decide to consume eggs–but ultimately, it’s her business, not ours.

Bethany said:

I have to admit… I am a vegan (or, was a vegan) who recently started eating eggs…My brother keeps a very nice, small farm with hens. I really don’t feel bad about eating the eggs from his place.

Chrissy wrote why she believes eating her chickens’ eggs is better for the environment than eating vegan alternatives:

When I compare the time and energy and environmental impact it takes for one of the chickens in my backyard to produce an egg, and compare that to the time and energy and environmental impact it takes to process soy into a block of tofu and ship it to my local health food store, well, the egg starts to look pretty good.

Ron G. said he doesn’t even trust his own backyard chicken eggs to pass humane/vegetarian standards:

Any egg producer who promises “free-range, vegetarian-fed” chickens is full of chicken droppings. The birds are devoted omnivores. I’ve even watched one take a mouse from my cat. Anyway, I’ve decided there are very few eggs out there which truly qualify as humanely produced, even from my own backyard.

Jess wrote on losing Ellen as a queer-vegan icon (something Our Hen House ladies were concerned about too):

Ellen has a huge cultural influence and this casual revelation is disappointing for people like my own partner who is testing recipes from a vegan cookbook with which both Ellen and Portia are closely associated. I think it is important to note that disappointment in this case doesn’t necessarily stem from expectations, but just from the basic fact that there are so few of us queer vegans, we feel let down whenever someone rejoins the mainstream eating practices.

Katherine said that Ellen wasn’t a true vegan icon for her even before the egg admission:

Ellen continued to participate in advertising for Cover Girl cosmetics, who are known animal testers. She also promotes Halo, an animal based, non vegan pet food.

Melanie wrote that we should stay positive and remember that Ellen may go back to all-vegan:

Most of us have a story of how we became vegan, and for many of us that process wasn’t a linear path. I hope that this is just a momentary diversion on the path for Ellen. The more that we can use this as a moment to educate ourselves and our communities about the truth, the more likely it is that some good may come of it.

Sandra Higgins, who runs a farm animal sanctuary, wrote this insightful comment which I have posted in its entirety because I think it’s just brilliant and so informative for those of us like myself who don’t get to hang out with chickens or know much about their basic biology:

I run a farmed animal sanctuary (www.edenfarmanimalsanctuary.com) which is home to a large number of hens rescued from backyard situations as well as caged facilities. I am saddened to hear that someone who proclaimed to be vegan and an advocate for other animals, partakes in the utter misery that chickens in the egg production industry endure.

Every egg laying hen had a brother who was killed by being gassed or ground alive because males are not useful in the egg production industry.

The fact that hens are bred to lay eggs greatly compromises their natural health. Naturally, and in the wild, hens lay two clutches of eggs a year for the purposes of rearing their young. Hens bred for the egg industry lay an egg every day. This is an onerous task, comparable to a human female having a menstrual cycle and childbirth, every day. An egg is quite a heavy object relatively speaking to the very light and thin body of the hen who lays it.

We regularly find blood on the eggs at Eden where the hen tore while laying it, similar to the way women can tear during childbirth. That is one of the reasons that eggs are washed prior to being given to humans to consume.

Laying eggs depletes the hen’s body of calcium and other nutrients essential to her health, resulting in conditions such as osteoporosis and broken bones. Evidence from x-rays at Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary show that the hens who were carried from their cages to us by their legs had broken hips and legs, and some of them had bones that broke and healed while in their cages. Can you imagine the pain of an untreated broken or fractured bone? Can you imagine the struggle to mind your broken limb from being jostled by your frustrated comrades? Can you imagine the pain of struggling to food and water on a broken foot or leg?

There are a varied of painful and fatal conditions that hens endure as a direct result of being bred to lay eggs in unnatural quantities. These include egg binding where the hen is unable to lay an egg either because it has a soft shell or it has become stuck somewhere in her oviduct or clocoa. Hens going through this experience huddle with ruffled feathers and refuse to eat or engage with their friends. They appear to suffer enormously. If the egg breaks prior to being laid the hen will suffer an infection called peritonitis. This causes illness just like any infection a human suffers. The hen’s temperature rises dangerously and she will feel exceptionally hot to touch. Her abdomen will swell with fluid in response to the infection leaving her unable to walk or move. Eventually her eggs will ‘cook’ in the heat of the fluid. As the fluid builds she will not be able to eat or drink as her crop will be squashed by the pressure from the fluid. Her lungs and other internal organs also become squashed and she will gasp for air. One can only imagine the pain she endures.

I have suffered extreme physical pain that could not be relieved by medication. I could not countenance inflicting such pain on another feeling, living being.

I do not eat eggs because I witness the horrible suffering that hens endure because we breed them to lay eggs in unnatural quantities in a way that causes them great pain.

I also do not eat eggs because I believe that the female of all species has rights and the hen has a right to her own eggs. They belong to her. They do not belong to us.

I hope Ellen, and other egg eaters, see my post and reconsider. We do not need to eat eggs. We have no right to eat the eggs of another being. Hens suffer if we do.

Lastly (thanks for having kept reading!) I am including this Q&A that is currently being developed (it is a work in-progress) by the wonderful organization Food Empowerment Project, posted here with permission by FEP’s lauren Ornelas:

Q: I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of hens in factory farms, so what if I raise hens in my backyard and eat their eggs?

A: While this may seem like a viable alternative to purchasing eggs, there are still very serious problems with eggs sourced from a backyard setting.

The first problem is where these so-called backyard chickens come from. Almost all hens who are bred to lay eggs begin their lives in hatcheries where there are no laws regulating how they are to be housed or treated. Like hens raised to lay eggs in factory farms, chicks in hatcheries are usually seen as mere production units.

Even before a buyer sees a single egg in their backyard, simply purchasing a backyard hen for her eggs contributes to a huge amount of suffering and death. Just as in conventional egg production, immediately after hatching, the males are often killed because they cannot produce eggs and are therefore considered useless to the egg industry. The female chicks, still just hours old, are boxed and shipped through the postal service without any food or water. (1) Male chicks, if they are not ground up alive or tossed into giant trash bins, have been used as packing filler to keep the “ordered” birds warm during transit. (2)

In hatcheries, male chicks are often ground alive or used as “packing peanuts” since they do not produce eggs.

If a baby male chick who was intended as a mere packing peanut somehow arrives still alive or if he was shipped because he was mistaken for a female in the hatchery’s sorting process—which frequently happens as it is difficult to determine the sex of such young chicks—this leads to further problems.

The second significant problem is that many people do not understand the amount of time, energy and money it takes to keep backyard hens. The animals are still seen as production units, and even though these chickens are not in a factory farm setting, they are still undeniably being commodified. Many backyard hens are kept in more urban settings where finding a vet who will take care of the birds as companion animals versus as “units of production,” may be difficult or impossible to find, and it’s also not easy to recognize when these birds are sick, leading to more suffering for the birds.

Like all females, a hen will eventually lose her ability to be reproductively active and she will stop producing eggs. While a hen’s egg production typically begins to decline at two years of age (5), the natural lifespan of a hen is typically around 10 years, sometimes longer. (6) All chickens, including those past reproductive age, will require the same care and protection for their entire lives. Unfortunately, many people are no longer willing to invest the large amount time and money into caring for hens after their egg production declines, and so these beautiful and social birds die from neglect, abandonment, or slaughter.

Backyard chickens can get sick and need expensive medical care.

Hens adopted from sanctuaries may not lay eggs at all because their bodies are so depleted from their experiences on factory farms or other egg-producing facilities. If they do, then they should be allowed to consume those eggs in order to help their bodies recover. While eggs are bad for human health, they are the perfect food for chickens. That’s the purpose of an egg–to feed the developing chick inside. Egg shells are high in calcium while the eggs themselves contain nutrients vital to chicken health. It would be a grave injustice if a bird rescued from an egg factory or egg farm were to be treated as an egg-producer by her adoptive family when what she really needs is to have total access to her body’s own resources and mechanisms for recovery.

Keep in mind that humans have absolutely no nutritional need for chickens’ eggs. In fact, chickens’ eggs contain cholesterol and saturated fat, which are detrimental to human health. A recent study by Western University found that when it comes to raising the risk of heart attacks and strokes, eating eggs is nearly as bad as smoking. (7) They are also completely unnecessary for baking for there are a variety of easy, plant-based options available that serve the same purpose in recipes.

If eating chickens’ eggs is not necessary, if it contributes to an immense amount of suffering, and there are so many alternatives, then why do it? Having backyard hens does nothing to truly take a stand against factory farming as animal consumption is at the core of this industry. The only way to take a stand against it is to go vegan.

(1) http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/taking-the-plunge-getting-my-own-
chickens-where-do-i-begin
(2) http://www.idealpoultry.com/policy.asp
(3) http://www.annarbor.com/news/ypsilanti/ypsilanti-township-to-appeal-
court-ruling-deeming-controversial-rooster-a-pet/
(4) http://www.cdc.gov/Features/SalmonellaPoultry/
(5) http://egglayingchickens.com/FAQ-how-long-chicken-egg-hatch.html
(6) http://www.mypetchicken.com/about-chickens/frequently-asked-
questions.aspx#HowLong
(7) http://www.torontosun.com/2012/08/13/egg-yolks-almost-as-unhealthy-
as-cigarettes-study

Thank you for reading this post! I’ve hope you’ve learned something (I know I have!) As always, comments are welcome.

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Finding a Niche For All Animals: A Conference honoring the ecofeminist work of Marti Kheel held at Wesleyan University

This weekend, I attended a conference honoring the life and work of late vegan ecofeminist scholar and activist Marti Kheel. The conference took place at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and was organized by Wesleyan professor Lori Gruen and one of my personal heroines, Carol J. Adams.

Marti was the author of the classic ecofeminist book Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective, which, according to Marti, “seeks to heal the divisions between the seemingly disparate movements and philosophies of feminism, animal advocacy, environmental ethics, and holistic health.” What drew me to Kheel’s work as an undergraduate at Vassar is that it outlines an ecofeminist philosophy that acknowledges the crucial roles of empathy in activism. It has always made intuitive sense to me to apply my “feeling” self to my activism.

The late ecofeminist vegan Marti Kheel.

I love how Marti explained that killing animals is wrong on “logical” grounds, but that we can also argue that one’s feelings about animals, compassion for their lives, and empathy for others’ suffering are valid reasons to be in favor of a plant-based diet.

Marti was a fantastic, determined, strong-minded activist, and a cherished friend to many within this movement and beyond. It was inspiring to see the ripples of her influence through the words of many of her friends and colleagues who spoke at the memorial the first evening of the conference. After a documentary shown about her life and work and a wonderful speech by Marti’s friend and colleague, The Sexual Politics of Meat author Carol J. Adams, other folks stood up and spoke about their personal connections to Marti. Many at the conference had worked very closely with her, including those who were active with Feminists For Animal Rights (FAR), a group Marti created based on her vision. Others had volunteered with Marti for animal rights causes or had been influenced by her during their academic and activist careers. While I did not speak at the memorial, I am lucky to say that I did have the privilege of meeting Marti several years ago while I was living in the Bay Area (she was a raw vegan and we met at an Oakland raw foods event organized by a mutual connection) and we kept in touch as I worked at a raw vegan center which she had visited before we’d met.

Just after meeting Marti, she instantly connected me with queer vegan women’s events she organized in the Bay Area, and we corresponded over e-mail about holistic health, and things related to a book project my partner and I were (and still are) working on about the intersections between holistic health, veganism and LGBTQ communities. The last time I heard from Marti was on October 5, 2011 in an e-mail letting me know she was sick with cancer and that she wanted to help more with our book, and that I should e-mail her questions and ideas quickly because time was of the essence. A few weeks later, on November 19, 2011, I got news that Marti had died. While I hadn’t known Marti as well as others in attendance at the conference, and we were only beginning to discuss and collaborate on ideas, I have been so humbled and grateful that even while sick and facing the end of her life, Marti was immensely committed to helping others and advance the vegan movement.

Heartwarming stories were shared at the memorial portion of the conference including a beautiful story Carol J. Adams told about how Marti began her animal activism as a young person refusing to pose in the family photos unless her family’s pet cat could be included. Several members of Marti’s family were in attendance, and shared how her compassionate approach to veganism influenced them and made more inspired to question aspects of their own lives.

Carol J. Adams speaking at the Marti Kheel Conference.

Panels at the conference referenced Marti’s Ecofeminist work and discussed how Marti’s compassionate approach to activism was infused in every aspect of her life.While the conference was primarily academic in nature–terms like “praxis” and “problemetize” were included in many panelists’ talks based on papers they’d written for the conference–there were great inclusions of practical approaches to activism that I found heartening and inspiring. My friend Lauren Ornelas of Food Empowerment Project and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition gave a great talk about how her work with FEP considers food justice as a complex issue that requires looking beyond simply checking to see if ingredients are vegan. We must ensure that they are ethically sourced, as in the case of her nonprofit’s commitment to identifying truly ethical vegan chocolate companies that do not trade in child slave labor. (Note: Please sign the petition asking the makers of Clif Bars to disclose where they get their cocoa beans!) Lauren also discussed the importance of a vegan activist approach that is respectful to the needs of diverse communities.

Absolutely inspiring, witty and brilliant vegan duo Mark Hawthorne and Lauren Ornelas.

Theorist Greta Gaard spoke about ecofeminist theory and practice, and mentioned queer sexuality in the context of animal rights (which I loved).  Other talks I found inspiring included pattrice jones’ discussion of her queer-run animal sanctuary Vine Sanctuary, and about how they have all of their important meetings standing up in the barn while surrounded by animals. patrice said a line which really rang true: “All the stuff we really want is free.” patrice said to share with paleo dieters and purported feminists who eat meat: “Tell them that eating meat is something you do to someone else’s body without their consent.” What a powerful and accurate thing to say!

The first evening of the conference was catered with delicious vegan sushi, appetizers and gluten-free vegan treats from a local Connecticut vegan bakery:

Vegan sushi and chocolates served at the Marti Kheel conference.

Mushroom polenta cakes served after the memorial portion of the conference.

Lunch on Saturday was 100% vegan and delicious.

Ivory of vegan myths debunked fame (who is an all-star, best ever vegan conference buddy, the best a gal could ever hope for!) and I met in NY Penn station (I came from Philly, she from Brooklyn) and traveled to the conference together. We had the amazing good fortune of meeting some really wonderful new friends Andrea and Danielle at the conference who convinced us to stay with them in Branford, CT (near Wesleyan) and have a late-night persimmon and almond milk Greek yogurt party instead of staying at a hotel. It did not take too much arm twisting 😉 We had a wonderful time bonding, chatting about our paths to veganism and how we all love plants (PLANTS!)! It was amazing to find some queer vegan women kinship and make incredible, thought-provoking, hilarious new friends!

Vegan lady friends! L to R: Danielle, Andrea and Ivory!

All-organic, fair-trade coffee was served with some soy mylk on the side.

Ecofeminist Greta Gaard speaking about Marti Kheel.

Wesleyan University’s beautiful campus.

Posing after lunch with my heroine and friend Carol J. Adams.

I got to meet Ali, fellow Vassar woman and author of the fabulous vegan food blog Farmers’ Market Vegan!

Ivory, Andrea and I had a great time at the conference!

One activist spoke about her ethical dilemma in not being able to find a vegan infant formula and needing to procure one immediately for her infant in the ICU. She said the D3 in the product was sourced from lanolin, which is from sheep, and that choosing that product was very difficult for her but ultimately was what was necessary to save her son’s life.

After the panel, I commended the activist for finding compassion for herself in this difficult situation, and I suggested the option of reaching out to infant formula brands that use all-vegan ingredients except for the non-vegan D3 and asking them to use vegan D3 in products now that it is available. This was something the panelist had not considered doing, and I think it’s a good example of where businesses and academics can work together to find solutions to problems.

I currently work for a vegan business and have worked for other vegan businesses in the past. I believe in the importance of academia and the influence of scholarship in shaping ideas that later become practiced throughout activist movements, however I also feel it is crucial that we connect the dots and work with businesses to provide vegan alternatives. I think a more vegan-friendly marketplace is a great goal for academics and non-academics (lay people?) alike, and was grateful for the chance to discuss this with her.

My former professor/friend Jill Schneiderman and others admiring the next generation of vegan activists.

For me, Finding A Niche For All Animals involved honoring Marti Kheel and celebrating her legacy, meeting new friends, seeing old friends, connecting with visionaries and a rare and incredibly sweet private lunch with Carol and Ivory in which we discussed our work and plans for the future. I leave with a renewed inspiration that vegan activism must always come from the love and empathy we have inside us that extends outwards to those around us. Thank you for reading.

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In the wake of the third presidential debate, I am left with social media feeds full of jokes about binders, bayonets, Big Bird, and more. While it is tempting to laugh at the memes, the imaginative Tumblrs, the relevant Twitter accounts and more, it became clear to me last night after watching Brene Brown’s new Ted Talk “The Price of Invulnerability” that there is something deeply troubling about our liberal responses to the debates.

As Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and Food Empowerment Project director Lauren Ornelas points out in her wonderful blog “Appetite For Justice,” there are are several categories of responses to injustice and hate: “You have those who speak hate and vitriol, those who listen and are uncomfortable with it but laugh as they do not know what to say, those who agree and those who speak against it.” As Lauren’s categories suggest, some are in the Romney camp and agree with what he shares, and others speak out against his policies, but so many of the rest of us are left feeling what Brene Brown calls “numb to vulnerability.” The possibilities of the election turnout and the discussion of whether or not we will all be treated as equal Americans feels emotionally significant and makes our communities literally vulnerable.  Will our families be safe and treated equally under the laws?

Brene Brown says the danger of going numb is that it negates the possibility for positive emotions and, most importantly to this election, the emotions that result in our communities coming together to make change. By numbing ourselves to the horrific policies proposed by Romney-Ryan through reducing them to the latest humor gossip, we stifle ourselves and ultimately our activism suffers on all levels. For our individual wellbeing we need to feel and access our emotions, and ultimately this will enable us to build healthier communities.

Vulnerability researcher Brene Brown

I admit that at times I have resorted to numbness in the face of Romeny’s campaign. I have joked with my friends and posted on social media that  “binders full of women” is perhaps a jab at FTM folks, and made light of the emotional video of a brave gay Vietnam veteran taking issue with Romney’s views on same sex rights. But I have come to realize that these things are a result of my defense system working at full tilt. After all, is this election not an emotional issue for our LGBTQ communities, women communities, veteran communities, minority communities, and, let’s face it, the majority of Americans from whom Romney would attempt to strip rights and resources if elected? Does laughing make it slightly more tolerable, somehow, to imagine a man striking down the healthcare reforms Obama and so many others worked for? At least he would make us laugh, like George W. Bush did! We could pretend to feel less hurt by it, and his rule would be fodder for our yuks and at least we would have that. Otherwise, what would we have? We would have sorrow. Are our communities too scared to be vulnerable to that?

Today, I let myself really feel how sad I would be if Romney came to power. I felt the turning of my stomach, the sinking feeling that so many women would no longer have access to affordable cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, and that I may never get to marry my partner in my home state if Romney chips away at my rights like he has expressed he has every intention to do.

If I am really honest, Mitt Romney and the policies he supports all just make me want to cry. But allowing myself to feel things, to get angry, to feel heartbroken, and sick, and cry, and feel sad, allows me to work through these emotions on a healthy level. Tuning into my body’s responses to the potential for great loss resulting from Romney coming to power better informs my activist response. At least for me, relying on humor at a time like this feels like an aborted fight or flight response. Yes, we can laugh at Big Bird jabs, but we cannot let laughter take the place of good old-fashioned upset.

I believe that to react intelligently to Romeny’s proposed leadership means to react feelingly. Yes, it is ok to laugh at the absurdity of hatred, but then let us use this opportunity to access our vulnerability to how it all feels. Let our grief and sadness turn into righteous action, and allow our feelings to give us the  strength needed in our communities to help the elderly in the community get transport to the polls, to help our loved ones figure out how to send in absentee ballots, to help our students and teachers take the necessary time off to vote. Let us come together in this time of difficulty to take a stand for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and equality for all human- and non-human animals!

As our nation progresses towards greater equality for same-sex Americans than it has ever known, this man intends to take us back to the closet, back to the “we’re just friends” era where being gay was shameful and the law failed to recognize our love and families as equal. We have shows like Glee and Modern Family that tell us that the new future, the New Normal, is upon us. And then we turn on the debates and there is no mention of same-sex issues whatsoever. We were erased from the discussion for reasons I can only guess, and that upset me (and I know many others).

Obama is far from perfect, and I take issue with several of his policies, particularly those relating to the military. When he gets re-elected, I expect to exercise my American right to dissent, and press him to continue to make the changes he has promised. I agree with my LGBTQ community members who feel same-sex marriage will never be the only issue needed to heal the economic and social injustices within our diverse communities, and I will fight for those issues once Obama is slated for another four years. But right now, Obama needs our support to continue his presidency into another term. As we support each other, we must access our true feelings and allow them to inform our activism. Laughing alone won’t get Obama re-elected.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Lauren Orenelas’ blog: “We must use our collective voices to speak out against all forms of injustice if we think we can ever chip away at it.”

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After spending nearly two years working for an all-raw completely gluten-free vegan retreat center in Arizona, I had effectively stopped eating all gluten. After a year or so experimenting with eating some gluten since I left the center, I’ve still had a hard time allowing myself to eat gluten when gluten-free options are available. Many health circles promote a gluten-free lifestyle pretty heavily. It’s become trendy to eat gluten-free, and frankly, that concerns me. I have mostly cut gluten from my diet, but there isn’t really research out there effectively showing it’s not suited for the average person. I’ve been wondering: have I decided to eschew gluten without really questioning whether research shows it’s better to go GF without diagnosis of an allergy or celiac?

In the past few weeks, I have been gently coercing myself to try foods containing gluten. A little wheat-containing fake meat here, a little piece of bread at Vedge there. I’ll admit, even dabbling in gluten territory has been kind of tough for me emotionally. It’s been labeled an “unsafe” food by the medical doctor I worked for at the center, and as someone with a history of disordered eating, I’ve worked hard to move beyond labeling foods as “good” and “bad” (purely from a nutritional standpoint. This doesn’t apply to animal products, because I acknowledge that they’re foremost horrible from a cruelty standpoint).

I spent years studying with a doctor who said gluten would eff you up, and I’ve read enough Kris Carr and Mind Body Green blogs to see why it’s just cooler to avoid gluten. But sometimes I take a look at JL Goes Vegan, or a post on Choosing Raw that includes a gluten option, and I am faced with the question: am I really avoiding gluten because I feel kind of icky physically after eating gluten, or is it emotional, or both? I think these are important questions to ask ourselves, regardless of the food items in question. Our emotions are certainly tied to our guts–scientific studies have shown that the bacteria in our guts can influence our emotions in big ways–but there isn’t enough scientific evidence to suggest that those without intolerance to gluten need to forgo it, and it’s so plentiful in many vegan foods, it seems a shame to tell people to avoid it altogether and push them towards gluten-free products, many of which are not vegan.

I’ve noticed many so-called health-oriented vegans moving away from veganism because while being a gluten-free vegan is certainly doable and even easy once you get the hang of it (If you’re a gluten-free vegan, I highly recommend the Manifest Vegan blog!) it adds yet another set of “must-do’s” and may make veganism feel more restrictive to certain folks. High raw seems like a great option for folks who want to eat raw food but don’t want to be all-raw; gluten-free, as in “you must not eat anything with gluten,” may push would-be-vegans off the path. Nutritoinist Ginny Messina discusses the importance of vegans encouraging diverse food choices in their budding vegan friends and loved ones, and I agree with that.

I’ve got one wacky food allergy that I am already aware of (no testing needed)/ I’m the only person I know who gets Angelina Jolie lips and breaks out in hives when I touch or eat mangoes (it’s a shame, I know–they really are delicious). It’s not inconceivable that I’ve got a gluten intolerance given that eating gluten sometimes makes my tummy feel weird, even in small quantities. But, I’m willing to get tested to find out for sure what’s going on. Even if I do choose to avoid gluten after testing negative, that will at least be a more informed choice. While I believe that we should honor how our bodies feel above test results, I really am curious whether my outsized fear of gluten is just that–a fear–or if it really is rooted in a biological issue.

Have you ever considered cutting any vegan foods out of your diet completely, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with an allergy or intolerance? I would really love to hear from you in the comments.

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for the results of my gluten tests. xo

Image 1. Image 2.

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I thought I’d do a little round-up of my favorite vegan dishes in Philly! As you can see, some of them are raw, some aren’t, but they’re all vegan, mostly gluten-free (I think!) and are completely delicious. They are in no particular order.

10. “Clean” Green Juice

Where to get it: Jar Bar in Center City

My favorite juice in the city, hands down. “Clean” contains: cucumber, celery, romaine, spinach, kale. $5.50 for 16oz is very fair and makes this my go-to juice when on the go in Philly.

9. Chickpea Salad with Falafel

Where to get it: SweetGreen in University City.

This salad is delicious. SweetGreen is amazing, and so close to where I live it’s almost criminal. (Image.)

8. Banana Whip, aka “Frobana”

Where to get it: HipCityVeg in Rittenhouse Square

A long time ago, Gena Hamshaw figured out how to make frozen bananas into truly magical soft-serve ice cream using only a food processor or green star juicer, empowering legions of vegans to make the treat for themselves. HipCityVeg, which opened a little while ago, serves this healthful vegan twist on soft serve from 10a-10p each day of the week! I love that I can get this whenever I’m remotely near Rittenhouse Square. Everything is remotely near Rittenhouse Square, and for that I am very, very grateful. (Image)

7. Brussels Sprouts shaved and grilled with smoked mustard

Where to get it: Vedge Restaurant, when it’s featured on the “Dirt List”

This dish is unreal. Shaved, grilled and smoked, these Brussels Sprouts are unlike any I have ever tried before. Crisp, savory, and slightly crunchy bits grace each sauce-coated shaved Brussels sprouts mound. I ordered this dish both times I have had the privilege of dining at Vedge and was consistently thrilled. Pure vegetable bliss. (Image)

6. Brown Rice Inari

Where To Get it: Mizu (in various locations throughout the city)

Inari is so amazing. It’s traditionally made with sushi rice wrapped in fried bean curd, but Mizu makes a version with brown rice that’s a tad more healthful and really delicious. You have to specially request it with brown rice but it’s totally worth it! (Image.)

5. Sea Vegetable Salad

Where to get it: Vegan Tree on South St.

Generous chunks of wakame, fresh greens and other veggies, plus sesame seeds and well-prepared tofu. A truly delicious option for pre-made seaweed salad–the best I’ve found in Philly so far. (Image)

4. Vegan Bubble Tea

Where to get it: Vegan Tree on South St.

While some controversy abounds as to whether bubble tea is safe, for now I’m a huge fan of the bubble tea options at Vegan Tree. Completely vegan bubble tea is semi hard to come by in Philly, so these are a real find. I love the green tea, coconut, and Jasmine green tea flavors best, but have a (tapioca) ball and enjoy what you will! (Image)

3. Chocolate Coconut-Based Vegan Soft-Serve

Where To Get it: Pure Fare, Center City

This soft serve is out of this world good. Coconut-based soft serve has arrived to Philly and it’s unbelievable. (Image.)

2. Gluten-Free Vegan Cake Balls

Where to get it: Sweet Freedom on South St.

Sweetened with low glycemic coconut sugar, these gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free confections from Sweet Freedom are made with high-quality ingredients and taste like a chocolate Universe just collided in on itself to form black (brown?) holes of deliciousness. These are gone in just a few bites. Perfect. Image.

1. “Green Delight (w/ Spirulina)” Popcorn

Where to get it: Atiya Ola’s Spirit First Foods in West Philly.

This spirulina-coated popcorn is like crack for those of us who love algae snacks. And who doesn’t love algae snacks?

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear in the comments which dishes you love to enjoy in Philly that I haven’t listed here 😉

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From Top: Savory raw vegan breakfast crepe and raw vegan scallion creme cheese rolls at Quintessence, sea veggie salad, moon pies, and dessert case from One Lucky Duck, coffee with almond mylk and green juice at Whole Foods in Union Square.

From the rugged streets of Williamsburg (my grandmother, who grew up in pre-hipster Williamsburg, is incredulous that any of us “young folks” would ever want to spend time there!) to the fantastic raw eats in Manhattan to the brilliant and timeless art at the Met to a “songs-inspired-by-the book” concert in Bushwick to performance/mixed media art exhibit in Greenwood, Brooklyn, my dearling Courtney and I had quite a lovely and whirlwind time in NYC!

Vegan lovelies Ivory and Courtney!

The rad vegan singer-songwriter Jonathan Mann!

Hosted by dear vegan friends Jonathan and Ivory in a posh spot in Williamsburg, we were delighted by the experience and hope to return soon.

P.S. Yes, we drank coffee and green juice. At the same time. May dogma never rear its ugly head at the dining table!

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I don’t believe in promoting veganism as a diet for weight loss. The benefits of a healthful plant-source only nutrition plan may lead to weight loss for some, but there is an inherent risk in promoting veganism primarily as a diet for improving how one looks on the outside, because once vegan dieters’ goal weights or other goals (like no acne) are achieved (or if they aren’t achieved at all), the majority of folks may jettison veganism.

While I’m against promoting veganism as a diet for short-term weight-related benefits, I think that promoting veganism as something to experiment with, no strings attached, leaving open the potential for only short-term commitment, is wonderful.

How could I be against short-term veganism as a crash diet and suggest such a thing as intentional trial-period veganism?

I became a vegetarian at age 12 because prior to then I didn’t understand the implications of eating dairy derived from exploited cows who need their milk for their offspring sprung from them at tender ages to be slaughtered for veal. I didn’t realize that consuming eggs taken from battery-cage laying hens made me complicit in a system that sends male chicks to die, alive, in horrific grinding machines, and was just as wrong as eating meat. When I finally became aware of these sad realities in June 2005, it took me a few months and many glasses of soymilk to finally complete my transition to veganism in August that same year. That was seven years ago, and I’ve been completely vegan ever since.

When I decided to become vegan, I did it almost unconsciously–I was dabbling in not eating dairy or egg products, not labeling myself, and giving myself permission to experiment without really acknowledging what I was doing. I was still vegetarian by label, but my diet was mostly vegan. Finally, I realized that calling myself vegan felt like who I really was–so that’s what I decided to do, and I worked up the courage to live my life openly as a fully out vegan.

I came out as gay and vegan in the same year. I see no coincidence in this; as I extended compassion towards myself, it naturally extended to animals, and vice versa. I discovered that my personal dietary and lifestyle changes promoted compassion for all beings, and that to love myself was to love animals, to respect myself was to respect animals.

Before I came out I not only went through periods of experimentation with veganism, but also with my sexual orientation. Like with my veganism, I spent several years without labeling myself in regards to my sexual orientation, allowing myself a period of time to explore my attractions to women before coming out officially. When I started dating and being romantically involved with women, I never looked to the end result: “oh, this could mean I’m gay” and all the implications of that. I just let myself be present with whomever I was attracted to and saw each relationship as an adventure, not a means towards an end of taking on an identity. Eventually, taking on the gay label did feel in alignment for me, but not until I gave myself the freedom to see how it felt to explore my attractions and feelings for women without forcing a long-term label.

As Courtney Pool and I wrote in our post in Gena Hamshaw’s Green Recovery series, “coming out” as a non-heterosexual and “coming out” as a vegan are not same thing. It would be incorrect to imply that we choose our sexual orientation like we choose to be vegan. However, it is interesting and significant to observe the similarities inherent to breaking free of oppressive societal frameworks on all levels and in all circumstances, regardless of the identity category in question.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, author of The 30 Day Vegan Challenge, advocates the trial approach to transitioning into veganism. The Lean by Kathy Freston similarly advocates the gentle approach to adopting a vegan lifestyle. Regardless of whether you think you’re queer, or could ever live as a vegan, I think it’s important to try what you’re drawn to, without forcing yourself to take on a label or a long-term commitment unless you feel ready. Listen to how your body feels when you explore any new lifestyle experience. If you give yourself the space and time to explore, if you are compassionate with your process, what is right will stick.

Sarah

Image Credit

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