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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Alessandra Seiter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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