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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Veganism at Its Core Is Kindness



With as much as it troubles me to say it, we all know it: There can be some pretty mean folks within the vegan community. I’ve met more than one person who prided themselves on being a “vegan elitist” who publically shamed other vegans in online forums for their choices. I’ve visited this forum, and a lot of this is bashing celebrities who give up the vegan lifestyle for whatever reason, which truly is none of our business, and, seemingly as often as they can, linking to the pages of other vegans and criticizing them so harshly for things that, again, are none of their business.

I don’t have to tell you how so many people feel about the vegan community, and the assumptions that they make about us as a group. Some folks just know that every vegan is sanctimonious and hung up in the smallest details of what makes a real vegan and what constitutes a person to ridicule and castigate. One such instance that I saw ruthlessly tore a woman apart for having a companion animal. Another generated much vitriol because a vegan gave their chicken’s eggs to someone else. I’m of course not interested in getting into whether either of those things are “okay” or make or break someone’s veganism. My point more or less rests on, well, how very unkind such behavior is and can be, and isn’t our entire cause rooted in kindness?

As vegans, we loathe the horrifying treatment our fellow creatures suffer at the hands of human beings. We loathe the way that we treat our planet, and fear the repercussions of our actions. We want to be good and kind and to spread a message of loving kindness throughout this world and the universe. How come, then, it sometimes becomes so difficult to do so?

 I won’t claim to be perfect, either. I’ve had moments of disgust where a friend tells me that they just don’t care about animal suffering, because it doesn’t stack up higher than how much they enjoy the taste of flesh. I know that veganism would probably save my grandfather from much of his health maladies, and probably some spiritual ones, too, but he holds steadfast to the way he wants to live his life, which is not for me to decide for him. Veganism is a personal choice, it is a conscious decision, and it is one borne of kindness and love. How can we so often forget to apply this logic to other people, as well?

I think it’s time we all carefully considered our attitudes toward other vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, and everyone in between. We can encourage, but we should never shame. These are perfectly different concepts. One is inspirational, where one is designed to hurt, and we cannot hope to change the world by spreading negative vibes. Our message of love, kindness, and goodwill to all should be one that catches on to others joyfully. How we represent veganism as its ambassadors makes all the difference in the world.

The Interpersonal Politics of Food



No, I don’t mean this one in the wider sense of the politics of animal testing, factory farming, and other senseless events that make my heart heavy. Things like these are the reasons, among many others, that I proudly call myself a vegan, and have for many years now. I have met and made vegan friends since I made the transition myself, and certainly vegetarians and assorted other members of the conscious eating family. I have not, however, known anyone from my pre-vegan (or pregan, ha!) life who stopped eating animals. Nada. Zilch.

Strangely enough, people who I thought were perfectly logical individuals began to treat me very differently around the time that I changed my own life, and some even became downright nasty toward me. Even my closest friends seemed unable to resist making comments that were completely unprovoked, such as making a point to tell me that they would be eating an extra rare steak on my behalf. You may ask yourself now what sort of friend would make such an unnecessary comment completely out of the blue, and I struggled to find my patience with them then, too.

Since then, things have changed. It’s been many years, as I said, and while I stopped communicating with one or two people, unfortunately, for how very unfairly and cruelly they could act toward me at some times simply for knowing that I was a vegan, I have remained friends with the people I have always loved. I still get the occasional “I just love cheese so much” sort of comment, but nothing truly malicious or meant to be a challenge to my core beliefs.

Even now, though, and I have thought about this a lot since a recent dinner I hosted at my home, there is a strange behavior held by many of my friends about the food that I cook. My friends all respect that I am not the sort of vegan who will purchase and cook a cut of meat, and no one complains about my delicious veggie pizzas or pastas or enormous, mouth-watering salads. They ooh and aah at the colorful array of foods arranged so carefully on my dining room table, and I have to smile at myself and give myself a nice big, mental pat on the back as they sit down and begin pouring themselves drinks. It’s a nice feeling when you can make good, wholesome vegan fare for omnivores, isn’t it?

It seems entirely strange to me, then, that meat alternatives are met with such disgust. Not long ago, I brought some homemade lunch to a mini-picnic with my friend and one of my containers had a stirfry in it. As we’re inclined to share, my friend went on and on about how delicious it smelled, how appetizing it looked, but paused and asked if those were little bits of meat in the stirfry. I told her no, it was actually seasoned tofu, and you would have thought I told her it was toenails. Food for thought, right?


Ecofeminism: Where Animal Rights and Women’s Rights Intersect



Gender theorists and a score of different types of scientists, from evolutionary theorists and climatologists have weighed in on how their chosen field of concentration affects both society and the world as a whole. The conversation about ecofeminism, however, is about the intersectionality of human and animal rights. Many of us are seeking changes in the world and society that we live in. We look for the end of hunger, for young girls to have the guarantee of a good education in a world where the shocking majority of illiterate are women, we seek to end the needless torture of countless animals whose worth has incorrectly been defined by our palates.

It is difficult to face the issue of speciesism without taking into consideration how the oppression entailed there compares to the oppression handed down by a patriarchal society. Part of the commentary of feminism responds to a common thread or feeling that some women share; the feeling that misogynists have treated them as though they are little more than a slab of meat. Using this tragically commonplace and damaging correlation between women and “meat” alone draws the parallels that ecofeminism and its adherents fight to shake free from.

The aim of feminist pursuits is a peaceful coexistence which directly calls for equality between genders regardless of association, but how can we deny the equal rights of non-human creatures in this pursuit of equality? As feminists, we fight the exploitation paradigms that we live under, and as ecofeminists, we strive to include all life in the harmony of equality. Part of the separation of genders as prescribed by modern society is a holdover from previous generations: The hunt, or rather, the act of hunting, particularly by men, particularly hunting animals thought of as dangerous, proving their masculinity. Not only are males expected to take part in these activities, societal pressures equates the death of innocent creatures with a concept of masculinity as arcane as they come.

The uncomfortable truth is that the majority of hunting in North America takes place not for sustenance, but for sport. The taxidermy industry quietly thrives on the steady flow of carcasses murdered and claimed in the name of masculine pursuit, just as the struggles of the modern woman are paralleled by this. Women today, too, often feel “hunted”, as more report stalking behavior and other unwanted attention, and the struggle of feeling like prey simply by walking to a vehicle in a dark parking lot prevails.

Our duties to be kind and loving to our fellow creatures knows no bound, but in practice, we human beings tend to leave much to be wanted. Think of your faithful pet, and the joy and love they bring to your lives. What if it were that simple for all of us to bring joy and love into the lives of all we encounter? Animals are our greatest teachers. Let us look to them for inspiration in loving kindness.