Is veganism really a battle between good and evil? »
Presenting an op-ed by Brianna, one of our writers! Her views do not necessarily represent those of Vegansaurus as a whole, but as one of our regular contributors, we’re happy to give her the space to express her opinions.
There are a lot of very outspoken activists in the vegan community. While I admire anyone willing to fight/argue/do anything/etc. for their beliefs, I do feel that certain types of arguments detract from the discussion (read: turn it into a shouting match). This includes: making gagging noises when people eat non-vegan food in your presence, ridiculing or belittling anyone for their lifestyle choices, and adopting an argumentum ad hominem debate strategy. PETA often incorporates a lot of these “shock tactics” in efforts to “raise awareness” and promote veganism; but at best, it completely devalues any real discussion going on about veganism. In my opinion, veganism is a very personal lifestyle choice, not a crusade against evil.
Let’s be real here: we’re all hypocrites. If we have access to a computer and we wear clothing, we are supporting the same capitalist measures that we oppose in other areas. Are some of the clothes I wear made in sweatshops? Yes. But it’s not that I support sweatshops, it’s just that I’m a poor college student with little agency. And I try not to buy clothing that often.
My point is, it is impossible to be 100 percent good, to fully adopt the ideal lifestyle we present to the world. It is impossible to be 100 percent vegan. ANY crop will be harvested at the expense of animals’ well being (think about the destruction of their habitats, or the actual machinery that is used to collect the produce that will inevitably swallow them up as well, or the amount of insects/lizards/birds harmed by transport vehicles in getting your food to you—never mind the myriad environmental effects that ultimately bring many creatures to their demise). The farm industry has permanently damaged entire ecosystems, yet we rely heavily on it for our produce and specialty goods. Further, any medicine you take was probably tested at the animals’ expense—yet it is fundamental to your physical well being.
I think that the black-and-white view of the world (vegan: good; anything else: bad) is what makes a lot of people view veganism as a crock. My switch to veganism some three-plus years ago was one of the most incredible life changes I have ever undertaken. It is a beautiful thing to approach all of my meals with a critical eye, with a concern for what is going into my mouth and how it got on my plate. But I am imperfect, and I implore you to admit the same. We all slip up; we are all at the end of the day human. Veganism is a personal choice, a challenge to the body and the mind that takes great concentration and great care. It isn’t something that you should be bullied or guilted into; it is a decision that you should make with a lot of thought and great personal struggle.
I challenge you to challenge those who have differing views—I aspire to do much of that in my life. I am often asked “why?” and I always take great care to give a logical, unbiased answer. I tell whoever asks me about the great harms of factory farming to both animal welfare and to the environment. If they ask further, I tell them of the health implications of eating antibiotic-riddled meat or PCB- and mercury-laden fish. If someone ridicules me for my lifestyle choice, I smile and nod and I understand that there is nothing I can say to change their mind. But there is something I can DO: I can live as exemplary a lifestyle as possible, and hope that they see the positive aspects of veganism. I implore you in your life and in your discussions with others to refrain from attacking them as people, from removing their humanity and mistaking ignorance (as in, an ignorance of your views and why you have them) with evil.
I don’t believe that there is a single “right” or “wrong” way to live for everyone. There is, however, a “right” way for yourself, and you should do everything in your power to find out what it is. But you must also recognize that what is right for you may not be right for someone else, and respect their choice to live omnivorously, just as you expect them to respect your choice to live herbivorously.
Yoga, Veganism, and Complaining: I Love Them All So Much »
I’m a yogi, in the American sense: a couple times a week, I go to a class to practice Hatha yoga, mostly for strength and flexibility. I try to meditate at the appropriate time, but it’s hardly the focus of my practice. There’s a big difference between what I do and what real yogis do: they are trying to reach a pinnacle of meditative ecstasy and therefore achieve “liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death.” I am trying to look good with my shirt off.
When I read the New York Times article about food and yoga, I thought “now I know how new vegetarians feel when they listen to grumpy old vegans talking about honey.” People really criticize each other about this stuff? Don’t they have anything better to do? What happened to the worldly suffering? But if you think about it, that’s intimately related. The first proscription of yogic teaching is ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence towards living things. How can one be liberated from suffering if one does not embrace nonviolence?
Good question! Let’s ask Sadie Nardini, who apparently started this whole shitshow by writing a somewhat schizophrenic piece about her yoga-practicing, meat-eating ways in the Huffington Post. The Times piece is about the rift in the yoga community between those who eat anything they please, and those who think yoga compels practitioners to (at least) vegetarianism. But below the surface, it’s just as much about the culture of judgment some find in the community.
Nardini’s piece is all about that judgment. Making a fairly offensive Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell comparison, she argues that meat-eaters need to “stay in the closet” to reach the good graces of top-tier yoga instructors. It’s easy to imagine that she wrote the piece to drum up publicity: “I’m risking a lot doing this, as I am moving to a larger arena in my own teaching, and could turn off the very people who are taking me there” [emphasis mine]. But motivation regardless, do yogis need to be vegan? If they’re not, do they need to hide their diet? Can yogis judge each other for this stuff?
Here’s the thing: the rules are pretty clear. Even Nardini, in her rejection of vegetarianism, makes an argument from ahimsa. It’s a spurious one: she brings up all the canards we’ve heard a thousand times before, about plants feeling pain and insects being killed with the harvest of grain and really it’s fine if you just honor the animal you’re eating and first and foremost, some people just need to eat meat or else they feel yucky and self-harm is the worst of all. Of course, we know the answers to all of these ridiculous objections. If you clear them out of the way, ahimsa is pretty straightforward: avoid doing violence.
Yoga, the real kind, is like any other discipline. There are rules you have to follow. It’s certainly not desirable for yogis to pass judgment on each other for failing to adhere to the rules; ideally, that would be an internal drive. But the thing is, if you’re not following the principles of yoga, you’re doing it wrong. No judgment need be attached to that; it’s just an evaluation of the rules. Much as with “vegetarians” who eat chicken, or “vegans” who eat eggs, it doesn’t matter if your reasons are good. And it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.* It just means you’re not living up to the title you claim.
You can’t make the argument from ahimsa that it’s ok to eat meat; it doesn’t hold water. Eat whatever you want, but don’t pretend that you’re living up to the ideals of a yogi. Start your own thing, be a flexiyogini or whatever, but don’t dilute a meaningful term just because you want the benefits without living up to the responsibilities. We see enough of that already.
*OK yes it does, but because you’re killing chickens, not because you’re breaking rules.
In Isa We Trust »
Vegansaurus is getting ready to launch a new site in New York City! Here’s a sneak peek of on one of our fabulous writers, Brianna, who wrote the below piece in honor of a recent signing by vegan goddess Isa Moskowitz on Tuesday night at the MooShoes store. Sadly, none of us New York folk were able to go ( Super Vegan has a nice little write up, though!) but here’s a bit about Brianna’s excitement leading up to the event!
When I made the switch from vegetarianism to veganism about three and a half years ago, I didn’t miss yogurt. I didn’t miss scrambled eggs. I didn’t even miss cheese. My hips definitely didn’t miss any of them. But I did miss baked goods - cupcakes, muffins, cakes, cookies, and all of the yummy toppings that adorned them. When a little cookbook came out called Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, I kind of fell in love with Isa Moskowitz. How fucking punk rock is a Pistachio Rosewater Cupcake?? Or a Margarita Cupcake? Or a fucking S’mores Cupcake?!?! I’ll give you a hint: really fucking punk rock. So when I made the move to The Big Apple, I half expected Isa to open her long-rumored restaurant in Brooklyn and I knew that I would frequent said restaurant and eat all of the cupcakes she would hypothetically sell there until my ass would no longer fit into my jeans. But then she moved to Portland. And I cried a little. Ok, maybe I cried a lot.
So I did what any normal creeper would do, I added her as a friend on Facebook. After one fateful status update I found out that she would be less than a mile away in person signing her new book that centers around cookies at my beloved Mooshoes. Even more pressing was the amazing catering that would inevitably be there. And this is the story of my fateful meeting with my idol, Isa Chandra Moskwitz.
Editorial in the NY Times on veganism!? Surprise, surprise: it’s controversial! »
What the heck?? An editorial in The New York Times on veganism?! It’s almost like … we exist! And not just for throwing red paint on some toddler’s ice cream cone or calling fat people whales. Vegan.com isn’t impressed, calling it “vegan advocacy at its worst”:
It’s hard to imagine somebody doing a better job of discouraging people from becoming vegan…. I can’t begin to imagine how many potential vegans this article has turned off or frightened away.
I’m sympathetic to their point of view, that vegans get in the media so rarely that we have to use these opportunities carefully, we can’t squander them, and what we really need to do is stay on-message and reassure the meat-eating mainstream with soothing words about how it’s actually not that hard, and hey look vegans can eat cupcakes and sundaes too. See? We’re just like everyone else.
And yet we’re not just like everyone else. Because simply ordering tofu in a mixed-dining situation puts every vegan in the position of being a dinnertime novelty. Whether we want it or not, we end up playing ambassador as friends and family members probe us with questions, then turn around and attack us for answering and maybe even sounding a bit smart. Even when we try to STFU and just quietly eat the tofu, it’s not unusual for someone to chime in with “MMM tasty, tasty ANIMALS!” and flash us that knowing look, like we haven’t heard that one a million times already.
There are a LOT of meat eaters who look at our dinner plate as implicit commentary on what they’re eating, even if we’re not saying a word about it. As if the plate is coming to life with a black robe and a curly white wig and gavel, doing a sinister dance while handing down judgments.
When I read Steiner’s piece I couldn’t help but think “RIGHT ON SISTER!”. Will he change any minds about the Thanksgiving centerpiece corpse? Probably not. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he wasn’t even trying to convince anyone to go vegan. He was trying to convince his readers, in an overtly frustrated way, that being a misunderstood and often despised 0.001%(*) of the population isn’t exactly a great position to be in. Especially in a society organized around eating meat, with a hundred-trillion-dollar(*) advertising industry carrying on like eating dead animals is the most normal thing on earth.
The mechanics of being vegan is getting easier all the time, but let’s face it, we still live in a dead-animal-centric society. Many meat eaters forget that they’re soaking in all the normal, and that the “preachy” vegan over there giving them a hard time is actually the one just trying to get the basics of survival to go smoothly.
All I’m saying is, to the three hardcore meat-eaters who follow this blog after getting linked from Sarah Palin’s enemies list, maybe there’s a reason some of us get a bit plucky at the dinner table. Sometimes we want to talk about something other than our diet. Or, you know, quiz away, but don’t be shocked and don’t take it personally when we come back with a well-formed viewpoint. But most of all, getting pissy and playing the victim when you live in a society organized for your convenience isn’t going to score you any debate club points. And it’s definitely NOT going to get you a second slice of the pumpkin pie that “omg didn’t even TASTE vegan”. More pie for the rest of us.
[Ed.: This wonderful post was brought to you by one of our newest contributors, Steve Simitzis! Steve stopped eating dead animals in 1993 and has been described as a crazy cat lady despite not being a lady. Nowadays he follows climate change, vampire stories, and technology, but usually keeps it on Twitter. When not thinking longingly about Twilight bars, he can be found building social websites and acquiring too many useless kitchen gadgets.]
Vegansaurus Wants You! »
But only as a friend.
No, seriously. Vegansaurus is looking to expand and take over the world and dominate in every way possible. We’re looking for writers.
Specifically, we’re looking for people who are way into vegan food. We are especially interested in people who are really into cooking, baking, and creating amazing recipes. Also, someone with a good eye for current events, especially (obviously) vegan news. Certainly being a witty genius is a plus because we need more of that. this could be one person. or it could be two. You don’t have to be in San Francisco as we’re looking to expand our reach. But we need people who can contribute two to three times per week.
If you’re interested, send a couple samples of your writing to laura @ vegansaurus dot com, even if it’s just your blog or some scanned-in poetry. Actually not that second thing. Please god.
Vegans, vegetarians, and yes, even omnivores are invited to apply. And maybe your dog too if he can use a computer.
Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet »
It kind of excites me that the following video of Alicia Silverstone is so amateurishly produced, especially because it’s by The Wall Street Journal. You’d think they’d do a better job than a profile shot from way far away, but that’s what they get for not calling me, Vegansaurus videographer.
Anywayz, if you didn’t already know, Alicia has a new book on veganism out called The Kind Diet. It includes 75 vegan recipes and, naturally, a diet program. Because you can’t write a book about food unless it either involves losing weight or the word “bacon” in the title. Clip below.
Natalie Portman on This Week’s Top Chef »
It’s finally here: Natalie Portman’s episode on Top Chef. No joke, our post on Natalie Portman guesting on Top Chef is our most popular ever. Never doubt the ability of dudes to Google the shit out of their out-of-reach crushes they will never get to sleep with!
Her vegan-ness is still up for some debate, and even the teaser clip (which you can watch below), doesn’t reveal what her dietary restrictions will consist of, whether it’s just a vegetarian dish or a full-on vegan meal. What’s funny is that the chefs get sent to Craftsteak, Tom Colicchio’s steakhouse, and all get boners over the variety of meat available in the kitchen, only to have them hopelessly deflated by Natalie. Usually it’s the opposite in her case, right?
Will you be watching?!
Show this chart to the next asshole who is all, “More animals are killed when we harvest crops than when we slaughter them for food!”* or, “I’ve stopped eating red meat, throw me a party!” Assholes. Also, we were once like them so you know, be nice and all that blah blah blah.
*Which is such an asinine argument so if this person is a friend of yours, I give you complete permission to kick them in the nads. Being vegan is about reducing the suffering of animals as much as possible. You reduce it A LOT when you stop eating meat and dairy and god, eggs. Poor layer hens, they have it worst of all.
That said, COME TO THE SF VEGAN BAKESALE TOMORROW!!!