“Humane” Meat, Local Free-Range Eggs, and Backyard Chickens

I recently had the opportunity to visit a backyard egg producer. This person allowed me to take a tour of their small-scale, local, free-range, “humane” enclosure for their chickens. Had I not already known that this was a backyard egg-producer, I would have thought it resembled some of the nicest animal sanctuaries I have visited. … Continue reading “Humane” Meat, Local Free-Range Eggs, and Backyard Chickens

Never Give Up

Dear friend, Though I have never met you, in many ways, I believe we already know each other very well.   Our struggles have not been identical, yet I am sure we have shared many.  The world is a tough place to live in, especially for a person who chooses not to follow the path … Continue reading Never Give Up

Direct Action Everywhere

take actionI just returned to my hometown of Los Angeles, California from a two-week trip up the coast.  I spent the majority of my time with some new friends from Direct Action Everywhere in Oakland, California.  If you haven’t already heard of them, they’re an amazing group of committed animal rights activists whose goal is to inspire the world to pay attention, pick a side and take an active role in the animal rights movement.  They believe in total animal liberation, creating  and nurturing an inclusive community, telling stories from the animal’s perspective, non-violent direct action and confrontation.  They believe that veganism is not enough and that activism is imperative.  I completely agree.

Right now, the animal rights movement is incredibly pessimistic.  Talk to different activists and you’re likely to hear things like “the planet is doomed”, “abolition is not possible right now, so we should fight for ‘humane’ treatment as a means to that end” and “we’ll never change people’s views on animals, but at least we’ll go down fighting”.  This is the absolute wrong mindset to have.  This is not a winning mindset.  We need positivity in this movement not because we want to fool ourselves into thinking something impossible is possible (because it might be possible with far fewer numbers than you think), but because if we aren’t positive, the planet will be doomed, abolition won’t be possible and going down fighting is all we’ll achieve.  The truth is, changing people’s views on animals is possible with the right mindset and determination, but it will take all of us inspiring others to take action if we ever hope to achieve it.  We have to dream BIG.  In a world telling us “no you can’t”, it is up to us to confidently and unapologetically counter “yes we can.

Activists take to the streets of San Francisco, California to demand people open their eyes to the injustices animals endure at human hands.
Activists take to the streets of San Francisco, California to demand people open their eyes to the injustices animals endure at human hands.

Dreaming big is important, but meaningless if we lack the people-power to make the idea of total animal liberation a reality.  As activists, we have to follow through on our words with actions beyond vegan consumerism.  Making different shopping and entertainment choices is great, but we are fighting an uphill battle that can only be won if activists will actually get active.

Imagine if every time someone took a bite of a hamburger or picked a gallon of milk off the grocery store shelf they received looks of disapproval and words of truth earnestly telling them “this is wrong”.  We need to hold people accountable for their actions.  We need to wake people up.  We need to bring the entire world into the animal rights conversation.  The biggest social justice movement of our time is happening right now, but we’re too afraid and timid to talk about it.  We are their voice and yet we are silent when it counts most.

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Letter From a Birmingham Jail)

blind to injustice, tel aviv, israel, earthlings, march, animal rights
Activists in Tel Aviv, Israel symbolically taking off their blindfolds showing that they acknowledge the suffering of animals and are taking a stand against it.

Direct action is imperative.  No longer can we allow other members of our species to live in the self-imposed darkness of willful ignorance.  No longer can we be appeased by the “victories” of meatless mondays, “humane” murder, and bigger cages.  No longer can we be contented by the illusion that change will happen because of how peacefully, respectfully and meekly we waited.

If this were any other social justice movement, would we be worried about appearing “pushy”, “rude” or “judgmental” by bringing people’s attention to the violence they are actively participating in by maintaining the mindset that a beings worth is based solely on their utility to humans?  If humans were in the animal’s place wouldn’t our actions be different?  Would we still be saying “wait”, “be patient” and “not yet”?  How is this disparity not speciesist?

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Letter From a Birmingham Jail)

Confrontation is the seed of change.  Without it, the status quo will remain forever.  We need to attack this issue with the same urgency we would have if these injustices were instead being dealt to humans.

Every time a person purchases or consumes a product of violence, we need to remind them that they are making a choice in support of the oppressors.  Willful ignorance is not innocence — there is complicity in every action and inaction which supports oppressive acts.  If you wouldn’t sit quietly beside a person slicing someone’s throat at the dinner table, then you should not sit quietly beside a person eating someone’s mutilated body — and if you would sit quietly beside a person eating someone’s mutilated body then you are complicit as well.  As Erasmus Darwin famously said: “He who allows oppression shares the crime”. Continue reading “Direct Action Everywhere”

Detox Your Life: How to Responsibly Get Rid of Your Non-Vegan Crap

leather beltsSooner or later on your road to veganism you’ll wonder, “what on earth do I do with all of these frozen steaks / leather shoes, purses and belts / non-vegan alcoholic beverages / pints of ice cream / wool blankets / non-vegan household cleaners and personal hygiene products / etc. in my house?”.  Parting with your non-vegan stuff can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.  The good news is there are a bunch of options for you to get rid of your non-vegan junk.

Have a yard sale

Yard sales are a great way to quickly get rid of non-vegan items like furniture, clothing and even jewelry.  It’s also nice to have some money left over afterward that you can use to buy some new awesome vegan stuff.

Sell to friends and family

Friends and family are the easiest people to sell to.  Just make sure they’re actually buying it and not just going to try to give it back to you as a gift.

Sell online

Websites like eBay, Amazon and Craigslist are great ways to turn your old, gross non-vegan stuff into cash, but they need a bit of setting-up.  You might need to set up a PayPal account if you don’t already have one.

Pawn

You definitely won’t get a fair price, as pawn shops need to turn a profit to stay in business, so this should be a last resort.  Pawn shops can be rather picky too, so stick to your safe bets: jewelry, valuable trinkets and really, really old stuff.

Give gifts

Unless you’re giving away something terrible, most people are happy to get free stuff regardless of how little they may actually like it. Continue reading “Detox Your Life: How to Responsibly Get Rid of Your Non-Vegan Crap”

Go Vegan, Save the World: 8 Similarities Between Animal Rights Activists and Superheroes

marvel and dc superheroesWe admire superheroes for their unwavering belief in the power of compassion and the inherent goodness of humanity.  We look up to them, idolize them, and champion them as role models for youth to emulate and aspire to.  In the face of adversity, superheroes never give up, they never give in, and they never compromise their ideals.  Superheroes have taught us that “with great power comes great responsibility” among many other valuable lessons for treating each other with kindness.  But have we actually learned anything from them?

We need to see the connection between villains using their power to harm humans, and humans using our power to harm animals.  The following are eight similarities between animal rights activists and superheroes and how you can help save the world by adopting a vegan lifestyle and becoming an animal rights activist.

1. Superheroes use their power for good

“With great power comes great responsibility.” ~ Voltaire (and later, Uncle Ben from Spiderman)

animal man, dc comics
Animal Man (aka Buddy Baker) is a vegan animal rights activist superhero of the DC Universe. He has the power to assume the abilities of animals, such as the flight of a bird, the wall-climbing of a spider, the color changing of a chameleon, and the regenerating of a worm, among many others.  Although he has been a long-time minor character in the DC universe, Animal Man’s story has recently been relaunched to much critical acclaim.  Other vegan and vegetarian superheroes include Beast Boy, Aquaman, and in some depictions, Superman.

The most basic difference between superheroes and villains is that superheroes use their power for good, while villains use their power for evil.  Superheroes believe in truth, justice and compassion while villains believe in chaos, violence and greed.  Though certain villains may believe they are fighting for truth and justice, their version of justice and their means of obtaining it are twisted and immoral.

Superheroes believe in standing up for the underdog and use their power to speak on behalf of those without power.  Unlike villains, they don’t view those without power as inferior beings and they don’t use their power as a reason to inflict pain to others just because they can’t fight back.

While a villain sees people without powers as a massive herd to dominate and rule over, a superhero sees people without powers as individuals to protect and care for.

Animal rights activists remove themselves from all avoidable acts of cruelty done to other sentient creatures on their behalf.  When they learn of injustices to animals, they empathize, inform others and fight for justice.  Animal rights activists are compassionate to all sentient life forms because they believe that treating others with respect is simply the right thing to do.

“I decided early that I would never take a life. Right around the time I decided that I wanted to live. It wasn’t an arbitrary decision and it was more than moral. It’s about identity. As long as you can choose that, choose who you are in the world… you can choose to call yourself sane.” ~ Batman

2. Superheroes dare to dream

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul I swear… until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share… I’ll never stop fighting. Ever.” ~ Superman

Superheroes aren’t afraid to dream of a better world.  While others are content to accept things as they are, superheroes dream of something better.  Villains dream as well, but they don’t dream of a better world the way superheroes do.   Villains’ twisted dreams of a better world are ones in which they are the ruler of a slave race (the human race) or even suicidal dreams of total annihilation of the universe and apocalyptic destruction causing the death of all life, including even themselves.

Superheroes are idealists and dreamers, but they are not delusional.  They understand perfectly well the hard work, the sleepless nights, and the shed tears it will take to make their dream a reality.  But they understand that some of the biggest ethical leaps forward society has taken throughout history at first didn’t seem possible.  They all started with that one person who thought “but what if it is?” Continue reading “Go Vegan, Save the World: 8 Similarities Between Animal Rights Activists and Superheroes”

I’m Quitting Veganism To Be a Level 5 Paleo

vegetarian indian word for lousy hunter, philosoraptor Everyone, I have a confession to make… I decided that I don’t want to be vegan anymore.  It’s boring to me now.  It was fun for a while, but ultimately just a phase.  I had a realization the other day while watching my meat-eating co-workers eat lunch.  They all got McDonalds and it looked and smelled so good.  They were all laughing and having a good time without me.  I started wondering, “why do they get to have all the fun?”.  It just didn’t seem fair.  So I finally made the decision to quit being vegan.

I’m going to start my paleo diet today with a big steak, not even cooked, and I’m going to eat it like the cavemen did, with my bare hands.  And I’m not even going to wash my hands before I eat.  Or brush my teeth after.  And what are you gonna do about it?  Then probably about a week or so later, I’m going to crap that steak out in the woods like my caveman ancestors did.  I won’t even wipe with a leaf.  I’m an animal — RAWR!  I’ll just rub my butt on a tree trunk ’cause that’s how tough I am.

The grocery store aisles have never seen anything like me before: PALEO HUNTER EXTRAORDINAIRE!  I will pounce on my prey and sink my canine teeth into it’s shrink-wrap packaging and all my fellow grocery store patrons will exclaim in unison: “There goes Paleo Rabbit, Queen of aisle 11!”

And for all you who are going to write your hateful blog posts about me, I’ll have you know that our bodies are different.  Maybe yours doesn’t need meat but mine does, okay?  I have these canines for a reason, you know.  And these sweet hunting skills I learned from playing Call of Duty, knifing n00bs and stuff.  And lions eat cows so why can’t I?  It’s not like it’s illegal or anything.  Come on. Continue reading “I’m Quitting Veganism To Be a Level 5 Paleo”

People For the Ethical Treatment of Plants: 4 Reasons Why the “Plant Sentience” Argument Doesn’t Work

plants have feelings too, carrot, eating, plant sentience, pain, murder
Right… because cows don’t eat plants. [image credit: lerms]
Whether you’re a vegan who has been called a “plant murderer” by a non-vegan, a non-vegan who is trying (and failing) to be funny, or just someone with an affinity for plants, this is information you need to read.  The issue of plant sentience is being brought up more and more as a reason to justify the continued consumption and use of animal products.  There are, however, a few things wrong with this argument.  Here are four reasons the “plant sentience” argument doesn’t work:

1. Plants are not truly sentient

Though certain scientific studies have shown that plants can react to stimuli, these reactions do not point to sentience because they lack three basic qualifications for requiring sentience:

  • Sensory organs — Plants don’t have organs which enable them to see, hear, taste, etc. like animals do.
  • Variability of response — Animals have a conscious perception which acts as an intermediary between their environment and their many different behavioral responses to it.  Plants lack this variability in that they will react in the same manner regardless of different scenarios (ex.: growing toward the sun).
  • Appetite and locomotion — Nature has enabled animals to be sentient because they have the ability to move around.  As I discussed briefly in my post about “ethical meat”, pain exists to teach sentient creatures what stimuli to avoid in the same way that pleasure exists to teach sentient creatures what stimuli to seek.

Plants do not feel pain the way animals do because they have no reason for it.  If a plant had the means to get up and walk away from an area that was too dry, wet or cold, it would make sense for nature to enable the plant to feel pain.  Enabling a living organism to feel pain without the ability for that organism to alleviate that pain is not something done by nature unless by some sort of mutation (i.e.: a creature being born without limbs or with mental or physical disabilities).

For more information on the science and philosophy explaining why plants are not sentient, click here and here.

2. Logical fallacy: Tu Quoque

A person who uses the “plants have feelings too” argument is guilty of using the Tu Quoque (You Yourself Do It) logical fallacy.  This fallacy has to do with accusing your critic of being guilty of doing the same thing they accuse you of, even though the two situations being compared are not identical.  For example:

“If a vegan can kill plants, then I have the right to kill to animals.”

As I have illustrated above, plants are not sentient and comparing plant’s reactions to stimuli and animal’s proven sentience is not the same, and this renders your argument fallacious. Continue reading “People For the Ethical Treatment of Plants: 4 Reasons Why the “Plant Sentience” Argument Doesn’t Work”

What is Love?: How Going Vegan Showed Me What Love Really Is

vegan, valentine, valentine's day, heartI am an animal lover; always have been, always will be.  The thing is, I didn’t actually start loving animals until just a few years ago.  Allow me to explain…

I’ve had pets all my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I began having companions.  To put this simply, anyone can love a pet.  We love them for all they do for us: they make us feel comforted, understood and supported when times get tough; they make us laugh and smile with their silly antics; and they can even make us cry when they fall ill and pass away.  But when does an animal stop being a pet and start being a companion?  The answer: when we stop focusing on how they make us feel and start focusing on how we make them feel.

Anyone who has ever truly loved someone will tell you that love is selfless.  With love, there is no room for ego or pride.  Love is something we give to someone without expecting anything in return.  Of course, we love to feel loved as well, but (real) love is not a form of bribery.  If we truly love someone, we love them for who they are, not what they can do for us.  Furthermore, real love is not contingent on whether someone can or will love us in return.

So at what point do you go from simply thinking you love animals, to actually loving them?   Continue reading “What is Love?: How Going Vegan Showed Me What Love Really Is”

Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About Nutrition, Fitness and Health

Vegan bodybuilder, Joel Kirkilis [image via: uproar.org]
You’ve been told many things about nutrition, fitness and health throughout your life whether it came from parents, friends, commercials and subliminal societal messages all around you.  It’s easy for most people to accept this as fact and move on without bothering to dig deeper, but you’re not one of those people.  You are one of the rare, brave people who isn’t afraid to use their brain to think, analyze and question the world around them.  This is why you are possibly considering a vegan diet and lifestyle.  All of this considered, you may still have your doubts, so forget everything you thought you knew about nutrition, fitness and health, because this is a crash course in the new basics.

You’re hopefully going vegan for the animals, but it sure is nice having some icing on that cake.  Vegans not only enjoy the satisfaction of living a lifestyle that is kind to animals, but they also enjoy improved health and peace of mind knowing that their diet does exponentially less harm to the environment than their animal-eating counterparts.

Veganism is healthy, but don’t just take my word for it.  Vegan diets are approved by many mainstream health organizations including The American Dietetic Association, The American Heart Association, and The American Diabetes Association.

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life-cycle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence and for athletes.” ~ The American Dietetic Association

Veganism is even advocated by The United Nations as one of the most important measures the world can take to preserve our planet’s environment by effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater contamination, resource depletion, topsoil erosion, deforestation, endangered species extinction and even world hunger.

“A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to saving the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change.” ~ United Nations

A 2009 Vegetarian Times study showed that 0.5% of the American population identifies as ‘vegan’ (roughly 1,000,000 people).  According to The Vegan Society, there are at least 150,000 vegans in the United Kingdom.  In the Vegetarian Times study 53% of pollers reported to be following a vegetarian diet to improve their overall health. Continue reading “Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About Nutrition, Fitness and Health”

The End of the World May Soon Become a Reality

2012, mayan long count calendar, end of the world, apocalypse
December 21, 2012 marks the end of the Mayan long count calendar. Many doomsday theorists speculate this means the apocalypse is coming today.

Well, it’s finally here: December 21st, 2012, the so-called “end of the world”.  I can’t help but wonder, what if it was true?  What if today really is the last day of your life?  Looking back, do you have any regrets?  Is there anything in your life left unfinished?  Anything you wish you’d said to someone, but didn’t?  Any act of kindness or generosity you could have done to make someone’s life a little brighter but never had the time?  Do you wish you could have lived a life of purpose?  If we survive the day, what will you resolve to do with the rest of your life?  What changes will you make to make sure that your children and grandchildren will be able to live a long, healthy life?

The world most likely won’t end today, but it’s definitely headed in that direction unless we take a long hard look in the mirror and wake up from our stupor.  Ultimately, whether the apocalypse comes is completely up to us because it is completely determined by our own actions. Continue reading “The End of the World May Soon Become a Reality”