Tag Archives: veganism

National Animal Rights Day 2016 at PreetiRang Sanctuary

[Image: Close-up of a cow, Mahalakshmi, posing for a photo with a human, Lucia. Lucia wears a T-shirt reading “Our Planet. Theirs Too.”]

This Sunday, Ziggy and I braved a 96 degree air temperature to attend The National Animal Rights Day at PreetiRang Sanctuary. I’d first attended this annual day of mourning and awareness last year in downtown San Francisco, where I took some photos in an unofficial capacity, some of which made it into the video of the event. This year, the event was moved to a private vegan animal sanctuary due to financial and safety concerns. Ziggy agreed to run sound, and I agreed to take photos as long as I was not the sole or “official” photographer.

Mourning a squirrel[Image: A human with long red hair and a T-shirt reading “Our Planet. Theirs Too” holds the body of a dead squirrel.]

Mourning a chicken[Image: A human with short black hair and a T-shirt reading “Our Planet. Theirs Too” holds the body of a dead chicken.]

Mourners with animal photos[Image: Several humans stand in a field, each holding a flower and the photo of an animal.]

The bulk of the ceremony consisted of participants holding the bodies of dead animals while the stories of how they lived and died were read. Other participants held photos of living animals. The dead were then gently wrapped in cloth and placed on the ground, and those holding flowers were invited to place them atop any animal whose story was particularly moving to them.

Funeral procession[Image: Humans holding flowers, photos of animals, and animals wrapped in white cloth, walk through a field.]

Madhulika at grave site[Image: Sanctuary co-owner Madhulika pays respects to the animals just buried.]

Plaque at grave site[Image: A grave marker, dated 5-30-15, is adorned with flowers. The plaque reads in part: “We’re sorry we couldn’t save you. We will never forget you.”]

After the ceremony, the participants buried the dead in a grave, alongside the animals from the 2014 and 2015 ceremonies.

Signing the Declaration of Animal Rights[Image: People write their names and messages on a large scroll of paper.]

Animals are people, not property.[Image: A large piece of paper with a Sharpie pen and messages written in various colors, focused on the message: “Animals are people, not property. – Pax”]

NARD group photo[Image: A large group of people stands behind a banner reading “The National Animal Rights Day”.]

Next, The Declaration of Animal Rights was read, and everyone was invited to sign it. We finished the formal portion of the event with a guided meditation, followed by a group photo.

Gandalf, Ziggy, and Hari[Image: Ziggy, wearing a purple shirt, poses with Gandalf, a goat, and Hari, a bull.]

While I questioned the wisdom of moving the ceremony to a private venue at first, the value of having it at PreetiRang became clear when we got to spend time with the living, rescued animals who reside there. It was lovely seeing how much some of them had grown since my previous visits, particularly the young bulls Harvey and Hari, the latter of whom loved photobombing whenever Ziggy and I tried to get a photo with Gandalf the goat. (Hari also ran off with an audio cable while Ziggy was setting up the speaker before the ceremony.)

Chester and Pax[Image: Pax pets Shiva, a steer. Photo by Ziggy.]

Luv and Kush being loved[Image: Luv, a goat, sniffs one person’s hand while a child kisses Kush, another goat, on the forehead.]

Shiva also looked fetching in his shorter, summer coat. And everyone continues to love Luv and Kush.

My full set of photos from the event is on Flickr. Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Fed up, still voting

[Image: Rainbow and American flags.]

I am disgusted but not entirely surprised that the major news networks have already crowned Hillary Clinton the Democratic nominee, on the eve of tomorrow’s six-state primary.

I am disgusted not because I support Bernie Sanders; I don’t. As I’ve repeated numerous times in this blog, I am registered with no political party and support no mainstream candidates. And if it’s not obvious from my several posts on the subject, I also do not support the disruptions and hyperbolic criticism of Bernie Sanders by Direct Action Everywhere and Collectively Free.

I’m disgusted at the capitalist machine that grooms and propels candidates who support the status quo to victory. And as I’ve said before, I’m simply fed up with the two-party system and the expectation that as a progressive, I have a duty to play along.

As fed up as I am with US-American politics, I am still going to vote tomorrow. There are contests for local non-partisan offices and a number of ballot measures, the outcome of which may affect me and other San Francisco residents for years to come.

If you live in California or any of the other states holding a primary tomorrow, don’t let the predictions of news networks deter you from voting. If you want to vote for a third-party candidate, don’t let supporters of the two-party system convince you that you’re a “spoiler” or “throwing your vote away.” And if you are a vegan, make up your own mind on which candidate is best not only for non-human animal rights, but for human rights as well. (The only presidential candidate I’m aware of that has veganism and animal liberation expressly written into his party’s platform is Clifton Roberts of the Humane Party.)

I’m convinced that the only way to make this country fair and equitable for all is a peaceful revolution. Until then, I will continue to vote, but only in accordance with my conscience.

Dear marginalized vegans: You are enough

[Image: Section from a panel of a Robot Hugs comic. Words at the top read “No one benefits from being told that their pain is unimportant, or non existant [sic]!” Below the words is a scale with a lighter weight reading “Not Harm” and a heavier weight reading “Harm.”]

This post is addressed to vegans who are marginalized due to their race, gender, class, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities, or other factors. This post primarily concerns vegans currently living in the USA.

In light of certain animal rights disruptions in the news, you might be feeling pressured to “do something” for the animals. You might be reading that having vegan potlucks and the like without committing to activism is being selfish and ineffective. You might be reading that our fellow animals suffer more than any humans do, so whatever your personal situation, you have a responsibility to fight for animal rights.

You might be hearing this from any or all of the following:

The list goes on and on, but you get the picture.

As a queer black trans vegan who suffers from significant depression and dysphoria, I am here to tell you this:

You are enough.

You are enough if all you can do is have a vegan potluck.

You are enough if all you can do is buy prepared vegan meals from a non-vegan restaurant or supermarket.

You are enough if all you can do is share photos of farmed animals on social media.

You are enough if all you can do  is cuddle with your companion animals.

You are enough if all you can do is get out of bed in the morning.

If you can do more than this, great. But the fact that some marginalized vegans are able to be activists for the animals does not obligate you to do so.

It’s a violent world out there. Let’s take care of each other.

Shut down the zoos

[Image: A free-living howler monkey in Costa Rica swings from a tree branch.]

I wasn’t planning to write about Harambe, the gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child got into his enclosure, as others in the animal rights community can speak and have already spoken more eloquently on the subject. But when I turned on the news just now and saw the zoo director defending the shooting, I felt I had to make a short statement.

Zoos are prisons where non-human animals who humans find attractive or interesting are put on display for visitors to gawk at while eating the bodies and secretions of other animals. Breeding programs to save endangered animals wouldn’t be needed if humans would stop encroaching upon their territory in the first place. Wild (and domestic) animals who need homes belong in sanctuaries, not prisons, where they can be cared for without catering to the whims of the public.

If you’re vegan, please don’t go to zoos. If you’re not vegan, please learn about veganism. Our fellow animals deserve better than this.

Eating SOS-free (with bonus recipe)

[Image: A dish of sautéed carrots, chard, and potatoes with lemon-tahini sauce.]

(Content note: Weight and health issues.)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been eating a diet free of sugar, oil, salt, and caffeine. I’m doing this to try to improve my health and energy levels, simplify cooking and meal planning, and lose some of the body fat I’ve gained by sitting around the house eating low-nutrient food and not exercising. This has nothing to do with veganism per se; vegans eat all kinds of diets and have all kinds of bodies. My desire to reduce body fat is solely a personal choice, not only for my health but also to relieve dysphoria.

I first learned about SOS (sugar/oil/salt) free diets by reading The Pleasure Trap, and found many good recipes on Cathy Fisher’s Straight Up Food web site. I ate SOS-free for about a month back in September 2014, and an even more restricted diet last October, when I was eating solely fruits and vegetables (no grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds). Both times, my taste buds adjusted within a week or so, but due to social pressures and other factors I went back to eating the way I had before. I don’t know how long I’ll stick to it this time, but the more fruits and vegetables and the less sugar and oil I consume, the better.

My main dishes haven’t changed much; I’m still eating lots of oatmeal (especially steel-cut since Ziggy bought a rice cooker with a porridge setting), potatoes, yams, and whole-wheat pasta. Being SOS-free means many packaged goods are out, which is a good thing, as I’m striving to use less packaging anyway (which is why we make our own soy and nut milks). Staying strictly SOS-free while eating out is virtually impossible, but I don’t go out much, and was relying too much on Ziggy bringing home take-out food when I was too tired or depressed to cook. Now I’ll just eat some fruit or a baked yam if I don’t have the energy to make anything more creative.

Here’s an SOS-free recipe I adapted from two other oil-free vegan recipes: Potatoes, veggies, and tahini sauce from Jeff Novick’s “My Simple Recipes” Facebook album,  and lemon-tahini dressing from Bryant Terry‘s Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook.

Sautéed Potatoes and Greens with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

1 large carrot, chopped

1 large baked potato, chopped

1 bunch kale or chard, stems and ribs removed* and leaves shredded

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Combine tahini, water, lemon juice, vinegar, and garlic in blender to make sauce.**
  2. Line a large non-stick saucepan with a thin layer of water, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add carrots, cover pan and simmer for five minutes.
  4. Add potatoes (and chard stems if using), recover and simmer for another five minutes, or until carrots are fork-tender.
  5. Add greens, recover and simmer just until greens are wilted (3-4 minutes).
  6. Stir in sauce (save some for later!) and serve.

* If using rainbow chard, chop and include stems for more texture and color.

** For a simpler version of the sauce, combine equal amounts of tahini, lemon juice, and water (leaving out the vinegar and garlic).

100 Black Vegans who Rock!

[Image: Banner with images of black folks and the words: Black Vegans Rock is now live! Check us out at www.blackvegansrock.com. Image by EastRand Studios.]

The Black Vegans Rock web site, launched in January, has reached a milestone: 100 black vegans featured! Thanks to site founder Aph Ko for her tireless work and commitment to veganism, anti-speciesism,  anti-racism, and feminism.

If you are or know of a black vegan who would like to be featured, please send in your story and photo. Read and share the stories of black vegans from all over the world, and help dispel the myth that veganism is a “white thing.”

International Respect for Chickens Day

[Image: Bertha, a colorful rooster at PreetiRang Sanctuary. White hens are in the background.]

Today, May 4, is International Respect for Chickens Day, an annual event launched by United Poultry Concerns in 2005. If you’re not vegan—or even if you are— you might wonder why we should be concerned about chickens, when there are so many problems facing humans. Or you might think that respecting chickens means raising them on “humane” farms, or eating “cage-free” eggs.

Here’s the thing: It is possible to advocate for human and non-human animals at the same time! The Food Empowerment Project, which I blogged about earlier this week, is a great example of that. So are my friends on the Black Vegans Rock advisory board, including Aph Ko, A. Breeze Harper, and Christopher-Sebastian McJetters. And so are the folks at Striving With Systems, including Aph, Christopher-Sebastian, and Justin Van Kleeck, who cares for chickens as part of the sanctuary organization Triangle Chance for All.

As Justin, the caretakers at PreetiRang Sanctuary (pictured at the top), and anyone else who works with rescued chickens will tell you, these birds are remarkable animals. They have individual personalities and a range of emotions, and they suffer greatly when treated as products for humans to consume. Chickens bred for eggs lay many times more eggs than their wild ancestors, which greatly harms their bodies, leaving them vulnerable to disease and early, painful deaths. Chickens bred for “meat” grow at a much faster rate than their bodies can handle, leading to painful disabilities and early deaths.

Virtually all male chicks in hatcheries are killed shortly after birth, and female chicks have their beaks painfully cut with a hot blade. These procedures are standard on so-called humane, organic, cage-free, and “free-range” farms. Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary has more information on this sad state of affairs.

There is nothing humane about eating the bodies or eggs of chickens, regardless of where they are raised. Please respect these birds by going vegan.

Happy anniversary, Food Empowerment Project!

[Image: lauren Ornelas speaks at a microphone in front of a screen reading “Food Empowerment Project 2015-2016.”]

This Saturday I attended a benefit party in San Francisco to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the Food Empowerment Project. I’ve written numerous times about this wonderful organization and their founder and executive director, lauren Ornelas. The F.E.P. advocates not only for non-human animals, but also for marginalized humans, including produce workers, restaurant workers, and enslaved children. Their commitment to food justice illustrates that just being vegan does not mean that one’s dietary choices are “cruelty-free.”

Fortunately, all of the chocolate at the anniversary party passed the F.E.P. recommendations for companies that don’t source from areas that use child slavery. Of course, there was plenty of other food there too, but I do love sweets.

Chocolate candies[Image: A colorful dish of chocolate candies.]

Beautiful cake[Image: A cake decorated with flowers and leaves in icing.]

I really appreciated that the volunteers labeled the restrooms as gender-neutral for this event. This was one of my suggestions in my  presentation on gender diversity at the Intersectional Justice Conference (at which lauren Ornelas also presented).

Gender-neutral restroom sign[Image: A sign with multiple gender symbols and the words “Inclusive restroom.”]

Azuah provided amazing music.

Azuah performing[Image: Azuah sings into a microphone while playing acoustic guitar.]

Food Empowerment Project team[Image: Food Empowerment Project team members pose and smile for the camera.]

Thanks to all the F.E.P. board members and volunteers for their great work. My full set of photos from the event is on Flickr. (This set is larger than usual, to meet specific requirements that I agreed to as the volunteer photographer.) Please credit me as Pax Ahimsa Gethen if you use any of them, thanks!

Prince: Not vegan, still awesome.

I was as shocked as everyone else yesterday to learn of the death of the legendary musician Prince, at the untimely age of 57. While I was growing up in the 80s, Prince’s music and music videos were in constant rotation on the radio and MTV. Although I only bought a couple of his albums myself,  I appreciated his amazing musicianship and fierce individuality.

So it is with some trepidation that I must point out one “fact” about Prince that many of my friends on social media are sharing is actually false. Prince was not a vegan. He was a vegetarian. Hear the man say this in his own words in a 2011 interview with George Lopez:

Despite not being vegan, there’s no doubt that Prince definitely spoke up for non-human animals. As the link notes, he openly shunned wool and leather in addition to flesh and cheese. But he was not opposed to all dairy products; he drank yak milk with the reasoning that “It is given freely by the yak, so U can truly enjoy it.” He also enjoyed snacking on cookies that contained milk and honey. [Update: See note on this below, under Edit, 4/24.]

Some will decry my words as excessive “vegan purity,” but I feel it’s important to point out that drinking animal milk isn’t vegan regardless of what animal it comes from (with the exception of human breast milk for human children, which can indeed be “given freely”). Besides, as shown above, Prince didn’t even describe himself as vegan, so it really isn’t appropriate to put that label on him, post-mortem.

Another danger of describing someone as vegan when they aren’t is that people who are convinced vegan diets are deficient or dangerous will latch onto any disease or early death as an excuse to bash veganism, independent of the actual composition of the diet or other factors. (See also: Steve Jobs.) Veganism is not a diet, and vegans can and do get sick. But most people in the USA do see veganism as just another dietary choice at this time, so it is not helpful to give conflicting information regarding what vegans eat.

Again, being non-vegan does not diminish Prince’s legacy, either as a musician or as a spokesman for the animals. Regardless, we should not be looking to celebrities as role models for veganism anyway, even in the black community. There are plenty of black vegans from all walks of life to connect with, including struggling artists who could use your support. We don’t need to falsely or mistakenly attribute veganism to black folks like Prince or Alice Walker (whose oft-repeated quote about animal rights is taken out of context) to convince others to go vegan.

As an aside, Prince also did not publicly label himself as genderqueer, genderfluid, or otherwise non-binary. By all accounts, he never openly identified as anything but a straight cisgender man. A man who gave no fucks about conventional masculinity (whatever that is), but a man nonetheless, song lyrics and clothing style notwithstanding. (Non-binary bloggers on The Orbit and Medium also wrote on this subject.)

Let’s celebrate Prince for what he was: An amazingly talented, passionate, groundbreaking musician, who deeply cared about animals in his own way.

Edit, 4/24: A commenter pointed out what I failed to notice, that the “What’s in Prince’s Fridge?” article linked to in the paragraph about yak milk was posted on April 1. Whether that was an April Fool or not, my point still stands based on the 2011 video of Prince being asked “You’re a vegan?” and responding “Vegetarian.” As I noted in response to comments below, if anyone finds a more recent statement from Prince himself saying that he is a vegan, please post a link to it here.

Edit, 6/3: Since this post keeps getting hits: Prince did describe himself as a “complete vegan” in a 1997 Vegetarian Times interview. So as I suspected, it appears that he was indeed vegan for part of his life, but not in the years immediately prior to his death.

“Real” milk, real suffering

[Image: Sarah Tulsi, a cow living at PreetiRang Sanctuary.]

One of the benefits of getting all of my television from the Internet is not having to sit through as many commercials. When I do watch conventional television, inevitably I see ads extolling the virtues of eating the flesh, eggs, and milk of my fellow animals. This was especially hard to take when staying at a hotel in Seattle after enjoying three days of all-vegan fare at last month’s Intersectional Justice Conference.

Returning from a breakfast buffet that included the sliced and cooked flesh of cows and pigs, I turned on the TV and saw an ad for “Real milk vs almond milk,” which featured a child in a spelling bee contest attempting to spell the word “lecithin,” an emulsifier used in some commercial almond milks. Another child then easily spelled the word “milk”, which was defined on screen as “milk, n., like, from a cow.”

I suppose it’s good news that the dairy industry is feeling threatened enough by the sales of non-dairy beverages to spend advertising time and money taking them on. But it has always irritated me to hear milk stolen from forcibly-impregnated cows (and goats) described as “real,” while liquid blended and strained from water and nuts, soybeans, or other plants is considered, at best, an “alternative.”

Ziggy and I make soy and nut milks at home with water and soy/nuts only, and when we do buy commercial non-dairy milks, we seek out brands with no additives. Cow’s milk sold in the USA, in contrast, is hardly ever free of additives; by the time it hits store shelves, it has been pasteurized and processed to add vitamins (which we can get directly from plants and sunshine), and may contain traces of growth hormone and antibiotics. Perhaps the child at the “ingredient spelling bee” should have been asked to spell “penicillin.”

I heard “real milk” referred to again when we went to lunch at one of Seattle’s many all-vegan restaurants (Plum Bistro, highly recommended). A customer at a table near ours asked the waitperson if they had “real milk” or “just” soy milk.  It reminded me of a time a friend insisted that “vegan ice cream” made no sense, because cream had to come from a cow. I wish people would refer to animal milk products as “dairy” instead of stigmatizing plant-based foods as somehow illegitimate.

As I wrote in the DxE blog back when I was active with that group, the idea that cow’s milk is a normal and appropriate substance for humans to consume is a Eurocentric notion that ignores the fact that the majority of people on Earth—primarily people of color—cannot digest lactose properly after infancy. Of all animal products, I’m convinced that cow’s milk is the worst for both human and non-human animals (other than the baby cows it is meant for), in terms of health as well as ethics. Dairy farming involves terrible suffering and death, even on organic, “free-range,” and so-called “humane” farms. This is a large part of why I avoid advocating for vegetarianism, “Meatless Mondays,” or anything else that implies that eating “meat” is the primary problem with animal agriculture.

Let’s stop thinking of non-dairy milks as “alternatives” to or “substitutes” for animal milks, and just recognize them as another option in the vegan grocery cart. Plants are as real as real food gets.