Tag Archives: veganism

Vegan simplicity

[Image: Red tomatoes growing on a vine.]

Tonight for dinner I made a one pot meal, pasta e fagioli, consisting of three packaged ingredients: Pasta, beans, and sauce. The normal recipe I use for this dish calls for a lot more ingredients, cookware, steps, and time, and ideally I would use beans I’d cooked myself. But this simpler, faster version was perfectly tasty and satisfying.

I think both vegans and non-vegans sometimes overthink what it takes to make a good home-cooked meal. I realize that most people would not be satisfied having a meal consisting entirely of yams or bananas as I was experimenting with for a month, but there’s no need to combine proteins or to count and track calories or grams of anything, unless you have special health needs.

What about greens? Ideally I would have made a salad to go with the pasta, but I didn’t feel like it. Most health professionals agree that eating green vegetables is very good for us, but doing so actually has nothing to do with being vegan. Being vegan doesn’t mean choosing between a steak and a salad, it means choosing between a steak (with optional salad) or a bowl of vegetable chili (with optional salad). Some vegans do choose to just eat the salad, but most people can’t get full enough on green vegetables alone, as they’re very low in calories. And non-vegans who eat nothing but steak are going to suffer from nutritional deficiencies sooner or later.

As I’ve posted before, it’s a serious problem that many people in the USA do not have access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. And even the simple meal I made tonight, consisting entirely of packaged ingredients from Trader Joe’s, would be out of reach for those who have very low incomes, lack access to a kitchen, or work so hard that they simply have no time to cook. But not being able to afford nutritious food is a problem for non-vegans as well as vegans. We must address income disparities, rather than just blithely repeating how easy it is for everyone to be vegan.

Veganism is more than a plant-based diet; it is an ethical stance against violence. But eating is an activity most humans participate in multiple times a day, every day, often in the company of others. So our food choices have a significant impact, not only on ourselves, but on those around us. Those who do have the money and access to shop and cook would do well to investigate simple vegan meals. I like the Happy Herbivore cookbooks (tonight’s pasta recipe came from Happy Herbivore Abroad) and Simply Vegan, but there are also thousands of vegan recipes on the Internet.

Don’t let fear of malnutrition or complicated meal planning stop you from going vegan. Keep it simple, and always remember the lives at stake.


[Image: Kin Folkz speaks into a microphone at a queer black liberation event. Their T-shirt reads “Love is Love.”]

Tomorrow is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. The official holiday in the USA is this coming Monday, and many events are planned for the long weekend. I plan to attend and take photos at one or two myself, which is why I’m writing about MLK Day now,  in case I don’t have a chance to blog again before next week. Black activists are using hashtags including #ReclaimMLK and #96Hours, so you can search on social media for actions in your area.

VINE Sanctuary posted the MLK Day Vegan Challenge to their blog this week, with the following summary:

VINE Sanctuary challenges vegans to spend MLK Day educating themselves about past and ongoing anti-racist struggles, and we challenge vegan and animal liberation organizations to encourage their own followers to do the same.

I encourage other vegans, white vegans in particular, to read the full blog entry. I left the following comment:

I also encourage vegans to stop sharing memes of MLK saying things that he never actually said, assuring people that King would be vegan if he were alive today, or using MLK memes to tone-police frustrated black activists who speak out against racism. There are plenty of living black vegan activists to celebrate. Check out Black Vegans Rock for some of them.

Let’s honor King’s legacy by letting black activists – of every gender, sexual orientation, class, and ability – take the lead in dismantling anti-black racism.

Note on my AR affiliations

I see that Gary Francione has linked to one of my posts on abolitionist veganism, though he didn’t bother mentioning me by name. I had made a silent New Year’s resolution to stop devoting any space in my blog to this man, but I’m posting to point out a specific factual inaccuracy.

In his essay, Francione described me being a “prominent figure” in Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). It is true that I once spent a lot of time with that group, but for the reasons I posted about in September, I have not been active with DxE for several months, and have never held any official position with that group. And as I posted then, I am still not interested in either dismantling or recruiting for DxE.

As to the rest of Francione’s essay, which criticizes (amongst other people) A. Breeze Harper aka Sistah Vegan (again), Black Vegans Rock (misstating that we are willing to feature vegetarians), and the Intersectional Justice Conference I’ll be speaking at in March… I’ll just say that this man really likes the sound of his own (typed) voice. I’m going back to ignoring him.

Black Vegans Rock is live!

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

Black Vegans Rock is now live! I’m excited about this new project for all the reasons I mentioned in my earlier posts. If you’re wondering what being black has to do with veganism or vice-versa, please read the site FAQ. Aph and Syl Ko of Aphro-ism have done a great job showing how black veganism can help dismantle both white supremacy and human supremacy, and how animal rights activism can help rather than hinder the Black Lives Matter movement.

The first black vegan featured on BVR is Seba Johnson, an Olympic athlete and animal rights activist who has been vegan since birth. That feature links to an earlier post by Johnson which I found a wonderful statement against oppression of all animals, human and non-human, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Highlighting the work of people like Johnson is exactly what Black Vegans Rock is about.

Black Vegans Rock will be accepting submissions continuously; see this page for details on how to be featured.

Abolitionist exodus

This week, two vegan feminist activists – Corey Lee Wrenn and Sarah K. Woodcock – announced that they would be abandoning the “abolitionist” name from their respective web sites and organizations, henceforward to be known as The Academic Activist Vegan and The Advocacy of Veganism Society. The stated reasons included concerns about pervasive sexism in the abolitionist movement, and appropriation of the term “abolitionist” by vegans who don’t take anti-black oppression seriously.

I welcome this change, and have updated my links page accordingly. I’ve posted before that I personally prefer the term “liberationist” to “abolitionist,” not only for the above reasons but because it is more positive-sounding. Some have stated that “liberationist” does not imply a moral imperative to be vegan and to not use non-human animals for any purpose. I’d counter that “abolitionist” doesn’t immediately convey that philosophy either.

Regardless, Gary Francione has been desperately trying to protect his brand as “The” Abolitionist Approach, so these name changes should make him and his followers happy. They can keep their white boys club for themselves.

In more positive news: Black Vegans Rock will be launching on January 4. See this post for details on how black vegans can submit their work to be featured on this new site.

Best of funcrunch 2015 – animal rights

[Image: The face of a steer, Brahma, partly superimposed over the face of the author, Pax.]

Following up on yesterday’s roundup of gender-related posts, here are this year’s entries that I consider to be the most important on the topics of speciesism, veganism, and animal rights. If you read nothing else, please read “Animals are people, not property,” which is the most significant explanation of my philosophy.

Note: Several of these posts mention my prior participation in Direct Action Everywhere events. Please see my statement on where I stand on DxE, which still holds true today. As stated in that post, I still do not wish to get involved in any pro- or anti-DxE discussions either on this blog or on social media.

Sistah Vegan Black Lives Matter conference posterWhite vegans need to check their privileges

On racism, particularly anti-black racism, in the “animal whites movement.”


Buster surrounded by friends at Preetirang SanctuaryAnimal rights, not vegan rights

On activism focusing on the needs of non-human animals, not vegans.



Brahma at PreetirangSugarcoating supremacy

On parallels between the lies taught about oppression of humans and oppression of animals.


Lisa loungingAnimals are people, not property

Important explanation of my animal rights philosophy.



Robot Hugs - Scale of harmStop ranking oppression

On racism, sexism, and other human oppression in the animal rights movement.



Kitchen knivesCulture of killing

Thoughts on pervasive, ongoing violence, from kitchens to battlefields.



Luv at PreetirangThe “natural” human diet

On why debating what is “natural” for humans to eat is a distraction.



Thanks to my readers for learning about animal rights with me this year. Here’s to a new year filled with more peace and life.

The vegan white boys club continues

My foray into animal rights activism has really opened my eyes to the amount of injustice in the world. Rather than ranking the needs of non-human animals over those of humans, I have been as vocal about racism and sexism (including cissexism) as about speciesism. Unfortunately, many in the animal rights community don’t see the predominance of white male leaders as a problem, whether or not those leaders give lip service to intersectionality.

Recently, Ruby Hamad wrote about racist and sexist messaging by white male vegans, citing as examples Durian Rider, Gary Yourofsky, and Gary Francione. Francione responded with a lengthy, ego-ridden display of white fragility in which he was “astonished” to be lumped in with people like Rider and Yourofsky, and accused the writer of “lumping all men in the same group.” Francione accused Hamad of criticizing his views simply “because some white guy promotes [them].” He also discredited the work of black vegan feminist scholar Dr. A. Breeze Harper based on selected comments from one of her talks.

Here’s the thing. All men benefit from the patriarchy. All white people benefit from white supremacy. As I’ve written previously, saying “not all men” or “not all white people” assures the reader that the charge of racism or sexism is not being levied against them. But dismantling oppression is more important than protecting fragile white male egos. Rather than defensively respond to accusations with “I am not a racist/sexist,” the person accused ought to reflect on their privileges and carefully examine why their statements might be harmful to a member of an oppressed group. What is racist is not up to a white person to decide, and likewise with sexism and men.

Normally I would just ignore Francione (I wrote up a detailed account of my troubles with him previously), but I cannot ignore the deliberate suppression of vegan women of color like Dr. Harper who have done so much work to promote both animal and human liberation. And now Francione’s influence has extended to getting another vegan woman of color, Sarah K. Woodcock of The Abolitionist Vegan Society, removed from VegFest UK. Apparently Tim Barford, who battled publicly with Francione in the past, has now bought into “Frabolitionism,” and didn’t like that Woodcock has been critical of Francione. Nevermind her unwavering dedication to abolitionist vegan advocacy; the crime of being “rude” to a white man is apparently unforgivable.

White men aren’t going to let go of their power and influence in the vegan and animal rights movements without a fight. Choosing which battles are worth fighting is necessary to prevent burnout. I’m realizing the wisdom in Aph Ko’s plan for Black Vegans Rock: “Stop deconstructing white uncritical spaces, and start (re)constructing more black progressive spaces.” As this article promoting Black Vegans Rock states, veganism has a serious race problem. And white men are not the ones who are going to fix it.

Vegan resolutions and retention

[Image: Yam pudding dessert, served in orange halves.]

Two weeks from now, many people will resolve to begin a diet for the new year. Some will choose a plant-based diet, which they might refer to as vegan. While I’ve stressed continually that veganism is an ethical stance against violence, not a diet, the fact is that many see it as solely the latter.  Sadly, very few people at this point in history agree with the concept that animals are people, not property, a paradigm shift which I believe is the best way to ensure widespread adoption of veganism.

Regardless, some people who adopt a plant-based diet for health or weight loss reasons do go on to become ethical vegans. Additionally, eating a plant-based diet (for those who have the access to do so) is a necessary component of avoiding violence to animals. So I feel that anyone adopting a plant-based diet should be encouraged and supported, regardless of their motives.

Maintaining a plant-based diet is a greater challenge than starting one, but this is true of any significant lifestyle change. The Food Empowerment Project has a vegan retention project that includes sending out a monthly newsletter to keep new vegans on track. They’re not currently accepting new subscribers, but I have some insights of my own to share.

I believe one of the greatest obstacles to retention is ignorance:

  • Nutrition ignorance – Fueled by industry lobbyists who convince consumers that they need to eat animal products for good health.
  • Cooking ignorance – Fueled by fast-food companies and a capitalist economy that encourages everyone to eat on the go, so they can work more and buy more stuff.
  • Economic ignorance – Fueled by foodie companies that convince people they need to spend a lot of money on specialty products to maintain a plant-based lifestyle.

If we can address these concerns, we can move people beyond seeing a plant-based diet as a temporary, faddish, or elitist undertaking, and move toward making it a mainstream option. Repeatedly explaining to people that vegan and “gluten-free” are not equivalent or interchangeable concepts may make me want to bash my head into the wall, but it’s even more important for me to dispel the misconceptions and outright lies that hold people back from taking animal bodies and secretions off of their menus.

While I have no health credentials and cannot give advice for anyone’s specific nutritional needs, I can recommend some web sites that offer the kind of plant-based meals I prefer myself: Starch-centered, low-fat, oil-free. Many of these recipes are low-cost and contain relatively easy-to-find ingredients as well:

Here’s to a new year filled with life.

Announcing Black Vegans Rock

As promised in my previous entry, I am excited to say more about Aph Ko‘s new project, Black Vegans Rock. The stated goals include:

  • Change the mainstream narrative surrounding veganism
  • Spotlight black vegans who are doing incredible work everyday
  • Stop deconstructing white uncritical spaces, and start (re)constructing more black progressive spaces

I was honored when Aph invited me to join the advisory board, which includes Dr. A. Breeze Harper whose work with Sistah Vegan Project I’ve followed for years, and Christopher-Sebastian McJetters whose writing for Vegan Publishers and elsewhere I also greatly admire. We represent a diverse group of perspectives, experiences, and professions, and seek to highlight that diversity in the black vegan community.

Black Vegans Rock poster
[Image: Black Vegans Rock poster. Logo designed by EastRand Studios.]

The site will formally launch in January. If you are a black vegan and want your work featured, please see the above poster or the post on Aphro-ism for submission guidelines.

Black veganism

This week, black vegan feminist blogger Aph Ko spoke on a Black Girl Nerds podcast about black veganism. As I’ve shared previously, Aph has gotten a lot of pushback, including blatantly racist remarks, for bringing attention to black vegans in an overwhelmingly white-led movement. Many white vegans don’t understand what race should have to do with veganism. Back when I was performing whiteness, I probably would have agreed with them. But now I understand the importance of this effort.

Veganism is seen by the mainstream primarily as a dietary choice for privileged people. I was reminded of this again last night, when my young nephew asked if our harvest feast (not Thanksgiving dinner) was “vegan or gluten-free.” (I was asked this question repeatedly by a fellow chorus member when I brought homemade baked goods to our rehearsals.) I explained that uncle Ziggy and I are vegan for ethical reasons, and that nothing on the dinner table contained animal products. As none of us had allergies or sensitivity to gluten, this substance was irrelevant.

On the podcast, in response to the host’s concerns about the expense of a vegan diet, Aph explained that veganism is a political choice, not a diet. She described dietary veganism as a white-centric approach, with emphasis on expensive foods that center the needs and vanity of the vegans, not the animals. She said, “I would urge people to try to change their mindsets before they try to change their economics.” Then it becomes apparent that you can meet your dietary needs with less expensive whole foods rather than pricey flesh and dairy substitutes.

Ethical vegans aren’t immune from racism either, sadly, as Aph discussed in the podcast. Those who think that talking about black veganism is a distraction from “saving animals” really ought to check their privileges. We need to build awareness of why more black folks should be animal rights activists, and should be welcomed into the movement.

On that front, Aph is developing a new web site, Black Vegans Rock, which will debut in January. I’ll be writing more about this exciting development, so stay tuned!