The Pace of History

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Artwork by: Unknown approx. 30,000 BCE

It’s a strange time to be an optimist; most of the western world is convinced that the sky is falling.  Whether it’s ISIS or Global Warming or perhaps the third world war with Russia that we’ve all been lamenting since the 1950’s.  But are things really as bad as they seem?  Or like our ancestors throughout all of history are we suffering from a sort of tunnel vision that always makes our present reality seem like some new peak of violence or prosperity?  Usually the former.

I think the whole problem boils down to the simple circuitry in our human minds which assumes that things are exactly as dangerous as we are likely to hear about them.  For millions of years that was a pretty safe assumption.  But with the invention of written language and then various types of broadcasting this instinct is not just a bit off but needs to be ignored completely.  This is because people have a desire to hear and pass on stories; especially those stories that sound completely different than anyone has ever heard before.  As a result our danger barometer’s are almost impossible to calibrate by simply comparing stories from around the world. Continue reading

3 Times Adventure Time Taught my Kid about Animal Rights

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Is it still embarrassing to admit that you watch children’s television?  It seems to be more and more common lately.  If it makes a difference I started watching it when I was looking for wholesome shows for my daughter to watch several years ago.  I confess though, I’ve watched it without her on several occasions since.  Among the many many life lessons that I think this particular show gets right, Adventure Time seems to be telling kids not to mess with wild animals and their ecosystems.  And one episode in particular even seems to be trying to open up a dialogue about Vegetarianism.  I was thrilled. Continue reading

Speciesism – as a Blindness, a Prejudice and an Instinct

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Artwork by: Damien Fulton

I want to discuss an issue that I know is going to be difficult and in the end I’m sure that a lot of Vegans are going to be upset with me no matter how lightly I tread.  Already, I’ve avoided writing this for a while and at some point I think that amounts cowardice. Before I start I’m going to point out that I do think there is such a thing as speciesism and to some extent I think it is an evil force which helps to promote cruelty.  It is wrong and naive and terrible to believe that the suffering of animals doesn’t matter in the same way that it does for humans. And I’ve seen this belief wielded as a shield to protect people from feeling bad about eating meat or even about the obvious torment that many animals experience at the hands of humans. I call this sort of speciesism – when we physically decide that sentient beings of another sort than our own deserve no concern at all – “hard speciesism.” Continue reading

The Way Forward – Veganism by the Numbers

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I posted an article a week or so ago talking about what I call the Veggie Boom.  I’m certainly not the first one to claim that Vegans and Vegetarians seem to be increasing in number at a faster rate over the last several years than in the past; but I did come up with that name.  Anyways, in the last article I referenced a study that gave the figure 2.5%|2.5% (percent of Americans who are Vegan|percent of Americans who are Vegetarian).  I got a lot of feedback saying that my numbers were a bit off.  And it is true that this figure isn’t in line with a lot of other surveys but there also isn’t a good reason to claim that the numbers were intentionally faked.  In fact some of the highest figures out there come from groups that have no tie to actual Vegan groups.  That’s just how statistics based on small samples work.

The truth is that comprehensive studies that attempt to tell us what percentage of Americans are Vegan just don’t exist.  It’s very expensive to conduct studies of the scale that we would need to really get a solid figure.  Typically the phone surveys we see  only poll 1000 people or less and that means that they have a margin of error of 3 or 4%.  And when the figure we’re getting is around 2 or 3% that just doesn’t cut it.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn anything from them.  Weak information is still information and even if we can’t pin down an exact number we can start to talk about a trend as we collect more and more data. Continue reading

One Group, Two Group, Red Group, Blue Group – Us/Them Politics in Veganism

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There are few things that I despise more on this beautiful planet we call home than the players, staff, fans or the very ground walked upon by the football club, Derby County. To my mind, they are quite literally demonic. When their team beats mine, it is the worst existential pain. When the heroic and glorious Nottingham Forest FC drub them, it is the highest ecstasy. Despite being well aware that to everyone else on the planet this enmity looks crazy, the chances of me not hating Derby County and their backwards fans are zero.

I can look at other rivalries and scratch my head and say: that’s silly. Why can’t Rangers and Celtic fans just put it all to one sid
e? Why can’t Israelis and Palestinians just get along? Why can’t vegans and carnists have discourse without it descending into two opposing fronts of an ideological crusade? Continue reading

The Way Forward – Being Vegan in the Vegan Age

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Artwork: “Horse of Strength” by Laurie Pace

I’m not here to criticize anyone. The truth is Vegans are growing in number in the Western world at an unprecedented rate and while this is good for Veganism it puts a lot of pressure on Vegans.  Furthermore the idea that all of them or even most of them are going to find their way into hearty, productive communities at such a rate is unrealistic.  From what I’ve seen the majority of Vegans are alone in their families and social circles; often unaware of how to live alongside individuals who don’t share their values.  Others have no one to show them how to shop for and prepare Vegan food; condemning them to a life of near starvation for the sake of their values.  Anyone with the willpower to do this has my full respect but we need to move past this sort of self-denial and on to better, stronger communities that help us skip this in between phase.

Continue reading

Beef and Broccoli – a Reaction to Immortal Technique’s Song (of the Same Name)

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Artwork by: Violet Kashi

The talk of a vegan revolution abounds wherever vegans gather online. An ecological revolution, even a socio-political revolution sparked by the touchpaper of declining to consume animals or animal products to sustain ourselves. Like most revolutionary ideas, it sounds simple in principle. Surely we cannot fail to succeed with the power of pure logic on our side.

Despite the clear figures that the meat industry is unsustainable and incredibly damaging to the environment, we in the west are still stuffing more meat than ever into our slavering maws. Why won’t they listen to us wise vegans? Can’t they see we are right? As the two quotes I have lead this article with should show you, the problem we face is this. Clearly the established paradigm of eating meat has somehow not collapsed despite the weight of evidence provided by vegans so far. Now, part of the problem is, of course, the allure of human obeisance to our taste buds and convenience. Another segment of the meat pie is that switching to a plant-based diet is hard, in concept. This certainly kept me as a vegetarian for longer than I would like to admit. Continue reading

Sugar Coating Veganism Sets Us up to Fail

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I have known people who live on chips and soda and seem to be a lot healthier than me.  What sucks about that is that I put a lot of effort into my health and diet and somehow I’m still just getting by.  Part of it is just genetic I’m sure but a lot of it, I think, is that for the first 25 years of my life I didn’t exercise at all and dieted in short bursts based on whatever fad was trending.  If going Vegan is going to undo all the damage I’ve already done to myself, apparently it’s going to take a bit longer.  But I’m okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is others acting like I’m an embarrassment to Veganism because I’m not thin and healthy and fabulous.  Like Veganism is some sort of cheesy ad campaign that only hires kids with beach bodies.  But the truth is that people need real information if they’re going to make a life-changing choice that will require daily struggle.  And it doesn’t get more real than me.  After over a year and a half of eating like Gandhi I’m still well over 50 lbs. from my goal weight. Continue reading

How much Empathy is too Much?

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Art by Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo

It’s no secret that people are a lot less pleasant on the internet.  I’m still deciding whether I think this is more to do with the sort of people who spend more time online or if anonymity just leads people to say things they would normally be too embarrassed to say.  Either way, the online Vegan community is not an exception.  In fact, in my experience at least, online Vegans cannibalize each other as well as their ‘carnist’ adversaries at a much higher rate than even political forums.  And beyond the fact that I just don’t like snotty people, this also upsets me because I think it actually stands in the way of spreading Veganism. Continue reading