Saturday, July 20, 2013

Vegan Education Works!

I was recently on holiday in Alice Springs, Australia, where I got to meet fellow activists Renata Peters and Timothy Putnam from the Alice Springs Vegan Society. I also had the chance to help out at their wonderful vegan education stall at the Sunday markets!

I enjoyed helping out, and many people came up to us interested in learning more about veganism and trying a delicious free vegan cupcake. We had many great conversations, and there were definitely a few new vegans out there afterwards.

I love face-to-face advocacy, people are generally much more friendlier in real life than online. People like Renata and Timothy are my role models, and I hope to have my own vegan education stall one day like theirs. I'm quite a shy person, and mainly I do online activism and use my design skills to create vegan education resources for other advocates to use. But I'd love to practice and learn how to talk to and educate people face-to-face as well as they do! It's really the best feeling standing at a stall on the street or at a market promoting veganism to the public.

Some people say that vegan education doesn't work. Some are scared of using the word "vegan" because they don't want to scare people away. But the reality is, creative, nonviolent vegan education does work, and it doesn't scare people away! Many people come up to us and are genuinely interested in learning about veganism and why to go vegan. We are always friendly and non-confrontational, and that's a very important thing.

Educating people about veganism creates new vegans. It decreases the demand for animal products. It raises awareness. It is changing the world - one new vegan at a time! I am excited to see more and more people going vegan and wanting to go vegan these days, proof that vegan education really is working!

Don't be afraid of getting out there in your community and spreading the message of veganism and animal rights. There are many ways you can do vegan advocacy, such as having a stall on the street or at a market, making youtube videos, inviting non-vegan friends over for a vegan dinner, painting a picture, giving a speech, there are many possibilities so get creative!

Don't give up if you try it and no one tells you then and there that they're going to go vegan. The most important thing is that you are out there, speaking the truth and being a voice for the victims of animal exploitation. With every person you talk to, you are planting seeds. We can't control when those seeds will sprout, or if they will sprout, but at least they've been planted, and that's what matters. Focus on those who are interested in hearing what you have to say instead of the people who don't want to listen. And there will be many who will be interested and open to learning about it.

We need grassroots vegan activists all over the world, speaking out and educating others about veganism, and teaching people that other animals are not "things" for us to use, they are sentient individuals who deserve the one right not to be viewed as the property of another, no matter how well they're treated. After going vegan, educating people about veganism is the most important thing we can do to help nonhuman animals. It's a thousand times more effective than a petition or single-issue campaign, because it focuses on all uses of animals, and it strikes at the roots by reducing the demand - rather than attacking the supplier (which is only there because of the demand anyway).

Please be a clear, consistent, nonviolent voice for other animals. There are so many ways you can do it, so find a way that works for you. Let's work together to create a better world! ♥

I'll end with a wonderful and inspiring poster by LiveVegan, featuring another photo of the fabulous Alice Springs Vegan Society market stall and a quote from Howard Zinn:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"You Should Respect My Decision"

"I respect your decision to be vegan, so you should respect my decision to eat, wear and use animal products," many people tell me, wondering why I can't respect someone else's choices.

The thing is, this isn't just about you and your choices. It isn't like making a simple decision whether to listen to pop music or rock music, which of course I wouldn't get in the way of, because you're free to listen to whatever you like.

But there are victims here. Living, breathing, feeling victims.

For every non-vegan choice, someone was enslaved, exploited, and murdered. I can't respect the decision to participate in such violence, when clearly, there are so many other options that don't involve the intentional harming of others.

Would you respect someone's decision to beat a puppy or a kitten?

Would you respect a cannibal's decision to kill and eat another human, just because they like the way the flesh tastes?

Would you respect a person's decision to abuse their child, or their spouse?

Would you respect a rapist's decision to rape someone?

I hope you wouldn't. I hope that you would stand up for the victims. For what is right.

I am not just voicing an opinion when I talk about veganism. I am speaking out for the victims of animal exploitation.

In the end, the choice is yours. I can only educate and be here to offer help and support if you're interested in becoming vegan. But please don't expect me to respect a decision that unjustly exploits and harms others.

I just can't do that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is Veganism a Diet?

Diets are something you do for yourself, your own health. You can go on and off a diet whenever you want. You can cheat every now and then, since a little bit won't do any harm to your health. It's entirely about you.

Being vegan is not about ourselves. It is about rejecting violence towards other animals. It is not something you can go on and off or cheat on. Once we recognise that using others is wrong, we can't go back and we can't only do it part-time. How could we? We'd be betraying the victims if we did.

Of course, being vegan can have great health benefits, but they're just benefits. We should never forget who it's really about.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Child's Nature

Lately I've been thinking about something that happened when I was a young child. I had a friend who lived on a farm, who I would often go over to play with. We loved to go exploring in the small forest his family had on their property. One day, his mother came up to us while we were playing in the living room. And she told him that the next day, his cow was going to be butchered.

His cow. The individual he'd raised from a calf, who he'd loved and taken care of, was going to be killed tomorrow. They'd close the curtains, his mother said, so that he didn't have to watch it happen. I could tell he was upset, although he tried to hide it. I felt sorry for both him and the cow. But that's the way things had to be, I thought. I tried to block out my sadness, and even made an awful joke a few days later as my family was having dinner, that the mince we were eating was my friend's cow. It was my way of shoving away the guilt, trying to be like a 'normal' person who doesn't care about the animals we enslave and murder for our meals.

Children are not born to be killers. They naturally love and care about nonhuman animals. Raising them to accept the exploitation of innocent sentient beings goes against their very nature. If you gave them a choice, telling them truthfully what happens to farmed animals, I'm sure that most *if not all* children would choose to be vegan.

Sadly, my friend has probably now completely disconnected himself from the horrors of animal exploitation. Perhaps he's a farmer himself now. But as for me, I'm very glad that I decided to break apart from the status quo and go vegan. I no longer feel guilty about what I eat, and I'm finally living true to my nature. It is such a joy to be vegan!

PS - Not vegan? Start here! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Think being vegan is difficult?

I often hear people saying that being vegan is/must be really difficult, which I disagree completely with. It's actually very easy! Never since going vegan 6 years ago have I ever felt that being vegan was hard or not worth the inconvenience. If you think it's difficult, please consider how hard it is for those who are affected by every non-vegan choice we make:

Over 56 billion land animals and trillions of aquatic animals are murdered every year for human consumption alone. They are sentient beings who value their lives, just as we value ours. Just like us, they feel pain, they feel fear, and they do not want to die. But right now, they are being used in horrendous ways that would be considered terribly wrong if done to humans.

Millions of cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals, are being murdered at young ages just for humans to consume their flesh. The slaughterhouse is an absolute nightmare for them. They can sense death all around them, and they struggle and fight for their lives until the very end.

Marine animals are taken from the seas in their trillions due to humans' love for seafood. Fishes are pulled out of the oceans, struggling helplessly as they suffocate to death. Crabs and lobsters are often still alive and fully conscious when they thrown into a pot of boiling hot water. They desperately try to escape as they burn to death.

Dairy cows are raped and their children stolen away from them. Like humans, cows are very maternal animals and being separated causes great distress to both mother and child. The babies are either killed right away, sold to be raised for veal or beef (if male), or kept as herd replacements (if female). After 5 -7 years of being intensively milked and having to face the grief of losing children over and over, the dairy cows' bodies are worn out and their milk production declines, so they are sent to slaughter for cheap meat.

In the egg industry, newborn baby roosters are ground up alive, or thrown away like garbage and left to suffocate, because they're of no use to the egg industry. The females often have their sensitive beaks cut off by a hot blade, a very painful procedure for them. They are then kept in cages or barns, laying eggs at an unnatural rate. Through intensive egg-laying, they lose a lot of calcium and many get osteoporosis. After 18 months, their egg production declines and they are sent to the terrifying slaughterhouse.

It doesn't end with food. Billions of mice, rats, chimps, dogs, cats and other animals are routinely tortured in the name of 'science'. Lambs of sheep used for wool are killed for meat, their mothers suffering the same fate once they start producing less wool. Silkworms are boiled alive inside their cocoons in order to obtain the silk. Wild animals are imprisoned for life for our entertainment. Some are forced to perform tricks for us, as in circuses or marine parks.

They all suffer. They all wish to be free. And we have no right to use any of them.

Compared to the horrific lives that trillions of nonhumans are forced to live because we're not vegan, being vegan is very, very easy. There's no deprivation whatsoever. These days, if you really want the taste animal products give you, there are many great plant-based alternatives available. There are thousands of delicious vegan recipes online, and many great vegan cookbooks out there. There are vegan alternatives to leather, wool, fur and silk. There are many products that are both vegan and do not test on animals. And there are many ways we can entertain ourselves without going to places that profit off using nonhumans for our enjoyment.

Being vegan is about justice, nonviolence and respect to nonhuman animals. It's making the choices in what we eat, wear, use and do, that do not intentionally harm others. It's a call for positive, peaceful change in the world. It's our first step to a nonviolent life.

Being vegan is not a sacrifice. It is a joy!

Not vegan? Start here:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Canine Teeth: A justification for eating meat?

Originally posted on The Vegan Times as part of their "Speciesists Say The Darndest Things" section, here is my answer to the objection that our canine teeth or ability to make tools justifies eating other animals:

“So what if human beings don’t have sharp teeth, like most carnivores? We can make tools (such as spears) instead. Perhaps our canines started shrinking once they were no longer as useful, but the fact that we have them shows that they were useful.”
Even if humans once had sharp teeth, big claws, and bodies that could actually digest meat easily, does that justify eating meat now? In this day and age, humans can be perfectly healthy without consuming animal products, so unless we’re lost and starving on a desert island where there’s nothing but animals (who somehow survive despite the lack of vegetation), we have no reason to.

Our puny little canines – which, by the way, some herbivores also have, and are more like ours than the teeth of carnivores – aren’t a good justification for continuing to participate in violence towards other animals, just like owning a sharp knife in your kitchen drawer doesn’t justify murdering humans.

The animals we use have no say as to whether they live or die. But we do have a choice. We can choose between violence or non-violence. These are sentient, feeling beings with an interest in continued life. They don’t care about what sort of teeth we have or about our ability to make tools. They care about their lives.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Want To Go Vegan - But Your Parents Won't Let You?

Sometimes it can be hard when you're a young person wanting to go vegan. Your parents are the people who buy your food and cook for you, so what if they say no? I've heard many young people say that they want to go vegan, but their parents won't let them. So for those people, here's some advice that will hopefully help.

Educating your parents is the key.

Let them know why you want to be vegan, that you no longer wish to participate in violence towards other animals.

Research about how you can get all the protein, iron, calcium, etc, you need on a vegan diet. My parents made me do this before they allowed me to go vegan. Parents just want the best for their children, so they might worry you won't get enough vitamins and minerals on the vegan diet. Just like an omnivorous diet, it's possible to be healthy or unhealthy on a vegan diet. For example, if you have a diet consisting of white bread and chips, although it might be vegan, you won't be a very healthy vegan. This will lead your parents and other people to believe that veganism isn't healthy. So a well-planned vegan diet is important. A healthy vegan diet can provide you with the essential vitamins and minerals you need - the only thing it would be best to supplement for is Vitamin B12. The best absorbed form of B12 is called Methylcobalamin - so keep an eye out for that name when you're choosing a supplement. 

If they're still convinced that you need animal products to grow big and healthy - have them read The China Study! See if it's available at your local library. After reading this book, my parents realised how bad animal products can be to our health and finally allowed my two youngest siblings to go vegan. Before, they hadn't been allowed to go vegan because they thought they needed to drink cow's milk for strong bones. Actually it's quite the opposite! 

Your parents might also be worrying about cooking. Having to prepare one vegan meal for you and a meat meal for the rest of the family. There are a few things you could suggest to them. You could have what everyone else is having, replacing the non-vegan food for vegan. Such as, if they're having rice, spinach, carrots and meat, you could replace the meat with lentils, chickpeas or veggie patties. In my early days of being vegan, this is what I did.

You could show them how to 'veganise' family favourites, such as Pizza, Mac n' “Cheese”, Spaghetti and (Tofu, Lentil or Chickpea) balls, etc. Searching online for vegan versions of your favourite recipes will usually bring up at least one recipe you can try. My parents loved to find new ways to cook family favourites that everyone could enjoy. Gradually, they started cooking less of the 'meaty' meals and more vegan meals for the family. It was just easier for them.

If they're not willing to cook vegan for you, find some easy recipes online and see if you can cook your own meals. Once you get the hang of it, you could suggest cooking a vegan meal for the family every week or so. Show them that vegan meals can be just as delicious as their non-vegan meals!

I have some easy recipes here that you can try. More will be added soon!

And lastly, they might be worried that it would be too expensive. Sure, it might be costly if you get a lot of specialty foods such as fake meat products and vegan cheese, however the foods that should make up most of your diet - vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and nuts, are pretty cheap. If my family of 7 on a tight budget can easily buy vegan - anyone can! My parents even found that their shopping bill went down a bit after they stopped buying animal products. 

I hope these tips will help you show your parents that it's perfectly healthy to be a vegan, it's delicious, it's not expensive, and I hope they realise that if their child wants to stop harming others - they should encourage that! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Welfare vs Abolition

I've seen a lot of discussion on Welfare Reforms vs. Abolition lately, so I thought I'd write about my thoughts on the matter.

Welfare reforms are thought of as a way to "help animals who are suffering now" - since the world isn't going to go vegan overnight. That's why vegans often support and promote welfare campaigns, as well as promote veganism. After all, even though it's far from perfect, it'll reduce suffering in the short-term, right?

My view is that although we like to think new welfare laws will help nonhuman animals, fighting for these laws to come about won't do anything to help them and aren't worth our time promoting. Perhaps a few people will look into the issue of animal use further through a welfare campaign, but for the majority of people, if anything, it'll make them feel better about eating "humanely raised" flesh and secretions of enslaved and exploited animals.

Let's imagine if say, battery cages were banned. Instead of being crowded in a cage, the hens will be crowded in a barn. Their brothers still get ground up alive, their sensitive beaks may still be seared off with a hot blade, and they will still be sent to slaughter at around 18 months of age. But doesn't it at least cause less suffering than battery cages..? Let's look at this through the eyes of a hen. She comes from the hatchery, to this "free-range" farm, crowded in a barn with hundreds of other hens. To her, it's hell. She's not aware that this hell could be worse in a battery cage. For the 18 months of her life, she is living hell.

The view from the welfarist approach is that since we're still a long way from a vegan world, we should be trying to reduce the suffering done to nonhuman animals in the meantime. However, would you say the same for a human rights issue such as child abuse or rape? Even though these issues are sadly far from over, would we ever tell someone that if they aren't ready to stop beating their child, they should do it five days a week instead of seven, or to "rape with compassion"!?

We need to be educating people about why animal use is wrong in the first place. I have met so many people who are buying free-range pork and eggs thanks to welfare campaigns, because they think they're doing something to help those animals, and these people haven't even heard the word "vegan" before. We need to be clear and consistent with our message. Buying or supporting free-range does not help these animals and instead reinforces the idea that they are our property for us to use. And reinforcing that idea is unlikely to help lead us to the abolition of animal use.

If you want do something that will help animals right now, then adopt, foster, rescue, and/or support animal sanctuaries who rescue and provide homes for those in need. These actions will directly make a difference in nonhuman animals' lives.

And please promote veganism, at every chance you get, be a voice for those animals. I know that sometimes a vegan world seems so far away, but changes are happening. Through people like you and me, educating others about veganism and nonviolence, we'll get there. We will. Don't give up. Never give up. Those animals need us.

To finish off, here's a chart that answers some of the common objections to the Abolitionist Approach:

Many people aren't ready for veganism yet, so we should ease them into it gently through welfare and "Go Veg" campaignsTry vegan activism and you'll find there are heaps of people ready to learn about veganism! We don't need to be advocating for anything less.
A vegan world is far away and animals are suffering in factory farms right now. Why do you only look at the bigger picture and don't care about the animals who are suffering now? It isn't that we don't care about the animals who are suffering now. If I could rescue all enslaved animals right now, I would, but I can't - because as long as there is demand, innocent nonhumans will still be bred and killed for us to use. We have to educate people and reduce the demand. It's true that there are people who are unwilling to go vegan, but we shouldn't give them the message that that they could buy "free-range" or "organically raised" because that at least "helps a little bit" (which really it doesn't) - no, we should be clear that if they really care about those animals, they should stop using them. And if they don't listen, just go onto the next person.
Vegan education won't save any lives in the short term. To affect the demand, we'll need a lot more vegans. Vegan education raises awareness on the issue of animal use. While it might take a while for the demand to make any significant difference, we'll have more people adopting, fostering, spaying, neutering, rescuing, donating to animal sanctuaries, and promoting veganism. These actions will make a difference in many nonhumans' lives.
Change will come quicker if we advocate for welfare reforms and single issue campaigns as well as veganismWelfare Reforms and Single Issue Campaigns give the confused idea that *some* forms of exploitation are worse than other forms of exploitation. Vegan education focuses on all areas of animal use. We have no need to be advocating for "happy meat" or vegetarianism or banning fur, we need to unequivocally advocate for veganism.
We can't force people to go vegan straight away, many need to change graduallyWe've never said it's an all or nothing thing. We understand that there are people who will need to transition to veganism gradually, but that doesn't mean we have to promote anything less than veganism. The point is, to educate people about veganism, and then once we've given them that information, they can decide what to do from there, but we don't compromise on our message to fit in with other people's wants.
Why are you picking on vegans who don't fit in with your views?We don't pick on or bully anyone. Our aim is to educate others about the problems of promoting welfare and single issue campaigns, so that they can in turn educate themselves. Please don't be offended if we challenge your position! We speak for the animals. It's about them, not us.

Recommended reading: Books on the Property Status of Animals by Gary Francione

For more on what we mean and don't mean by vegan education, please listen to Elizabeth Collins' podcast HERE.

And by Unpopular Vegan Essays, Ten Myths of New Welfarism.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Veganism is Nonviolence" - a short essay

Written for a vegan essay competition:

Veganism is Nonviolence

Right now, someone is crying for help. Someone is mourning the loss of her stolen baby. Someone has just been murdered. Simply for humans to consume.

I am vegan because I do not want to support an industry of violence. I am vegan because discrimination to anyone, whether based on race, colour, class, sex, sexual orientation, ability or species is wrong. I am vegan because these animals are our property; slaves who are denied the right to live their own lives. I am vegan and I am working to put an end to the property status of animals, hoping that one day, they will be free.

What is veganism? Veganism is Nonviolence.

Rejecting violence to your body; as animal products can be detrimental to our health and consuming them can lead to cancer, heart disease or diabetes, among many other preventable illnesses. A plant-based diet isn't the only thing you need to be healthy, eating vegan junk food all day won't do any good, but if you eat right it can have many benefits. It's important that we take care of our bodies for a long, healthy and happy life.

Rejecting violence to the planet; Earth's valuable resources are being wasted in the production of animal products, it's an ecological disaster. Tons of food wasted to feed to livestock. Land wasted to both farm animals and grow crops to feed those animals. Forests home to wildlife destroyed to make room for that land. Being vegan can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

But most importantly, Veganism is about rejecting violence towards other animals. Over 56 billion land animals are killed for human consumption every year. Calves are being taken away from their mothers so that humans can drink her milk. Thousands of day-old roosters are being ground up alive or thrown away and left to suffocate because they're useless to the egg industry. Lambs are being taken from their mothers and slaughtered for meat. And the only justification we have for using these animals is simply for pleasure; because they taste good, or feel good when we wear them, or entertain us by living in an enclosure or being forced to perform tricks for us. Ask yourself: is a moment of your pleasure really worth their suffering?

It is time to take the next step in humanity's evolution. Time to say “NO” towards violence to anyone. Time to build an Earth that is powered by peace instead of greed.

Going vegan is the first step towards living a nonviolent life. It's easy. I did it. My whole family of seven did it! You can do it too. If it feels like too much, try going vegan for breakfast first. Then a week later, go vegan for lunch. After that, go vegan for dinner. Stop buying products made out of or tested on animals. Stop going to places that profit out of using other animals; such as zoos, circuses, marine parks, and rodeos. Then before you know it, you'll be vegan.

Let's carve the way to a better, brighter future. For our children. For other animals' children. One day, there will be peace on Earth. But change won't come if we continue to follow the norm or behave as our parents have taught us to. We must break free from our own racism, heterosexism, speciesism, etc, and extend a hand to those in need. The human and nonhuman slaves, the starving humans who have no food due to animal farming, the animals who are endangered due to deforestation, the victims of discrimination, we can put a stop to their suffering if we work to make it happen.

Be nonviolent. Be vegan.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Vegans advocating for Welfare: Why?

From Sow Stalls to Battery Cages to local slaughter rather than overseas slaughter. I've seen many vegans supporting or promoting better treatment for enslaved animals. And every time I see this, I wonder; Why?

Ok, so less torture is always better. Being killed instantly by a gun is better than having your throat slit and bleeding to death. Doesn't mean it's right. These campaigns are basically saying "It's okay to use other animals for our selfish purposes, so long as it's done 'humanely'". I can understand why animal welfare groups advocate for these campaigns. The public is happy because they're buying "with compassion", the exploiters are happy because more people are buying their "free-range" products, and the welfare organisations rake in a whole lot of money from both non-vegan and vegan supporters of their campaigns. The only losers are the animals.

The thing I can't quite understand are vegans who support these campaigns. I know we all feel helpless sometimes and want to make a difference for animals NOW, but it's not going to help them much if more welfare laws come into place. I mean, we've had animal welfare for 200 years now, and more animals are suffering than ever before.

The only way we can help animals is by going vegan and educating others about veganism. It's speciesist to say that anything less than veganism is morally acceptable. Would we advocate for "humane" rape? Or for better treatment of enslaved humans?

But what about the people who say they'll never be vegan? Isn't it better for them to consume free-range animal products than not change at all? Well, that decision's up to them, but don't encourage it. Make it clear that it won't help the animals, it won't stop them from losing their children, being exploited, or being murdered at a young age. Maybe that person won't change straight away, but a few years down the line, they might have a re-think about it and decide to make the change. But if they're encouraged to consume free-range, and they believe that they're doing something good for animals, odds are they won't change, not until someone stands up and tells them that actually, consuming these "happy" animal products are really not helping any animals.

We wouldn't encourage a mass-murderer, who doesn't think he can completely give up murdering humans, to murder them "nicely". No, that doesn't acknowledge the fact that any murder of a human is wrong. If so-called "Human Rights" activists said that it's alright for him to murder a human, provided it's done "humanely", of course he's going to continue doing it. It's insane when you think about it in human context, so why is it different when it comes to non-humans?

If you want to help animals, go out and educate others about veganism! And if you want to do something now to help animals, adopt a homeless animal, volunteer at a shelter, and/or encourage others to adopt, there are millions out there who need loving homes right now.

Be an unequivocal voice for those who can't speak for themselves. Always remember the victims when doing vegan advocacy. If someone says they'll never go vegan, then just move on to the next person, but don't compromise your message. Be a clear, consistent voice for all animals.