Ending Yulin

yulin dog5

It’s already started. The notorious Yulin Dog Meat Festival, which takes place in southern China, is underway. The “festival” is not a celebration of dogs; it is a celebration of dog meat.

Beagles, golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, collies, chows, muts, you name it, are often stolen from people’s yards and the streets and violently beaten to death for human consumption.

The anti-Chinese racism is underway as well – much of it from passionate dog lovers. Horrified by the practices in Yulin, activists have lashed out at China, perhaps without realizing that only 8 percent of Chinese consume dog meat. Do we forget that 98 percent of Americans consume cows, chicken, fishes, goats and pigs?

Pigs, dogs — are they really so different?

People who live with pigs understand they are not. All animals feel pain, all animals love their young, all animals desire freedom of movement. If animals didn’t feel these emotions and desires, how would they survive?

Animals regarded as mere things or as cogs in a machine in this country suffer – the same as the dogs of China. Yet do you see Americans taking to the streets to protest this violence? Not often. But recently in China over one hundred thousand people came out to protest the dog trade and some animal rights groups based in the United States have joined them asking the government of China to stop this horror. So far, Chinese officials haven’t budged.

It’s not so hard to understand the reluctance. What if millions of Chinese sent petitions calling on the American government to stop the production and consumption of animal products? Would Americans suddenly shut down butcher counters, restaurants and animal farms? Absolutely not.

I would suggest that the American reaction to some Chinese eating dogs smacks of colonialism. Americans and Europeans arrive to save the day and stop the barbarism of the “developing nations.”

How easy it is to point a finger at others and fail to see our own complicity.

The United States kills some 9 billion land animals a year. Each American eats, on average, 270 lbs. of meat per year. Each Chinese person eats about 130 pounds a year. Yet we sit on our couches watching ABC’s recent episode of “Nightline” recoiling in horror at the cruel exploitation of dogs in China.

How helpful it would have been if the producers of the show had also, at the very least, noted the violence, suffering and anguish inherent in our own system of animal agriculture? While the horrors of the dog meat trade are indisputable, true change must start with an unsparing assessment of our own behavior.

True understanding must start with the realization that all nonhuman animals are deeply connected to human animals. Scientists have even shown that rats have empathy and will forgo food to help another rat.When will us humans achieve that same level of compassion?

As the noted animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) proclaims, “It’s not food, it’s violence.”

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —

MINI ACTIVISM

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I would always cringe when I would hear the gym teacher at the end of the class say, “Now go get lunch and be sure and eat a lot of protein.”

Ugh.

Yesterday was a fundraising day for the Y and this teacher who, by the way, is a wonderful person, was giving away ham and cheese sandwiches as part of the effort. She offered one to me and I said, God no, I’m vegan.

“I didn’t know you were vegan,” she said. “Why did you do that?”

I told her that it was for the animals, but I’d also learned that not eating animals has some real health benefits. She said she knew that and I asked if she’d seen “Forks Over Knives.” She said she had and then she asked if I didn’t miss those foods. I said that aside from brief cheese cravings at the beginning, absolutely not and added that since I’d found out about the animals and the health benefits, I had thought, why wouldn’t I do that?

Then somehow she managed to zero in on what can be tough about going vegan – the social aspect. “That’s the hardest part – huh?” the fitness instructor said.

I’ll cut to the chase – today after the gym class she said she wanted to invite everyone to the next fundraising day – which would be vegetarian.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

LOVE AND COOKING

broc 1

I tend to get nervous when I try to “entertain,” i.e. cook for anybody except my partner Michael. I think cooking can be a sign of love and it pains me to think that I might not be expressing my affection for others very well.

In my anxiety I’ve served overcooked food, undercooked food, bland food, burn-your-mouth spicy food. I’ve left out ingredients. I’ve put in the wrong ingredients. (I once mistook raw quinoa for sesame seeds. Whoops!) I have routinely avoided tasting food before I served it, because, well, what if it’s bad? Or what if I try and “doctor” it and make it worse? I’ve mercilessly berated myself for this ineptitude.

I try to relax but with guests arriving and wanting to visit, I have often delayed returning back to the kitchen to check on things, with predictable results.

Until now, my usual cooking “style” has been to dump everything together, stir it up and hope for the best.

One of the things they’ve taught us in this Forks Over Knives online cooking class I’m taking is how you’re supposed to measure everything out and put each ingredient into a separate bowl before you start cooking. They call that mise en place. It’s fun to pronounce: meez zohn plas (with an “a” like plaza).

Yes, the word seems more fun to say than to do. Why should I bother measuring, preparing and putting aside ingredients in little bowls before I start to cook? says my Monkey Mind. If I have the cumin in my hand at that moment, why not just toss it into the big pot and then go look in the fridge for the next thing in the recipe? Why make extra work for myself?

Sure I’ve seen mise en place on cooking shows. I didn’t know it was mise en place. I thought it was just the TV kitchen help lining up all the ingredients in the little bowls on the counter so the superstar chef could demonstrate the real art of cooking.

I don’t have an assistant (s). Why create another job for myself?

tomatoes

Trying to keep an open mind, or rather, trying to pry open an already closed one, I have recently learned mise en place partly has to do with your “state of mind,” so that you can cook in a calm, deliberate, attentive and methodical manner. It’s to keep a would-be chef from forgetting stuff and for putting the wrong stuff in at the wrong time. It’s a way to not discover midway through a recipe that you don’t actually have that one ingredient that you really really need.

At the earthly level, I’m hoping to learn how to not burn the hell out of everything or how to not throw a still-cold-in-the-middle pan of lasagna on the buffet.

On the spiritual plane, I’m working on something else: to love better. I’m wondering if instead on working to love better in order to cook better, I can cook better in order to love better.

Somebody was telling me about a friend of theirs who ate a simple vegan meal at a Buddhist monastery in Japan. They said it was the best meal they’d had in their entire life. I understand that.

Of course, when it comes to cooking and love, it’s not just love for the people who eat the meal but love for what does or doesn’t go into the meal. How can a dish express kindness and attention when it includes the flesh or secretions of an animal who suffered excruciating pain from the minute she was born until the minute she died? How can serving the murdered corpse of an innocent animal (person) who wanted to live a happy, peaceful life be an expression of loving kindness?

In my cooking class, we’ve been invited to consider the shape and the color of plants – the beauty of plants. No I don’t believe those plants suffer when they are harvested, certainly not the way a fish, cow or pig would at slaughter. Instead plants truly are a gift of nature and are to be revered and consumed with gratitude. And I mean consumed!

My favorite quip from cookbook author and activist Colleen Patrick Goudreau: “How do you keep vegetables from going bad? You eat them!”

Peace from one not-so vicious vegan.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

VICIOUS VEGAN IN THE KITCHEN

The Vicious Vegan refrigerator.

There’s not a whole lot I can control in this world, which is very upsetting. I can’t wave a wand and send Donald Trump so far back in time he can’t cause so much trouble, back before microphones, TV’s and real estate. I can’t take away everyone’s freaking weapons, for godsakes. I can’t feed all the hungry people or stop cancer. And so far I haven’t been able to shut down animal exploitation.

But I can control my kitchen god damn it!

I can make sure that all the kale and lettuce is stashed properly in the “Leafies” bin of my refrigerator and the celery is in its designated area. I can arrange all my bottles of vinegar in a cabinet. I can even organize my jars of chipotle salsa on a shelf. I can easily dominate chipotle salsa. The bloody restaurant which calls itself “humane”? Not so much.

But don’t think this kitchen neatness attack was my idea. I simply don’t operate that way. My natural inclination is throw everything in the fridge and hope for the best. Try not to get too upset when I find a three year old potato behind the 2011 almond milk.

I’m taking a Forks Over Knives online cooking course. Yes, yes, yes. It’s WHOLE FOODS, PLANT-BASED, LOW-FAT cooking, which means, among other things, no oil. Or to quote Dr. John McDougall, “Olive oil is not a health food” and “The fat you eat is the fat you wear.”

Assignment 1: Clean up the flipping kitchen! They didn’t say it quite like that but I got the idea that processed food and radically expired food had to go, as well as any kitchen appliance that smelled like an electrical fire when I turned it on. Forks have to go together. Spoons have to go together. And plates of the same size go together.

I have to say it has been such fun. My soup bowls don’t say, “Plants have feelings too.” The can of olives on the top shelf doesn’t spout off with, “Vegans think they’re better than everybody else.” The jar of mustard doesn’t start proclaiming , “God put the animals here for us to use.”

It’s happy in my kitchen. There are no animal corpses, no chicken periods (eggs) and no cow or goat secretions (animal milk.) I have no qualms about touching anything in the refrigerator. I don’t get flashbacks of wailing suffering pigs or fish in agony. There are no hunting knives, bows and arrows or guns nearby.

No, I’m not really making any recipes yet. I’m just enjoying a chaos-free kitchen.

Later, dudes.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

A DXE CONVERT

Activist Leslie Goldberg.

By Leslie Goldberg

I really didn’t know what to make of the DxE video I was watching: Animal rights activists marching into restaurants and yelling about animals who wanted to live and how “meat” isn’t food, it’s violence. The activist/troublemakers usually held AR signs and stony expressions. The restaurant customers looked amused, embarrassed or annoyed. The staff? Angry, then frazzled.

As an animal rights activist myself, generally of the polite variety, I was intrigued, but also intimidated— especially when I’d see a DxE video of someone going into a restaurant alone and starting to shout. I said to myself, I COULD NEVER DO THAT. My husband said, “YOU’D BETTER NOT DO THAT.”

I live close to a Nations Giant Hamburgers, a KFC, a Jack ’n’ the Box and a Burger King – so many opportunities, I thought. But no, I can’t. I just can’t.

Weeks passed and still I kept wondering about DxE. I’d check out the notices on Facebook for Direction Action Everywhere Meetups, held on Saturday mornings at the DxE House in Oakland.
The DxE House. I had a picture in my mind – White frame house, falling apart, in a rough part of Oakland. My imaginary house was…

Read the rest of this essay here.

A recent DxE meetup.

WORDS ANIMAL ACTIVISTS SHOULD NEVER SAY

By Leslie Goldberg

If activists are going to wake up the planet to the horror of animal exploitation, we’ve got to change how we talk. We can no longer afford to play into the hands of these industries that exploit animals.

Remember how George Bush twisted words to mean the opposite of what they actually were? The Clean Air Act only allowed more air pollution, not less. The No Child Left Behind Act didn’t help disadvantaged children, it hurt them. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act branded non-violent activism as “terrorism.”

Drawing on the work of cognitive linguist George Lakoff, one of the key speakers at the National Animal Rights Convention 2015, Alex Hershaft gave his audience a hand-out detailing, well, how to talk.

Animal rights activists must never fall into meat, dairy, egg, fish industry double-speak and/or euphemism, he said. We can not let ourselves and the people around us forget that exploited animals are living, breathing, feeling, thinking individuals who want to live just like us. Animals are not things. (And that includes fishes!)

Some of his suggestions:

— Always refer to a non-human animal as “he” or “she,” never “it.”

— Don’t call companion animals, “pets.” We are not their “owners.” We’re their “guardians.”

— Say “animals raised for food,” instead of “food animals” or “farm animals.” Say “animals in laboratories,” not “lab animals” or “specimens.”

— The words “beef,” “pork,” “veal,” and “chicken,” are used to make us forget reality. Instead of these words, say “flesh” or “tissue.”

— Other industry terms that deny animal personhood are “livestock,” “cattle,” “hogs,” “swine,” “poultry,” “layers,” “broilers,” etc. We don’t want to use those terms.

— Don’t allow the dairy industry to own the words “cheese,” “milk,” and “ice cream.” If these items come from animals, designate them: “cow’s milk,” “animal-derived cheese,” or “cow’s ice cream.”

— Don’t join government agencies which kill millions of animals and deny animal personhood and which use terms like “wildlife,” “harvesting,” “trash animals,” or “by-catch.” Instead say “free animals,” “killing,” or “non-targeted dead animals.”

— Refrain from using works like “animal,” “beast,” “pig,” “rat,” or “snake” to indicate a person who is violent, uncouth, messy, disloyal, etc.

— Figure out alternatives to expressions such as “killing two birds with one stone” and “there is more than one way to skin a cat.”

— And please don’t ever, ever suggest that there is a way to “humanely” raise and kill animals for human consumption.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

MEAT-EATERS AREN’T BAD

By Leslie Goldberg

The fight over the “morality of meat-eating” rages. It’s on Facebook, on Twitter, in the newspaper, on TV and radio, in our dining rooms and in our classrooms. Recently on social media, I read the question, “How can my wonderful, kind and generous friends keep eating animals? Are they evil?”

I would suggest that flesh-eaters aren’t bad and certainly not evil, except maybe Donald Trump and/or Jeb Bush. (And no, Hitler was NOT a vegetarian.)

People are just hypnotized by the culture. It’s like there’s a micro-chip lodged deep in our brains that keeps us from realizing the suffering of animals and often, the suffering of other humans.

I’ve only been vegan for six years. For most of my life I ate the flesh and secretions of animals. My consumption tortured and killed animals on a regular basis, yet I loved animals. I only read horse books as a child. I cried when my companion animals died. I adored the movie “Babe.” I saw the “in-your-face” animal rights artwork of Sue Coe. Even though some of these things disturbed me, they didn’t cause me to make any connection between my behavior and the suffering and murder of animals.

It was like being under a spell or sleep-walking. Almost by chance I woke up. I saw some images in a movie and I knew I could never knowingly eat an animal or her bio-fluids again.

As animal rights activists, our job is to break the spell – throw cold water in the face of our flesh-gnawing, secretion-sucking society.

But how? My favorite tools are loud obnoxious public demonstrations and disruptions; blogging; making videos and films; writing books; and writing songs. There’s also tweeting, letters to the editor, complaining in restaurants, and, yes, posting on Facebook.

What about getting to people’s hearts via the stomach, or, if you like, the digestive tract?

These days, I’ve kind of given up on that tactic. Of course, vegan food is great and I really appreciate the love and the effort that goes into vegan cooking, but tasty meals aren’t going to change our society. I would suggest that neither the best vegan cupcake in the world or the best vegan sushi in Manhattan is going to trigger any serious soul searching or moral questioning. (Not the way graphic imagery of animal suffering might.) Sad to say, but I don’t think Ben & Jerry’s new vegan ice cream is going to liberate animals (both human and non-human.)

Activist and author of “Whitewash – The Disturbing Truth About Cow’s Milk and Your Health” Joseph Keon said to me recently the most typical response he hears when carnists eat delicious vegan food is, “Wow, if I could cook like this, I’d be vegan.” Translation: I don’t have the time or the skill to cook vegan or care enough to make the time and learn new cooking skills.

Just as the civil rights movement, the gay liberation movement, the women’s movement, the abolitionist movement hinged on ordinary people speaking up, the animal rights movement is going to need to get noisy if we are to succeed. Heard at the recent National Animal Rights Conference 2015: “Never miss an opportunity to say what needs to be said.”

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

WHY THE VEGAN HEALTH ARGUMENT DOESN’T WORK

By Leslie Goldberg

It’s the old pitch: “heart disease, blah, blah, blah, diabetes, blah, blah, blah, cancer, blah, blah, blah, cholesterol, blah, blah, blah, obesity, blah, blah, blah, saturated fat, blah, blah, blah, arthritis, blah, blah, blah and on and on and on.

Their eyes glass over and then they say, “Protein, blah, blah, blah, calcium, blah, blah, blah, omega 3’s, blah, blah, blah,” and/or “My uncle ate eggs, steak and cheese every day of his life and he lived to be 117.”

And, maybe, maybe, maybe, “OK, OK, OK, I’ll try it.”

Another ex-vegan is born.

Actually, when you think of it, why would anybody think they could persuade anyone to do anything based on health? Have you ever gone to a birthday party and said, as the cake was being cut, “You know we shouldn’t eat this because it’s bad for us.” Or maybe, you’re at a ballgame and your friend is just about to bite into a hot dog and you say that could give you cancer or a heart attack.”

What about saying to someone who has just settled into a little TV watching that they should really be out there running?

I changed my eating because of the animals. I just couldn’t be a part of the holocaust. But I didn’t think other people would be moved to go vegan because of that. I pitched to friends’ and family’s self-interest. I talked about health and weight and I talked about health and weight some more. Talk, talk, talk, until it was suggested that I do something that is anatomically impossible.

The reason the health argument doesn’t work is that it depends on human will-power. Is there any power on earth weaker than that? Cheese, which contains an opiate called casomorphin, is actually physically addictive. It takes about 10 pounds of milk to produce one pound of cheese. “Like it or not, mother’s milk has a drug-like effect on the baby’s brain that ensures that the baby will bond with Mom and continue to nurse and get the nutrients all babies need,” said Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Cow’s milk is “mother’s milk,” folks, just not your mother’s milk.

In addition to addiction, animal rights activists are up against an inescapable, 24-7 barrage of milk, meat, dairy and fish advertising and lobbying. (Remember, if those stupid and insulting ads didn’t work, they wouldn’t spend billions on them.)

Recently I found another clue as to why the vegan health argument doesn’t work in an article by New York Times columnist Jane Brody. In it, she wrote about a new book by Michelle Segar called “No Sweat: How Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.”

Segar, who is the director of the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan, told Brody, “Health is not an optimal way to make physical activity relevant and compelling enough for most people to prioritize it in their hectic lives.”

Brody went on to write, “Though it seems counterintuitive, studies have shown that people whose goals are weight loss and better health tend to spend the least amount of time exercising.

“Rather, immediate rewards that enhance daily life – more energy, a better mood, less stress and more opportunity to connect with friends and family offers far more motivation, Dr. Segar and others have found,” she wrote.

Doing the right thing, i.e., stopping the exploitation of animals in our daily lives is also something that offers immediate rewards. Suddenly a weight of guilt is lifted. Nothing offers a better sense of well-being than knowing you’re living in accordance with your deepest values.

Esteemable acts create self-esteem.

It’s not rocket science: When you’re doing shitty stuff, you feel shitty.

Animal agriculture is torturing and murdering animals – you would have to be living under a rock to not know that. It takes a lot of energy to keep trying to push away awareness. Become truly aware and whoosh! Feel the energy.

Yet, standing up for animals can be a lonely job in this society. And you might not feel that great arguing with family and friends. You might not feel that great not arguing with family and friends and keeping everything inside yourself.

Perhaps, try not arguing AND speaking up for animals. Something small. A friend of mine, Mike, works at a place where the management serves lunch. There’s nothing for him to eat so he goes out and gets his own food. When his co-workers would ask him why he did that, he used to say, “because I’m vegan.” Now he says, “I don’t eat animals.”

Mike has also found that the very best solution to the “Lonely Vegan Syndrome” is finding friends who are also working for Animal Liberation, ideally an animal rights group that gets together for not only protests, but for fun.

Last week I went to “Pizza Night” at the Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) House. I had several kinds of pizza including some chocolate, banana and brown sugar pizza (I hate that expression, “to die for,” but in the case of that chocolate pizza it seemed right on.) The get-together was fun and a lot of friends were there as well as several newcomers.

It made my day. Well, that and going to the gym.

P.S. I once chatted with one of the godfathers of the vegan health movement Dr. John McDougall. McDougall has been in the trenches for decades. He knows what plant-based doctors are up against. He knows the truly depressing recidivism rates among people who try a vegan diet. I was talking with him about some animal rights activism I was doing and he said, “It’s you guys (meaning the animal rights acitvists) who are going to make this whole thing happen.”

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

(By the way, my new book of humerous drawings, The Sex Lives of Cats, has just been published. Check it out here.)

VEGANS SUFFERING FROM LACK OF PROTEIN

By Leslie Goldberg

Everyone knows vegans are wusses, struggling to even remain upright because of their extreme protein deficiency and lack of calcium. Suffering so, they tend to stay reclined, reading vegan puffery and listening to music that sounds like clouds.

I tend to be very weak myself. Sometimes I’m so weak I can only run three miles and I have to cut my bike rides down to 10 miles. It’s difficult, surviving as I do on lentil soup, potatoes, bean and rice tacos, almond butter sandwiches, hummus, tofu lasagna and the kindness of strangers.

Imagine my surprise finding this video! These people must be sneaking burgers. Plus their music hurts my delicate vegan ears.

Check it out!

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

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