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 –

“THE SEX LIVES OF CATS”

By Leslie Goldberg

Now what??? Sorry to bother everyone with a blatantly commercial post, but my new book of humorous cat drawings is now published. The title is “The Sex Lives of Cats.” I know, you just want to know how dirty it is.

A teeny bit dirty, but “The Sex Lives of Cats” is a totally suitable gift for all those cat ladies in your life and any children who happen to thumb through it will not get the jokes. My book would be fine to leave out on any coffee table – except for maybe one picture you might want to tear out. The word “f**king” is used only once, well twice, but in the same cartoon.

The Sex Lives of Cats” is based on my own personal research. Having lived most of my life with felines, I have an uncanny sense of what goes on in their little heads. (No, it’s not always nice.)

Obviously, cats really shouldn’t have any sex life at all. And obviously, there are plenty who do. Read this book and you may be persuaded to take a step and persuade your feline companion to make that trip to the vet’s.

I’m a writer, an artist, an animal rights activist and I live in the Bay Area with my husband, Michael Goldberg. Formerly with the San Francisco Examiner, I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by my paper for a series of articles I wrote on San Francisco’s 911 system. And New Yorker cartoonist Matt Diffee once wrote that my drawings reminded of the artist/writer James Thurber.

The Sex Lives of Cats” is available at Amazon here.

– 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 –

SIERRA CLUB TO VEGANS: TAKE A HIKE

Page from the latest issue of the Sierra Club’s magazine.

By Leslie Goldberg

In a bald-faced move to appeal to its donor base of meat-eaters, hunters and ranchers, the “environmental group” published a puff piece in its monthly magazine, Sierra, on the wonders of salami, meat pates, sausage and meat jerkies. I swear to God.

Detail from Sierra Club magazine puff piece on meat.

Seeking to ignore the facts that animal agriculture is the biggest source of water pollution in the United States; the biggest source of climate change; and the primary reason the rainforests have been decimated, the writer of the story, “Cuts Above,” has the audacity to suggest that eating these types of meats is “sustainable” because “no part of the animal goes to waste.”

EXCEPT THE ANIMAL’S LIFE GOES TO WASTE.

No worries. The author goes on to reassure us that the products featured in the article “are all made from animals that were humanely butchered and not pumped with hormones and antibiotics.” She doesn’t elaborate on how an animal who wants to live might be “humanely butchered.”

Perhaps you wonder how a Vicious Vegan like myself might have the opportunity to look at the Sierra Club monthly magazine. A long time ago when I still believed that the Sierra Club was committed to saving the environment, I got myself a lifetime membership. Now, there’s not a month that goes by when that group doesn’t manage to disappoint me.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

PIZZA HUT CHALLENGES VEGANS

Hot Dog Pizza Bites

By Leslie Goldberg

Vegans take it on the chin a lot for posting on Facebook graphic images of farmed animals being tortured and/or killed. We’re often threatened with getting unfriended for our affront to online polite society. But now, when it comes to graphically disgusting imagery, Pizza Hut has decided to jump into the ring with its latest offering, Hot Dog Pizza Bites.

What does this look like to you, folks? I’m voting for something you might see on the sidewalk at Mardi Gras or in a gas station toilet bowl. But hey, that’s just me.

I understand there are some people out there who might think this was food. They might even pay money for it.

In case anyone’s forgotten, let’s review what is in hot dogs. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, hot dogs contain “lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products.” PETA likes to add to that list, “Chemicals, bugs, rodent parts, pig anuses, bone, pig snouts, plastic and metal.”

Let’s be clear: Hot Dog Pizza Bites contain the flesh, blood and secretions of animals who wanted to live. The flesh, blood and secretions of animals who felt pain, abandonment and terror all for the trivial reason of Pizza Hut’s “latest offering.”

Time to unfriend them.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

DON’T BUY LARGE EGGS

Photo by Michael Goldberg

By Leslie Goldberg

Obviously, I wish you wouldn’t buy any eggs at all. But the large eggs are the worst, explained chicken expert Jan Galeazzi of Animal Place, a farm sanctuary in Grass Valley, CA. And there’s even some eggs that come in “extra large” and “jumbo” sizes which, for the hen, can be, well, just imagine…

As she held one of the rescued chickens, tucked under her arm, Jan talked to a group of us gathered recently in the chicken yard connected to Animal Place’s chicken barn.

She explained that modern selective breeding has created a chicken that doesn’t much resemble the one that God/evolution created. The God-made chicken produces about 15 eggs a year. The man-made chicken produces up to about an egg a day.

An egg a day. Doesn’t matter whether the hen is on a factory farm, a “free range” or in a backyard.

The larger the egg, the harder it is for the chicken to pass them. Sometimes they just can’t lay the egg. It won’t come out. The egg can either break inside her oviduct, causing an often fatal infection or get pushed back into the stomach.

The chicken’s stomach can get filled with eggs in shells so that their abdomens become huge and it’s hard from them to walk. Eventually they often die from the condition.

Also, just the strain of producing so many eggs wears the chicken out after a couple of years. On factory farms they are “culled” at a year or two. In the backyard, commercially bred chickens can usually live about four or five years. The biggest killer of laying chickens (besides the chicken industry) is cancer of their reproductive systems.

I recently saw a “joke” on the internet: “Hey vegetarian, my food poops on your food.”

Well, Mr. Carnivore, actually your food also poops on your food. Eggs come from a chicken’s so-called “vent.” In a chicken there’s no additional hole for poop, explained Jan.

Speaking of poop, it also gets into the meat. A New York Times article cited a study finding that 48 percent of chicken found on grocery store shelves was contaminated with e coli, generally an indicator of the presence of fecal material.

That’s basically why you’re supposed to cook the shit out of chicken flesh and chicken secretions.

Sorry, eating eggs and eating chicken “meat” is just shitty on so many levels.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

THE LONELY VEGAN

Mary McCartney, vegetarian and daughter of rock legend Paul McCartney.

By Leslie Goldberg

Even the beautiful and rich daughter of Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles’ fame has known the isolation of being vegetarian. Mary McCartney told the Daily Mail.com, “In a way (being a vegetarian) made me feel a little bit of an outsider. When I was at home it was perfect… but when we would go out, it would be a bit of a different story.”

She told the English online publication that meals out with friends when she was in school in the ‘80s used to turn into interrogations: “It would feel like I was being grilled about being a vegetarian. It was quite difficult. I came away feeling like, ‘Leave me alone.’ ”

God knows what it would have been like for her back then if she’d been vegan.

Mary McCartney said she doesn’t feel so bad anymore and she’s glad there are many more vegetarian foods available now.

Yes, yes, yes, there are more meatless and vegan foods available, but for many, that stereotype of the “lonely vegan” isn’t a stereotype. It’s real.

I remember one day a few years ago – I was tired and hungry, but mostly lonely. My friend and I went to grab something to eat at the Museum of Modern Art Café in San Francisco.

Since she was a long-time vegetarian and I was a relatively new vegan we’d talked about factory farming and about some of the health problems associated with eating animal foods. I tried to talk about the atrocities rampant in the egg and dairy industries. She was sort of non-committal. She wouldn’t really say where she stood on the issue of veganism but my impression was she wasn’t going to give up eggs or dairy any time soon. While there was no animosity, there was a wall between us that hadn’t been there before.

Standing in front of the café pastry counter, I guessed that nothing was vegan. I didn’t want to ask. I was sick of being the picky vegan, always focused on food, always pleading my case. I didn’t like the wall. Somehow I wanted to show her that vegans are like everybody else. I was the same person I’d been before. Fuck it. I ordered a bran muffin and a cup of coffee.

When we finally sat down, I took a bite of the thing. The taste of butter almost made me gag. I set the fork down. “Does it have butter in it?” she asked me.

I couldn’t say anything. I just nodded yes. Later, still hoping to dissolve the wall, I told her she could have the muffin if she wanted it.

Personal isolation weakens the Animal Rights Movement and maybe even our resolve to stay vegan.
My sense is, getting out of vegan solitary confinement is super important.

It can be tough because a lot of vegans are kind of loners to start with. We’re willing to stand apart from the crowd if the crowd violates our convictions. Maybe some vegans feel closer to non-human animals than human animals.

But it can get to be too much.

A lot of us need somebody to mirror back to us that we’re not crazy, strange and/or deluded. We need to know we’re not the only people horrified by the animal cruelty implicit in animal agriculture and we’re not the only people worried sick about what animal agriculture and the public’s eating habits are doing to the environment. We need to know we’re not the only people pissed off by the whole thing.

Living in the Bay Area, I go to a lot of vegan functions – veg fests, lectures, seminars, vegan group dinners. And I’m a member of some online vegan groups.

Still, the most important thing is not only having a vegan partner, but belonging to some vegan face-to-face groups (not to be confused with Facebook groups.) For two years now, we’ve gone to a wonderful twice-a- month vegan book meetup, the Marin Vegan Book Group and we belong to the local DxE chapter which gets together every week.

DxE is the first vegan group I’ve encountered which takes the problem of vegan isolation seriously. In his recent lecture titled “Why DxE?” organizer Brian Burns cited “animal rights activism of the past” as “vegan consumerism.”

He described it: “We want people (usually people we know) to change their diets,” he said. “That approach is lacking in community and has focused on incremental changes like ‘Meatless Monday’ and California’s ‘Prop 2.’ It’s ‘welfarism.’”

He talked about this activism as being nice to everybody, getting your friends to change, making sure nobody gets upset. “That leads to isolation,” he said.

No shit.

That kind of activism has also done nothing to stop the number of animals killed for food from increasing. He noted that today vegetarians are 5 percent of the population compared to 6 percent in 1999.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that DxE is hoping to buck that trend by causing non-violent animal rights disruptions or protests. It’s kind of a “Forget changing your friends and your siblings who seem to have made it their life’s mission to disregard any and all of your suggestions. Don’t try to change friends. Change society. Change the system.

OK, that, and get together for vegan potlucks and farm sanctuary work days once in while.

And never forget “animal food” is NOT food, it’s VIOLENCE.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –

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