Tag Archives: essay


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.


Wherever you go, vegan, you’ll hear the same question:

In Turkey: Nerede sizin protein, alabilirim? Or in Holland: Waar je je eiwitten? Or in Mexico: De donde obtiene su protein? WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN? There are so many smart-ass answers to that question, the mind reels:

From beer.

I chew on my fingernails.

It’s amazing how much protein there is in tree bark.

From drinking my own urine.

Bragg’s Aminos

Hershey’s dark chocolate.

Mostly from TV.

From licking my windshield in the morning.

Perhaps a better response would be to answer a question with a question, Socratic style: How much protein do you think you need?

Of course, practically nobody knows, but most people think they must eat some meat or cheese or fish or eggs with every meal in order to get enough protein. It’s the terror that has swept America: not having enough protein.

It’s been estimated that most Americans get about half of their calories from animal foods and about half come from highly processed foods like chips, cookies, sodas, candy and oil. So if that’s everybody’s diet, what are you, Ms. “plant-based, low-fat, whole foods diet,” eating, for god sakes?

Figuring out what a vegan might eat on a daily basis defies most people’s imagination. So they figure we vegans must be starving.

But wait a minute, we don’t look like we’re starving. Then we must secretly be suffering from an invisible lack of protein possibly coupled with a lack of junk food. Maybe vegans have kwashiorkor, which is the medical term for protein deficiency. (So far, there’s no medical term for ‘lack of junk food.’)

The thing is, the symptoms of kwashiorkor are anything but subtle – the skin and hair turn a reddish orange. People with the ailment also suffer from diarrhea, weakness, apathy, fatigue. When you see pictures of starving children with their stick-like legs and their bulging abdomens, you’re seeing kwashiorkor. The children are suffering from a severe lack of calories first and foremost.

If you’re consuming enough calories it is most likely that you’re consuming enough protein, even if all those calories are coming from plants.

Back to the original question: how much protein do you think you need? The answer kind of depends on who you ask. If you ask the United States government, you will hear 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women. If you ask the World Health Organization, you’ll hear 38 grams for men and 29 grams for women.

A generous bowl of cooked oatmeal will give you 12 grams of protein. A piece of whole wheat bread will give you 4 grams. A cup of cooked lentils will give you 16 grams. Two tablespoons of peanut butter will give you 8 grams. There are 8 grams of protein in a cup of cow’s milk and 8 grams of protein in a cup of soy milk. See where I’m going here? It’s not hard to get enough protein eating plants.

Whoa! you say. What was that about plant protein being an incomplete protein?

While both animal foods and plant foods have all the essential amino acids, some plant foods are low in specific essential amino acids. http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html The Center for Disease Controls recommends that vegans and vegetarians combine different plant foods, such as rice and beans or peanut butter and bread. Dr. John McDougall explains that combining is fine but it doesn’t have to happen at once in the same meal! Bread on Monday and peanut butter on Friday is fine, he says.

The National Institutes of Health has said that most of us Americans eat more protein than we actually need. The NIH cautions that consuming animal protein means consuming saturated fat and LDL (the bad kind) cholesterol which is a risk factor for heart disease.

They also note for those with kidney disease, a low-protein diet is often recommended.

So there’s really no worry about protein, as long as you gnaw on some tree bark on Tuesday and lick the windshield by Friday.

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


One of the problems with subscribing to the New York Times is that on occasion, you end up reading it. That happened to me last Sunday as I pawed through the Sunday magazine to see there in black and white somebody writing into “The Ethicist” (the Miss Manners of moral conundrums ) about the moral conundrum of eating meat.

Since the New York Times has been talking out of both sides of its mouth on the issue I was curious to see what their high priest of right and wrong, The Ethicist, would have to say when confronted directly with the question: “Is it ethical to pay someone else to kill a (food) animal because I can’t or don’t want to know what’s involved?”

The reader who sent in the question wrote that he or she wasn’t worried about the health, religious or even the environmental reasons to not eat meat. It was just the idea of paying someone else to do the deed that troubled this reader.

Within the animal rights movement the answer is clear. Just don’t do it. Learn to like lentils and other foods that don’t involve blood.

But the New York Times is not the animal rights movement and neither is The Ethicist, Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman boiled down the reader’s question to: “Is it the process of killing animals that bothers you or the very idea?”

The Ethicist asked the reader to consider a hypothetical situation: A healthy cow is led into a solid steel box. A button is pushed and out comes steaks. Could the reader push the button? If the reader could push the button, fine, he’s not a hypocrite to eat meat. But if the reader couldn’t push the button then he probably shouldn’t eat meat.

Hummm, what does pushing a button to kill someone without seeing a thing remind you of?

The Ethicist proposes another way for the reader to access his true feelings about the animal slaughter matter:

“Watch videos of cows on YouTube for 10 minutes. After that spend another 10 minutes reading expository nonpolitical articles about cattle-slaughtering practices in North America. If you still want a burger after those 20 minutes, you no longer have to worry about this problem. You are not a hypocrite. You’re merely squeamish.”

(Note: the Ethicist doesn’t say watch YouTube videos of animal slaughter.)

Soooooo, if I feel like stealing jewelry at Nordstrom is it OK? If I feel like running over someone with my car is that OK?

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


My mom to my dad: “You can just stuff it.”

We never ate turkey at my house; we only ate “damn turkey.” The “damn turkey” was the one my mother cooked for various holidays.
Of course, it never occurred to anyone that we actually didn’t have to buy, cook or eat turkey at all. That option was not on our radar.

My mother hated the damn turkey because 1) It was huge; 2) You had to thaw it out in the bathtub; 3) It always needed to cook about two more hours than you thought it did and 4) Probably at a semi-conscious level she realized it was a dead animal.

She was disgusted with the damn turkey’s gizzard and neck and disgusted by the idea of stuffing its body. I think she would have filed for divorce if my father hadn’t agreed to stuff it.

Somehow I remember him sort of wrestling with the damn turkey in the kitchen sink with his arms up to the elbows covered with greasy anonymous gunk. It’s such a truly bizarre idea – putting food into the body cavity of a deceased bird.

I’ve never cooked a damn turkey. Probably my most hated Susie Homemaker experience was making meat loaf: putting the hamburger meat into a bowl, cracking an egg over it, adding some mustard and bread crumbs and squishing up the whole thing with my hands, with the meat mixture oozing out from between my fingers. I’d mold it into a “loaf” or whatever and blanket it with about a half a bottle of ketchup. I couldn’t wait to wash my hands and wash the bowl.

It was appalling but I never allowed myself to fully acknowledge appalling it was. Or to allow myself to think deeply about what I was touching – the ground up flesh of a cow, a cow who was an individual and a cow who had suffered unimaginable pain and fear.

The other meat cooking I despised was chicken. In my pre-vegan days, I would rinse off the chicken breasts with cold water and pull off the skin and the visible fat. But knowing what I know now about how unbelievably filthy chicken meat is, I probably would have wanted to put on a Hazmet suit and use straight bleach to disinfect it.

I don’t know if eggs are as dirty as chicken flesh, but they certainly are nasty. Am I the only one who’s noticed they smell like farts? Even during my meat-eating career, I had little inclination to eat eggs. The only time I liked them was when they were safely disguised in a chocolate mousse or in a crepe.

These days as a vegan, I eat honest chocolate mousse: melted dark chocolate chips, a drip of vanilla and silken tofu blended up in the blender and I’m a happy person for it.

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


It’s true: For some, having a cat makes life worth living. The hardcore cat freaks will even start needing more and more of the little critters. Three cats become seven cats which become 25 cats which become an intervention involving the Humane Society and the local sanitation department.

But even if you never make it to the 11 o’clock news level, cat companionship can be a problem for vegans. The sorry truth is cats eat meat. Sometimes it’s bird meat or mice meat, but often it’s fish, chicken, beef or lamb in the form of processed commercial cat food. Some cats even insist on raw eggs and cows’ milk.

When I write “insist,” I mean INSIST. I’m not sure you can talk a cat out of anything she sets her mind to. Most cats have their minds firmly set on animal foods.

(Yes, yes, yes, I know there have been cases of cats who have gone vegan, but they are not the norm. The norm wants meat NOW.)

There’s just no way the complaining feline majority is going to be persuaded by the vegan’s environmental argument, the vegan’s health argument or the vegan’s animal cruelty argument.

Animal cruelty? My cat would probably find a Mercy for Animals video amusing.

Of course, you could force your cat(s) into Meatless Monday, by leaving her (them) in the garage every Monday with water, vegan cat food and a blanket(s) while you spend the night in a motel. Problem is, she (they) would make up for Meatless Monday on Tuesday.

A vegan friend of mine has, albeit reluctantly, decided to refrain from getting another cat after her 18-year-old one dies. She believes the tragedy of the factory farming and slaughter of cows, pigs, chicken, sheep, goats and fish is worse than the tragedy of cats euthanized by the SPCA and the Humane Society.

The numbers support her contention. According to HSUS, 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in this country every year, a pittance when you compare that to the 9 to 10 billion “food animals” slaughtered annually (not even counting the fish).

So here I am with Barky, the spectacularly beautiful black cat we got from the Humane Society years ago. She’s stretched out on my desk. As I pet her back and hear that tiny rumble of a purr, I’m soothed, forgetting for a while, the anguish of the billions of animals forced into unseen slaughterhouses and torturously small pens and cages all over the country.

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


For those us who like to think of ourselves as “counter-cultural,” or “semi-counter-cultural” or even counter-culture sympathizers, Whole Foods Grocery is mortifying.

We KNOW we’re being duped by a big-ass corporation posing as, well, a non-big ass corporation.

“Would you like credit or would you like to make a donation for bringing your own bag?” the Whole Foods check-out clerk coos at us. Ahhhhhh.

We get to have the pleasure of painlessly giving 10 cents to a worthy organization.

So perfect. We don’t have to engage with a homeless person or even a bell-ringing Santa. We know our name won’t be added to yet another email list or junk mail list. And hell, you don’t have to be a genius to know 10 cents is a lot better than a dollar for the homeless person or $25 to Planned Parenthood. And all the while we get to feel good that we said “donation” instead of “credit” for bringing in our own bag.

The store is beautiful. All the colorful fruits and vegetables; all the “natural” foods; the seeming absence of Frito-Lay and General Mills, Whole Foods is a wonderful oasis from the grotesque American consumer culture.

At Whole Foods you know you’re not going to be visually assaulted by a huge display of ½ liter plastic bottles of Pepsi or by boxes and boxes of Froot Loops and Captain Crunch.

You know you’re not going to get hit with that slightly sweet, slightly rotting, slightly perfumey, overly-refridgerated grocery store smell as soon as you walk in the automated door.

And the dimmer, more “nurturing” lights? Whole Foods must have hired feng shui experts along with their architects to design the stores.

Oh, I must write something about the Whole Foods staff! Have you ever encountered a nicer group of employees? Ask where something is and a smiling and empathic “team member” will take you there. At the check-out, when they ask you how you’re doing, it seems like they might really want to know.

I love Whole Foods!

It’s the “Garden of Eden” of grocery stores, a place I’d like to go and hang out even if I didn’t need to buy anything.

When I shop there, I’m imagining I’m getting to kick all those mean nasty corporate kings in the shins, the ones who have inflicted all the plastic food-like substances on the world, causing a blight of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. I also spit on Wall Street while I’m pushing my cart (with the smoothly functioning wheels) past the big, wholesome-looking bulk bins of brown rice, raw almonds and the rest. Whole foods appeals to the hippie in us all.

But wait! Did you know that the brand with the lovely bucolic, “natural” looking label, Muir Glenn, is owned by General Mills? That the ooooh so natural toothpaste, Tom’s of Maine, is owned by Colgate-Palmolive? That Odwalla, you know, the company that sells freaking carrot juice, is owned by Coke? That the most holy of holy line of environmentally-friendly cleaning products, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, is owned by SC Johnson? And finally did you know that Stacy’s All Natural Pita Chips is owned by yes, Frito-Lay? Real hippies know these things and real hippies know that although the produce section in Whole Foods kind of looks like a farmer’s market, it isn’t.

No, I don’t enjoy being manipulated and duped by General Mills, but Muir Glenn tomato sauce is fat free and has the lowest sodium content I have been able to find. Sure, the Odwalla carrot juice is made by Coke, but it’s still carrot juice.

I also don’t enjoy being duped and manipulated by the Whole Foods store itself but even if they weren’t beautiful, they often have the stuff I want, especially if I’m in, say, Memphis, Tenn. where there aren’t a lot of other “natural” markets.

Whole Foods is the “miracle” of what the French philosopher Guy Debord calls “The Spectacle Society,” where everything becomes an opportunity to make a buck. You’ve got a bunch a people who hate the multi-national food corporations? Well, then you start up a multi-national food corporation that is ostensibly anti-multi-national food corporations. Natch.

Whole Foods answers to stockholders, just the same as Nabisco, not to the gods of democracy, brotherly love and the Gaia principle. It’s listed on the Nasdaq as WFM.

If there’s anything that jolts the Whole Foods customer back into reality it’s the Whole Paycheck prices. Real hippies can’t afford Whole Foods.

I once saw an extremely sad yet at the same time extremely ridiculous note on a message board at Whole Foods. (Isn’t a food market message board downright homey?) Anyway, it said, “We’re seniors and we can’t afford Whole Foods prices. Please lower your prices. We want to eat healthy too!”

Hello?… Where do you think you are? The Garden of Eden of grocery stores?? Step aside old lady — make way for the paying customers. “Do you want ‘credit’ or ‘donation’ for bringing in that bag?”

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


Braggart celebrity chef and eater Anthony Bourdain volunteered to eat the last blue fin tuna: “If there’s somebody to get the last piece of bluefin toro meat in the world, I guess I’m the best candidate,” he said in a Huffington Post interview.

Yup, if we need an End Times a**hole, Bourdain would do just fine.

I’ve been Googling around trying to find out what does happen when all the fish in the sea are gone. That IS the freeway we’re on. The big fish population is now 90 percent depleted from what it was in the ‘70s and 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are either gone or nearly gone.

It would be nice if we could blame it all on BP, plastic bottles, climate change and Anthony Bourdain. They are certainly contributing their fair share to the loss of sea life. But there’s another culprit and that would be us and our forks, and, in the case of a lot of tuna, our can-openers.

Overfishing. Now, there’s a word you don’t hear too often. We don’t hear it, because we don’t want to hear it. Governments around the world are subsidizing fishing fleets to the tune of $16 to $20 billion a year.

Now that there are less fish, these fleets are having to “modernize.” They’re using radar to pinpoint fishing schools with amazing accuracy. They’re also using huge, huge nets to strip the ocean floors bare. And us taxpayers are actually paying for that stupidity.

In her recent TED talk renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle said that a big predator fish like tuna, for example, is WAY more valuable to us alive than dead.

They call big fish “predator fish,” because, well, they eat the little fish, the ones that consume plankton. If the big fish aren’t eating the little fish and we end up with a whole bunch of little fish eating a whole lot of plankton…

YIKES! WE NEED PLANKTON. We really need plankton, it’s what’s providing half the world’s freaking oxygen. We need swimming tuna, Anthony, even that last one.

Well, why not just eat the little fish too? That’s one idea, but a bad idea. Say we eat all the little fish, what’s left? Jelly fish and bacteria. Oceans full of jelly fish. Blech!

I must admit, I loved salmon, especially teriyaki salmon. It just made me feel healthy to eat it. Even since I’ve gone vegan, I’ve thought well, maybe a fish oil capsule once in a while might be OK, just to be on the safe side. You know, omega 3’s and all.

Oh hell, I eat flax seeds instead.

There’s something about no oxygen and oceans full of jellyfish that scares me.

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —