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Our Lunch Date With Sandy

Animal Rights

In a recent article, my colleague Robert Jensen describes the “obvious” problem: “We face multiple, cascading ecological crises that should spur us to rethink our economy, politics, and society, but the existing rules rule out such thinking. If we can’t transcend these intellectual limits, it is not clear that an ongoing large-scale human presence on the earth will be possible.”

Our Lunch Date With Sandy

Mickey Z. -- World News Trust

Nov. 26, 2012

"There is no way to overstate the magnitude of the collective spiritual transformation that will occur when we shift from food of violent oppression to food of gentleness and compassion."

- Will Tuttle

In a recent article, my colleague Robert Jensen describes the “obvious” problem: “We face multiple, cascading ecological crises that should spur us to rethink our economy, politics, and society, but the existing rules rule out such thinking. If we can’t transcend these intellectual limits, it is not clear that an ongoing large-scale human presence on the earth will be possible.”

As they say in South Florida: BINGO

For example, the “intellectual limits” and “existing rules” within the post-Sandy discussions left us choosing between two candidates who dared not utter the words “climate change” during televised debates for fear of angering their corporate owners.

Such limits and rules, even as gasoline lines stretched for blocks, also excluded a meaningful conversation about our lethal love affair with the internal combustion engine -- and the petroleum that fuels it (article coming soon on this).

Then, of course, we have the unyielding intellectual limits on display when acknowledging the number one cause of human-created greenhouse gases loses out to serving factory farmed animals to those impacted by a symptom of climate change.

In my efforts to take advantage of this powerful teaching moment, I’m told (among other things) to not “force” veganism on other people.

I’m told that it’s “more important to get people fed with what's available than to make things about diet, health, global warming, or whatever.”

I’m told there shouldn’t be “any concern about diet politics in the day-to-day efforts” and that it’s important we not “adopt dietary codes in social movements.”

Please allow me to yet again address this army of straw men...

Deceptively labeling my points as “diet politics” or “dietary codes” doesn’t change the fact that what I’m obviously doing is suggesting that those who identify as open-minded activists recognize some documented connections and act accordingly.

The No. 1 cause of events like Hurricane Sandy may be sitting on the plates given to those most impacted but, rather than embracing change, activists waste energy portraying my words as “forcing” some “code” on unsuspecting people who just need to be fed and can’t be concerned with “diet politics.”

Not only are they underestimating the intelligence and curiosity of those they’re helping while ignoring the primary cause of the crisis, activists are also pretending that “codes” don’t exist within social movements.

Is a radical kitchen “imposing a code” when insisting on actions like recycling, composting, etc. or is the value of these efforts clear and thus, no further discussion truly needed?

Is it disrespectful when new forms of communication (hands signals, anyone?) usurp more familiar methods? Is this an elite “transmission code” being “forced” upon unprepared people?

Is it a “code” when activists expect their comrades to eschew racist-sexist-homophobic language?

Do I even need to continue on this point?

Beyond tofu recipes

My articles and posts about the factory farming/Sandy connections are not about codes, politics, or force. As stated above, we have an opening here -- a chance to begin a crucial transition to a lifestyle that will help cultivate a much-needed global shift.

Going vegan is a lot more than altering your diet. It’s even a lot more than the climate change connection. This choice is also about (among many other things): workplace justice, torture, health care, deforestation, overfishing, poverty, habitat loss, GMOs, ocean dead zones, corporate welfare, Wall Street profits, and so-called free trade agreements (read up on the TPP and spread the word).

In addition, when properly practiced, the plant-based life is the healthier choice -- and without a single utterance of the word "prevention" in Obama’s health care giveaway to big business, it's crucial for all of us to take some responsibility for our own health.

P.S. Veganism is the ethical choice, too...

I could fill this article with heinous details about fur farms, vivisection labs, circuses, zoos, veal crates, and so much more. For now, I'll simply offer one timely example:

If all our grievances are connected, comrades, where and how do those turkeys fit in?

To any activist who incorrectly characterizes the vegan lifestyle as elitist, I’d urge you to examine how your food choices negatively impact the working class you wish to help. Inside the slaughterhouses, the animals are not the only ones suffering.

The meat industry, along with its low wages, long hours, and dehumanizing work, has the highest job-related injury rate and by far the highest rate of serious injury -- and at least half the workers are women.

GoVeg.com adds: "According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly one in three slaughterhouse workers suffers from illness or injury, compared to one in 10 workers in other manufacturing jobs. Slaughterhouse workers are also 35 times more likely to suffer from repetitive stress injuries than their counterparts in other manufacturing jobs."

Of course, with many undocumented immigrants and poor Americans working such jobs, it remains unknown how many injuries go unreported.

I could go on (and on) to easily counter every rejoinder I’ve faced but, instead, I’ll clarify my stance: I’m not implying that major cultural changes are simple or can happen overnight or must be about purity or litmus tests but, as anyone willing to accept reality knows, we’re past the point of no return.

This isn’t easy to hear -- let alone hear over and over again -- so let me close with something aimed at the one retort I haven’t yet addressed, the one that typically goes a little something like: “This sanctimonious zeal by some vegans has been one of the main reasons why I've never become a vegan.”

Such an emotional and irrational reaction could be easily dismissed, of course. I could simply point how, by the same logic (sic), after dealing with an overzealous anti-war activist, we should all rush out and enlist.

However, there is a very useful and important point to be made here: Just because some passionate vegan activists are perceived as annoying doesn’t mean all vegans are and, more significantly, it doesn’t mean we’re wrong.

The only “code” being imposed here is that of Hurricane Sandy: Adapt or perish.

(In the meantime, to help with Occupy Sandy Recovery, click here.)


Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

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Our Lunch Date With Sandy | 10 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Our Lunch Date With Sandy
Authored by: Admin on Tuesday, November 27 2012 @ 12:18 AM CST

I'm pretty disappointed that Mickey Z. has misunderstood my earlier comments as personal criticisms. My observations were menat to be general and to address those vegans who ny person whould characterize as being overzealous. That was part of my criticisms, whereas I was also talking about general priorities in relief work (or even Food Not Bombs).

Based on my experience over the years as an activist and as a regular person, I haven't run across anybody more overzealous, annoying, angry and self-righteous as *some* vegans. I've known people from a great many political persuasions, religions and cultural backgrounds.

In my book, it's over-the-top to be angry and judgmental towards people who have the same politics and support your activism and beliefs. I've been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for over 23 years. Some of that decision was motivated by food politics, specifically the farm crisis of the 1980s and my general awareness of organic and sustainable agriculture. I've been supportive of activists doing animal rights, even if I don't fully agree with everything argued by those activists. I've posted dozens, if not over a hundred, articles on animal rights and animal rights activism here on Infoshop News over the past 15 years.

Yet, this is never good enough for some vegans. For them, it's all about conversion. It's all about adherence to a strict moral and dietary code. My beliefs, practice and activism are not good enough. I must be guilted and chided into becoming a vegan.

I've always been about showing and setting an example. Certainly, people have a right to share their opinions and arguments.

Personally, I am not a vegan and will never become a strict vegan for the following reasons:

1) I enjoy dairy and egg products in my diet. Currently I'm eating a more vegan diet than ever, but only for health reasons. But I will never give up pizza.
2) I don't respond well to cajoling, pressure and the like

3) I think that meat and animal products will always be a healthy part of the human diet. Animals are also part of a healthy farm ecosystem.

4) Abuse of animals in research need to be reformed and avoided as much as possible, but I can the need for animal use in extreme cases.

5) Factory farming needs to be eliminated.

6) Our agriculure system is too meat-focused and that contributes to pollution, poisoning of our bodies and climate change.

In other words, personally I'm more on the same page than most people out there.

Our Lunch Date With Sandy
Authored by: Admin on Tuesday, November 27 2012 @ 12:29 PM CST

"After choosing to completely ignore the facts I presented about climate change, human health, workplace justice, etc., the scope and breadth of your retort is this: 

Some vegans really annoy you and make you feel guilty thus, without citing a shred of evidence, you believe that the use of animals in labs, farm eco-systems, and your diet can all be a good and necessary thing.

I'm not ignoring any facts! I'm an activist on all of these things, which everybody knows. Been an activist on these things for more than 25 years in fact. As I stated earlier, my decision to become a vegetarian in 1989 was motivated in part because of concerns over factory farming, corporate agriculture, pollution from farms and contamination of our food supply.

My point remains: vegan zealots (not most vegans) aren't going to convert people, or even awaken them to these issues, if their approach is so hardcore that they spend their time trying to get somebody, such as myself--who is well acquainted with *all* of their arguments-- to personally change my diet to veganism.

I have mostly personal reasons for not becoming a vegan. How hard is it to respect that? I do enough to not eat meat and ligten my footprint on the planet. Go spend more time going after the capitalists responsible for this mess.

There is plenty of evidence that animals are an important part of a farm ecosystem. I'm sure there is some medical research out there that requires animal subjects, but I doubt that animal research is necessary for the most part. Animal products are a good and healthy part of my diet because they are yummy and my body has been designed through millions of years of evolution to use those products.

Just for the fun of it, let's replace the word "vegan" with a word like "anarchist" or "feminist" or "non-racist" and then re-consider this statement of yours: 

"I am not a vegan and will never become a strict vegan (because) I don't respond well to cajoling, pressure and the like."

Exactly my point! People who know me know that I'm not the type to hector, cajole or do whatever to turn people into an anarchist, feminist or non-racist. I'll make my arguments, but I'm know that an over-the-top attitude, which *some* vegans employ, is counter-productive. People have to make changes on their own terms.

Our Lunch Date With Sandy
Authored by: kudzu on Tuesday, November 27 2012 @ 01:34 PM CST

what I’m obviously doing is suggesting that those who identify as open-minded activists recognize some documented connections and act accordingly.

That sounds fine, but what counts as "acting accordingly"?  I think this is the crux of the disagreement.

Myself and many other non-vegan anarchists are aware of the facts and issues surrounding the animal industry.  I feel that I am acting accordingly by waging social war against capitalism and hierarchy - the systems which allow the animal industry to do what it does.

You feel that the correct response to this issue is a consumer boycott.  Or at least a movement with a consumer boycott as its central strategy and message. 

I think that's a poor strategy, both because it's unlikely to work and because people are more hesitant to engage with the facts when they sense that the information is primarily intended to sell them on a boycott which they aren't comfortable with.  And although I'm not going to stop you from pursuing that strategy, I certainly don't feel an obligation to include it in my own work.

We can probably both agree that it's important for people to understand how the animal industry and many other industries are destroying our world.  But the emphasis on diet actually makes that goal much more difficult.  As you've noticed, it's causing even people who could be allies in the fight against those industries to balk.

Our Lunch Date With Sandy
Authored by: kudzu on Tuesday, November 27 2012 @ 04:46 PM CST

You can do both if you like, but I don't think it's going to be very effective.  Which is why I and many other activists choose to avoid diet politics.

Because hey, activists are also consciously choosing to feed victims of climate change GMO grains.  And provide them with lumber which came from monoculture tree farms - or worse, old growth forests.  And supply them with batteries whose materials were mined through extremely destructive practices.  All of the ways that we're helping victims of Sandy are in some way having a harmful impact.

Is it reasonable to talk about all that?  Heck yeah.  But not in a way which could imply that the people who are giving or receiving these commodities are in the wrong.  They are no more wrong for enjoying a turkey on thanksgiving than they are for buying a cellphone, or paying taxes.  Yes, these consumer behaviors contribute to a problem, but it's not useful or strategic to criticize people for them.  In fact, it can sometimes be counterproductive.

Because the enemy is the power structures which establish these consumer options as our only realistic choices: bacon or industrially processed soy?  Or GMO corn?  Or pesticide doused tomatoes?  Or third-world grown produce?  People currently have no good choices, and that's not their fault.  The way to fight that is not by eating something different, it's by attacking and destroying those power structures.  Eat whatever you want, as long as it makes you more likely to attack!

Another problem is that veganism has been aggressively marketed in a certain way, so much so that any time someone criticizes the animal industries, people immediately think "PETA".  And nobody likes PETA.  So this makes it very challenging and sometimes impossible to bring criticism of animal industries into another radical effort, because it can easily turn off the people we want to work with.  I wish that weren't the case, but there it is.

Our Lunch Date With Sandy
Authored by: Admin on Tuesday, November 27 2012 @ 01:49 PM CST

We haven't even touched on the efficacy of personal practice of political ideas. Are we really accomplishing anything with personal lifestyle choices?

For much of my adult life, my politics have revolved around the ideas of practical anarchy, direct action and propaganda by the deed. That is, that what we do eeryday reflects our politics, as much as possible.

But we've seen how this approach has been exploited by the capitalists to make billions of dollars. I can see evidence of this from where I sit while I type this comment: one of the local Trader Joe's stores.

There are many possible valid personal ways of practicing what we preach, if you agree with Mickey and myself about the issues of animal rights, social justice, climate change, enviromental protection and so on.

Many of us practice something like a vegan, vegetarian or low footprint diet.

There are some people who can't adhere to these diets, fo medical reasons.

But there is another option, which is perfectly valid and in accordance with our politics. This would be to not engage in personal practice such as a veg diet, while arguing that we need to go after the main causes of these problems. In other words, engage in activism, or struggle against, corporations such as Monsanto. That is more important and effective than personal choices, even when added together collectively. I'm not saying that this is my approach, but it is a valid argument in accordance with our politics.


Our Lunch Date With Sandy
Authored by: ISHI on Wednesday, November 28 2012 @ 12:55 AM CST

to 'chime in', i guess i'd have to go with the 'admin''s opinion.


i have found many vegans to be sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, judgemental,  self-righteous, and operate with a totally selective morality.  this is similar to, for example, 'anti-abortionists', some religious ('faithful;') people, and even ' (eg 'self-described' )anarchists .   its always the same---i support the unborn, i have my relation to jesus/mohammed/the pope..., i don't vote, i don't eat meat, so (Creedence clearwater revival) 'it ain't me'.  

i can drive an suv, suck up to authority, get my phd and law degree,piss on my limo driver for both driving and hence contributing to global warming---who also eats meat---while s/he is driving me to my vegan restaurant (eg that wealthy man's son who ran that union busting   vegan restaurant in oregon ("arissa" scam).    but so long as I BELIEVE that i have THE SOLUTION, it aint me---Not Guilty.

i think people should consider the 'socio-ecological footprint'---its the 'sum total' (or product., for the math minded..) of your interactions.  i even like that christian statement----take that metal spike out of your eye before you start pointing out others' blindness.

robert jensen, derrick jensen, ad nauseum aint got sh-t to say in my opinion (tho at least 'deep green' did do a protest at pine ridge reservation in s dakota over alcohol, for what its worth.   a college professor at U Texas (journalism, no less---a really deep field----think the physicist and noble laureate anne coulter)   preaching about what should be done.  (malcolm x said it to white people who asked them what they could do---he said deal with yourself.   however, one can remember i think he said that at harvard during a lecture.   who needs dat?)

i'm on/off vegan, but more omnivore.  i also sometimes do 'hunting and gathering' and animals often eat other animals.  i am trying to get them to shope at whole foods market however, for vegan products and while this may not quite meet the criteria of that 'deep green' summit hopper out west who gets into sinking her teeth into a big steak because its so primal and au naturel, i also reccomend they try some of the vegan cruelty free junk food products they sell at whiole foods. or your local food co-op.  after the animals, one can get the truck drivers carrying  the computers used to run my vegan web site using 'conflict minerals'  from endangered species eating starving 1$/day living african miners to also refuse to stop at the truck stop, etc.

aMen. hellalujah.




Our Lunch Date With Sandy
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Wednesday, November 28 2012 @ 09:36 AM CST

This reminds me of "good Christians"  who will give out food, but only after making the hungry listen to lectures about how their "bad habits" have brought them to a situation in which they must seek food from churches. The hungry people know it's bullshit but must tolerate it if they want to eat. It is but a short step from defining those "bad habits" as smoking, drinking and gambling to defining them as eating industrially produced and distributed food, etc. In the end, the same moralizing, self-righteous crap on the part of the givers of the food: "I follow the true way and you should, too." As if destitute people, a truly captive audience, are in any position to right against anything other than hunger!

Our Lunch Date With Sandy
Authored by: ISHI on Thursday, November 29 2012 @ 11:51 PM CST

first of all, i want to reiterate, im morally superior. its impossible for me to oppress animals since i havent looked the term up on wikipedia.  sortuh like deer?

went to one of those benefits in my old gentrified neighborhood--almost got charged with assault cuz that f-kin white garbage owner  gentrifier wanted me to pay more.   .  'watch yourself'. jacked.   bordc,org---something about the bill of rights, so long as you can pay the bill as those m-frs define it. 


i guess i can relate to mickey z in a way---i'm gogo mickey here, even tho gogo mickey is actually someone.  im also the   park baby since at times its the only place to sleep.