Monday, October 29, 2007

The Next Stage of the Cage Free Campaign

Because of discussions with Greening Princeton and the Princeton Animal Welfare Society, Princeton Dining Services decided last year to serve only cage-free shell eggs. This year, Dining Services has started serving cage-free liquid eggs as well, a great victory considering the difficult pricing and packaging issues they had to overcome. Dining Services has said that they are hoping to be completely cage-free in the next few months.

And that brings us near the end of stage one of our cage-free campaign: getting battery cages out of our dining halls. Now begins stage 2: expanding the circle of compassion for egg-laying hens beyond the Princeton boundaries by reaching out to local schools and businesses.

We believe that like Princeton University students, Princeton town members don’t want to support the cruelty of battery cage egg production. Most of the eggs in this country, about 95%, come from chickens in battery cages – small, wire cages that give each chicken less than the size of a standard sheet of printing paper to spend their entire lives. The cages come in long rows and tall columns that allow tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of birds to fit into one huge shed. The hens cannot walk, cannot spread their wings, and cannot perform any other natural behaviors like foraging or dust-bathing.

The movement away from this inhumane system goes well beyond Princeton, and we want it to keep going. That’s why stage two of our campaign will be to talk to local schools and businesses about the difference between cage-free eggs and battery cage eggs, and encourage them to make the same bold move that Princeton University made in adopting a cage-free egg policy.

Tomorrow at noon, PAWS will have a planning meeting to discuss this next stage of the cage-free egg campaign.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Next Few Weeks

In the next few weeks, PAWS will be celebrating the lighter side of the animal rights movement. We have planned some fun events—mainly around food—to remind us all just how much fun it is to stop eating carcasses. Seriously, as a vegan, I think I have more fun dreaming about and eating food than the average person. Just look at the names of the cakes we’ll be having at our upcoming dessert party: “Banana Bliss,” “Key Lime High,” “Chocolate Raspberry Reincarnation,” and of course the Mudd Pie Rice-Cream and vegan peanut butter cookies… I could go on and on naming all the food I lust after… But I’ll stop. At least for now.

This Thursday is Princeton’s Halloween. We could spend it costumed, drunk and at the Street (which, to be fair, is probably what we’ll be doing after this event). But beforehand, it’s time for some “Reverse Trick-or-Treating”! PAWS members will celebrate the holiday by going door-to-door with animal-friendly treats! The candy will come with a friendly little note encouraging the recipient to take the College Veg Pledge. Costumes are optional…but fun.

Then when we get back from fall break, it’s time for the national College Veg Pledge on Tuesday, November 13. Already, near 200 Princeton students have already signed up (1000s have nationally), and we expect the Princeton number to grow fast. That evening, PAWS is throwing a decadent dessert party (with the above mentioned pies) that you won’t want to miss. If you haven’t signed up yet, make sure you do! You can just email me at and tell me you’re taking the pledge. That simple!

Or just fill out the online petition here.

So, get excited! It’s time for some fun=food (=vegan food).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Welcome to the Rumor Mill

The debate about the appropriateness of the Animal Liberation Project has definitely continued past last night. I've already made my contribution; but I did want to make one clarification for any and all interested parties.

It came to our attention last night that a rumor has been circulating campus that the ALP originally had a panel showing the Holocaust, and that this panel was not set up at the request of Jewish student leaders. This rumor led one person to ask me "why did the concerns of the Jewish community resonate with you in a way that the concerns of the African American community did not?"

Let me start by saying that PAWS did not choose the panels that came to Princeton. The exhibit consists of twelve panels, all of which travel together and all of which were chosen by PETA. They do not include a panel displaying the Holocaust. Sangeeta Kumar of PETA explained to me that the reason for this is that PETA has already made the Holocaust / slaughterhouse comparison a million times and wanted to try something new. So just to be clear, PAWS did not talk to any Jewish leaders, there was no Holocaust panel, and the rumor is completely made up.

That said, I believe that a Holocaust panel would have been completely appropriate. I continue to view this demonstration as an "all or nothing" affair; if one connection between human and animal suffering is okay, I believe that all twelve panels are appropriate. I do not believe that huge abuses like the Holocaust or slavery can be quantified, nor do I believe that we can say that one is "worse" than the other. If it is appropriate to show slavery and Pol Pot massacres, I believe it must also be appropriate to show the Holocaust. No one group can claim a monopoly on the "worst" oppression or "worst" history, and then refuse to allow that history to be used to the benefit of others.

One final note about the rumors that have been circulating; which is that PAWS ignored the concerns of the African American student body. PAWS listened attentively to the concerns of the African American groups we contacted and attempted to address them in the panel and the literature we handed out. NO campus group was willing to meet with PAWS to discuss their concerns, NO group allowed me to make a presentation to them, and NO group asked to see the entire display - they judged it based on what they had heard about it, not the actual content. Perhaps most importantly, NO group requested that PAWS not bring the display to campus. Without specific, articulated concerns, there was no reason for PAWS not to bring this important display to the attention of the student body.

Hopefully that clears the air, and we can resume discussing the more important philosophical issues this demonstration brings up.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Slaves and Slaughterhouses...

The following editorial will be in the Prince tomorrow morning:

If you attended the Princeton Animal Welfare Society’s screening of the film Earthlings last week, you are now aware that 28 billion animals are tortured, exploited, abused, and eventually slaughtered for human consumption in the United States each year. But if you’re like most Princeton students, you didn’t go to the screening, and probably aren’t aware of that fact, much less been forced to think about it.

As of this week, though, every Princeton student passing by the Frist North Lawn will be forced to consider these issues, thanks to a series of panels set up by PAWS juxtaposing historical abuses of human beings with on-going abuses of animals, and comparing the justifications for each. The fact that the average student has not been to one of PAWS’s more sobering events, yet will be forced to think about animal welfare thanks to the Animal Liberation Project display, in and of itself shows why the eye-catching, controversial tactics employed by the demonstration are an unfortunate necessity to draw attention to an otherwise ignored issue.

That said, PAWS respects the position of individuals concerned about comparing the suffering of animals to the suffering of human beings, particularly those panels that show animal slavery alongside human slavery. That’s why PAWS reached out to a variety of campus groups before the demonstration arrived, giving them an opportunity to engage in dialogue with us about this exhibit. One of the most common fears expressed to us was that PAWS is suggesting that some groups are “no better than animals.” This concern is, of course, particularly acute for the campus’s African American community, who have experienced a legacy of discrimination that included the claim that they are more similar to animals that other human beings.

These concerned students are right about one thing – we are comparing humans to animals – but wrong to say that in doing so we are being racist or degrading. Sure, African Americans appear in the demonstration – as do Asians and whites, men and women, children and adults. The point of this demonstration is not to make any one race or group of human beings out to be more “animal-like” than the others, but instead to say that we are all animals, insofar as we all want to live lives of dignity, free from suffering. We are not trying to degrade anyone – humans or animals – but instead trying to raise all beings up to the level where their rights and interests are respected.

I know as well as you do that child laborers, slaves, political prisoners, and other groups depicted in the exhibit are not the same as chickens and pigs. We know, too, that all human beings differ from one another. In the end, however, it should not be our differences that matter, but our commonalities. What all human beings share is a desire to avoid suffering and live a life of our own choosing. Whether or not you accept it, the truth is that we share this desire with non-human animals as well.

Slave owners – just like animal exploiting meat-eaters today – justified their actions by seizing upon irrelevant differences like skin color or gender to draw lines between the exploited and the exploiter, the powerful and the powerless. Today, few people accept that the lines that divide us into categories of race, gender, or sexual orientation have anything to do with our right to live unfettered and our obligation to treat others with respect and dignity.

This demonstration is about tearing down one more barrier that has been used to justify discrimination – species. When we challenge the justifications for speciesism, we simultaneously combat racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other noxious forms of discrimination by attacking the ideology that underlies them all. This ought to be a cause that all of us, especially students from disadvantaged or minority groups, should be able to get behind.

It is easy to understand why so many people – even those genuinely committed to living an un-prejudiced lifestyle – have such a hard time with this exhibit. As I pointed out at the beginning of this editorial, few of us have ever been forced to think critically about our consumption of animals. This demonstration demands that we do by pointing out that meat eaters can justify their behavior only with the same delusional thinking that has led to centuries of abuses of human beings. Such a strong demand for change is bound to be a little disconcerting.

Individual change, however, is the only way that prejudice can truly be overcome. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We must become the change we wish to see in this world.” If you want to see change, if you want to see an end to prejudice, then you live non-discrimination in your life. You can take a step to reject the ideology behind speciesism, racism, and sexism tomorrow, all at once: stop consuming animals. Becoming a vegetarian is change for the better of humans and of animals, embodied three meals a day.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

So...where do you get your protein?

How often does some well-meaning friend, doctor or parent ask you where you get your protein? Instead of rolling your eyes and mumbling about how Americans get 4 times the amount of protein they need, contributing to heart attacks, heart disease, obesity and other diseases of affluence, and when's the last time you heard of protein deficiency anyway (it's called "kwashiorkor" - yeah I didn't think you've heard of it), just put on a smile and tell them the answer, courtesy of Happy Cow.

PROTEIN IN LEGUMES: Garbanzo beans, Kidney beans, Lentils, Lima beans, Navy beans, Soybeans, Split peas

PROTEIN IN GRAINS: Barley, Brown rice, Buckwheat, Millet, Oatmeal, Rye, Wheat germ, Wheat, hard red, Wild rice

VEGETABLE PROTEIN: Artichokes, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Green peas, Green pepper, Kale, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Mustard green, Onions, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes, Turnip greens, Watercress, Yams, Zucchini

PROTEIN IN FRUITS: Apple, Banana, Cantaloupe, Grape, Grapefruit, Honeydew melon, Orange, Papaya, Peach, Pear, Pineapple, Strawberry, Tangerine, Watermelon

PROTEIN IN NUTS AND SEEDS: Almonds, Cashews, Filberts, Hemp Seeds, Peanuts, Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts (black)

This blog was inspired by Jess Luna's facebook picture and my new favorite joke:

"How many vegetarians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
"I don't know, but where do you get your protein?"

Monday, October 01, 2007

More cage-free thoughts

This article from Vegan Outreach sums up beautifully why vegans should endorse reforms like cage-free eggs.

"Instead of wishing for a different world, we must honestly evaluate the world as it currently is, and then do our very best to reduce as much suffering as possible. We must reach and influence the people who might be willing to go vegan; reach and influence people who might be willing to go vegetarian; reach and influence the people who won't (now) go veg, but who might stop buying meat from factory farms -- and help support all of these people as they continue to evolve as consumers."

And Bruce Friedrich of PETA's take on the effectiveness of reforms:

"I am constantly shocked at the implication of some activists that we should leave the animals in crates and cages so that we can use that to shame meat-eaters into not eating veal or eggs (and also that the crates and cages are not such a big deal—that removing animals from crates and cages is a small gain)."

Check this HSUS page out to see the differences between cage-free eggs and battery cages. And I'm serious about organizing a trip to an egg farm - would any PAWS members be up for that?