Saturday, November 28, 2009

Animal Representation in Literature

For those of you interested in academic activism, I've started a blog related to independent work I'm doing on animal representation in Toni Morrison's Beloved. While literary analysis may seem the furthest thing from grassroots animal rights activism, I propose that conventions of animal invisibility in certain texts shed light on the process through which animal oppression emerges in broader contexts. My independent work will explore how Morrison deliberately renders animals invisible in an attempt to perform the way institutional oppression is silenced and normalized. I will also look at the rise of American dairying and the contribution these breeding/taxonomic practices had on slave treatment.

It's a work in progress, so if you are interested in Beloved or animal studies, I would love your feedback. Read more here: http://belovedbeasts.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

An Ancient Prohibition On the Dangers of Animals in Entertainment (Part One?)

My usual warning about my posts: I tend to blog about things I come across in Judaism that fascinate me. I am sure that I have preachy tendencies in my writing. If you're not interested in the preachiness, then feel free to read those tidbits that do remain.



Two weekends ago, at a study session coordinated by the Jewish Theological Seminary and led by Jon Adam Ross, I was introduced to one text which I was shocked to have never encountered before in my studies of Judaism (and I am thankful to have finally been introduced to it).

In the 3rd century CE, Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi, discouraging Jews from participating in a culture of Roman theater which the Rabbis associated with violence (as exhibited in gladiator matches) or idolatry (such as the dramas of Greek gods) recorded a law in the Mishnah (in Avodah Zarah 1:7) that begins with the following:

אין מוכרין להם דובין ואריות וכל דבר שיש בו נזק לרבים.
It is forbidden to sell them bears, lions or anything that has the potential to injure the public.

These words, read in their traditional context, don't sound necessarily like the words of animal rights activists. But, this statement--when read in the context of what we know about the inherent abuses and dangers in using animals in entertainment--is certainly compassionate towards animals.

The passage is concerned with the well-being of these animals. Our passage lists bears and lions specifically, but the passage doesn't identify those potential customers to whom we can't sell these animals! (Of course, we presume that the Rabbinic ban is on selling animals to entertainers, to businesspeople with stadiums and to any people who make it their business to put animals on stages.) Not only are Jews so discouraged in the Mishnah from participating in a culture that utilizes animals in violent means, but Jews are forbidden from making money from and from reaping the benefits of a culture that endorses this literally inhumane practice.

When it comes to that dangerous subject of animals in entertainment, this brief dictum is unwavering in the graveness of the sin: not only are Jews forbidden from supporting animals in entertainment, Jews are forbidden from being supported by animals in entertainment.



Although I usually like to have more to say on a subject, I am writing this blog post now because I did not want to forget this source. I hope to study this topic more in the near future and to have then a few more insights into the subject.

Also, for just a few mild introductory thoughts about the use of animals in entertainment, feel free to examine this site or this page.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Veganmofo: Vegan Brunch!

What better way to start the weekend? Pancakes, Sausage and homefries! All vegan of course.

PICT0207

Brunch is just one of those things you look forward to like fall and cozy sweaters.
PICT0208

Today brunch features, Banana pancakes from Vegan Brunch! By Isa Chandra M. , followed my rosemary roasted garlic potatoes also taken from Vegan Brunch (sort of) and to round it out we ate some yves sausage rounds.
Vegan pancakes
Yum!
PICT0214

Adam's plate
Adam's plate.
What are you eating for brunch?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Natalie Portman on "Eating Animals"

Check out Natalie Portman's glowing review of Jonathan Safran Foer's 
just released book, Eating Animals. And while we're on the topic of 
vegan celebrities, Alicia Silverstone just came out with a veg 
cookbook/diet book, The Kind Diet. Also, Oprah's former personal 
chef just released a vegan cookbook, The Conscious Cook.  

Now here's the amazing part: all three of these books are on the top 100 
bestselling list on Amazon! I would bet that this is the first time in 
the history of the universe that two, let alone three vegan books have 
been simultaneous bestsellers. Veganism is finally coming into the 
mainstream.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Cove Gains Publicity

Yesterday's Times published an article about The Cove, a documentary film uncovering the mass slaughter of dolphins off the coast of Taiji, Japan. The film's first public screening in Japan was held on Wednesday at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

The film and article make it clear that a vast majority of Japanese citizens know nothing of the brutal hunt, nor of the high mercury readings in the dolphin meat. Before seeing the film, I knew very little about this issue, and was glad to have expanded my knowledge of animal cruelty past the context of the American meat industry. That being said, I felt a bit powerless after watching the film, unable to take comfort in the fact that I could cast my vote as a consumer. My sentiments were somewhat lifted after reading this article in light of the fact that many of Tokyo's viewers were outraged by what they saw. They by no means see national identity as a reason to continue this brutal hunt, and are eager to help.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Was Honest Abe an animal rights advocate?

Many sources have made the claim that Abraham Lincoln supported animal rights and/or practiced vegetarianism, often citing the following alleged quotation: "I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being."

Environmentalist, animal rights advocate and author Mike Hudak has scoured the evidence on the topic -- it looks like Lincoln may not have been a kindred spirit after all. Shucks.

Abraham Lincoln: Vegetarian and Animal Rights Advocate?—A Review of the Evidence
by Mike Hudak

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rescue Ink: Tough guys for the animals

Check out Rescue Ink: a tough, tattooed band of bikers who don't take no for an answer when it comes to helping abused animsl.

New York Times article: Heaven's Angels

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quick Piece from The Onion

I figured I'd pass along this piece from The Onion on God inventing a new bird.

Nothing too heavy in the article... but I think it's a good laugh for people who like animals and/or religion.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Ham and Eggonomics on "The Pollan-Singer Travesty"

Check out this quick post from "Ham and Eggonomics" (a great blog!) by Bailey Norwood, an ag economist at Oklahoma State University. It's interesting to see a pro-animal welfare critique of Pollan from a non-veg perspective. And If you haven't read Jim Mason and Peter Singer's The Way We Eat, it's really worth it. They talk about everything from freeganism and lab-grown meat to GMOs and fair-trade coffee .  

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vegan Month of Food 3.0!

Just a heads up blog-o-sphere that veganmofo (that's vegan month of food!) is back! And better then ever, over 200 bloggers have signed on so don't miss out!

Find all the round-ups-info-and-sign-ups here!

And follow all the handy dandy actions, including your's truly on this bloglines feed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Dominion" by Matthew Scully


I recently read Dominion by Matthew Scully, and was impressed by the author's eloquence and merciful compassion. Scully is not your stereotypical animal rights advocate: he is a prominent conservative, and has worked as a speechwriter for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, Robert P. Casey and Sarah Palin. The book should provide a refreshing perspective for anyone already familiar with standard animal rights philosophy, and would be a great recommendation for a more conservative skeptic.

An excerpt:

"Walking around a place like Farm 2149, I do not need some utilitarian philosopher to do the moral math for me, adding up and subtracting the suffering of the world to determine which lives have value and which do not. I do not need a contractualist philosopher to define for me an "appropriate object of sympathy." I do not need behavioral scientists or cognitive theorists to distinguish which pains are "real" pains and which are not. I do not need experts in evolutionary ecology or some other faddish field of the day to explain the hard and remorseless demands of natural selection. I require no advice from theologians on where mercy may be granted and where withheld. Confronted with this wholesale disregard and destruction of life, all attempts to justify it strike me as vain talk, miserable excuses that cannot cover the iniquity, the ungodly presumption of it, the scale and sorrow of it.

Only effete "urbanites," we are admonished, care about such things because we are so estranged from nature's harsh realities. But these particular realities are not of nature's design, and in every corner of our factory farms one finds the most casual disregard for the nature of the animals themselves. Nature has its own hardships, but its own kindnesses, too, like straw and room to sleep and the care of a mother for her young. When we take even those away, we are smothering the inmost yearnings of these creatures and the charity in our own hearts."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dunkin' Cruelty Exposed



Compassion Over Killing (COK) just released an investigative video of an egg farm owned by Michael Foods, a supplier of Dunkin' Donuts. As you may know, COK is waging a campaign for Dunkin' Donuts to stop using eggs and dairy and convert to vegan doughnuts. If you haven't yet, take a moment to send a letter asking Dunkin' Donuts to stop supporting animal cruelty.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Interview with Nathan Runkle

Check out this podcast interview of Nathan Runkle by Erik Marcus of vegan.com. They discuss the recently-released investigation of Iowa's Hy-Line Hatchery, the largest egg-laying breed hatchery in the world. They also talk about Twitter and how activists can harness the powers of new social networking technologies to become more effective.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Humane/Cruelty: Race, Class, Prison, Liberation

Introduction
[Oppressions are ideologies—]“a set of socially shared beliefs that legitmates an existing or desired social order. Prejudice, on the other hand, is an individual predisposition to devalue a group of others… seciesism is also an ideology—that is, a set of widely held, socially inherited beliefs… When the psychological and moral (or immoral) bases of oppression are accentuated, social structural forces are downplayed or overlooked entirely… they tend to stifle any realization of the need for social change.” –David Nibert[*]

The discourse of vegetarian and vegan advocates is saturated with personal choice. When the individual person is not totally responsible for the suffering of each individual animal, it is because vegetarianism is too inconvenient and the law is too permissive of cruelty. Thus the irony of the dominant discourse is that animal liberation is possible so long as humans become more rational and less self-interested; but, so long as people are self-interested, we ought to make vegetarianism as convenient and non-threatening as possible and make animal cruelty as inconvenient and punishable as possible.

In this post I will lay-out the myriad of ways the most popular forms of animal advocacy (at least in the USA) privileges a white, middle-class audience at the expense of including people of color and people of low-income. Drawing on the vast, original works over at The Vegan Ideal [TVI], I wish to demonstrate 1) how focusing on punishing, shaming, and dehumanizing individual animal exploiters a) draws attention away from the institutional oppression (i.e. speciesism) in favor of vice (i.e. cruelty) as well as b) how such punishment is often part of ethnocentric and nationalist projects, and finally, c) how such projects merely seek to substitute animal cages for human cages.

SYMPTOM vs SYSTEM
One general misallocation of resources is for the legislation of stiffer penalties for "animal cruelty." Aside from the unjust material consequences of these laws, the discourse of "humane" is a conceptual red herring just begging to be appropriated.

In his latest essay, "Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change," Derrick Jensen argues that
[This liberal perspective] incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself.
In other words, the liberal perspective focuses on litigating personal acts and scapegoating marginalized people (often those with low-income, people of color, and Other cultures--but more on this later) rather than the powerful institutions/systems that are either at the root of the violence or a more significant actor whose violence is so profound it has become invisible or is assumed to be “natural.” The same is true of animal liberationists, explains David Nibert in Animal Rights/Human Rights: advocates have a “tendency to overlook or minimize the social structural basis of oppression” by over-emphasizing “overcoming prejudice and immoral reasoning” without analyzing the underlying societal causes.

Just as the symbolic language obscures rather than clarifies the source of the oppression of animal others, so to do the actual rhetoric of "cruelty," "inhumane," and "barbaric," and the punishments such rhetoric encourages us to distribute misdirect our attention toward the symptoms and not the political pathology of oppression. Take for instance poultry plant workers who are fired for “cruelty to animals” after an investigation in which the violence of the slaughterhouse becomes invisible and the corporation shifts its accountability for the institutional cruelty onto desparate, malaised workers. Or, how certain men are imprisoned for dog-fighting and cock-fighting, a means to demonstrating one’s masculinity-—an institution which is responsible for militarism and a rape culture. In both cases, the actual systems of species and gender privilege as well as class inequality that drive such behavior are absent from discussion.

HUMANE/CRUELTY
The rhetoric of "cruelty" substitutes recognizing the cultural and ideological underpinnings of such material acts for an unreflective communitarian presupposition that when the law is not broken, when things are going all according to plan and design, then "cruelty" does not exist. Animal abuse is thus framed as "personal" and not "political" since it is based in prejudice, ignorance, and callousness, not a political orientation. Here, education and/or reform are what are needed to solve the problem, not a cultural rethinking/transformation. As is noted at TVI,
[The] talk about "cruelty" and "humane treatment" is basically a way of depoliticizing oppression...these terms fail to address the oppressive power relations under which harm and suffering occurs... If cruelty to animals is "regarded as a pattern of socially and culturally unacceptable behavior," then speciesism – the very system of nonhuman oppression – is outside the limits "animal cruelty"... So cruelty is the exception that proves that speciesism rules
Rather than being useful to the political discourse on human-animal relations, "cruelty" and "(in)humane" actually obscure the radical political philosophy that is animal liberation. Rather than being opposing terms, "'humane treatment' and 'cruelty' are really paired terms, with the former suggested as the remedy to the latter."

Despite the popular sway of the ROH, the effectiveness of the ROH is counterproductive to the liberation movements because it actually reinforces prejudices (speciesism, racism, classist) while also centering the moral issue with the identity and character of individual agents rather than those who are exploited by them and the systemic nature of the immoral consequences. The ROH ought to be abandoned because 1) it is preconceived in a speciesist language/world; 2) its definition varies to the degree which one is speciesist/humanist; 3) it is ultimately more about the consumer than the nonhuman animal and the human-animal relationship--appealing to a virtue/self-esteem...

First, the idea of "humane" suggest human exceptionalism in compassion, or at the very least, that it distinguishes the human species over others as a compassionate one (which seems to be quite the opposite case if you look at our history). Theoreticians from Adam Smith to David Hume to Charles Darwin have all argued that our morality, contrary to theologians, comes from our animality, not "humanity" (as in Reason). Recent studies, especially by cognitive ethologists like Marc Bekoff, have proved that such is more than probably the case given the extended evidence of moral systems in many mammalian species. So not only is the equation of the human(e) with moral-goodness factually incorrect, it is also speciesist because it privileges H. sapiens as superior to all other species based on this factual inaccuracy.

Furthermore, what we mean by "humane" is less about the act and more about the actor. When one says something is "humane" they cease discussing the nature of the act and rather turn the focus inward to the nature of the actor. Indeed, to proclaim an act is humane is to proclaim the actor as human and good (while those who do alternatively are less human and less good). When one labels something as humane, what they are really doing is identifying themselves as practicing "humanity," something that is privileged as superior to other forms of being and identity (such as animality). So when one says so-and-so is "humane" they are prescribing that act as something we ought to do (perhaps because it is something divine).

Take for example an article by Frank Rosci, in which it is asked, "Is agribusiness forgetting its humanity when treating animals destined for dinner?" The discourse of Rabbi Bradley Bleefeld is demonstrative of the humanism/speciesism of "humane" discourse whereby human and animal become ontologically independent of one another through kosher law. Bleefeld explains that kosher slaughter
is based on preserving our humanity...a prayer is said every time, with every animal, to remind the slaughterer that he is a human being and not an indiscriminate killer -- animals do what they want, but we can't
The killing of animals as done by Jewish people is suggested to be signatory of humanity, moral beings, as opposed to "animals." Because killing is ritualized by rite of law and thus not "indiscriminate," it can be justified against those who are not human, moral beings. But, as we will see, this very Jewish-exceptionalist logic is part of the anthropogenic machine that is always already ethnocentric.

RACE, CLASS, SPECIES
Since human identity has been one of the most important and contentious questions/topics in Western history, the use of "humane" can become a particularly violent tool for legitimizing one's own contentious actions simultaneously as establishing one's own preformed identity in opposition to another who is "inhumane" and "unethical." The humane proclamation is really nothing more than a performative apology for one's actions as a means to console ourselves with the sense that we are human and thereby good, abjecting the presence of the "monstrosity" of our actions and thereby the monsters that we all are. In locating the human inside us and the monster without, we buffer the anxiety surrounding the threatening idea that we sometimes are satisfied performing unethical actions.

This is where things get interesting, or as Royce Drake writes, complicated. Speciesism does not exist within a cultural vacuum; it is never a single-issue. Speciesism is always already situated within a network of other systems of oppression particular to each culture. As such, certain types of cruelty are accepted as others are not, and out from this ethnocentric moral system arises a means through which other oppressions can be expressed.

Through ethnocentrism and selective speciesism, concern over animal rights and welfare have often been used as arguments for the inferiority and expulsion of Other people. Royce explains this well at Vegans of Color:
The way we see, and judge speciesism is shaped by our own socio-cultural contexts... Racism, classism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, (and on and on) color our perceptions of animal oppression: Our families don’t whale, they don’t dog fight, they don’t experiment on apes... Our families may eat cows and chickens (Happy meat? Even better) and go to zoos, but that is something everyone does, and it isn’t as barbaric as something that those people do
So while many animal advocates may consider bull-fights and whaling the pinnacle of barbarism, parallel animal exploitation such as breaking in riding horses and fishing are less so, more “normal” because they are not a part of our culture, our being-in-the-world, our humanity. Those outside of our culture, outside our human-animal rites, are also outside our definition of humanity (or at least, they correspond with it less than we ourselves do).

It is not surprising then that the animal welfare movement has so often "dehumanized" human Others as "barbaric," "inhumane," and "savage"--a process inseparable from the socio-political institution of colonization. As others and myself have written on previously, vegans are not exempt from this criticism because they are opposed to all forms of animal exploitation[Korean dog-eating, Japanese dolphin slaughter, Cherokee bear pit, Makah Whaling, Non-white pet traders, etc]. Indeed, the rhetoric of barbaric, inhumane, and savage all have xenophobic and/or colonial histories. Even throughout the last century, they have been deployed to oppose non-Secular/Christian human-animal relations such as Kosher and Halal slaughter in Nazi Germany and Britain.

In the US and many other countries, animal welfare laws continue to be used to imprison and punish people from disadvantaged ethnic groups and classes as it has been since the first wave of the movement in the 19th century. As was the case then, acceptable human-animal conduct is informed by the norms and (human) identity of upper/middle-class Anglo-Saxons and declared through a discourse of character reform.

PRISON
As is explained by TVI, it is a lot easier for those with privilege to prosecute and imprison those with less privilege for acts of animal exploitation and abuse than those with equal or more privilege. If one were to
harassed a rich white man, say one who owns a meat packing plant that exploits both workers and nonhuman animals, the volunteer might end up in jail. However, by targeting people of color working on the street the same volunteer has all the support of the institutional racism and classism, including the LAPD
This of course was a major criticism of the crusade of animal protectionists to prosecute Michael Vick (an effort that is by no means racially-neutral within a white supremacist society wherein up to one-third of young black men are imprisoned). This is one reason why litigation is not only minimally effective, but also ultimately futile in bringing about real social change. If sending people to prison is primarily a measure to deter crime, but only the most vulnerable people in society who are the least responsible from animal exploitation ever go to prison, then prison only treats the symptom and not the disease. And as was mentioned in the citation above, attempting to bring justice to those who are both privileged and responsible for animal abuse may result in one ending up in prison themselves.

TVI also notes that while many vegans decry the contemporary witch hunts of animal activists—“green in the new red”--
"animal activists" promote more police suppression than they receive. As a general group, most "animal activists" are more "critical to the maintenance of state power" than they are "subversive"... activists are manufacturing increased police suppression that targets oppressed groups by actively promoting stiffer sentencing for anti-cruelty laws, and specifically criminalizing "animal cruelty" identified with poor people and people of color (i.e., dog fighting and cock fighting)
TVI continues its analysis elsewhere:
Not only does the concept of animal cruelty fail to address the oppression of other animals, it actually expands oppression in the form of the Prison Industrial Complex... That this approach centers a reliance on police, prisons, and the court system is itself problematic
To summarize TVI, not only is the legal system as it is setup now (i.e. The Prison Industrial Complex) incompetent, it actually produces violence upon which it was established to eliminate.

Therefore, by relying upon the law as a tool to outlaw animal "cruelty" so as to punish the "inhumane" through imprisonment, the animal protection movement, in contradiction to vegan principles, fills cages with some beings whereby it seeks to empty cages of others. This is why TVI illuminates the parallels
between veganism and prison abolition. Both call out the political relations of oppressions that are usually masked and depoliticized with similar terms. That is, both reject the calls for more "humane treatment" under the existing system
If vegans are to be consistent and fair in their theory and action, they thus ought to honor "the efforts of all who are striving for the emancipation of humans and of other animals" which includes supporting prison abolition.


This essay is an abridged verion of a previous post at HEALTH. Click here to read the full version.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Sounds of God's Roars In Speechless Nature

Foreward: I wrote up this blog post a few weeks ago for my own personal blog. As a blogger and a religious Jew, I often blog about teachings I feel are not emphasized enough in traditional Jewish circles. And as a vegetarian and someone concerned about nature, I am especially interested in sympathy towards animals in traditional Jewish texts.

Knowing that Judaism is a religion that says that humans are Godly, I often wonder why Judaism less frequently teaches that animals can, like humans, have a divine spark. In this blog post, I argue that traditional Judaism actually sees Godliness in animals too.

For the mathematically inclined: if a religion teaches that humans are like God, and if a religion teaches that animals are like God; then, according to the transitive property, the religion is also teaching us that animals are like humans.





In trying to recall the times at night when the Priests in the Temple in Jerusalem would perform different Temple rites, the Rabbis of Massekhet Berakhot 3a debated how nighttime is divided up1: should nighttime's 12 hours be divided into 3 night-watches of 4 hours each, or 4 night-watches of 3 hours each?


Amidst the arguments, the Talmud examines Rabbi Eliezer's position:

לעולם קסבר שלש משמרות הוי הלילה
Rabbi Eliezer has forever held that there are three watches in the night!
והא קמ"ל דאיכא משמרות ברקיע ואיכא משמרות בארעא
And he teaches us that there are watches in Heaven and watches on Earth.
דתניא ר' אליעזר אומר שלש משמרות הוי הלילה ועל כל משמר ומשמר יושב הקב"ה ושואג כארי
For it is taught: Rabbi Eliezer says, "There are three watches in the night, and at each watch, the Holy Blessed One sits and roars like a lion...
שנאמר (ירמיהו כה) ה' ממרום ישאג וממעון קדשו יתן קולו שאוג ישאג על נוהו
As it mentions (3 roars!2) in Jeremiah 25:30, 'God, from upon high, will roar and, from the base of God's holiness, will project God's roaring voice. God will roar over God's glory!'"

Rabbi Eliezer continues in his explanation:
וסימן לדבר
"God's roaring here is a symbolic matter:
משמרה ראשונה חמור נוער
At the first watch, a donkey brays...
שניה כלבים צועקים
At the second watch, dogs bark....
שלישית תינוק יונק משדי אמו ואשה מספרת עם בעלה.
And at the third watch, a baby nurses at the breasts of its mother as the woman speaks with her husband."


Of course, Jeremiah didn't give any direct acknowledgment of donkeys, dogs, or even humans in the excerpt Rabbi Eliezer quotes. But Rabbi Eliezer knows that, if he's going to take Jeremiah seriously, then he has to take Jeremiah metaphorically.


Rabbi Eliezer is listening for God's roar: God's promise of surveillance, of protection. Rabbi Eliezer tells us that, when he listens to the sounds of the night that surrounds him, he hears nature. He hears the bray of a donkey upon which he or a neighbor might ride to town or to the market. He hears the barking of dogs protecting their territory. And he hears a baby being raised by nurturing parents.


All these sounds that Rabbi Eliezer hears are wordless. Certainly the dog and the donkey have no words to share. And the baby does not even cry or produce a sound approaching the volume of a bark or a bray. The baby only feeds and gets the parents talking. It is only after that third night-watch has already begun though that nighttime has finally restored the words of life into women and men3.


That wordless donkey--assuring transportation and economic access to the market--and those inarticulate dogs--determined to safeguard the residential stability of home--work in tandem with the muted baby who promises us the future of human life.


Rabbi Eliezer listens for God's three roars each night, and he finds them in the wordless cries of nature. But only by way of the sounds of the mute and the speechless, Rabbi Eliezer is able to listen to God. Rabbi Eliezer's point is simple: we can hear God's promise most pronounced in the wordlessness of nature.





NOTES:
1. The classic Jewish calendar divides a day into 12 equal "hours" of nighttime and 12 equal "hours" of daytime. Hypothetically, if a day were dark from 8 PM until 4 AM and light from 4 AM to 8 PM, then each Jewish nighttime "hour" would be 80 minutes long and the Jewish daytime "hours" would be 40 minutes each. Because sunrise and sunset change everyday of the Gregorian calendar, the Jewish "days" begin and end at different times everyday on the Gregorian clock.
2. Rashi notes this in his commentary to this section.
3. Judaism has often valued speech as an indicator of life or existence (for both God and God's humans were enabled to speak, as the humans were made in God's image). Also, one ancient Jewish belief states that the human soul leaves the human body when the body sleeps and returns when the body wakes up. This idea is reflected even today in modern classical Jewish nighttime and daytime prayers.
4. Special thanks to Emily Winograd for studying this Sugeya with me.

Must-See Investigative Footage



Take a look at this just-released, must-see investigative footage from Mercy For Animals of the largest egg-laying hen hatchery in the world, showing the standard egg industry practice of grinding up newborn male chicks (the story has been picked up by hundreds of news outlets including the Washington Post and SF Chronicle). As many of you know, the egg industry has no use for male chicks since they don't grow fast enough to be used for meat. This goes for most free range/organic egg producers as well, who typically source chicks from the same hatcheries.  

The practice of disposing chicks by the millions is emblematic of an industry that reduces feeling animals into units of production. Think about it: like any manufacturing industry, the meat, dairy and egg industries are interested in churning out product at the lowest cost and optimized efficiency. The key difference is that the commodities are themselves sentient individuals, capable of suffering. Today, billions of farm animals in the U.S. alone are severely confined, intensively bred, mutilated without anesthesia, routinely starved (in the case of breeder animals), and forced through many other inhumanities to boost efficiency and profit. To stress the immensity of these cruelties, if a large-scale farmer treated just a few cats or dogs how s/he regularly treats tens of thousands of pigs, cows, or chickens, s/he would likely face felony charges.

That said, I don't think it's fair or constructive to lay all the blame on the industry. The fact is that producers are meeting consumer demand and it is, for example, virtually impossible to economically produce eggs without killing off the males and definitely impossible to produce cheap eggs without extreme confinement. So this sort of video should prompt consumers to reflect on their food choices rather than point their fingers at somebody else. In "Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, and Money," Erik Marcus makes a great case that eggs should be the first, not the last food to give up for animal welfare. And though it may be counterintuitive, there's significantly more slaughter in the egg industry than in the beef industry (all hens are 'expired' when their egg production declines).  For those who eat eggs, there's no doubt that switching to locally-produced, free-range eggs (not the one's you'll find at the grocery) is a huge improvement for the animals. But still, corners are cut for efficiency, at the expense of welfare. As long as animals are commodified for food production, inhumane practices and unnecessary suffering are virtually inevitable. 

Note: This video only skims the tip of iceberg of all that is inhumane with the egg industry. For a more detailed account check out this report from the Humane Society.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Walk the Walk

Farm Sanctuary's annual Walk for Farm Animals will kick off during the early fall months. For over twenty years, the walk has raised money for farm animals and awareness about the treatment of factory farm animals. Find a walk near you and register to walk. The money goes to Farm Sanctuary's rescue missions, campaign efforts, and care for the sanctuary animals. Last year they raised $231,458 for farm animals.

If you don't see your city listed, volunteer to organize a walk. It's easy and rewarding.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Dunkin' Cruelty Vegtalk Interview


Erik Marcus at vegan.com interviewed Erica Meier of Compassion Over Killing (COK) the other day about COK's new campaign targeting Dunkin' Donuts. Take a listen here.





Friday, August 07, 2009

Food Inc. Unpacked

In response to the cinematic success of Food Inc. - a documentary by Robert Kenner about industrial agriculture - Chipotle is sponsoring free screenings of the film across the country as a part of their Food With Integrity campaign. Their stated goal is to “start a discussion” about food production in America. I went to one such screening in Chicago with a fellow StAR blog contributor.

With animation and color as artificial as the tomatoes in a grocery store, Food Inc. peals back some of the layers of industrial food production, examining health concerns, workers’ rights abuse, animal exploitation and the dirty politics behind it all. In this film where corn is the villain and every head of federal food policy is in bed with Monsanto, an old-fashioned farmer emerges as the Beatrice in an inferno of food. His farm is the idyllic vision one imagines while reading Charlotte’s Web. The animals on his farm approach him when he enters the pen rather than run in fear at the sight of a human hand.

Veganism is by no means implied in the message of the film. Though there are somewhat graphic images of slaughterhouse production, the assumption of the film – and of Chipotle – is that there is such a thing as “naturally raised” or “humanely raised” meat. The takeaway message, then, is that we should buy local and vote with our dollars. This message seems on shaky ground after the film has depicted the dilemma of a financially-stifled Los Angeles family for whom it is an economically-wise decision to buy a $0.99 McDonalds burger rather than a head of lettuce. As my skeptical vegan friend pointed out, the ‘vote with your dollar’ slogan implies that some people get more votes than others. In the Al Gore documentary style, Food Inc. presents problems with only an afterthought to the solutions, which are given a few seconds preceding the end credits. One is left with a sense that they are not much freer in their food choices than the battery-cage hens.

Those who see the film courtesy of Chipotle may be left with the assumption that Chipotle’s food is the solution to this harrowing problem. A Chipotle representative provides an opening disclaimer to the film saying that they are “a pioneer in changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” and that they serve “nutritious ingredients from local and family farmers who are committed to sustainably raising antibiotic and hormone-free meats and organic vegetables.” Despite Chipotle’s claim that their Food with Integrity campaign is not “merely a marketing tool,” there is no doubt that this organization—whose foundations are built on funding from McDonald’s Inc.—is catering its menu and discourse to shifting consumer preferences that are concerned with the environmental and social impact of food. My primary “beef” with Chipotle’s marketing package—and of the film in general—is that there is no honest deconstruction of the many buzz words that have come to be nothing more than marketing ploys, such as “hormone-free,” “humane meat,” or “organic.” Instead, they continue to use these terms as shiny consumerist solutions to a problem inextricably linked to overconsumption, overproduction, and faulty demand signals.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ask Michael Kors why he uses fur!

Please take a moment of your time to submit questions for designer Michael Kors, asking him why he continues to use fur in his designs when he knows that fur requires animals to be tortured and barbarically killed. If this topic gets a lot of hits, the general ethical issues of fur will be in Time Magazine's "100 Questions for Michael Kors."

Here are some sample posts (feel free to copy/paste if you are busy):

“How can you call yourself an original designer when you steal fashion ideas from animals by using their fur?

“Why won’t you stop using fur, even when so many hyper-fashionable people, like Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Natalie Portman, and Tim Gunn have come out against it?”

“You recently dropped raccoon dog fur from your line—why not all fur? Why should raccoon dogs be spared, and not other sentient animals?”

“Why you such a bitch to animals boy?” haha

Dunkin' Donuts Cruelty: Quick Action for Animals

As some of you may be aware, Compassion Over Killing (COK) has launched a new campaign aimed at Dunkin' Donuts to persuade them to offer vegan menu items free of the cruelties involved in the egg and dairy industries. Their new website is up and they are urging activists and consumers alike to make their voices heard and take a minute or two to call, snail mail or email the company, urging them to offer cruelty free options.

As every single donut on their current menu contains milk and eggs, COK is also urging them to offer menu items for those with allergies and health concerns.

Here's the short e-mail I sent:
To whom it may concern,

I recently learned that your company does not offer any products suitable for people who avoid consuming animal products such as dairy and eggs, which appear in all your donut menu items. As you are likely well aware, the number of individuals who avoid the cruelties and negative health effects of animal products are growing. With numerous consumers opting for healthier foods and cruelty-free goods our retail market is shifting. As a result we ask that businesses represent our needs and allow consumers to continue their support of companies such as yours. Without dairy and egg-free options, consumers will be forced to purchase elsewhere.

I would ask that you increase the availability of items without animal products or create vegan meal items to reflect your consumers' growing concerns, opening yourselves up to a larger market. New animal-free products would be marketed as healthier options and allow your company to tap into the growing concerns of the population for health foods and improved eating habits.

I would like to thank you for your time and again stress the need for vegan menu items to be added to your repertoire, allowing consumers the chance to purchase cruelty-free items from your establishment.

Thank you
To visit the campaign's web site click here: Dunkin' Cruelty

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fowl Play

I recently got a chance to see Fowl Play, a great new film produced by Adam Durand and Mercy For Animals (MFA). It's an incredibly disturbing but equally inspiring documentary that is super well-done. Fowl Play is also pretty short (less than an hour), so it would be good for campus screenings with plenty of room for post-viewing discussion. The film takes a behind closed-doors look at the egg industry and tells the stories of rescued hens and their courageous rescuers while touching on broader farm animal and animal rights issues. Unfortunately, the DVD is not yet available, but it should be out soon. Don't miss it!

On a related note, Compassion Over Killing (COK) just launched a campaign to get Dunkin' Donuts to stop using dairy and eggs. Take 2 minutes to take action here.




Friday, July 31, 2009

My Trip to the Stockyard

I have just finished an internship at Farm Sanctuary in Upstate New York. Farm Sanctuary is the largest farm animal sanctuary, focusing on education, outreach, legislation, and animal rescue. I have learned so much at Farm Sanctuary, and recommend it so strongly for anyone interested in animal rights.

One part of the internship was a trip to a stockyard auction. I'd like to tell you about my experience.

The stockyard was in Bath and was very small. Steers, pigs, lambs, and goats in holding stalls waiting, bleating, bellowing, and snorting, to be auctioned off. They paced the dirty stalls where they could barely turn around. They tried to push their ways through the wooden planks to be free. They cried. They literally cried. But that wasn't the worst part.

When we got there, they were about to auction off the veal calves. They were all kept in a very small pen. They were still wobbly--one could barely walk. Their wet umbilical cords still hung from their bellies. They cried and cried, like babies. Anxious, confused, stepping on each other, bellowing so so loudly. The worst part was bending over the stall to pet them, to try to offer them a small bit of comfort before they were either slaughtered or chained to veal crate later that day. When they saw fingers, they desperately began to suckle them. One followed me around, suckling desperately on my entire hand. Whether they were hungry or not is not the point--though very sad if they were--but they were seeking their mother's udder. Comfort. Affection. Far too young to be away from her.

Children beat the calves with canes. The older ones taught the younger ones (some so small they probably could not yet read) how to beat them to make them move. Baby cows flinched with fear and pain. They were smacked into the auction room, pushed around by a man to show the customers how well they can move. They would be sold and beat into another small pen. This went on for eternity.

Some calves were to be slaughtered that day for what is called "bob veal." This is low-quality veal that is not pale in flesh, but is very cheap to buy and produce. Other calves were to be chained to veal crates for 6 weeks, fed a liquid diet deficient in iron and protein to create pale, tender, anemic flesh, so desired by veal connoisseurs. These calves are weak with atrophied muscles, 6 weeks in the dark, alone, unable to even stand. Starving. Dying before being murdered. Babies.

This was a very small stockyard with small-town friendly farmers and Amish people. This is the BEST it's going to get. My heart won't even allow me to imagine what bigger, factory farmed veal operations looked like.

I'm having trouble shaking the feeling of baby cows suckling on my hand. Images of babies hitting babies with canes. Hearing the crying calves. Smelling the awful stench. Please don't drink milk.

Summer Salad Ideas

Mark Bittman recently published an article in the New York Times with summer salad ideas entitled 101 Simple Salads for the Season. Don't get too excited, all 101 recipes are not animal-friendly, but the first 36 are vegan as the subheading suggests. I will admit, I haven't tried any of these recipes out myself, but I was told they are top-notch. If you're looking for a creative vegan dish to bring to a potluck or summer BBQ, any of these recipes would make a great addition.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Big problems

In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof discusses our moral obligations with regard to world poverty and muses on what leads people to turn the other way. He draws from the work of philosopher Peter Singer, who many of you may know from his writings about animal ethics.

Kristof points out that people are less likely to help when a problem is framed as very large and less specific. He cites the title of an upcoming essay by psychologist Paul Slovic: "The more who die, the less we care." Kristof writes that "humanitarian appeals emphasize the scale of the challenges — 25,000 children will die today! — in ways that are as likely to numb us as to galvanize us."

This should ring a bell for animal rights advocates. We all know that the numbers are staggering -- ten billion animals slaughtered every year in the United States alone, and many more when including fish. Perhaps we would do well to avoid overemphasizing the sheer scale of the problem. Instead, we could focus on how our individual choices are linked to animal cruelty while including positive arguments as well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cheesy Vegan Macaroni Casserole

Here's a top-notch casserole recipe I learned from a friend. Although I call for mushrooms and broccoli here, you can really go with any veggies (cauliflower, onion, spinach, and kale are some ideas). If you're not familiar, nutritional yeast is an inactive, golden-hued form of yeast, rich in protein and B vitamins. This recipe capitalizes on the yeast's distinctive, cheese-like flavor (which also makes it good in pesto and on popcorn). Nutritional yeast is typically sold in bulk at natural food stores or in well-stocked supermarkets.

3 cups elbow macaroni
1/2 cup margarine or soy butter
1/2 cup flour
3 1/2 cups boiling water
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dill
1 teaspoon cheyenne, turmeric, or paprika
2 Tablespoons cup olive oil
1 cup Nutritional Yeast
1 broccoli floret chopped
1 cup shitake mushrooms chopped

Preheat oven to 425°. Cook the noodles. While cooking, melt the margarine in a saucepan over low heat. Mix the flour in with a whisk and stir until smooth and bubbly. Add water, soy sauce, salt, and other spices. Let sauce cook until thick, then stir in oil and nutritional yeast and remove from heat. Drain the noodles and empty them into the casserole dish. Mix in about 2/3 of the sauce with the pasta. Layer the vegetables on top of the pasta. Pour remaining sauce atop veggies. Sprinkle with some more dill. Bake for about 25 minutes or until vegetables are soft and crispy and sauce is browned. Eat.


Monday, July 27, 2009

The Winsome Vegan: some thoughts on faith, animal rights, and living with carnivores

I wrote this post on my own blog in 2007.

Even when I ate meat, I was never what you'd consider to be a "foodie." As I've written before, in my pre-vegan bachelor days, I could subsist for days, even weeks, on food-related products purchased at the local 7-11. Being vegan does force me to be more thoughtful about what I'm eating, but it's a thoughtfulness born more of necessity rather than pleasure. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy my food, I do. But I've never had much interest in contemplating exciting new meals. Cooking shows -- at least the sort where you are shown how to make something -- are stunningly dull. I do like fashion, and care much more about clothing than food. Hence, I do enjoy "Project Runway." But I can't explain why I'm so fond of "Top Chef" and the positively sadistic "Hell's Kitchen". Perhaps I just like watching people who are passionate about what they do struggling to perform under intense pressure. I know I'm at my best under pressure, and perhaps it's empathy born of experience in other areas of life that makes the competitors on these shows so interesting to me. Lord knows, it's not the food that they're actually making. And this brings me back to veganism. In the last four or five months that I have been much more strictly and actively vegan, I've been acutely conscious of my own dangerous tendency towards self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is the pit into which many adult converts tend to fall, and those of us who have "prodigal son" narratives (in my case involving a decade and a half worth of drugs, alcohol, multiple divorces and a lot of very unhealthy sexual acting-out) are all the more likely to become tiresomely prudish as we move to amend our way of life.

Of course, in our zeal to promote the new "clean livin'" we've just discovered, we end up alienating everyone around us. I know I've slipped into the role of the prig many times, and as I grow in Christ, I'm all the more determined to not let that censoriousness characterize my thinking or my words about other people's behavior. At the same time, when it comes to veganism and animal rights, it's hard. As someone who does believe that all sentient beings -- not just humans -- do have inalienable rights to life and dignity, it's often difficult to find a way to live in loving community with those who find that view preposterous and silly. Watching "Hell's Kitchen" last night, I saw one group of chefs preparing "bacon-wrapped rabbit" as a special dish. Looking at the strips of bacon wrapped around the little chunks of rabbit, I thought about the animals from which those morsels came. I thought about the hogs I've been around and the rabbits I've played with. (Lest you think I'm a purely urban vegan, I've spent a lot of time in my life on ranches and farms. I grew up around 4-H and FFA and have been to countless livestock shows and auctions. I'm not an urban sentimentalist totally ignorant of the realities of farm life.) I thought about the capacity of pigs to nurture and to protect, and the clear and obvious ability of rabbits to experience fear and pain and pleasure. And in order to continue watching the show, I had to shut down that part of me that wanted to scream "How dare you!" at the aspiring chefs. I have vegan acquaintances who won't go to family holidays where meat is served. I know some vegans who have severed all of their close ties with those who continue to eat animal products. They find it too painful to sit at family meals while those whom they love consume the flesh of creatures equally deserving of protection and care. I'm far too committed to my friends and family, far too interested in far too many different types of people to ever cut myself off from someone over their dietary choices.

With my family, we've reached a clear understanding. When we come home for family holidays (such as at Easter this year), we'll bring our own food. No one will beg us to try "just one little bite" of ham or omelette. In turn, we won't begin to hector our loved ones with the usual lines: "Do you have any idea how that was made? Would you be willing to eat it if you saw how that animal was slaughtered?" My wife and I not only sit next to meat-eaters, we even help in preparing dishes filled with animal product (as at the Fourth of July, where I spent over an hour cranking out ice cream I would never taste). We've made a conscious decision to strike a balance between our desire for loving, harmonious relationship with our families and our own commitment to no longer consume animals in any form. It's not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes, the meat eaters around me feel as if they're being silently rebuked. As they slice their steaks and I spoon in my quinoa and broccoli, they look uncomfortable. I make a conscious effort not to stare at their food, I don't make disgusted expressions, I don't use passive-aggressive tactics to communicate disapproval. Nevertheless, I see some folks getting antsy. Often, they'll ask if I'm "okay" with what they're eating; I'm always careful to be reassuring.

At the same time, my veganism is not a value-neutral lifestyle choice. Being a feminist and being anti-racist isn't morally equivalent with being a misogynist bigot. Those of us who fight for justice for women and ethnic minorities want to change hearts and minds and behaviors; we want men to stop abusing women, we want full inclusion for people of color in every aspect of public life. Most of us draw a distinction between someone who says "having toast with peanut butter in the morning is better than having cornflakes, and you can't judge me for that view" and someone who says "raping women is something I prefer to not raping them, and you can't judge me." The latter involves tremendous harm to living beings whose lives have innate value, and so we feel comfortable and right in judging it. So if I believe that pigs and rabbits and cows have a similar innate value to that of a human being, am I not contradicting myself if I reassure my meat-eating friends that they're "okay with me" when I would never offer that same reassurance to a rapist or a racist? Yes, I do want a world where we've minimized the suffering of sentient creatures. I do want a world where we are all surviving and thriving on a plant-based diet, and I am eager to play a role in helping to create the economic systems and the policies that can make veganism as affordable and pleasurable and easy as carniverousness. The cost to the earth (in terms of water and protein, for example) to "factory farm" cows, pigs, sheep, and poultry is colossal and likely unsustainable. The cost in physical suffering is unspeakable, and I do wish those who eat meat would, at the least, imagine the face of the creature whose thighs or hindquarters they are eating. There can be no virtue in deliberate, willfull denial.

At the same time, I'm aware we live in a world trapped in the famous tension between the Already and the Not Yet. I am Already aware, at least I trust I am, of what it is God is calling me to be. I am Already convinced that I am called, and indeed, we all are called, to eat and drink and drive and make love and buy morally. I am Already convinced that to follow Christ is to live a life of courage and radical compassion; I am Already convinced that to live as an authentic feminist is to see that the exploitation of other living creatures for my pleasure is fundamentally unethical. I am Not Yet at the place where I can live this life perfectly, without the occasional small compromises that expose me and others to the charge of hypocrisy. I am Not Yet at the place where I can make the case for Christian feminist veganism without coming across, at least to many, as a charlatan or a fraud or a deluded prude swept up in religious enthusiasm. So I'll keep on keepin' on; that means being cheerful about an undressed salad at an elegant restaurant while those around me nosh on chateaubriand. That means being unapologetic about animal rights while being warm, engaging, and non-judgmental with those who are unwilling to consider my position to be practical or desirable. And it means I'm gonna work on another book proposal one of these days. Working title: "The Winsome Vegan: How to Live Cruelty-Free and Love those Who Don't".

Some Musings on Veganism, “Finikiness,” and Indulging in Omnivory

In the kitchen of my shared apartment in Leipzig, I was forced to behold a disgusting sight and smell. A tomato, a half-eaten container of blueberry yogurt, more yogurt in a glass dish, and a few unopened snacks had been sitting on the countertop for the last four days, apparently left there by a flatmate who had gone on vacation. The tomato and yogurt had of course become moldy and attracted numerous fruit flies, so I grudgingly threw them in the dumpster outside. The remaining question was what to do with the unopened (and therefore unspoiled) items: berry-flavored applesauce, vanilla pudding with whipped topping, and another container of yogurt. I knew that the owner had probably forgotten their existence entirely and might never eat them—after all, they were put there at the same time as all the foul-smelling, spoiled food which was left out so carelessly. Therefore, there seemed to be only two possible courses of action: put them in the refrigerator and hope that the owner would find them eventually, or eat them myself. I did the former with the applesauce and unopened yogurt, which didn’t look that interesting. But the vanilla pudding looked like the ultimate creamy perfection, so I couldn’t resist indulging.

This instance is part of an unfortunate pattern that’s been plaguing me for the past few months: I see an animal-based food, decide that eating it won’t affect the demand much because it’s a small amount and/or I didn’t buy it myself, and my willpower breaks; or I order something at a restaurant which may or may not be vegan, but am too lazy to ask, and it ends up being non-vegan. Thankfully, the pudding incident is the worst of the sins I’ve engaged in, other than a time when I started nibbling some fancy cheese someone had brought to a picnic and ended up eating an amount half the size of a tennis ball. I also admit that part of my lazyness with asking about ingredients at restaurants has to do with being in Germany for the summer, where I don’t speak the language fluently. Yet still I worry that if I don’t bring these habits under control, they will escalate until I find myself knowingly purchasing animal products on my own.

Fortunately, the animal agriculture industry is at least partially right when it condemns small welfare improvements as the beginning of a “slippery slope” toward the banning of animal agriculture, but unfortunately it works the other way too: as soon as a vegan starts eating small amounts of animal products, they’ve put themselves on a dangerous path toward losing their veganism entirely. While I don’t think this will happen to me anytime soon (banning myself from buying animal products, even if I eat things that other people buy, seems straightforward enough), even this prohibition has its gray areas. For example, am I purchasing animal products if I buy a lunch at an all-you-can-eat buffet that contains both vegan and non-vegan items, and then put some non-vegan things on my plate at the last minute?

Calling oneself a vegan, while not being very strict, can also have its public relations problems. Anyone who’s a freegan or a not-so-strict vegan is undoubtedly familiar with the awkward situation that arises when you taste small amounts of animal products in front of people who know you’re vegan. Someone says, “But I thought you were a vegan!” and you’re forced to give a response like, “Well, I’m not always that strict” or “I’m just having a small taste, so it's not really feeding into the demand.” While this may make some almost-ready-to-be-vegans lose some of their fear of commitment, it can make others perceive you as weak-willed, and we don’t want to give omnivores that satisfaction. Not to mention that over time, our small forays into omnivory add up, so it’s not quite true that they have no affect on supply and demand—it’s just a very small effect compared to that of full-fledged omnivores.

Then again, being too strict a vegan can have its drawbacks too. The more “finicky” you are, the more people are going to perceive you as “unreasonable,” and this does not help the public’s perception of an already “fringe” lifestyle. I once made this mistake when I ordered some pasta at an Italian restaurant which wasn’t described on the menu as containing cheese, but it ended up having some sprinkled on top. This was in addition to a salad I had gotten, which automatically came with some milk-based dressing that wasn’t mentioned on the menu. I don’t remember whether the waitress was within earshot, but I do remember expressing my displeasure, and some others at the table immediately accused me of being “ungreatful” for what the cook must have meant as a nice garnish. While I still think my complaint was justified, no one else perceived it that way, so unfortunately I think my cause was hindered rather than helped. This was especially true since the damage, in terms of animal products used, could no longer be undone.

So for all you fellow vegans out there, my advice is this: try to keep your small indulgences in meat, eggs, and dairy to a minimum, but don't make so big a deal about it that the legitimacy of your position is undermined. If you ever get the sense that you’re at the beginning of a “slippery slope” toward non-veganism, that means it’s time to reaffirm where your boundaries are, before it’s too late. But meanwhile, don’t be so dogmatic you turn into a fussy person whom no one wants to emulate.