Arby’s Swings and Misses With “Sliced Up Fresh” Campaign

Turkey Slaughter Local

It’s easy to understand that most fast food isn’t going to be local; the sheer volume of food needed, and the price at which it’s sold requires concentrated operations from vegetables to animals to people. Arby’s apparently decided to dip their beak (pun intended) into the locavore craze…by highlighting the fact that their meat is sliced locally, that is, at the store, instead of “in a factory, far, far away.” Star Wars reference? I don’t know, but this needs to be seen for what it is: a desperate attempt by the fast food giant to cling to customers in age of healthier, meatless eating.

Arby’s claims they’re “slicing up the truth about freshness,” and their new logo attests to that. Design Shack has a good run down of the choices behind the new 3D hat and type face, along with the overall branding of the website and mobile apps. It looks fine, sure, but really: locally sliced meat? I mean, what’s next, locally flipped burgers? Ketchup squeezed in-house? What Arby’s chooses to gloss over, of course, is the confinement, slaughter, and consequent cruelty that these birds (and other animals) suffer. Turkey CAFOs are no pleasant place. A factory far, far away? How about a factory farm, far, far away?

Again, consider what’s not being addressed: the turkeys that are being “sliced up fresh” are fattened up using crops that could be fed to humans, in a cruel, ineffecient, wasteful process all across the United States, that these turkeys are transported, slaughtered, and processed (but not sliced!) in factories in states like Iowa (oh no!) or other agricultural regions. In fact, all the gruesome, gory stuff takes place so out-of-sight-out-of-mind for the consumer that seeing the meat sliced in-store might even freak them out a little bit! As one who doesn’t patronize Arby’s, I have no idea. Consider what would happen if Arby’s had its workers do more than just the slicing on an in-store level in the quest for “freshness:”

Probably wouldn’t turn out so well, even with a cool 3D hat. And yes, that is a real turkey slaughter picture, as evidenced by this Esquire article. For those looking to find more “humanely” sourced turkeys for your Thanksgiving dinner, well, think again.

Note: Even Iowans weren’t cool with the origin TV spot that Arby’s choose, as they tried to expose the “distance” between Iowa processing plants and the sandwich chains’ stores.

Photos: Esquire Magazine, Youth Voices

Interview with Holly Nolly of Vegan Shortcake

Rebecca and Holly, Vegan Shortcake
Rebecca (left) and Holly (right) of Vegan Shortcake

 

During my wonderful weekend at Animal Rights 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting Holly Noll, a fellow vegan straight-edger, who, along with Rebecca Bolte, hosts Vegan Shortcake: a “super awesome” cooking show that not only features delicious vegan recipes, but animal rights issues, and “mocktails” or alcohol-free versions of cocktails. I recently spoke with Holly about the show, AR 2012, and her food choices:

TNTSU: I think Vegan Shortcake totally what need in cooking shows right now: healthy, funny, and hip. What’s your goal with the series? Did you put a lot of thought into the “look and feel” or did it come naturally?

Holly: We do put a lot of time and energy into the way that our show looks though I think that process came totally naturally to us. We pride ourselves on having a show that’s relatable, easy to watch, fun and informative. A lot of the reason our show feels so solid, also, is because Rex [Ray] makes the editing/lighting/sound really high quality and spends a lot of time making it not feel so much like a [typical] “YouTube show”.

How did you end up working with Rebecca? She adds so much comic relief to the episodes; was it a natural fit or did you two rehearse any of the craziness?

Rebecca and I actually met, I believe, at an indoor water park and became quick friends. We originally started working on this rad idea she had:a sober drink bar at shows called Teetotal Babes, which I was really into and which bled into our show with the straight-edge drink additions as well. [T]he show idea was brought up to me and I mentioned it to her and Rex; shortly [there]after Vegan Shortcake was born.

We do think a little about the jokes ahead of time, in that we plan out story lines but honestly we’re really horrid when it comes to acting so the stuff that ends up on the final cut of things is the stuff that just came out as a result of hours of laughing over inappropriate jokes and to much coffee. [Rebecca] really balances my constant need for informing [the audience] about boring food stuff with the entertainment value of the show. [S]he also holds down the drinks and is killer at making sure all the behind the scenes stuff happens like getting our show out there and seen by people, [selling] merch, and what not.

Rex Ray’s camera work makes the videos looks really good. What’s it like working with him? What’s the post-production for Vegan Shortcake like?

Rex is incredible. Honestly, we couldn’t do it without him…we tried when he was on an extended leave, Rebecca and I had some attempts at trying to film shows on this little flip camera…results were disastrous! He is a total mastermind. Somehow he pulls off seeing the end result through all of Rebecca and I running around being crazy. He holds the whole show together and – in addition to making it sound and look good – he really creates those linear structures that make the show watchable. I don’t know too much about post production of the show [but] I know there’s a lot of editing and making things all line up, as well as cutting hours of footage.

I definitely appreciate the straight-edge versions of bar drinks, but what do you want viewers to take away from that?

Yay! I’m glad you’re into it! We want to promote a few different ideas with the xvx [vegan straight-edge] “mocktails”. First, we wanted to get across that sober drinks can be complex and interesting, not just sodas and stuff for children as it is often portrayed in mainstream culture. We also really wanted to promote the fact that xvx living is hella fun and doesn’t have to be super serious. Many people outside of straight edge think of going out to clubs and drinking or partying as their primary source of fun. Here we are trying to show that we’re totally sober and stoked.

When we met, it was in the middle of a high energy animal rights conference. What did you take away from AR 2012?

Wow. Yeah, it was high energy, huh? I took so much from that conference. The most notable being the friends and connections I made, with you as well as with many other dedicated and awesome folks. The conference renewed my inspiration to keep pushing forward and was a solid reminder that so many people in so many ways are promoting the same thing I am. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that you’re not alone with your small group of people you know, and that there are tons of ideas out there – so pushing forward with your [ideas] when you see gaps is okay – because there are others who have your back.

I know you personally eat a lot of raw foods, and a few of the recipes are raw or mostly raw foods. Would you comment on eating a raw vegan diet for health benefits?

I honestly believe that it’s best to eat 80% unprocessed, uncooked food; try your best to keep [the] processed food, sugar and processed carbs out of your diet. I think it’s all about balance though, how you feel about your food affects how you digest it as well as how much you enjoy life. It’s also about seasons: in the winter it’s more likely you’ll crave warm food, so reaching for solid options like a baked sweet potato, some sauteed greens with nutritional yeast and pumpkin seed pesto might be better as opposed to the warmer months, where, if you live somewhere with seasons, you might find yourself eating all raw and not even thinking about it.

Focusing on eating high nutrient content, easy to digest, tasty foods is really the primary goal – in my opinion – for optimal health. I also believe very strongly in juicing and smoothies, as they give you the option of eating huge quantities of raw fruits, veggies and greens, very quickly and easily, where many people find it difficult to fit [that] into their schedules. [Juicing] also skips some steps for your body so it can take that nutrition straight to the body as opposed to having to break it all down.

Rapid fire questions!

Favorite vegan restaurant?

SO HARD! Either Blossoming Lotus in PDX or Chaco Canyon in SEA. (I know answering with two is cheating !)

Best current, and past, XVX band:

Seven Generations, for sure.

Most calories ever consumed in one day:

Whoa. I lived in a co-op in Oakland for a while, and one day someone brought home a deep fryer and that night we had a huge garlic inspired deep fried potluck followed by a big game of “what dessert things can we deep fry?” If I were to pick out a day, it was almost definitely that one. Absolutely the worst I’ve ever felt.

Spiciest food you’ve ever made?

I’m a total baby when it comes to spice, honestly! I recently my dad made me this harrisa crumble over beets that had this insane spice but it grew with smokiness and was complex so I loved it. I like spice with flavor as oppose to just a kick in the face.

Are you a fan of the Vegan Black Metal Chef?

Yeah, I think he is funny and awesome, though I don’t really keep up with it too much. I think it’s a great niche and it’s exciting when anything promoting veganism goes viral.

What’s next for you and Rebecca? Will Vegan Shortcake continue on or do you have other projects planned?

Vegan Shortcake will absolutely continue! Look forward to episodes on [vegan] bacon, BBQ and greens! I am also building a protein bar business, writing a “cook zine” series, brainstorming a few other books, as well as a few ongoing columns for AMP magazine and Vegan Warfare. I’m also hoping to get back to school and get certified in nutrition soon.

Anything else you want to add, promote, or dis:

We just put out our latest episode on Bananas at veganshortcake.com, so check it out as well as my upcoming articles in AMP magazine [and] veganwarfare.com. I love feedback and hearing from people so feel free to email me at holly[at] veganshortcake [dot] com.

Closing still from the video

Photos: Vegan Shortcake YouTube & Facebook pages.

Food “Waste” Reaches A New Low

Cows and skittles

Hot on the heels of NPR’s interesting the discussion about food waste from Science Friday comes a story that could almost be pulled out of the Onion:

Sweet times for cows as gummy worms replace costly corn feed
Mike Yoder’s herd of dairy cattle are living the sweet life. With corn feed scarcer and costlier than ever, Yoder increasingly is looking for cheaper alternatives — and this summer he found a good deal on ice cream sprinkles. […]

In the mix are cookies, gummy worms, marshmallows, fruit loops, orange peels, even dried cranberries. Cattlemen are feeding virtually anything they can get their hands on that will replace the starchy sugar content traditionally delivered to the animals through corn.

The article goes on to say that in addition to the junk food – truly a “waste” of food – that the cattle are being fed, they’ll get other by-products of ethanol production, cottonseed hulls, rice and potato by-products, and more. We’re already subsidizing the meat, dairy, and grain industries in this country: is the candy industry next?

Cows are natural grass-eaters – a fact that can get you in trouble, and they like to graze, eating grass, flax, shrubs: stuff that fills them up and gives them plenty of fiber (John Robbins has a good discussion of this, though I don’t agree with eating grass-fed beef). The whole idea of feeding them corn, soy, and other grain mixtures is that it fattens them up, or allows their caloric needs to be met very cheaply, compared to the enormous cost of allowing them to graze and roam freely. Especially with dairy, since they need to be corralled up to be raped¹, milked, and later “processed” (into low-grade meat, or veal if they are the unlucky male calves) it makes sense to keep them in a feedlot or stalls rather than roaming around.

The whole thing is just ridiculous. Producing corn to make junk food, which stores well, now being fed to cows, to produce milk, which we stupidly think is a health food, then eaten by the masses because it’s cheap and subsidized…ah! It’s enough to make you believe in government conspiracies. Stop the madness, quit breeding cows for milk and cheese, and go vegan.

Thanks to Ashley A. for the heads-up on this corn-based insanity.

Photo: Smudge 9000

1. For more on why I use this word, see this short video on “female exploitation” in the dairy industry. Rape is rape, regardless of the species.

A Responsibility to Protect Animals: Paul Shapiro Interview

Paul Shapiro with Chicken

Among the flurry of awesome people I met at AR 2012, Paul Shapiro stuck out for a couple reasons: 1) his presentation was so well put together, entertaining, and fun to watch, and 2) he was with the Humane Society of the United States, a group that some may not expect to be at a conference that included ALF supporters and talk of direct action. But I give props to HSUS for speaking and representing there, showing that they care about all forms of action that alleviates cruelty to animals. Paul got his start in activism way back in 1995, founding Compassion Over Killing and being instrumental in many of its campaigns until 2006, when he joined the Humane Society. Now he is their senior director of factory farming campaigns. Below is a conversation we had via e-mail:

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this, Paul. When we met it was in the middle of a huge animal rights conference. It would be erroneous to say that there wasn’t any controversy over HSUS being there, yet your speech on Sunday was one of the most invigorating. What are your overall thoughts on AR 2012, now that it’s passed?

Thanks, Sam. I appreciate your kind words about my talk. I was glad to speak there. The response to the three speeches I gave was overwhelmingly positive, and the same was the case for other HSUS speakers like Michael Greger and Jon Balcombe, too. I was glad to be there and see so many old and new friends.

I understand that some people may not exactly be card-carrying HSUS members there, but that’s the way it goes. We should just keep in mind that the animal agribusiness industry views HSUS as a major threat for a reason, and spends millions of dollars to combat HSUS precisely because we’re effective at creating a societal shift in where farm animals land on people’s moral compass.

I want to jump right into what I believe is the main source of contention between some AR activists and HSUS. While I was aware of your relationship with the United Egg Producers, it never seemed to be the grievous move that people like Bob Linden are calling it (a “hi-jacking” as he says).

I want to understand your position on this: why is your negotiation with the UEP important? And can it exist with the Humane Society’s other initiatives, such as the promotion of “humane eating?” For you and many other HSUS members (including Wayne Pacelle) I know this means a plant-based diet (and consequent vegan lifestyle).

In all honesty, this legislation isn’t the main source of contention—it goes back a bit more. I respect Bob, and I respectfully agree to disagree with him. In 2008, he campaigned hard to deride California’s Prop 2 ballot measure and now he’s doing the same with the federal hen protection bill.  Some others who don’t like the federal hen bill also didn’t support Prop 2 (such as the Humane Farming Association and Friends of Animals). This isn’t really new for most of them. The beef and pork industries are fighting hard to kill this legislation, and we shouldn’t make their job easier.

More to the heart of your question, though: All of the animal groups that spearheaded the Prop 2 campaign support the federal hen bill (Mercy For Animals has a good page about why that is), and virtually all of the major meat and dairy trade groups oppose the bill, with the beef industry’s lobby group calling its defeat the group’s “number one priority.”

The meat and dairy industry so vigorously oppose this bill because they say they’re concerned about the precedent of having federal legal protection for animals on factory farms. It’s hard to imagine animals in a worse situation that egg-laying hens. Hundreds of millions of them are essentially immobilized in cages for 18 months prior to slaughter. It’s miserable. Of course this bill is modest, and if enacted, it would certainly reduce animal suffering, and importantly, it’s the best realistic option these hundreds of millions of animals have for the foreseeable future.

Those who don’t like this bill fail to offer any alternative legislative plan for the hundreds of millions of animals the bill would help. They’re not suggesting another legislative way forward for hens, nor are they showing how this bill is worse than having no law at all.

Simply put, no realistic alternatives are offered because none of us in the movement are aware of any. The 280 million hens in our country aren’t just a statistic.  These are real animals who endure real suffering, and we have a chance to help alleviate some of their misery with this bill.  Without it, they will be significantly worse off.

Some have suggested that people should simply stop eating animal products. Of course, one can do that while also supporting this legislation; being vegan does not preclude also reducing the suffering of the countless animals who will be helped by this bill if it’s enacted. As a vegan of 19 years, I’m heartened to see the animal movement focusing more on ethical eating options.  At the same time, I’m heartened that our movement is making so many strides to gain farm animals more legal protection from the worst cruelties, and I would value both approaches if I were a battery hen.

Groups like HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy For Animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the ASPCA, and Compassion Over Killing have been waging legislative campaigns to help farm animals on a state by state basis. Now we’re in our best position ever to gain federal protection for hundreds of millions of animals every year.  This will improve their lives compared to what they are today, and compared to what their prospects will be without the bill.

Would you explain why HSUS chooses to call itself an “animal protection” organization – words which I’m sure were chosen carefully – as opposed to “animal rights,” “animal welfare,” or something else?

To the general public these terms are largely distinctions without difference. The bottom line, though, is that we’re for helping animals. One reason HSUS has been so successful – whether in shutting down dogfighting rings and puppy mills, passing laws to help farm animals, or getting millions more plant-based meals served every year through our Meatless Mondays program – is because we focus our efforts on the human responsibility to protect animals.

Back in your days at Compassion Over Killing you were instrumental in removing the “Animal Care Certified” label from egg cartons, showing that the treatment of said hens was anything but “humane.” Do you think that current labeling, such as Whole Foods “5-Step” system, are meaningful and worthwhile?

There’s a dizzying array of welfare-related labels and some are misleading while others aren’t. HSUS is taking on some of the more misleading labels in court (for example, see our case regarding Perdue’s “humane” claim). I think HSUS does a good job of explaining what the most common ones mean—and don’t mean—at www.humanesociety.org/labels.

In your speech at AR 2012 you discussed the decline of meat consumption, and we’ve recently seen Tyson, Cargill, and other meat producers witness a drop in earnings over the last two quarters. How does this relate to the animal welfare standards of these companies?

Good question—I’m not sure it does alter what they’re doing (or not doing) on animal welfare.

In Kentucky, as you may know, we have a very strange Livestock Care Standards Commission, which listened to testimony from your colleague Matt Dominguez and others (myself included) about their silence on policies like tail docking and gestation crates. Why are regulators so resistant to enforce these now-common standards?

First, thanks so much for testifying there! That’s awesome, man. Second, there’s often a resistance from those in the agribusiness industry to providing any legal protection for animals from abuse whatsoever. On principle, many folks in the industry oppose any agricultural regulation, especially when it comes to regulations to prevent animal cruelty.

You wrote Food Day’s blog, regarding eating fewer animals, that “Very few issues have such clear connections among public health, animal welfare and sustainability.” How do we get others to understand that? Many think that dietary choices are simple, uninteresting debates based purely on taste.

There’s no doubt that eating is a moral act. What we choose to eat has profound consequences not just for us, but for animals and the planet, too.

HSUS—like so many other animal groups—advocates both to reduce the suffering of farm animals who are going to be raised for food and to reduce the total number of animals who are raised for food. For example, in addition to our efforts to ban some of the worst abuses of farm animals, HSUS’s resources include the HSUS Guide to Meat-Free Meals, our Meatless Monday video, our free recipe of the week, our recipe library, and more.

As far as advice for how to help people make better dietary decisions, Nick Cooney’s “Change of Heart” is a great book to read.

Simply put, is a plant-based diet the future for America? Do you envision a day when the majority of Americans eat this way?

Meat consumption is declining in the US. Per capita consumption of meat has dropped by 12.2% in the past five years and is projected to continue falling. Egg and dairy consumption is also on the decline. We’re raising and killing more than a billion fewer farm animals today in the US than we were five years ago, despite an ever-increasing human population. The number of people cutting back on animal consumption continues to grow, and major food industry trade publications tout meat-free options as one of the hottest trends in dining. Add to that cultural icons (think Bill Clinton, Oprah, Ellen and more) who are touting the benefits of plant-based eating, and you see that an issue that was once very fringe is now firmly in the mainstream. I definitely see that continuing.

Anything else you would like to add:

The animal movement has taken impressively important steps in recent years, especially when it comes to farm animal protection. This is progress we should celebrate for sure. Of course, the longest journeys begin with single steps, and we can’t forget that we’ve still got a long way to go. History proves that progress tends to beget progress, yet this doesn’t happen in a self-executing type of way. Laws don’t pass themselves. Campaigns don’t wage and win themselves. This progress our movement is making is only because of the tireless work of so many dedicated animal advocates who are working for tangible advancements, and it’s because of their continued efforts that we’re going to continue moving the ball forward for animals.

I want to thank Paul again for his generous time and explanations of the issues. Regardless of what lean of activist you may be, it’s important to recognize that HSUS is doing some effective work. I’ve ask Paul to check the comments to respond to any follow-up questions you may have.

Ask Me Why I’m Veg[etari]an (AR 2012 Guest Post)

Animal Rights 2012 (logo from FARM)

I had the pleasure of rooming with Ethan Dussault during the four-day weekend craziness of AR 2012, and we experienced a lot of what the conference had to offer together. Ethan was able to attend quite a few more talks than I, however, and writes below about his experience. Ethan is a long-time vegan an animal rights activist from Massachussetts who first came on to my radar as part of Will Travel For Vegan Food back in March. I sincerely appreciate his time in writing this:

Greetings, friends. I write to you from my hometown of Allston, MA, while sitting in the new fully vegan ice cream parlor at what we locals have now dubbed ‘Vegan Corner.’ FoMu Alternative Ice Cream is a neighbor to Peace o’ Pie Vegan Pizza and a longstanding Pan-Asian Vegan restaurant called Grasshopper. Pretty Rad. I love Allston, but I also love getting out of town. I often wonder what people from elsewhere are thinking and doing. I went to the 2012 Animal Rights Conference in Washington, D.C., to find out. I don’t think I could fully do justice to these three days in one blog post so I will merely attempt a thorough scratching of the surface. As a newcomer at the conference, it was especially intense on the senses. Bear with.

I have been vegan almost 7 years now and I have been to many vegetarian/vegan food festivals but the Animal Rights Conference is a different story. If you have been to a Veg Fest, chances are you have seen tables from Mercy For Animals, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Compassion Over Killing, The Farm Sanctuary, Vegan Outreach, PETA, HSUS, Compassion Clothing Co., Tofurkey and more. Although the faces are the same, the focus is not on food and other vegan products, but on a different part of the vegan lifestyle: Activism.

Veganism is being embraced more and more each day. In the United States alone, a staggering increase in people identifying themselves as vegan over the last three years has turned the heads of statisticians and more. The trend doesn’t appear to be slowing either. This exponential growth is happening for a few reasons. Activists are more effective than ever at spreading the word about speciesism, discrimination based on species, and its negative impact on animals and the environment as well as human society and health. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs with their crews are creating an abundance of vegan food options and products. While attending a Rap Session mediated by Vegan Outreach’s co-founder, Matt Ball, he recalled a moment at the Tofurkey table when a representative of the grain and legume meat company asked, “What more can we do?” Ball replied, “Continue to do your part to create the supply and we’ll create the demand.”

Vegan Outreach is known mostly for its large leafletting campaign and promoting a brand of effective advocacy. And here is where the conference gets interesting. What is the best approach to advocating for the animals whose voices go largely ignored at present? How is the demand for vegan food and other products most efficiently grown in our society? This is why activists from all over come to assemble. Much debate occurs over the role of direct action, in its many forms (e.g. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Animal Liberation Front are both direct in action but also approach interpreting laws differently), versus less direct, awareness raising techniques such as leafletting (and T-shirt wearing… cute). Peter Young, most known for his direct action, began his plenary address by showing his solidarity with the animal rights movement regardless of the differences of opinion in tactics. He then passionately went on to express his support for direct action techniques, highlighting the immediacy of the lives saved and the social statement made as a result of this style of activism. In essence, the majority of the people in attendance all want to bring speciesism to a halt. A major point drilled home this weekend was to have your differences yet remain united. Sound familiar?

The heart of this movement is to spread compassion to all, regardless of species, race, gender, class et al. If we didn’t debate tactics, I would argue the movement to be dysfunctional. However, allowing the debate to break the many types of activists apart would be devastating and would play right into the hands of those who oppose our strides toward justice for the oppressed, namely profiteers of animal suffering.

Exactly who are these oppressed? Ethology, the study of animal behavior, is a branch of science which aims to answer this question. Jonathan Balcombe has written a number of books on this matter, (e.g., Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals) and was kind enough to share some of his findings in a light hearted talk. We left his presentation reaffirmed that animals are persons. That is, they are individuals with personalities; they are not automata. (Not) Sorry, Descartes. Some are honest. Some are cheaters. Some are jokers and some are very stern. They have memories and relationships; friends and families including even adoptees. They know fear and fearlessness. They know pain and they know pleasure. They know sorrow and joy. They know sharing is caring. Their lives matter to them. Remember, humans are in fact animals. We can relate.

These academic moments continued. Ryan Shapiro is a historian and animal rights activist who has been chronicling significant events which have brought us to where the movement is today. He begins his talk with an attempt to ban Bull-Baiting in England, 1800, and weaves a tale through the birth of the anti-vivisection movement throughout WWI and WWII. Shapiro then denotes the beginning of the modern Animal Liberation movement and the subsequent reaction by profiteers to put a stop to the liberators actions. Highlights of the divisive tactics include entrapment schemes and myths perpetuated by the media. The most recent attempt to dissuade and or persecute certain activists can be seen in the legislation known as the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act (AETA). This pertinent history (can’t wait for Shapiro’s first book!) acts as a great set-up for the presentation given by “Green is the New Red” author, Will Potter. Will gives a detailed description of tactics used to dismantle social movements and touched upon current events where these tactics can be seen in use; namely in the attempts to break down the Occupy movement and Animal Rights movement. These two presenters leave the attendees with a message of fearlessness and conviction. Our value of compassion is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to hide. Know you are a caring individual and do not be afraid to stand firm. At least that is how I felt. Bravo, gentlemen.

On a philosophical note, I was pleased when activist, Bruce Friedrich used Socrates as an example of effective communication. I recently was nose deep in some Plato. As I read, ideas of how the Dialogues related to animal rights swirled in my thoughts. I agree Bruce; the Socratic Method is effective.

In a “rap session” moderated by Bob Lucius of the Kairos Coalition, a non-profit focusing on Humane Education of the youth, we debated the breadth of our individual ethics. It was too short a session to draw conclusions but it was provocative and I even brought the debate to the carpool ride home to Boston from D.C. (Thanks Humane League and crew for having me!) Is it ethical for an undercover activist to maintain their cover by engaging in animal abuse if the result of the investigation saves more lives?

And then there was Melanie Joy, authoress of “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism.” When I was first introduced to the word ‘carnism’ on the cover of her book, my interest was immediately piqued. The definition of and hopefully the demise of the world’s dominant ideology, carnism, is the centerpiece of her work. This talk was a summary and preview of the evolution of her ideas. In concise and compelling fashion, Melanie inspired us to embrace our veganism and to understand the trappings of the carnistic tendencies we have within us.

We all have tendencies. Don’t we? Those little habits, leanings, word choices that are just below the surface of our consciousness which are a product of our upbringing, and our privilege or lack thereof. A panel and topic I hope to see garner more attention at next year’s conference, although it was certainly well attended this year, was the Commonalities of Oppression talk. This panel focused on the common points seen across the social justice spectrum between women, minorities, animals, workers, etc.

A major point of this panel, the nail that stuck up [thanks, Ethan -Sam], was the position of privilege many AR activists come from. This was not meant to tear down the cause but to raise awareness of the biases that often come from being privileged. For example, I am a white male living in the United States of America. Whether I know of a specific occurrence or not, I have benefited thro.ghout my life based on my gender and race, and likely will unjustly continue to do so. Whether I like it or not these experiences have bred biases into my patterns of behavior. Also, privilege exists at varying degrees. Those who are less privileged than myself may be more privileged than others. Being sensitive to privilege will only strengthen the communities and the causes through improved communication.

More could be and will be said about this conference. I left with a saturated mind. I learned so much of human interaction and being a better activist. Though much of the facts, the who’s who and the what’s what, I already knew, I am still more inspired and more informed. If you are like me, a vegan of many years looking to do more. I urge you to head to the next conference. As I look forward to returning, even more importantly, I look forward to the rest of today and tomorrow and the next day. I look forward to the next year of wearing my new messaging shirts and the conversations that will begin with the question, “Why are you veg[etari]an?”

Justice is a single strand. It is one issue. No one or group has a monopoly on the pursuit of justice. The animal rights movement must not lose sight of this. Animal Rights are Human Rights. The basic goal, to reduce suffering, must be applied to all causes needing to be mended by the thread of justice. Go, Vegan. Go.

You can contact Ethan via e-mail at e…@g…l.com.

Photos from FARM.