The power of the mainstream press


I got a great e-mail the other day from my nine-year-old niece Jules (who gave us this gem when she was four):

Uncle Ryan, I read Vegging Out in my magazine Teen vogue. It was about Teens turning vegan and vegetarian. Then it says that you could get type 2 diabetes. I wanted to ask you if you could help me find some different kinds vegan items to see if I like it. I’m thinking when I eat more healthy about going vegetarian. Then if that works vegan. But I want you to help me by having me try some ( good to you) (ps: I will show you Vegging Out) vegan food. I would like to start when I go to your house this month. Bring some food when you visit, too. Please help. Thanks! :) :-)

Yesterday, July 5th, marked her first day in her month-long (or longer!) trial as a vegetarian. And she’s totally stoked about it. Isn’t that awesome?

Jules has always grilled me about being vegetarian and in recent years we’ve had a few conversations that led me to believe she was thinking it through for herself. It was seeing this article in Teen Vogue that brought it to life for her. Maybe it was that vegetarianism seemed more “normal” when mentioned in a mainstream magazine and not just by her Crazy Uncle Ryan. Whatever the case, she came to this decision on her own, found some supporting literature in the form of Teen Vogue, and made the commitment to try it for a month. She’s at a place now–at nine years old–that I didn’t reach until I was almost 25.

My sister’s being very supportive of Jules which is due in no small part to her having been vegetarian for five-and-a-half years starting when she was 12. I’m sure it will help Jules a lot to have family support like that. Plus they own copies of Vegan With a Vengeance and Vegan Lunch Box, so they won’t be hurting for recipe ideas!

Feel free to leave Jules some cheers in the comments and I’ll make sure she sees them. Let’s hear it for our newest vegetarian!

A New Acronym: VEFH


I’ve got a number of cookbook reviews that are nearly-finished (some way, way overdue) and I’ve decided there needs to be an acronym for recipes or cookbooks that are Vegan, Except For Honey.

So, there you go: VEFH.

Expect to see it often as it takes the world by storm.

July Herbivore now available

The latest online edition of Herbivore Magazine is now available. Check-check it out if you’re a subscriber (and if you’re not, you should be).

I have one piece in this issue, a piece of humor co-written with Josh Hooten titled “ BestiaPass: Wash away your vegan sins, it’s easy!.” The idea is like TerraPass for vegans. Say what? Here’s an excerpt:

Offense: Stepping on an ant.

Offset: Pour something sweet on the ground to attract more ants. This will accomplish two things: it will ease the surviving ants mourning and benefit the ant community at large as you’re providing nourishment and a safe place to grieve. Ideally you will do this somewhere other than where you killed the ant in the first place to avoid more senseless death at the hands… no… feet… of otherwise kindly souls… no… soles. Bonus points for using agave nectar so as to extend your circle of compassion to include diabetic ants. Extra bonus points if you hang around for at least a half hour redirecting any foot traffic that may be headed for your grieving pile of shitfaced-on-agave ant mound.

Other articles include “Meet Tally and Darcy,” a piece by Deb about two of the elder stateshorses at Poplar Spring, an article about Dutch AR group Wakker Dier, and a load of recipes.

Anti-Fat Sentiment in Animal Rights


I’ve talked about this briefly before, but one of the things that most frustrates me about the animal rights movement is the continuing focus on fat and weight loss as reasons to go vegetarian. We mostly see this from the national organizations (though I’ve also seen it used in smaller scale activism, too), like in PETA’s abhorrent new campaign addressed to Michael Moore:

Michael Moore, for those of you not familiar with him, is a fat, bearded dude who makes political documentaries and occasionally angers conservatives.

PETA is challenging Michael Moore to reduce his risk of fat-related illnesses by taking PETA’s 30-day Veg Pledge. The idea is that if people didn’t make themselves unhealthy in the first place by eating meat products that are known to cause heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes, the situation would easier for everyone.

Read Ingrid Newkirk’s full letter (PDF).

PETA has run similar anti-fat campaigns in the past. This angle is troubling because it represents a dangerous approach to vegan activism: insulting people to get them to give up animal products. Not only is it not going to work, it’s misguided.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “fat and fit” before. The idea is that fat is not necessarily an accurate indicator of overall health. There are plenty of people that are fat but who actually eat well and get proper exercise. And on the flip side, there are plenty of skinny couch potatoes. Kate Harding says it well when she notes that “no one knows how to make a naturally thin person fat any more than they know how to make a naturally fat person thin.”

But what about all that research that shows how the United States is in the middle of an obesity crisis of epidemic proportions? Similar to how we can often trace anti-soy research back to the dairy industry, much obesity research is somehow tied to diet companies.

But let’s put that aside for the moment. Even if fat always equaled unhealthy, what right does anyone have to criticize someone else for being fat or unhealthy? It requires making an awful lot of assumptions about someone you don’t know. Do we know why someone is fat? Do we know it’s not a genetic issue or because of a medication they’re taking? If someone eats an unhealthy diet, how do we know they’re not a junk food vegan? Really, it just amounts to shallow stereotyping. Shallow as those terrible stock news clips of faceless fat people walking around during a story about obesity.

I’m not saying we should back off the health arguments for veganism. Go ahead, advertise ’em. But don’t attack people or physical traits. Attack diseases or conditions. “Reduce your risk of heart disease,” not “lose weight and look great!” Many of us already have enough of a complex about our appearance already, we don’t need to use it as a tactic in our activism.

Added: Over at the Big Fat Blog, user Kreeli has posted a great comment on the subject of being a fat vegan.