A week, recapped

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Downtime, part 2

The server the Veg Blog is hosted on hit some rough patches over the last few days. There was the 36 hour outage to start the weekend and then a disk failure to start this week. Fortunately, data was moved safely (with no loss, as far as I can tell) and things seem relatively stable now. Remind me to make a backup of things just in case, OK?

My presentation

Thanks to everyone who asked how my presentation at UMW went. While the crowd wasn’t enormous, about ten people, it was a decent enough size for me to start getting more comfortable talking about veganism and animal rights in front of a group. About half of the attendees were vegetarian or vegan and the other half were meat eaters, with one or two of them falling under the “considering vegetarianism” heading. I think the presentation itself went relatively well… I was a little nervous, probably went overboard with “um”s, and could stand to make more eye contact, but overall I think I hit a decent enough balance of information and humor.

Afterwards, there was a discussion amongst the veg*ns in the group about challenges faced with family, at school (like the cafeteria staff using “vegetarian” and “vegan” interchangeably when labeling food), and even a little talk about the welfare vs. abolition argument that was the fancy trend in 2007 and may rear its head again now that the AR and TAFA conferences are in sight. It took a little prodding to get an omni to talk, but eventually one did speak up and say while she respected vegans a lot, she “liked meat too much” (slide 3!) and wouldn’t ever give it up. While I didn’t get to delve into that any more deeply, she did say she thought that vegans needed to be more active than just being vegan. This sparked some good responses. Morgan, who organized the talk and heads up the AR group at UMW, said she thought that being vegan was the most active thing one could do because it’s taking a belief and living it every moment of your life. Another recently converted vegan spoke up and said she thought it was hypocritical for people that protested for animal rights to not be vegan.

All in all, it was a good talk and I hope everyone there enjoyed it. Thanks to the UMW crew for having me out. Let’s do it again.

I’d hoped to record my talk, but completely forgot until about 1/4 of the way through. Here are the slides if you want to take a look.

Lunch with Bazu

Today I had lunch at the always-excellent A Taste of Burma (their site is down as of this posting) with Bazu of Where’s the Revolution. Bazu’s been a long-time commenter on the Veg Blog, so I was happy she was able to take some time out of her visit with family to meet up for lunch. She’ll be posting pictures of our food over on her blog when she gets home.

A few minutes before she arrived, I had a chance to talk with the owner of A Taste of Burma, who’s possibly one of the nicest guys on the planet. I asked him a question that had been burning on my mind for the last couple of months. You may remember I wrote a while back about the amazing fermented tea leaf salad that they make using really hard-to-get leaves from Burma. I’d gotten addicted to it and eventually looked up the recipe only to be shocked to see that every recipe called for fish sauce and dried shrimp powder. I feared the worst, but was pleasantly surprised when he told me that while that’s the traditional way of making Lephet Thote, A Taste of Burma doesn’t use fish sauce or the dried shrimp. Phew. Crisis averted.

Guess what I ordered for lunch today.

Veg Blog Speaking Event: Why Isn’t Everybody Vegan?

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You may remember a post I wrote last year titled “10 Ways to be a Kick-Ass Vegan.”  Number nine on that list was “Give a talk,” something about which I said: “Here’s one I’ve been meaning to work up the nerve to do for a while now.  Ideally, I’d like to find a group of young or beginning vegetarians to talk to about veganism, like a high school or college animal rights group.”  Well, I’m finally taking that step and doing my first AR-themed talk.

The talk will be titled, “Why Isn’t Everybody Vegan?” and will focus on the multitude of reasons that people use for not changing their diet and lifestyle, even if it may be completely in line with their ethical beliefs.  It’s part of Animal Rights Week at the University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, VA), which is an ambitious week of outreach by a new and small (but dedicated) Animal Rights Club at UMW.

It just so happens that UMW is my alma mater and being the talk will be in my major’s building, so this talk should be extra fun.  Here are the details:

Why Isn’t Everybody Vegan?

When you make the transition to veganism, it’s hard not to be
enthusiastic about it.  It all seems so right and obvious and you
begin to wonder why everyone else isn’t making the same connection.
This talk will look at the reasons people aren’t vegan (“It’s too
extreme,” “I love cheese too much,” etc.) and how to counter those arguments in others (or yourself).

Where: University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA (Trinkle Hall Monroe Hall, room TBA)

When: Wednesday April 9, 2008; 6pm

What else?: There’ll be food.  So come, eat something, and listen to me blabber on about why veganism is the greatest thing since sliced (vegan) bread.

More info: The event’s Facebook page

If you’re in the area, come on by and say hi.  I’ll be the nervous one at the front of the room.

Common ground

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This post deserves a lot more attention than I’m going to give it right now, but I did want to get the thought out there while it’s still fresh in my mind.

My friend Paul, who runs the fat acceptance web site Big Fat Blog, recently posted about the lack of men and people of color in the fat acceptance movement.  Another friend routinely blogs about homeschooling and how he’s always battling the common misconception of homeschooling as the sole domain of far right-wing religious zealots.

It occurred to me that all of these movements are facing some very similar issues, all based around either shattering misconceptions and fighting stereotypes or encouraging the involvement of groups that are not well represented.  In the AR movement, it’s always been disproportionately white, at least outwardly.  This issue is covered in-depth by long-time veg blog reader johanna (and others) over at Vegans of Color.  And while there are plenty of men involved in animal rights, caring about the welfare and rights of animals are still largely viewed by mainstream America as feminine.   I don’t even need to mention the stereotypes we deal with every day, do I?

It’d be nice if there were a larger movement–perhaps that grand “progressive movement” I hear so much about–that would let smaller groups work together to figure these types of issues out.  Activist activism.  Or something.  A place where groups with seemingly different agendas can use their common ground to work towards a greater overall activist involvement.  (I went to such a gathering in Portland last year and it was excellent.)

Any thoughts?

The Receipt Project

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You may remember way back in August 2006 when I posted about vegan artist Veronica Ibarra’s “Receipt Project” in which she was collecting food receipts from around the world in order to show the prevalence of animal consumption. All non-vegan products on submitted receipts were to be underlined, the full collection of receipts covering an entire room.

Well, Veronica finished the project earlier this year and exhibited at the Ni Musculos Ni secreciones (Neither Muscles nor Secretions) show in Madrid. It looks great — check out the photos and the artist’s statement about the piece. Great job, Veronica! (Be sure to check out her other work, as well.)

HSUS Promotion of Happy Meat

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Reader Jennifer passed me a link to a post she wrote on Animalblawg about a lunch held yesterday by her Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.  Two speakers from the HSUS were invited to speak about how meat production contributes to climate change.  Good stuff, maybe?

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case:

The speaker’s powerpoint presentation listed three methods of reducing the carbon footprint:
1. Refine
2. Reduce
3. Replace

The speaker didn’t discuss the “replace” prong at all. Instead, she advocated organic meat consumption, i.e., “refinement,” extolling its virtues of being less harmful to the environment and containing more nutrients.

The speaker’s powerpoint presentation offered several websites to help the audience find happy, clean meat:
www.eatwild.com
www.sustainabletable.com
www.localharvest.com

For the “reduce” prong, she suggested the Meatless Monday program as a way to give up meat one day a week, which is “more manageable than going completely vegan.”

And then, get this, they suggested giving subsidies to Brazilian beef producers.  What the hell is going on here?

You know, while I don’t necessarily agree with the process behind welfarist thought, I can at least understand that people working via those means honestly believe it’s the best route to ending animal exploitation (someday).  But when you have an organization–a supposedly animal-friendly one headed by a vegan–out there not only actively promoting organic meat consumption but perpetuating the myth of veganism as an unmanageable lifestyle change, there’s something seriously wrong.  I can’t imagine even the most staunch welfarist arguing that this is the most effective method of helping reduce animal suffering.  How does painting veganism as a difficult lifestyle change do anything to further people down the meatless path?

Thanks to Jennifer for writing about this.  We need to continually critique the methods those in the movement use so we can keep moving forward and not rely on these limp attempts at encouraging personal change.