Optimistic Vegan


Bob Parson’s Elephant Hunt
April 1, 2011, 9:28 am
Filed under: Animal Rights, Celebrities, Travel | Tags: , , , ,

I’m sure some of you have seen the video that Bob Parson, CEO of GoDaddy.com, has posted on his website depicting a hunt of “problem elephant.” According to Parson, Zimbabwe has an elephant overpopulation problem and they’re trampling farmers’ crops. The only way to solve this problem is to kill them.

This could potentially be a tricky situation. The people of Zimbabwe need to eat, and the elephants shouldn’t be allowed to trample their only source of food, but I’m not sure killing them is a good solution to the problem. If it were just the residents that were killing elephants to protect their food source, and due to a lack of resources they couldn’t do something like build an electrical fence then I think we would have more sympathy. The problem that I see is that a wealthy American is doing this “great” service for them by killing their little infestation problem. If he has enough money to take time out of his life and fly to Zimbabwe to go on a killing spree, then I’m willing to bet he has enough to responsibly solve the problem more humanely.

Another thing that really bothers me about Parson is that he thinks he’s doing such a great thing. He talks about how impoverished the people of Zimbabwe are and how dependent they are on him and his rifle. Without him, these people would starve! If he actually cared about them, he would help solve the problem in a way that solves it long-term, by providing the resources to build a fence or by providing them with food. All he actually cares about is the opportunity to kill an elephant, which is illegal most everywhere else.

Finally, he turned his video into just another commercial for his business. At the end he zooms in on a GoDaddy.com hat that one of the Zimbabwe residents is wearing. In an interview he says that he always “grab[s] whatever I have in swag and give to these guys, because they have nothing.” Really? You’re such a humanitarian. If you actually cared, bring some fresh food and water next time.

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Baby elephant!



Kudos to You, César Chávez

I am going to try and blog once a day for the entire month of April! Wish me luck, and have fun reading. I’ll start it off with a tribute to a wonderful activist:

As many of you know, yesterday was César Chávez Day. Unfortunately it’s not yet a state holiday in Washington state, but it is in California, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin! I’d like to discuss this phenomenal man and the great things he’s done for our country.

César Chávez lived in Arizona until his father made an agreement to clear 80 of his acres in excange for 40 more and that agreement was broken. They were unable to afford the interest on a loan to buy it back and they lost their house and land forever. This injustice made a big impact on Chávez and was only the first of many more. This is one of his famous quotes that relates to this, “The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature.” I love this! It reminds me of the common phrase children like to yell, “But it’s not fair!” Fairness makes sense to children, and we believe that bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. It’s only until we learn how the “real world” works that we slowly give that up. For injustice that is willful (compared to unfortunate events like car crashes) we shouldn’t be satisfied, and we should fight until it has been made right. Chávez did just that.

Anyway, Chávez and his family moved to California to make a living as migrant workers. To sustain his family he stopped attending school after 8th grade and devoted himself to migrant work.

He later founded the National Farm Workers Association to mobilize farm workers to enact change. He modeled his actions after Zapata, Gandhi, Nehru and Martin Luther King, using nonviolence to create awareness. You may have heard of the Delano grape strike, in which Chávez motivated grape growers to stop working and later for consumers to boycott buying them. He worked with the longshoremen who loaded the shipments of grapes and convinced them to not load any nonunion ones, resulting in a lot of spoiled grapes. His efforts ended in gaining union contracts and higher wages.

The list of accomplishments that Chávez had is vast, as well as the number of people he affected. He saw something that needed to be changed and he worked his hardest to make it happen, which I’m sure we can all find inspiration from.

I feel it necessary to add that César was a vegetarian. He included animals in his attempt to bring justice to all, which isn’t uncommon with nonviolent activists. Note that Gandhi was a vegetarian, and Martin Luther King’s family is vegan (his son is vegan and his wife was). I’m seeing a trend!

I hope you all took the time to think kindly of César and I thank him for all the steps forward he has taken for our country.

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*This information was found on United Farm Workers of America



Food Revolution
March 31, 2011, 8:21 am
Filed under: Celebrities, Food, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , ,

We are living in an exciting time: we’re living in the middle of the Food Revolution. More and more people are examining their relationship to food and more and more people are finding themselves dissatisfied. Little by little we are changing our messed up food system.

A little while ago I started a Twitter so that I could stay more up to date with news, specifically vegnews. I love it and think it’s a great way to stay connected. I feel more up to date that I’ve ever felt, and I feel a community that I didn’t know existed before.

Just in the past couple of months:

  • Oprah’s show had a vegan special
  • Martha Stewart had a vegan special
  • An article in the Seattle Times about a vegan blogger
  • Seattle Vegfest
  • An article in Time about moral issues surrounding food
  • As well as many people in the spotlight who are becoming food conscious (my favorites: Olivia Wilde, Natalie Portman, Alicia Silverstone, Emily Deschanel, Ellen DeGeneres)’

I don’t know about you guys, but this makes me really hopeful. I don’t think the problem is convincing people to care about the environment, worker and animal rights or the difficulties small farmers face, but letting them know. Recently it’s been talked about in the media and I think this is the first step.

I know I’m excited, and I love that it’s happening now. I believe we can revitalize our food system, we just need to keep up the good work!

Aww!

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Staying Optimistic
February 6, 2011, 1:14 am
Filed under: Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , ,

Considering the fact that the title of my blog is currently “Optimistic Vegan,” I felt it was only appropriate to talk a little more about that.

I think that most vegans are necessarily optimistic. Unless the reason you’re vegan is purely for health reasons, odds are that you are hoping to change something. Whether it’s putting your dollars elsewhere to encourage better alternatives that are sustainable or to end the cruel practices of factory farms, you’re hoping that your actions will affect change. This in itself is an optimistic way of looking at things, rather than apathetically thinking that nothing you do will help.

This is one of the reasons I love meeting new vegans. They’re usually very passionate, compassionate and happy people. They love life (and the lives of others!) and they’re enacting change by changing their lifestyles.

However, I’m not going to lie, there are definitely some depressing sides to being vegan. For one, if you’re vegan you know how terrible society can act. The people that surround you are contributing to the suffering of millions and most of them don’t ever think about it (or know?). You see how greedy industries can be, or how passive the government acts. And on top of this you get ridiculed by the people around you for not participating in the cruel practices that are considered normal. I’ve definitely had my times where I’ve been overwhelmed with all of this. But for me it’s worth it.

You’ll get no where if you all you think about are the negatives. If you’re vegetarian/vegan then something inspired you to get to that point. Just remember what it was and you’ll be fine. It can be hard sometimes, but think about all of the good that you’re doing! You are making a difference. You’re helping us get to a more compassionate world. One vegetarian at a time!

I hope this was coherent. It’s a bit late!



Oprah’s Vegan Challenge
February 4, 2011, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Animal Rights, Celebrities, Food, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , ,

For those of you who missed it, Oprah had a show described her challenge of going vegan for 1 week, including 378 of her staff members. How exciting is this?! I’m sure that Oprah’s influence will help change the image that vegetarian/vegan diets currently have. I haven’t watched the entire episode, but there are some segments available online.

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I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but in 1998 a group of Texan beef producers filed a lawsuit against Oprah after she had a show that talked about BSE (mad-cow disease). After hearing about the dangers of it, she said, “I’ll never eat hamburger again.” Apparently this comment affected a lot of viewers and sales of meat products decreased. This group of Texan beef producers didn’t want Oprah saying anything bad about their products, so they sued her. Even though Oprah won (thank goodness, ever heard of the freedom of speech?) I think it scared her from talking about it any more. (Lawsuits take time and money!) So when I heard she was doing this vegan week I couldn’t believe it.

If her comment about hamburger can have such an influence, what do you think something like this can do? I don’t think all of those staffers are going to go vegan, nor do I think Oprah’s fans are. Although I do think that the seeds have been planted. This was a very positive picture of veganism, and I think that this was a great introduction to a lot of people, especially to those who’ve never heard the term before.

I’d like to point out a few things that were talked about on the show. Michael Pollan was one of the guest speakers, who I have a love/hate relationship with. On the one hand, he does raise a lot of awareness and advocate for more conscious eaters, but I think he could be a little more optimistic. One of the things he said was (I’m paraphrasing) that this vegan challenge is a moral challenge, an ethical challenge, a challenge to tradition and that it could be viewed as an insult to your mother. I could say a lot about this, but the part where he said it was an insult to your mother I couldn’t handle it. I think he views veganism as giving up “great food” and saying no to a way of life. While this is true, you’re also giving up your support for the unnecessary suffering of animals, the environment, etc. Your mother should be proud that you’ve seen this connection and you’re willing to change your way of life to align with your values (I’m just assuming compassion and a rejection of cruelty are some of your values). He is seen as an authority figure for vegetarianism for those who don’t know about it and I think he could be using his influence in a more positive way. But anyway…He did talk about how 75% of our health care spending is linked to diet. This needs to change. AND he said that you shouldn’t eat meat if you aren’t willing to look at how it’s produced. I think this is a great idea. He knows how it’s produced but still eats it a couple times a week (but not from feed lots or industrial factory farms).

Last thing, sorry this has gotten so long! They got a chance to get into Cargill, the largest beef processor in North America (after being turned down by 20 others). Obviously I don’t know, but I suspect that they made sure everything was clean and smooth so they could get a better image for all of Oprah’s fans. But it was good for people to see nonetheless. At one point the investigator asked her “tour guide” what she would say if animal activists told her they didn’t support the consumption of animals. She  said that she would respect their opinion, but that they value the dignity of animals and that it’s the natural order to eat them. OKAY. I’m sorry, but I’m not sure how dignified it is to treat every animal like a piece of machinery, from birth to death. I missed that part somehow. And I’m not sure which part of it is “natural” either. Well then.

Well, if you’re reading this, you got through that whole thing! Thanks! And you should check out the vegan show. And you should become a conscious eater. And make me vegan brownies.

I’ll give you a picture of Oprah AND a cute animal, how’s that?

giraffe



A Change of Opinion: Is it Unnatural to Eat Animals?
February 3, 2011, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Animal Rights, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , ,

After some recent conversations about whether or not it is “natural” to eat meat, I have revised my stance on this topic. In passing one day, one of my friends said that one of the things that bothered them being vegan is that it is “unnatural.” We decided to postpone the rest of our conversation, which gave me a chance to think about it. I then talked to my dad about it (also vegan) and told him how easy I thought it was to dispute that. How could factory farming and drinking milk intended for baby cows be considered more natural than fruits and vegetables?

The conclusion I’ve come to is that, as much as I hate to admit it, there is nothing wrong with consuming animals for food. However, the way that we are currently consuming them is wrong. Like my dad pointed out, humans have been eating animals as soon as we could catch them. He used the term of opportunistic carnivore, and I think this is accurate. We would rely on plants and things we could gather, but when an animal came around, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity of an energy-rich meal. We didn’t used to subject animals to the cruel practices of factory farming and industrial slaughterhouses, we put them to their death as natural as another animal consumes another.

That being said, the way that we are eating animals today is nothing like that. The way we get our meat now is about as unnatural as you can get: treating animals like machines, hooking them up to machines, caring more about the end product than the animals’ dignity, and putting them through unnecessary pain.

This is a big change in the way I look at things. Instead of advocating for a world where no animals are eaten, I will instead advocate to limit our intake to avoid excessiveness and go towards a more sophisticated, more dignified, and more conscious food system.

Even though I have modified this way of looking at things, I think the best way to achieve the ideal food system where animals are spared suffering and a loss of dignity is to speak with our wallets. I will not support any food industry (factory farms, industrial slaughterhouses, etc.) by giving them my dollars.

So there you go! (For the record, I’m still a vegan and probably always will be.)

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This is a Duiker. Isn’t he adorable?



Little Bit of Plato
January 31, 2011, 7:16 pm
Filed under: Lifestyle, Literature | Tags: , , , ,

Well I have good news and bad news. The good news are that I got into my biology class! I had given up all hope and at the very last minute (literally, today was the last day to add/drop a class) I got in! The bad news are that I had to drop my ancient philosophy class. I loved my professor and I surprised myself in loving Plato as well! In this post I’m going to take a couple of quotes from Plato and relate them to what I’m interested in!

We just read The Protagoras which is this dialogue where Socrates is questioning the sophist Protagoras about how one can teach virtue. At one point Socrates says,

“They maintain that most people are unwilling to do what is best, even though they know what it is and are able to do it. And when I have asked them the reason for this, they say that those who act that way do so because they are overcome by pleasure or pain or are being ruled by one of the things I referred to just now” (Plato 782D).

From what I’ve seen, a very common response I’ve heard when people find out that I’m vegan is that they admire, respect, appreciate me, or even flat out they know it’s the right thing to do (but they could never do it). I’m not saying this is true for everyone, but I think that the main reason for not being vegetarian for a lot of people is simply because they think it would be too hard. Or, using Plato’s words to support this train of thought, they are ruled by the pleasure of eating meat. I think almost everyone is able to do go vegetarian. It might be difficult for them at first, but in the end pleasure outweighs the pain of getting there!

Another Plato quote occurs a couple of pages later is where Socrates says,

“to give in to oneself is nothing other than ignorance, and to control oneself is nothing other than wisdom….ignorance is to have a false belief and to be deceived about matters of importance” (358C).

I love this! It is so easy to apply to vegetarianism. Another common response after finding out more about vegetarianism and specifically factory farms is surprise. Most people don’t know (or refuse to think about) where their meat comes from. They are ignorant, some by choice, but usually it’s because they’ve been “deceived about matters of importance.” The meat industry doesn’t want you to know, because if you did, you might stop eating their product. Building off of that, most people give in to eating meat because they simply don’t know. However, once you do know if you control your eating habits to fit with your beliefs, that’s wisdom. It’s not wisdom if you know but refuse to consider.

Just a little bit of Plato for you all, you should check it out! It’s much easier to read that I thought it would be. I’m going to continue reading even though I had to drop the class!

I don’t think I’ve had a chicken photo yet. Isn’t she beautiful?! She looks very proud.