Veganism: Inventing the NEW NORMAL

by Butterfies Katz

If any two words were synonymous with veganism – it would be ‘animal rights’. Since its inception in 1944, veganism has been a position of non-participation in animal exploitation. With the word ‘vegan’ becoming more popular, the meaning has become weakened, or the benefits to humans are touted more than the original intent of animal rights. ALL animals – whether human or other species – by virtue of being feeling and conscious – possess the birth right not to be bought and sold as a commodity, owned like a slave, oppressed, exploited, or attacked by humans. Animals have the inherent right not to be forcibly impregnated, have their newborn who they painfully just gave birth to – kidnapped and then killed – all socially accepted “normal” practices of the dairy industry. What society accepts as normal is in fact not normal – customary, but it’s not normal behavior to separate a newborn from his or her mother so people can drink the milk of another species; milk which is meant to grow an 80 pound calf into a 1,000 pound cow in less than a year. How normal would it appear to see a human suckling on a cow’s udders? 

An animal farmer selling cows online described my vegan views (that we don’t have a right to buy and sell a cow) as strange. I have a very different way of defining strange. Eating corpses is strange. Being entertained by animals who were forced to endure painful misery, humiliation, and captivity – horse and dog racing, animal fights, circuses, rodeos, animal acts, seaquariums, zoos – now that’s strange. What is socially accepted and passes for normal is actually cruel and callous. We need to raise the ‘normal bar’. 

Because humans are in fact animals, we are able to have empathy for fellow animals; who have many similar features. And when we empathize, we can clearly see that animals feel. They leap in joy. They speak – but like someone from another country, they speak a different language. If we tune into them and want to hear what they are saying – we can communicate and see that they feel much like we do – they want to live their lives naturally and free from harm, and protect and nurture their offspring. When we empathize, we see that animals have two eyes, a face, and a brain. They have a nervous, reproductive, digestive, circulatory, and respiratory system. They have pain receptors; and therefore feel pain as we do. Animals feel; that’s essentially what it means to be an animal. 

We have known friendship with dogs and cats, but those of us who have rescued animals of various other species – are certain that these animals are more ‘family’ than ‘food’. They’re more friends than enemies to dominate, wear their skins, hunt and hang their heads on walls as trophies. Farming, imprisoning, and anally electrocuting fur-wearing animals so we can adorn ourselves in their skins, as well as any number of business-as-usual practices presently considered ‘normal’ by society – are, in reality – savage. We can all do better. Each of us can do our part in uplifting the collective consciousness of humankind. What role could be more important for us to play in this feature film called Life? We can be forerunners, pioneers of a new world; a non-violent one…it’s what “everybody” has been wishing for ~ Peace on Earth…Goodwill to All… But to actually bring about Peace on Earth, we necessarily have to live the ideals of veganism. We can’t just say “we love animals” while we eat, wear and use products containing remnants of their tortured and mutilated bodies. We have to expand our respect for others to include anyone; any being with feelings and consciousness. 

Long-term vegans have established a way to live without directly demanding animal exploitation. For 35 years, my cosmetics and toiletries, food, clothing, and products have been free of animal ingredients nor were they tested on animals. Despicably testing products in the eyes of bunnies, forcing beagles to inhale cigarette smoke, vivisection on cats and pigs, holding primates captive and forcing them to learn what humans want them to learn, medicines tested on rats and mice and whoever else, dissecting frogs in schools – ‘animal experimentation’ is just too similar to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment; where African-American men were unknowing and did not consent to being “guinea pigs” in a lethal-to-them experiment. When humanity adopts veganism, there won’t be derogatory or speciesist words that are an abomination to the English language. For example: “guinea pigs”  or “livestock” – “the butcher” – “slaughterhouse” – “leg of lamb” – “kill two birds with one stone” –  “you rat, you dog, you animal”; as if being an animal is bad or lowly. It is a mistaken belief that animals are higher or lower – they are other species of animals, fellow Earthlings.
What is considered normal – is not normal. Humans have been bullies, captors, slave-masters. In Truth (with a capital T), what is really normal is the vegan concept; the perspective where every animal has the right not to be exploited or violently assaulted by humans. We can be protectors, defenders, friends to animals, rescuers – however, at the very least, people have a duty to not harm beings that are unquestionably sentient. Humans must return to the animals what is rightfully theirs. Animal rights advocates are not asking for “better treatment” or “better welfare conditions” within a system that is completely unethical. Would we ask for bigger beds in the Holocaust’s concentration camps – or – would we work to wipe out the concentration camps? We are advocating for fundamental rights of anyone sentient. We are shining a light of Truth on indefensible habits, social custom, traditions that have been accepted as the “norm”.
The many benefits of plant-powered living are too vast to ignore. Veganism is a solution for what ails our planet; violence and war, dwindling resources and expanding human population, lack of health and vitality, and a ‘clouded way of thinking’. The United Nations and World Watch Institute have reported that animal agriculture is the worst threat to environmental devastation and global warming. The human population is unfortunately ever-growing, and the logical way to feed all these humans is to stop syphoning most of the grain and soy crops inefficiently through animals. Theoretically, we could feed all the starving children by simply making it illegal for humans to purposely breed animals into existence. It is morally wrong to breed other animals. Plus these billions of farmed animals together are contributing greenhouse gases to global warming; more than all the transportation in the world put together, while greatly depleting and polluting our water supply. Animal agriculture is the reason for the clear cutting of Amazonian rainforest, which is the lungs of our planet.
Most significantly, we are misguiding the next generation that violence is normal behavior. You and I were indoctrinated since day one by society – that humans are ‘top of the food chain’, the crown of all creation, that God gave us the right to kill and eat animals, or that some animals are “pets” while others are to be ill-treated, and other falsehoods that molded all of us. The time has come for us to break the cycle and stop filling the precious innocent minds of children with the lies we were taught; lies like humans can abuse animals. Teach the next generation to respect feeling, breathing, living, and perceptually-aware animals, regardless of species. We may like to be close to a dog, while not a fish, some animals might be adorable while some look alarming – but they all deserve, at least, not to be harmed (by humans). We are reaching a point in human evolution where we are undeniably able to thrive without consuming anything animal-derived. Many plant-powered athletes, for example, the world champion extreme marathoner and vegan: Fiona Oakes and other vegan athletes – are living proof that we can more than thrive on a vegan diet. 
The reason we can legally own, enslave, buy and sell, and murder animals – is because of the almighty ‘money god’ that humans truly worship over their other deities. The profit motive supersedes what is right. However, ethics and social justice must trump immoral ways of attaining money. Slave masters were driven by their personal monetary gain only, which is comparable to animal harmers (oops farmers). Abolitionists proclaimed that money and profit are irrelevant when it comes to the objectionable behavior of owning a human being. It still holds true. We need to build a new world that is not built upon enslaving anyone sentient. Animals are individuals that should have basic rights, equally under the law, not to be a slave to a human, not to be “a someone” who is perceived and treated as “a something”, not to be a he or a she who is seen and referred to as an “it”. This objectification of other animals is to make people feel okay about their abnormal violent exploitation of others; that is socially accepted but is nonetheless wrong – even if the majority doesn’t yet see it.
Be vegan for ‘what is right’ – including every individual animal’s right. The vegan ideal is open to all; rich or poor, atheist or theist, young or old, any shade of skin, any nationality or ethnicity; any gender identity, anybody – everybody. Help educate others that what is presently accepted as normal; is unacceptable. Veganism has far reaching ramifications for a saner, cleaner, less violent world. Veganism is a protest to “the way it is”. Veganism is a Great Truth whose time has come. Veganism is the antidote to a world ravaged with violence. It’s a solution to our planetary problems.  Veganism is our next step. With humanity’s acceptance of vegan living, we are making history; bringing about a world where veganism is the new normal. 


I (Can’t) Accept That

Text and Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

Blame it on animal cruelty overload, or maybe it was the beer (I only had one, in dog years), but the other night at the annual family spring birthday party, I finally came unglued and lashed back at some glib remarks from my brother-in-law.

You see, my wife and I have been vegan for upwards of 15 years now, but we’ve managed to keep get-togethers with corpse munching, secretion gulping extended family members relatively civil—mostly because we’ve avoided talking about the subject, while they’ve “accepted” our being different.

Oh, there were a number of years when they went along with having a mostly vegan meal to humor us (except for their precious cheese). But then came the wisecracks. If there’s one thing I won’t stand for, it’s mockery from meat-eaters who can’t seem to conceive of compassion for non-human animals (besides maybe their own dog or cat).

On the night in question my sister had decided we should all bring lasagna for the birthday dinner. While they had the standard beef dish, ours was a vegan version (of course), with Daiya non-dairy cheese and Tofurky Italian sausage inside. We also had a shaker of dairy-free parmesan cheese on the table. When my sister asked what it was, my brother in law made some crack about it not being “real” and therefore did not contain the good for you things dairy supposedly has in it.

“You mean like pus?” I said, to everyone’s shock. “And then there’s the veal calf who has to suffer for every glass of milk or slice of cheese.” To that my willfully uninformed brother-in-law retorted, “I don’t have any veal in my cheese.”

“Sure you do,” I told him, “dairy cows won’t produce milk without first being impregnated—and the newborn male calves all end up dragged away from their mothers and stuck in tiny crates or chained to the floor in windowless veal barns.”

His only response? “I accept that.”


The meat industry could be driving wildlife extinct

by Lindsay Abrams

Ok, so you don’t feel bad about cows having to die in order for you to enjoy a hamburger. That’s fine — most people feel the same way. But what about the grizzly bears? Or the wolves? Or the 175 other species threatened by extinction? Would you keep eating that burger if you found out it was endangering all of those animals, too?

Well, would you?

A new campaign from the Center for Biological Diversity is presenting a broader perspective on the environmental damage wrought by the livestock industry. NPR has the scoop:

The conservation group says that some populations of grizzly bears and wolves have already been driven extinct by the livestock industry, and an additional 175 threatened or endangered species, like the prairie dog, could be next. Most of this drama is playing out on federal lands, where the needs of wildlife conflict with the needs of grazing cattle, says [population and sustainability director Stephanie Feldstein].

The federal government has for decades promoted and subsidized cattle grazing on 270 million acres of public lands in 11 Western states. According to Feldstein, one of the hot spots of livestock-wildlife conflict is predator species like wolves and bears preying on cattle.

The California grizzly subspecies, for example, was driven extinct in the 1920s by hunters assisting farmers and ranchers, according to historical documents at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ranchers also all but wiped out the Mexican gray wolf, the most endangered wolf species in the world, in the U.S. (A few survived in Mexico and in zoos, and scientists have been trying to bring them back through breeding, the group Defenders of Wildlife says.)

A study published back in January adds large carnivores, like pumas, lions and sea otters, to the list of meat industry casualties. All that, of course, comes along with the major impact our growing demand for meat has on the climate. Taken together, it’s worth considering whether that burger is, in fact, worth it.

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

WillPower vs. Won’tPower — Is it Really Hard to Stop Hurting Animals?

Photo  Jim Robertson

Photo Jim Robertson

by Jack Carone

There is a tendency for some of us who wish to promote veganism—a way of living which excludes the use of animals for food, clothing and other exploitation— to cushion the call to action with a warning/acknowledgement/suggestion that it is a difficult thing to do.

While this is surely the case for some people, for others, including me, it has happened quickly and painlessly when the time was right. To set the stage for interested seekers to expect hardship invites failure or a refusal to even try.

For someone who still really wants to eat animals and their secretions, or still wants to wear a fur coat or a silk shirt, but resists for health or moral reasons understood but not felt, it is certainly hard to do. They have to exert Willpower to resist things they still desire, and this almost inevitably leads to a failure to maintain the “sacrifice”. Someone who gives up meat for “health reasons” very often reverts, occasionally or permanently.

But for someone who has internalized the horror and immorality of subjecting other feeling beings to abuse and slaughter, and who simply refuses to, simply cannot—just won’t— be a part of this any longer, there is no feeling of deprivation, and no enticement which can make them go back to participating in these injustices.

I call this Won’tPower, and in contrast to WillPower, it is effortless to maintain.

Let me tell you what pushed the button in my being and changed my life in an instant.

At the time, I subscribed to the Los Angeles Times newspaper. I sat down one morning and turned to the feature section, and began reading a human-interest story about a man who had become very bitter about life due to some tragic personal experiences. He had become very hard-hearted.

He somehow got a job in a slaughterhouse, killing lambs—baby sheep— as they came by in procession, he took their just-beginning lives with a knife.

One day, a particular lamb passed his station, and he stabbed as before. But before this lamb could fall, mortally wounded, she turned and tenderly licked her own blood from her killer’s hand.

The man broke down, had an instant change of heart, his bitterness melted, he left and became a minister, enriching lives instead of ending them.

I folded the paper, set it down, and have never looked back, except to regret that I had not saved the article!

It is important to note that I had already been thinking about the morality of eating animals, primarily due to my experience of having my first dog as an adult, with all the revelations that living with another species brings, and having met someone’s “pet” turkey, who had expressed as much interest in me as had their Great Dane dog. In other words, the time was right for me, much as the time has to be right to change any ingrained habit, whether it’s smoking, drinking or anything else.

So if you have been wrestling with the ethics of consuming and wearing animals, if you are torn, keep wrestling. Keep thinking and considering. Keep the internal quest alive. When it coincides with the thing—your own personal newspaper article—that pushes your moral button, you may find that it is the easiest and most satisfying thing you have ever done.