Friday, November 27, 2009

Cheap & Easy! Creative vegan education that is...

A lot has been written about how we can reach out and educate people about veganism so I’m going to try not to repeat what I’ve already read. It’s out there and it’s easy to find online.

What I would like to do is share a few things that my friends and I have done (and do) to speak up for animal justice. Activism doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. And the great thing about it is that we’re only limited by our imaginations!

Bumper stickers are great, especially the magnetic kind, but a friend of mine has gone one step further and spray-painted GO VEGAN on the hood of his car. All it took was a can of spray paint and some masking tape and viola! A mobile billboard.

T-shirts with messages on the back are also effective, if you consider how much time we spend in lines (at the bank, the grocery store, the movies, concerts, coffee shops, and the DMV) and because it’s on the back, you aren’t confronting someone directly. Instead, they’re able to read your shirt without getting all defensive.

Buttons are also useful. I have a number of buttons on my backpack that I wear when I go hiking with my outdoors club. Which brings me to another great way to raise awareness: join a club!

As a member of a club, you’ll be able to interact with people and influence the way the club operates. I joined a hiking club last year and I manage to work veganism into the conversation on almost every hike. In the spring I was able to steer a conversation about the smell of wildflowers to veganism and sure enough, people started questioning me on what I eat. The club now serves veggie burgers and veggie dogs at their barbecues and vegan pizza at their fundraisers.

You can also turn the conversation to veganism in restaurants, on the bus, at the coffeemaker at work (discussing news, entertainment or about what you did on the weekend) or even at the dentist’s office, which I was able to do by talking about my vegan toothpaste.

The health food section of the grocery store is also a good place to strike up a conversation with other shoppers, or you can ask the manager to carry more vegan products and why.

If you’re adventurous, you can also attend environmental events and hand out leaflets about veganism, explaining that a plant-based diet is not only good for the animals, it’s good for your health and the planet too. Last summer I “crashed” a Green Party meet-and-greet where they were cooking up animals on the grill, and since then they’ve invited me to table at two of their events by promoting veganism, with the last one featuring a vegetarian potluck (it’s a start).

Library displays are another good way to educate the public about veganism. Most libraries will provide you with a table and let you set up for a week or even a month, depending on the branch. This is where you can let your creative juices flow, or if you choose, you can rely on literature and posters from some of the bigger animal rights organizations.

Hosting a vegan potluck (whether on your own at your house or through your animal rights group) is another fantastic way to really impress upon people that going vegan isn’t difficult and that vegan food CAN taste great! Potlucks are also useful for networking with others, sharing recipes and providing support for people either making the transition or those who feel alienated from family and friends because of their beliefs.

Writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper is a free and easy way to reach a lot of people about veganism (and a lot of newspapers now offer an online comments section too). Whether it’s in response to a story, an ad promoting animal exploitation (a circus, rodeo, fish fry or even a sale on turkeys), or about someone else's letter to the editor, you can let people know how you feel on the issues.

Finally, keeping brochures in your backpack, in your car or in your desk at work is a great idea too. You never know when the opportunity will arise and it’s always good to be prepared.

Two great places to download and print your own vegan brochures are Gary Francione’s Abolitionist Approach website:

and Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary:

The Boston Vegan Association also has a wonderful, free, full colour brochure for qualifying activists:

Good Luck and Happy Educating!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Homo sapiens or Homo psychopathiens?

By Daniel K. Wilson

psychopath, n. a person having a character disorder distinguished by amoral or antisocial behaviour without feelings of remorse

amoral, adj. 1. without moral quality; neither moral or immoral. 2. lacking or indifferent to moral standards, criteria, or principles

moral, adj. 1. of, or pertaining to, or concerned with the principles of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical

I watched Earthlings for the first time last week with a group of university students that were also seeing it for the first time. Now I’ve been fighting and speaking up for the rights of animals for almost 10 years and I’ve seen a lot of sickening, twisted and horrible animal cruelty caught on tape. I thought I was immune!

But what I saw on the screen was so vile and so overwhelming that it truly disgusted me to be associated with the rest of humanity. I wasn’t myself for days. I won’t go into the graphic details of the film, as I’m sure most of you reading this have already seen it. But if you haven’t, I recommend you do, animal activist or not (albeit armed with a good supply of tissues).

As I facilitated the post-film discussion, I asked the teary-eyed kids in attendance if they thought the people committing the incomprehensible acts of violence in the film were psychopaths or if our entire society was psychopathic to allow, promote and participate in the institutionalized cruelty we so easily and without provocation inflict upon the animals.

I believe our society, hell, our whole damn species, is psychopathic. I can’t think of any sane reason for what we do to the animals. We know they feel pain. We know they suffer and bleed and fear death. We know that when they’re beaten they cry out in agony.

We know they can sense when they’re about to be slaughtered and we know they try to avoid it with every fiber of their being. We know they experience terror and we know that their screams are screams of terror and not of indifference. We know it but that knowledge doesn’t stop most of us from doing it.

And what do we make of people like ourselves; part of this violent and sadistic culture yet dedicated to peace and compassion? What makes us different? Not everyone who sees Earthlings, or sees the inside of a slaughterhouse for that matter, will go vegan (although I’m certain many will). Why do some people change while others do not?

Is it perhaps that we are the next link in the evolution of humankind; homo sapiens pathiens (from the Greek pathos meaning to evoke pity or compassion): the wise and compassionate human? I don’t know. I don't have all the answers.

But I do know that sooner or later some of us will ask ourselves: how do we go on? How do we keep on fighting when 99% of humanity - our friends, family, co-workers and community leaders - have such utter contempt and disregard for the feelings and suffering of animals? How do we go on when it seems like we’re powerless to protect the animals from the evils of the human race?

The answer is we just do.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

There's always enough time to help the animals

Talking to some people, I get the impression that if they only had more time, they’d be a lot nicer to animals. People generally think it’s great that I speak out against animal exploitation, and when they ask me what they can do to help the animals, I usually start off by saying, "Don’t eat them."

A brief pause (oh, he’s that kind of animal person) is usually followed by, "Yeah, but isn’t it hard giving up meat?" Once I explain that it isn’t, and that there are plenty of delicious and nutritious vegan foods available practically everywhere, some will infer that eating vegan must be so time-consuming.

Learning what to eat, looking for vegan food, preparing vegan meals, finding vegan recipes to their liking and cooking two different meals (for those family members who won’t give up their animal products), all require more time than most people have, considering their hectic lifestyles. There just aren’t enough hours in a day, right?

But I think people have more time than they realize. Just look at what we do have time for: shopping, watching television, eating out, getting in a round of golf, going to the movies, playing video games, talking on the phone, losing money at the casino, checking out yard sales, sitting around the coffee shop, surfing the web and going for a Sunday drive.

So for those of you who are serious about helping the animals but just can’t seem to find the time, consider this…

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was arguably the most diversely talented person that ever walked the face of the earth. Not only was he a great artist (painting the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and drawing the Vitruvian Man), he was also a scientist, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, botanist, musician, writer, sculptor and inventor.

He invented or conceptualized numerous flying machines, including the helicopter and hang glider, an armoured car, the submarine, concentrated solar power, the calculator, the compass, contact lenses, scissors, a giant crossbow, rapid fire guns, ball bearings and the centrifugal pump, for draining wet areas such as marshes, as well as designing canals, bridges, cathedrals, and other buildings.

Da Vinci was also a hardcore animal rights activist, publicly criticizing the killing of animals for food and promoting a plant-based diet in its place. He also regularly purchased birds at the marketplaces only to open their cages and allow them to fly away.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was an essayist, dramatist, educational reformer and social anarchist. He is also considered one of the greatest writers of all time and in 2007, two of his novels made Time magazine’s ten greatest novels of all time (Anna Karenina was #1 and War and Peace was #3). Tolstoy's collected works consist of some 90 volumes.

Although born into nobility, Tolstoy preferred to lavish his wealth on transients, beggars and the working poor. His pacifism was influenced by the horrors he witnessed during the Crimean War and his Christian beliefs, particularly Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, which inspired him to give up meat, tobacco and alcohol.

After the war, Tolstoy opened several schools for peasant children, believing that education was the secret to changing the world, and published many magazines and textbooks on the subject. His ideas on non-violent resistance had a profound impact on Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Tolstoy was also very critical about the way animals are treated, and longed for the day when we no longer ate them. "That movement has during the last ten years advanced more and more rapidly. More and more books and periodicals on this subject appear every year; one meets more and more people who have given up meat; and abroad, especially Germany, England, and America, the number of vegetarian hotels and restaurants increases year by year. One cannot fail to rejoice at this."

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) is revered as the "father of the nation" in India and considered the embodiment of peace and non-violent political resistance worldwide.

After studying law in England, Gandhi spent 20 years defending the rights of immigrants in South Africa. He returned to India in 1914 and became the leader of the Indian National Congress. With India under British control, Gandhi used non-violence and civil disobedience to gain his country’s freedom, which quite often landed him in jail.

When public demonstrations and protests turned violent, Gandhi staged hunger strikes until the rioting stopped. In 1947, he participated in negotiations that led to Indian independence the following year.

An advocate of simple, peaceful living, Gandhi had few possessions, made his own clothes and refused to eat animals. According to Gandhi, "You can judge a nation, and its moral progress, by the way it treats its animals."

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was an Irish playwright, critic and political activist. He wrote more than 60 plays including The Devil’s Disciple, Man and Superman, Major Barbara, Pygmalion, Candida, Doctor’s Dilemma, and Caesar and Cleopatra.

A passionate socialist, he also used his writing skills to criticize the exploitation of the working class, and spoke out in favour of equal rights for men and women, as well as promoting healthy lifestyles.

Shaw gave up meat-eating, what he called cannibalism, when he was 25 years old and often wrote about the immorality of eating animals in his plays and prefaces. He also despised the killing of animals for sport and vivisection. He is best known however, among vegetarians and vegans anyways, for his simple maxim: "Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends."

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) was a German-French pastor, theologian, writer, musicologist, physician, philosopher and acclaimed organist. He based his personal philosophy on a "reverence for life" and a deep commitment to serve others, so in 1913, after receiving his medical degree, he moved to Lambarene in French Equatorial Africa and founded The Albert Schweitzer Hospital.

In 1917, Schweitzer and his wife were sent to a French internment camp as prisoners of war. After their release, he spent 6 years in Europe preaching, giving lectures and concerts and increasing his medical knowledge. He also wrote numerous books, including Civilization and Ethics, and Christianity and the Religions of the World.

Schweitzer returned to Lambarene in 1924 where he served as doctor, surgeon, pastor, village administrator and superintendent. Except for brief periods of time, he spent the remainder of his life there. For his many years of humanitarian efforts, Schweitzer received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

With the prize money, along with donations and funds received from royalties and personal appearances, he expanded the hospital to 70 buildings (which could take care of over 500 patients at any given time) and started a leprosarium. Schweitzer also spoke out against atmospheric nuclear test explosions and the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Because his reverence for life included the animals, he would not eat them, and reminded people to, "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight."

So what’s my point? It’s that these people, who had the same hours in a day as the rest of us, were able to accomplish incredible feats, speak out on behalf of the oppressed, tend to the sick and injured, advocate against violence, even liberate an entire nation and still help the animals (mostly by not eating them).

If they could find the time, can’t you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The very first vegan newsletter

Gary Francione published this over at and I thought that I'd publish it too. It's the very first vegan newsletter ever printed, back in 1944 by Donald Watson of the then newly-formed Vegan Society.

The points Watson makes are witty, eloquent, and as relevant today as when he wrote them over 60 years ago! It's just an awesome piece of writing. I believe it also reinforces what many of us believe to be one of the core concepts of veganism - abolition with no apologies or excuses. Enjoy!



Price 2d. (Post free 3d.) Yearly Subscription 1/-

NO. 1. NOVEMBER 1944.

The recent articles and letters in "The Vegetarian Messenger" on the question of the use of dairy produce have revealed very strong evidence to show that the production of these foods involves much cruel exploitation and slaughter of highly sentient life. The excuse that it is not necessary to kill in order to obtain dairy produce is untenable for those with a knowledge of livestock farming methods and of the competition which even humanitarian farmers must face if they are to remain in business.

For years many of us accepted, as lacto-vegetarians, that the flesh-food industry and the dairy produce industry were related, and that in some ways they subsidised one another. We accepted, therefore, that the case on ethical grounds for the disuse of these foods was exceptionally strong, and we hoped that sooner or later a crisis in our conscience would set us free.

That freedom has now come to us. Having followed a diet free from all animal food for periods varying from a few weeks in some cases, to many years in others, we believe our ideas and experiences are sufficiently mature to be recorded. The unquestionable cruelty associated with the production of dairy produce has made it clear that lacto-vegetarianism is but a half-way house between flesh-eating and a truly humane, civilised diet, and we think, therefore, that during our life on earth we should try to evolve sufficiently to make the 'full journey'.

We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals' bodies. Even though the scientific evidence may be lacking, we shrewdly suspect that the great impediment to man's moral development may be that he is a parasite of lower forms of animal life. Investigation into the non-material (vibrational) properties of foods has yet barely begun, and it is not likely that the usual materialistic methods of research will be able to help much with it. But is it not possible that as a result of eliminating all animal vibrations from our diet we may discover the way not only to really healthy cell construction but also to a degree of intuition and psychic awareness unknown at present?

A common criticism is that the time is not yet ripe for our reform. Can time ever be ripe for any reform unless it is ripened by human determination? Did Wilberforce wait for the 'ripening' of time before he commenced his fight against slavery? Did Edwin Chadwick, Lord Shaftesbury, and Charles Kingsley wait for such a non-existent moment before trying to convince the great dead weight of public opinion that clean water and bathrooms would be an improvement? If they had declared their intention to poison everybody the opposition they met could hardly have been greater. There is an obvious danger in leaving the fulfilment of our ideals to posterity, for posterity may not have our ideals. Evolution can be retrogressive as well as progressive, indeed there seems always to be a strong gravitation the wrong way unless existing standards are guarded and new visions honoured. For this reason we have formed our Group, the first of its kind, we believe, in this or any other country.


Our 25 Members are scattered far and wide, therefore a Committee is not possible. In the absence of other volunteers I have undertaken the duties of Hon. Secretary, Hon. Treasurer, and Hon. Auditor, and if this undemocratic Constitution offends, I am open to receive suggestions of any scheme that would enable me, either intentionally or accidentally,to embezzle the Group's funds from subscriptions of a shilling a year!

The work of the Group at first will be confined to the propaganda contained in the bulletin. Very great interest has recently been aroused by our arguments, and it seems certain that the bulletin will be widely read. Many orders for the first four quarterly issues have already been received, and more will come when we advertise. Mr J.W. Robertson Scott, Editor of "The Countryman", has written to us - "I should be glad to hear what success you have in collecting non-dairy produce consumers. I have always felt that from the agricultural point of view the vegetarian occupies an illogical position, for just as eggs cannot be produced without killing cockerels, dairy produce cannot be economically got without the co-operation of the butcher." The clarity by which vegetarians generally are seeing this issue is well represented by the result of a recent debate arranged by the Croydon Vegetarian Society, when the motion was carried almost unanimously 'That vegetarians should aim at eliminating all dairy produce'. If we remember rightly the voting was 30 to 2.

Our Members are pronounced individualists, not easily scared by criticism, and filled with the spirit of pioneers, and one feels they will never allow their magazine to degenerate into a purely secretarial production. All are invited to subscribe something periodically to make the magazine interesting, useful, and thought provoking. Could we have a series of articles (of about 600 words) on "My Spiritual Philosophy"? Articles, letters, recipes, diet charts, health records, press cuttings, gardening hints, advice on baby culture, advertisements (free toMembers), all will be welcome. Letters of criticism from those who disagree with us will also be published. This is real pioneer work, and if we cooperate fully we shall certainly see an advancement in humanitarian practice, and perhaps we shall reveal some otherwise inaccessible dietetic truths. Let us remember how very much of modern dietetic research is fostered by vested interests and performed in vivisection laboratories, and that incidentally we are still without much data concerning the merits of diets free from animal food. We know that domesticated animals today are almost universally diseased, therefore so long as 99.9999% of the population consume the products of these diseased bodies, how are we to measure the mischief such foods maybe doing? A hundred people living strictly on a 'live' non-animal diet for a few years would furnish data of inestimable value. Government grants have been made for much less useful social work!


We should all consider carefully what our Group, and our magazine, and ourselves, shall be called. 'Non-dairy' has become established as a generally understood colloquialism, but like 'non-lacto' it is too negative. Moreover it does not imply that we are opposed to the use of eggs as food. We need a name that suggests what we do eat, and if possible one that conveys the idea that even with all animal foods taboo, Nature still offers us a bewildering assortment from which to choose. 'Vegetarian' and 'Fruitarian' are already associated with societies that allow the 'fruits'(!) of cows and fowls, therefore it seems we must make a new and appropriate word. As this first issue of our periodical had to be named, I have used the title "The Vegan News". Should we adopt this, our diet will soon become known as a VEGAN diet, and we should aspire to the rank of VEGANS. Members' suggestions will be welcomed. The virtue of having a short title is best known to those of us who, as secretaries of vegetarian societies have to type or write the word vegetarian thousands of times a year!


The object of our Group is to state a case for a reform that we think is moral, safe and logical. In doing so we shall, of course, say strongly why we condemn the use of dairy produce and eggs. In return we shall expect to be criticised. It will be no concern of ours if we fail to convert others, but we do think it should concern them if, deep in their hearts, they know we are right. In any case, there need be no animosity between ourselves and the 'lactos'. We all accept that lactovegetarianism has a well appointed place in dietary evolution, and for this reason several of us spend a great deal of our time working for the lacto-vegetarian Cause. During recent years the two national vegetarian societies have devoted much space in their magazines to this question of the use of dairy product, and we have every reason to believe they will attach importance to our work and occasionally report on it. (Before forming the Group, the suggestion was made to The Vegetarian Society that such a Section be formed as part of the Society. The suggestion was considered sympathetically by the Committee, who decided that the full energies of the Society must continue to be applied to the task of abolishing flesh-eating, and that any such Group would, therefore, be freer to act as an independent body.) The need to prove that it is possible to thrive without dairy produce is, of course, far too important for any lacto-vegetarian to ignore. To resign oneself to lactovegetarianism as a satisfactory solution to the diet problem is to accept a sequence of horrible farmyard and slaughter-house incidents as part of an inevitable Divine Plan. Need it be added that it would imply too accepting the spectacle of a grown man attached to the udder of a cow as a dignified and rational intention on the part of Nature!

Without making any claims to self-righteousness, we feel in a strong position to criticise lacto-vegetarianism, because the worst we can say will be but a repetition of criticism we have already levelled against ourselves. Therefore we shall express the Truth as we see it and feel it,and though our friends the lacto-vegetarians may reject our ideas if they wish, we hope they will not reject us for stating them.


So far as we are aware, every Member of our Group has discarded the use of dairy produce for humanitarian reasons. We are not by any means ignorant of orthodox dietetic theories, and in exercising our moral conviction we find we must refute some of these theories. We do so without fear because we feel that a moral philosophy combined with a dash of common sense is a more rational guide than theories hatched in vivisection laboratories. We will not accept that adequate nutrition need violate conscience. We question very strongly whether those dieticians who laud the praises of animal proteins have ever tried living on a sensible diet free from such proteins, and if they have not, we fail to see how they can pass useful judgment. We know that man's anatomy is unquestionably frugivorous. We know that milk drinking by adults is an absurdity never intended by Nature. We know that we are at least as well without dairy produce as we were with it. We know that 40% at least of cows are now tubercular. We know that pasteurisation enables the milk retailers to sell milk several days old. We know what happens to those who feed on the 'nourishing first-class proteins' recommended by orthodox dieticians - they nearly all die of malignant and filthy diseases. Heaven help us if our diet fails us to anything like the same degree!

Apart from saying that we are 'Quite well, thanks', we consider the time perhaps premature to make any great claims for the physiological superiority of our diet. Humbly, your Secretary is able to state that he can now cycle 230 miles in a day, whereas years ago when he stoked himself with milk and eggs he was ready for Bed and Breakfast after doing half that distance. He can also dig his allotments for ten hours a day without feeling any different next morning, but we must be careful in making claims lest the world hears of us and expects to meet eight foot rosy cheeked muscular monsters who are immune to all ills of the flesh. We may be sure that should anything so much as a pimple ever appear to marr the beauty of our physical form, it will be entirely due in the eyes of the world to our own silly fault for not eating 'proper food'. Against such a pimple the great plagues of diseases now ravaging nearly all members of civilised society (who live on 'proper food') will pass unnoticed. It is as well that we gird ourselves to meet our critics! In our more reflective moments we cannot help thinking that there are greater risks in life than living on clean salads, fruits, nuts, and whole cereals. We can hardly wish to be classed as moral giants because we choose to live on a diet so obviously favouring self preservation.

Believing that some Members may wish to correspond with each other,we propose to publish in our next issue their names and addresses. Any Member preferring not to be included in the list should let me know.

We hear that a pamphlet opposing the use of milk was written 40 years ago by a Harley Street specialist. Does any Member happen to know anything of this publication?


We agree that to eliminate all dairy produce creates personal difficulties which vary in magnitude from one individual to another. We agree also that the present is not the easiest time to make such a change, but we think that in laying the foundations of our Movement now, many will soon join us as one of their 'Peace Aims'. We know that there is particular unrest in the minds of vegetarians generally concerning the use of rennet in cheese making, and as this appears to be the most glaring inconsistency of lacto-vegetarianism, we suggest that others do as we did and eliminate cheese first. Our friend and fellow member Dugald Semple tells us he has never tasted cheese, therefore it cannot be considered as an essential 'binding agent' for body and soul! The following passages from the editorial of the current issue of "The Vegetarian News" does not, we think, allow of much argument: "Most vegetarians are doubtless aware that the use of calve's rennet in the production of cheese has always presented a problem to anyone of humane principles, necessitating as it does the killing of calves to obtain the rennet. In the supposed absence of any purely vegetarian substitute for rennet some vegetarians abstain altogether from the use of cheese, except for the simple cottage varieties, while probably the majority of vegetarians take their ration of ordinary cheese and try to forget the incidence of the calve's rennet in its making." Should moralists dissipate their energies trying to forget such things?

During the war eggs have all but vanished, and they can readily be dispensed with for good without any sense of loss if one dwells on the fact that they are for the most part nothing more than reconstituted grubs and beetles! The elimination of milk undoubtedly presents the greatest difficulty. Nut milk is a good substitute, but it does not go well in tea (therefore cut out the tea and add yet another ten years to your life!)

Those of us who have lived for long periods without dairy produce are able to give the assurance that we remain well and strong; that we enjoy our food as much as ever, and that once the new diet has been arranged the sight and smell of dairy produce is soon forgotten.

"The incidence of disease of one kind and another continues to be a great limiting factor in milk production, besides involving loss to the farmer. Tuberculosis is one of the most intractable sources of trouble, so much so that a speaker at the Farmers' Club recently said we had made no progress in the last 40 years." - The Agricultural Correspondent,"The Yorkshire Post",18.11.44.

"Give me a drink of whisky, I'm thirsty."
"You should drink milk - milk makes blood."
"But I'm not blood-thirsty."

67 Evesham Road, Leicester. Donald Watson.