Editor’s Corner Guest Essay: Climbing Jacob’s (Vegan) Ladder
By Will Tuttle
With every passing day, there are more of us self-identifying as vegans. As we increasingly learn about the health and environmental consequences, as well as the violence inherent in animal-sourced foods, the momentum of change builds. Given the dire effects of animal agriculture, both externally and internally, it’s now become clear that making an effort to encourage this transformational vegan movement is the most benevolent action any of us can undertake. The beauty of it is that every one of us has gifts we can contribute.
An Early Stage: Health Concerns
One thing that calls out for greater understanding, though, is what veganism actually is. In my 33 years of vegan living, I’ve come to see that like many things there are levels in veganism—stages we can go through on our vegan journey. At the surface level, and this is what motivates many of us in the beginning; we are concerned about our health. Through the valiant efforts of many health pioneers such as John McDougall, T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell and Rip Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, Gabriel Cousens, and popular films like Forks Over Knives, millions of people are learning about the undisputed health benefits of eating a whole-foods plant-based diet.
At the same time, in spite of industry efforts to conceal the ugly realities, we are gradually learning about the deleterious health effects and toxins inherent in animal flesh, dairy products, and eggs. Many of us who now call ourselves vegans are finding our weight normalizing, our energy increasing, and disturbing symptoms disappearing. But we will typically feel little compunction if we eat some fish, cheese, or meat occasionally because our motivation is primarily health-related, and cheating here and there is not going to matter too much. I’ve noticed over the years that in many cases, however, the motivation will deepen toward vegan compassion as time goes by. People who are no longer eating animal foods for health reasons often become more open to hearing about the violence routinely inflicted on animals for food and other uses, and upon making these connections, their motivation deepens beyond self interest to compassion for others. Now they are much less willing to cheat to fit into social situations, or to fulfill a craving.
Concern About Cruelty
Other people come to veganism because of their concern about cruelty to animals. They hear a news report about an undercover video of animal abuse, or watch a YouTube video, or read something and decide to become vegetarian or vegan because they don’t want to contribute to animal cruelty. Of course, milk is liquid meat as the saying goes, and so vegetarians consuming dairy and/or eggs are still contributing to cruelty and often see only marginal health improvements because of the toxins endemic to dairy products and eggs.
Those of us who move all the way to veganism because of animal cruelty concerns may still be at a relatively . . . early stage in our journey. First, there is the danger that the vegan diet we adopt will be relatively unhealthy. As a vegan, it’s easy with our industrialized food system to continue to consume large quantities of processed foods, GMO corn, soy, and canola, and unhealthy levels of sugar, salt, and fat, and therefore find our health suffering. If we fail as new vegans to make an effort to understand the foundations of healthy plant-based eating, we may find our health compromised, and at the hands of an often antagonistic culture of family, friends, and health professionals, find ourselves isolated and vulnerable to the inner and outer pressures to conform to the official stories and indoctrination rampant in our culture.
Anger at Supporters of the System
If we’re able to progress past these initial pitfalls in our vegan journey and are successfully eating a healthy plant-based diet for ethical reasons, we may find ourselves at the stage where we become chronically angry at others for continuing to support animal cruelty by eating animal foods, and frustrated and grief-stricken just knowing about the immense suffering that no one seems to care about. This is a difficult place to be.
In a sense, we’ve gone beyond the . . . veganism of being only concerned about our health, or the knee-jerk reaction of going vegan because of being traumatized by watching an undercover video. But now we’re feeling angry and hurt, and are perceived by others as being judgmental, moody, unhappy, and condescending. Fortunately, we can move beyond this middle stage on the vegan journey, and there are many more stages of progress as we develop our experience and understanding. Deep veganism arises in us as a heart-felt aspiration to embody lovingkindness in all of our relations with others, both human and nonhuman. It emerges as a sense of vast inclusivity. We realize that people who are not yet vegan have been wounded by pervasive cultural programming that has in many ways shut down their natural wisdom and compassion from birth. We see that we have all been wounded by the meat rituals and our culture’s food program that desensitizes us and breeds exclusivism, elitism, disconnectedness, commodification, competition, and self-centeredness. Deep compassion begins to grow in our hearts for all living beings and our interconnected suffering. We begin to yearn more than anything to embody the liberating truth-essence of veganism in every thought, word, and action.
Compassion for All Beings
As long as we see veganism as merely a reaction to the violence inherent in our culture, we will be caught in the shallows, and somewhat ineffective as individuals and as a movement. As we go deeper and realize that veganism—the compassionate and utterly transformative alternative to the status quo—is our future beckoning us, we will be able, like the caterpillar, to open to a deep change in our way of being and relating to others. As articulated by Donald Watson when he coined the word in 1944, veganism is the aspiration to radical compassion for all sentient beings. It is not an outer rule but the fulfillment of our own values. As each of us awakens the yearning to fulfill our potential for freedom, justice, and being part of an awakening of human consciousness, we increasingly embody vegan values, and we no longer convince primarily by our arguments, but by our presence.
When we reach a critical mass of people authentically embodying veganism as compassion for all, then we’ll manifest a vegan (r)evolution to a world where peace, abundance, and care for all beings is not just possible but natural. This will be unstoppable because it reflects our true nature. I have no idea what that critical mass actually is, but I have a feeling that our attaining it depends on me--on all of us me’s who each, in our unique way, can hear the call to more fully embody vegan living.
There’s no greater gift we can give the world than this.
“There is no saint without a past; there is no sinner without a future.”--Augustine of Hippo
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
“We must fight injustice to animals as we do injustice to blacks, women and gays” - Archbishop Desmond Tutu
--Contributed by the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
"Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man. Compassion and
loving kindness are the hallmarks of happiness and achievement."--The Dalai Lama
--Contributed by Rozi Ulics
A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
Sharing the Bounty
The still-common idea of animals as red in tooth and claw, locked in competition for food and other goods, is belied by film clips of animals taking considerable trouble to share food with other animals, even of different species. Most of these are “domesticated” animals, but the same has been observed in the wild.
--Contributed by Sally Campbell
UK Announces End to Animal Acts in Circuses
Gratitude, celebration, rejoicing is in order as we dance to the news that the UK has announced that it is to ban all wild animal acts in circuses effective December 2015. By doing this they join other European nations, including Austria, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. See Circus Ban
--Contributed by Will Tuttle
Keeping Our Good Will
It’s hard at times to stay positive when others respond in a hostile way to our veganism. Here are some pointers for remaining kind ourselves while we convey the message of kindness. Tips
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Rolling Stone Exposes the Animal Industry
The prominent magazine Rolling Stone has published a lengthy article exposing the barbaric treatment of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses! It hides nothing: clearly, the price of cheap meat is animal torture. (Unfortunately, the solution offered at the end is a sustainable farm that still raises animals to be killed and eaten.) See Expose
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
FDA Announces Plan to Reduce Farm Antibiotics Use
It is well known that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a major threat to public health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a plan to curb antibiotic use in “livestock,” where the majority of antibiotics are used. However, the FDA's plan depends on the voluntary compliance of pharmaceutical manufacturers. Is this just another fox-and-henhouse measure? For pro and con reports, see Antibiotic Use and Bittner
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Desmond Tutu Speaks Up for Animals!
South Africa’s famed archbishop (emeritus), for decades a heroic voice on behalf of oppressed humans, now in his eighties has written an uncompromising foreword to the forthcoming Global Guide to Animal Protection, edited by Andrew Linzey of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. Tutu makes it clear that Jewish and Christian scriptures entail compassion and respect for animals. See Tutu
1/2 cup chopped nuts, any kind
1/2 cup wholemeal bread crumbs
2 teas. Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 3 T. water
1/4 cup water or vegetable broth
1/2 cup thick white sauce (see below)
1 cup onions, sauteed in 1 teaspoon oil in nonstick pan
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley (or ¼ cup dried)
1/2 teas. celery salt
Other seasoning as desired
1 T light olive oil
1 T. water
1 & 1/2 T wholegrain flour
1/2 cup soy or almond milk
pinch of salt and of pepper
Grease a baking pan, or use a nonstick pan. To break up the nuts, put in a bag and pound or roll with a rolling pin or large bottle. For the white sauce, in a small saucepan stir the oil, water and flour together until smooth over medium heat. Gradually stir in the soymilk, continuing until it thickens. For the egg replacer, in a teacup mix together the Replacer and 3 & 1/2 T. water until smooth; let stand a few minutes. Mix all the ingredients and turn into the baking pan. Bake in a moderate oven 25 minutes. This tasty casserole is even better served with Mushroom Gravy (see below)
* * *
This recipe is veganized and otherwise modified from a favorite in my much-stained 1967 Complete Vegetarian Recipe Book by Englishman Ivan Baker. The book includes mysterious ingredients such as aubergines, haricot, and celeriac, which called for some detective work from this US-American. Baker’s dishes are tasty but the cooking times are much too long, quite in keeping with the stereotype of the overcooked English meal. For this recipe the time is cut in half.
2 cubes low-salt vegetable broth bouillon
¼ cup medium onion, chopped small
3 ½ T whole grain flour
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 ½ T. soy sauce
4 or 5 medium mushrooms, sliced
In a small saucepan, heat the water and dissolve the bouillon cubes in it. Meanwhile, in a nonstick saucepan, place 3 T of the bouillon water; shake in the flour, a little at a time, stirring to keep sauce smooth, alternately adding the water little by little. When it begins to thicken, add the soy sauce, mushrooms, and onion, and cook a few minutes longer.
Earlier versions of these two recipes appeared in the November 2004 PT.
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
Film Review: Free Birds
FREE BIRDS. A 2013 computer- animated film from Creative Studios. Directed by Jimmy Hayward. Featuring Owen Wilson as Reggie. Woody Harrelson as Jake. George Takei as STEVE (the time machine), Colm Meaney as Miles Standish. Amy Poehler as Jenny, Jimmy Hayward as the President.
Reggie the avian is not a big fan of Thanksgiving, because he has figured out that his feathered people are intended to be killed and eaten for the feast. Ironically, he becomes the Pardoned Turkey in the random, capricious process that spares one bird while all the rest remain fated to be slaughtered and devoured. The choice is made by the President's daughter. Her father would prefer a bigger, fleshier, more photogenic bird - but the news media all back the sweet, cute First Daughter. Reggie is now free to spend his time eating pizza and watching soap operas in Spanish.
Then he, poor guy, is forcefully recruited by a big, muscular turkey named Jake, head and sole member of the Turkey Liberation Front, to travel back to 1621 and save the race of turkeys from being the USA's main Thanksgiving meal. Jake claims inspiration for this project by the Great Turkey. Reggie is far from enthusiastic, but is given no choice. The turkeys do not have time-travel technology, but the US government does, so our feathered heroes stow away in Uncle Sam's time machine, taking advantage of the fact that the American soldier who was supposed to take the trip deserts as soon as he learns that the mission is seriously life-threatening.
The world of 1621 is not what you would expect. The turkeys have taken to living in underground tunnels to hide from the pilgrims. Miles Standish, famous in history as the military head of Plymouth Colony, is here also the head of the hunters; he has an evil face and three ferocious hunting dogs, no doubt one of the main reasons for the extinction of the cougar east of the Mississippi. As soon as the turkeys win a victory over the hunters, Standish manages to wreck things again.
This is the only animated movie I have seen in which dogs are portrayed in a totally negative light; I am not happy about this. A pro-turkey dog would improve the movie quite a bit. The film is lacking in music and in humor, but it is full of plot complications; too many to describe them all, without even worrying about spoilers. Will the poor birds be able to save themselves from the massacre? And if so, will the victory be a violent one, or will a peaceful win-win solution be found? Will our hero and heroine get together? Will the Wampanoag show up for the party? (By the way, the Wampanoag, after four centuries, are still there--this is a cheerful and comforting thought!) The movie is not a deathless work, but animal-friendly humans will find that it’s worthwhile watching to find out the answers.
Book Review: Main Street Vegan
Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World. By Victoria Moran and Adair Moran. New York: Tarcher-Penguin, 2012. 382 pages, $14.40 paperback.
When I started Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan, having been sixteen years vegan and having read extensively on her topics, I was surprised to find it a real page-turner. Main Street Vegan is an easy-reading encyclopedia of all matters related to being or becoming a vegan. Its chief qualities: thorough; easy-reading; cheerful, empowering; wise, insightful; warm, companionable.
Moran describes her veganism as a two-lane road, the ethical side, refraining from exploitation and violence against animals plus saving the environment, and the human health side, preventing disease and promoting longevity. She explores almost every aspect related to a vegan diet, citing major authorities, yet always keeping the discussion light and friendly. The book is full of inspiring quotes — from prominent figures, and her own elegant words. And she provides an easy vegan recipe at the end of each of forty chapters, including vegan “Neat Loaf,” “Working Man
Stew,” vegan pizza, kale chips, vegan quiche, chickpea curry, seitan stroganoff, smoothies, cobblers, pumpkin pie, and chocolate cake!
Moran grounds the health-promoting effects of a vegan diet in the American Dietetic
Association’s statement, “...vegan diets ... are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and ... appropriate
for ... all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and
adolescence, and for athletes.” (pp. 261-262) She cites prominent MDs on healthful effects of plant-based foods and harmful effects of animal foods, which contribute to cancer, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. She touches on powerful commercial
interests pushing animal-based foods. She helps vegans, with humor, answer the ubiquitous
question of where they get their protein, with the easy answer, “everywhere!” then explores harmful
effects of protein overdoses. Moran offers “Five Fitness Groups” — vegetables, fruits, legumes,
whole grains, nuts and seeds — delving into the richness of each for human health. “Time is good
to vegans,” (p. 322) because we’re not consuming cholesterol, saturated fat, protein overdoses,
antibiotics, synthetic hormones, secondhand GM corn fed to farmed animals, or the “fear poisons”
that flood an animal’s system at slaughter. Plant-based good health also enables vegans to take
fewer drugs (almost all drugs tested on animals).
Without a heavy hand, Moran addresses cruelty and violence toward animals, tackling the
horrors suffered by 10 billion animals per year (not counting fish) killed in the U.S. for food (58
billion worldwide) — geese, chickens raised for eggs, chickens and turkeys raised for meat (no laws
protecting birds at slaughter), pigs, cattle, dairy cows, and fish. She honors the sensitivity and
mental and emotional complexity of each species. She discusses horrors within “cage-free”
operations, the lack or failures of legal protections, and some encouraging new laws appearing. She counters notions of “humane” slaughter and “free-range” labels, which do not guarantee what consumers assume, and are not always accurately labeled. She wonders, “What ethical justification could there possibly be for breeding sentient beings to be murdered in adolescence or earlier to provide food that is injurious to human health and environmental integrity?” (p. 40).
Moran explores devastating environmental destruction caused by animal agriculture, quoting
former cattle rancher turned vegan Howard Lyman, “To consider yourself an environmentalist and
still eat meat is like saying you’re a philanthropist who doesn’t give to charity” (p. 135), and Stewart
Rose, “...walking actually uses more petroleum than driving! ... That is, unless you’re a vegetarian”
(p. 139), adding her own resonant voice, “...I’m nonplussed when someone suggests that we have to
choose between having prosperity and having a planet, when, in fact, without Mother Earth’s
resources and cooperation, we’re all sunk.” (p. 135) Adair and Victoria Moran
She cites the UN/FAO’s finding, in Livestock’s
Long Shadow, that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouses gas emissions than all
transportation worldwide. She highlights one step to alleviate almost every environmental crisis: go
Moran touches upon world hunger and distributive justice, how going vegan helps feed the
hungry. With one-third of the global grain harvest and 90% of soy going to feed livestock, bringing
a very poor nutrient return on investment, she advises, “With the human population set to reach 9
billion before mid-century, consumption of animal products ... is a recipe for famine.” (p. 54)
Moran addresses multiple topics tangential to veganism, including: priorities in transitioning
into a vegan diet (eliminate chicken before red meat, and eggs ASAP); organic foods (the
Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen”); restaurants; juicing; fasting;
alcohol; soy or gluten intolerance; debunking the myth of soy feminizing men; debunking the myth
linking meat and masculinity; prominent African American vegans; horrors of fur, down, silk,
leather; cruelties of circuses, rodeos, greyhound racing, horse racing, cities’ carriage horses, puppy
mills; experimentation on animals; raising vegan kids; supporting kids who choose a vegan diet
(“...a boon to their development. They’ll learn to stand up for themselves, ask for what they need,
and develop the courage to put the welfare of another ahead of fitting in.” [p. 268]); denigrating of
vegans (“...you’re ... causing them to look at their own choices.” [p. 302]); misunderstandings about
animals rights activists (“...in this arena for more than thirty years, I haven’t met a single person who
espoused violence. ...animal rights and ethical veganism have historically been Gandhian
movements.” [p. 317]); spiritual traditions; and staying the course (“...lessening suffering ... is
among the most honorable tasks you’ll undertake in this life.” [p. 337]).
Moran concedes many reasons to despair, “[b]ut what’s positive in the midst of the bleakness
is that you’re living at a time when your personal actions ... can change things profoundly.” (p. 237)
“When you stop eating animals and animal products, you’re a hero to all those suffering in
confinement operations, languishing on feedlots, terrified in transport, and murdered in
slaughterhouses.” (p. 279) “Your actions are so powerful, they’ll touch people and animals and
forests and oceans you may never see. ... Because you’re not eating them, fewer animals are being
bred for a life of confinement and an ugly, early death. More trees grow. More water flows.
There’s more food for somebody who has not had enough in way too long.” (p. 343)
Main Street Vegan comes highly recommended!
--Virginia Iris Holmes
For Love of Animals
Charles Camosy, For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action. Cincinnati, Ohio: Franciscan Media, 2013. 136 pages. $15.99 softcover.
This concise and highly readable book packs a lot into a short space, and indeed would be ideal to give as a first book on animal concerns to a person of serious Christian and biblical orientation. The author is a Roman Catholic, a professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University, and one of the great values of For Love of Animals is the wealth of supportive resources for the concern it offers from Catholic catechisms and papal documents.
Yet it could hardly be less sectarian in tone. Camosy discusses the biblical passages most often raised in animal debates from Genesis to Paul, often with rich insight, as well as citing Protestant and Eastern Orthodox figures, including the much-beloved Anglican writer C.S. Lewis. who, besides dealing with animal topics in his Narnian stories, wrote on the ethical challenges of animal pain and vivisection.
Camosy covers the diet of Eden, the meaning of "dominion" in Genesis, the meaning of meat-eating and animal sacrifice in the Hebrew scriptures, which, as the prophets make clear, fell far short of the ideal for humanity of the God who "took no delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats." (Is. 1:11) In the New Testament, he deals with the matter of whether Jesus sent demons into pigs, consumed lamb at the Last Supper, or ate fish. He does not hesitate to hold that Paul, partly a product of Greek culture, was not entirely consistent with Genesis on animal issues. The adjudication of the dispute between Peter and Paul by James, "the brother of the Lord," at the apostolic conference in Acts 15, though permitting a very limited application of the Jewish law, came down firmly against any acts such as strangulation which caused animals needless pain. In the latter part of the book, Camosy moves on to such necessary issues as factory farming, animal experimentation, hunting, pets, and whether we need to eat meat at all.
In all this, Camosy's case fundamentally rests on Genesis 1, particularly the observation that God created everything good--including, needless to say, animals as well as humans, both given life on the same day. Indeed, no distinction in this "goodness" is made between humans and animals, and as they were for Adam, the beasts were meant to be our companions and given names. They were not "things" or mere instruments of our pleasure or even need. The author makes the important point that God is not concerned much to explain how or why he made the creation, or to establish hierarchy within it, but rather to proclaim through voices from Moses (a patient and skillful shepherd) to Jesus, that it is all suffused with love, is all good and therefore all of great value, and demands no moral response but love for all its innumerable beings.
It might be added that Camosy, as a Catholic ethicist, is "pro-life," but definitely of the consistent, "seamless garment" stamp. Despite the resistance of many to doing so, he insists it is not all that hard to "connect the dots" and see that the logic of opposing violence against the human fetus must also apply to violence against animal life, also "good" and entitled to life for its own sake and not just human convenience. He is clear that being pro-life today means not only being anti-abortion, but no less being vegetarian and being highly skeptical, at the least, of animal experimentation and hunting.
Again, this book is highly recommended. For Love of Animals serves, as suggested, as an excellent introduction for newcomers to the field. More seasoned readers of The Peaceable Table will find in it wonderful concise reflections on questions commonly asked, together with a invigorating theoretical perspective -- emerging, I might add, in others of a newer generation of Catholic theologians (e.g. the former Vatican astronomer George V. Coyne) -- that emphasizes God as a God not of explanations but of love poured out into a creation already there and always good. If so, this is good news for the animals, who may not be philosophers but who can respond to love.
Charles Camosy, an assistant professor at Fordham University, will be the seventh speaker in the Animals and the Kingdom of God lecture series at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Poetry: Anonymous, 14th Century
Lenten ys come with love to toune,
With blosmen ant with briddes roune,
That al this blisse bryngeth;
Dayes-eyes in this dales,
Notes suete of nyhtegales,
Vch foul song singeth;
The threstlecoc him threteth oo;
Away is here wynter wo,
When woderove springeth;
This foules singeth ferly fele,
And wlyteth on here winter wele,
That al the wode ryngeth . . .
Springtide Darkling Thrush or Black Robin
Lent has come with love to town,
With blossoms and wild singers round,
That all this rapture bring;
Of daisies in the dales,
Sweet notes of nightingales,
The joyous avians sing;
The thrushes celebrate it so:
“Away goes all our winter woe,
When woodruff blossoms spring;”;
Their song they trill so tirelessly
When April’s welcome sun they see,
That all the forests ring . . .
Woodruff blossoms --Translated by Sr. Faith Bowman