I was fascinated to read a letter in support of the Extinction Rebellion last week, expressing support, as business people, for the aims of XR. After 24 years focused on voluntary business efforts on sustainable development, last year I abandoned that to explore different approaches to our climate disaster. That included supporting people putting together […]
Today on Earth Day, although we shouldn’t need an ‘Earth Day’, my interview with Kyle Hilding of Library of Humanity, is published.
?You Gather? -Vegan and Climate Activism (for Heroines and Heroes) #14
Hello heroines. Heroes, how are you doing? Are you keeping a lid on the patriarchy? I hope so.
Woohoo it’s kicking off in London! Look at this video! Especially the kids having fun! Bring your kids to London to rebel!
Believe it or not, my heart has been very heavy today. Heavy with planetary grief and personal loneliness. And heavy because I couldn’t find the inspiration to write this post -that is, until I visited my friend the River Taw.
Until a few weeks ago I had been heavily involved with the international Extinction Rebellion (XR) but right now I have taken a step back. I am still fully supportive of XR. I need a rest, I need to play it cool with the Law to get a visiting visa to Canada, and I need to focus on Epic Tomorrows. We do have to be strategic as front-line activists as to how and when we get arrested (if at all), and as to how we manage our time and lives in general.
I will admit I am finding the gathering, listing and curating of websites into spreadsheets for my Well Gathered workbook terminally boring at times. But I also have intense flashes of vision as to how this gathering is leading towards a truly valuable service that could help speed up activism the world over. That may sound bold, but if you are as obsessive as I am about the truth, and how to present the truth to make positive change, you will understand my claim!
Gathering information this past week about farms and slaughterhouses in the UK, particularly as regards farm animal welfare, it occurred to me how vast a spell society is under when it comes to where and how our food is produced. Spell is surely the right word. We do not live in a scientific society or a rational society, let alone a humane one.
I have often heard the ills of the modern world blamed on positivist and Enlightenment thinking -specifically that the only valid knowledge is that which is scientifically verified. Yet when it comes to modern industrialised farming, especially animal agriculture, no amount of scientific verification that the industry is wrecking biodiversity, the atmosphere, animal welfare and human health, seems to affect its continuance.
The media has a lot to answer for, of course. I look back incredulously at my childhood and the flood of tv adverts that I must have absorbed, telling me that pasteurised, homogenised cow’s milk is the best source of calcium. (I have now researched this to be a ridiculous claim. I will write a post on this within the next fortnight).
It is only by gathering enough information, misinformation and disinformation on an issue that we can learn the truth enough to communicate it to make change. Once we have learnt that truth, we must be as strategic as possible in how we apply that truth to our activism -including in the messaging that we convey to prospective supporters.
Well Gathered is my attempt to provide a tool which helps you gather the truth and then employ it in activist strategy.
Back to XR -daily my heart is both lifted and torn to see the various extensive news items about the Rebels in London. Torn because part of me wishes I was there. They are holding down at least four different locations, including Waterloo Bridge where hundreds of arrests have taken place since the beginning of the Rebellion on the 15th. Here’s Caspar of the Climate Media Coalition in a photo of the bridge he uploaded to Facebook this evening. (I will get to those ‘5 reasons…’ of the post title, just bear with me!)
I have been smiling at the scenes on Waterloo and at Oxford Circus which can be described as more of a party than a protest. So far I have witnessed (remotely) the transforming of Waterloo Bridge into an urban garden, a classical violin concerto at the same location, a massive pink boat bolted into the ground in the middle of Oxford Circus (illegally of course) and dozens of Rebels being carried off by police amongst cheering crowds.
Then I read critical comments of XR from folk on Facebook who just don’t seem to get it -and by ‘it’ I mean the severity of the ecological crisis we are in. Yes it would be better if XR had more of a diverse ethnic and class representation, but it doesn’t. We are still trying. You won’t beat us with whining criticisms or even intelligent (but still whingey) online articles, so please join us and help us improve in those areas where we obviously need improvement. Cornwall veteran Rebel Zoe Young puts it better on Facebook:
God knows I realise that in XR we need to appeal to so many more people and types of people than we are currently doing. I thought this Guardian video was really excellent in its inclusion of the two young women who made the point that if it was a group of mainly black people sitting down in the road, they would have been arrested much sooner (most probably).
Personally I am wondering about the builders working on a new block of flats right opposite the block I’m in. How could they be persuaded to the XR cause? How can I teach them about the severity of the ecological crisis? In a way that they will listen?
Being quite alone in my flat, everything I feel as I engage with folk online (even if it is only one-way engagement) seems to be magnified -drawn in sharp relief against the emotionally uneventful -and not a little stressed- background of my day to day life right now. It seems as if the stress and the uniformity (dullness?) I am currently experiencing are pre-requisites to the business launch of Epic Tomorrows, but actually I know it doesn’t have to be like that.
Indeed I have had moments this week of relaxing -relinquishing personal rules that aren’t serving me and taking on new guidelines of efficiency, as well as allowing a little spontaneity here and there.
One such spontaneous moment was this morning. I couldn’t face beginning this post. (Yes I know, I know, and now it’s too long). I felt so lonely. I have begun a relationship with a woman in Canada -the plan is that she will move here to live with me. We’ve been getting on extraordinarily well, but not being physically in each other’s presence is of course frustrating and can make the loneliness in-between our communications more acute.
With it being a nice sunny day, I decided to get down to the Taw for a little relaxation and refreshment. I found my regular sitting spot with the intention of finding some inspiration for today’s post.
Realising that I was dehydrated and hadn’t brought water, and not trusting that the river Taw doesn’t have toxic agricultural run-off in it, I stayed only long enough to read the first story in the gathering of tales that is ‘Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters’ by Kathleen Ragan. (The featured image at the top of this post is the front cover.)
I was indeed inspired by ‘The Stolen Bairn and the Sidh’, a folk tale from Scotland. To cut a short story even shorter, a human woman leaves her baby (bairn) on a cliff path to go in search of water (not advisable at the best of times). Of course the Sidh (big fairy type beings) make off with the bairn and take it to their kingdom.
Our heroine can only enter the kingdom to retrieve the baby if she presents two objects of uncommon beauty and value to the Sidh, which she does by crafting original objects with her own hands. The first object is a gown made from downy feathers that she collects from the cliff-side, shed from eider ducks, with her own golden hair sown in which she cuts off for the purpose. The second object is a harp made from a whale bone washed up on the beach, strung with some more of her hair.
After reading the story it struck me how the climate and ecological catastrophe that is unfolding around us can be likened to the kingdom of the mean Sidh. The fairies are not evil but presented as mischievous and thoroughly misguided, in the same way that our fossil fuel CEOs are. The bairn is all our children, our nephews and nieces who are currently held hostage by a future that we have as yet failed to avert.
In order to get our bairn back, we must use two unusual and rare forces. The first is mass civil disobedience. The second, put in motion by the first, is participatory democracy. There will be no quick techo-fixes, which is why our own hands, our own hard work are implicated in both of these forces.
We must cut off our hair -in other words our vanity and consumerist egos– in order to employ these forces effectively. Moreover, movements like XR for me can only be the very beginning of a long journey to respond effectively to The Evidence of the declining efficiency and growing evils of neoliberal capitalist economics.
So now I will get round to the original point of this post, which was intended to catch any straggling vegan activists who for some reason haven’t made it to London to join XR (maybe it’s a good reason, like mine is).
6 reasons for all hardcore vegan activists to get to London RIGHT NOW!
1) XR needs your energy! Some vegans have been amongst the highest energy, most focused people I have met, and game for a fight, metaphorically speaking. For some vegans it may be something to do with the discipline of keeping a vegan diet, in the beginning, which is hard if you are not used to it. I know this discipline has given me a feeling of focus and sharpness, which is akin to how I have felt in the austere environments of Theravadin Buddhist monasteries. As long as it is peaceful, can you bring this energy to London right now please? Folk are being arrested on Waterloo Bridge and at other locations all the time, with a constant need for reinforcements. It’s fine to bring your kids and you don’t have to be ‘an arrestable’.
2) There are already lots of vegans involved in XR. I know them personally. XR naturally attracts vegans because it is a peaceful, compassionate, heartfelt movement for ecological justice. Listen to this Talk Radio segment to hear about how the police are baffled at how happy the XR activists are, even as they are getting arrested.
3) Living vegan alone is nowhere near enough to save the planet / save our civilisation from collapse. I expand on this a little in point 1) of the most popular post I have ever written here.
4) We need to get more strategic about our activism and the way that issues intersect. Any serious vegan, I would suggest, should also be campaigning on the addressing of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, as the meat industry is heavily implicated in both. If XR achieves its aims of the creation of a national citizens’ assembly to oversee reduction to carbon zero by 2025, then naturally a drastic reduction of large-scale industrialised meat farming in the UK will occur. But first we need to achieve our aims. Bake some vegan cakes and get to London!!
5) It could be good PR for veganism as a stand-alone issue, if you get to London now. There have been unlimited news reports on the XR actions in London and internationally in the past few days, including some sympathetic Financial Times and Sky News coverage. Make your vegan signs, be creative and gentle and suggestive with them! Mingle into the general XR signage. You may even be able to gather enough vegans together in London to do a separate vegan action at a well-known meat establishment. How about a sign that reads:
‘Vegan for XR’ ??? or even just ‘XR Vegan’ (XRV) ???
6) It’s fun! There are all kinds of civilly disobedient shenanigans going on. Watch wonderful example:
Thanks for reading! Please like, comment, share or slam! Additionally, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com to help me evolve in my service to you, (or just give me a load of abuse if that’s your thing). Subscribe to blog posts by email at the top of the sidebar. Click here to buy the WELL GATHERED Workbook. Heroic!
Here’s the Facebook version of this post (click on the little blue ‘f’ to go there!):
[Latest XR London arrests: over 400 and counting]
Featured image: a lane on the outskirts of North Tawton, amongst the gorgeous countryside, where I sometimes remember to walk, to relax.
?You Gather? – Vegan and Climate Activism (for Heroines and Heroes) #13
Heroines, heroes, it’s almost time for the international Extinction Rebellion (XR). The Rebellion that will go down in history as the most fun and festive Rebellion ever!
Check here for a whole bunch of crazy, fun and half-illegal stuff happening in the middle of London and around the world from 15th April.
In this post, I want to share some information specifically useful to vegan activists –whether you support XR or not. My next post will be ‘5 reasons why vegans should support the international Extinction Rebellion’, so look out for it! On a side note, a couple of days ago I finally retrieved the XR jacket I wore for this action in January, from Exeter police station. In the background here you can see the map with pins in that Devon and Cornwall Counter-Terrorism questioned me about, and probably got the wrong idea about, when they visited me earlier this year (for being a dangerous window-painting activist!)
If you read my last post, the most popular I have ever written, you may be forgiven for thinking that I want to create arguments with vegans -but the opposite is true. I am interested in the truth above everything. Only the truth will purify our activism and set it free. Especially for you hardcore vegan activists who are prepared to get arrested for your actions (non-violent please), I’m sure you appreciate you need to be operating from a sound information base to maximise your effectiveness. With all uncertainty cleared from your hearts, you can strike like fire.
As part of my product building for the Well Gathered workbook for vegan and climate activists -to be released in three weeks- I have been specifically researching, over the past few days, online articles supporting veganism from a general sustainability and land use point of view. These are listed in my ‘Vegan Science & News’ spreadsheet, which is one of the spreadsheets of a dozen included in Well Gathered. Other sheets include Climate Science / News, Climate & ‘Eco’ Activist groups -with preference given to NVDA- and Vegan & Animal Rights Activist groups. Here’s a screenshot of the (incomplete) Climate Science spreadsheet, to give you an idea of where I’m going with this whole thing:
I will be cross-referencing all sites and I am providing notes to help guide users with how to use the information. (Go here to be one of the first 30 to pioneer my product). After the first 30 I will stop selling for a couple of weeks as I want to concentrate on working with my first thirty customers -I’m looking to add value for free, on an ad hoc basis, through phonecalls and emails, developing product ideas by researching information for you on anything you want, if it is sustainability related. I’ve got three customers so far, so you’ve still got time…
Within the Vegan Science & News spreadsheet, there will also be sections looking at veganism from animal rights and human nutritional and well-being perspectives. But for now I would like to share these 5 articles with you which look at veganism purely from a general sustainability perspective. Even if you are not a vegan activist -even if you are not vegan!- looking for a solid science base to your activism, you may still find these useful-
5 online articles for a solid sustainability science base for vegan activism:
1) Veganism and Permaculture?
The Vegan Book of Permaculture by Graham Burnett. Writing about this in the linked article, the co-founder of Permaculture Magazine and Permanent Publications Maddy Harland writes:
What we at Permanent Publications really respect and love about Graham Burnett, the author of the Vegan Book of Permaculture, is his enabling approach. He inspires people in a positive way to eat more vegan and vegetarian dishes rather than shaking angry sticks at them. Let’s encourage people to question where their food is coming from and to save lots of money by following Graham’s suggestions: Eating more vegan food, growing our own, community gardening, buying from wholefood co-ops, shopping locally, sharing the harvest and generally taking positive and pro-active steps towards living more lightly on our planet.
However be warned that the majority of the article defends Regenerative Agriculture and certain biodiversity conservation practices, including grazing animals and hunting wild squirrel, rabbit and deer to keep populations down (to allow diversity of fauna growth -because we don’t have lynx and wolves any more). I’m not commenting on whether Maddy Harland is right or wrong here as a whole, but if you are a hardcore vegan you need to be aware of these sophisticated arguments for eating omnivorously. For success in activism you must ‘know your enemy’ inside out.
2) Vegetarianism is Good For the Economy Too
This article is a must for hardcore vegans looking to convince hardcore economists / capitalists, from the very respectable and progressive (within the limits of capitalism) World Economic Forum. Ultimately we need to dismantle capitalism, but meanwhile this article could win you some battles. As well as the sustainability and economics of veganism and vegetarianism this article includes neat sections on animal welfare and human nutrition. This from the section on sustainability:
According to the World Health Organization, every year over 20 million people will die as a result of malnutrition, and approximately one billion people suffer from chronic hunger. Most of the food that is currently fed to animals could instead be used to directly feed the world’s hungry. What we often fail to realize is that the crops required to sustain livestock are fuel for a project that creates food to supplement the creation of more food. Instead of supplying the grains yielded from the crops to human beings in desperate need of it and those affected by the world food crisis, those crops are fed to livestock, exacerbating the pace of the current climate change crisis.
3) This Vegan Brand Just Proved That Plant-Based Burgers Are More Sustainable Than Those Made Of Beef
This may seem like a relatively trivial matter in the global picture of sustainable food production, climate breakdown, animal welfare and nutrition. However we need more mainstream sites printing mainstream articles like this. America and Australia are two of the world’s highest per capita carbon dioxide emitters. As we know, the global industrialised meat industry is a high emitter of greenhouse gases, even compared to plant-based industrial agriculture (although plant-based is still pretty terrible). America and Australia are also two nations where burgers are a large part of the national diet, so this article is useful ammunition for vegan activists. From the article:
Beyond Burger generates 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46% less non-renewable energy, has more than 99% less impact on water scarcity and 93% less impact on land use than a quarter pound of US beef. To give you an idea of the real-life impact, according to a spokesperson for Beyond Meat: “On average, Americans eat three burgers a week. If they switched just one of these beef burgers to a Beyond Burger for a year, it would be like taking 12 million cars off the road and saving enough energy to power 2.3 million homes.”
4) Environmental impact of omnivorous, ovo-lacto-vegetarian and vegan diet
This is an important scientific report, taking into account cultural considerations as well as inter-individual variability in diet. For any vegan activist looking for a nuanced hard science support of veganism from a sustainability perspective. The abstract in full:
Food and beverage consumption has a great impact on the environment, although there is a lack of information concerning the whole diet. The environmental impact of 153 Italian adults (51 omnivores, 51 ovo-lacto-vegetarians, 51 vegans) and the inter-individual variability within dietary groups were assessed in a real-life context. Food intake was monitored with a 7-d dietary record to calculate nutritional values and environmental impacts (carbon, water, and ecological footprints). The Italian Mediterranean Index was used to evaluate the nutritional quality of each diet. The omnivorous choice generated worse carbon, water and ecological footprints than other diets. No differences were found for the environmental impacts of ovo-lacto-vegetarians and vegans, which also had diets more adherent to the Mediterranean pattern. A high inter-individual variability was observed through principal component analysis, showing that some vegetarians and vegans have higher environmental impacts than those of some omnivores. Thus, regardless of the environmental benefits of plant-based diets, there is a need for thinking in terms of individual dietary habits. To our knowledge, this is the first time environmental impacts of three dietary regimens are evaluated using individual recorded dietary intakes rather than hypothetical diet or diets averaged over a population.
5) Vegan Dogs: How Does it Work, and Are They Healthy?
Okay this one is ever-so-slightly off-topic, but bear with me. Your meat-eating friends might try to label you a hypocrite if you keep dogs that eat meat, even just in terms of the global environmental impact and biodiversity loss implicated in dog-food production. However your dog may be able to go vegan. This article is a great introduction to the subject of veganism in dogs, including links to four popular vegan dog food companies. Here’s an extract:
In an interview with CNN, Dr. Fox says that some adult dogs do adapt and even thrive on well-balanced vegan diets, but most do best with a variety of foods that include some animals fats and protein. Still, Fox notes, “Dogs could benefit from a vegan meal at least once a week to detox.”
Okay! I hope the above was useful to you in some way.
Before I go, I want share a dance music mix that has really been helping me work recently. It’s nothing new, but it’s nice: Sima Deep, ‘Make Me Flow’.
If you want to put in a pre-order for the Well Gathered workbook (27 copies left) or if you want to contact me for any other reason, email me (Matthew) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Otherwise, feel free to like, comment, share or slam!
Here’s this post on Facebook in case you want to share from there (although that’s probably where you came from) Click on the small ‘f’ icon below.
Existence is Rebellion: A Regenerative History of the Universe
by Matthew T-hanu Kalessin
Two: The Birth of Galaxies
[All quotes and information below are sourced from the website of the McDonald Observatory in Austin, Texas: https://stardate.org/astro-guide/galaxy-formation]
We have already established that the very existence of the Universe is an act of Rebellion -the original act of Rebellion.
The Hubble Space Telescope and other measuring tools have shown the first galaxies took shape from around one billion years after the Big Bang or the Original Rebellion, as you might call it.
There are two main theories to explain how the first galaxies formed. The truth may involve both theories.
One theory says that galaxies were born when massive clouds of gas and dust collapsed under their own gravitational pull, allowing stars to be created.
The other theory says the young universe contained many small “lumps” of matter, which coalesced to form galaxies.
Every galaxy is a rebellion, because before galaxies, there were no galaxies. Extinction Rebellion is just such a galaxy.
According to the McDonald Observatory, ‘The galaxy-formation process has not stopped. Our universe continues to evolve. Small galaxies are often pulled into larger ones.’
Extinction Rebellion attracts other smaller social movements, gives them a platform and a new, larger centre of gravity.
‘Galaxy mergers happen fairly often. A large portion of the bright galaxies that we see today may have formed from the mergers of two or more smaller galaxies.’
Extinction Rebellion joins in solidarity with other global non-violent direct action movements for ecological and social justice, like Youth Strike For Climate and Earthstrike. Together we can form one uber-movement.
‘Mergers can take anywhere from a few hundred million to a few billion years to complete. They can trigger intense bursts of new star formation’.
Extinction Rebellion is making stars of all of us, but let’s not take too long about it!
‘Galactic collisions rarely produce head-on wrecks between individual stars. Even when two galaxies ram together, the distance between stars is enormous’
Extinction Rebellion and every other global non-violent direct action movement can work together without anyone getting hurt.
‘While galactic collisions rarely destroy stars, they often create them. As vast clouds of gas and dust in merging galaxies slam together, they can create thousands or even millions of new stars.’
The more Extinction Rebellion joins with other movements, the more new volunteers will appear in all movements.
Join the international Extinction Rebellion here.
?You Gather? Vegan and Climate Activism (for Heroines and Heroes) #12
Hello climate heroines. Vegan heroes, what’s up?
This post is directed at some, not all of my vegan activist friends…
Okay, so I have previously classed myself as vegan. At the moment I eat 95% plant-based, with a little honey and very occasional eggs and even more occasional meat, usually in the form of fish. So right now you could call me ‘flexitarian’. I have had diverse conversations about veganism and plant-based diets with 100% hardcore vegan friends, as well as flexitarians, vegetarian and meat-eating friends. I have observed, often with horror, the kind of ‘discussions’ that go on in an often uncivilised and polarised way between vegans and non-vegans online. Particularly on Facebook, which, although many of us find it useful, is not designed to be a platform suited to diplomacy, consciousness raising and conflict resolution.
I am a climate breakdown and sixth mass extinction activist. This is why I organise with Extinction Rebellion. This is the starting place for my activism. This naturally takes me to the conclusion of eating predominantly plant-based for global sustainability reasons. Naturally I also come to the conclusion of being fundamentally against the neoliberal globalised capitalist paradigm we still inhabit, and which inhibits us.
In my view we should be aiming towards relocalised decentralised economies, tied to the land and local biocultural diversity, the true source of regenerative i.e. sustainable culture. The backbone of relocalised economies should be a predominantly de-industrialised, plant-based diet. I think this does mean more people will have to involve themselves in growing or producing food, even if just for a few hours per week. (It will be fun, you’ll get used to it). It is becoming well-known that vegan diets typically have a massively smaller carbon footprint than vegetarian and especially omnivorous diets, (the exception being fruit-only diets). Vegan diets also use significantly less land and water than meat diets, on average. (Different sources give different numbers, but at least ten times less land per pound of protein). Thus to address climate breakdown, cutting out 90% or more of meat and dairy (for most of us) is a no-brainer.
Eating predominantly plant-based for global sustainability reasons does not mean that I am immune to the suffering of animals. I very much want to end industrialised animal agriculture, including for the well-being of the animals involved. I support and empathise with direct actions performed by vegan groups at farms and slaughter-houses. They are at least alerting farmers to how times are changing, and must continue to change.
However, when considering global land use patterns, it is the destruction of entire species of wildlife that pulls at my heart-strings the most, caused by the deforestation and pesticide use associated with all industrial agriculture, not just animal agriculture. The extinction of an entire species might not get you crying like a video of mis-treated farm animals can, but I can assure you that many animals go through physical torture during the process of their entire habitat being wiped out. Not to mention the air miles involved in transporting many of our current staple and favourite foods to the UK…whether they be meat or avocadoes. Aviation drives further exploration for oil and gas, which in turn causes more destruction of habitat and deaths of animals. For instance, see this report from the WWF: https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/oil-and-gas-development
I know there are a lot of very sensitive people amongst vegans. I have met many of them, indeed to an extent I am one of them. Sensitivity is a good thing. I understand why this sensitivity is expressed as anger towards meat-eaters, by some vegans. And I am not someone who takes the suffering of animals lightly. When I discover a fly trapped in my home, I am anxious for its release, and I have previously risked being stung by hornets in order to carefully guide them to freedom. Choosing not to own a motor vehicle is partly motivated by my desire to minimise my impact upon the planet’s wildlife.
My business Epic Tomorrows is motivated fundamentally by compassion. For human beings and towards all life on Earth, from the bacteria which live in my gut, to the whales which swim in the ocean. My current commitment within Epic Tomorrows, as a climate and mass extinction activist, and a flexitarian (at the moment) is to commit to collating, curating and cross-referencing useful web addresses for activists. I’m listing them in a suite of spreadsheets which I’m calling the Well Gathered Workbook.
I have put countless hours into building this product already. I will put in many more ahead of the launch on 24th April. I will be selling only 30 copies at the introductory price of six squids (hopefully six squid or other life forms are not implicated i.e. killed every time a monetary transaction is made somewhere on Earth). After the first 30 copies I will take it off the shelf for a little while. I want to engage with the first 30 (could that be you?) on a deep level to get feedback and find out if there are other ways I can help you individually, (at no charge).
But before I continue to build this product, I just need to get the following out of my system, hopefully in a sensitive way which could trigger bridge-building debate, rather than Facebook point-scoring and Twitter slanging matches. I will admit, the title of this post is deliberately provocative, to alert more people to my post -a marketing tactic, although I did tone ‘annoying’ down to ‘irritating’. On the other hand I have been put out and frustrated by some, not all, of my vegan activist friends who have been subject to some of the attitudes listed below:
10 most irritating attitudes amongst my vegan activist friends, (okay, so I call these ‘attitides’ but some of them are beliefs, assumptions or areas of ignorance):
1) ‘Going vegan will save the planet’. This belief is complacent and wrong, and in my experience seems to come from a place of narcissism amongst some vegan activists, rather than genuine concern about, or research into, sustainable global land use and C02 emissions. See this article from New Internationalist for more details https://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2018/06/06/vegan-climate-carbon
Going vegan will certainly HELP save the planet -it’s a big part of why I’m mostly plant-based myself. Yet, if we all went vegan tomorrow -which would be disastrous in terms of the multi-species deaths that are associated with too sudden a system change- C02 emissions in other industries could still easily take us beyond climate tipping points within a couple of decades. (This is related to my point above about food air miles and new fossil fuel exploration). Direct action (non-violent) against governments, and possibly corporations, is the only response to this. So, cut out meat and dairy consumption, sure, but that’s not good enough.
2) ‘Animal farmers are all evil / bad / insensitive people.’ This is a ridiculous assertion to make. For those of you who have seen Cowspiracy (despite its factual inaccuracies), do you remember the former rancher -turned activist Howard Lyman? A truly inspirational figure, to be sure, but do you think he is in isolation? What do you know about where farmers are in their personal journeys and livelihoods? Have you thought that some farmers may not be happy in their jobs, that they were born into farming families, and find it very difficult to find other suitable employment options in rural areas? As most vegans live in urban areas, this is something you may not have considered. Even the ones who are happy in their jobs are, believe it or not, capable of compassion towards their animals, even within what could be called, the culturally accepted context of genocide and betrayal that is industrialised agriculture.
There are other contexts which could qualify as culturally accepted genocide / ecocide, such as abortion and levelling land to build houses, but I certainly wouldn’t label these pregnant mothers and builders as ‘bad’. Yes, I’m being controversial -a woman’s body should not be directly equated with a farm, but do you see what I’m getting at? Black and white thinking is just not good enough when it comes to global climate justice.
3) ‘Eating plant-based works for everyone’. It doesn’t. A small minority of people have health conditions which have been cured by eating a meat-based diet. Best leave them be.
4) ‘My vegan dietary and lifestyle choices can be exported to any part of the world / my vegan dietary and lifestyle choices do not have an impact on the dietary and lifestyle choices of people in other parts of the world’. In my experience, this isn’t a consciously held belief of many vegan activists -it’s just an area of ignorance that they haven’t dealt with, because ‘they don’t know they don’t know’. This article from ‘NOW’ magazine (Toronto) does a good job explaining, although perhaps in a more spiky and confrontational way than I would choose: https://nowtoronto.com/news/vegans-climate-change/
However I would also make the additional more subtle point that modern affluent lifestyles in the global north reduce dietary and lifestyle options for the poor in the global south, and that includes specifically vegan consumption patterns in northern countries which perpetuate oppressive global infrastructures, including fossil-fuel-based, just as much as meat-based consumption patterns do. Only a ‘systems thinking’ approach to Earth and human society can save us now. We must not be isolationist in our thinking, which brings me to my next point…
5) ‘Permaculture? What’s that?’ Permaculture recognises the integrated role that sensitive animal husbandry can play in Regenerative Agriculture and rewilding (bringing back many species from the brink of extinction) -true for modern as well as pre-industrial societies. This doesn’t mean that these practices have to be used, but it is important to be aware of them (before wading into discussions wearing potentially oil-derived sized nines). The most excellent and revolutionary Maddy Harland explains things well here in this article from way back in 2014, which champions veganism in Permaculture: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/veganism-and-permaculture
6) ‘My nine cats are not having an impact on the planet’ (substitute with preferred pets). This doesn’t actually apply to anyone I know, but I have encountered some vegans on the dreaded (but currently necessary) Facebook who seem to take the simplistic view that it doesn’t matter how many pets are propagated on the planet, as long as they are being cuddled and cared for and posted on Insta. I have known dogs weaned onto vegetarian diets, and I understand that veganism can work for some dogs too, but that’s not true of cats.
Additionally, whatever the pet, please consider that there is already an unsustainable number of humans on the planet, without any of those humans having pets too, with all the land use implicated in keeping those pets, even on vegan and vegetarian diets. It all adds up. Could we just stick to rescue pets, otherwise an absolute maximum of two large pets per household (cats, dogs, giraffes etc)? That would really help improve the greenhouse gas emissions scenario. Below is some information on the C02 impact of keeping pets in America from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The study is two years old but I doubt things have changed much in Trump’s America. Most of these pet owners won’t be vegan but they will nevertheless be contributing to a culture of excessive pet-keeping which vegans are not immune to: https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/the-truth-about-cats-and-dogs-environmental-impact
7) ‘Some lives are more important than others’. Again, this doesn’t seem to be a conscious attitude amongst any vegan activists that I know of, but an unconscious one, or a type of ignorance. It’s not helped by the media and marketing industries which have tended to use pictures of cuddly animals to signal content about veganism and / or attract people to the vegan cause. It’s the same easy option that conservation organisations use to encourage protection of (some) endangered species. I am not wholesale against ALL such marketing techniques, but when they contribute to a culture of ignorance about the importance of biodiversity and ALL life-forms in maintaining the complex inter-connected web of life which supports us and makes for the Earth’s rich tapestry, then, well…
Ironically some vegans may have fallen prey here to the farming industry’s portrayal of cartoon and cuddly farm animals over the years, at the expense of native British wildlife. This is not to ignore the great efforts of my vegan activist friends on badger culling sabs and hunt sabs, which I fully support.
‘Cuddly speciesism’ can compound and be compounded by attitudes 6) above and 8) below in particular. Have you ever found buzzards poisoned and dumped by the side of the road? I have. It makes me cry.
8) ‘If my food and clothes and other products I use are plant-based, I’m having a benign effect on the planet’. It is complacent and dangerous to think like this. This is an extension of points I have already made above, especially 1) but let me summarise it like this: If we drive motor vehicles, we are implicit in ecocide. As long as our food is flown to us, we are implicit in ecocide. As long as we propagate the neoliberal capitalist ‘paradigm’, ‘Business As Usual’, (or as I call it ‘Same Old Story’ in The Evidence), we are implicit in ecocide. Make ecocide law.
9) ‘I shouldn’t / won’t be friends with meat eaters, at least not on Facebook’. It’s up to you, but this attitude frustrates me because it is clearly unstrategic. If you want to convert the world to veganism, surely you can’t take an isolationist stance? If you want a compassionate world, should you not demonstrate compassion, even to those who don’t, even to your ‘enemies’? If you are genuinely so sensitive that talking to meat-eaters upsets you, then cool, but if you are coming from a place of hatred -not so cool.
10) ‘Vegans are the best’. You’re alright, okay? And so am I, when I’m vegan and when I’m not.
Now, after all that, I hope you will all come and give me a plant-based hug. I mean it, no hard feelings. I’m trying to build a stronger movement here, against climate breakdown and the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.
Also see this excellent post by my friend L. J. Stirling, The Moral Limitations of Being Vegan.
Here is my Rebel listening track for this week (a bit different from last time’s Bach). This is the kind of music I use to wake me up in the morning, before I get to work. When I listen to the lyrics, ‘I follow you, deep sea baby’ it conjures an image of a blue whale.
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