Sunday, February 20, 2011

Valentines and Vegans

The last month has been a blur, and I need things to slow down.  First, the state of North Carolina’s budget situation vacillates between terrifying and out-and-out catatonia producing, so my mind and my energy has been devoted to fighting that (most likely meaningless) fight.  I desperately want to turn my energy back to my teaching and my scholarship, the things about my job that I like, but I keep getting drawn into the discourse of trying to justify my existence.  Have you seen this video?  

It has nothing to do with veganism, but it is so true.  And, at present, that female professor is the embodiment of me.*  But next week is spring break, and if I can just make it until then, I might survive.

* This is not to say that I haven’t also been the little blonde girl with the pigtails.

So let me pull myself out of the mire of the possible dismantling of the public education system as I know it and return to the world of the vegan blog.  Valentine’s Day was pretty swell.  Jason didn’t get me anything as usual, but what’s not usual is that I went into major preemptive bitch mode about the fact that I knew he wasn’t going to get me anything.  I have a friend who calls such behavior “pre-suffering,” and I think that’s about right.  I was, after 13 years of being in a relationship with this boy, suddenly made jealous about the fact that a colleague was discussing the Pajama Gram that he was sending his sweetie.  First of all, I didn’t want a Pajama Gram, not even this one, which would make me look like a giant piece of bubble gum.

But I suddenly wanted something.  What I got was a Valentine’s Day without Jason, as he was at work all freaking day and night, fixing a Valentine’s Day vegan dinner, which I did get to eat for free.  It consisted of the following: first, sweet potato soup with scallion cream cheese and a candied basil leaf; second, chili rubbed seitan and grilled broccolini with smoked Jerusalem artichokes over a savory apple sauce; and for dessert, cocoa risotto beneath coconut tempura banana with a side of Kahlua ice cream.  And it was excellent.  So Jason is forgiven.  He does this every year, and every year the meal is better than the previous one.

Today’s news contains the following top five items when one does a news search for “vegan”:  an article called “What Would Vegan Society Founder Donald Watson Think” about a debate in the UK as to whether animal rights activists should tone down their focus on veganism and speciesism as these stances tend to alienate non-vegans. The author, Gary L. Francione, write about an ad in a Vegan Society publication for a bed and breakfast that serves the likes of poached eggs and Danish with cheese.  He states that Watson, who died in 2005, “coined the word ‘vegan’ and founded the Vegan Society in 1944 precisely because he wanted to emphasize that not eating meat was not enough. He wanted to erase the arbitrary line that had meat on one side and everything else on the other.” He quotes Watson:

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 subsidized 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 matured 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, civilized diet, and we think, therefore, that during our life on earth we should try to evolve sufficiently to make the ‘full journey’.

A second story, a self-proclaimed “rant” by “veggie girl,” is an “Open Letter to Militant Vegans,” in which she asks militant vegans to “shut the fuck up already.”  Veggie Girl is, as she states, “on your side,” but she ultimately states that

I'm tired of being lumped in with your ilk. My choices are just that -- MINE -- and I respect the rights of others to make their own choices, whether they're vegan, vegetarian, a conscious meat-eater or stop by the drive-through every night. Get off your high horse, shelve the self-righteousness and lead by example. THAT is how you change eating habits -- and lives. Otherwise, you're just an animal-loving version of Fred Phelps. And nobody likes that guy except his fellow church members. And maybe not even them.

So both of these pieces bring into relief the perceived vegan persona, legitimate or not, as alienating and off-putting, as needing to be tempered, as needing to be modified to prevent making the general public from feeling put upon or threatened.  While Veggie Girl does make the claim, however unsubstantiated, between militant and non-militant vegans, the narrative that Veggie Girl and Francione evoke is one that, while they argue from opposing positions, is illustrative of the strange stance that vegans seem forced to occupy, as ethically guided by a belief that animal suffering is preventable and unacceptable yet somehow responsible for the comfort levels of those who disagree.

Other stories: Jessica Simpson is maintaining a vegan diet to lose weight prior to getting married 
And Ryan Couture, some kind of fighter guy, won a fight.  He’s a Los Vegan, which is nothing like being a vegan, but that’s why this story came up.  File that one under who fucking cares…

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