Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

See you in Michigan April 21!

April 16, 2013


This is my favorite lecture yet! I promise you haven’t heard one like this. I can’t wait to meet all the vegheads in Michigan and find out what work you all have been up to…so be there! Let’s make this the largest VegFest Michigan event ever! Early tix available at a discount.

White People Wednesday: A Vegan Expat Shares Her Feelings

March 6, 2013
Picture 5

Do you own Vegan Cooking for Dummies? No refunds!

The confession letter I would have preferred from vegan expat author Alexandra Jamieson:

•I’m no longer vegan.
•I believe in the good of veganism but I’ve decided to oblige my cravings for meat.
•The values I have preached can not be reconciled with the violence required to take the life of an animal on my behalf.
•I accept the contradiction.
•I will be donating the royalties from Vegan…for Dummies to Farm Sanctuary in perpetuity.

Instead, her letter hit me with—this is the only description I have—a tsunami of whiteness. A boatload of faux-spiritual, pop psychobabble about her “truth” and happiness, along with an “it’s-not-me, it’s-my-body” argument to displace any agency in the matter. It’s Manifest Destiny, it’s eugenics, it’s fundamentalist religion—everyone’s got God on their side. Except those being preyed upon.

I accept that some people depart. I don’t accept the justification. Even if you want to, you can’t die on a  diet of nutrient-dense natural foods. It can’t be the protein or the texture of meat that Jamieson missed—because by all measures those can be replicated to a level of placebo—I suspect it was the idea, the culture, and the “forbidden” that was nagging at her. If, in the wake of her cravings, she had written a public letter in which she confessed her cravings for meat, asked for ideas, or promoted ways to deal, she would have been overwhelmed by the support and compassion she implies her now-critics lack. That level of candidness would have been a better qualifier of the “honesty” Jamieson is being lauded for now. But she didn’t decide to keep it real during her cravings for a reason—she really didn’t want any advice or encouragement to stay vegan. She wanted to do what she wanted without interference. Same story from dominant classes throughout history—and no amount of soft-spoken, aha-moment, self-congratulatory rhetoric hides it.

When Jamieson advertises “Lose the Cravings” on her site, I guess she means give in to them (I’m sure she would still draw the arbitrary line at Twinkies, however). Great coaching for addicts.

Eat Meat = Get Played

February 12, 2013


Sometimes our vegan passion gets mistaken for aggression. It’s only because we’re urgently trying to share what we know with you! If we didn’t care, we’d do what meat companies do—we’d keep you in the dark. When news like the #horsemeat found in Tesco’s Spaghetti Bolognese hits, guess who isn’t surprised? Vegans. What have we been trying to tell ya?! Your meat isn’t what you think it is. Eat animals? Get played. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Occupy Your Mouth: A Letter to Californians

November 7, 2012

The bad news is…after a lot of grueling work, we narrowly lost CA’s Prop 37 to label genetically modified foods. It may have been the easiest chance we’ll ever have had in our lifetimes to deal a blow so large to Monsanto and the agri-chem giants. Their endless budgets, government ties,  and routinely-employed top lobbying firms are notoriously impossible to touch. What happened?

  1. The largest chemical companies on the planet put $45 million of pocket change into the anti-37 campaign to keep their GMOs a secret—against the $6 million we raised.
  2. The No on 37 campaign committed act after act of fraudulent, unlawful advertising, voter manipulation, and impersonation. And of course, there were questionable ballot mishaps.
  3. Most people will buy hot shit off the sidewalk if it’s marketed right. Voters were spoonfed an opinion and ate up every steamy bite.
  4. Most every media host I heard that briefly mentioned 37—both right and left—gave more air to opposition claims than to the Prop’s facts.
  5. People don’t read. The information on the sample ballot and on was simple and clear.
  6. People don’t vote. Voters are still a minority amongst America’s 300 million people.

While we are sickened by the results, as activists, we’ve got to keep it moving (though it took a yoga class and a lot of breathing this morning to even begin to feel that way). See, Justin and I weren’t fighting for information we need ourselves—we already know what we’re eating. We were fighting for info we believe everyone has a right to know. But if people don’t want free knowledge, then let them eat GMO cake and suffer the very real and inevitable consequences. We’re moving forward. Who’s with us?

We’re ever-committed to getting GMOs labeled. But we’re ever-more committed to rewarding the tried-and-truly committed: non-GMO/organic farmers, restaurants, food and product manufacturers. The next best move is to focus on voluntary “NON-GMO” labeling for companies who supported 37, rather than trying to get non-supporters to comply with a “GMO” label.

Monsanto can stop our Prop, but they can’t stop our purchases. So vote with your dollars. Occupy your mouth.

To continue supporting the movement, visit


November 1, 2012
Next Tuesday, California may become the first U.S. state to require the labeling of genetically modified food (GMOs). Such a win will likely set into motion the precedent for a new national standard—a standard which over 60 countries worldwide have already adopted. Unsurprisingly, the opposition, made entirely of giant pesticide/chemical corporations and no individuals—is campaigning aggressively, and even fraudulently, to keep GMOs a secret.  DON’T BE HUSTLED. VOTE YES ON CA PROP 37—OR CALL YOUR CALIFORNIA FRIENDS AND MAKE SURE THEY VOTE YES NEXT TUESDAY.

-requires the labeling of GMO food, i.e.: “This product may contain GMO ingredients.”
-bans the word “natural” as a marketing tool on GMO foods.”Natural” has no legal or industrial definition. Stamping “natural” on everything from frosted corn flakes to processed meats and shampoo allows biotech companies, cosmetic companies, and food processors to manipulate consumers psychologically and financially.

•Put on the ballot by an individual concerned citizen.
•Over 60 countries worldwide require GMO labeling, including Europe, China, Japan, and India.
•The largest agri-chemical companies have spent over $40 million to stop Prop 37 and keep GMOs secret—the same bio-tech/pharmaceutical companies that formulated agent orange and DDT (which were declared “tested and safe” before use).
•Genetically modified fruits and vegetables produce their own internal insecticides which destroy the nervous systems of bugs, birds, and bees.
•Pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides are environmental hazards worldwide.
•No long-term, comprehensive studies on human consumption of GMO foods has ever been completed.
•Cases of autism, organ toxicity, IBS, allergies, and more have skyrocketed since GMOs were quietly introduced into our food systems.
•Ads by opposition are being bankrolled by the world’s six largest pesticide companies to the tune of $1 million per day.

Myth: “Food prices will go up.”

Adding a line of text to a label does notincrease food prices. Labels are constantly being modified and re-ordered. YES ON 37 gives companies ample time to transition.

Myth: “Encourages lawsuits against food manufacturers.”
There are no “bounty hunter” provisions in Prop 37, and there is no incentive for filing lawsuits. Food manufacturers and grocers will comply with the law and label their products – as they do for calories and other ingredients.

Fact: No on 37 campaign may face criminal charges.
Potential criminal charges are being brought against the No on 37 campaign. The campaign has committed act after act of fraudulent advertising and manipulation. No on 37’s ad campaign was exposed as dishonest from the outset, when it falsely identified spokesman Henry Miller as a doctor at Stanford (he is actually a researcher of pharmaceutical development and biotechnology at the Hoover Institution) and used images of Stanford in violation of university policy. The ad has since reappeared.

Read more at the Daily Kos. For more info, to donate, or help phone bank and volunteer:

Politics and Scrambled Abortions: A Vegan Call to Pro-Lifers

October 12, 2012


After watching the Vice-Presidental debates last night, I insist that the pro-life demographic—those who would vote to impose their beliefs on the entire nation—go vegan on principle so that their eating habits fully align with, rather than contradict, their morals and values.

Otherwise, for example, when Paul Ryan states that Life Begins At Conception in order to justify his Right to Life stance, it only triggers my imagining of him consuming a daily breakfast of remnant bodies—scrambled fetuses and strips of pigs’ loins, if you will—who not only had no right to life, but who were systematically brought onto Earth for the sole purpose of their end (that’s 10 billion “aborted” lives—conscious ones, no less, per year in the U.S. alone).

Now, as the majority of the vegan population is made up of liberals, and as the majority of liberals are pro-choice, we vegans are often called hypocrites for this contradiction in our own politics and eating habits. We are often accused of “loving animals and hating humans.” Here’s what I say, speaking for myself, of course:

I am both pro-life and pro-choice. Due to both diligence and neuroses, I’ve never had to consider abortion, thank God/Jesus/Buddha/Moses/etc. I personally find abortion gruesome, but feel that a woman’s choice is inarguably a right that requires protection. I felt, when pro-lifers protested at my uber-liberal UC Santa Cruz campus—dead fetus photos and all, secretly glad. I think all young men and women should know the reality of the procedure as much they should know what happens at factory farms. I feel sex-ed classes should emphasize that abortion is not to be used as regular birth control. And, I feel, most every day, that meat should be banned for the very real and mass destruction it causes. But hypothetically, I would not vote to shove this belief down someone else’s throat. My work is rather to educate people so that they themselves might stop shoving things down their own throats.

People should inform public policy, not the other way around. That is democracy, that is politics, and that is why I am vegan—for the lifestyle’s power on the public realm, with or without legislation. And that’s the great thing about how Roe v. Wade stands now: all sides may continue to publicly exercise their beliefs.

As for the question of abortion in last night’s debate, and Paul Ryan’s response—“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith”— I must say that I think his answer disqualifies him as a VP and potential Presidential candidate. We citizens should exercise our political passions publicly, but a politician, ideally, is hired to stand in an entirely different position. I’ll refer to the words of David Mamet, who wrote the following in an old essay titled “A Speech for Michael Dukakis” (it is the imaginary speech he wished Presidential candidate Dukakis would have given during his first TV debate with George Bush in 1988):

A lot of mystery and ceremony has become associated with the job of President…But the job was designed, and the job should be, to preside, to preside over legitimately opposed factions in such a way as to represent the interests of the people as a whole...I believe that the job of Chief Executive should be performed, and is performed best, by a man who is not a zealot; who refers his decisions to the rule of Law, always in the knowledge that he was elected not to enact his own whims, his own “passions,” but to represent his constituents; and to put the rule of law, and the will of the People as expressed in Law, above his own will.

Whatever your political leanings, I hope you will go to the ballots next month and voice your position. No matter what anyone says, your vote still counts—at least as long as the other side is still voting, too.

Voting or Veganism?

September 10, 2012

Man, America! We are a jaded bunch! The feeling in the air is thick, especially after the 2012 party conventions.

Polls show that the motivated voters who turned out in record numbers in 2008 aren’t even sure they’re voting this time, let alone who they’d vote for. The tremendous buzz of 2008’s “Hope” and “Change” has dwindled—first down to a hope for change and then just a change in hope altogether. Bring up Obama and Romney and you’re bound hear responses like the (actual) quotes we’ve collected in the last few days:

“What’s the difference?”
“Puppet on the left or puppet on the right?”
“Douche bag or shit sandwich?”
“Both parties are controlled by the New World Order, so it doesn’t really matter who gets in.”

To me, this tepid glass of almond milk still looks half full. The negative public responses confirm that people have been doing their homework. The atmosphere of resistance proves the democratization of information in our era. Streaming live at the tip of everyone’s fingers is access to unreported news, underground information, alternative health remedies, and exposés on our most powerful industries and decision-makers. The John Robbins-Michael Moore-Enron-9/11-InfoWars-Monsanto-bailout era has caused truth-seekers to dig deep and share widely.

With the mass-use of technology, we all know something about marketing now. In an age where it’s obvious when politicians are bought and sold and only giving us a sanitized, polished, PR-spun version of the truth—or straight up lying through their teeth—it’s crucial to wield our political power in the most effective ways possible. I believe the voting booth is still powerful—at the very least in sending the message that the masses of us are still alive and kicking. Even if they shred our ballots, they’ll still know we showed up to be contended with.

But better than the voting booth, I believe that going vegan is the most effective and powerful tool of our time.

Regardless of our elected officials, there are 7 billion people on Earth making choices every second. We can choose to pressure, starve out, or bolster local and global economies through our habits, practices, and dollars. Veganism is inherently tied to issues of animals, health, chronic disease and healthcare, water supplies, GMOs and biotech, global food distribution and world hunger, the environment, land, sea, and air degradation, climate change, natural disasters, energy and war, immigration, labor, and workers’ rights, womens’ rights and feminism, racism and classism, outsourcing…the list goes on. No meal, no purchase is neutral. By making vegan choices, we can reach every major industry and every corner of the earth.

So. DO vote at the booth in the 2012 Elections. DO occupy politics. But even more importantly, occupy your mouth. Go vegan.

Judge Calls L.A. Zookeepers “Delusional”—Then Balks. Ugh.

August 2, 2012

In his concluding remarks in his evaluation of the L.A. Zoo’s “Elephants of Asia” exhibit, Judge John L. Segal wrote: “The evidence at trial shows that the three elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo are emotionally and socially deprived.” After consulting experts, he acknowledged that the elephants are “stressed, frustrated, unanimated, and unhappy, and that the zoo is not meeting [their] needs.” He called the zoo employees “delusional,” acknowledged their history of abuse, caught them telling lies, and questioned whether they will even follow his court orders to discontinue the use of bull hooks. Full articles on the ruling here and here.

BUT. After his scathing review, Segal stopped short of shutting down the exhibit, as called for in the suit, because the situation was “not cruel beyond the ‘ordinary’ circumstance of captivity,” he said.

WTF? Infuriating doesn’t come close to properly describing this failure. What would have to happen—that has not already happened—in order to be considered “abnormally” cruel? (Versus “normally” cruel, of course.) Is this lashing fake? Is it just a slap on the wrist to placate the public so business can continue as usual? Would it shock you? Judge Segal has been under fire for alleged corruption and deprivation of rights in his courtroom before.

By the way, this abusive, useless exhibit, funded by L.A. city council, cost tax-payers $42 million (excuse my language) fucking dollars. Meanwhile, the L.A. Unified School District has a $400 million budget deficit for the 2012-13 year, which caused massive recent layoffs and will result in classrooms with roughly 44 students per teacher next year. The elephant money alone could have provided salaries for over 900 teachers who would have been educating about 30 kids per class, 5 classes per day. I know funding is complicated and I’m no economics wizard, but this seems one of a million ways the money could have been better invested.

This is not the end of the story. Plaintiff Aaron Leider, who initiated the lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers (thank you!), and attorney David Casselman, who has worked pro bono on this case for five years (bless his soul!), both hope that Segal’s orders for the exercising of the elephants, the roto-tilling of the soil, and the discontinuation of bull hooks—however superficial it may turn out to be—will cause the public to heed the zoo’s lies and failures and in turn put pressure on city council to ultimately shut down the exhibit.

•If you live in L.A., In Defense of Animals makes it easy. Use this form.
•If you’re outside of L.A., you can use IDA’s text in the form above and email it to our mayor and every city council member, addresses below: or (213) 978-0600 or (213) 978-0721
And if you’re really feeling ballsy, here’s Judge John L. Segal’s phone number.

Food Fighters: Organic Farmer Janet Brown

July 27, 2012

Janet Brown, Allstar Organics

As farmers market geeks, we hit up as many as we can, recently Marin County’s Sunday morning market at the Civic Center. I got to chat it up with the regal Janet Brown, co-owner of AllStar Organics, which produces heirloom tomatoes, antique roses, herbs, salts (OMG, the best!!!), and now a line of organic hydrosols and essential oils.

Most flavorful, aromatic salt EVER.

AllStar Organics Hydrosols,

In Marin, Janet is a pioneer food-fighter—a founding board member of the area’s first organic marketing association, Marin Organic, Chair of the Marin Food Policy Council, and former Program Officer for the Center for Ecoliteracy. She was one of few growers who hosted a visit from sustainable agriculture advocate Prince Charles in 2005. Basically, she knows what’s up, from the inside out. Whenever I am lucky enough to come into contact with people like her, I dig for the truths the public never gets to hear.

There are various, long-existing organic certification programs. How did the standards of organic certification change when the USDA implemented the national standard in the 1990s?
The USDA National Standard superseded all previous existing organic standards. Today, there is only one, unified, USDA National Organic Rule that covers all aspects of organic production and distribution. All organic certifiers certify to the same standards. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is charged with reviewing  the current organic rule, and recommending changes and upgrades when  necessary. The goal of the USDA Organic Program is to protect and maintain the integrity of United States organic standards to the benefit of the organic farmers, organic consumers, and the USDA Organic Program itself.

May a farmer exceed the USDA standard? What standard does AllStar Organics hold itself up to?
An organic farmer is free to farm in any way that at least meets the standards of the USDA Program. For many, the USDA rule is a floor, not a ceiling. Many organic farmers are operating organic systems that are extraordinarily sophisticated, elegant, smart and mature. Based on their own body of knowledge about crops they farm, their own special conditions, and their own sense of design and aesthetics, their entire enterprise may exceed any formal requirement of the USDA  program. Farming is a means of self-expression for the farmer. Examples of this are: returning optimum amounts of organic matter to the soil each year, having a regular mineralization program, improving soil biotic life, using more heirloom and open-pollinated varieties or crops, leaving hedgerows and flowering borders as nectar
sources, conserving water whenever possible, diversifying the farming  operation, selling more of the harvest directly, opening the farm to the public, etc. Allstar meets the USDA requirements for certification, and, like most organic farmers, we also work hard on those things that we care  about, whether or not the rule requires it.

When we see non-certified stands with signs that read “No pesticides” or “No spray, no chemical fertilizers,” might their food be as clean as certified organic products, or is this a claim used to distract buyers from other detrimental practices they may be utilizing?
Certified organic farmers go through inspections, pay multiple fees, fill out quite a bit of paperwork, and go through multiple more inspections to prove that they are meeting the USDA requirements in order to be able to call themselves organic.

There is no other organic certification. Signs that say, “Certified delicious,” “Certified California Grown,”  “Certified Clean” are attempts to cash in on the obvious value of the organic enterprise. They’re really distractions—claims without weight—and end up confusing the shopper at the market. If it matters to you, the organic label is your only real assurance that the food you buy does not contain chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, germination accelerators, waxes, GMOs, irradiation, reconditioned sewage sludge, fungicides, and other contaminates.

What are the most important questions to ask growers to ensure we’re buying from the cleanest, most sustainable stands possible?
The organic grower should have a certification document displayed on their stand at the market. You can ask how far away the farm is from you. You can ask about diversity and variety. Taste is always a good indicator of something being done well. Fresh is a critical component to nutrition.

Some people complain that organics are “too expensive” (but we notice they get their nails done every week). Can you explain why purchasing organic products is such a worthy investment?
When you buy organic products, you are supporting a system of production that is designed to avoid harm to the environment. That’s good for the food you eat, but also for the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the world you live in. It is possible to eat your values. Simply seek out and choose the food that is produced consistent with the values and ideals you say you support. You can build the food system you want one mouthful at a time.

Americans have become accustomed to the price of cheap, subsidized food. The small increase in price for organic represents the true cost of producing the food and bringing it to market. It is an unsubsidized system that is one of the most admirable joint enterprises I know of. The organic system was built between the organic farmers and the eating public, and it is sustainable.

NOTE: If you care about organics and GMO-labeling, please support and follow the progress of California’s Prop 37, the Right To Know Initiative (Nov. 2012), which will require the labeling of genetically modified foods. If it wins, California will be the first U.S. state to set this precedent…and maybe your state is next?

Guerilla Activism

July 9, 2012

Ok, maybe this is not so much guerilla activism as it is incognito mischievousness…but it’s all to the same end. Whenever I am aboard a plane, I like to leave some facts for the next passenger reading the inflight magazine, which is always full of ads for glorious meats and ultimate dining (dying?) experiences.  I hope this gives you some ideas*.

*You can get free flyers and printouts here and here.

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