About Lee Hall

A commitment to a great cause is a solid foundation to build our inner lives upon, and also one virtually guaranteed to bring turbulence into the course of our lives. This is an experimental diary. If things go well, it'll help myself and others on a parallel course. See you at veganplace.wordpress.com

What Is Veganism? [Audio Clip]

…is part of a collective offering, based on the definition of veganism from the people of The Vegan Society who set the movement in motion. I doubt I could improve upon that striking piece, nor need I try. Yet prompted by conversations with Will Anderson of GreenVegans.org, with James, Jenny, and Harold of HumaneMyth.org, with Bill Drelles and Jack McMillan of the Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance, Chris Kelly in Texas and many other thoughtful people, I enjoy revisiting the early definition to convey it in today’s words. Here, in an audio version.

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A Note on #CowAppreciationDay

One of the most haunting statements I’ve heard about race-based oppression was uttered by Randall Robinson, repeated by Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary: “The worst thing you can do to a people is to rob them of the memory of themselves.”

It bears restatement: Human liberation movements and animal liberation involve different oppressions, and the way to unravel them involves different social mechanisms. Yet there is, it seems to me, something in Robinson’s message that can inform the theory of animal liberation.

Humans have robbed our domesticated animals of their ancestors’ evolution. The free-living ancestors of today’s cows are the aurochs, now extinct. Aurochs were not particularly friendly to our ancestors; but then, they had no such interest or obligation. A group of aurochs could trample a village. We, ever the clever primates, figured out how to trap them and breed smaller, more docile animals from them, so that instead of preparing hunting parties to stalk them, we could make them accessible and push them around.

To this day, cows trample a few dozen humans to death each year—I’ve found myself chased by cows in Wales; I’ll never forget my surprise and panic—but they’ve lost their ancestral stature and relationships forever. The vegan principle does not challenge us to integrate them into pleasant scenery or human friendships; it challenges us to stop breeding them into a dependent existence. To liberate our advocacy, we need to foster in ourselves an awareness, a recognition, that other animals are not our babies, not our housemates or helpmates; that domesticated or trained animals are limited, not perfected; that the freedom of living beings in habitat, without any need to seek human rescue or shelter or companionship, is a healthy thing to want; and that the lack of it is not.

Domestication, captivity, and caregiving are often taken for symbiosis. But these actions don’t bring us into harmony with the rest of living world. We can only hope to correct (or at least stop perpetuating) what we can perceive as domination. Images of animals doing things that impress or amuse us in controlled circumstances should, instead of being classified as cute, jar our senses. They should remind us of the evolution and history they could have had, had we let them be.


Adapted from On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century. Artwork released into the public domain by its author Pearson Scott Foresman

Summerfest Schedule Now Posted

Are you coming to the North American Vegetarian Summerfest this year? If so, please find me so we can get some time in person! I’ll be in the hallway near the main Living Learning lobby a lot. Watermelon shows up there frequently and, from time to time, so does  Miyoko Schinner’s artisan nut cheese. 
As for presentations, I’ll be offering:
  • The Environmental Impact of Eating Sea Life. Current status of Earth’s aquatic habitats and communities. Is the “sustainable seafood” concept helping or making things harder for sea life to survive and thrive?
  • Why Vegan? Vegan for Your Health, for Environmental Healing, for Fair Food Sources, for Animal Liberation. (Maureen and Vance: You are quoted in this one.)

Photo credit: Jason Pompilius

  • Climate Change: Is It More a Fossil Fuel Problem, or a Diet Issue? Comparing these emissions sources. Of course there is a lot of overlap between animal agribusiness and fossil fuels. This session will offer information on the science basics, plus a few less discussed aspects of the dichotomy. It will conclude with a call for a movement of Dietary Divestment for the Climate.
This is an event I can recommend. It draws more than 700 attendees from all over the continent. It offers a positive, refreshing atmosphere with endless conversation (I mean that in a good way!) and several days of really fabulous food that will inspire you and tune up your support network for the coming year.

Kentucky Derby Champions: You Bet They Die

This Saturday, May 5th, brings us the 144th Kentucky Derby, with the Preakness (May 19th) and Belmont Stakes (June 9th) galloping close behind.

Every year, people celebrate Derby Day with parties, mint juleps, and sunbonnets. This year they’ll be marking the tenth anniversary of the end of Eight Belles, raced to death in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Perhaps they’ll recall the two horses who died at the 2016 Preakness in Baltimore. Pramedya’s leg broke. And after winning the first race, Homeboykris collapsed and died before making it back to the barn.

Ten years prior, Barbaro won the 2006 Derby, but shattered a leg in the Preakness, and died soon after. Remember?

Or do we forget because the deaths are so common, so constant? Every year, 500 horses, more or less, die at a racetrack. Every year, spectators will gasp hundreds of times as they see with their own eyes that racing is animal torture.

Full story at Counterpunch.

 

Why Vegan Enterprises Should Get Your Support

To some extent, we’re all caught up in the machine of exploitation. Sometimes I think the financially poor are most likely to work for people without compunctions about selling animals and substances taken from animals, or delivering these items. Fewer resources mean less decision-making power at work.

But in most any job, and regardless of our level of education or income, the tension arises, because the dominator paradigm is everywhere humans operate.
Professional rescuers deal with it too. I know people who take cast-off primates from labs. Often, if the animals are monkeys, a lab will prevent the refuge from naming the lab or talking about what happened there as conditions of the primates’ release. The rescuers acknowledge, and suffer with, their inescapable enabling role.
Every kind of rescue situation (from a household sanctuary to a large nonprofit) has its daily dilemmas. We’re all expected to get used to them. Even though veganism is gaining social recognition, very few roles exist that leave an animal advocate’s ethics unscathed.

 

Turbulence and Refuge

James LaVeck once told me a commitment to a great cause is a solid foundation to build our inner lives upon, and also one virtually guaranteed to bring turbulence into the course of our lives. Our stress may be endless; but at least it’s explicable.
One thing that would help not just manage our tension but actually relieve it would be safety. The refuge of knowing that when we speak out or when we walk away based on principle, we won’t lose the ability to keep a roof overhead or struggle to pay vet bills.
And that brings me to the key reason why vegans need to support vegans.
Sure, vegans need to be in the world and visible in all kinds of regular contexts. No worries. We are, all the time.
But the more identifiable spaces vegans can make for vegan-run work, the more opportunities vegans will have to find surroundings that celebrate our veganism and sustain us not just as producers, but as vegans.

 

Vegan-Focused Enterprises Matter. So Do Vegan-Run Enterprises

If a vegan-owned cleaning service succeeds, for example, the benefits will be several:
  • A vegan-run enterprise will seek ways to avoid toxic chemicals (tested on animals; harsh on the environment; unhealthful for living beings indoors).

  • As the vegan-run undertaking succeeds, it can make increasingly stronger decisions on fair trade and fair compensation for work.

  • The entity could sustain one or more vegans, in a decent work environment, where mutual support and even co-operative work relationships can flourish.

We live in a critical time. Weighed down by humanity’s sheer mass, the human obsession for domesticating other life, and people’s addiction-like consumerism, the biosphere faces climate crisis. It faces an ever-worsening extinction period. Humanity’s prints on Earth saturate the water, seep into the rock sediment, and shrink the horns, antlers, and tusks. The only biosphere we’ve ever known is trapped in the new Anthropocene geological era. We cannot afford to just shut up and sell. We never could.
Many vegans know, but are financially forced to work in places where authentic respect is sidelined, or be economically isolated. Support for vegan-run work is essential. It can diminish our daily fears and tensions, and reinforce our lifetime commitment. It can clear room to enable thought and advocacy from an ever-growing community of vegans.

 

Feel free to link a vegan-run enterprise, including your own, in the comment section.


Image: boat’s lifesaver ring. Found at Wikimedia Commons. Original source: CSIRO

#TimesUp and Nonprofit Boards: LaVeck and Stein Call Out `Domination Games’

Key points to which the movement must now respond.

Read the full essay at HumaneMyth.org

  • Incorporated animal-advocacy groups have hurt individuals, betrayed the public trust, and aggressively suppressed criticism.
  • The higher ranks of the institutional movement hierarchy include people who display an addiction to domination.
  • Sexual harassment is one of the manifestations.
  • As a community, animal advocates need to support victims and  encourage witnesses to speak out.
  • While interns and staffers are treated like meat, the animals, purportedly defended, are systematically betrayed. One Humane Society of the United States VP claimed to raise tens of thousands of pigs “like children” before slaughter.

Board members and others in positions of oversight must dramatically up their game, or, in some cases, step down.

Putting healthier people at the top of the institutional pyramid isn’t the answer, say LaVeck and Stein. It is time to decentralize power and widely share resources and leadership opportunities.

Read the full essay at HumaneMyth.org