Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 5: Who says vegans don’t care about human rights?

Fluffy the Vegan Unicorn here:

Being that I am an ethereal being, who only wants to best for everyone, animals, and humans alike, I am here to share why human rights are important for vegans to think about and make food decisions based around in addition to animal rights. I implore you to treat humans as compassionately as you do animals. Humans are animals too, and deserving of peace and protection. Making excuses as to why human beings do not deserve fair treatment, such as some humans’ having the capacity for evil, will not challenge or end any suffering. Try to think of the essence and energy of me, a beautiful, positive unicorn who loves everybody and can spread love everywhere the next time you want to turn away from making a decision that will be good for the rights of both humans and animals.

Now I am sending some of that energy over to Laura, who will share some basic information on human rights and her favorite vegan resources doing powerful work for the vegan movement that also happen to include human rights in their missions.

Laura says:

Human rights are an expansive concept. To gain an understanding of what is generally understood to be considered universal human rights, check out the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights here. Though these rights have been declared and adopted by the UN, they are constantly being violated around the world and in the United States.

I want to try to keep this to food-related human rights issues since vegan MoFo stands for Month of Food, but know that I’m happy to have more comprehensive discussions the comprehensive subject of human rights more with others.

Food justice, cultural awareness, racism, classism, ableism, health, ethnocentrism, are just a few of the topics we should be aware of when we have conversations about veganism and making it a more inclusive movement.

As a social justice-minded white person, I want to lift up, value, and listen to the voices of people of color, women and people who are trans or gender non-conforming, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses (different than my own), people of different religions, and socioeconomic statuses when they say white vegans need to recognize their privilege and consider their criticisms about how the general vegan movement has failed to consider or be sensitive to their struggles and needs.

I believe that as a white person I need to educate myself about human rights and social justice, racism, and beyond, not rely on asking others who have experienced injustices to tell me how it is. It is not their responsibility and can contribute to further oppression.

So, I feel it is best, at this point, to share some of the resources, blogs, websites, books, etc. I have found helpful in educating myself. I hope if you are like me, that these resources open your eyes to others’ struggles in the vegan community and beyond and inspire you to take action towards justice. If you are a person who has experienced oppression from vegans in regards to your race/sex/gender/disability/class/etc. that some of these resources will be encouraging if you have not seen them yet.

These are just a small handful, but anyone is welcome to share more of these in the comments.

Food Empowerment Project. Website: http://www.foodispower.org/

F.E.P is a nonprofit vegan food justice organization. They seek to educate vegans about human rights issues present in chocolate, bananas, coffee, and more. They are behind an extensive amount of research on chocolate companies and whether they violate human rights (of children especially) and started a list of vegan chocolate lists they would recommend or not recommend based on their research. The list is on their website and also available as a searchable smartphone app.

Just as importantly, Food Empowerment Project addresses farm workers rights, food insecurity and lack of access to healthy foods in their community, provides delicious recipes for vegan Mexican food, and so much more. Their website is available in both Spanish and English.

Decolonize Your Diet. Website: http://decolonizeyourdiet.org/

This is a resource designed for and by Latinos/as with the purpose to reclaim their food choices to honor their ancestors who were colonized. They share recipes, information about food ingredients, herbs and tea, cooking techniques, health, and more. They have published a cookbook and have an index of their recipes on their website. When you visit the site, be sure to click on “kindred spirits” where they share other people and organizations in line with their mission.

Sistah Vegan Project. Website: http://www.sistahvegan.com/

Dr. A. Breeze Harper has lots of information on her website, in her books, on social media, in podcasts, and elsewhere about her own experiences being a black, feminist, vegan, scholar. Her book Sistah Vegan highlighted her own and other women of color’s experiences. It is considered a must-read.

Vegan Feminist Network. Website: http://veganfeministnetwork.com/

Vegan Feminist Network has a wealth of information on vegan intersectional feminism. Their website is a source for essays on almost any topic you can think of and beyond. They have comprehensive resources for all kinds of issues, including tips for understanding racism and sexism, for male allies,  reading lists, and more. I especially like their page titled “What You Can Do!” They are also on social media and have a podcast.

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So please check them all out and educate yourself on the importance of honoring human rights! Hopefully, the more of us that become aware of these issues, the less this perception of vegans not caring about humans will be true.

I’ve been a little overwhelmed by writing these last two posts, but I hope that they are useful to you and have stimulated some thoughts. It is now time I get started cooking my dinner tonight, which I hope will be successful and that I can share with you tomorrow to smash the misconception that vegan cheese is not real cheese!

 

 

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Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 4: Hidden Cruelties in our food

Laura here:

Hey there everybody, thanks so much for your awesome comments and likes so far! Fluffy and I really appreciate the support.

Today Fluffy and I want to talk about hidden cruelties in vegan food. Fluffy has asked me to speak on this today. The topic is very important to them, but they feel I am more experienced with explaining about it. As a humane education graduate student, I am used to doing a lot of research, especially about the life cycle of products and their impact on the environment, animals, and humans.

It’s not the most pleasant topic but I hope you will consider it and learn some new research skills and explore some new issues that require your compassion and empathy. As vegans, to be fully compassionate it is important that we consider supporting companies that are not just vegan, but also have good human rights track records for their workers at all levels of production and are better for the environment that we animals all share and need to not decline any further. Doing so makes for a better world where the goals are fairness, equality, freedom, sustainability, a restored planet, and beyond. We all want that, right? I’ll be talking more specifically about why human rights are an important issue for vegans tomorrow.

It’s ultimately up to you what companies, products, foods, etc you choose to buy. But I do urge you to think about what led you to first become vegan. Many of us had to open our eyes and face the realities of some immense cruelties that we maybe had never considered before. We opted out, we wanted to no longer contribute to such immense suffering. Now, we need to extend that compassion, keep learning, keep growing, keep researching the same way we did when we went vegan.

It can be really challenging to research a lot of the hidden cruelties behind our foods and their packaging. They wouldn’t be considered hidden otherwise.

Some tips for uncovering some of these cruelties in foods, ingredients, and packaging:

  • Look to the company themselves. Write to them and ask questions. Sometimes if you suggest they may be violating human rights or accuse them of something super serious, they won’t write back, so be polite and very specific. They will be honest otherwise. If you’re inquiring if a product is completely vegan down to something really specific like sugar sourcing, or whatever, be clear as to what that means. They don’t always know what it means, especially smaller companies that may not label their products as vegan but the products may actually be vegan anyways.
  • Main ingredients such as fruits and vegetables that are grown around the world are often easy (yet maybe a little overwhelming) to research their footprint and how they affect animals, human workers, and the environment in order to grow. Looking up their typical country of origin, growing season, water usage, transportation (how many miles do they travel to get to you? How do they keep them fresh if it’s a long distance? How much gas is involved in their transport?) will be a good start. Then once you get some of the answers to those questions you can begin to look into other factors. How are the workers treated who grow them, pick them, package them, ship them? Are there any current boycotts or labor actions such as strikes on behalf of the workers that you can find? What are the animal issues involved with their production (especially treatment of insects and other animals that risk the crop’s viability and what they do with other animals in the local environment that interact with the crop or the land used for growing it)? Is the land, water, air being destroyed in some way from the production of it? Etc.
  • To learn more about the effect plastic packaging is having on animals, humans, and our planet, I recommend starting with the film A Plastic Ocean. This is currently available on Netflix.
  • To learn more about the bottled water industry and the harm it’s doing, check out the film Tapped. It’s not on Netflix but may be available streaming elsewhere. This article provides an overview of some of the topics covered in the film.
  • To learn more about the human rights abuses involved in chocolate, coffee, bananas, and more, get familiar with the Food Empowerment Project.
  • There are lots of other issues and food products to be aware of that we often consume as vegans. Palm oil is a big issue as well, but to be honest I rely on other people’s research and try to reduce my use of products with palm oil in them as much as I possibly can. It feels a little too overwhelmingly upsetting to expose myself to the research on it myself. Which brings me to my next few points.

Take care of yourself and don’t get overwhelmed by researching everything all at once. If you feel your favorite food might be problematic in some way, don’t start by researching that one. You cannot be perfect and it does get overwhelming when you realize how many products have major problems with them.

Find a way to practice self-care when you uncover upsetting things, and take action when you can by boycotting the product, writing to the company to tell them you’d like to see them change, educate others about the problem and direct them to alternative products, etc

If you’re worried about a product you use and have heard many people’s rationale for avoiding it, and you feel like it might too much to expose yourself to the gory details, it’s probably a good idea to stop using the product. This is the same guilt and denial mechanism that prevents some people from adopting a vegan lifestyle.

I’ll say it again: remember you can’t be perfect. Sometimes we need to make trade-offs and analyze and use our critical thinking skills, remember our core values, and try our best to do the most good, least harm (from a book by the president of the Institute for Humane Education, Zoe Weil, which I highly recommend). It’s important to research and make fully informed decisions, but losing our sanity over it is also ineffective and harmful and prevents us from making a positive change in ourselves, the world, and for others.

Compassion fatigue is a serious issue as well. Here are some articles that provide some good tips and stuff about it.

https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/blog/self-care-vegan-activist

http://www.ourhenhouse.org/2013/05/how-an-activist-headed-toward-burnout-can-change-course-four-ways-to-cope-with-compassion-fatigue/

And this podcast sounds amazing. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I will. I like the link mainly for its awesome resources:

http://veganwarriorprincessesattack.com/137-burnout-compassion-fatigue-vicarious-trauma-vegan-activism-steven-dawson-lcsw/

Anyways, tomorrow will be the last serious post before I get back to some more super fun, unicorny stuff!

 

New Project! Magic Rainbow Unicorn Party

Hey!

As some readers may or may not know, for the past year I have been studying at the Institute for Humane Education, working towards an M.A. in humane education. Humane education seeks to empower and educate people who can be “solutionaries,” or, people who find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, which often involve human rights, environmental ethics, and animal protection issues. I went into this program to become a better vegan mentor and educator, as well as learn more about human rights.

I am always looking for ways to encourage people to make healthier, sustainable, and less harmful product choices. Of particular concern to me are labor issues, cruelty towards animals, the amount of waste and pollution that is created from any particular product, etc. That being said, our quests to find these types of products and making our own food and other handmade activities should still be FUN!

Fat Unicorn

Not only that but learning about how to be more ethical and healthier consumers does not have to be boring or painful and upsetting. Being equipped with information and resources presented in a non-threatening way can make a big difference for people and their habits.

So, for my master’s thesis, I am working on writing a cookbook/eco-friendly craft/kid’s party book, with a magical unicorn rainbow theme.

Inside the book will be a cute chubby unicorn sharing facts and resources most likely, among other helpful tidbits.

The reason for her chubbiness is simple,  vegans come in all shapes and sizes, and the size of a person, big or small, should not dictate what kind of a role model they are in the vegan movement. So, this unicorn pays tribute to that concept.

Likewise, what people choose to eat, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, is their choice! If they want to eat sugary cookies, or ice cream, or whatever else, they have that right, whether they do it every day or once in a while for a treat. If you are opposed to treating yourself with food, this probably isn’t for you. (Although there will be foods that are more health-oriented as well).

In the next few days, I’ll be sharing with you the details of the first project I tackled for this project. Making your own natural vegan food dyes!

IMG_3692

In the meantime, check out my new Instagram account associated with the project, @unicorns.eat.vegan.

Have fun this weekend!

xoxo Laura