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As part of my quest for "healthy" desserts for Sam, I have introduced several variations on the "brownie" theme, and in the process have learned quite a lot.  For one, if your recipe doesn't call for (and if you don't fix it!) melting the chocolate in with the liquids and sugars before adding it to the dry ingredients, you aren't really making a brownie, you are making a chocolate cake with chocolate chips.  That can be yummy, but it is not a brownie.

I have also been reminded that applesauce, while good at providing moistness when replacing oil, is more likely to also leaven the final product rather than help keep it dense and chewy.  I am working on that, and thinking banana and soy yoghurt might be the way to go.

But through all this experimenting, my partner and I got a serious hankering for "real" brownies.  Enter the following recipe, which turned into one of, if not the, best brownies that I have ever tasted.  They are made by a blogger who goes by the name "Elizabeth".  I am not going to link to her blog however becuase while she understands the dietary aspect of veganism well enough to put together this recipe, the vast majority of her recipes are not suitable for vegans, and she lacks a significant understanding of what exactly veganism is (ie: not just a way of eating!), so much so that her blog post about the brownie recipe made me slighly nauseous at what I am sure were attempts to be funny at the expense of nonhuman animals.

So, on to the recipe (with my modifications mixed in).

Ultimate Chewy Brownies

1 cup organic coconut oil
4 oz. (or 112 grams) organic bittersweet or dark chocolate.
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of strong fair trade coffee
2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup of organic raw sugar, 1/2 cup of oraganic brown sugar that was suitable for vegans and 1/2 cup of organic succanat)

1 cup organic unbleached white flour
1 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup fair trade dutch process cocoa (I used Cocoa Camino's cocoa powder).
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp flax seeds (ground)
6 Tbsp hot water

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and grease an 8"x8" pan.
  2. In a double boiler set over gently simmering water, melt down your chocolate and coconut oil.
  3. Mix the vanilla and coffee and combine thoroughly.
  4. Add the sugar, stir to combine and remove from the heat.
  5. While the ingredients are melting, mix the 2 tbsp of flax seeds with 6 tbsp or water and let sit for a few minutes while it congeals.
  6. In a large bowl, mix together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  7. Combine the ingredients from the double-boiler into dry ingredients and mix until just moist.
  8. Gentrly stir in the flax mixture until combined.
  9. Spread the batter into the 8"x8" pan and smooth out until it is even.  Cook it on the middle rack of your pre-heated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until done.
  10. Remove from heat, and let it cool on a wire rack until it is COMPLETELY cool.  Yes, we are all tempted to taste it right out of the oven, but do not do it.  It is best cooled, and even better after a night of chilling.
  11. Share with friends because you don't want to eat the entire pan to yourself, and you will want to.

Things to try:

  • Mixing in a grated beet.
  • Adding chopped nuts.

 

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
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And now for something completely different!

My eldest son has a serious sweet tooth. At this stage, I prefer to just try and deal with it by offering him healthy, or at least healthier, alternatives to the commercial junk that is out there.

Home made ice cream or sorbet is one such treat. This is a new one that I whipped up tonight that got rave reviews from the little one. Described as "the yummiest ice cream [he] ever yummed.", I present to you: Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. No refined sugars, and of course, animal product free.

You don't absolutely need an ice cream maker for this, but stirring it by hand every few minutes does get tedious.

Makes: About 1 quart.

Method:

Blend the following ingredients in a strong blender until smooth. If you don't have a VitaMix or equivalent blender, blend the cashew and water for several minutes until smooth, then add the remaining ingredients one at a time blending between additions to ensure smoothness.

Finally, chill your ice cream mixture in the fridge for several hours to overnight and then freeze as per your ice cream maker's instructions.

Ingredients:

1 cup of raw cashews or cashew pieces
1 3/4 cups of water
1 cup of pitted dates, covered in water and soaked (include the soaking water in this recipe!)
2 tsp of vanilla extract
1/4 tsp of almond extract
1/2 cup of raw cocoa powder
3/4 cups of smooth natural peanut butter
Stevia to taste (I often use a dropper full of liquid stevia just to round out the sweetness from the dates)

I will try to get a photo up tomorrow. :)

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
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This part six of an ongoing series of posts featuring essays written by Brian A. Dominick and published in a pamphlet called "Animal Liberation and Social Revolution: a vegan perspective on anarchism or an anarchist perpective on veganism" (with a preface by Joseph M. Smith). First published by Critical Mess Media in 1995.

Previous posts in this series:

Preface: "Sharpening the Tools of Revolution" by Joseph M. Smith
Introduction: The Veganarchists
What is Social Revolution?

Radical Veganism
Violence in Everday Life
Alienation in Everday Life 

The Revolutionary Endeavor 

Understanding ourselves and our relationship to the world around us is but the first step towards revolution. We must then apply our understandings to a practical program of action. When I speak of action, I am not merely referring to weekly or monthly events when we, in collaboration with an organized group, state our beliefs at a demonstration, or when we execute a planned raid on a facility of oppression.

Action is not so limited. It can be found in our daily lives, our routine and not-so-routine activities. When we assert our beliefs by speaking out in conversation, on the job, at the dinner table, we are acting. In fact, whether we realizing it or not, everything we do is an action or series of actions. Recognizing this allows us to transform our everyday lives from repressed and alienated to libratory and revolutionary.

The role of the revolutionist is simple: make your life into a miniature model of the alternative, revolutionary society you envision. You are a microcosm of the world around you, and even the most basic among your actions affect the social context of which you are a part. Make those effects positive and radical in their nature.

The revolution must become part of our lifestyle, guided by vision and fueled by compassion. Every thought we think, every word we speak, every action we make must be rooted in radical praxis. We must liberate our desires through constant critique of what we have been taught to think, and a persistent quest for what we truly want. Once our desires are known, we must act in their interest.

After identifying how our society works, and deciding what we essentially want, we must commence to dismantle the present and assemble the future-and we must go about these tasks simultaneously. As we tear down the vestiges of oppression, we must also create, with both focus and spontaneity, new forms of social and environmental relationships, facilitated by fresh, new institutions.

For instance, economically speaking, where there is private ownership today there must be social ownership tomorrow. Where production, consumption and resource allocation are now dictated by irrational market forces, in the future there must be a rational system for the acquisition and distribution of material goods and services, with a focus on equity, diversity, solidarity, autonomy, and/or whatever we deem to be the values which guide our visions.

As visionary, the vegan sees a world free of animal exploitation. Further, she sees a truly peaceful and sane relationship between human society and its natural environment. The deep ecology movement has shown us that non-animal nature has value which cannot be quantified in economic terms, just as vegans have demonstrated the worth of non-human animals, a worth that cannot be calculated by economists, only measured by human compassion. That compassion, demonstrated for the proletariat by socialists, for women and queers by feminists, for people of color and marginalized ethnicities by intercommunalists, for the young and aged by youthists, and for those at the end of the state's gun barrel by libertarians, is the same compassion as that felt by vegans and radical environmentalists toward the non-human world. That each of us needs to become all of these "types" of radicals-and to incorporate their ideologies into one, holistic theory, vision, strategy and practice-is a truism we can no longer afford to ignore. Only a perspective and lifestyle based on true compassion can destroy the oppressive constructs of present society and begin anew in creating desirable relationships and realities. This, to me, is the essence of anarchy. No one who fails to embrace all struggles against oppression as her or his own fits my definition of an anarchist. That may seem like a lot to ask, but I will never stop asking it of every human being. 

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
* * *

This part six of an ongoing series of posts featuring essays written by Brian A. Dominick and published in a pamphlet called "Animal Liberation and Social Revolution: a vegan perspective on anarchism or an anarchist perpective on veganism" (with a preface by Joseph M. Smith). First published by Critical Mess Media in 1995.

Previous posts in this series:

Preface: "Sharpening the Tools of Revolution" by Joseph M. Smith
Introduction: The Veganarchists
What is Social Revolution?
Radical Veganism
Violence in Everday Life
Alienation in Everday Life 

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Alienation in Everyday Life 

At the root of oppression, contends the radical, is alienation. Human beings are social creatures. We are capable of feeling compassion. We are capable of understanding that there is a social welfare, a common good. Because we can feel empathy towards others, those who would pit us against each other as societies, communities and individuals, or as humans against nature, must alienate us from the effects of our actions. It is difficult to convince one human to cause suffering to another. It is even difficult to convince a human to harm a non-human animal for no reason, or to directly contribute to the destruction of her own natural environment.

When one society goes to war with another, it is imperative that the leaders of each society convince "the masses" that the adversary population is vile and sub-human. Further, the leaders must hide from the people the real results of war: mass violence, destruction and bloodshed. War is something that happens elsewhere, we are told, and those "foreigners" who die are deserving.

Oppressive dynamics in social relationships are always based on an us-them dichotomy, with the oppressors seen in clear distinction from the oppressed. For the oppressors, the "us" is supreme and privileged. The wealthy "understand" their riches are acquired by "fair" and "just" methods. For instance, both oppressor and oppressed are led to believe it is the poor's inability and incompetence which holds them down. There is no recognition of the fact that economic privilege automatically precipitates inequality. There simply isn't enough to go around when some are allowed to take more than their even share. But the wealthy are alienated from this truism. They have to be, else they would not be able to justify the inequity to which they contribute.

It is the same for every oppressive dynamic. It has to be.

The vegan understands that human exploitation and consumption of animals is facilitated by alienation. People would not be able to live the way they do-ie, at the expense and suffering of animals-were they to understand the real effects of such consumption. This is precisely why late capitalism has entirely removed the consumer from the process of production. The torture goes on elsewhere, behind (tightly) closed doors. Allowed to empathize with the victims of species oppression, humans would not be able to go about their lives as they presently do.

Humans must even be kept alienated from the simple rationale behind veganism. In order to maintain an us-them dichotomy between human and "animal" (as though we are not animals ourselves!), we cannot be allowed to hear basic arguments in favor of transcending this false sense of duality.

We are told that humans can employ complex linguistics and intricate styles of reasoning. Non-humans cannot. Humans are people, all others are beasts at best. Animals are made less than human not by nature but by active dehumanization, a process whereby people consciously strip animals of their worth. After all, the inability to speak or reason in an "enlightened" capacity does not subject infants or people with severe mental retardation to the violence non-humans suffer by the millions every day.

Let's face it, the dichotomy between human and animal is more arbitrary than scientific. It is no different than the one posed between "whites" and "blacks" or "reds" or "yellows"; between adult and child; between man and woman; between heterosexual and homosexual; local and foreigner. Lines are drawn without care but with devious intent, and we are engineered by the institutions which raise us to believe that we are on one side of the line, and that the line is rational to begin with.

In everyday life, we are alienated from the results of our most basic actions. When we purchase a food product at the grocery store, we can read the ingredients list and usually tell whether animals were murdered and/or tortured in the production process. But what do we learn of the people who made that product? Were the women paid less than the men? Were blacks subjugated by whites on the factory floor? Was a union or collectivization effort among employees crushed? Were a hundred slaughtered on a picket line for demanding a living wage?

When I, as a male, converse with a woman, or with someone younger than me, am I dominant and overbearing as I've been conditioned to be by a patriarchal society? Do I, as a "white" person, see myself (even subconsciously) as "above" "blacks"? Indeed, do I look at people of color as being somehow inherently different from me? These are the questions we are not encouraged to ask ourselves. But we must. In order to overcome alienation, we must be vigilantly critical not only of the world around us, but of our own ideas, perspectives and actions. If we want to extinguish the oppressors in our heads, we must constantly question our beliefs and assumptions. What, we must ask ourselves as individuals, are the effects of my actions, not only on those around me, but on my natural environment?

As a key component to the perpetuation of oppression, all alienation must be destroyed. As long as we can ignore the suffering in the slaughter house and vivisector's laboratory, we can ignore the conditions in the Third World countryside, the urban ghetto, the abusive household, the authoritarian classroom, and so on. The ability to ignore any oppressions is the ability to ignore any other oppression/s. 

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
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This part four of an ongoing series of posts featuring essays written by Brian A. Dominick and published in a pamphlet called "Animal Liberation and Social Revolution: a vegan perspective on anarchism or an anarchist perpective on veganism" (with a preface by Joseph M. Smith). First published by Critical Mess Media in 1995.

Previous posts in this series:

Preface: "Sharpening the Tools of Revolution" by Joseph M. Smith
Introduction: The Veganarchists
What is Social Revolution?
Radical Veganism
Violence in Everday Life

Violence in Everyday Life

Our society, few would disagree, is one based largely on violence. Everywhere we turn, it seems, there is violence, a perception enhanced exponentially by corporate-controlled media images.

This violence, as part of our culture and our very existence, undoubtedly has a profound affect on us the extent of which we can hardly hope to ever truly understand. Those who are on the receiving end of violence naturally suffer a severe amount of disempowerment. Because power is a social concept, we as people do not necessarily comprehend what it means to us. When we perceive a loss of power, one of our typical reactions is to assert what little power we have left. Once we have internalized the effects of oppression, we carry them with us, often only to become victimizers ourselves. It is an unfortunate truth that victims often become perpetrators specifically because they themselves are victimized. When the victimization takes the form of physical violence, it often translates itself into still more violence.

That in mind, we can see clearly why abuse of animals-whether directly, as is the case regarding the mistreatment of pets, or indirectly, as through the process of meat eating-correlates to social violence. Humans who are mistreated themselves tend to mistreat others, and animals are among the easiest, most defenseless victims. This exposes yet another reason social oppression must be struggled against by those concerned for the welfare of animals.

What's more, this cause-effect dynamic works both ways. It has been shown that those who are violent towards animals-again, directly or indirectly-are also more likely to be violent towards other humans. People fed a vegetarian diet, for instance, are typically less violent than those who eat meat. People who abuse their pets are unlikely to stop there-their children and partners are often next.

It is absurd to think that a society which oppresses non-human animals will be able to become a society which does not oppress humans. Recognizing animal oppression thus becomes a prerequisite to radical social change.

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
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This part four of an ongiong series of posts featuring essays written by Brian A. Dominick and published in a pamphlet called "Animal Liberation and Social Revolution: a vegan perspective on anarchism or an anarchist perpective on veganism" (with a preface by Joseph M. Smith). First published by Critical Mess Media in 1995.

Previous posts in this series:

Preface: "Sharpening the Tools of Revolution" by Joseph M. Smith
Introduction: The Veganarchists
What is Social Revolution?
Radical Veganism

Radical Veganism

Two more words, the meanings of which are more often than not misconstrued, are "radicalism" and "veganism." The cooptation of these terms by short-sighted and self-centered liberals has removed the potency originally bestowed upon them. Again without claiming a monopoly on "true" definitions, I will offer my personal meanings for these terms.

Radicalism and extremism are not at all synonymous, contrary to popular belief. The word "radical" is derived from the Latin root, "rad," which actually means "root."Radicalism is not a measurement of degree of ideological fanaticism, to the right or the left; rather, it describes a style of approach to social problems. The radical, literally speaking, is someone who seeks out the root of a problem so that she may strike at it for a solution.

Radicals do not limit their goals to reforms. It is not their business to make concessions with victimizers to bring about an alleviation of oppression's resulting misery. Those are tasks usually left to liberals and progressives. While acknowledgeing that there are often gains to be found in reforms, for the radical, nothing short of victory is a satisfying end-an end defined as a revolutionary change in the roots of oppression. By my definition, pure vegetarianism is not veganism. Refusing to consume the products of non-human animals, while a wonderful life choice, is not in itself veganism. The vegan bases her choices on a radical understanding of what animal oppression really is, and her lifestyle choice is highly informed and politicized.

For instance, it is not uncommon for self-proclaimed vegans to justify their care free consumption of corporate products by claiming that animals are helpless while humans are not1. Many vegetarians fail to see the validity of human liberation causes, or see them as subordinate in importance to those of animals who cannot stand up for themselves. Such thinking exposes the liberal vegetarian's ignorance not only of human oppression, but of the deep-seated connectedness between the capitalist system at large and the industries of animal oppression2.

Many people who call themselves vegans and animal rights activists, in my experience, have little or no knowledge of social science; and, often, what they do "know" about the connections between society and non-human nature is laden with misnomers. For example, it is not uncommon to hear vegans argue that it is the consumption of livestock which causes world hunger. After all, more than 80% of the US's grain harvest is fed to cattle, and that would be more than enough to feed the hungry of the world. It seems logical to conclude, then, that the end of human consumption of animals in the United States would bring about the feeding of hungry people elsewhere. Vegan guru John Robbins seems to hold this belief.

But it is entirely false! If North Americans stopped eating meat next year, it is unlikely that a single hungry person would be fed newly-freed grains grown on US soil. This is because the problem of world hunger, like that of "overpopulation," is not at all what it seems. These problems have their root not in the availability of resources, but in the allocation of resources. Elites require scarcity-a tightly restricted supply of resources-for two major reasons. First of all, the market value of goods drops decisively as supply increases. If grains now fed to livestock were to become suddenly available, the change would drop the price of grains through the floor, undermining the profit margin. Elites with investments in the grain agricultural market, then, have interests directly corresponding to those of elites who own part of the animal agriculture market. Vegetarians tend to think that vegetable and grain farmers are benign while those involved in animal husbandry are vile. The fact is, however, that vegetables are a commodity, and those with financial interests in the vegetable industry do not want to make their product available if it means growing more to make even less profit.

Second, it is the case that the national and global distribution of food is a political tool. Governments and international economic organizations carefully manipulate food and water supplies to control entire populations. At times, food can be withheld from hungry people as a means of keeping them weak and docile. At other times, its provision is part of a strategy intended to appease restless populations on the verge of revolt.

Knowing all this, it becomes reasonable to assume that the US government, so tightly controlled by private interests, would subsidize the non-production of grains, in order to "save the industry from collapse." Farmers would likely be paid not to grow grains, or even to destroy their crops.

It is not enough to boycott the meat industry and hope that resources will be re-allocated to feed the hungry. We must establish a system which actually intends to meet human needs, which implies social revolution.

This is only one of many connections between animal and human exploitation, but it illustrates well the need for total revolution. A revolution in the relationship between humans and animals is narrowly focused and is, in fact, preempted by the very nature of modern society. One reason animals are exploited in the first place is because their abuse is profitable. Vegetarians tend to understand this much. But the meat industry (including dairy, vivisection*, etc) is not an isolated entity. The meat industry will not be destroyed until market capitalism is destroyed, for it is the latter which provides impetus and initiative to the former. And to capitalists, the prospect of easy profits from animal exploitation is irresistible. The profit motive is not the only social factor which encourages animal exploitation. Indeed, economics is only one form of social relationship. We also have political, cultural and interpersonal relationships, each of which can be demonstrated to influence the perception that animals exist for use by humans.

The Christian Bible, and Western religions in general, are full of references to the alleged "divine right" of humans to use our non-human counterparts for our own needs. At this moment in history, it is absurd for anyone to even think that humans need to exploit animals. There is little we can gain from the suffering of non-human animals. But God supposedly said we could use them, so we continue to do so, despite the fact that we have out-evolved any real need we might have once had for them.

Vivisectors claim we can learn from non-human animals, and they use this assertion to justify the torture and murder of sentient beings. Radicals need to realize, as vegans do, that the only thing we can learn from animals is how to live in a sane and sound relationship with our environment. We need to observe animals in their natural environment, and mimic their environmental relationships, where applicable, in our own. Such an understanding of harmony between humans and nature will someday save and add value to more lives than finding a cure for cancer through the "science" of animal torture ever will. After all, the root of most cancer is in human mistreatment of nature. No radical would expect a solution to such a problem to be found in further destruction of nature by way of animal experimentation.

The correlations between speciesism and racism-between the treatment of animals and people of color-has also been explicitly (and graphically) demonstrated. In her book, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery, Marjorie Spiegel astutely draws astounding comparisons between the treatment of animals by humans and the treatment of "inferior races" by whites, claiming "they are built around the same basic relationship-that between oppressor and oppressed." As Spiegel illustrates, treatment of non-whites by whites has historically been startlingly similar to that of non-humans by humans. To decide one oppression is valid and the other not is to consciously limit one's understanding of the world; it is to engage oneself in voluntary ignorance, more often than not for personal convenience. "One cause at a time," says the monist* thinker, as though these interrelated dynamics can be sterilized and extracted from relation to one another.

Male dominance in the form of patriarchy and speciesism brought about by anthropocentrism has been exposed with poetic clarity by Carol Adams in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat. Feminism and veganism have much in common, and each has plenty to teach to and learn from the other. After drawing concrete comparisons between the patriarchal perspective and treatment of animals, Adams describes and calls for recognition of the deep connection between vegan and feminist lifestyles.

One comparison between interpersonal relations and human-animal relations which has not been thoroughly examined, to my knowledge, includes the adult treatment of children and young people, as well as the adult treatment of the elderly. In each case, the oppressed is seen as someone not in possession of full agency for her or his actions. For instance, children and old folks alike are seen as feeble and incompetent (regardless of their actual potential for responsibility). Ageism is rooted in something I call adultocracy, which refers to the notion that adulthood is possessed of a certain quality of responsibility not found in the aged or young. Like animals, those oppressed by ageism are treated as objects devoid of individual character and value. They are exploited whenever possible, spoiled when deemed "cute," but almost never given the respect offered adult humans. That children, the elderly and animals are living, thinking, sentient beings is somehow lost in the adult quest for dominance and power. Not unlike patriarchy, adultocracy doesn't require formal hierarchy: it asserts its dominance by convincing its victims they are indeed less valid than their adult oppressors. Non-humans, too, can be easily invalidated. Simply depriving them of any freedom to develop individual character is a major step in that direction.

There is no question that the state is on the side of those who exploit animals. With a few exceptions, the law is decidedly anti-animal. This is demonstrated as much by government subsidization of the meat and dairy industries, of vivisection3 and military use of non-humans, as by its opposition to those who resist the animal exploitation industry. The politician will never understand why the state should protect animals. After all, every sphere of social life condones and encourages their abuse. Acting in the present "interests" of (human) constituencies will always translate, however absurdly, into acting against the interests of the animal kingdom, a vast constituency which has yet to receive the right to vote.

But, the anarchist asks, if every animal were to be granted suffrage and then asserted their need for protection by voting, would we have a better society? That is, Do we really want the state to stand between humans and animals, or would we rather eliminate the need for such a barrier? Most would agree that having humans decide against animal consumption without being coerced to do so is the optimal choice. After all, if alcohol Prohibition caused as much crime and violence as it did, imagine what social strife meat prohibition would create! Just as the Drug War will never make a dent in the problems brought about by chemical dependency and its corresponding "underworld," no legal War on Meat would have a prayer of curbing animal exploitation; it would only cause still more problems. The roots of these types of problems are in socially-created and -reinforced desire to produce and consume that which we do not really need. Everything about our present society tells us that we "need" drugs and meat. What we really need is to destroy that society!

The vegan must go beyond a monist understanding of non-human oppression and understand its roots in human social relations. What's more, she must also extend her lifestyle of resistance to a resistance of human oppression. 


Notes:

^1: In many countries, people are prevented from demanding humane work conditions by the militaries. In this age such things happen because so-called "Third World" countries -- or at least the elites that run them -- want to entice investment from the West. This is best accomplished by demonstrating the impotence of the popular work force as a political weapon. in such countries, the treatment of human labor "resources" is scarcely better than that of non-human animal "resources" here at home. Purchasing a product on the North American market which was made under these types of conditions is indirectly sponsoring the perpetuation of those conditions and is thus not truly vegan.

^2: Many self-proclaimed vegans think this way, and it is truly sad. I call them "liberal vegetarians" here simply because though they do not consume animal products, they have by no means made a holistic attempt to free themselves from being oppressors through their lifestyles. At this moment, there is no escape from the massive market of late capitalism. However, there is a compromise point at which we can achieve an understanding of the affects of our actions as well as adjust and refocus our lifestyles accordingly. In other words, there are more ways to limit violent consumption besides vegetarianism. You are what you consume.

^3: Monist: Any social theory which emphasizes one oppression as being more important than another.; a single issue-focused approach to revolution.

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
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This part two of an ongiong series of posts featuring essays written by Brian A.Dominick and published in a pamphlet called "Animal Liberation and Social Revolution: a vegan perspective on anarchism or an anarchist perpective on veganism" (with a preface by Joseph M. Smith). First published by Critical Mess Media in 1995.

Introduction: The Veganarchists 

For some time now, animal liberation and the activists who struggle in its name have been embroiled in heated discourse and action. Although animal lib theory and activism have rarely been welcomed or taken seriously by the mainstream Left, many anarchists are beginning to recognize their legitimacy, not only as a valid cause, but as an integral and indispensable aspect of radical theory and revolutionary practice. While most people who call themselves anarchists have not embraced animal liberation and its corresponding lifestyle-veganism-growing numbers of young anarchists are adopting ecology- and animal-inclusive mindsets as part of their overall praxis*.

Likewise, many vegans and animal liberationists are being influenced by anarchist thought and its rich tradition. This is evidenced by growing hostility among some animal lib activists towards the statist, capitalist, sexist, racist and ageist Establishment which has been escalating the intensity of its war not only on non-human animals, but also on their human advocates. The relatively new community of animal liberationists is rapidly becoming aware of the totality of force which fuels the speciesist machine that is modern society. As such awareness increases, so should the affinity between animal liberationists and their more socially-oriented counterparts, the anarchists.

The more we recognize the commonality and interdependence of our struggles, which we once considered quite distinguished from one another, the more we understand what liberation and revolution really mean.

Besides our far-reaching vision, anarchists and animal liberationists share strategical methodology. Without pretending to be able to speak for all, I will say that those I consider true anarchists and animal liberationists seek to realize our visions via any means effective. We understand, contrary to mainstream perceptions of us, that wanton destruction and violence will not bring about the end we desire. But unlike liberals and progressives, whose objectives are limited to reforms, we are willing to admit that real change will only be brought about if we add destructive force to our creative transformation of oppressive society. We can build all we want, and we should be pro-active where possible. But we also understand that we can make room for free creation only by obliterating that which exists to prevent our liberation.

I am vegan because I have compassion for animals; I see them as beings possessed of value not unlike humans. I am an anarchist because I have that same compassion for humans, and because I refuse to settle for compromised perspectives, half-assed strategies and sold-out objectives. As a radical, my approach to animal and human liberation is without compromise: total freedom for all, or else.

In this essay I wish to demonstrate that any approach to social change must be comprised of an understanding not only of social relationships, but also of the relationships between humans and nature, including non-human animals. I also hope to show herein why no approach to animal liberation is feasible without a thorough understanding of and immersion in the social revolutionary endeavor. We must all become, if you will, "veganarchists." 

 

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
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Since I have been a little low on energy these last few weeks, I am behind on my planned posting.  So while I work on some more essays, I thought that I would share with you, over several posts, some works first written by Brian A.Dominick and published in a pamphlet called "Animal Liberation and Social Revolution: a vegan perspective on anarchism or an anarchist perpective on veganism" (with a preface by Joseph M. Smith). First published by Critical Mess Media in 1995.

 

Preface: Sharpening the Tools of Revolution 

To embrace veganism and forgo the consumption and utilization of animal products is not an end, but a beginning; a new start affording the practitioner an opportunity to see everyday realities in a different light. However, to speak of the suffering of non-human animals and the benefits of a vegan lifestyle is often a disheartening situation to the vegan, for typically the first reaction of her audience is to disagree. Opponents of veganism say that the way vegans view human-animal relationships (i.e. radically) is wrong, and that, looming on the horizon, is a severe cost for such blatant societal insubordination. Ultimately, they prophesize, the error of veganism will become obvious and, eventually, the idea thrown away. In a strange way, however, veganism's critics are correct. Not until one realizes what makes veganism "unreasonable," will that individual realize the true reasoning behind what it means to be vegan. Not until one questions what it is that depicts veganism as "wrong," in the eyes of non-vegans will one gain the ability to adequately address the wrongs driving their refusal to accept humanity's violent and unwarranted treatment of non-human animals. Not until the principles of veganism are applied to the rubric of injustice as a whole will one understand the need for veganism at all. They are correct because veganism in isolation defeats the purpose for which it is intended. And so it goes, for the alienation experienced as an effect of breaking social conventions is often enough to make one "question" her commitment to veganism. As a philosophy, veganism stands in defiance to ideologies touching the core of Western thought. Opposed to the irrational belief systems which establishment institutions socialize people to "accept," the principles of veganism challenge individuals to confront the dogma they are issued and to construct new ethics and values based on the premises of compassion and justice. Confronting the existing belief systems, however, is a frightening concept to a society that has voluntarily conscripted itself to the dominant social paradigms of the state. However, as Brian Dominick so skillfully illustrates in the following essay, it is precisely this confrontation that we must agree to make if we are honest in seeking a true assessment of what social liberation has to offer. In the totality of this process, veganism is but one element in the compound structure of social revolution. It is in this light that Brian's essay shines its brightest. Animal Liberation and Social Revolution is a compact framework designed to assist us as we embark on the endeavor of recognizing what roles compassion, critical thinking, and rationality (ought to) play in our simultaneous deconstruction and transformation of society. Relentless in his quest to set the proverbial wheels of this transformation in motion, Brian presses us to confront the oppressive ideologies we harbor within ourselves and to uncover their linkages to the injustice that pervades every sphere of our existence. It is Brian's belief that each of us has been given the tools to draw these necessary conclusions. It makes no difference if you are an anarchist approaching veganism, a vegan approaching anarchism, or neither of the two. All that is required is the willingness to roll up your sleeves, sharpen those tools and start drawing, in a concerted effort, to challenge humanity's myopic vision of what constitutes a just society. 


-Joseph M. Smith November, 1995 

 

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
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We haven't been to playgroup in two weeks. First Sam was sick the first week and this week it was my turn (though thankfully not bad. The worst seems to be my voice.)

With the cold weather we haven't gone out much either. Needless to say, we are stir crazy.

So this week the theme is "circuses". This is a theme that could go either way in my books -- either the focus on Montreal style circus, as taught by our two circus schools and as exemplified by the Cirque du Soliel. Lots of clowns, and amazing feats of human skill beautifully choreographed.

Or, it could focus on "traditional" circuses, with their exploitation of animals (both human and non).

I am really hoping it is the first. If it is the second, I am going to have to explain to Sam how and why the animals are in the circus instead of in the wild where they belong. Further, and perhaps even harder, I will have to explain why some people think that is OK.

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
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Thanks to many large animal organizations, coupled particularly with poorly informed celebrity spokes-people, and widely perpetuated misinformation by non vegans like Oprah, there is a very wide misunderstanding of what veganism is.  Veganism is seen by many as a diet -- someone is vegan if they don't eat animal products.  Some describe it in even looser terms then that, defining a vegan as someone who doesn't eat much in the way of animal products, or doesn't eat animal products most of the time, such as Bill Clinton. It is because of this association of vegan as a diet that we often see "vegetarian/vegan" or "vegetarian and vegan", two words that have very little in common lumped together, which further adds to the confusion.

So let me try to clarify a little bit for people. Since diet is where people often confuse the issue, let us start there: veganism is not a diet.

Someone who is vegan eats a vegetarian diet, but unlike more loose interpretations of "vegetarian", a vegan does not eat any animals or animal products such as eggs, dairy, D3, sugar produced with bone char, alcohol clarified with isinglass, fish, etc. In other words, vegans stick with the original definition of vegetarian which was "no animal products".

So, if veganism is not a diet, the next question is... what is it? That answer is so simple that it is often hard for people to fully comprehend it without giving it lot of thought. Veganism is a commitment to nonviolence, starting with what we wear, what we use to entertain ourselves and what we eat.

The question then is if "vegetarian" can also mean someone who does not eat any animal products, then why did Donald Watson feel the need to coin a new term? 

The answer to that can be found in the very first newsletter published by the Vegan Society: "'Vegan News' (Quarterly Magazine of the Non-Dairy Vegetarians) No.1":

We should all consider carefully what our Group, and our magazine, and ourselves, shall be called. 'Non-dairy' has become established as a generally understood colloquialism, but like 'non-lacto' it is too negative. Moreover it does not imply that we are opposed to the use of eggs as food.  We need a name that suggests what we do eat, and if possible one that conveys the idea that even with animal foods taboo, Nature still offers us a bewildering assortment from which to choose. 'Vegetarian' and 'Fruitarian' are already associated with societies that allow the 'fruits'(!) of cows and fowls, therefor it seems we must make a new and appropriate word.

So, as we can see, in 1944, for many the word "vegetarian" had already come to mean a diet that included the use of animal products.

Shortly after, the Vegan Society fleshed out the definition of vegan as such:

Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.[1]

That means that we seek, as much as possible, to avoid exploiting, using and killing others, nonhuman as well as humans.

It is simple, but it flies directly in the face of everything that our societies do.

If you pay attention, almost every person that you see walking down the street is exploiting nonhuman animals in some form or shape, from leather, wool, silk and fur clothing and footwear, to eating their flesh or secretions.  Further, this mindless disregard for the well being of others most often extends to human animals as well, through more obvious things like sweatshop labour that went in to the clothes that we wear to child slave labour that went into the cheap chocolate that we eat, and to less obvious things like the violence that we display to all the underprivileged groups in our society through acts of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, etc.

Veganism, as a practice of ahimsa, has the potential to address, and help redress, all of these issues.

Some see this as a "hardship" or something that is very difficult to do in our current society, but is it not much harder to know that you are needlessly contributing to the pain and suffering of others? Is it not harder to live with yourself knowing that you are causing harm that is completely avoidable? But even more importantly, is it not harder to be locked up, be forcibly impregnated only to have your offspring taken away from you year after year so that someone can steal your milk? Is it not harder to be brutally killed to satisfy someone's greedy palate? In other words, it may sometimes be an inconvenience for us, privileged species that we are, but it is always harder for the person who is actually being exploited, abused, murdered.

And, it let us be clear, it is not because it is necessary, but because we enjoy it. Because as a species, we take pleasure in those products, regardless of how they got to our supermarket shelves and onto our plates, or onto our bodies.

We have choices, and we have the power to stop contributing to the exploitation of others with every action, purchase and decision that we make. It is time that we started exercising that power.

It starts with you.

Notes:

^ [1] At the moment, I can only find secondary sources for this quote.  If anyone knows the primary source, and even better has a link to it, I would greatly appreciate it!  A similar, but different enough definition is included in the UK Vegan Society's Articles of Association and reads as such:

"veganism" denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practicable— all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.

This post was originally posted on my posterous site. You can comment here, or join the larger discussion over at the original.
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