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Today's playgroup was my, and Sam's, first real experience at a non-vegan potluck (that wasn't a family event) in a long time.  All things considered, it went surprisingly well.  Even though some people seem to have forgotten the "do not feed other people's children" rule, Sam wasn't particularly interested in the non-vegan appropriate foods that were circulating.

I was also pleasantly surprised that a few other people (thanks Melissa! Mercie Julie!) brought some baked goods that were suitable for vegans.  In classic party fashion Sam glutted himself on the offerings.

Of course, judging by some of the descriptions of what veganism is, I suspect that I have some educating to do (I was unfortunately too preoccupied or too far away to interject in most cases).  All in all though, it was a really nice playgroup, and contrary to my fears, there was no drama over the food.

I just hope that next week's "animals" theme stays away from domestication, or at the very least away from zoos and farm animals....

On a completely different note, the March issue of "Today's Parent" magazine clearly illustrates the problem with talking about animal welfare instead of animal rights, as well as the issue with only getting a single reference for nutritional information (it would have been nice had they gotten their "vegan children" information from a nutritionist specializing in plant based diets).  The nutritional advice, can be summed up as "yes, you can raise children as vegans, but they need to eat 20% more food than non-vegans to meet caloric requirements, and watch out for the protein!" as though there was no high-calorie nutrient dense foods out there like nuts, seeds and avocado....

But the real kicker is a sidebar titled "What about the animals?"  Here is the full contents:

WHAT ABOUT THE ANIMALS?

For some tweens, concerns about animal welfare -- how animals are treated and slaughtered -- may cause them to be reticent about eating meat.

Twyla Francois, head of investigations for Canadians for the Eathical Treatment of Food Animals in Winnipeg, says there are good reasons to be concerned. "Canada lags far behind Europe in standards for the treatment, transport and slaughter of food animals," says Francois. "We dont' have the legistlation to protect them.'

Meat that is humanely raised is becoming more widely available.  Finding a local source for ethically raised meat may make it more palatable for your child.  The two of your might start by visiting a farmers' market or talking with your local butcher.

For more information, visit spca.bc.ca/welfare

This sidebar had me fuming this morning.  Veganism has little to do with animal welfare.  Obviously we don't want to see animals suffer, but more importantly, veganism is about not using animals.  Animal welfare is best summed up by the first sentance in the BC SPCA website "The BC SPCA is an animal welfare organization, which means we believe the keeping and use of animals is justified as long as their welfare is ensured." (ack! the blatant speciesism is really hard to stomach there... I couldn't even read the rest of the page).

I think that "tweens" (I hate that label) should be given more credit than that. I became vegetarian over 20 years ago when I became aware of the fact that animals had to die for my food.  A while later as I grew up and become more educated on the subject, I became a vegan (in spite of groups like PETA).  I strongly believe that if I had had access to the information that is available now, when I was 10, I would have become vegan right away.

I will save the talk of "what is veganism?" for another post (coming up this week!), as I think that this post is long enough.  While there are some issues of Today's Parent that I really like, I find the exposure to what I suppose must be mainstream animal exploitation to be very hard to put up with.  The first thing that I do when I get a Today's Parent in the mail is to rip out all the pages that are double-sided ads.  This cuts down the volume of the magazine significantly.  I think that the next time around I will start ripping out the pages that promote the use and exploitation of other animals.  Hopefully I will still have something left to read.

 

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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Also, the argument must apply to mankind. It has, in fact, been the plea of the slave-breeder; and it is logically just as good an excuse for slave-holding as for flesh-eating. It would justify parents in almost any treatment of their children, who owe them, for the great boon of life, a debt of gratitude which no subsequent services can repay. We could hardly deny the same merit to cannibals, if they were to breed their human victims for the table, as the early Peruvians are said to have done.

The logic, of course, is the fallacy that it is better to be born, regardless of how your life is, than to never be born at all. read more in this excellent excerpt from a 1914 publication. Sad that I still hear people using this argument today. :-/

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

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Can a thing be vegan?

For example, the daiya in my fridge is a cheese that is suitable for
vegans, but it is not vegan in and of itself. After all, without a
consciousness it can not hold any position with regards to the use of
animals.

If veganism is more than just about the animal content of food (and we
keep saying that it is), then shouldn't we stop perpetuating that idea
by using "vegan" as a label where it doesn't belong?

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An ongoing joke in parenting circles is about "baby brain". It is a
state of zombie-like sleep deprivation that usually happens in the
first few months of living with a newborn.

I came across a great case of that this evening after picking my
partner up from work. My neighbour was having trouble getting his car
out of the snow -- lots of spinning wheels, his wife pushing, their
baby starting to get fussy in the back seat. They were going nowhere
fast.

So I offered my help.

The car really wasnt moving. After a lot of work and help from another
passing motorist, I noticed the back wheels weren't moving, even when
they should have had grip. A quick glance at the dash revealed that
they still had the parking break engaged!

They were somewhat embarrassed, though, I am sure that we will all
laugh about it when the snow is gone.

Baby brain.

On the plus side, I find the winter is the best time to make friends
with your neighbours. It is easy to offer help, and almost always
appreciated. There is little that brings people together like working
towards a common goal.

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So, this January I joined a local solidarity coop who's primary goal was to bring community together to provide resources for young families at affordable prices and realistic times.  Shortly thereafter I was elected to the Board of Directors, and then made treasurer (gulp!).

This experience is one of the things that is making being a full time stay at home dad with two youngsters not just bearable to down-right interesting, and that alone makes it worth the extra work.  There have been a few things that have surprised me however, which I will attempt to elaborate on here.

Aside from their mission, what drew me to actually be interested in a higher level position within this coop was their principles of open organization, consensus decision making and community inclusiveness.  These are all ideals that I value quite strongly, and which I have only ever really experienced in the libre software world.  So it was very exciting to see these ideals put into place on a completely different field.

As it would turn out this divergence is actually probably my single biggest frustration: not everyone in the group has the same skill-set that is required for effective online collaboration, and this automatically creates a power vacuum (something that you want to avoid in any working group like this!).  What I find is also missing is the concept of collaborative documentation.  Most software projects that I have been involved in have resorted to wikis for documentation.  This forces everyone to at least use the same tool, and while wikis are not always the best at everything, they are an excellent tool for collaborative documentation.  Less so, it would seem, with Google Docs.  Docs most certainly has some excellent collaboration options -- the ability to comment easily and extensively on various sections of text, revision history, simultaneous editing, etc.  

But, without a culture of using that tool exclusively for editing, we begin to see problems.  Of late, it has been the duplication of documentation.  Someone will download a document (a document filled with useful metadata like comments and revision history), change the markup, fix some of the text, and re-upload it as a new document.  So, now which document is the one that we are supposed to use?

Another example, was one where a document was being translated.  A copy of the work-in-progress was emailed to all of us who are responsible for that type of work, and so it was (rightfully) put into the "to be translated" collection in our shared Docs folder.  Other members of the board then had a look over it and raised some valid concerns.  This is exactly the way that it should work -- collaboration, comments and concerns are raised early on the process, and thus it saves an individual from doing a lot of work in a direction that is different from the vision of the rest of the group.  Unfortunately, the person who was taking point on this translation was doing all of her work offline, and so the comments and concerns raised about the shared document no longer applied, and the translator was annoyed that an unfinished document had been shared with the group.

Obviously this will need to be discussed, and ideally sooner rather than later.  I am hoping that I can make a strong enough case in a diplomatic fashion so that we can avoid this kind of problem again in the future...

Regardless of collaboration practices, I suspect that we are going to need to focus a bit on internal training of members, both in the technical tools that we use, as well as in our organizational structure (what is a solidarity coop, for example?) and on consensus decision making.

It looks like it will be an exciting year! 

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I should preface this by saying that I believe that most persons are moral actors.  What I mean by that is that I believe that almost everyone wants to live their lives in a way that does more good than harm. 

Someone who acts morally, at the very basic level, is someone who wishes to act "good".  The trouble when defining morals comes in defining what is "good".  Morality, as a system, has been applied to many things that have little to do with whatwe would consider good or bad.  One example that I used in my previous post was sex, and so I will expand upon that.  Religions from Buddhism to Christianity have discouraged people from masturbating.  It is seem as "bad" and immoral.  Something that will put your soul into jeopardy.  While I know that there might be some people who read this who still feel that way, my bet is that most do not.

Morality, as a structure of expected social behaviour, stems from the simple golden rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you under the same circumstances."  Unfortunately, governments, rulers, religions, lawyers and other lawmakers have take advantage of our under-education, ignorance, fear and the general servility in thought and character of the individual, so carefully cultivated by the same,  create a structure of laws a behaviours that make people better suited to not question authority -- to follow the law, be it divine law or civil.

Every so often we see people break free from this enchantment, and they revolt and ignore the law (like we are seeing in Tunisia and Egypt).  Yet in other places that are ripe for revolution and change, people still slumber under the guise of our new and twisted interpretation of morality (the United States comes to mind, where war is holy, abortion un-holy and rape will soon only be rape if it involves physical force).

I began this by saying that I believe that most people wish to do good.  I do, in fact believe this.  But I also believe that most people wish to do good not because they are altruistic, but because to do otherwise would make them feel bad, or at the very least because by doing good, they can feel good. 

To quote Kropotkin:

Here is a man who snatches its last mouthful of bread from a child. Every one agrees in saying that he is a horrible egoist, that he is guided solely by self-love.

But now here is another man, whom every one agrees to recognize as virtuous. He shares his last bit of bread with the hungry, and strips off his coat to clothe the naked. And the moralists, sticking to their religious jargon, hasten to say that this man carries the love of his neighbor to the point of self-abnegation, that he obeys a wholly different passion from that of the egoist. And yet with a little reflection we soon discover that however great the difference between the two actions in their result for humanity, the motive has still been the same. It is the quest of pleasure.

If the man who gives away his last shirt found no pleasure in doing so, he would not do it. If he found pleasure in taking bread from a child, he would do that but this is distasteful to him. He finds pleasure in giving, and so he gives. If it were not inconvenient to cause confusion by employing in a new sense words that have a recognized meaning, it might be said that in both cases the men acted under the impulse of their egoism. Some have actually said this, to give prominence to the thought and precision to the idea by presenting it in a form that strikes the imagination, and at the same time to destroy the myth which asserts that these two acts have two different motives. They have the same motive, the quest of pleasure, or the avoidance of pain, which comes to the same thing.

So the question then remains: why do we prefer the man who shares his bread, his belongings and himself over the man who does not? Why do we encourage the one, but not the other, even though their base motivations are likely the same?

 

I would argue that the answer to that can be found through all the animal kingdom, with all social animals.  Social society encourages acts that help society, and discourage acts that harm it.  It is as simple as that.  Our views on what are good and bad for society and the survival of our societies may change over time, but the base actions which help us to determine good and bad can always be measured in this way.

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My previous post get me thinking, I would like to know how /you/, my
fellow cyber-dwellers, define morality.

Do you, like a Soldier Of The One (or Veggie Tales for that matter),
believe that there is a single all-knowing deity who decides that
certain sex acts are immoral, and others OK? Do you believe that
morality is relative, or absolute? Are moral actions reserved for
human animals? Do we have to extend our moral community (those who
benefit from our moral beliefs) to all, or only our own clan (however
we define "clan")?

I will post a followup later today or tomorrow with my own views, and
perhaps some aggregated comments.

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"You should tell the truth because God wants you too, even if it might get you in trouble." ~ Veggie Tales. I though a show staring vegetables would be safe -- at least they wouldn't be likely to eat animals or animal products, and maybe they wouldn't exploit them in other ways either. But the above quote is the reason that they gave on why you should tell the truth. Ugh. No thank you. Scratch another series off our list.
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(Reposted from my Twitter account)

I am going to put up some shirts that say "I am Vegan. Ask me why!" But... after my recent negative encounters with welfarists, I don't want people to misconstrue the message. Bad education is worse than no education.

So I am toying instead with the message: "I am an Abolitionist Vegan. Ask me why!" or "I am an Ethical Vegan. Ask me why!"

The downside, of course, is that that implies that there can be different types of veganism, and so is in and of itself a problem. After all, you can't be a a "health vegan" or a "flexible vegan", right?

Thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated. :)

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I have slapped together some shirt designs, because I have found there to be a serious dearth of good vegan shirt options out there.

I am not making money off of these -- that is the base price from wordans.

If you have any other suggestions for phrases (they are on the back of the shirt, the description at the bottom gives an indication of what is on the back of the shirts, and you can see more if you click on the shirt), I would love to hear them. If there is a style or combination that I don't have up yet and you are interested in it, let me know and I will put it up. :)

Comments and criticisms are also always welcome. :)

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