Sunday, September 30, 2012

Faux Vegan MoFo

Some of you may be familiar with NaNoWriMo, or as it's said by people who like to use complete words, National Novel Writing Month. (I didn't know about it until November '11 when a Peace Corps friend took on the challenge.) Each November, thousands of people across the country pledge to write a novel in a month, and they band together (in the online sense) on the NaNoWriMo site, sharing successes, frustrations, and daily word counts. It's a pretty cool idea, and one that I may try someday.

Along those lines, there is also the Vegan MoFo, or Vegan Month of Food, where food bloggers pledge to write 20 to 31 postings in the month of October that center on vegan food. Last year, I was thoroughly entertained and impressed by the efforts of others to post almost every day on their blogs. Many people had a funky theme going on. Creativity permeated the online vegan scene and I got oodles of wonderful cooking ideas from minds much more adept in the kitchen.  (Plus the contests and giveaways are CRAZY! I haven't won anything -- yet -- but it's exciting entering.) :)

I was kinda/sorta considering doing the Vegan MoFo thing this year, but at the last minute  -- last night, in fact -- I realized that the posts can't be just about anything vegan, but have to center on food. So I didn't enter my name on the Vegan MoFo list, as I like to blog about whatever's on my mind, and very often that doesn't have anything to do with food.

Thus, you won't find SSW on the impressive list of 600+ bloggers at Vegan MoFo. Instead, I'm going to do the Robert-Frost-two-roads-diverged-in-a-wood thing and take the less traveled route. I'm calling it "Faux MoFo," which, now that I write it, looks like a strongly-worded insult.

I've got a busy month ahead, so I'm trying to decide what my writing goal is even as I type these words. I think I'll go for ... hmmm ... 10 posts in one month, rather than the MoFo 20-minimum. (If you saw our month, you'd understand the relatively low goal.) If I can manage more than 10, I'll be feeling pretty darn full of myself.

For any Vegan MoFo'ers out there, I am really looking forward to enjoying all the wonderful themes you've been hinting at in the last week. I'll just be standing awkwardly on the side, like the dorky little sister pretending to hang with the cool kids.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Dana Carvey, as SNL's beloved Church Lady. (Right before her Superior Dance.)

To begin, I wrote a great blog post. Or at least the beginning of one. I say great because it was my love song to other bloggers, paying forward the "One Sweet Blog" award and bragging about the people I've so come to admire. Alas, technology had a hiccup and the whole darn thing evaporated. Not a word remained. Three hours went -poof- into thin air.   (sigh)

So while I began piecing together what I could remember from that post, an NPR article popped onto my Facebook feed, quickly grabbing my attention. Written by Barbara J. King, it was entitled, Do Vegetarians and Vegans Think They Are Better Than Everyone Else? It's a relatively short piece, and one of the few (on this topic) I've read in mainstream news that resonated with me.

So go ahead and give it a quick read-through.


All set?

I gave this article a lot of thought.

I don't feel superior to anyone, and have no plans of breaking out into a Superior Dance. The only exception to this is when Ryan and I take our yearly one-day summer pilgrimage to Water Country in New Hampshire to play on the water slides. We've often confessed that it's the one time of year that we feel like "the beautiful people." It's hard to put into words without sounding like a complete jerk, but if you go, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's an interesting place.

Returning to eating habits, though.  If I have friends, family, or strangers that eat meat or cheese or any other animal product in front of me, I never feel morally superior to them.

Number one, I ate all those products for forty-plus years, even when I suspected that things were not as neat and tidy as the animal ag industries led us to believe. There's no way I could ever feel superior and be able to look at myself in the mirror without thinking, "hypocrite." Impossible. And, as Colleen Patrick-Goudreau so aptly put it in the article, being vegan is not an end in itself. Rather, it's taking a walk down a (non-religious) path towards kind living, similar to the bully-prevention trainings we teachers frequent. There's no church, no newsletter, no book. You just do some research and figure out where you can cause the least amount of harm.

And meandering along that path, I've bumped against many inconsistencies in my life:
  • I still feed my cats animal meat. (That's a whole other subject. But in my research so far I have not found convincing evidence that cats can survive without taurine, found in animal products. Please prove me wrong, somebody. Interestingly, dogs can do very well on a vegan diet, which really surprised me.) 
  • While I no longer buy leather or wool, I still wear many of the products that contain those materials. We still have our down comforters. I'd prefer to use animal-friendly products, now that I know what happens to the animals whose bodies were taken for those mentioned items. But I just don't have the money to replace everything at once. 
  • I killed wasps with the other day when they started building a couple of nests near our doorway and one stung Ryan on his way out the door to a gig.

And there are undoubtedly other inconsistencies that I haven't discovered yet. So, in short, I'm standing in a glass house with no stones in my hand. I cannot claim (nor would I want to even if it were possible) moral superiority.

Rather, I feel really sad for the animals when I see a spread of animal products. It has zero to do with me. It has zilch to do with the people eating those products. It has everything to do with what animals have to endure for us to enjoy that little morsel of what-have-you. And though I know incredible progress is taking place even as I write this, I just wish all the unnecessary cruelty would simply stop. I wish I could go back in time and show the old me, "Look, this is what eating this stuff is doing to the animals you love." Not because such time travel would make me an ethically more sound or superior person. But because I just don't want to put anyone through unnecessary pain, fear, or sorrow.

To illustrate, here is an often-told tale in our family of something that happened to my grandmother and her sister when they were still teenagers. Walking together one day, they came across a dog that had been hit by a car and left to suffer on the side of the road. One of them went to a neighbor's house to call the police. Then they stayed right by that dog's side, kneeling beside him protectively and patting his head, telling him help was on the way. When the police officer came, he asked them to step aside so he could get a better look. And then -- this is so awful -- he quickly hopped back onto his motorcycle and ran over the dog. The dog yelped loudly, so he ran over it repeatedly, killing it in a gruesome fashion. I remember my grandmother telling me this story, saying, "I just saw red. I always thought that was just an expression, but I literally saw red and I wanted to kill him." So she and her sister pulled the cop off his motorcycle, got him on the ground, and beat him up. Swear to god.

Did she protect the dog because she thought it made her morally superior? I doubt it. When you know someone is suffering that intensely, you want to stop it. It has absolutely nothing to do with you, does it? You just want it to stop. And you feel upset and angry over what they have had to endure, particularly if it is completely avoidable.

And so it is with seeing others consume animals. I don't feel better than them, because that would be ridiculous. I don't even see myself in the picture. I just wish desperately it would all stop. Because it can stop so easily. As Ellen Degeneres so beautifully put it, animal rights should really be "the right to be left alone."

So no Superior Dance today. :)  Let's just give the animals a break and leave them alone.


PS. My Walk for Farm Animals is coming up this Saturday in Boston! I'm 55% of the way towards my goal of raising $1,000 for Farm Sanctuary. If you'd like to sponsor my walk (even $5 would help!), please go to this link. Thank you very much!