UPDATE: An interview with Laraque explaining how he became vegan.
Great news from Canada, where former professional hockey player Georges Laraque has become perhaps Canada’s first vegan politician, joining the Green Party, which over the past five years has been growing in size and stature. Laraque makes no bones about what his priorities are: “promoting the link between physical health and the environment”, which sounds a lot like educating people about veganism to me.
It’s refreshing to see vegans coming forth in all areas of public life. Again, while many refuse to admit it, veganism is still regarded by many in mainstream society with confusion, derision and fear. Electing those with vegan views to public office is just one way of getting over the many stereotypes existing about this way of life. And as I’ve said in many posts, more vegans is the most direct way to changing society’s view about animals.
Amazing that – and please correct me if I’m wrong – we are still waiting for New Zealand’s first “out” vegan politician. It’s no small feat, believe me, and the person who achieves that designation will face many of the same prejudices and stereotypes as our first gay politician, our first transgender politician and others of similar disadvantaged groups. Take it from the first vegan member to ever grace Auckland’s law faculty. It takes time to break down doors of discrimination and get people to see that vegans are “people too”; just people with a different view of the importance of avoiding the consumption of animals and animal products.
Ah, holiday time is here, and for most of us, that means a time to feast. I’ve been feasting even a bit more than usual, as this year’s holiday has also matched up with my 40th birthday – which means it’s been celebrations a-plenty. At these times – in fact, at all times – good food is essential. Thankfully, over the past few years, making good vegan food has gotten easier than ever, primarily because of one woman: Isa Chandra Moskowitz.
Who is this person? Well, let’s look at what I’ve been feasting on lately, and it will come into focus. For my birthday, it was delectable chocolate mocha and also rum and raisin(!) cupcakes. Both earned rave reviews, but the kudos belonged to Moskowitz, whose amazing book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World was the inspiration. Of course man cannot live by cupcake alone, so we also had Lemondrop and Chocolate Mint Icebox (with real pieces of mint tucked in) cookies. Again, these were off-the-chart delicious, and everyone – vegan and non-vegan alike – dug in. These beauties came from Moskowitz’ latest book, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.
A couple I weeks ago, I mentioned that the Vegan Society of Aotearoa (for our foreign readers, Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand), had been revived, and that the group was planning some ambitious projects for 2010. It is a much needed organization that focuses on veganism, as opposed to the more common and diluted vegetarianism. One of the reasons I love the Society so much is that its goals match those of SoLVe: providing resources and assistance in getting people to make the transition to going vegan.
The Society has launched with a roar, and one of its first outputs is a much need resource guide to Vegan Products in NZ. I cannot count the number of questions I get from students thinking about going vegan about how to find proper things to eat. Well wonder no longer. This book of products – available free at the NZ Vegan Society website – is a welcome step in the right direction. It certainly doesn’t replace the need for proper labelling (a topic for future blogs), but it will make life easier for vegans (or aspiring vegans) across the country.
Kudos to the Society. If you’re not a member yet, and supporting these efforts, what are you waiting for? It’s cheap, and the group is doing as much as anyone to promote veganism in New Zealand.
We are indeed “closer to animals than we sometimes think,” but this ridiculous publicity stunt does nothing to help people see that.
B. Terrorist Threat. What terrorist activities have occurred in or around your building/facility in the past 5 years (documented cases)? Please check all that apply.
[ ] Attack from international terrorists
[ ] Attack from domestic special interest terrorists
-[ ] Earth Liberation Front (ELF)
-[ ] Animal Liberation Front (ALF)
-[ ] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
-[ ] Animal Defense League (ADL)
-[ ] Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC)
-[ ] Formal hate group(s) (please specify):
-[ ] Other (please specify): ____________________
[ ] Cyber Attack from a known or unknown source.
It is a wonderfully empowering thing to realise the degree of choice that we have in our lives by making informed choices about what we eat. This is usually reflective of a long process of considered thought and it is not uncommon to feel a little special. Indeed, we may feel very wise. This can be a bit much for other people to bear as the proverbial zeal of the converted leads us to find a way to drop our capital-V Veganism into any conversation on any subject. And, to not know when to drop the subject.
I don’t presume to dispense advice here, nor do I intend a lecture, but there are some thoughts I would like to share about how we can better communicate with our omnivorous brothers and sisters and with each other.
It’s not about your ego.
Last week, President Obama declared swine flu (H1N1) a national emergency. This declaration allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive federal rules for hospitals. This, in turn, allows hospitals to commandeer alternative sites as treatment areas for H1N1 patients. Even the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, has come down with a bout. In the US, 11 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine have so far been distributed, providing tidy profits for producers GlaxoSmithKline (Pandemrix) and Baxter (Celvapan). Understanding the vegan connection to swine flu is essential to understand how it was spread, and how to prevent future pathogens from becoming public health disasters.
It’s not necessary to look very far to find the inspiration behind the Society of Legal Vegetarians and Vegans (SoLVe). As I see it, we formed the group to recognise the obvious connection between veganism and better laws governing animals.
Over the past seven years, I’ve consistently propounded the idea that we cannot simply rely upon the law to protect animals from cruelty. As drafted, our laws offer lots of window dressing, but in reality are little more than a series of loopholes and exemptions, all designed to allow us to express outrage at those who beat up dogs and cats, and simultaneously exculpate those responsible for the vast majority of animal suffering: people involved in the industrial production of animal products.