Politics and Scrambled Abortions: A Vegan Call to Pro-Lifers

October 12, 2012


After watching the Vice-Presidental debates last night, I insist that the pro-life demographic—those who would vote to impose their beliefs on the entire nation—go vegan on principle so that their eating habits fully align with their morals and values.

Otherwise, for example, when Paul Ryan states that "life begins at conception" in order to justify his Right to Life stance, it triggers my imagining of him consuming a daily breakfast of remnant bodies—scrambled fetuses and strips of pigs' loins, if you will—who not only had no right to life, but who were systematically brought onto Earth for the sole purpose of their end (that's 10 billion "aborted" lives—conscious ones, no less, per year in the U.S. alone).

Now, as the majority of the vegan population is made up of liberals, and as the majority of liberals are pro-choice, we vegans are often called hypocrites for this contradiction in our own politics and eating habits. We are often accused of "loving animals and hating humans."

Here's what I say, speaking for myself, of course: I am both pro-life and pro-choice. Due to both diligence and neuroses, I've never had to consider abortion, thank God/Jesus/Buddha/Moses/luck, etc. I personally find abortion gruesome, but feel that a woman's choice is inarguably a right that requires protection. When pro-lifers protested at my uber-liberal UC Santa Cruz campus—dead fetus photos and all, I was secretly glad. I think all young men and women should know the reality of the procedure as much they should know what happens at factory farms. Sex-ed classes should emphasize that abortion is not to be used as regular birth control. And, I feel, most every day, that meat should be banned for the very real and mass destruction it causes. But hypothetically, I would not vote to shove this belief down someone else's throat. My work is rather to educate people so that they themselves might stop shoving things down their own throats.

People should inform public policy, not the other way around. That is democracy, that is politics, and that is why I am vegan—for the lifestyle's power on the public realm, with or without legislation. And that's the great thing about how Roe v. Wade stands now: all sides may continue to exercise their beliefs. As for the question of abortion in last night's debate, and Paul Ryan's response—“I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith"— I must say that I think his answer disqualifies him as a VP and potential Presidential candidate. We citizens should exercise our political passions publicly, but a politician, ideally, is hired to stand in an entirely different position. I'll refer to the words of David Mamet, who wrote the following in an old essay titled "A Speech for Michael Dukakis" (it is the imaginary speech he wished Presidential candidate Dukakis would have given during his first TV debate with George Bush in 1988):

A lot of mystery and ceremony has become associated with the job of President...But the job was designed, and the job should be, to preside, to preside over legitimately opposed factions in such a way as to represent the interests of the people as a whole...I believe that the job of Chief Executive should be performed, and is performed best, by a man who is not a zealot; who refers his decisions to the rule of Law, always in the knowledge that he was elected not to enact his own whims, his own "passions," but to represent his constituents; and to put the rule of law, and the will of the People as expressed in Law, above his own will.

Whatever your political leanings, I hope you will go to the ballots next month and voice your position. No matter what anyone says, your vote still counts—at least as long as the other side is still voting, too.

How to Vote Efficiently

September 10, 2012

Man, America! We are a jaded bunch! The feeling in the air is thick, especially after the 2012 party conventions.

Polls show that the motivated voters who turned out in record numbers in 2008 aren't even sure they're voting this time, let alone who they'd vote for. The tremendous buzz of 2008's "Hope" and "Change" has dwindled—first down to a hope for change and then just a change in hope altogether. Bring up Obama and Romney and you're bound hear responses like the (actual) quotes we've collected in the last few days: "What's the difference?" "Puppet on the left or puppet on the right?" "Douche bag or shit sandwich?" "Both parties are controlled by the New World Order, so it doesn't really matter who gets in."

To me, this tepid glass of almond milk still looks half full. The negative public responses confirm that people have been doing their homework. The atmosphere of resistance proves the democratization of information in our era. Streaming live at the tip of everyone's fingers is access to unreported news, underground information, alternative health remedies, and exposés on our most powerful industries and decision-makers. The John Robbins-Michael Moore-Enron-9/11-InfoWars-Monsanto-bailout era has caused truth-seekers to dig deep and share widely.

With the mass-use of technology, we all know something about marketing now. In an age where it's obvious when politicians are bought and sold and only giving us a sanitized, polished, PR-spun version of the truth—or straight up lying through their teeth—it's crucial to wield our political power in the most effective ways possible. I believe the voting booth is still powerful—at the very least in sending the message that the masses of us are still alive and kicking. Even if they shred our ballots, they'll still know we showed up to be contended with.

But better than the voting booth, I believe that going vegan is the most effective and powerful tool of our time.

Regardless of our elected officials, there are 7 billion people on Earth making choices every second. We can choose to pressure, starve out, or bolster local and global economies through our habits, practices, and dollars. Veganism is inherently tied to issues of animals, health, chronic disease and healthcare, water supplies, GMOs and biotech, global food distribution and world hunger, the environment, land, sea, and air degradation, climate change, natural disasters, energy and war, immigration, labor, and workers' rights, womens' rights and feminism, racism and classism, outsourcing...the list goes on. No meal, no purchase is neutral. By making vegan choices, we can reach every major industry and every corner of the earth.

So. DO vote at the booth in the 2012 Elections. DO occupy politics. But even more importantly, occupy your mouth. Go vegan.

My 30th Birthday and a Decade of Veganism

June 27, 2012

Image: © Jill Greenberg; www.jillgreenberg.com

Today is my 30th birthday. Let me be honest. It comes on the tail-end of a week which included an unstoppable (though quiet) public meltdown I had at the farmer's market, a good cry at an osteopath's office, the researching of Big Ag plans to bio-wreck Africa, a viewing of One Nation Under Dog, petitioning against military testing in the oceans, and yet one last cry sesh yesterday morning on the last day of my 20s (awesome week for Justin).

But don't feel sorry—the week also included new work, a photo shoot for a new vegan mag, two invitations to speak at large veg fests next year, sunshine, and lots of fresh figs, hummus, peaches, cherries, and zhatar-topped greens. Isn't that life, though, all wonderful and horrible at the same time?

When I think of the lives of my late grandparents who survived the Holocaust, my life is incredibly safe and full of good. The crying is just a release of things I absorb, hold onto, or am polite about when I really want to break glass (if you've seen any of my media clips from the last few months, you probably shouted at your monitors for me). One thing I've learned: as activists, I think it's especially crucial to take time to manage and release all the negative things we read, hear, and see, so that we do not manifestly become the things we are combatting (note to self).

I am deep-down-thankful for this life. I mean it when I say I don't take any of my comforts and joys for granted. It truly occurs to me to feel glad that relatively clean water comes out of the faucet when I turn the handle. There is so much to celebrate and do. And on that tip, this day also marks my embarking on a tenth year of veganism—a little health experiment which began when I was twenty. What essentially started as a dare by my love, Justin (vegan 16 years), has been the greatest and most activating discovery of my life—a gift I'm aware of every day.

Not only has veganism provided me a high-quality of health—true wealth, it has become the basis of a meaningful career (I was never comfortable creating art solely for art's sake), it has pointed me to some of the greatest minds and leaders of our time, and has granted me the company of people with truly golden hearts. Sometimes I can't even believe how good people can be. Most drastically, though, veganism has provided me a clarity about the public realm; it has taught me the profound meaning of political freedom. I feel safeguarded in mind and body against the invisible forces that shape public thinking and behavior. That's power. It is worth it to me to absorb often horrendous realities so that I can more effectively be an agent of change. I owe that to my grandparents.

When I am down—be it for physical, personal, or professional reasons—I keep the animals in mind. We can change our lives any time we want to. We can leave anytime we want to. A cow, a sow, a shelter dog, a rabbit in a pillory can not. Their lives consist of moment-to-moment tormented frustration. Though the social hostility can be burdensome, and change can never come fast enough, I feel privileged to be at work introducing the mainstream to veganism. I believe this movement is affecting every major industry and every corner of the world as we speak and that introducing kids to the idea veganism will eventually revolutionize all aspects of society.

Another thing I've learned: never waste any valuable energy on in-fighting. It's a surefire way to divide and sabotage our own movement. Let's be good to each other as we work. At this point in history, we're all fighting on the same side.

To celebrate my 30th birthday, I am recommitting to my inner Tank Girl, my punk rock idol since adolescence. She's a tank-riding anti-heroine whose mission, along with her posse of animal toys and mutant Kangaroo boyfriend, is to destroy mega-corporations. If this were the Wild West, what a gang we'd all make up, right?!

And since I prefer not to be the center of attention if not for the good of animals, Justin and I will just celebrate just the two of us by going to a respected rabbi's talk on moral psychology—always inspiring, and then drive to Santa Monica for a raw food lunch and a stop at the beach. It seems the right place to set intentions and goals...like if you tell the ocean, then it's for real, you'd better keep your word. After that, back to work—professional and personal. Thank you for believing in me and for being part of the Wild West posse I imagine has my back. I've got yours. Stay tuned, more to come.