|Enewsletter • March 27, 2002|
The Vegan Outreach office will be closed until April 8. If an emergency, please email Jack, or call (530) 297-4004.
Vegan Outreach Talk in San Francisco
This Saturday, March 30, there will be a vegan potluck and Vegan
Outreach talk at the house of Alka Chandna. The dinner will begin
at 7 pm. At 8 pm, Jack Norris and Matt Ball, along with lauren Ornelas
of Viva!USA, will talk and
lead a wide-ranging discussion. For the address and directions, please
send along an email.
Good Luck with Leafleting!
Thanks to all those who have already registered for the April 5th National Day of Leafleting High Schools about Veganism! There are currently ~60 events planned around the country and in Canada!
If you have pictures of activists using our literature, please send copies to us! (211 Indian Dr.; Pittsburgh, PA 15238)
Based on the first three months, Vegan Outreach members are on pace to distribute 500,000 copies of Why Vegan? and Vegetarian Living during 2002! Your support will allow us to print and send these to activists around the world.
"Scientists trying to create alternative food sources for astronauts
believe we could grow
meat on demand, without slaughtering fish or animals."
Last week, we mentioned the introduction of the largest financial investment ever in vegetarianism – the BK Veggie Burger – and the debate surrounding the butter flavor in the bun.
Of course, as pointed out below, it is absurd to believe that anything is really vegan, in the sense the vegan police use the word. For example, much "vegan" food contains insect remnants. So, if we try to draw the line between "vegan" and "non-vegan" based only on what happens to be written on a food label, we are judging in an arbitrary – and basically indefensible – fashion. How can we make potential vegans' lives harder by saying Burger King's burger isn't vegan, when what we eat may well be less "vegan" than the bun?
Personally, I find it shocking and saddening how we spend more time worried about butter flavor in a bun, about microwaving vs. grilled with "meat," than about the millions of cow and chicken sandwiches being served. When people say, "XYZ isn't vegan!," I want to scream. Why does it matter? How can it possibly matter, in and of itself, whether a product meets some definition of "vegan"?
My opinion is that "vegan" matters only as a commitment to reduce suffering. Animal products matter only in as much as they are an imperfect indicator of suffering. How we present ourselves to the public, how we spend our time and money, our career choices – all these are infinitely more important than defending some random definition of "vegan."
It always amazes me (and, to be honest, makes me a little envious) that some people can view the world in such black-and-white terms. As someone who is only concerned about reducing suffering, I am bedeviled with questions, such as promoting vegetarianism vs. veganism, working for legislative and supply-side welfare reforms vs. the slow demand-side changes of education, etc.
Given all the variables and unknowns, I don't know how anyone can feel passionate and absolute certainty regarding what is "right" and what is "wrong." As far as I've been able to tell, the best we can do is to try to be honest regarding our first principles and subsequent decisions.
Here are some other comments on this issue:
From Jack Norris, RD
Vegan Is As Vegan Does
Let me start off by saying that I realize there is an opposing view to what I'm about to say, with many valid points. Additionally, I'm not suggesting that a company be allowed to label their product "vegan" if they have purposefully added animal ingredients.
I look at the BK Veggie Burger issue as someone solely
concerned with the suffering of animals. To me, the underlying question
is how we, as a community, define ourselves and others, and why we
consider some foods "taboo."
In my opinion, worrying about trace amounts of animal products makes veganism look like a religion more than a social movement. It is hard enough for people to see that they are causing animal suffering by drinking a glass of milk; when people see advocates so worked up over minutia, the connection to animal suffering gets lost. Rather, veganism becomes something that someone else is "really into" and that they, themselves, "could never do."
While I have seen many examples of this in my life, something my mother once said to me summed it up. Over the years, she has been very supportive, and knew the arguments for veganism quite well. One day, she had made some food using some margarine that had whey as one of the last ingredients (she didn't realize this). When I told her I didn't want any, she said, "You can't possibly think you are helping an animal by not eating this, can you?"
I realized that on some level, she was right. Later on, I recognized that not only was I not helping animals by avoiding these sorts of minuscule amounts of animal products, I might very well be harming the spread of veganism by breaking the connection, in other people's minds, between the foods I was avoiding and animal suffering. My example had become about my purity and obscure ingredients, and not about exploitation and suffering.
See No Evil, Smell No Evil, Taste No Evil
A few yeas ago, I started suggesting that our community, to some extent, change the definition of "vegan" to mean someone who avoids perceptible animal products. In other words, if you can't see it, taste it, or smell it, then don't worry about it.
While this idea has definitely not caught on in the
traditional vegans circles, potential vegans who read Vegan Outreach's
literature about the difference between a "practical"
and "symbolic vegan" often write us saying that they
never would have gone vegan if they hadn't read this.
I believe it would help us to get over our discomfort with someone who knowingly eats a trace of animal products. I fear that it sends a message of "You don't care as much about veganism as we do; you are not one of us" that is unhealthy for making veganism into a large movement.
One thing I love about being vegan is that Ive never before felt any desire to compromise. (Im not at all suggesting that vegan food is totally free of suffering. I know that its often been fertilized with blood or manure. I know that insecticides have been used to poison insects. And I know that mice and snakes are dismembered in the reaping machines.) To me, 99% vegan has been never good enough. My reasoning has been two-fold: Ive never wanted to be remotely responsible for even a tiny amount of farm animal suffering, and Ive never wanted to purchase any food that would fund the livestock industry....
This week, the situation changed. It took me a day or so to grasp it, and in that time I posted what I now regard as an ill-conceived opinion piece on my site. I found out that the bun has a minuscule amount of dairy productsless than one percent, by weight. Well, for me, even a speck of animal products has always been a dealbreaker.
At the same time, I had to acknowledge that it would be a great thing for this burger to succeed. If we could get 20% of Burger King customers to switch to eating the BK Veggie, things for animals would change overnight. Its probable that McDonalds and Wendys would be forced to offer Veggieburgers of their own. Wed see a craze for vegetarian eating like never before, and for the first time, society might be ready to ask some hard questions about animal liberation.
But for us to get there, the BK Veggie has to become a success. And thats anything but assured. Burger King is well known for having numerous new products crash and burn shortly after introduction, but even industry-leader McDonalds misfires regularly. For every smash success like Chicken McNuggets, there are dozens of aborted attempts at new products. Remember McPizza, McLean, or Arch Deluxe? All these productslaunched amidst high-budget promotional campaignshave been yanked from McDonalds menu due to lack of sales.
We cant afford to let Burger Kings Veggieburger suffer a similar fate. If this product fails, itll send a clear signal to the fast food industry that theres insufficient demand for healthy vegan food. The Burger King Veggieburger represents an unprecedented opportunity in the vegetarian movements history. But if the burger flops, it might set the growth of the movement back ten years.
And, chances are, if the vegetarian movement does not embrace this product, it will fail. Id be reluctant to eat a small amount of animal products in the hope that it would help produce animal liberation. Theres just too much suffering in a mouthful of animal products for me to feel right about it. But, with the BK Veggie, the quantities involved are so trivial, and the success of this product is of the utmost importance to farm animals everywhere. We have one opportunity, and if we vegans turn our back on it for the sake of maintaining the illusion of 100% purity, then shame on us.
From PETA (also see here)
We are promoting the BK Veggie because the reality is that millions of Americans eat at Burger King every week. We want those people to consider vegetarianism, and we want it to be a feasible, realistic option for them. We want them to see a veggie burger on the menu. We certainly dont want Burger King to be discouraged from offering vegetarian options.
Consider how many animals would be saved if Burger Kings veggie burger were so successful that people started eating more of them and fewer beef burgers and chicken sandwiches! What if its success inspired someone to open an all-vegan fast-food place?
To us, disparaging the BK Veggie is counterproductive in the extreme. If Burger Kings veggie burger fails, the chances of other fast-food chains introducing a vegan burger are slim.
PETA wants to show people that veganism is easy and mainstream. Sadly, some people already perceive animal rights activists as extreme, radical, and difficult. Instead of squabbling about the almost nonexistent butter flavoring in the BK Veggie bun, we should celebrate that such an enormous fast-food chain, famous for selling hamburgers and chicken products, is now offering a veggie sandwich in all of its 8,500 locations throughout the United States! Lets look to the positive and not pretend that even pure vegan food doesnt come with the quota of rat hairs allowed by law, isnt processed using electricity that destroys habitat, isnt delivered in gas-fueled vehicles, and so on.
Everything we eat involves some degree of animal suffering; our goal is to vigorously reduce that suffering. Frankly, the BK Veggie is more vegan than the streets and tires we drive on, the houses we live in, the petroleum products we use, and many other animal-based products we unknowingly consume on a daily basis.
Veganism is not merely about dogma – it is about doing what is best for animals. We can try in vain to be 100 percent pure, or we can promote an item that will save countless animals from pain and suffering. If we don't support the BK Veggie, vegans will hurt far more animals than they will help.
I'm with a group called Students Against
Cruelty to Animals at the Universtiy of Texas at Austin. We love
the Why Vegan? pamphlets. In the past year we have passed
out over a thousand at various events we've had here in Austin.
And at our event for the Great American Meatout two days ago, we
passed out 300!
I wanted to say thanks for helping me decide
to be a vegan. My friend let me see your Why Vegan pamphlet
– the part about the chickens and cutting off their beaks clenched
it for me.
I would just like to let you know how much
I appreciate Vegan Spam. I'm from the Philippines and was a lacto-ovo
vegetarian for 9 years before I (FINALLY!) went vegan this year.
I moderate an e-group for Filipino vegans, vegetarians and others
interested in the meat-free lifestyle and always post Vegan Spam
there. The meat-free lifestyle has yet to make a significant dent
in Philippine society, and me and my like-minded friends are trying
to do just that.
I have recently read a pamphlet I found
in a coffee center. Even though I have been vegetarian for about
8 years, I was still shocked. I feel really strongly about the
issue of brutality to animals for any reason, especially in this
area. So I appreciate the work going on in this field. I would
also like to volunteer to do any work that needs to be done.