To Speak

I have decided to publish my past and future poems to this tag, accompanied by a picture I think will give it (sub)context. I’m hoping for feedback and to spark conversation about each poem’s topic, as they’re clearly important to me. Sending good vibes and art out into the world. Please share your thoughts and inspirations with me in return. 

TO SPEAK

Some defend us
Saying even their deaf
Can communicate without words
But they still believe
Despite the evidence
That we’re the lesser
Most of all
Because we do not
Use unspoken signs
That they call letters
They think it means
We have no language
Forgetting that our bodies
Contain all the symbols
Ever needed

 

On Animal Sacrifice:

Similarly, ritual animal sacrifice, which may at first seem unrelated to interspecies sexual assault, is not unrelated. Ritual transference of transgressions to a sacrificial animal victim is, in my view, a kind of rape. Just as nonhuman animals are deemed fit receptacles for the depositing of human diseases in biomedical research’s quest for health, so they are deemed suitable receptacles for human sin in the quest for spiritual cleansing. In both cases, the animal victim is made to appear as an aspect of the victimizer’s identity, even a willing participant in being used as a depository for human diseases, sins and vices. Humans, by virtue of a shared verbal language, can challenge the profanation and misappropriation of their bodies, identity and will. A nonhuman animal, such as a hen, is powerless, short of human intercession, to protect herself from being besmirched, as when she is represented by her abusers as an “egg-laying machine” or as a symbolic uterus for the deposition of human spiritual filth.

Read the rest.

My tips on how to go and stay vegan:

I have been asked multiple times recently about “how I went vegan” and if I have any tips about things I “wish I had known” beforehand–which is awesome! But, when I was first asked, I wasn’t as prepared to answer this question as I had thought I should have been. I have a whole list, obviously, but it just wasn’t in front of me. Thus, I’m making a list that I can refer to in the future. I hope it’s helpful to you too!

  1. Don’t make it about you. Make it about the animals. About women. About marginal and oppressed persons. Never about health reasons or wanting to do it to make yourself feel better. (Read: Intersectionality). If you’re like me and some days don’t like yourself, you aren’t going to care if the food you eat is unhealthy (which non-vegan food is) or where it comes from. If you make it about you–your health, your body, your taste buds– you aren’t going to keep at it. Because you are autonomous and control your health, your body, your sensory pleasures. And you’re going to want to do what is easiest for you. What is more pleasurable to you.  You will slip back into old habits if it’s just about you. If it’s about more than me, though, I find that I’m more accountable. You aren’t just letting yourself down, you are letting down all those that carnism and speciesism oppresses (and it does oppress women and minorities on top of the animal lives). So, don’t do it to lose weight or to follow a fad. You just make real vegans look bad and we can see through you.
  2. Tie it into your morals/religion/spirituality/philosophy on life. If you can’t find a religious, spiritual, or philosophical basis for it, you aren’t going to be able to argue for your decisions when people ask you about it. And you will be asked about it. When I first started out as a vegetarian, I would always preface my identity with “but not for religious reasons.” As if that somehow separated me from, say, Hindus who don’t eat meat. As if that was necessary at all. But this was a subconscious acknowledgement of what we eat does have implications about what we believe. Deep down, I did have religious and spiritual opinions on the matter. I just couldn’t admit it at the time because I hadn’t found the system and language and theology to express it. But those views/beliefs have helped me stay the course. Veganism calls us to live compassion, and this is synonymous with my belief systems. My veganism cannot be separated from those beliefs. And if it could, I probably wouldn’t be vegan. Veganism has to bring you closer to God(s)/Enlightenment/Whatever you want to call it. Otherwise you won’t be able to be vegan. If you can’t find a religious basis for veganism within your current religion, perhaps it’s time to get a new religion, or perhaps you need to dig a little deeper into your religious understanding. I can’t give that understanding to you. This is something you have to find yourself.
  3. Watch as many pro-animal documentaries as you can. This will support you in your decision and give you solid reasoning as to why you should go and stay vegan.  My recommended list includes:
    1. Food, Inc.
    2. The Ghosts in Our Machine
    3. Cowspiracy
    4. Forks Over Knives
    5. Blackfish
    6. Earthlings
    7. Pedigree Dogs Exposed
    8. Videos on YouTube of animal agriculture abuse. (You may need to see the horrific abuse to make yourself never want to consume meat or dairy again).
  4. Read as many pro-veg books as you can. I recommend The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams for those who are already vegetarian and thinking of going vegan. Otherwise, maybe start elsewhere–like a vegan cookbook or something to show you some options of where you could start to make changes in your diet. Other books that might be relevant (doing a Google Book search will get you some good titles):
    1. Sister Species
    2. Confronting Animal Exploitation: Grassroots Essays on Liberation and Veganism
    3. The Pornography of Meat (and anything else by Carol Adams)
    4. Sistah Vegan
    5. My Vegan Dreams
  5. Like as many pro-vegan facebook pages, twitter profiles, etc. as you can. Start living in the Vegan community. There will be tips and support there. Click through the profiles and see what the pages are talking about. She what they are sharing. See what pages those pages have liked. Join facebook groups. Share the posts. Be engaged in the community. Some facebook pages I recommend:
    1. Sister Species https://www.facebook.com/Sister-Species-146918522078296/
    2. The Ghosts in Our Machine https://www.facebook.com/TheGhostsInOurMachine/
    3. Vegan Hip Hop Movement https://www.facebook.com/veganhiphopmovement/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE
    4. Disrupt Speciesism https://www.facebook.com/disruptspeciesism/
    5. Black Vegans Rock: https://www.facebook.com/BlackVegansRock/
    6. Earth in Transition: https://www.facebook.com/EarthInTransition/
    7. Zoo Check: https://www.facebook.com/canadazoocheck/
    8. Milk Hurts: https://www.facebook.com/MilkHurts/
    9. My Vegan Dreams: https://www.facebook.com/myvegandreams/
    10. Striving with Systems: https://www.facebook.com/StrivingWithSystems/?fref=mentions
  6. Announce your Veganism — at least, eventually. Make a facebook post. Make an announcement at family dinner. Go big, get it over with, and go from there. I wish I had. I wish I had recorded the date where I said “NOW I AM OFFICIALLY VEGAN.” Because I didn’t. I went to it over time. I was already vegetarian, and then I slowly phased out diary. I stopped buying milk. I started reading labels and avoiding products. Then one day I was like “I think I can do this vegan thing.” But I never recorded it. I regret that. Now all I have is a vague season in a year of when I decided to do it. And then I was shy about it. I didn’t tell my mom for a long time. She didn’t notice because I was already such a picky eater. I just didn’t want the debates and the arguing and the confrontation. It just never seemed to be the right time. But eventually, it did come up and I did have to argue. I still do. And if that’s what you end up doing too, that’s completely valid. But I will say that once I made my OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF VEGANISM (actually, several, across many meetings with friends and social media platforms), it got easier to enact my veganism. It holds you accountable, too. If you say you are something aloud, then most honest people feel obligated to stay consistent with what they claimed. Nobody wants to be a liar.
  7. Wear your veganism. If you want to start putting your veganism into practice, start getting rid of your leather and furs and feathers. Donate them to Goodwill or animal shelters or animal rehabilitators. I don’t recommend throwing them away, because that is just wasteful. But looking the part of a vegan helps the inward part as well. You can google places that accept fur. Leather is a different story, but is most likely still wearable. If you wear makeup, start buying cruelty-free and vegan products.
  8. Vegan readymade meals are your friend. Amy’s brand is a godsend. I don’t cook, not because I’m terrible at it, but because I don’t have time. I do frozen vegan meals at least once a day.  If you have a family, I don’t know what to tell you (buy more than one?). Look for the V on the packaging, or Dairy-free or just the ingredients list. Brands that really work for me and my tastebuds and are conveniently found in my local stores (Wal-Mart, Target, Reasor’s, Wholefoods):
    1. Amy’s Kitchen 
    2. Sweet Earth Foods 
    3. Gardein
  9. Do it gradually. This may seem to conflict with #6, but I don’t mean for it to. You don’t have to claim you are vegan yet when you are experimenting. And, even when you claim you are vegan and accidentally buy something with an ingredient you didn’t know was non-vegan, you’re still vegan! You just made a mistake. There’s no way for you to know everything when you first start out. I’m constantly on my phone in the store, googling things–and I’ve been at this for years now! You learn what products are safe eventually. You are having to unlearn everything you’ve been taught, which is hard and frustrating and often very alienating. When you do make a mistake, don’t waste the animal suffering. Just do better next time. My advice is to gradually drop non-vegan things from your diet. Start with meat, of course. Then, drop milk. Instead of buying an actual jug of milk, buy almond milk (or coconut milk or soy milk or hemp milk — all so good!). Stop buying eggs. Then, start reading ingredients on the other things you buy and avoiding those when you see that they contain milk or eggs or this and that non-vegan ingredient. All the while, be venturing out and trying vegan-specific brands. When you are ready, do #6. Never go cold turkey (such a weird phrase).
  10. Know the places to eat out and the vegan options on the menus! Did you know the breadsticks at Olive Garden are vegan? You can make almost anything vegan at Taco Bell? You can get a veggie sub at Subway? You don’t have to stay home when your friends go out. You can always google the options or call the restaurant ahead of time. Also, it’s good for you to go out, as a vegan, and order the vegan options. There needs to be a market for us for real change to happen! Your dollar and data count.

I’ll update this list as I think of more. But I hope it gives you some perspective.

BOOK REVIEW: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova promotes animal cruelty.

This book is a DNF for me because of the animal cruelty:

“I glued my fingers so many times that they were raw and bloody. I probably bled as much for her Deathday as the sacrificial dove. If I think on it, I can see Lula [her sister’s] slender hands holding the dove, red dots smattered all over her perfectly calm face.”

– Main character, Alejandra, on her sister’s coming of age brjua party.

Her sister, Lula, is a main character. A “good witch” — rather, bruja. The fact she would sacrifice a dove took me so aback…

It is sick and normalizes animal cruelty. How many teens are going to think that good brujas do that? Are going to try that? Blood magic is usually associated with dark magic — with evil. Sure, in the book there are jars of eyeballs and tongues but you never know where they come from. You can assume that the characters are carnists, which is the default across cultures, but to sacrifice just for the sake of death is beyond vile.

I was really looking forward to a LGBTQ positive YA read, but this just glazes over the topic of animal cruelty so offensively that I couldn’t respect it or read more.

Panda turds: Collected droppings to 12/10/16

Book Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea, but also a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.

OK. So, allegorical is a stretch, but perhaps I don’t know enough about South Korea to get said “allegory.” I think it may have something to do with the fact that women are treated like cattle, but I don’t know? Let me know if I’m in the right direction here, if you’ve also read the novel.

Also, I’ve heard this book called Kafka-esque and that’s just ridiculous for a number of reasons. She may want to be a plant. But she does not turn into one. This is not an “I’m suddenly a bug!” story. But I’ll not harp on it.

The reason I chose to read this book was because I, for one, have been a vegetarian/vegan going on 6 years now and am now quite interested in vegheads-as-characters because there aren’t many and, when there are, they are usually the butt of jokes, or not taken seriously.

That’s not to say that the main character in this novel, Yeong-hye, is really vegetarian. At times she seems more anorexic than someone with convictions about food (she kills and bites a bird at one point, so I don’t think animal welfare or rights are involved in her decision). She also eliminates eggs and dairy from her diet, so one could say she is vegan. Thus, the title is a bit of a lie for for me. However, her eating habits are something she refuses to apologize for, which make her the strongest, most interesting veg character I’ve ever read.  But that’s not saying much.

She arguably plays into cliches with her “vegetarianism” – she is seen as sickly and weak. And crazy. At one point, her obsession with plants as life plays into her brother-in-law’s obsession with plants as art, leading to an odd affair (fun fact: adultery was illegal in South Korea until 2015). She is the manic pixie dream girl on that level. She goes from scary “other” (refusing peer pressure from her family to eat meat) to the objectified piece of meat.

She cannot win.

It is because of her one choice (arguably the one thing that has ever made her odd or special — her whole life being built around mediocre normalcy) that her whole family falls apart. Her one choice shows their selfishness. The story left me wondering how might her life and their lives have been different if they had just accepted her choice to become vegetarian — had asked her about her dream (the reason she gives up meat). By the time her sister thinks to blame herself, she is too far gone.

Despite being such a short book, it took too long to reach this conclusion. That, coupled with the poor portrayal of vegetarianism, is why I can only give this one star. It would have been a better novella.

Other reviews I agree with:

 …
(However, piece of meat comment).
(Nah, I just don’t think Kang understands what vegetarianism is).
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

TBR: The Vegan Cookbook: 497 Recipes by Jack Truman

As a vegan, I loved getting the heads up about this book.

Find it on Smaswords.

A plant-based diet:

Is good for you
Is good for the animals
Is good for the planet

THE VEGAN COOKBOOK: 497 RECIPES is a collection of 497 healthy, mouth-watering plant based recipes free from any animal products. Author Jack Truman, a lifetime vegan and animal rights activist, has compiled a collection of his favorite family plant-based recipes over a lifetime.

Obesity is a growing problem in America. According to science, Animal Agriculture is the leading primary source to Climate Change. Millions of animals are slaughtered by the hour for human consumption. And a meat-centered diet is a major factor in Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes and all major diseases.

By adopting a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle, individuals can save the lives of animals, save their own lives from obesity and disease, and end Global warming. THE VEGAN COOKBOOK : 497 RECIPES is a healthy, nutritious resource of great recipes, free from any animal products.

 

Why we need to get rid of zoos and zoo mentality:

We may consider ourselves to be post-colonial, but colonial narratives continue to inform our understanding of the world and the animals and people who live there. This framing is no longer appropriate, but how do we shed the colonial narrative and seek an integration of diverse cultural narratives of the land, people, and places? How might the modern zoo become post-colonial?

From “Is it time to break with colonial legacy of zoos?”

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