Vegan Chews & Progressive News {3-6-15}

Chickpeas & Changes’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which I view as necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich, white, or human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Hello and welcome to your weekly installment of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews)! Today’s creamy and succulent recipes will have you running to the kitchen, while today’s stories will have you thinking critically about transmisoginy in the feminist movement and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Then, after that rollercoaster of emotions, you can settle down to nominate your favorite Black woman vegan activist and submit that paper you’ve been working on about campus sexual assault. What a great day!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Caramelized Banana Ice Cream
Via To Her Core

Photo via Dearna at To Her Core.

Photo via Dearna at To Her Core.

Blending up near-instant, one-ingredient ice cream from frozen bananas has become ubiquitous in the food blogosphere (though it sure doesn’t get any less delicious or ridiculously easy…). Just when I thought that there weren’t any more variations to make on banana ice cream, along comes this snazzy recipe from Dreana, who caramelizes her bananas in coconut oil before freezing and blending them to yield an intensely sweet, caramel-like frozen dessert. Yes, please.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Roasted Garlic, Parsnip, & White Bean Soup
Via Yummy Beet

Photo via Allison Day.

Photo via Allison Day.

Soup is my favorite food to eat on cold days. Parsnips are my favorite vegetable. This recipe is my favorite.

Must-Read Article

“Real” Women: A Critique of “Feminist” Transphobia
By Rebecca Long at The Feminist Wire

Dove Advertisement / Photo via The Feminist Wire

Dove Advertisement / Photo via The Feminist Wire

This fully explained and clearly written article by Rebecca Long does important work by challenging the trans-exclusionary radical feminism that originated in the second-wave feminist movement and, unfortunately, continues today. TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) mask their transmisogyny under the guise of maintaining safe spaces for “real” women, and Long demonstrates how such rhetoric plays right into the exploitation of all women – trans women very much included – committed by mass media, advertising, and capitalism in general. Especially in light of the onslaught of recent murders of trans women of color, we need always to examine where the movements we support enact violence upon trans people.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Ali Abunimah on Netanyahu’s speech to US Congress
Via Electronic Intifada & The Real News Network

Photo via Electronic Intifada.

Photo via Electronic Intifada.

This past Wednesday, Israeli Prime Mister Benjamin Netanyahu made his speech to US Congress, “forcefully denouncing a possible international agreement that would place Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program under strict supervision,” in the words of Pro-Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah. In this video, Abunimah offers a critical analysis of Netanyahu’s speech.

Book Recommendation Awesome projects you should totally check out

Two for you today! One for which you should nominate your favorite Black woman who practices veganism, the other to which you should submit your essays on campus sexual assault.

Nominate for the 2015 Vegan Anti-Racist Change-Maker of the Year
Via A. Breeze Harper

Photo via A. Breeze Harper.

Photo via A. Breeze Harper.

Call for Forum Submissions on Campus Violence, Resistance, and Strategies for Survival
Via The Feminist Wire

Photo via Whitney Garcia.

Photo via Whitney Garcia.

In solidarity, Ali.

{A Belated Observation of} National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015

Hey, ya’ll. These past couple of days and the coming ones have provided me with ample amounts of schoolwork to manage, so I haven’t the energy to devote to a full post today. I do, however, want to share a number of resources in (belated) observation of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015, which took place last week from  February 22 to 28. If you’re interested, you can check out this post about why this issue is near and dear to my heart.

Photo via NEDA.

Photo via NEDA.

First, two videos that I found to be inspiring and helpful in fostering a healthy, ongoing recovery process:

Years of Hating Her Body and Then One Simple Choice Changed Everything
Via Caroline Rothstein at Greatist

Photo via Caroline Rothstein.

Photo via Caroline Rothstein.

5 Common Questions About Eating Disorder Recovery Answered
Via Melissa A. Fabello at Everyday Feminism

Photo via Everyday Feminism.

Photo via Everyday Feminism.

And, because the face of eating disorder awareness is a white, upper-middle-class woman, I want to pass along a couple of resources that speak to the eating-related struggles that women of color face, as well.

Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat: A Story of Bulimia
By Stephanie Covington Armstrong

Photo via Stephanie Covington Armstrong.

Photo via Stephanie Covington Armstrong.

A Hunger So Wide And So Deep: A Multiracial View of Women’s Eating Problems
By Becky Thompson

Photo via Amazon.com.

Photo via Amazon.com.

The #MarginalizED Project
Via Melissa A. Fabello & NEDA

Photo via Melissa A. Fabello.

Photo via Melissa A. Fabello.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {2-27-15}

Chickpeas & Changes’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which I view as necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich, white, or human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Hello, C&C readers! I hope that your week was manageable and offered some joyous moments. Perhaps you’re now able to relax a bit with some Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews)!…or you’ll just get riled up again about the stuff I’m about to share with ya’ll. Either way, you won’t want to miss some mouthwatering noodles and sandwiches, the fight for trans justice, the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination, or a book that will have you looking at American slavery in a whole new light. Andiamo! (That’s Italian for “let’s go!)

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Veggie Pad Thai with “Eggy” Tofu & Tamarind Sauce
Via Vegan Miam

Photo via Rika of Vegan Miam.

Photo via Rika of Vegan Miam.

I really appreciate Rika’s approach to creating recipes with origins in cultures other than her own — rather than completely appropriating the dish, she explains its cultural origins, its significance, and why/how her interpretation differs from the authentic dish. Rika does this well in her post about her version of the iconic Thai dish known as Pad Thai, which features crumbled tofu mixed with black salt to achieve the “eggy” flavor and texture included in the original Thai dish. Complete with a tangy tamarind sauce, this dish promises a deep complexity of flavors and textures.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Jackfruit “Tuna” Salad Sandwich
Via Carla Kelly in Vegan al Fresco

Photo via Arsenal Pulp Press.

Photo via Arsenal Pulp Press.

Though I have no photo of this impeccable salad for ya’ll today, I do want to highly recommend that you mash a can of jackfruit with Vegenaise, mustard, dill, seaweed, celery, scallions, and capers; pile it high between two pieces of bread; and top with lettuce and tomato. For those of ya’ll who enjoyed tuna salad as youngins, this recipe is sure to strike all those nostalgic notes, while still maintaining a cultivation of anti-speciesist politics. I’d highly recommend Carla’s cookbook for this dish and more.

Must-Read News Story

No to Prison Industrial Complex: San Francisco’s Trans Community Responds to Brutal Murders
By Toshio Meronek at Truthout

22 JUNE, 2012- Members of the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), march in the streets. (Photo: Eric Wagner)

22 JUNE, 2012- Members of the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), march in the streets. (Photo: Eric Wagner)

Since the beginning of 2015, at least seven transgender women — most of whom were of color — were reported to be murdered. Yet we don’t hear about it. Their names don’t stick in our minds like those of Eric Garner or Mike Brown. Organizations like the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGIP) and Critical Resistance are working to change that, in part by marching in the streets of the Bay Area. We need to follow their lead and demand an end to the injustices committed against trans people on a daily basis, and we can start by preventing each individual murdered from becoming just another statistic. We can learn their names and stories, and share them with others. We can amplify their voices. Here are some recently murdered trans people of color for whom we can do this:

Lamar “Goddess” Edwards
Lamia Beard
Ty Underwood
Yazmine Vas Payne
Taja De Jesus
Penny Proud
Bri Golec
Kristina Gomez Reinwald
Sumaya YSL

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Remembering Malcolm X

Photo via The Shabazz Center.

Photo via The Shabazz Center.

February 21 marked the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination, and this week Democracy Now! aired a series of tributes to the legacy of this historic, truly revolutionary activist. You’ll find links to the various video tributes below:

Malcolm X on Democracy Now!: Watch Speeches, Interviews with Activists & Biographer Manning Marable

Grace Lee Boggs on Malcolm X: “He Was a Person Always Searching to Transform Himself”

50 Years After Murder, Malcolm X Remembered by Daughter Ilyasah Shabazz & Friend A. Peter Bailey (Part 1, Part 2)

Book Recommendation

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
By Edward Baptist

Photo via Amazon.com.

Photo via Amazon.com.

Though American historians and the general public alike tend to treat slavery as an isolated incident, independent of the nation’s vast economic success, Edward Baptist in his book explains how the expansion of slavery played the primary role in American modernization and economic growth; i.e., America would not be what it is today if not for the innumerable African Americans whom we enslaved. Perhaps we need to look critically at our professed American virtues of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and instead consider the possibility that our real values lie in torture, violence, and profit over all else.

In solidarity, Ali.

Beyond “Animal Rights”

Welcome to the week, everyone! A couple of months ago I put into writing some reflections upon the consumerist base of the mainstream “vegan” movement (I enclose vegan in quotation marks because I feel that its real meaning has been obscured, which I will expand upon below), and today I want to complicate the movement’s primary framing of its goal as achieving “animal rights.”

First, I’d like to lay out my understanding of veganism – built upon the work of other radical activists before me – as a radical politics steeped in anti-speciesism (if we define speciesism as the belief of the inherent superiority of human beings over all other beings on earth). As Ida Hammer notes, veganism is a social change movement “based on the […] ideal of non-exploitation,” and certain practices like eating an animal-free diet logically flow from this principle that we should not exploit others (November 2008). This view of veganism as a struggle for societal change rightly frames vegans as those “who seek out the root of a problem so that [they] may strike at it for a solution” (Dominick)—the definition of a radical. As radicals, vegans “base [their] choices on a radical understanding of what animal oppression really is, and [their] lifestyle is highly informed and politicized” (Dominick), rather than steeped in the mere refusal to consume the bodies of other animals.

To form a radical movement, activists must move beyond measures to reform existing structures of oppression, and instead demand a revolutionary dismantling and rebuilding of society. In the wise words of Audre Lorde, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

However, the mainstream “vegan” movement focuses heavily on reforming oppressive structures, such as lobbying for legislation to ban gestation crates and other forms of cruelty found in animal agriculture, and shifting the animal-based market to a plant-based (but still capitalist) one. Generally, the movement takes the stance that human conceptions of other animals can shift to embrace anti-speciesism under the exploitative structures of capitalism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy that have constructed our notions of being. Um, no.

Another exploitative structure that the mainstream “vegan” movement upholds is the nation-state, defined academically as “a form of political organization in which a group of people who share the same history, traditions, or language live in a particular area under one government” (Merriam-Webster). The modern world was founded upon the nation-state, and structures all dominant forms of political life today. Perceiving itself in a state of perpetual crisis under the “threat” of those who do not fit the standardized definition of a citizen (think of refugees, immigrants, “terrorists,” etc.), the nation-state “undertake[s] the management of the biological life of the nation directly as its own task” (Agamben). In other words, the nation-state controls the lives of all those within its jurisdiction (and often those beyond).

One integral aspect of the nation-state is the notion of rights. Though posited as a set of values by which the nation-state’s legislative body must abide in order to ensure the well-being of its citizens, rights truly function as another method of control by deeming certain bodies as worthy of political life, and others as lesser beings unable to function as fully political beings. As historian Faisal Devji notes, rights “can only be guaranteed by states and are thus never truly in the possession of those who bear them” (3099); indeed, it is only in forms of political organization in which power is concentrated in elite hands that rights come to hold any meaning (Fotopoulous & Sargis).

Thus, by advocating for the bestowal of rights upon other animals, “vegan” activists work to uphold the inherently violent and oppressive nation-state—a structure that must be challenged in order for the collective liberation of all beings to truly take form.

The “vegan” movement’s operation within a rights-based framework also works to more explicitly uphold speciesism, since it assumes that other animals desire to be indoctrinated into our anthropocentric institution of the nation-state. This framework therefore implies the superiority of human-created ideas and structures over those of other beings.

So if not rights, then for what should we as radical vegans strive? I definitely don’t purport to have all the answers here, but I would like to share with you some of Gandhi’s lesser-known ideas – as paraphrased by Devji and further interpreted by me – about how to reconceptualize what it might mean to act as a political being. Though abstract, these ideas have certainly opened up for me new possibilities of what form radical veganism might take.

Gandhi proposed and enacted a politics based on moral duties rather than rights, in which each individual would commit to their moral duties rather than fighting for their rights, such that we no longer have any dependence on the state. Our duties would question how one’s self ought relate to others, and in a way that does not prioritize one’s own needs. In this politics, we would think of ourselves as moral agents rather than victims whose rights are threatened. Even though the focus in this politics would be on the individual, this focus would not be a neoliberal one since it’s devoted to building relationships and community with others.

What do ya’ll think—do you find Gandhi’s framework helpful? What do you consider to be the goals of radical veganism? It’s questions like these that I ponder on a daily basis, so I’d really love to hear your thoughts.

In solidarity, Ali.


References

Agamben, Giorgio. Means without End: Notes on Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Print.

Anonymous. “Animal Liberation: Devastate to Liberate, or Devastatingly Liberal?” The Anarchist Library. 8 May 2009. Web. 20 February 2015.

Devji, Faisal. The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012. Kindle file.

Dominick, Brian A. “Animal Liberation and Social Revolution.” The Anarchist Library. 1997. Web. 20 February 2015.

Fotopoulos, Takis and John Sargis. “Human Liberation vs. Animal Liberation.” The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy 2.3 (June 2006): n. pag. Web. 20 February 2015.

Hammer, Ida. “Reclaiming Veganism from the Margins.” The Vegan Ideal. 21 June 2008. Web. 20 February 2015.

—. “Veganism: Not to be Confused with Animal Rights.” The Vegan Ideal. 19 November 2008. Web. 20 February 2015.

“Nation-state.” Merriam Webster. Web. 20 February 2015.

Staudenmeier, Peter. “Ambiguities of Animal Rights.” Institute for Social Ecology. 1 January 2005. Institute for Social Ecology. Web. 20 February 2015.

Subversive Energy. “Beyond Animal Liberation.” The Anarchist Library. 27 May 2012. Web. 20 February 2015.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {2-20-15}

Chickpeas & Changes’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which I view as necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich, white, or human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Welcome to the 37th installment of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews), everyone! Today’s recipes feature some winning flavor combinations, while the stories highlight some truly astounding activists working at the marginalized intersections. Enjooooy.

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Easy Sesame Cauliflower
Via My Whole Food Life

Photo via Melissa King.

Photo via Melissa King.

I’m a sucker for basically everything going on in this recipe: that genius combination of tangy, salty, and sweet flavors; starch-thickened sauces; tender cauliflower; a brightening addition of scallions to finish off a dish. Yes, this is one side dish I would happily turn into a whole meal.

Sweet

Matcha Pear White Chocolate Layer Cake
Via Fragrant Vanilla Cake

Photo via Amy Lyons

Photo via Amy Lyons

Show-stopper, amirite? Though I’ve never considered it before, the combination of sweet, champagne-flavored pears with matcha’s mysterious astringence strikes me as rather incredible. When that combo is implemented in the form of cocoa butter-spiked, velvety frosting, I can’t help my jaw from dropping. The recipe calls for a hefty amount of (usually expensive) coconut butter, but I’d wager a guess that the cake would taste just as decadent and fancy-schmancy with the much cheaper Earth Balance vegan butter.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Za’atar Roasted Chickpeas
Via Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes

Photo via Heather Poire.

Photo via Heather Poire.

I’ve spoken of my enthusiasm for the Middle Eastern seasoning known as za’atar, but here I am again, highlighting another za’atar-centric recipe (let me know if I start to sound like a broken record). I whipped up a big ol’ batch of these crunchy, brightly seasoned morsels for my cooperative house, and they disappeared within moments.

Must-Read News Story

Black, Queer, Feminist, Erased from history: Meet the Most Important Legal Scholar You’ve Likely Never Heard Of
By Brittney Cooper at Salon

Photo via Associated Press.

Photo via Associated Press.

The deeply embedded structures of white supremacy and heteropatriarchy have a habit of erasing non-white, gender nonconforming groups and individuals from the collective memory—even (or especially?) those groups and individuals who contributed truly groundbreaking work to their fields of work. One such individual, as professor Brittney Cooper points out, is Pauli Murray—the queer Black lawyer who helped to pioneer the legal strategy for fighting gender-based descrimination. Though trans terminology was not available to Murray in the 1930s and 40s (it wasn’t invented until the 1950s), Cooper notes that it is likely that this groundbreaking activist probably would have embraced a transgender identity.

Cooper offers the following regarding the historical erasure of Murray’s work:

“The civil rights struggle demanded respectable performances of black manhood and womanhood, particularly from its heroes and heroines, and respectability meant being educated, heterosexual, married and Christian. Murray’s open lesbian relationships and her gender nonconforming identity disrupted the dictates of respectability, making it easier to erase her five decades of important intellectual and political contributions from our broader narrative of civil rights.”

A good reminder to always center those working at society’s margins in our historical and contemporary memories.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

The Kitty Bella Show
By Katrina Goodlett

Photo via Katrina Goodlett.

Photo via Katrina Goodlett.

I’m not highlighting a specific episode today, but rather an entire podcast. Katrina Goodlett hosts a fabulous radio show that focuses on the activist work of trans people of color, including performance duo DarkMatter, spiritual psychic empath Noah Alvarez, singer/writer Lady Dane, Janet Mock, Monica Roberts, Angelica Ross and many more. I would highly recommend tuning in each Monday.

Book Recommendation Awesome Projects That you should totally Check out

Call for Submissions: “On Violence” Issue of Project Intersect
Via Ashley Jo Maier

Photo via Project Intersect.

Photo via Project Intersect.

I’ve featured Project Intersect before on the blog, and am thrilled to let ya’ll know that the radical feminist, anti-speciesist crit-zine is currently seeking submissions for their second issue. This issue will focus on understandings of violence in the context of approaches to radical earth, animal, and feminist liberation. Submissions are due on May 31st, so there’s plenty of time for ya’ll to brainstorm and write!

In solidarity, Ali.

Interview with Justin Van Kleeck of Triangle Chance for All Microsanctuary

Ya’ll, I am super excited to share today’s post. If you checked out my recently updated “About” page, you’ll know that my new goal for the blog since its change in name and direction is to contribute to the growth of a vibrant community of feminism, anti-racism, and anti-speciesism.

One way in which I hope to strive for this ongoing goal is to feature the work of activists whose voices are usually muffled by the mainstream vegan/animal rights movement, such as in the “Awesome Projects You Should Totally Check Out” section of my weekly # NewsandChews posts. Today, however, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to highlight such work in the form of a firsthand interview with intersectional activist Justin Van Kleeck, President of the Triangle Chance for All Microsanctuary and blogger at Striving with Systems. Justin is full of passion, vibrancy, and kindness, and I’m certain that what he has to say about reconceptualizing the sanctuary, the problems within the vegan/animal rights movement, and what a future of collective liberation can look like will incite and inspire you. Be sure to connect with Justin and Triangle Chance for All on Facebook and Twitter!

Justin Van Kleeck / Photo via TCA Microsanctuary

Justin Van Kleeck / Photo via TCA Microsanctuary


Ali Seiter (AS): Can you give an overview of your work with and goals for the Triangle Chance for All microsanctuary?

Justin Van Kleeck (JVK): Triangle Chance for All’s primary goal is to liberate farmed animals from the agricultural system and provide or secure them permanent sanctuary, whether that means by making them residents at our small microsanctuary in central North Carolina, by placing them at other vegan sanctuaries, or by helping facilitate their transport to vegan homes. This all started in late 2013 after my partner, Rosemary, and I started to notice that farmed animals were coming through shelters but had almost no hope of being “rescued”; their fate was pretty clearly dismal: either returning to an exploitative farming situation or being killed at the shelter. It was truly heartbreaking to see these refugees of animal agriculture make it out and then have no one there to help there to keep them out.

We originally planned to rescue and place as many of these animals as possible, but we quickly realized that space was limited even at large sanctuaries. Thus, we shifted gears and re-envisioned what sanctuary is and can be. Once we realized that “sanctuary” is not just about quantities—number of acres, animals, staff, or funds raised—but about an attitude of respect and non-exploitation, we started to see ourselves as a microsanctuary. We took in our first two permanent residents, the hens Clementine and Amandine, in February of 2014. Currently our residents include eight roosters, fifteen hens, one duck, and two potbelly pigs.

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AS: What is a microsanctuary and how would you define the “microsanctuary movement”?

JVK: I tend to think of a microsanctuary as any space run by a vegan that is home to rescued animals and emphasizes their health and happiness. So someone with a rescued house rooster is just as much a sanctuary (by virtue of being a microsanctuary) as a million-dollar non-profit with hundreds of acres and hundreds of animals. I am frustrated by how self-limiting we all tend to be when it comes to our views of sanctuaries. I so often hear people say that they want to start their own sanctuary one day if they win the lottery, or without any clear idea of what “sanctuary” really means to them and how to get there. I was there once, and the notion of a typical sanctuary was so daunting that I did not even know where to start to make it happen. By throwing out the ideal, I was able to really think about what sanctuary means for the residents and the caregivers. It is a very powerful relationship and way of living, as well as a perspective on the world and our role as caregivers.

This sense of dedication to the service of rescued farmed animals, as a way to end (and help ameliorate in some way) their exploitation, is what lies at the heart of sanctuary—and on an individual level truly defines a microsanctuary.

The Microsanctuary Movement is an effort Rosemary and I started from our work with TCA to help empower others to rescue farmed animals and self-identify as being part of a sanctuary, both through information and resources and through support networks. We are working on our website right now, but in the meantime we have been trying to share helpful tidbits through The Microsanctuary Movement’s Facebook page and our Facebook group, Vegans with Chickens. Through these and future means, we hope that the movement will inspire many vegans to rescue farmed animals, whether that be a rooster and some hens, or a few goats, or whatever species they can accommodate. To me, this is truly revolutionary because relying on large sanctuaries exclusively means limited ability to rescue (or liberate) farmed animals. Large sanctuaries can usually take in a few hundred animals at most, and so much of their income goes to administrative and other non-care costs. Comparatively, a few thousand vegans each rescuing a handful of animals would open up so much more space and (this is important) resources for care.

Another component of this for me is a shift in how I see myself as a vegan. It is no longer so much a negative orientation, in the sense that I am trying to not cause harm or not be part of exploitation. It feels so much more positive to have a direct role in and responsibility for the care of the very individuals for whom I went vegan. I am and always have been vegan for the animals; saving and sustaining the lives of as many of them I can has given my veganism so much more depth, meaning, and relevance.

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AS: Can you share a specific story of one or more TCA residents?

JVK: Oh, there are so many beautiful and gut-wrenching stories. One of the dearest to my heart is that of Bibi, a tiny little hen who came to us after her three flock-mates were killed by a raccoon who broke into the “chicken tractor” they all lived in in someone’s backyard. Bibi barely survived and was maimed in the attack: her top beak was partially bitten off, a hole was punched into her bottom beak, and she also lost part of a wattle. When she arrived, she was clearly suffering from PTSD; she spent several weeks just sitting in a bathroom like a lump. She started to come out of her shell when we put a mirror in with her, and then she really regained some of her spark when we brought in one of our other hens, Hypatia, to be a companion for her. Now she is a real fireball, with plenty of spunk and attitude. She has had to have surgery on her beak since then, but she really rolls with the punches.

Bibi’s story highlights so many of the problems with backyard chicken-keeping (for example, she was part of a hatching project, which resulted in eight of twelve chicks who were roosters and so were sent back to the farmer and most likely killed). We feel lucky to have gotten the opportunity to give her a better life.

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AS: When/why did you start advocating for other animals?

JVK: I went vegan in 1999 when I was a sophomore in college. I had never met a vegan, but I started questioning the ethics of what I was eating. I was vegetarian at the time, and I started to ask myself if I could justify even potentially causing suffering to animals. I mulled it all over for a few days, realized very clearly that I could not, and became vegan shortly before my twentieth birthday. I have never looked back.

My advocacy started much later—around a decade later in fact. I was always openly vegan, but I had a lot of personal stuff to work through before I could start to speak out more widely and vocally about veganism. I have evolved a lot even since then, going from something of an “I’m okay, you’re okay” attitude to an uncompromising stance against all forms of oppression. The principles behind my advocacy are given so much more gravity, of course, by the fact that I am now fighting for family members, not just ideas and abstractions (“farmed animals” as a category comprising billions of individual beings is often a hard thing to make viscerally relevant; your beloved companion chicken is impossible not to).

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AS: What changes would you like to see in today’s vegan/animal rights movement?

JVK: This is a tough one to answer, because I do not know for sure which approach is the right one for making new vegans that everyone should be using (and I feel strongly that anyone who says they found the Holy Grail of vegan outreach is delusional).

First and foremost, though, I fear that veganism/AR has largely bought in to the “Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death” mindset of modern Western capitalism. Too many of us are more focused on what we consume than how we are directly, positively making the world better for our fellow living beings. It is a well-known problem: a new vegan-friendly cheese, ice cream, or restaurant will always receive more attention (and financial backing—that is important to remember) than, say, protests, social justice programs, or hunger relief. I think we have gotten to a point where corporations have realized that plant-based foods are a thriving marketing niche, and (as consumers) we are rallying behind the things that we enjoy in our lives.

The shitty thing about all of this is that consumerism is a subtle soporific for ethical principles. We are surrounded by a (so-called) “liberal” narrative in which we believe that if we buy better things, we are thereby directly changing the world for the better (what Slavoj Zizek calls “cultural capitalism”). It is so easy to substitute products—stuff—for actual meaningful values and truly impactful activism that threatens the many powers and systems that maintain the status quo—a status quo of institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and of course speciesism (to name a few).

There is no real sense of urgency, I fear, in the vegan/AR movement. Our activism, if you want to even call it that, is really more about fitting things into our schedules and our lifestyles, not about inconveniencing ourselves in order to hit at the foundation of oppression. Not enough of us genuinely feel in our bodies the reality that billions upon billions of other animals are being bred, raised, used, slaughtered, and consumed like just another commodity across the world. While I believe many forms and messages of outreach, advocacy, and activism are needed, I think it absolutely crucial that we see this for what it is: a matter of incomprehensible suffering that shows very little sign of slowing down. It is left to us, as the ones who see what is happening, to stop the cogs of the machine; and if they will not stop, they must be broken.

I also think it crucial that we vegans take seriously the rampant specieism and other forms of bigotry in our own movement. We have not arrived to perfection by going vegan, and so many of the prejudices of our culture get carried into our advocacy. This has to stop.

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AS: What, if anything, does intersectional activism mean to you?

JVK: To me it largely centers on the idea that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and our activism should take seriously the interconnectedness of oppressions as a relevant problem for our specific issues. Intersectional activism means recognizing not only the value, but also the importance of engaging other communities who are struggling against a particular oppression in solidarity. It means speaking out and fighting against all forms of oppression honestly, not as a way to push our own specific agenda as vegans with a half-assed nod to another movement. We have to stop pretending that just getting everyone to go vegan will actually solve all the problems on our planet. Each form of oppression is unique, just as those who most suffer from it face unique situations, but I also believe that the underlying roots of oppression are intertwining and impossible to deal with separately. We all have much to gain by embracing and committing ourselves to other social justice movements…because any oppression is wrong and must not be endured.

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AS: Can you tell us about your blog Striving with Systems?

JVK: Striving with Systems basically started out as a place for me to put some of my writing on veganism, animal rights, and liberationism. I am not a prolific writer by any means, but writing is an important component of my work as an advocate and activist, and it was helpful to have somewhere for all of that to go. The name comes from an epic poem by William Blake (who was the focus of my academic work, I should mention) that describes a ceaseless struggle with the many Systems that keep us from thriving—institutions, regimes, cultural mores, traditions… I started putting more energy into it when I began interviewing interesting (and badass) vegans—originally the focus was on vegans in heavy metal, but that expanded rapidly along with my commitment to intersectionality.

Recently, I reached out to some friends and fellow intersectional vegan writers to come on board as collaborators, so that Striving with Systems could become a collective effort. Charlotte Eure and Christopher Sebastian McJetters are two amazingly insightful advocates and powerful writers, and their perspectives on oppression add so much to what I had been doing on my own. I have no aspirations (or hope, honestly) to make it the next One Green Planet or anything; the focus is much more on offering unfettered responses to the vast instances of exploitation of other animals and humans that we are surrounded by. We are (and will be) covering a variety of topics, not just veganism, both through original content on the blog and by sharing resources on the Facebook page.

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AS: What kind of world are you striving for?

JVK: That is a hard one to answer concretely… I so, so often find myself pondering the question, “What will the world look like after total liberation from oppression is achieved?” It is much easier to take a critical stance and focus on all the things that are wrong in this world, and then to throw myself into fighting them. I know what I want to stop, but I do not know what all of that actually looks like on the other side of liberation.

Luckily we do not need a well-wrought model to strive towards; the struggle against oppression needs us now, and ideally, collectively, we would create a better world based on principles of justice, compassion, respect, and community than what we currently have, which is such fertile ground for oppression, aggression (micro and macro), and exploitation to grow from.

In essence, though, I believe I am striving for a world in which no individual being is used as a means to an end, and no individual being is made to feel (or be treated as) lesser than for any reason—be it species, skin color, sexual orientation, gender orientation, weight, or anything else. That will only be possible with a staggeringly comprehensive overhaul of everything that we know in our modern life. It cannot happen if we keep bringing humans into the world as we do, and keep consuming in the ways and amounts that we do, and keep pretending that the human species has some special significance in the universe that makes it more valuable than any other, and keep rationalizing why it is okay for us to benefit from the suffering and exploitation of other beings so that our way of life can keep humming right along.

Our victory against oppression(s) must be as much about our own individual revolutions as it is about social revolution. There is no other way.

All photos via Justin Van Kleeck at Triangle Chance for All.


In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {2-13-15}

Chickpeas & Changes’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which I view as necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the well-being of all creatures (not just the rich, white, or human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Hi there, everyone! Welcome to yet another installment of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews). After you load up on creative, starchy goodness (can you say waffles, sweet rolls, & cake?), get ready to confront the U.S.’s deeply embedded ideologies and structures that uphold anti-Muslim and anti-Black racism, as well as heteronormativity and patriarchy. Easy stuff, right folks? See you on the flip side!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Parnsip, Shallot & Chive Waffles Topped with Eggplant & Salsa Verde
Via What’s Cooking Good Looking

Photo via Jodi at What's Cooking Good Looking.

Photo via Jodi at What’s Cooking Good Looking.

The woefully underrated parsnip (aka my favorite vegetable). The forgotten sibling of the pancake. These two overlooked foodstuffs unite to form a earthy-sweet, crispy, starchy round of yummy comfort in this creative dinner entree. The egg called for in the waffle recipe can be easily replaced by 1 tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 3 tbsp water.

Sweet

Black Sesame Matcha Rolls with Miso-Lemon Glaze
Via Golubka Kitchen

Photo via Anya Kassoff.

Photo via Anya Kassoff.

Include the ingredients black sesame and matcha together, and I’m all over your recipe like static cling is all over socks. Implemented in the form of sticky, sweet, yeasty rolls, these two unique ingredients produce a visually arresting sweet treat. Sub maple syrup or agave for the honey, and you’re golden.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Earth Cake
Via Stephanie Lynn & Minimalist Baker

Photo via Stephanie Lynn.

Photo via Stephanie Lynn.

Yesterday marked the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC)‘s screening of the recently released, groundbreaking documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. The film follows filmmaker Kip Anderson as he investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations largely refuse to acknowledge the leading cause of global climate change today, as confirmed by the United Nations: animal agriculture. In keeping with the Earth-centric theme of the film, I baked up a ton of Earth-patterned vegan cake for event attendees, inspired by this DIY tutorial from Stephanie Lynn, and using Dana Schultz’s cupcake recipe. Fun, right?

Must-Read News Story

White Man Murders Three Muslim Students in Chapel Hill
Via Anna Merlan at Jezebel

Image via Deah Barakat.

Image via Deah Barakat.

In not-so-fun news, however, this past Tuesday a white man named Craig Stephen Hicks shot and killed three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Preliminary investigations into Hicks’ motives for the shooting revealed that he had previously expressed anti-religion sentiments on social media. CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad had this to say on the topic:

“Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, the religious attire of two of the victims, and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case.”

Following Awad’s words, I think that it’s important to emphasize that this tragic event is not an isolated case of a single prejudiced man, but indicative of a larger culture of hate, fear, and violence against Muslim peoples that has been growing since 9/11.

For more on the story, here are two additional articles from Common Dreams and Al Jazeera.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Mychal Denzel Smith on What’s Wrong About the Ways People Hate Kanye West
Via Radio Dispatch

Photo via MTV.

Photo via MTV.

Since my introduction to Mychal Denzel Smith‘s work this past summer, I’ve become a huge fan of his journalism and punditry. He often appears on one of my favorite podcasts, Radio Dispatch, and indeed did so this Wednesday. In the episode, Mychal discusses the racist underpinnings of America’s frustration with Kanye West, both in general and following this year’s Grammy Awards.

Book Recommendation

Queer (In)Justice
By Joey L. Mogul, Andrea K. Ritchie, & Kay Whitlock

Photo via Beacon Press.

Photo via Beacon Press.

This semester I have the immense privilege of taking an Africana Studies course entitled “The Carceral State and Black (Queer and Trans) Bodies,” taught by powerhouse Black & queer activist Darnell Moore, a Managing Editor at The Feminist Wire (and so much more)Queer (In)Justice is our focus text for the semester, and it provides an extensive historical and contemporary analysis of the ways that the criminal legal system has disproportionately targeted queer people of color. A clearly written and highly important book.

In solidarity, Ali.