Vegan Chews & Progressive News {5-22-15}

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.

Just a reminder about the exciting news that Chickpeas & Change is now accepting submissions! I’m thrilled to be able to open this space up to voices from the anti-speciesist, feminist, anti-racist community. Check out this page for submission guidelines.

Hello, all, and welcome to another edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews)! First, let me apologize for not publishing a post this past Monday–I was finishing up the last of my college finals and couldn’t find the mental energy to devote to crafting a post. Rest assured, though, C&C will be up and publishing once again next Monday. But for now, enjoy the best of the week’s recipes and stories (well, at least IMHO).

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Crisp Chickpea & Kale Salad with Apricots, Fried Fennel, & Tahini-Avocado Goddess Dressing
Via Will Frolic for Food

Photo via Renee Byrd.

Photo via Renee Byrd.

Wow, hi, thank you for combining a great many fabulous ingredients into a hearty, complexly layered salad. And for introducing me to the flavor combination of caramelized fennel and apricots! I bet it’s winning…

Sweet

Apple Crumble Breakfast Parfait
Via To Her Core

Photo via Dearna of To Her Core.

Photo via Dearna of To Her Core.

I’m not usually one for hot, porridge-y breakfasts, but this one — layered between tender apples, tangy yogurt (vegan, please), spiced nuts and seeds — may just change my mind.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Chickpea Salad Sandwich
Via Olives for Dinner

Photo via Jeff Wysocarski.

Photo via Jeff Wysocarski.

In case you’re new to C&C, let me reveal to you my undying affection for (vegan) mayonnaise-based salads, especially those that involve smashed chickpeas. This one from Erin over at Olives for Dinner serves as a pretty standard chickpea salad template, a huge batch of which my housemates (understandably) scarfed down over the course of two days.

Must-Read Article(s)

I want to highlight two articles today, in order to emphasize a pair of this week’s biggest news stories (at least in the media that I consume on a daily basis…which is more than The New Republic, I promise).

Could the Boston Marathon Bomber Receive a Fair Trial in Boston?
By Karen Pita Loor at The New Republic

From The Guardian:: "Demonstrators against the death penalty stand outside federal court in Boston during first day of the penalty phase for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev." Photograph: John Tlumacki/AP.

From The Guardian: “Demonstrators against the death penalty stand outside federal court in Boston during first day of the penalty phase for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.” Photograph: John Tlumacki/AP.

After a federal court sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — the Boston Marathon bomber — to death (despite the fact that Massachusetts has long outlawed the death penalty) this past week, discussions of capital punishment and the implications of a death-qualified jury have come to the fore. This article from Karen Pita Loor distills some of those discussions.

Data-Driven Policing
By Jamil Smith at The New Republic

From NJ.com: "Camden County Officer Virginia Matias (second from right) sits with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as they meet with rank-and-file law enforcement officials from across the country in the Oval Office, Feb. 24, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)."

From NJ.com: “Camden County Officer Virginia Matias (second from right) sits with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as they meet with rank-and-file law enforcement officials from across the country in the Oval Office, Feb. 24, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).”

Whenever Obama announces something seemingly progressive, it’s prudent to take a critical look at that something. Most recently, Obama revealed that he would “prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments.” De-militarizing police? Sure! But wait…this article by Jamil Smith discusses some of the not-so-great implications of this new policy.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Unconventional Wisdom
Via Disorderly Conduct

Photo via Tarbell Industries.

Photo via Tarbell Industries.

If you’ve never listened to Alexis and Jesse’s progressive labor-and-economics-focused podcast, I would highly recommend that you add it to your regular listening repertoire. This particular episode features an interview with Maya Schenwar, one of my favorite journalists, editor-in-chief at Truthout, and author of the new book against mass incarceration, entitled Locked Down, Locked Out.

Book Recommendation

Poetics of Relation
By Edouard Glissant

Photo via TheFunambulist.net.

Photo via TheFunambulist.net.

For me the overarching theme of this spring semester has involved investigating the question of how to coexist in the world with others. Glissant’s poetic work does a marvelously artistic job of pointing out where typically unquestioned ideologies prevent us from building community, and of suggesting where we might look in developing new strategies for how to challenge individualism in the name of Relation.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {5-15-15}

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.

Just a reminder about the exciting news that Chickpeas & Change is now accepting submissions! I’m thrilled to be able to open this space up to voices from the anti-speciesist, feminist, anti-racist community. Check out this page for submission guidelines.

Hi, friends! Happy Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews) Day, amirite? Enjoy some spicy, messy tacos before cooling off and cleansing your palate with an intriguingly flavored, dairy-free ice cream that you could totally scoop onto the final recipe featured today (yummm…). In not so yummy news, I’m sharing with ya’ll a phenomenal piece of investigative journalism on the 34 students disappeared in Mexico lat year, the latest in treating police officers as exceptional in the face of murdered Black people, and a must-read scholarly article for any and all white people concerned with racial justice.

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Jackfruit Asada Street Tacos
Via Fettle Vegan

Photo via Amber St. Peter.

Photo via Amber St. Peter.

When I can get my hands on it, jackfruit provides me with an ideal ingredient platform for creamy “chicken”-style salads to spread on sandwiches, and for spicy BBQ “pulled pork” to slather on a bun. In these taacos, jackfruit sports a brightly flavored marinade that I can easily envision myself enjoying on my backyard patio in the summertime.

Sweet

French Tarragon & Olive Oil Ice Cream
Via The Circus Gardener’s Kitchen

Photo via Steve Dent.

Photo via Steve Dent.

Put herbs in a dessert and I’ll be all over it, especially when that dessert has some creamy-coconutty yumminess goin’ on.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Bread Pudding
Inspired by Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen

Photo via Susan Voisin.

Photo via Susan Voisin.

What do you do when you and your housemate discover over 30 loaves of totally edible bread sitting outside of the dumpster behind a health food store? You take them back to your co-op and stick ’em all in the freezer. And then you start worrying that all this bread is never going to get eaten before we all have to leave campus for the summer in three weeks so you make bread pudding.

Must-Read Article

Ghosts of Iguala–Mexico: Case Unravels in Disappearance of 43 Students
By Ryan Devereaux at The Intercept

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Protestors confront police in front of the 27th Infantry Battalion base in Iguala on January 12, 2015. (Eric Chavelas Hernandez/Anadolu/Getty)

I first heard about Ryan’s coverage of this intricate and ongoing story on the Radio Dispatch podcast, and immediately ran over to The Intercept to read his two-part investigation. If you’ve been at all following the case of the 43 disappeared students in Mexico and the larger political context of such an event, this phenomenal instance of journalism is a must-read.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Wisconsin Activists to Continue Protests After Cop Avoids Charges in Killing of Tony Robinson
Via Democracy Now!

Protestors marched for justice for Tony Robinson, and for all black people. Photograph: Michael P. King/AP

Protestors marched for justice for Tony Robinson, and for all black people. Photograph: Michael P. King/AP

Remember back to March when a police officer in my hometown of Madison, WI forced his way into the home of Tony Robinson and fatally shot the Black teenager? Well, big surprise, no charges have been brought against that police officer. I think I’m starting to see a pattern here…

Book Recommendation

White Fragility
By Robin DiAngelo

Photo via The Pundit Press.

Photo via The Pundit Press.

Okay, so it’s not a book, but it’s a really great scholarly article! We read this piece by Robin DiAngelo in a workshop hosted on my college campus on white identity formation and anti-racist work, and it really resonated with my journey as a white person coming to racial consciousness. I’d highly recommend this article to all white people concerned with racial justice (which should be all white people…).

In solidarity, Ali.

Summer Plans

Hi, folks! Just a short post today, as I have to prepare loads and loads of animal-free bacon-y goodies for today’s (well, last Friday’s by the time you read this) Vegan Bacon Tasting, hosted by the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC). As such, I thought I’d let ya’ll know about my summer plans, since they involve lots of cool (well, I think, at least) animal justice-related endeavors, including a sanctuary internship and a field work project for my Geography major.

First, I’ll be spending five days a week working full-time at Heartland Farm Sanctuary, a five-year-old sanctuary just outside of my hometown’s city limits. In addition to feeding the residents, cleaning out their barns, accompanying them on medical visits (including to a licensed Reiki practitioner!), and giving them lots of love, I’ll also be helping out the leaders of Heartland’s summer camp for schoolchildren and assisting in some event-planning.

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As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I’ve become increasingly committed to learning how to more adequately communicate with other animals, to really listen to the folks with whom I seek to work in solidarity. I’m eager to further pursue this practice at Heartland this summer, both by working there and through my aforementioned Geography field work project. Through this project, I intend to highlight the marginalized voices within animal justice work, including women of color, slaughterhouse workers, and the animals themselves. In doing so, I hope to challenge the animal justice movement’s privileging and exclusionary visibilizing of white, wealthy men in order to advance a more radical agenda of animal justice, as laid out by the movement’s oft silenced voices. I would greatly appreciate any reading/resource suggestions from ya’ll, as I’ve only just begun constructing the syllabus for this project.

Anywho, I’ve got to go get up to my elbows in vegan bacon grease, so I wish you a lovely week and look forward to hearing any resource recommendations you might have.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {5-8-15}

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.

Just a reminder about the exciting news that Chickpeas & Change is now accepting submissions! I’m thrilled to be able to open this space up to voices from the anti-speciesist, feminist, anti-racist community. Check out this page for submission guidelines.

Wowza, we’re already at the 48th edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews)! Below some truly spring-like recipes — both savory and sweet — you’ll find some exciting national security news, a podcast in celebration of this past solidarity-filled May Day, and some updates from the ever-incredible Sistah Vegan Project. Happy Friday!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Radish & Fennel Orzo Salad with Parsley-Lemon Vinaigrette
Via Healthy Recipe Ecstasy

Photo via Michelle Hershman.

Photo via Michelle Hershman.

Yep, the springtime dishes are in full swing over in the vegan recipe blogosphere. Though I seldom encounter a radish that I enjoy, this crunchy, bright salad might just win me over.

Sweet

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake
Via Allyson Kramer

Photo via Allyson Kramer.

Photo via Allyson Kramer.

I would be remiss not to round out the light recipe above with this rich dessert, especially since I’ve found myself on an enthusiastic peanut butter kick lately. And those swirls? Oof, I’m sold.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes with Matcha-Coconut Frosting
Inspired by Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Photo via hoveringdog.

Photo via hoveringdog.

As a gift to two of my housemates, I whipped out the ol’ Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World to recreate Isa & Terry’s Green Tea Cupcakes. Instead of the glaze called for in the recipe, however, I frosted the cakes with matcha-spiked coconut whipped cream. An ideal spring dessert, if I do say so myself.

Must-Read Article

NSA Phone Surveillance Illegal, Federal Court Rules
By Nadia Prupis at Common Dreams

Photo via Associated Press.

Photo via Associated Press.

Just yesterday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that “the bulk telephone surveillance program operated by the U.S. National Security Agency and revealed in 2013 by whistleblower Edward Snowden is illegal.” The concrete effects of this ruling are not yet clear, as Congress is still debating key sections of the related Patriot Act, but the decision does set a huge precedent against mass government surveillance in the U.S. Check out national security journalist Glenn Greenwald’s Twitter feed for the latest.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

May Day Special! Labor Shuts It Down From Baltimore to Long Beach
Via Belabored Podcast

Photo via Belabored Podcast.

Photo via Belabored Podcast.

Happy belated May Day! Celebrate (and continue to fight for) labor rights with this episode of the Belabored podcast, which reports on the solidarity marches between #BlackLivesMatter and labor protestors across the nation.

Book Recommendation Awesome Projects You Should Totally Check Out

Sistah Vegan Conference Recordings
Via A. Breeze Harper

Photo via Sistah Vegan.

Photo via Sistah Vegan.

In case you missed the phenomenal Sistah Vegan web conference that took place last month, you have the opportunity to access all of the 2-day conference proceedings for $25. All proceeds go directly to A. Breeze Harper, the conference organizer, and the continuation of the Sistah Vegan Project.

In solidarity, Ali.

Meet Sir Chester McFlops-a-Lot III

On Thursday, April 16, someone came into my life who unexpectedly shifted the way I move through my daily life. I thought I was just adopting a rabbit, providing a home for an abandoned bun. (I’m refraining from using the term “rescue” here, as I think it can contribute to the development of a human savior complex toward non-human animals that paints them as victims rather than agents. More in a future blog post.) But after about two weeks of living with him, I’ve come to realize that I’ve gained a teacher, a playmate, a trickster, and a companion. Obviously, this bun’s existence is valuable in and of itself, regardless of what he contributes to my life, but I think it’s important to recognize the impact that non-human animals — whom we much more often than not regard as inferior beings — can have on human lives.

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I call him Sir Chester McFlops-a-Lot III (Chester, for short), and I adopted him from a woman who had been fostering him for about a week after finding him cooped up in a small cage in a dark basement, with minimal food an water. Apparently, the owner of said basement (or, more accurately, the house attached to it…) had bought a newborn Chester from a breeder as an Easter gift for her daughter, who “got tired” of Chester after just over two years of living with him. Chester now lives in my very spacious room and loves hopping around, hiding under my bed, munching on hay and lettuce, and getting petted. He’s a super sociable bun with tons of energy, and I’m so happy that he doesn’t have to live in a basement anymore. Moral of the story: please don’t buy bunnies (or any non-human animals, for that matter) as holiday gifts. They are complex beings with their own unique life-worlds who must be regarded as infinitely more than inanimate objects on par with socks and candy, and treated as such.

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From sharing my room with Chester, I’ve been able to get out of my own head, to interrupt the obsessive thoughts that can often spiral into destructive tendencies. In providing care for another, I’ve necessarily had to think beyond myself, to disrupt the individualistic habits I’ve long cultivated of work-work-working on an uninterrupted schedule, in the presence of only me, myself, and I. I pause. I pause to sit on the ground with Chester, to clean his cage, to fill his carrot-shaped food bowl with lettuce, to pet his smooth-soft fur from head to tail as he gently grinds his teeth in silent contentedness. After a whirlwind of a day, I’m calmed immediately as I enter my room, greeted by an excited bun, eagerly nudging my heels to request pets and snuggles.

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Not only has Chester taught me how to more easily occupy a space outside of myself, he has also shown me how to communicate with him, serving as a language professor of sorts. Nipping at my heels means he wants attention; hopping in and out of his cage (which remains open all the time so that Chester can explore my room as he pleases) means he wants more food; sitting with his legs tucked underneath him means that he’s calm and content; flopping onto his back means he’s incredibly happy, and usually happens after I’ve given him pets or he’s had fun ripping up a piece of newspaper; running across my room and leaping into the air means it’s playtime; and so on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In a recent post, I reflected upon how animal justice activists might support the agency of the non-human beings with whom we seek to act in solidarity by truly listening to them, by learning their language. I think that living with Chester has given me good practice in this area — practice that is forever ongoing and will never be complete, simply by virtue of the fact that I’ve been socialized as a human since childhood — and trust that my internship at Madison’s own Heartland Farm Animal Sanctuary this summer will allow me to continue and expand upon this practice.

Have ya’ll developed a mode of human-animal communication between you and your companion animals? If so, how — if at all– do you think it has improved your ability to act in solidarity with non-human beings? I’d love to hear your stories, perhaps even in a future blog post here at C&C! You can submit your pieces to chickpeasandchange [at] gmail [dot] com, and check out this page for submission guidelines.

Looking for resources on how to be a great bunny companion? Visit the House Rabbit Society’s website.

In solidarity, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {5-1-15}

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.

Just a reminder about the exciting news that Chickpeas & Change is now accepting submissions! I’m thrilled to be able to open this space up to voices from the anti-speciesist, feminist, anti-racist community. Check out this page for submission guidelines.

Today’s edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News (# NewsandChews) features a roundup of some of the (very sparse) fair reporting on the current situation in Baltimore, as instigated by the police violence committed against Freddie Gray. So get your crisp spring salads, your rhubarb-y desserts, and your fluffy biscuits (because you’ll find that below, too), and gear up to learn in solidarity with the most recent instance of #BlackLivesMatter organizing.

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Savory

Spring Panzanella with Fresh Peas & Fennel
Via Cookie & Kate

Photo via Kate of Cookie & Kate.

Photo via Kate of Cookie & Kate.

To celebrate the emerging sunny spring days, a crisp salad of seasonal produce paired with crusty whole grain bread seems quite appropriate.

Sweet

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Bars
Via Choosing Raw

Photo via Gena Hamshaw.

Photo via Gena Hamshaw.

More seasonal produce! Rhubarb is one of those funny veggies that doesn’t stick around for very long but gets a ton of use — mostly in fruity baked goods — when it is available at the market. A big fan of crumble bars, I’d be more than happy to use up all that rhubarb in this recipe.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Best Damn Vegan Biscuits with Magic Vegan Bacon Grease
Via Minimalist Baker & Magic Vegan

Photo via Dana Schultz.

Photo via Dana Schultz.

On May 8, the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) will host a Vegan Bacon Tasting, complete with donations from nine different vegan companies, as well as a couple of recipes I have up my sleeve. One of said recipes is for bacon-infused fluffy biscuits, made with the once unthinkable vegan bacon grease. Dana’s recipe for impeccable biscuits provides a fantastic base for animal-free bacony experimentation.

Must-Read Article

Reporting on Freddie Gray & Baltimore

Photo via John Sham at The Baltimore Sun.

Photo via John Sham at The Baltimore Sun.

If ya’ll haven’t yet heard about this story (which is understandable given the horrendous media coverage it’s gotten), here are the details, from Kate Aronoff at Waging Nonviolence:

“On April 12, Baltimore police chased down 25-year old Freddie Gray after he had “made eye contact” with officers. The exact cause for his arrest is unclear, though police report that he was (not illegally) carrying a knife in his pocket. Post-arrest cell phone video shot by an observer shows Gray limp, the result of a broken leg according to one observer, and screaming out in pain as officers dragged him into the back of a police van. He was held inside the vehicle for 30 minutes, emerging afterwards with severe injuries; Grey died in a hospital one week later, on April 19. At the time of his death, Gray’s spine was 80 percent severed at the neck and his voice box had been crushed.”

Of course, most of the media coverage actually given to the physical violence committed against Freddie Gray and the structural violence committed against the Baltimore community has focused on the protests, condemning them for property destruction, looting, and “rioting.” The articles below provide cogent explanations of why this immediate jump to demonizing the Baltimore protestors constitutes yet another form of violence against Black lives.

‘Structural Looting’ of Black Communities Driving Protesters to Baltimore Streets
By Sarah Lazare at Common Dreams

Police and ‘Black Baltimore’
By Shaun La at Common Dreams

Response to “Black Lives Matter more than chickens’ or cows’ lives, apparently”
By A. Breeze Harper at Sistah Vegan

Having Black Cops and Black Mayors Doesn’t End Police Brutality
By Stacia L. Brown at The New Republic

The Violence in Baltimore Didn’t Start with the Riots
By Rebecca Traistser at The New Republic

Baltimore and the Human Right to Resistance
By Ajamu Baraka at Counterpunch

The problem with wanting ‘peace’ in Baltimore
By Kazu Haga at Waging Nonviolence

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

Coverage of Baltimore on Democracy Now!

Photo via Matt Roth at NY Times.

Photo via Matt Roth at NY Times.

More on Baltimore and Freddie Gray from one of the few broadcast news outlets giving adequate and fair coverage to the story.

Thursday, April 23: “Running While Black”: Protests Swell over Death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore Police Custody

Tuesday, April 28: National Guard Deployed as Baltimore Erupts After Years of Police Violence, Economic Neglect

Wednesday, April 29: “You Can Replace Property, You Can’t Replace a Life”: Voices of the Unheard in the Baltimore Streets

Thursday, April 30: History Repeats? Activist Tom Hayden on Police Brutality Protests from the 1960s to Baltimore

Book Recommendation Awesome Projects You Should Totally Check Out

Triangle Chance for All Microsanctuary’s Medical Fundraiser
Via Triangle Chance for All

Photo via Triangle Chance for All.

Photo via Triangle Chance for All.

Remember that awesome interview I did with Justin Van Kleeck of the Triangle Chance for All Microsanctuary a while ago? Well, now you have the chance to help out TCA by contributing to the largest fundraising campaign they’ve ever launched. Read on for details from Justin and Rosemary.

“Triangle Chance for All is happy to announce our $5,000 medical crowdfunding campaign –and thrilled that all donations will be matched by a grant from A Well-Fed World

In the past year of operations, we have spent almost $7,000 on medical care–ranging from surgeries for bumblefoot and broken beaks, to vaccinations and health exams, to prescriptions for infections. This medical bill accounts for nearly half of our total expenses over the past year…

We are asking for your help to raise $5,000 for Guinevere’s Fund, our medical fund named in honor of a beloved young hen who died shortly after arriving at TCA from traumas sustained before she joined our flock.

All donations for this campaign will be matched thanks to a generous grant from A Well-Fed World! With your help and this matching grant, we will be well-prepared to provide the same level of medical care for the coming year to all of our residents. Plus we will be better able to take in new residents and focus especially on rescue-and-placement as a way to get more individuals off of the agricultural assembly line.”

In solidarity, Ali.

Recap of the 14th Annual Institute for Critical Animal Studies Conference

Hello, all! As I mentioned last Monday, I had the pleasure of spending last weekend at Binghamton University for the 14th Annual Institute for Critical Animal Studies North America Conference, along with seven of my fellow members of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) and one VARC alum. Today, I’d like to share with ya’ll some of what I found as the most compelling insights from the conference, and well as what I think needs improvement.

First, a bit of background on the awesome organization known as the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS): co-founded in 2001 and still currently headed by powerhouse intersectional activist Anthony J. Nocella II, ICAS began with the intent of defending the radical politics and activism of the Animal Liberation Front. Today, ICAS — grounded in animal liberation — promotes solidarity with all oppressed groups with an aim towards collective liberation for all beings, functioning as an academic-activist research center that seeks to foster holistic, intersectional social justice spaces, networks, scholarship, research, and education. ICAS now has chapters/offices on each continent, and has hosted conferences like the one I attended last weekend since its inception.

Completely on our college’s dime, I any my fellow VARC-ers drove a big ol’ 12-seater van three hours north, arriving on the Binghamton campus just in time for the last panel of the conference’s first day. Though I was disappointed to have missed presentations on interspecies intelligence, human exceptionalism, and the idea of parasites as companion species from earlier in the day, I excitedly attended a panel that included presentations on neoliberal green capitalism and critical perspectives on the current state of animal advocacy.

The first presentation — given by Livia Boscardin, a doctoral student in Sociology at University of Basel, Switzerland and entitled “Green Growth, Happy meat, and Resource Species: Animal Exploitation in Neoliberal Green Capitalism” — focused on the link between ethical consumption practices (“green” products, “happy” meat, and vegan consumerism, in particular) and capitalism (check out my post on Veganism & Consumerism for more details). I appreciated Livia’s framing of vegan consumerism as a co-optation and de-politicization of the radical idea of animal liberation, as well as a way to isolate the animal justice movement (more on this term later!) from understanding  the interconnectedness between all struggles for liberation, such that we continue to perpetuate violent ideologies like racism, sexism, transphobia, and ableism.

Livia Boscardin presenting (photo: Anthony Nocella).

Livia Boscardin presenting (photo: Anthony Nocella).

Also during that first panel, the aforementioned Anthony Nocella gave a presentation called “Challenging Racism & Ableism within Animal Advocacy,” in which he laid out an “eco-ability” framework that understands how ecological destruction intersects with human identity, and how discrimination against the disabled body is intimately linked with discrimination against non-human animals. As examples of ableism within animal advocacy, Anthony pointed to the “sexy vegan” image that privileges thin, able bodies, as well as oft-cited philosopher and Animal Liberation author Peter Singer’s eugenicist view that humans should be able to kill babies born with developmental disabilities because they ultimately won’t be “useful” to society. As for examples of racism within the movement, Anthony identified the prevalence of vegan Thanksgiving events that encourage folks to celebrate a “compassionate” holiday, while failing to acknowledge the day’s origins in the Native American genocide (and thus that the holiday can never be “compassionate,” even if animals are left off of the table).

After a restful evening in a nearby hotel where most of the conference attendees were staying for the weekend, our VARC cohort returned to the Binghamton Campus for our first full day of panels. I started off the morning at a panel on anti-speciesist pedagogy, which featured a presentation by Binghamton senior Trevor Reddick entitled “An Argument for Native Studies: Toward a Critical Animal and Anti-Colonial Pedagogy.” Paralleling much of the postcolonial theory in which I’ve been interested for a couple of semesters now, Trevor pointed out how colonialism — not a phenomenon of the past or of elsewhere in the world — continues to shape the way we move about and interpret the world, such that we understand ourselves, our modes of being, and our theories and inherently superior to all other peoples (including non-human animals) with whom we share the world. Trevor proposed the integration of Native Studies into educational institutions as a manner of challenging this framework under which we operate, suggesting that by familiarizing ourselves with indigenous worldviews we can begin to interact with the world in less violent ways. While I quite enjoyed Trevor’s presentation, I do wish that he had mentioned that, for this type of work to truly challenge the hierarchies of domination that exist between industrialized and indigenous cultures, those of us embedded in the former must step down from the podium and make space for those of the latter to guide human modes of being in the world, rather than voyeuristically looking at other cultures for our own benefit.

Pedagogy panel (photo: Anthony Nocella).

Pedagogy panel (photo: Anthony Nocella).

Additionally in this pedagogy panel, Binghamton Lecturer of English JL Schatz gave a talk called “Teaching Critical Animal Studies: Beyond Gradeability,” in which he introduced an interesting idea that he had just begun to practice of allocating ten percent of his students’ grades to their “internalization of course material.” At the end of the semester, JL explained that each of his students must reflect upon how well they integrated course material into their daily life, and provide a brief essay on how they rigorously engaged with the course texts so as to move beyond mere consumption of information. As examples, JL suggested that students who adopted (temporarily or permanently) vegan diets in light of their readings on speciesism, or those who called their friends out for making misogynistic jokes thanks to their texts on feminism, would receive exemplary grades in this internalization aspect of the course. I would love to hear the thoughts of any educators out there on this practice!

Later that day, after a delicious lunch generously provided by conference organizers, I checked out the “Theorizing the Biopolitics of Animal Life” panel, featuring a presentation by VARC alum and all-around awesome person Lauren O’Laughlin, who is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington. Lauren’s fascinating presentation — entitled “(Un)Sexing the Animal: Thinking Critically About Intersex Fish Panics” — examined how scientific discourse surrounding environmental chemicals known as endocrine disruptors (EDCs) reflect the pervasive belief that intersex bodies are unhealthy, inferior, and undesirable. Pointing to scientists who frame as an ecological catastrophe frogs who have both testes and ovaries, Lauren urged us to “articulate environmental concern in ways that do not erase queer pasts and presents.” Omg, VARC alums are the best.

Lauren and I voicing our dissent of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) (photo: Anthony Nocella).

Lauren and I voicing our dissent of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) (photo: Anthony Nocella).

We current VARC members had the immense pleasure of hanging out with Lauren all weekend (they shared a hotel room with us and rode in our van with us), and were able to gain much insight from chatting with them. One thing that really stuck with me from speaking with Lauren was their use of the term “animal justice,” as opposed to “animal rights” or “animal liberation.” Lauren, like me and many others, finds problems in a rights-based framework, and finds the animal liberation ideology to be overwhelmingly masculinist, so feels that “animal justice” most adequately reflects their work as of right now. The term jived with me, so I’ve begun to use it as well.

I took a break from the final panel and ended up having a fantastically productive, imaginative, and inspiring discussion with Anthony and Lauren about the future of VARC and radical animal work in general, before heading back to the hotel for a rousing few rounds of Hearts (my card game of choice).

On Sunday — the last day of the conference — my good friend and fellow VARC co-leader Rocky gave an impressive presetation on the masculinist rhetoric of scientific objectivity integral to discussions surrounding the deer cull  that takes place on the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve (VFEP) every two years (for more info check out the Poughkeepsie community-run SaveOurDeer.Webs.com), which provided a perfect conclusion to our conference adventure.

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While above I’ve reflected upon some of my highlights of the conference, the weekend did disappoint my fellow VARC members and me in a number of ways. For one thing, a number of presenters espoused implicitly racist and colonial ideologies in their presentations, such as the activist who insisted that we “educate” soup kitchen organizers to only serve vegan food to a population whose agency and bodily autonomy are already constantly infringed upon, or the white scholar who railed upon the Native activism organization Idle No More for their “speciesist” traditional practices. Additionally, many (if not most) presenters employed ableist language in their presentations, even after Anthony explicitly listed examples of such language in his presentation on the first day of the conference. Finally, even speciesist ideology made an appearance at the conference — further proving that veganism alone is not enough to challenge internalized speciesism — such as in the research that a Master’s student was about to undertake, which relied upon the assumption that one cannot engage in farming practices without viewing non-human animals as tools for human use. Despite these disappointing aspects of the conference, I’m hopeful for the future of animal justice work and critical animal studies, for most of the younger activists with whom I spoke took radically progressive, intersectional positions in their activism.

All in all, I’m very happy that I got the chance to attend the conference, and look forward to staying up-to-date on the groundbreaking work constantly happening in the realm of critical animal studies. Perhaps I’ll see some of ya’ll at next year’s conference!

In solidarity, Ali.