***I want to make it perfectly clear to my readers that individuals’ names previously listed in this post were included in error. I was writing from limited information, and inadvertently confused individual names in this post. I apologize for any confusion or harm that this has caused. In the future, before posting about sensitive issues, I will make sure to fact-check more thoroughly. If readers ever catch an error in my writing–whether mundane or otherwise–I would hugely appreciate it if you brought those errors to my attention, as I operate without a team of fact-checkers behind me. If you have any questions or concerns about this incident, please feel free to contact me using my blog’s Contact page.
Before launching into today’s post and recipe, I’d like to congratulate Renee McEneany, the winner of my giveaway for a copy of the Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats cookbook!
In late August, I had the pleasure of attending the New York City premiere of the hugely important new documentary Cowspiracy, which investigates why the vast majority of major environmental organizations fail to acknowledge animal agriculture despite the plethora of information that suggests that the industry constitutes the top contributor to global climate change. Active members of NYC’s vegan scene comprised most of the audience, and all seemed to share an air of understanding and camaraderie that occurs when like-minded folk congregate. The audience laughed, groaned, and cried at largely the same moments throughout the film, united under the cause of animal activism.
One interview in the film features a woman from the Animal Agriculture Alliance – a common enemy, if you will, for the audience. First focusing on her face, the camera then pans out for a wide shot…at which point the entire theater began to titter. “Of course she’s fat! She sits around eating animal products all day! Tee hee! Fat people are morally inferior!” I suddenly experienced a very strong urge to flee from my seat and far away from that AMC.
Fat-shaming abounds throughout the animal rights movement, evinced in cartoons and advertisements that focus on vegan diets as tools of weight loss, thus equating thinness with health. Though I could devote an entire post any beyond to this topic, I want to instead use it as a jumping-off point for exploring another issue: calling each other out. (For thoughtful, critical discussions of fat-shaming within the animal rights movement, check out The Thinking Vegan and Choosing Raw).
Speaking out against the multiple forms of human oppression that exist within the animal rights movement – such as ableism in the form of fat-shaming – won’t make anyone comfortable, and certainly won’t win anyone friends among the higher-ups of mainstream animal advocacy organizations. But I would sincerely like to see a greater willingness among animal rights activists to critique problematic behavior within our own movement. Developing such a willingness first involves educating oneself about intra-movement oppressions like racism, sexism, ableism, and classism, reminding oneself not to become defensive while doing so. From there, that willingness to engage in constructive critique requires an understanding that building social consciousness is an uncomfortable process, since it demands a questioning of default behaviors and beliefs, and that even if speaking out means adversary feelings now, it has the powerful potential to translate into a more equitable movement in the future.
Since we as ethical vegans have already undergone the process of questioning default behaviors and beliefs by living a vegan lifestyle to the extent possible in our very non-vegan world, it seems to me that we find ourselves in a more experienced position than most to apply that same level of self-reflexivity to our positions of privilege as a largely white, economically well-off, fit-focused movement with men in most leadership positions.
Though I see this intra-movement critique happening in regards to our tactics of animal activism – such as the infamous liberation vs. welfare debate or the recent backlash against HSUS’ sponsorship of a meat-eating festival – I see much less critical engagement with the marginalization of women, people of color, and differently abled folks involved in the vegan movement. For example, few individuals or groups speak out against the sexual abuse perpetrated by males in movement positions of power, even though such abuse unfortunately proves a common occurrence (please see the redaction at the top of this post). *** Similarly, only a handful of folks voice the problems of asserting that “being vegan is so easy!” and “you can get vegan food anywhere nowadays!,” pointing out the lack of understanding of racialized food access that these statements suggest.
Individuals and organizations like pattrice jones at VINE Sanctuary, A. Breeze Harper at The Sistah Vegan Project, lauren Ornelas at the Food Empowerment Project, Corey Lee Wrenn and Cheryl Abbate at Vegan Feminist Network, and more that you can find on my Resource page have done fantastic work in critically engaging the animal rights movement in dialogue about the oppressions our movement currently perpetuates. I want to see more of this. We need to see more of this, otherwise our goal of animal liberation will fail miserably as we continue to demean the marginalized groups that comprise integral aspects of our struggle, and as non-vegans continue to correctly view the mainstream animal rights movement as racist, sexist, classist, and ableist.
So let’s talk, write, and engage more with each other about the fat-shaming that happens in AR, the sexual abuse that happens in AR, the white supremacy that happens in AR. Because we can’t combat those problems without recognizing them.
There also comes a point when one must recognize that a cantaloupe is too ripe to eat fresh. One can either deny the cantaloupe’s over-ripeness and suffer through forkfuls of mealy melon, or critically engage with that cantaloupe to turn it into something beautiful. The recipe you’ll find below is that something beautiful. Because saffron is cost-prohibitive for many of us (I only had some on-hand from a gift I received), you can most certainly substitute cardamom or even cinnamon for the saffron. Your tastebuds won’t know the difference, though the hue of your final butter won’t prove as vibrant (OH NO!!!).
Saffron Cantaloupe Butter
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
4 1/2 cups cubed very ripe cantaloupe
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 tsp saffron (or cardamom)
Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium-large, non-reactive saucepan. Let the mixture macerate for 1-2 hours, allowing the juices to release.
After the cantaloupe has macerated, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and boil for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, keeping an eye on the mixture to ensure that it doesn’t boil over.
Blend the mixture until smooth either with an immersion blender or by carefully transferring to a standing blender. Return the puree to the saucepan, set it over medium heat, and allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until it becomes very thick.
The butter will keep well in an airtight container in a refrigerator, or you could multiply the size of this recipe and use proper canning procedures for long-term storage.
In solidarity, Ali.