Tag Archives: food activism

400 Million Lives Saved

Yorkshire_pigs_at_animal_sanctuaryI’m writing to share a huge success story. A larger success than I ever imagined. Last year, 400 million fewer animals were killed in the U.S. than in 2007. That’s more lives saved in America than there are American citizens.

As a vegan I would love to take credit. But it’s not just vegans and vegetarians; in fact it’s not even mostly us. Most of those lives were spared by people who are simply eating less meat. It’s a known trend that as societies get wealthier they demand more animal products, but that trend is being reversed in the U.S.
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Food Politics

I almost said that I’m expanding my focus with this article, since I usually write about animal rights. But really I’m narrowing my focus to one particular animal: the human animal.

I’m used to boycotting foods that cause harm to non-human animals. These include all animal products, and lately I’ve started being careful to avoid palm oil unless it’s certified rainforest-safe. Palm oil is often grown in a way that destroys orangutan habitat. I’ve recently become aware of how harmful the banana industry can be to its workers and it’s gotten me thinking about human exploitation in our food system.

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Selling Us Apathy

The other night I ordered a pizza from a popular chain. If you’ve read my other articles, you can probably guess that it was a vegan pizza. The website where I ordered it even had no cheese as a standard option. But the box they sent it in told a different story.

The top of the box named and pictured five cows. The company hailed them as their unsung heroes, calling them an important part of their team.

I guess they picked the wrong box for my cheeseless pizza.

It’s hard to read it with a non-vegan eye. Was I supposed to take the box seriously? Was I supposed to be moved to a newfound respect for cows’ importance in the web of pizza? What was the purpose of this?
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Dietary Tribalism

1360016977Recently I attended a multiday event which included a lot of physical activity and required endurance. Knowing the participants would need to be fed, the organizers sent an email a few weeks prior asking participants about diet restrictions and food allergies. I responded with “paleo” then listed my food allergies and what happens to my body when I eat the foods I’m allergic to.

The midday meal consisted rice and bean burritos with some tofu wrapped in wheat tortillas or peanut butter and jelly on either wheat bread or “gluten free” bread. Dinner was rice and beans, chili made of beans and corn, lettuce with apples, and bread. I can eat none of these foods yet because these were the only meals offered I ate what I knew my body would negatively respond to.

By this time I was very worried about the days to follow. I went to bed yet found myself unable to sleep due to frequent trips to the bathroom. When morning came I was not only completely exhausted from not sleeping and all the physical activity of the day before but I was also extremely hungry. I had to make the decision as to stay with the group or travel home. Not only was my body undernourished my brain didn’t have the fuel it needed so decision making wasn’t easy.

I talked with a volunteer, a lovely young woman in her senior year of college, who said “meat was never going to be provided. The majority of people here are vegetarian.” I asked her “if you were the only vegan with a bunch of paleos wouldn’t you expect to be fed?” She responded with “Oh, I didn’t think of that.” She also stated the volunteers and organizers had seen my diet requirements when I emailed the form to the organization. However, no one made any attempts to communicate with me. I was informed by the volunteer “it was on the website.” Prior to leaving my home I saw the menu on the website. I wrongly assumed* my dietary needs would be met.

I then went to the organizer, a young woman in her early twenties, who said to me “buy your own food.” When I explained I had only enough money to get back home via public transportation she shrugged and walked away. My tired, hungry brain bubbled over into emotional tears. I felt devalued, unwanted, poor, and so … dismissed. That’s when I decided to return home.

It took almost four hours for me to get home via public transportation. During that time I got some animal protein in my body and was able to nap on the bus. I started to feel better but knew I wouldn’t return to myself until I slept in my own bed and ate food my body is accustomed to.

Food Tribes

More people are realizing the Standard American Diet of highly processed, refined foods is not “healthy”, thus creating dietary tribalism: paleos, vegan, and everyone in between. Whether intentional or not, food tribe members are imposing their personal morality and individualistic dietary requirements on others and it’s causing conflict and, worse, exclusion. After the 24 hours I spent eating vegan I felt so marginalized that my trust in the group deteriorated to zero. Thankfully, after my belly was filled and my body rested I was able to think rationally and realized this was a time for non-accusatory dialogue. But I’m still struggling with that.

Events designed to bring people together can, and do, have the opposite effect. One can bring their own food but doing so can insult the hostess which leads to more conflict. What one person eats as a staple may cause anaphylactic shock in another. Gone are the days when a BBQ of dogs and burgers, slaw and salad feeds 100 people. Family functions have become fraught with peril. The dietary needs of paleos and vegans — not to mention the multitudes with severe food allergies — are often left out at large functions when providing an abundance of food as cheaply as possible is the goal.


The Second Great Depression is making it tough for everyone. Personally I’ve been affected by an inability to find gainful employment. My fulltime job is looking for a fulltime job. The lack of employment has effected every single aspect of my life. Most discussions start and end with “I don’t have the money.” There are lots of events I don’t attend, conference calls I can’t join, and spend much of my time home alone, isolated away from the population because of the economy. Even my familial relationships have been affected. One member of my family will no longer talk to me because I could not afford to attend her wedding last year.

Because money is so finite, I pick and choose what I will spend greenbacks on. I have to weigh the options carefully: is what I want to do financially feasible? Will it throw my budget completely out of whack? How long will it take my bank account to recover from spending money on _____.

I planned to attend the event for months. All I needed was a small amount of cash to get to the departure point and home from the end point.  I decided the cost of the bus tickets was worth the event. I knew my meals would be provided so that was something I didn’t need to worry about.

I was very wrong.

Planning for a large group of people on a finite budget isn’t easy. Choices have to be made as to what is economically feasible for the group. Budgets have to cover the plan and if the budget does not, the plan has to be reworked. As someone who has done a multitude of event planning I understand this fully.

The group didn’t get the funding they were anticipating so cuts had to be made. But as the volunteer said “we were never planning on providing meat”. So even if the food budget had been slashed, my meals were never going to made available to me. And that was never directly communicated to me.


There just doesn’t seem to be a happy medium in which everyone’s dietary needs are satisfied. A vegan may not want to watch a paleo eat chicken. Individuals allergic to nuts may not be able to attend public events where nuts may be in attendance. A celiac can not eat anything with grains in it, often excluding that person from eating grainy salads on the table. Bringing ones own food may insult Grandma who spent hours planning, shopping, and preparing a meal.

So what’s the solution?

Not imposing dietary tribalism of one group onto another.

Just as a group of paleos wouldn’t consider forcing vegans to eat meat, vegans should not force paleos into eating grains.  To look down one’s nose at someone who is eating as their body calls for is silently imposing dietary tribalism. The last thing I want when I’m eating lamb is for snide, rude comments, dirty looks, and a holy-than-thou attitude from someone sitting across from me. It’s just as easy for me to make disrespectful comments in attempts to shame someone into eating the way I want them to. For instance, I could say “Grains are converted into sugar and we know there’s nothing cancer cells love more than sugar!” just like someone could say “That lamb had a face! Meat is murder!” Neither attitude is appetizing. Leave your inner Judge Judy at home.

Finding Commonalities

There are lots of commonalities between paleos and vegans. Both tribes, generally, want to avoid processed foods, artificial ingredients, false sugars and genetically modified organisms and other forms of chemical engineered food. Both want organic, nutrient dense, low carbon footprint foods grown locally. Both groups focus on their health and feel, as individuals, they are feeding their bodies the best possible diet for optimal health. Focus on those commonalities instead of the differences.

Avoid Exclusion

“We were never going to provide meat” the volunteer said.
“Buy your own” said by the organizer.

Both statements made me feel other, marginalized, unwanted, and disrespected. Both reeked of economic privilege and offended me to my core.  Those two sentences made me not want to work with the groups who organized the event, nor with the two young women I spoke with. I realized the two women who spoke these words were young and what they need is education about privilege and how the choices they made as individuals and as a group affected me quite negatively.

What the organizers and volunteers planned to do about the exclusion of my dietary needs once it was pointed is the crux of the problem. Obviously they had no idea what to do so their response was to make what they overlooked into my problem. By shrugging off my concerns they dodged responsibility. This is not an acceptable solution. In short, their solution was exclusion.

Social movement want inclusion. In order to do so organizers must plan for all dietary and economic needs. Otherwise entire groups of people will be deliberate excluded to the detriment of the movement organizers are trying to recruit for. Basically: don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.


A few weeks before the event, I sent in the questionnaire regarding my dietary needs. The volunteer said “oh, we saw that” but the group never communicated to me their unwillingness to provide the requirements of my diet. The response I received when I brought this up was “it was on the website”. Putting something on a website is not the be all, end all in communication. By saying what she did, the organizer dodged responsibility essentially saying “it’s your fault. Go home.”  Being contacted when the organization first received my questionnaire should’ve occurred. At that point I would’ve been able to make a decision as to whether to attend, save money, prepare meals, and ask friends and colleagues for donations to help me procure appropriate food in order for me to succeed in completing the week long event — something I had looked forward to, and trained for, for months — was feasible.

What I learned from this experience was to be inclusive of all eaters. The next event I plan will either have food for all or require all to bring their own food. I do not want anyone to feel the way I did, not even for a second.

If you’re inclined, I often foodgram.

*Assumptions make an ASS out of U and ME.
**Emphasis mine

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Fat Activism, Food Activism, and Health


–By Shauna Aura Knight

Hi, I’m Shauna, and I’m a fat Pagan. I’m also celebrating having lost over 100 pounds in the past couple of years, and improving my health by leaps and bounds. Actually, this week I’ve hit a milestone of being about to cross under 200 pounds for the first time in 7 years.

Weight and health are an issue that recently divided the Pagan community in some drama. About a year ago there was a big hoopla about a post my friend Peter Dybing wrote on his blog. I can sum it up as, there are folks who were concerned about the number of fat Pagans and the health issues they observed in the Pagan community. The backlash from many Pagans was, stop judging me for being fat and I don’t need to lose weight for you.

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