Veganism is about consent

 

It’s that awkward moment filled with hope and frustration, you are trying to explain to yet another person what being Vegan means.   You are reaching out with your heart spending so much time delicately explaining the general and intricate nuances of veganism all while trying to find some bridge between their understanding of life and compassion.  You talk about their beloved pets, why we don’t drink other mammals milk, factory farm abuses, how non-human animals suffer, they have families, the love, etc, etc, etc.  We know all the parts and pieces, we have a thousand different ways to say compassion and yet we don’t have that simple easy explanation of it all.  We don’t have that one defining word that simplifies everything to a point that most anyone can understand.  Compassion is a great word, but it can mean different things to different people, some can even see compassion in the abuse.

I have tried my best over the years to craft some simple creative way to try and explain veganism without going into some long story and intricate details about particulars.  One of my more well polished ways that I threw out on most occasions was “compassionate plant based lifestyle”.  It carried some of what I wanted to convey, but it lacked the very essence of veganism to me.  It explained what we do, but didn’t explain why.  The why always came across in those long stories and intricate details about particulars, which was the only mechanism I had to convey the core of what veganism was or why I chose to give myself that label.

That was until one warm summer day in the forest with my partner, talking about veganism.  It was all so innocent and simple, yet it hit me like a lighting bolt in an open field.  She very simply commented about how veganism was really about consent.  Did you read that, let me write it again – veganism is about consent.   It all seems so simple from that vantage point, it covers everything about why we do what we do.  We don’t drink milk because we don’t have the consent of the cow, which even if we did I think most of us would still not want it.  We don’t wear fur because we don’t have the consent of the animal whose fur it belonged to, it would be like walking around with a human skin purse.  We choose not to watch animals in entertainment, but wouldn’t think stopping to take in a family of deer walking through the forest.   Vegansim at it’s core is about consent, it is one of the consent cultures in our society.

In being a consent culture, it explains why so many vegans also find themselves in support of other injustices in the world aside from those being directed at our non-human animal friends.   Consent is the permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.  It’s about a simple respect for other conscious living beings and the understanding that we don’t have the right to impose ourselves upon them without their permission.  In seeking that permission we are clearly communicating that we see and respect other living being.  That is what we are striving for as vegans, to clearly communicate that we see and respect other living beings, we seek consent.

-Atypical Vegan

 

What’s in a word

Words are these incredible creations of our species – they have no form, no mass, no tangible structure, no consciousness, no end, and no beginning.  They only carry meaning that we give them, if we allow them, if we know them, if we let them.  Even though words don’t really exist, except in our own minds – they can have an incredible power.  They can form the catalyst for reactions – in varied amounts, quantities, different combinations, intensities, rate and time of combinations, and so many other synergistic qualities they hold.  Even the absence of words can create unknown effects.

I was reminded of this just the other day – the power we hold in our words, the very innocuous perception that we actually understand how to use words.  It wasn’t until talking with friends on a recent road trip about a recent experience I had on FB that I realized the naive nature of my understanding of words.

You see, it was one of those busy weeks where I was being pulled in many different directions and spending far too much time on FB.  An old friend had posted a meme about Obama being gay – it was one of those social innuendo pieces that depict being gay as something bad.  Now I grew up with the person who made the comment so I was aware of the culture his post was bred in, and although that still doesn’t make the insinuation of his post right or any less demeaning and insulting to people who align with being gay.  I thought it was still an opportunity to try and communicate about the implications, but in doing so I ended unknowingly compounding the very thing that I was trying to communicate about.  I tried to use humor as a way to indirectly open the door to the broader topic, but in my humor I ended up with the same pervasive social innuendo.  I didn’t realize this at first and it wasn’t until after talking with my friends that I realized how my misaligned attempt at communication was just as poorly placed as the topic I was addressing.  I realized I was desensitized to the words and their meaning, even though I was aware of why those words were hurtful and demeaning, I was desensitized enough that I failed to recognize my own inappropriate use of them.   In the end it cost me a friendship, but I gained an understanding.  That understanding was our easy dismissal of words and their power, their meaning and what it means to use them.  How others are changed or effected by our words, how the world moves and operates according to our words, how the meaning behind our words creates our world.  I find no better example of this than the game cards against humanity, where depravity and demoralization are paraded around as humor.  Where race, sexual orientation, culture, abuse, and all manner of horrible acts are brought and laid down as humor – requiring even the not so sensitive person to practice levels of desensitization and acceptance that I feel deadens the most important empathetic parts of our being.  When we are dead inside to these acts, when they are just part of a game for our amusement, what does that say about us – what does that say about the world we live in, what does that say about humanity, what does this say to our treatment of other beings.  If we cannot view our own depravity and abuse against our own race as unthinkable, if we find humor in it, how can we ever hope to achieve understanding and compassion for others, for animals, for ourselves.

This all got me thinking, thinking about the wider context of words and the power they have.  It brought me back to time I spent with a friend of mine, she was an inspiration in my life and introduced me to the subtle word choices surrounding animals in our culture.  The depth and meaning behind those words, the implications in their use and how they further perpetuate the desensitization of the how we treat and view animals.  Pervasive common words like “being a guinea pig”, “don’t be a chicken”, “you are such a pig”, and so many others.  If you sit and think about the meaning of those statements, the implications become apparent.  By using “guinea pig” it implies that animals – specifically guinea pigs – are acceptable to be tested on and used.  We know that they are sentient caring beings capable of showing and giving love, having families, homes, and social structure.  The statement implies that we are greater than them that in some way we have rights to their lives and use them at our will.  In using those words we demean them, we reduce them to something less than they are.

We may dismiss these statements as just part of speech, part of our language and think that they don’t really have those deeper implications.  We would be wrong, for every word we say has meaning and power, they have a deeper implication for our world and those that live in it.  Every word is a catalyst for something to happen, they can desensitize us and cause us to loose sight of what is right in front of us or they can awaken us to greater understanding and cause us to see things new or in a new light.  Of course, with too much desensitization of words – too common use and reuse and reapplication – they loose their value, their meaning and their power.  You might think that sounds like a good idea considering the impact words can have, but if we loose their meaning and power, then we lose understanding and our ability to communicate.  Communication then becomes just a series of words strung together, the emotion and convenience of empathy and fear and love will be lost.  When we talk about the horrors seen by a factory farm animal, the life of imprisonment, the smell, the visceral impact of their lives when we hear about them, and how insignificant they are treated all for selfish pleasures of those who lack the vision or understanding that their meal is more than just food.  By encouraging desensitization of these words we create a culture of acceptance and instead of those sentences creating that sense of harm that they should, they become jokes and humor – they become a vehicle in which those who wish to placate the subject can easily pass by the subject in life or even use it as a way to validate their choices.

This experience settled me, it humbled me and made me realize how inexperienced I really am with the words I use.  How I have so much farther to go in learning and understanding.  How I have fallen asleep in this pervasive culture that rests in the depths of its absurdity.  That my attempts to wake up others is in and of itself a continued attempt to keep myself awake and aware.  That I should not see my mistake as a failure, but see it as a realization that I can then build and grow from.  A chance to bring attention to the broader subject, to bring attention in our own lives of how we use words and to be conscious of their meaning – more so than the surface level context they appear.  By choosing to be aware of your words, you can bring power and meaning back into them, you can take those opportunities when statements like “don’t be a chicken” are used and treat them like a door for more meaningful conversation instead of apathetic chit chat that demeans and desensitizes.

Pig Path Work Party – OTP – October 2015

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Pig Path Work Party

This was by far one of my more favorite work parties to date.  Not only did I get some time with my little man on a father son day, but he helped out all day and we did some real long term good for the sanctuary.  Today we helped construct a Pig Path, which was very kindly recommended by Mike and put into motion by John.  Big thanks to Casey for coming out Friday night to help John get some of the beams set along the fence line, would have been a different day had that not happened, but it all turned out perfect.

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The Pig Path was put in to make a more manageable, cleaner and safer pathway for the pigs to move around.  The path was constructed to withstand the weight of the pigs, which an average weight of a full grown pig can be between 500-700 lbs.  Did you know that the average farmed pig that is needlessly slaughtered lives only 3-5 years, that is 1/4 to 1/3 of their natural lifespan (See unnatural life span, the numbers are astonishing and sad).  Here at the sanctuary they get the opportunity to live their lives in peace and without harm.  This path will ensure they have a better life here at the sanctuary and make life easier.

 

11222135_861698183937430_3605068191380677004_nBelow are some shots through out the day as we framed in the structure, laid the fabric, put in gravel, compacted, set the grid panels, and more gravel.  There were lot’s of us working and hard at it all morning, this could not have been possible without the wonderful volunteers that Out To Pasture Sanctuary has come out.  What an amazing group of individuals and so helpful – it is thanks to them that all of this was possible.  If you are reading this and find you want to help, you want to make a difference – you know you don’t have to go to a work party or a sanctuary to make the biggest difference.  The biggest difference you can make is helping to make places like this unnecessary – you can move towards a compassionate plant based life.  In doing so you save lives, dramatically decrease the environmental impact due to animal agriculture, begin to live healthier yourself, and generally make the world a better place for you and generations to follow.  If you do get to visit a sanctuary then take a moment to look into their eyes, see the person inside and then think about what your choices in life do to thousands of other sweet loving beings like them.  You have the power to change that, you have the potential to save lives and make the world healthier, take that moment to do something meaningful.  Here are some resources to get you started:

Watch Cowspiracy, it is available on Netflix.

Watch Earthlings, if this made a difference in your life then please donate to the filmmaker.

What to do next? Adopt a Plant based life, start here – Vegan starter kit

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World Day for Farmed Animals – Green Acres – October 2015

5727-MMS-1444011355344-attachment1-20151004_142553World Day for Farmed Animals

Today was a special day and one where we get to visit one of the several sanctuaries we have here in the area and celebrate the lives that have survived, the ones that were rescued and mourn the thousands and thousands of lives that are being lost every day for no reason.  My sweet kids have been wanting to go to Green Acres for some time and haven’t had the chance until now – it was a great day.  We were joined by friends, the sun was shining and the day was just magical.

As a way to honor the residents and in a way pay homage to those that are not with us, we carried food to the residents and just spent time with them letting them enjoy the bounty we brought.  Watching them eat and play around us and most importantly getting to listen to Tina’s message about who they are and where they come from, what they had to endure as part of their early life, what was done to them and how their life is effected by that.  As November nears I sat with Duke, Dutchess and Princess – sadly thinking about how many like them are going to loose their lives.  How many lives like theirs are going to be lost.  If you are not already vegan I encourage you to please take a moment to visit one of the sanctuaries in your area.  Spend real time with the residents there, learn about who they are and where they came dukefrom – let them into your heart so you can see they are alive just like you, they feel just like you, they love and breath and move just like you.  They may be different but they deserve the chance to live life to the fullest they can just like you.  Please see them for the beautiful amazing beings they are and let them live, let them have a chance, be a change for better and adopt a plant based diet for your health, their health and the health of our planet.

One of my favorite parts of going to Green Acres is not just visiting with the
residents, but getting to spend time with John and Tina – they are both sweet and kind hearted people that I just enjoy.

World Day for Farmed Animals

Green Acres Farm Sanctuary

 

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Party for Pit Bulls for Lovers not Fighters – October 2015

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This would be my second Pit Bull benefit at Akemi salon.  Love Ted and Suzzette so much as friends and cool people who do things like this.  I guess I am kind of  partial since I have been going to their salon for years now getting my hair done – mostly by Ted, but after this last benefit I might have to consider seeing Chai now.  They have always welcomed me in with warm hearts and hugs – something I always need more of in my life so I am definitely a big fan of them.  The benefits are always a fun cozy little event held at Akemi and in their adjacent little green zen space.  There were drinks and food provided – they had a whole tray of my favorite Mississippi bowl from Native Bowl, but I was good and resisted just eating it all.  The wonderful Chai was sweet enough to do my hair, it was getting kinda long since I don’t always remember to go in on a regular basis.  I got the full treatment – shampoo, conditioner, scalp massage, hot towel and some of the best conversation I’ve had in a while – Chai is a cool person.  The benefit was for Lovers not Fighters a pit bull rescue and adoption group, I had a chance to sit down and talk with a couple of the people who run it.  It was great to hear how they had foster homes while waiting to get them out for adoption, and soon they hope to get a place where they can keep the pit bulls themselves.  It is nice seeing people doing caring things and helping out those that are less fortunate.  You can find out more about Lovers not fighters on their website.  Below is me getting in some good scratches on Angel.

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Free Packy – April 2014

free Packy 5Free Packy

One of the protests I have been apart of in my life, this one involved Packy one of our beloved elephants unwillingly restrained at the Oregon zoo.  As with most zoos the sentient beings living there are forcibly detained against their will and put on display for humans to view like a peeper show.  Left with little dignity or rights to live free the poor animals are kept in captivity for their whole life.  Imagine you being locked behind bars for committing no crime but just for being you and that fact that locking you up and putting you on display would make someone money.  It is sad and greedy, it disregards the intelligence and rights of the beings held captive.  This protest was one in particular was a special one, it was one of the first that my children consciously wanted to take part in.  They had reached that age where they could make those conscious decisions and understand why they are making them.  We spend time talking and making our own signs for the protest, it was a beautiful bonding experience for us – sharing in something meaningful and helpful.  We got to see some of my good friends there and share in making a difference.  I am always inspired by my beautiful children, the impact they make on the world just by being themselves – it is miraculous and amazing.

Free the Oregon Zoo Elephants

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free packy

 

 

Out to Pasture Work Party – September 2015

Barbie and Charles

Out to Pasture Work Party

This is one of my favorite sanctuaries in the area, not only because of the love and attention that is given to the residents, but also because John and Kit are both good people.  My little family has been enjoying their annual open house celebration since my kids were little and now I am excited to see that they are wanting to take part in the work parties with me.  This work party was especially exciting, both my little loves joined me and helped out.  While I was out in the field pulling stumps, picking up poop, and filling in holes – they were helping make cider and bags of catnip for sale.  I was so proud of them for helping out and wanting to do it – such great people they are and I feel lucky to be their dad.  They have such huge hearts and so much love, I hope they always care so passionately.

Out to Pasture Sanctuary

 

OTP - September 2015Kids at workCora

 

Vegan Beer and Food Festival – Portland 2015

Vegan Beer and Food Festival - Portland

This must be one of the best Vegan events I have had the opportunity to enjoy in Portland for being Vegan.  Well setup, excellent mix of entertainment, food and beverage all on the water front in a convenient location for public transit.  Top that, the weather was amazing.  There were so many beers, food vendors, wears, and everything else in between.  Luckily, I’m a stout and porter guy so I knew my selections would be limited to just a few beers available – hence I go for the big glass so I don’t waste time in line.  Both the Bison Organic Chocolate Stout and the Golden road Almond milk stout were exceptional.  I favored the almond milk stout because of it’s smooth rich body and soft tones.

IMG_20150926_180005 IMG_20150926_180203Golden Road Almond Milk Stout

Style: Sweet Stout

ABV/IBU: 5.6%/30

 

 

Bison Organic Chocolate Stout

Style: Chocolate Stout

ABV/IBU: 5%/20

 

 

After a few good beers and time with friends I decided to feed the need – the need for a Mississippi bowl.  I have been enjoying this layered Portland treat for years ever since the cart opened and having it at the festival just made things right.  To finish it off – not one, but two oh so good raw vegan blueberry cheesecakes.

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Native Bowl

All made from scratch with love.

 

It’s a Rawesome Life

“Happier than a Unicorn eating cake on a rainbow”

 

 

 

To finish off the event is this beautiful expression of community and the wonderfully unique diversity the community embodies.  I can’t wait for the next one.

 

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Barnum & Bailey Protest

Barnum and Bailey Protest – September 2015

Circus Protest

Everyone loves the circus right!?  The amazing acts, the entertainment, the spectacular nature of it all.  Well, not everyone loves the circus, there are those that are forced to participate in these events against their will.  They are tortured and broken and forced to perform for people’s entertainment.  It’s sad watching people go into these events, knowing what they are supporting and wishing you could set those sweet beings free to live life on their own terms and in their own way.

We got a chance to join a circus protest for Barnum and Bailey being in town.  We are trying to encourage them to stop using animals for entertainment.  We held up signs and passed out literature, being polite and considerate – no one can respond to negativity.  Lot’s of people took information, my daughter was able to get more literature handed out than anyone – who could turn down her sweet smile.  We received several positive responses, one woman telling us that she was Vegan and didn’t support circuses because the used animals for entertainment – that was heart warming to hear someone come up and say that.  Another was from a man attending an event across the park, he walked up to specifically tell us he was proud and supportive of what we were doing.  He took some pictures and proceeded to thank us all for standing up for what is right.

My little peeps and I have been attending protests and similar for several years, this is the first one that they actively were aware and in full realization that collectively we can make a difference and that standing up for what is right is a good thing and to be proud even if we are just a few watching many, all it takes is to get through and wake up one person and it was all worth it.  I was overjoyed when my daughter said how awesome this was and that she wants to do more – such a proud dad I am, so proud.  She’s gonna influence change and I get to be there to see it.

Barbie Girl

Out To Pasture Work Party – September 2015

OTP - September 2015        Barbie and Charles

It’s hard to imagine what their life was like before coming here.  Sitting next to Barbie in the warm sun, sweat beading from my forehead from working in the back field, my hand gently resting on her back feeling the warmth of her body – I am thankful in my heart that she has this opportunity to enjoy life and live and experience the sights, sounds and joys of being alive.  So many beings like Barbie don’t have that option and their life is hellish and undeserving of such sweet peaceful beings.

“Farm pigs Barbie and Skipper were headed for slaughter when Diane stepped in and adopted them. They now live at Out to Pasture where animals get to live out their lives in peace.” – Out To Pasture Sanctuary

This picture was taken at a recent Out to Pasture Sanctuary work party I attended.  The work parties are unique experiences that allow us to give and share in just a small part of the work needed to take care of these sweet beings.  We do things like clean out hay, make paths, pickup manure, clean up the pasture of sticks and holes, give medicines, and spend time with all the residents.  This was a particularly fun work party – this is the first time my little peeps were big enough to join me and take part in helping.  They were both very excited and had a great time getting to care for and love the residents.

Kids at work          Cora

Here they are enjoying some fresh squeezed apple cider with friends after some work.  My daughter spent some time with Ruthie feeding her and giving her love.  Ruthie isn’t able to hold her head up on her own, but maybe she will someday.

There are so many other wonderful residents that are cared for and protected at the Out To Pasture Sanctuary, you can learn all about their stories and what you can do to help protect precious lives like theirs at: Out To Pasture Sanctuary.