Category Archives: General

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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Why not

Hi,

This is my first blog post and hopefully the beginning of many – I am very new to this so we’ll see how this goes with my time and energy.

My hope is to inspire and encourage others in a positive way through my stories and experiences – hope is that people find some strength or understanding in life that helps them to move into a larger circle of compassion – maybe find solace in that they are not alone.  I don’t in anyway seek to change anyone, that’s a waste of time – I have absolutely no power to do that.  If you do find some change in your life as a result of reading anything I write, I hope you’ll take that good feeling and share it with others – let it grow.

What I hope to share are my pre-vegan days and where I came from – even a meat and potatoes eating boy from the south can do it.  I hope to share my struggles and triumphs as I became vegan – starting in Alaska and eventually moving to Oregon where I now call home.  Share about being a parent to Vegan kids, favorite recipes and foods, compassionate ways to live, thoughts, poetry, ideas, and whatever just happens.  I look forward to sharing with you and I hope you find things sometimes positive an engaging, maybe sometimes funny, but in general I hope you walk away having enjoyed what you read in a way that has benefited your life.

Until my next post,

Atypical Vegan