Happy World Vegan Month!

November is designated as World Vegan Month primarily because in 1994, Louise Wallis, then President of the Vegan Society UK, established Nov. 1 as World Vegan Day to commemorate its 50th anniversary. No one really knew the exact date in November when the Vegan Society was founded so she picked the 1st of November because she liked the idea of it coinciding with Samhain (Gaelic festival marking the end of harvest season) and Halloween, which are times of feasting and celebration.

World Vegan Month is a month-long celebration of a health-, environment-, and animal-friendly vegan diet. Many activists are using this time of heightened awareness to promote veganism to the public. Of the events I’ve looked into there seems to be a trend of using humans to symbolize food, the goal being to help onlookers empathize with the animals they eat.

In what seems to be an annual event, the founder of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Ingrid E Newkirk, wills her body to be “barbecued” on a charcoal grill accompanied by a sign that reads, “All animals have the same body parts. Go Vegan!”

vegan, ingrid e newkirk, peta

A similar demonstration in Belfast featured an almost naked model slathered in BBQ sauce with a side of fresh greens on a plate with the words “Try to relate to who’s on your plate”.

Vegan model strips down for activism
Okay I have some beef with both of these, more for the second one than the first. The idea overall that an audience member now having seen a person on a plate or being grilled will begin to attach the same feelings of horror to grilling meat or eating chicken nuggets is misleading. People relate to those with the most similar characteristics as them (i.e. another human vs. creature) and can more easily empathize with humans than animals because their life experiences are more comparable. For example, when we hear of someone dying that we don’t know personally we often wonder about their family and friends, what that person was thinking/doing before they died, what they did for a living, etc. — all categorical experiences we share.  So though onlookers of these exhibits may initially question eating meat, the low level of involvement and comparability of the animal’s life to the person make the shock somewhat ineffective long-term. It’s creative enough for an awareness campaign, but as a call to action not so much. Stimulating change is a long-term process that generally requires more education and involvement from the individual.
As for the second exhibit, why must the model be half naked and made-up? I understand it’s an art form so I have no qualms against nudity and art, but if we’re going with a “people as animals” type thing: Why is she wearing significant make-up? Why her and not someone who represents the average person? Couldn’t she have worn a nude suit instead? In my opinion her being presented as seductive detracts rather than helps the matter at hand and makes me question whether I support the campaign. If this was the sole instance then I would maybe let it go, but it reminds me of Animal Equality’s exhibit in march in Spain:
Animal Equality in Spain
WHY IS THE FAKE MEAT WEARING LINGERIE. (Sorry, I’m done now). It’s just frustrating that these animal rights exhibits still perpetuate an strict idealistic depiction of the female body. This just goes to show that not all activist efforts are conscious of one another nor strive to work together to break down barriers for both groups.
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Vegan Relationships

If you haven’t figured it out yet I love a good infographic. I found this one on Alicia Silverstone’s blog (the actress from Clueless) about relationships as a vegan. It would be interesting to survey more in depth about the pros/cons of dating someone who’s not vegan, why it is that it’s harder for women to find vegan men, how the couples meet, etc. Maybe on another post…

Vegan Relationships

Banksy’s Stuffed Animal Slaughterhouse Truck

Yesterday in NYC, what appeared to be a slaughterhouse truck with stuffed animals peeking and squealing through open slats drove through the streets of the Meatpacking District. The truck is the work of international graffti artist and political activist Banksy. Entitled “Sirens of the Lambs”, the piece will be touring the rest of the city during the next two weeks, according to his website.

Personally I think as a form of artwork this is a clever way to introduce people to the inhumane way animals are treated in most of the food industry. For children on the street the substitution of stuffed animals is appropriate. Kids are naturally inquisitive and probably asked about  the truck.

Obviously this is a creative piece only meant to be a subtle reminder of a not-so-pleasant reality. It’s not meant to invade people’s lives or shock people with graphic photos, there are other trucks for that, though I’m sure many people are critiquing the truck for not doing any significant form of activism. Even YouTube users are commenting on the supposed “ineffectiveness” of the truck, as if its only goal should be to turn people vegetarian on the spot. Honestly, the truck doesn’t seem to be doing any harm so even if it’s just raising awareness about the maltreatment of animals that’s fine by me!