Monday, December 29, 2008

Madoff Makes Me Kvetch

I first thought seriously about Madoff's Judaism when reading the recent New York Times article about how he not only betrayed countless individuals and non-profits, but more specifically—his people. His religion is separate from his crime, and emphasizing that connection so that all us "chosen people" can tut-tut is a bit self-congratulatory—this type of behavior from a Jew?! The idea that this was somehow about Jewishness was exemplified in Rabbi Visotsky's statement, "the fact that he stole from Jewish charities puts him in a special circle of hell." (Wait—we believe in Hell now? Oy vey.) The fact that Madoff made off with the money of charities—period!—puts him in a special circle of Hell. Would it have been better if he stole from non-Jewish charities? We, as a culture, do not need to take blame for this mishegos, just as we don't get credit if he had done a mitzvah.

(This blog post was also published in Reasoned Radical.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Confusion in Zaftig-Land

I recently started a new blog alongside my friends and colleagues, Liz and Casey. It's called Reasoned Radical, and it's a conglomeration of our thoughts on various social justice issues. I like it because, contrary to popular belief, sometimes I get a little tired of hearing myself. It's a nice fresh way of breaking up what this radical has to say, with thoughts from other reasoned radicals. My problem now is that I'm a bit confused as to what this means for Zaftig Vegan. Do I post my blog-posts twice? Do I blog more often? I'm still figuring this out, so for now, please bear with me, and in the mean time, check out Reasoned Radical...as well as Zaftig Vegan.

To keep things easier for today, here are my two latest Reasoned Radical postings:

Consumed by America talks about a Walmart worker being trampled to death on Black Friday by overeager shoppers (and how that's representative of bigger, deeper problems), and Sacrificial Sham talks about an article I recently read regarding why people are abstaining from marriage (and the irony that the author wouldn't shut up with her ironically sad meat-comparisons).

Happy Zaftig Reasoned reading....

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world."




This blog entry is about as overdue as a Democratic president. But alas, here I am, coming out from the rubble of a month full of vague obsessions with Rachel Maddow, birthday mayhem which unfortunately led to a mostly-accidental teenage-like hangover, rescued roosters and road trips, and some pretty big small victories in our country.

Who was it that implied community organizers don't actually do anything? Or was that just a bad, icky, nasally nightmare? Aside from Obama's history of community organizing, this election would not have had the same results if it weren't for tireless volunteers and activists who knocked on doors relentlessly to ensure victory.

Annoyingly, I know more than a handful of people who didn't vote in this election, because of a varying degree of anarchist (and other) principles which made them feel that if the country can't be run in a way that is totally 100% on par with their beliefs, then they should boycott the election entirely. It perplexes me why these leftists can't see one candidate as better, at least, than the other--especially in this election. I like the way it is summed up here, by a self-described "eco-anarcha feminist animal." Regarding the "animals left unprotected in a Palin administration," pattrice jones says:

Me, I don’t believe that my right to symbolic self-expression trumps the interests of those animals. I know that my vote counts, whether or not I choose to cast it. If not casting a vote in any way contributed to the creation of the alternative political structure we need, that would be different. If we had a system where failure to capture a majority of the votes of eligible voters disqualified a candidate, that would be different. But one of those two men surely will win and which one it is surely will matter. Let’s not forget that Bush, who so many Greens falsely claimed was precisely equivalent to Gore in 2000, repealed several hundred environmental regulations enacted by Clinton-Gore. We all live on a different planet as a result. Let’s learn from history rather than repeating it. If only for the polar bears, let’s keep Sarah Palin out of the White House.

Unimportant Aside: I do wonder, now that Obama is packing his bags for the White House, what's going to happen to Tina Fey's career? It must be like how I felt when I played Momma Rose at 15... it's kind of all downhill after the role of a lifetime.

As for me and M, and likely most of the rest of the country, we didn't get much sleep on Nov. 4. What kept us awake, specifically, aside from the presidential election, was following Prop 2 in California. Prop 2 is an initiative that was on the ballot last week--asking residents of California to vote yes to ban three of the most egregiously cruel confinement systems in the entire state, effective 2015. The vote PASSED by a landslide--making this the biggest step forward for farm animals in this country to date.

Earlier in the year, I got to travel around California with the Truth Behind Factory Farming Truck, a multi-media vehicle (literally too) that showed the horrors of battery cages for egg-laying hens, gestation crates for pigs, and veal crates for cows. We leafleted everywhere--from gas stations to churches--to help spread the word about this important initiative. In the coming months, the campaign really took off, even winding up featured on such shows as Oprah and Ellen (the latter of whom is a brand new vegan!).

M and I finally fell asleep around 2:30, when we were pretty sure it was going to pass. At 4, I woke up and checked my email (my computer was beside me in the bed). "We won," I sleepily told her, and we fell back asleep--spooning--knowing full well what this victory meant, not just for the millions of animals affected, but for the future of the animal rights movement in this country.

The next day I brought Cali the Rooster to Farm Sanctuary.
A volunteer, Michelle, had found him in a parking lot in Nyack, and another volunteer, Greg, offered to drive him upstate so he could start the rest of his life. Cali--named, obviously, after the California initiative--was beautiful and robust. He was totally quiet and deeply thoughtful, until the sun started going down, landing for a moment in his pretty eyes. He wanted us to know it was time for bed, and boy oh boy does that boy have lungs! (Later that evening, during a dinner with a bunch of Farm Sanctuary colleagues, we all compared chicken-in-a-car stories. You know you're at Farm Sanctuary when...) Chickens are truly the most sensational creatures--they are brave and funny and social and intelligent. And someday soon, in California, they can stretch a little.

What does it mean to stretch a little? To stretch a little means that over 6 million Californians who had possibly never before questioned where their animal-derived "food" had come from, questioned it, saw the injustice, and decided that a modest measure was the least they could do. To stretch a little means that those who felt that voting yes on Prop 2 was too little, challenged themselves to go vegan and stop eating the animals entirely. To stretch a little means that thousands of people throughout the country spent hours of their time doing fund-raisers, leafletings, phone-banking, and writing letters-to-the-editor, in order to spread the word about Prop 2 and factory farming cruelty.

But to stretch a little means that while you are seeing the huge gigantic victory of Prop 2 passing, you also see that this is just a small indication of a larger possibility. And while it is truly victorious that farm animals have been given this attention, this "right," they are still being commodified in ways that are inexplicable and unfathomable, they are still not covered in the Animal Welfare Act or the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, there are still not any laws covering transport, and there are still 286 chickens being killed for food in this country every second. Stretch your mind--think of what that means.

Prop 2 passing is gigantic, but that's because farm animals are treated as the lowest of low--as soulless machines who can be misused for our own pleasure and profit. Prop 2 is historic for this country--yet the entire European Union has already either banned these three confinement systems, or they are currently on the phase-out. Prop 2 is a teeny-tiny, hugely-gigantic, little-big victory.

It is most certainly not time now to go home and twiddle our thumbs and eat our tofu scramble and say "there, we did it." It's okay to say "we did it" (because, holy crap, we did!) but thumb-twiddling is not allowed. It is now time to pick up the paper and the pace and spread the word even wider and further--it's time to enact similar legislation throughout the country, even federally. It's time to advocate veganism as not only a viable but a necessary step toward conquering global hunger and warming, egregious unfathomable cruelty, and commodofication of the many animals--both human and non--who are affected by animal agriculture. Prop 2 is just the beginning. And as my former intern and current friend, Cody, said so eloquently in an email he sent last week--"A lot of work by a lot of people laid the groundwork for this moment, not just in the past year but in the past several decades. However, I believe that when the book is written on how factory farming was finally and permanently dismantled, today will be the first chapter."

Meanwhile, Prop 8 also passed in California, though this was far faaaaaaar from victorious. Now, I'm not a fan of marriage. IMHO, I don't think that straight marriage is something we should want to mirror because it is full of deep dark flaws. That said, I think it's asinine that gay marriage is not legal in this country. My feelings about the entire (gay or straight) institution of marriage aside, it is nauseating that we can't have that opportunity, too, if we wanted it.

I was truly moved to unexpected tears by this commentary by Keith Olbermann. I marched in the Marriage Equality of NY Parade because I think that gay marriage is a modest measure--just like the chickens who can soon turn around. Gay marriage is not the be-all and end-all. But it should damn well be allowed for those who want it.

Last weekend I had the honor of giving a workshop alongside my colleague Matt Rice (if we combined names, my name would be Jasmin Rice) at the SUNY Social Justice Conference in Binghamton, NY. Our workshop was called Whom You Consume: Why Animal Rights is Central to Social Justice. We touched on the inherent subjugation within animal oppression--not just of the animals we eat, but also of the slaughterhouse workers who are victims of racism and extremely dangerous working conditions, the women who are marginalized as "pieces of meat" just as animals are made into pieces of meat--and the list continues. There are concrete connections between dairy and feminism, between AIDS and vivisection, between cockfighting and gay-bashing. Similar justifications have been used throughout time to rationalize othering these groups--and by "these groups" I mean insert-oppressed-group here (gay people, animals, the list goes on and on and on...).

How do we end it? We see the little big victories. We note them as victories and we celebrate those. And then we see them as the stepping stones they are--ways of moving onward and upward toward a more just society. How do we end it? We live consciously and remain aware of our privilege, and try our damnedest to not use our unjust power to continue the horrific cycles that have gone on for thousands of years, because the empty rationalization it's always been done that way is not an excuse; rather, it is a dangerous disconnect that is way too common.

Marriage is between a man and a woman--it has always been this way. We should not redefine marriage, right? Not right, no. As Keith Olbermann reminds us, if marriage had not been redefined, then two black people would not be allowed to marry each other, let alone someone of a different race.

It has always been this way. Humans have always eaten animals--it is part of the natural chain of command. No! Humans were vegetarian until fairly recently, evolutionarily speaking. It has not always been this way. 10 billion land animals have not always been killed in this country for food on a yearly basis.

We are all animals, and we all have the capacity to suffer, no matter what species or sexual preference we are.

While speaking at the conference upstate, I was able to see historian rock star Howard Zinn, give the keynote speech. Zinn--author of my favorite ever history book--spoke to a sold-out crowd about how it's time to redefine terrorism and heroism, and about how socialism needs to make a comeback. At one point, a college kid yelled to Zinn, "RIGHT ON!" and Zinn said "Huh? What?" "Right on!" the guy repeated, to which Zinn replied, "I haven't heard that since 1968. Glad to see things aren't all lost."

Howard Zinn once said: "Americans have been taught that their nation is civilized and humane. But, too often, U.S. actions have been uncivilized and inhumane." He also once said this: "Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world."

Right on, Professor Zinn. Indeed, you are correct--things are not all lost. Every now and again, we stretch, then we stretch some more, and eventually we find new ways of moving.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

NYC Walk Round-Up






Here is a much-condensed and much-anticipated wrap-up of the NYC Walk for Farm Animals. In short: Peter Singer was there (and, in reference to our same last name, even joked that it's so nice to see a long-lost relative), Senator Liz Krueger worked her magic, Shokazoba risked electrocution and a parking ticket and showed up on the vegetable-powered Vegan Bus, and torrential rain decorated the skies. I haven't seen a grosser day in a long time, but soggy socks did not stop 440 people from showing up and raising awareness of factory farm cruelty. At the end of the day, this year's NYC Walk for Farm Animals raised over $53,000 for Farm Sanctuary--making it our best NYC Walk EVER. It was truly an honor to be involved with the coordinating-side of this (with the incomparable Cody, who really did all the work, and who is as cute as a button...a really good-looking button), and, of course, all 58 of the Walks throughout the USA and Canada. The numbers are still trickling in for these, and as soon as I have a final, I will let you know--so keep the bets coming.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Totally disgusting



Isn't this repulsive? It's from Jack Spade in Soho.

56 Greene St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 625-1820 (in case you want to call them and tell them how you have absolutely no desire to shop at their store while that disgusting oppressive window display is there)

Thank god for places like Lula's Sweet Apotheecary, where I had the most divine vegan soft serve sundae today..

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Statement from LOHV

Here is an official statement I recieved from John Phillips of the League of Humane Voters regarding yesterday's incidents:

“The League of Humane Voters of New York City's Manhattan screening of Blinders: The Truth Behind the Tradition on 9/22 was a tremendous success. The screening was attended by more than 300 caring people who want to put an end to carriage horse cruelty.



A few of our members have written to us concerned about an incident that took place during the screening wherein a disruptive representative of the carriage horse industry had to be removed by security. Please understand our reasons:



1. The industry spokesperson approached the microphone and immediately began screaming that he supported the carriage industry while shaking the microphone stand and pointing and making threatening attacks at the panelists. Simultaneously, another individual, who we believe may also be with the industry, began shouting and regardless of affiliation began advocating for violence.



2. As evidenced by the film itself, this industry has a history of violence against its opponents. In the film, an animal advocate recounts being literally whipped by a driver, there is video footage of a violent attack of the videographers, and a veterinarian reports having had to wear a bulletproof vest because of threats.



3. Earlier in the evening, prior to the movie being screened, a driver from the carriage horse industry with a history of disruptive behavior came to the box office to intimidate movie goers and attempted to stop ticket sales by calling the police.



Given this, and that we were responsible for the safety of the hundreds of people attending the event, we felt we had no choice but to remove the industry spokesperson.



The League of Humane Voters of New York City will continue to encourage a healthy dialogue on this important issue, but the safety of all participating is of primary interest to us. We have zero tolerance for violence.”



Thanks again, and if you have any questions, let me know.

Best,

John


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

JOHN PHILLIPS
Executive Director



LEAGUE OF HUMANE VOTERS of NEW YORK CITY
151 First Avenue, Suite 237
New York, NY 10003-2965
Telephone: 212-889-0303
E-mail: john@humanenyc.org
Web: www.humanenyc.org

STILL BLIND--a follow-up to yesterday

I woke up this morning only to find an email in my inbox from a long-time member of the NYC Carriage Horse industry. This was in response to my blog post yesterday. The man who emailed me thought he would find a sympathetic ear in me, since I am a "reasonable person."

(Note to the man wrote to me: Yes, I do plan on emailing you back. And yes, I do like to think I am a reasonable person--thanks for noticing. Despite popular belief, there are, in fact, many reasonable people in the animal rights movement.)

The man who wrote to me--who was entirely polite and articulate--let me know that he had never abused an animal in his life. He has retired 3 horses to a sanctuary, he is a member of various animal and environmental organizations, and he strongly believes that there is no abuse in his industry. He said that the documentary, Blinders, was fluffed with dramatic music in an effort to make the horse-drawn-carriage industry appear worse than it is.

I actually thought that the film was extremely fair, and even mentioned that some of the drivers or "owners" occasionally retire a horse they are particularly fond of to a rescue (I'm not clear who pays for the horse's lifetime care in this situation). Though the man who emailed me insists that there is no cruelty in this industry, that the horses are well taken care-of, and there are few accidents compared to other equine industries (not sure that's a good standard), I simply don't see any reason to exploit these horses for "work"--it is completely against their natural behavior, and is speciesism at its finest. No matter how much you say you "love" them, they are crammed into spaces at night that are too small for them to stretch out, they are not given sufficient social activity, they are never turned-out and allowed to graze, they breathe fumes for a good part of their 10-hour working day, and incredibly easily-frightened, they are subjected to a constant barrage of noise and activity. Furthermore, unless they are one of the very few "lucky ones" who get to retire to a sanctuary, they are slaughtered for horse-meat. Basically, they live their lives between two pieces of wood--either their shaft or their stall. It's like a moving gestation crate--all of their movements are controlled by someone else.

Mr.Email-Guy said that he and I have different worldviews (no shit) and he is not trying to change mine. Unfortunately, the horses are forced to live in his world, not mine.

Let it be known that I am all for free-speech--and I am all for free horses!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blindingly Obvious

Tonight M and I went to see a screening of the movie Blinders, a film by activist Danny Moss, detailing the inside horrors of the horse-drawn-carriage industry. The website states the following about this documentary:

Through original footage taken with hidden cameras and interviews with carriage drivers, veterinarians, accident witnesses, animal rights activists, politicians, tourists, residents who live near the horses and people who have rescued NYC carriage horses from slaughter, BLINDERS takes viewers behind the scenes to expose the truth behind the tradition.


This film was incredibly powerful, detailing the egregious cruelty that is this industry. It told the stories of the many horses who die from accidents caused by living a work-life they were not meant to live, in an urban jungle that is certainly no home for them. Perhaps one of the most moving moments of this film was seeing a couple of the rescued horses living out their lives peacefully at a sanctuary. My partner says that when talking about these horses, or any other exploited animal, it isn't just about the suffering--it's also about their lack of happiness.

The screening tonight was at a huge movie theatre on the Upper East Side. Hundreds of animal advocates came out for this event. There was press there, interviewing people on line, interviewing the panelists and the organization that hosted this event, The League of Humane Voters NYC--a remarkable (and remarkably effective) political group striving to elect animal-friendly politicians.

The film screening was followed by an open mic, where people were encouraged to ask questions. John from LOHV--a dear friend of mine who I love madly--started out by boasting that just before the film, they had to throw some woman out who was from the horse-drawn-carriage industry. Now, knowing John, it is likely possible that the woman was thrown out because she was abusive and out-of-line...but he didn't mention that part...which made me wonder why the opportunity to have opposition at an event like this wasn't seized, or at least attempted. And if it was attempted, it should have probably been mentioned.

Why is it so hard to get opposition at events like this, anyway? Well, probably partially because they might have to face some truths about themselves...but also partly because of behavior like this:

A woman got the mic and stated that she thinks we should start to get violent. This was after she was going on and on, asking many questions--some of which were good ones, like WHY ON EARTH does this teeny tiny industry have such big power?

Listen, if you're gonna have an open mic, it has to be managed. And when this woman said that she thinks we should get violent, there was not proper intervention there. Yes, I'm angry too. Yes, I get it too. But being violent is just perpetuating the same problem--and it's not fixing anything.

It's really sad and scary to me that there was press there. It's sad and scary to me that the one quote they will take from this evening was that a woman said we should get violent on them, since they are violent on the horses.

Then, this:

A man went to the mic and started screaming about how he is PRO-carriage horses. He was immediately heckled, he was immediately put in his place. He was IMMEDIATELY asked to leave, and security IMMEDIATELY came.

I, for one, was interested in what this guy had to say. And I agree with Yetta Kurland, the civil rights attorney/city council candidate/my friend who said that it was a missed learning opportunity to have that man leave so quickly. He wasn't really doing anything wrong--he was just barking a little. The woman who had just been to the mic who said we should get violent was not asked to leave. This is not a good impression, people!! This is why we get a bad reputation.

Obviously we have a huge gigantic fight ahead of us. But we've made some progress, anyway. In NYC, this is largely due to activists such as John from LOHV who engage people on animal issues. But tonight's "festivities" just took away from the real issues at hand: the exploitation of animals, and how we can EFFECTIVELY work together to REACH PEOPLE in order to effect REAL CHANGE.

I do not have Ahimsa tattooed across my left ankle for nothing.

Click here to get more involved with ending horse-drawn-carriage cruelty, and click here to learn about effective animal activist tactics.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Many MENY possibilities....


I just got back from marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in the Marriage Equality New York Wedding March. I had mixed feelings about going at first, since I'm not sure I believe in marriage at all, due to, amongst other things, the privelige, the exclusion-factor (both legally and socially), and the fact that it is rooted in such ickiness. I finally decided to go, both to support my friend Yetta, and because I decided to look at it as a stake-in-the-ground, as opposed to the ultimate success.

Despite the fact that the mainstream media will have you believe that there are just two sides to the gay marriage debate--that it's unnatural or it's about damn time--there is actually another side, which is that gay people should be fighting for an entire new way of ordering relationships, and not model theirs after straight privilege. I like the way Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore says it in the essay, "There's More to Life Than Platinum: Challenging the Tyranny of Sweatshop-Produced Rainbow Flags and Participatory Patriarchy", found in the book That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation.

"Gay marriage advocates brush aside generations of queer efforts to create new ways of loving, lusting for, and caring fro one another, in favor of a 1950's model of white-picket-fence 'we're just like you' normalcy."

Yes, I agree, Mattilda.

Reading that essay, as well as other essays by Sycamore, was like coming home. Everything I'd ever thought but was never able to express was put so totally eloquently in these essays. But I digress...

The reason I went to MENY despite my reluctance for assimilation (though I agree that there are times it is strategic), is because of the same reason I am a strong advocate of Proposition 2, a hugely historic and important ballot measure on the ticket this fall, which, when passed, will end three of the cruelest confinement systems for farm animals in the state of California--battery cages, gestation crates, and veal crates. Obviously I'm a vegan (I'm "hard-core," as a young man working at MENY observed today) and I work to advocate veganism. But I see Prop2 as a stake-in-the-ground--an unbelievably important campaign that will put farm animals on the map, and create such an impact that will forever change the way this country uses and abuses animals.

Just like gay marriage is something that is...well...better than what we've got now, but by no means the end. Nor is it something I want, personally...but if I did want it, I should be allowed to have it in the same way that my straight friends have it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

These Pleather Boots Were Made for Walking




(and that's just what I'll do...)

We all know that tofutti cuties taste particularly pleasant while watching Late Night Oprah—especially when your girlfriend just broke up with you and you have no other choice but to drown your sorrows in sugar (been there). Yes, of course it’s nice to treat yourself to a mani-pedi after an exhausting day of shopping for a new pair of pleather pumps that will work perfectly with your vintage denim mini. Yeah yeah, me me me. I get it, I do. But for those days when that song gets tired and you realize that there are bigger and better things to fight for than your choice for American Idol, or for moments when you are newly convinced that karma’s a bitch and you’d better do something quick to get some (dairy-free) brownie points, you may be better suited focusing your attention outward—and burning some calories while you’re at it.

Now, with that in mind, what do the following things have in common and why should they matter to you: Central Park in late September; delicious—and deliciously free!—vegan food; stellar live music; and the cutest, sweetest turkeys and cattle and pigs (oh my!) you’ve ever heard of? They are all part of the Walk for Farm Animals, an annual tradition that is not only changing hearts and minds, is not just a fun afternoon in the sun, but also happens to be a totally necessary fund and awareness raiser for Farm Sanctuary.

The Walk for Farm Animals is taking place this year in over 50 cities nationwide, and more than 2,000 people are expected to take part. In honor of World Farm Animals Day on October 2 (and no, unfortunately you don’t get off of work that day), the Walks are held annually throughout September and October. Last year, the national Walk for Farm Animals raised $180,000, with donations going directly to the rescue efforts of Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farmed animal protection organization.

Now, let’s talk about the Big Apple specifically. Last year, I coordinated the NYC Walk, and we wound up raising over $40,000 and had over 350 walkers. It was a total celebration of the farm animals, which is what it will be this year too. This year, I’m co-coordinating all of the national Walks, and I couldn’t be more excited to have something so amazing keep me up at night in anticipation (as I watch Late Night Oprah and inhale mint-chip Tofutti Cuties, but I digress).

As truly awesome as the NYC Walk was last year, this year it is going to be even more outstanding. We have two live bands, the most ridiculously-divine food donated by The Groovy Baker, special speakers including the incomparable State Senator Liz Krueger, and raffle prizes that make me wonder if I should leave my job just long enough to be allowed to buy raffle tickets. (Prizes include a stay at the Farm Sanctuary B&B, gift certificates to your favorite vegan restaurants, handmade jewelry by some of the finest artists in the city, and a subscription to VegNews Magazine.) Oh, and once again, I’ll be MCing along with my co-MC (and BFF, FYI), Marisa.

In all seriousness, the issue of farm animal cruelty is one that is very real, and in huge need of both money and empathic ears. Here’s a personal story of Woe-is-(NOT!)-Me that I didn’t think I’d share, but here we go anyway…

Call it my little-sister identity, my Jewish upbringing, my feminist POV, or call it what you will, but from time to time, I have been known to complain…a little. (Insert the eye-roll of at least 2,000 of my closest friends.) So one day, when even I got sick of listening to my own histrionics, I walked to the tattoo place down the street and got the number “267” tattooed in black ink on my left wrist. This number, which was quoted from an article co-written by my amazingly smart and beautiful partner—is the amount of chickens killed in this country for food, EVERY SECOND. Actually wait, I take that back—the number is now 286 (and no, I will not get another tattoo). The point is, I did not get 267 etched into my body because I think I’m bad-ass, rather, it serves as a reminder to me to keep things in perspective, and to not get so caught up in the minor details that I forget about those struggling for their lives every second. It’s high time to get real and get moving. Welcome to the 21st Century, boys and girls—social justice activism is sexy!

The Walk for Farm Animals is a celebration of the lucky ones who managed to escape the horrors of factory farming. It’s a chill day where people from all over come and stand in solidarity with others who are also making a difference (insert starfish story here). If you live in or around NYC, I hope you’ll come to the NYC Walk this year—it SO beats sugar shock, SO beats reruns of Oprah. If you can’t make it, why not register anyway and just send around an email to your friends/co-workers/family asking them to donate to your online page. It will literally take you 10 minutes or less, right now, to do that, and it will honestly make the world of difference (shit—am I starting to sound like the woman from All in the Family?). If you’re not in NYC, check out some of our other Walk locations, and register for one near you. And if you’re so inclined start your very own Walk for Farm Animals, email me at jsinger@farmsanctuary.org and I'll get you set up.

Below is the info for the NYC Walk. When you register, you’ll also get a really cool t-shirt, and you’ll get a subscription to Sanctuary Magazine—for $15 (in advance; $20 day-of). That’s less expensive than getting just one hand manicured at a so-so nail place!

New York City Walk for Farm Animals

Date: Sept. 28
Time: Registration 10 a.m., Walk 12 noon
Location: Columbus Circle
Local Walk Coordinator: Cody
E-mail: nyc@walkforfarmanimals.org
Phone: 917-670-0347


I’ll leave you with this: Here is a quote I like. Looking forward to seeing you at the Walk for Farm Animals!

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.”—Samuel Adams

Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Solidarity: My Thoughts Against Vivisection

There's little doubt that a small (maybe tiny) victory was won last month when, after thousands of calls and emails from activists throughout the country, the Society of Gynecological Oncologists canceled their "Hands-On Pig Lab". Prior to canceling it, the program stated that procedures that will be performed were to include "ureteral dissection, pelvic and para-aortic lymphadenectomy, repair of simulated bowel and bladder injury, bowel resection, ureteral re-anasomosis, and liver resection." These procedures were deemed necessary and appropriate for a sales demonstration of electro-surgical tools.

I said it was possibly a "tiny victory" not only because it involved only a few animals out of millions, but also because though the Society buckled under vocal opposition and called it off, Covidien Electrosurgery, the company that devised the program and is behind many other vivisection experiments, has expressed no intention in ending their mutilation practices. But maybe calling it "little" is not fair--any victories for animals can be perceived as huge since the victories are so few and far between.

When I clicked on Covidien's website, the first thing found was the word "compassion" in big bold blue letters. Apparently, they pride themselves for having it.

Then I found their statement on laboratory animals:

...It is our commitment, policy and highest priority to treat laboratory animals humanely and with respect. Lab sessions are conducted only after the appropriate Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval is obtained. We require that all sponsored sessions are conducted in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act (Title 7 United States Code Section 2131 et. seq.) and the National Academy of Sciences Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.

Our position is supported by regulatory standards regarding the use of laboratory animals in the process of developing new drugs and medical devices...


Well. The Animal Welfare Act (which, incidentally, specifically excludes birds, rats, mice, and cold-blooded animals, as well as all farmed-animals raised for slaughter) is the only federal law that addresses extremely minimal standards of care for animals in research environments.Covidien is proud to comply with the Animal Welfare Act, but the Animal Welfare Act requires the consideration of using alternatives, and to my lay mind, surely there are alternatives to using a live animal to demonstrate a product.

More unfortunate than the fact that the legalities involved in vivisection are confusing and unclear, is the fact that it's not unusual. Not only is needless animal testing/mutilation common for Covidien, it's also common for countless other companies. In medical research, over 100 million animals are used every year in the good old US of A to study human disease and other ailments, often being inflicted with these diseases themselves, and thus causing them pain. In animal testing, animals are exposed to harmful products to test how humans may respond if exposed to the same ones. Obvious to even MY "lay mind" is that a human may respond slightly differently than a rodent, which is only one of the many reasons these types of tests can be totally for naught.

The point is, even when these egregious animal tests give us useful information, they are often unnecessary, since there may be viable and reliable alternatives to these tests--alternatives which hurt nobody except maybe the scientist or CEO who stubs his toe on his way to the bank. And what if they do give us useful information--are they moral? In a society where people are killing themselves due to unhealthy, animal-based diets, how can it be moral to torture animals to find cures for the diseases they're causing to themselves?

Not surprisingly, the American Anti-Vivisection Society was founded by a woman, Caroline Earle White, over 125 years ago--a woman who was also instrumental in both the anti-slavery and women's suffrage movements. Reading about White recently, I was reminded of a speech I heard at the Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down last month, where I was set to give a Veganism101 workshop the very next day. I slumped myself into a corner in the back of the room, down the road from hundreds of rescued farm animals--animals saved from factory farms, highly abusive situations, and yes, animal testing. I had no idea how I got to share the bill with some of my heroes and mentors, including Captain Paul Watson, the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and Josh Hooten, founder of Herbivore. It was Hooten's speech that I remembered as I was reading about White. Clad in a "hot cop" uniform (he joked that he packed the wrong costume, this one was meant for his Vegas show next week), Josh gave useful advice on activism, including tips such as to not talk badly about your fellow activists, and the thing that rekindled a flame for me, to not be a single-issue activist.

Caroline Earle White must have come from the same line of thinking, because speaking up for slaves, speaking up for women, and speaking up for animals were obvious acts of solidarity, and a way to use her privilege to loan a voice to those who could not or would not be heard otherwise.

As I type this, my dog, Rose, is sleeping on the corner of the couch, all curled up like a fetus, or a bean. She's making little squeaky sounds every now and then, and I wonder, though I'll never know, what little dreams are going on in her pretty head. My heart sinks a little when I think that if a worker in the shelter Rose was brought to, after she was found chained and abandoned, did not fall in love with her and sneak her out to a loving home, she would not be here now. This particular shelter, along with many others, kills all pit bulls, and does not even give them the option of adoption. Rose was one of the lucky ones. As I type this, there are countless other animals of all species, including lots of dogs (especially beagles), being held captive for unfathomable testing and research, and they are relying on us to shed light on these cruel and unjust practices.

As reported by Indymedia UK, in solidarity with Sean Kirtley, who was "imprisoned by the state for supposedly organising legal demonstrations against Sequani's vivisection laboratories, activists will be making a stand for the animals with a march and rally against Sequani labs on September 6th in Ledbury, Herefordshire." I write this blog post today to take part, in my own way, in this "Carnival Against Vivisection," and so that you will do what I have done and continue to do--challenge yourself to learn a little more today about animal cruelty, and in particular, vivisection.

Just as Caroline Earle White did, find the connections between this and other forms social justice, and ask yourself how you can use what you've got to make it a tiny bit better, to help spread the word, and to refuse to be complacent.

Friday, August 29, 2008

All Things Bright and FABULOUS!

title="The GirlieGirl Army">The<br />GirlieGirl Army - Your Guide to Glamazon Livingheight="250">

Chloe Jo is a dear sweet friend of mine, and you should know her too. Her newsletter, Girlie Girl News, is by far on the pulse of everything hip, fabulous, "glamazon," and vegan. She's a superstar in the true sense of the word, and if you don't subscribe to her newsletter today, you might as well look under the real estate ads for a rock, cuz that's where you're gonna be living.

Put On Your Vegan Walking Shoes!



Okay folks. Here we go again.

Last year's Walk for Farm Animals was a highlight in my activist life, and I am so grateful that all of you came out to support Farm Sanctuary and raise necessary funds and awareness for the farm animals. Last year, in NYC alone, we raised over $40,000 and had over 350 walkers. Nationally, we raised about $180,000, and had over 2200 walkers. This year, I've handed off the local coordinating of the NYC Walk to my amazing intern, Cody, so that I can focus my attention on coordinating the 50 national Walks we have in store.The details are in place, and now all we need is the MONEY!!!! Boys and girls, the money you donate to this Walk goes DIRECTLY to the rescue efforts of Farm Sanctuary. If you haven't visited the Farm, first of all, GO, and second of all, I can tell you that it's the most magical place on earth. I can't think of anything better for you to do with your money than to donate to my fundraising page, unless you'd prefer to actually register yourself, which is even better! That way you could have your very OWN fundraising page! And you could actually come to the Walk! Speaking of coming to the Walk, I'm one of the MCs again this year, so send me your best jokes and I'll try to work them into the routine!

Thanks in advance for the gigantic donation you're about to make. :) The animals thank you, too. You're superstars.



Love,

jasmin

Monday, August 11, 2008

Advantages

First the good news. Advantage Rent-a-Car refunded the gay-partner
charge
. They previously had no policy on waiving the additional driver
fee ($10 a day--pretty hefty) for same-sex couples, but after my
complaint letter, they gave it back. Now I'm working on changing their
policy so others like M and me--as well as special friends and
non-coupled people--don't wind up in this same predicament.

(If you're interested in assisting me in that, send a friendly email to hr@advantage.com asking them to please adopt a policy recognizing same-sex partners and waiving the additional driver fee.)

The bad news is that I'm very upset tonight about how gay people are
continually viewed and treated insofar as marriage. This article did
not give proper justice to one person who spoke up against straight
marriage until it is available to everyone. The comments on this
article--which was reposted WIDELY thanks to the Associated Press--were nothing but abusive and unfair toward her and her POV. If only
people would step back and see that she HAS a POINT. MOST straight
people who get married are completely blind to the fact that marriage
is an antiquated industry that continues to oppress others. The minute
someone stands up to this in a public forum, she is name-called. I'm
sick over it. This kind of name-calling is at the root of gay-bashing. It
stems from the same roots of othering those who are not in the
mainstream, those who have the courage to speak up for the underdog,
and even more unique, to actually act on their behalf (as opposed to
just nod vehemently in fake-solidarity).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vegas with a Vegan...and other Woes of Oppression This, Oppression That


Last week, M and I took time off from the world and ventured to the
southwest. Unfortunately, before we got to our destination, we had to go
through Sin City, where what happens to vegans stays with vegans.

I didn't want to hate Vegas -- it's just too easy, too trite. Instead, I hoped to have an ironic, kitschy kind of experience. But I just couldn't pull it off. When I was there, I realized that everything that's wrong with the world was epitomized in this little big town. Being from New York City, I'm used to bright lights and crowded sidewalks, but I like to believe that some people in NY are on their way to experiencing culture and diversity, rather than the unadulterated consumerism, conditioned air, and addictive bait that is rampant all over Las Vegas. IMHO.

There were two stellar parts of Vegas--one was the thrift store outside of
the strip, Opportunity Village. M and I went there for a shop-stop and each got new wardrobes, practically. The other redeeming factor was Ronald's Donuts, a hole-in-the-wall dive located in Chinatown (the only place where a vegan in Vegas could get a decent veggie soba dish), across the street from several gun and ammo stores. Ronald's is owned by a Cambodian Buddhist guy who has been vegan all his life. (The memory of the Boston creme variety still reminds me of the one time in Vegas I hit the jackpot.)

Our main part of the trip was Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which was nestled in a canyon just outside Kanab, Utah, where a double rainbow in the sky is not unusual. We spent part of the trip exploring the national parks and monuments, including the spectacular Zion National Park, where the
mountains were named after patriarchal Old Testament figures, which was
unsettling to me at the very least, considering the land is more connected
to the Native Americans than to the Mormons. I've since learned that
it was the Paiutes who originally occupied the area, when it was called
Mukuntuweap. Zion--meaning "heavenly refuge"and, I am sure not without coincidence, a big deal to Mormons--became the new name. I bet it wasn't a refuge for the Indians.

It was shocking how so much of my trip through Native American land did not
officially reflect anything about the Native Americans. At Pipe Spring National Monument, which is where Paiutes lived (and still live) and depended upon the water from the spring, the tour focused on the Mormon church--the first white people who were there--who built a house right over the spring (the only water for miles around) on the Indians' land and had shooting-holes in the bedroom in case any Indians came to invade what was rightfully theirs. I guess I could even go further back than that and say that the Indians took what was the animals' land. Humans -- oy.

Let me backtrack... And thanks for dealing with my rantings...

When we were in Vegas renting a car, it was $100 extra to put on an additional
driver (me). While the rental car guy was processing our order, the dude
next to him was helping another couple, a man and woman. The car rental guy
said to them, "You don't have the same last name. Are you married?" and the
straight people said "yes." The car rental guy said "Great, than it's no
extra charge for the second driver," and I looked at M and rolled my
eyes.

Oppression is so...oppressive. Humans develop these hierarchical systems
based on, what, religion? And they go in and take what isn't theirs to begin
with. Then a gazillion years later, this unfair patriarchal existence is
only rivaled in ugliness by the annoying trend of walking around crying woe
is me.

I'm no exception. I get stuck--way too often--in this yucky cycle of feeling
like the world is out to get me. I take way too much personally (though I'm
getting better at that and rougher around the edges), and though I don't
want to admit it, I think that since I'm a vegan dyke who only wears thrift
store clothes, I should somehow get a complimentary "get out of jail free" card. Before you send me hate mail, let me first say that though I recognize
my habit of crying woe is me, my entire point is that I don't like it in myself, and I don't like it in anyone else either.

I'm oppressed, you're oppressed, everyone's oppressed-oppressed...
I'm depressed, you're depressed...get OVER IT!

It sucks that my partner and I had to pay an extra hundred dollars on our
car rental when those who cash in on the marriage-privilege--something not
available to M and I--don't have to. It sucks that I know at least a
few of you who read this are single straight women who have chosen--for
whatever reason--to not get married, and you'd also have to pay $100 extra
on the car, if you were traveling with a buddy. And we should absolutely
fight for equality, no question. Because it does suck. But it doesn't suck
THAT MUCH.

There are people who are in truly dangerous situations who have to fight to
survive because of who they are. People try to "take their land" constantly,
and sometimes they succeed. Animals fight for their lives all the time, and
almost never succeed. The number 267 is tattooed on my left wrist because
that is the number of chickens who die in this country every second. No,
wait, let me correct myself... It's now 286. I'd get another tattoo, but I
would likely run out of room soon, the numbers are so staggering.

There must be a point when you...or okay, when I... stop complaining and
start recognizing that though it is completely and entirely unfair that I
was charged an extra hundred bucks because my partner doesn't have a penis,
at least we are not fighting for our lives. When I accidentally said out
loud to M, "keep me calm," and noticed the car rental guy staring at me
with confusion, I snidely told him that "we aren't ALLOWED to get married."
He said, "well, I think you should be." He just works there, after all, and that's probably no bed of roses either.

I am not fighting to be alive. And so responding to this stupidity with an
eye-roll is fine, it's acceptable, but the insanity of the extra fee because
I'm not married does not make me a victim (and maybe the real problem is not
that straight people are allowed to get married and gays aren't, but that
the government holds the definition of marriage AT ALL). Rather, it is a
shitty inconvenience, and I will absolutely send a letter to Advantage
Rent-a-Car (irony) stating that the injustice was annoying and unfair. But
it doesn't make me a victim.


The Native Americans whose land was stolen and renamed, redefined...they were
victims. The animals who were killed, who continue to be killed, for no
reason other than selfish greed and ignorance, they, too, are victims. The
gay people in both this and other countries who are risking their lives when
they come out, they are victims, and it is no eye-rolling matter--it is so
way beyond that.

There are so many similarities between gay people and animals--way too much
to write about in this entry, but do see "Coming Out for Animals Rights" on
this page. Likewise, we can find the links between many oppressed groups.But just as we all have things in common, there needs to be a much stronger dividing line between an inconvenient situation and a life-threatening one. The car rental situation is a remnant of a much bigger problem, that is true. But it would be so immoral and uneducated of me to use that as
fodder for calling myself a victim.

That's not to say I don't have really crappy days or moments of weakness
when I weep into my lover's arms sure that nobody in the world is as the blank> as me. But at the end of the day, I usually have enough insight
to slap myself across the face and say "wake up, little girl! There are wars
to be fought!"

So what do we do about it? Well, I have no idea. I'm just a young woman with
a decent-sized vocabulary and a determination to make bitter lemonade out of
old oranges. Go figure that one out.

When I was in Vegas, I got to talking to two of the three owners of Ronald's
donuts (but not Ronald, he's the third one). The woman was telling me that
her brother (Ronald) has been vegan since he was a kid, and that those
values were instilled in him by their grandparents, who were also vegetarian.
When we asked her if her grandparents were here in America now, she looked
down, only slightly distracted and said softly, "no, they were killed in the
war -- you know -- the killing fields." After the war, the remaining family members found their way to Las Vegas, where they now run Ronald's Donuts. Nowhere is there a sign that says the donuts are vegan, but it's commonly known within some underground veg folk that Ronald is pretty hardcore. The vast majority of the donuts are vegan, just ask them. Still, they don't advertise it as such, because they are not after a niche.It simply does not compute to them to include dead animal parts into their
food, into their livelihood. It's amazing how these victims have come out as
survivors, and how completely unflappable they are--and how "woe is me" is
not in their vocabulary.

Whether we want it or not, Viva Las Vegas, and Viva Lost Vegan.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I'm totally Mortified


There are times in life when you get to where you planned to be, and you look up and realize you're about to share your innermost secrets to a theatre filled with strangers. I have no idea how I get myself into these situations, but tomorrow night at about this time (8 p.m. on June 2nd), I will be doing just that...

It's called Mortified, and I'll be just that...

Mortified: Hailed a "cultural phenomenon" by Newsweek and celebrated by
the likes of This American Life, The Today Show, The Onion AV Club,
Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Daily Candy, and more, Mortified is a
comic
excavation of teen angst artifacts (journals, letters, poems, lyrics,
home
movies, stories, and more) as shared by their original authors before
total strangers. As the largest and longest-running project of its kind,

our grassroots comedy collective has spent years sifting through
hundreds
of otherwise forgotten notebooks on a mission to celebrate the
extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Mortified is co-produced in New
York by Brandy Barber and Anne Altman.
www.getmortified.com


I will post a blog entry to tell you how it goes. In a nutshell, I'll be talking all about my obsession with Bette Midler, as well as several other legends of the theatre, but also including my teachers and waitresses.

And yet, I had no idea that the Kinsey Scale might possibly be a bit...tipped.

Which is not to say that I didn't have my day with the boys. I came out as bisexual when I was 19, but then somehow wound up ENGAGED to a MAN a couple years later. I always think: I could be a fat New Jersey WIFE by now... thank Gaia I found my way, and stopped to smell the .

Still, despite popular belief, I am MUCH MORE SHY than you'd imagine, and so I'm a bit TERRIFIED about tomorrow night...

I'll leave you with a snippet from my 7th grade journal:

March 2, 1992—AGE 12 ½


I disagree completely with what the critics say about Bette Midler.
For the last few days, they haven't had positive things to say about
her. They said that she JUST BARELY MADE IT as an Oscar nominee.
That's not true! She was FABULOUS in For the Boys!!!!! Being my one
and only idol, she's FABULOUS in EVERYTHING! She deserves that Oscar
and SHE WILL GET IT!!!!


March 4

Everybody has an idol. Everybody has a hero. Everybody has an
obsession. But NO ONE is as obsessed as me!! My obsession with Bette
Midler started in October. I was watching her 1988 movie, Beaches, for
the 12th time. I always loved that movie, but that time it was
different.


March 8

I belong to Verne Fowler School of Dance and Theatre Arts. When I go
up on stage, I feel so free! I don't have to be myself. I could be
anyone. Anyone at all. I could even go anywhere. To the moon, outer
space, Japan, Louisiana, anywhere!

Verne Fowler isn't the only stage-work that I do. I also belong to the
junior choir at my temple. Being the oldest (next year I start teen
choir), I almost always have a solo. Other than those, I audition for
plays throughout Middlesex County. I do plays at camp as well. This
last summer, I was in the musical, Annie. I played Mr. Bundles, the
laundry man. Most people think that my wanting to be an actress is
just a phase. Well, it's not! I'm going to make my dream a reality!


March 12

I saw the movie, This is My Life. I LOVED IT!!! It was witty,
charming, funny, sad, and Julie Kavner was terrific! It would've been
better with Bette Midler, but wouldn't everything?!?!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Milk and Other Trash

I have laryngitis. For everyone who has ever told me to shut up, your wish is my command. When I try really hard to speak, it sounds like I am honking.

Yesterday I picked up Augusten Burroughs' new book, Wolf at the Table. Augusten is the author of Running With Scissors and Dry, two incredibly morose memoirs. Aside from trashy lesbian fiction, my favorite thing to read when I'm not immersed in this animal book or that animal book, is depressing autobiographies. They somehow make life seem much sunnier for me.

Yesterday, Darren and I bought lotto tickets. It's up to 100 million dollars. Keep your fingers crossed.

M and I were talking about what we would do if we won an absurd amount of money. We were honestly stumped--aside from opening a foundation where activists could apply for our grants, we couldn't think of very much.

Though, if we won, I'm sure we'd figure something out...

Tonight I will be stopping at Pure Food and Wine takeout for the best damn (non-oppressive) "cheese" you ever did have. We have this theory, though, that the carnivores don't really GET how amazing this "cheese" is. It is so good, but no animals were harmed in the making of it.

Really, eating dairy is one of the most egregious forms of cruelty. When people say they are vegetarians but not vegan, for ethical reasons, I want to say..."GO VEGAN! But if you're not going to, at least ditch the milk for the flesh of large animals...like cows (beef)...because when you support the dairy industry, the animals are being grossly abused, and only eventually killed, after they are considered "spent"... plus of course, the veal industry is a DIRECT link to the meat industry... since cows born male are made into veal because only girls can be dairy cows. Dairy cows have to be constantly impregnated in order to produce milk--just like us, gals. And their babies are taken away from them immediately. Plus, milk is BAD FOR YOU. And why did I say eat large animals as opposed to small ones? For all you ethical "I-don't-eat-red-meat" types, when you eat "red meat," (cows), less animals suffer than when you eat small ones (turkeys and chickens). So the bottom line is...Ditch the Damn Dairy! And go vegan! And go to Pure Food and Wine takeaway and get Dr.Cow, the best cheese in the world!

(And you thought you could get me to shut up...)

I once wrote a paper for grad school and said, quite dramatically (yet truthfully) that as a rape survivor, I simply cannot palate the idea of consuming dairy, since the cows are being raped over and over again in order to produce babies. For more on that subject, read this or this.

You can see why I have to stop sometimes and read trash.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thanking the Monkey



(That's a fairly unflattering shot of me in Ventura last week.)

No good deed goes unpunished. I have this gross virus (don't get too close to your computer) that was surely caused from my kind hearted attempt to quiet a little child (Deon) sitting behind me on the plane ride from LAX to JFK. The fever and chills even brought me to the doctor, a place I haven't been in at least 7 or 8 years. Alas, I am beginning to feel better, thanks to a VERY patient girlfriend and an empathic and warm doggie.

My trip to California was, just that, a trip. I had a great time on the other side of the country, doing outreach and whatnot. (The whatnot was particularly fun.) On my final day, I stayed with my friend Karen Dawn. Karen's new book, Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals hits bookstores TODAY and I SWEAR ON MY LIFE, we do not have another 101-type book that is this comprehensive, sensitive, witty, and on the mark. There are tons of cartoons scattered throughout this book, including those of my other buddy Dan (who is also a complete genius), and beautiful veg celebs, like the wickedly hot Pink. Karen does a brilliant job of approaching the welfare-abolitionist argument, and then, like any good advocate, she moves past it, and onto more important uses of energy, such as informing her readers about everything from animals in circuses to farm animals. And her dogs are also throughout the book... I had the huge privilege of spending time with these dogs last week. Buster and Paula are fabulous, and Buster sings Joni Mitchell songs quite well. Here is a pictures of Paula:




I love them! I miss them! Though being with them made me miss my Rose, and of course my Xhosa.

Funny afterword: TWO DAYS LATER, I decided to walk Rose around the block late at night. I took her a different route, and as I turned the corner onto Prince Street, who do I see standing outside of a bar on the phone but KAREN DAWN! It was hilarious. 15 minutes later, Mariann and I were having a drink with Karen AND Rose! Thank you to the Soho Grand, and it's dog-friendly rules.

And now I'm sick as a dog.

Here are some pictures from Mariann's birthday party a few weeks ago:




Monday, April 21, 2008

Jasmin Avenue, California USA




I write to you from Orange County, California, where I'm attempting to warm up my freezing cold motel room. I'm here assisting in outreach on the historic Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, which, if passed, would ban three of the cruelest confinement systems for farm animals--battery cages, gestation crates, and veal crates.
California for Humane Farms is a coalition of animal protection organizations, spear-headed by the fabulous Farm Sanctuary and HSUS, as well as many other smaller animal protection organizations. If you've read my blog before, you know that I am the outreach coordinator for Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization. We have worked with thousands of volunteers to gather 800,000 sigantures from people who want to see this on the ballot in November--and it worked! Mainly through volunteers, we have gained enough signatures to bring the vote to the people.

Anyone who doesn't think that vegans travel around in style have not seen Black Beauty. That's the name of the truck I'm traveling around in, with Jason P. driving Miss Jasmin. The truck has 3 80-inch screens, and at night we show footage of factory farming. During the day, the screens are covered with messaging tarps--and oh my, the looks we get...



Jason P. and I started our day out with french toast and tofu omelets at Real Food Daily in Hollywood, and then headed for Mission Viejo where I spoke to a room full of volunteers who are truly awe-inspiring, to say the least. We showed a bunch of people the truck and then headed to Native Foods, where I had fake chicken that would give Red Bamboo's soul chicken a run for its money. Our waitress, the lovely Megan, walked us back to the truck and gave us a box of vegan doughnut holes for our evening, which we wound up inhaling before we pulled onto the Freeway. Then it was off to Laguna Beach, where we parked BB on a heavy foot-trafficked area. I got out of the truck to call M, and I saw the big black truck in front of me, garnering many uncomfortable glances. In back of me was the Pacific Ocean, full of bon-fires on the sandy beaches. Boy oh boy, did I feel zaftig. The street we parked on was called "Jasmine Ave," but they mistakenly had an "e."



We headed back to Lake Forest, where I sit in my motel room now, which is only slightly warmer than when I started this entry.

Before I left for California, I was bitching about this and that. I won't get into the reasons why--such as the fact that marriage such a blatantly unfair privilege and it blows my mind and keeps me up at night that more straight people don't realize that and then stand in solidarity with those not so lucky, until we are--and so both M and Dezz keep saying "267, 267," over and over again, and here's why:

Every second in this country, that is the amount of chickens killed for food. 267. Puts things in perspective, yes? So I left the house and got it tattooed on my left wrist: 267. A gentle reminder, a not-so-gentle reminder, a powerful conversation starter, a morbid moment... A romantic gesture, even, since that figure came from an article that M co-wrote. Okay, maybe not romantic...

I also had a V added to another tattoo of mine.



V for Vendetta, of course.

Tomorrow, off for Ventura, then Santa Barbara, and then back to LA...

One last thing... I said to a bunch of wealthy Californians that Thursday I was going back to "the city." That's how I said it: "the city."

"I'm sure you're talking about Trenton," said Jason P.

As if there were only one city...

Well, there's only one city for me...And I miss Her.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Spring is Here and the Sky is So Very Blue

There are yellow roses in full bloom in a vase on the windowsill below the new blinds--the blinds that I'm very happy about. On the other windowsill is a brown and white Rose, who is staring intently at Thompson Street. I love coming home late at night and gazing up at the window only to see Rose staring back. As if that weren't welcoming enough, the lights on in background--the 3 beautiful bell-like fixtures--show me that M is home, probably catching up on her email or watching PBS. I walk in the door and there is this sense of comfort, one that I've never felt before. Even when it's hectic, it's warm.

Of course there are those moments--and they are often--when I think of my kitty who is under the good care of my roommate uptown. Xhosa is a warrior. I've always said she should write a book about how it was to start her life on the streets of Harlem, only to be brought in by a young activist who had two other cats--a fact that was later learned to be a no-no. So she traipsed up to Washington Heights where she met me, and then three years later, I am rarely around. She is an independent little girl, but if you get to know her, you will see how sensitive and sweet she really is. Think of everything we'd learn about coping skills, about life, about small treasures, about unconditional love, if the animals could write books.

I just had my lunch--a spinach, sauerkraut, tahini sandwich on sprouted Ezekiel bread. I know how disgusting that sounds--believe me. But it is so good, it is filling and scrumptious.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blogs and Animals are Finally Running Again...

Okay, okay. I've been blogstipated. Blame it on the bananas in my life.
In situations like that, the best thing to get things flowing again can
be a few good dates. And here I am again.

Last week I was busy (to say the least) with working on events around Gene Baur's
new book, Farm Sanctuary:
Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food
. This book
tells the story of how Farm Sanctuary began.
It was funded by selling tofu dogs at Grateful Dead concerts, and was
run from an oldschool bus . Gene was a visionary hippie then (well,
okay, he still is), and his crazy new idea became the farm animal
protection movement. Now, Farm Sanctuary has 2 sanctuaries--one in
Watkins Glen, NY, and the other in Orland, California. In addition to
providing rescue and rehabilitation for farmed animals who would
otherwise be sent to slaughter, Farm Sanctuary advocates on a national
level--providing education and outreach, and working to pass laws to
protect these animals. I am lucky enough to be the outreach coordinator
based in NYC. I say to myself every day: I cannot imagine doing
anything else.

My 83-year-old Grandma, along with my mother
and step-father, went to one of Gene's book-signings in NJ. My grandma
bought the book and said to me later that she wants to read it so she
can understand what I'm so passionate about. She was merely a few pages
in when she called me and said "I understand what you're so passionate
about! I'm going to telleveryone about this..."

My favorite
part of the book are the animal stories, which conclude every chapter.
They tell the individual stories of the animals who wind up at the
farm--their story, their escape, their survival, and their quirks and
charms.

At all events last week, the book sold out. I think
that Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food,
has the potential to change the world.

In other news...my tooth hurts. I loathe the dentist. I hate the dentist. I abhor
the dentist. I don't understand what I have done in my life to deserve
the emotional and physical trauma of sitting in that chair with rubber
gloves in my mouth, the sound of drilling and buzzing permeating my
ears. (MyPrivilege -Watch Voice now says: Shut up, Jasmin! Look at how
lucky you are going to the dentist! My Martyr Voice responds: YOU shut
up! I want to complain!)

I have this theory that since we have to be subjected to the dentist anyway, why not do it at the same time as the gyno?
Get it all through in one go. One doctor at one end, the other doctor
at the other. And for fun, we can also get a manicure at the same time,
just to distract us slightly.

I mean, why not?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks."

Did anyone see the total eclipse of the moon last night**? The moon radiated a hot pink that was reminiscent of my mid-80's wardrobe. It affected me much more than I had anticipated. It reminded me that we are really such peons in this universe, yet at the same time I felt like the universe was so teeny-tiny and we were all huge invasive monsters. I often have bi-polar thoughts like that...co-existing feelings that everything is so big and so small. And I don't even do drugs.

I called my mother when I saw the eclipse, urging her to go outside and look at it for herself, but she whined "I'm in bed!" Then I called my 83-year-old grandma, who rushed outta bed in order to see it. If you're ever having a bad day, call my grandma. She's just...outstanding. She's even better than a total eclipse of the moon.

Remember Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart? As I type, I am singing that song out loud. If someone had a video camera, my career and reputation could be ruined in one single youtube hit. You have to look at the lyrics to this song now and sing it out loud...it's your homework. Watch yourself in your bathroom mirror belting out "forever's gonna start tonight". Let me know what you discover about yourself.

Ah yes, Meatloaf days. I think I'll start a band. I'll call it Lentil Loaf.

Speaking of lentils, pick up the March/April issue of VegNews. Not only do I have an article in it on the subject of activist burnout, but M has a quotable, and Rose makes a cameo!

Quote of the day: (from an audience member at a recent activism workshop) "I am not vegan, but I know I'm doing something wrong."



**Jasmin's dumb thing of yesterday: During the eclipse, I proclaimed that astrologers must be so excited. Eclipses are big days for astrologers.

(Oy, jasmin, jasmin...)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bob backwards is still Bob

I got the idea of posting the article I'm about to talk about from my friend Isa (okay, I stole it from her without asking). Bob Barker has just donated a million bucks to his alma mater so that they can start an undergrad animal-ethics program. Is that the coolest thing?

The fact that the story I'm about to tell you about Bob Barker is my all-time FAVORITE Bob Barker story (not that I have many) is going to surely reserve my feminist self a spot in hell. My BFF's partner, "D", was in a hotel room with Barker--not as scandalous as it sounds. D is an animal rights lawyer and was at some conference with Bob. He asked Bob if Marisa could meet him since she's such a big fan. Bob asked how old she was, to which D responded "27." Bob said (I'm not kidding!) "tell her to COME ON DOWN!"

In other news, there is nothing more comfortable than my big ol' blue sweatshirt I've had since I was 16. I can't believe I was EVER 16.

Tomorrow night...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

blues that blame february

I don't think I've lost my mojo. I often think, today I'm going to blog. I do have a lot to say... but often, my thoughts are disjointed. I could write about how every February is difficult for me (last year being the all-time worst) and yet, I'm never quite sure if it's February's fault for giving me the blues, or the blues that blame February.

It's so cold out, and (finally) snowy. I think New York is so pretty when it's under a thin blanket of white, and I usually don't mind the sensation of nearly slipping on the ice with every step. Yet tonight, I felt so afraid falling, and as I took tiny steps down the huge hill that leads to my apartment, everyone else fearlessly flew by me. They held Whole Foods bags and small children. I held my torn turquoise bag and a copy of Slaughterhouse. I also held my notion of February.

Tonight, M and I had dinner with our darling friend who we'll call Dezz--one of those people who come across your life and you know that they're there to stay. We went to Red Bamboo and ate the most delicious mock meat you'll ever eat. Last month, we went there with my brother--a hard-core flesh eater--and he was floored by the soul chicken. I felt like I'd done my good deed that day.

Today I worked hard (which always makes me feel a little better) and then I watched 15 minutes of a ludicrous television show on Bravo, which M mysteriously receives all of a sudden. It was about a millionaire match-making service who links up absurdly wealthy men with insanely beautiful women. After sitting, mouth agape, in front of the TV watching slimy girls throw themselves on appearance-obsessed men, I thanked my lucky stars that I'm rough around the edges--and that I'm gay.

Coming home today, I was met with an unfortunate letter from a certain estranged someone with whom I don't care to correspond. The letter sits unopened to my left at this desk, and despite feeling antsy about it, and frustrated, I also feel surprisingly empty.

Yet I also feel February.

Still, in all this self-induced gloom, I am so looking forward to seeing a Rufus Wainwfight concert this Thursday.

I just think he's the cat's meow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

unnecessary dislcaimer

Oy vey. I just reread my last entry and though I'm not going to delete it because for all intents and purposes, it is entirely honest...but I do feel slightly embarrassed and that I am coming across as holier-than-thou or small-minded. I know very well that in the process of all the bigotry that has (and still does) PARTLY shaped our society, there has been (and still is) lots of truly phenominal people who have made history, herstory...

Nor do I claim to be anything other than a flawed human being.

Note to self: It ain't that deep. Not always, anyway.

wednesday rant

I used to have nightmares that my hands were being chopped off. So you can imagine my horror when I was trying to be a good girl and learn my history (since I seem to have been radically unschooled in certain areas, despite the fact that I went to graduate school) and I learned about how Columbus chopped off the hands of his slaves--the American Indians who had been so welcoming--when they didn't meet their duty of finding enough gold.

Cheery reading for a subway--Jeez!! I wanted to yell to everyone on the A train what I was reading. "Did you know that Columbus was evil?" But alas, I didn't. I remember when I learned about the horrors of factory farming, I also wanted to tell everyone I knew (and in fact, I try to do just that).

What is the difference between Indians being enslaved and having their hands chopped off, and factory farmed birds being enslaved and having their toes and beaks chopped off?

What is most staggering is how short it has all been. New York City, for example, is 350 years old--that's only 4 lifetimes, potentially. Much like the country, we are also a city that was built on theft and discrimination. And oh how history repeats itself.

Yet I have hope knowing that people are capable of change, and in many respects, we are all fairly new inhabitants to this world. So maybe we are still trying to figure it out. Maybe there's hope yet.

I don't believe that people are inherently bad--I like to believe they are good. I'm not *that* jaded. And I want very much to live my life with a greater purpose, as opposed to only happiness being the core of my existence. During the process, I'd like to savor the happiness that comes. But that's not the point. It's not my point anyway.

Please don't misinterpret this as me being depressed or sour. I don't feel I am either. Well, maybe that's not true...maybe I'm a little of each. But I'm also optimistic (that's what my doorman tells me). And I'm funny (that's my shrink says).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

No Icing, No Cake

I wanted to begin this blog entry by saying that I'm hungry and there is
nothing to eat in this apartment, but that's not true...at least, the
latter is not. I have grains and pasta and chick peas and rye bread and
frozen spinach and berries. There is a lot I have in my apartment to
eat, but what I'm really craving is a cupcake from Snice. And as I almost started this blog entry by writing that and then veering off onto another subject, like the subject of the all-important cupcake or
the even more vital icing, I was reminded of a panel discussion I
attended yesterday at Cardozo Law School on the subject of food policy.


So much of my life revolves around animal rights, and mostly,
the non-human animal variety. I advocate, I write, I do my best to
listen, and I fight. (And sometimes I rhyme by accident.) I'm
traumatized and angry, but I'm also empowered and, in many ways, happy. Okay, that's not really true...I can't exactly be HAPPY when I know what I
know (I said the other day that the key to happiness is ignorance), but
I am fairly contented and have moments of happiness. The statistics of animal oppression are so big that there are no words to describe it. 10 billion land animals in the US will be killed this year for food. I can't even conceptualize that number, to be honest. All I know is that like most people who are open enough to learn the truth of how their choices affect other beings, they can't not do something. It's not virtuous or noble--it's obvious.

And when people yell at us during demos that there is a war going on and
why are we screaming about duck livers, or that they are first and
foremost concerned with human rights, we remind them that it is not an either/or, and that animal rights include human rights--both in direct ways (slaughterhouse workers are amongst the most abused and abusive workers out there) and in indirect ways (oppression of one kind leads
to oppression of another--see "Coming Out for Animal Rights").

So why did I not realize what is going on under my nose in the city I live in, on the very island where I crave a Snice cupcake and claim to have no food in my fridge when that is a lie that lucky people like myself tell ourselves in our blinder moments?

According to City Harvest:

1.5 million New Yorkers currently live in poverty*, struggling to afford basic necessities such as rent and medical care and put food on their tables.

Of those living in poverty, more than one million rely on emergency food at some point during the year.**

Of the more than one million New Yorkers who rely on emergency food:

34% have had to choose between food or paying their rent
34% have had to choose between food or paying their utilities
22% have had to choose between food or medical care.**

* Data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
**Data from "Hunger in America 2006: The New York City and New York State Report."


And according to Just Food:

New York City's soup kitchens and food pantries fed 45% more people in 2002 than in 2000. In 2003, 1.6 million New Yorkers will turn again to these
emergency food sources. That's one in five NYC residents.


I'm sitting here at my computer trying to come up with what I want to say, but in all honesty, I don't know what to say. There were other statistics given too, such as obesity rates being double in poverty-stricken areas of the inner-city
("dietary racism," according to Dr.Milton Mills).

Yet when my BFF, Marisa Miller Wolfson, Outreach Coordinator for Global Green Foundation and a smart and sassy panelist yesterday, talked about the obvious (albeit underspoken)link between animal agriculture and global warming (commodification of our planet!), nobody said anything. The other panelists (and leaders in environmental activism) focused instead largely on local and organic. (Yes, yes, that's important too...)

Animal agriculture is entirely unsustainable. On the front page of this past Sunday's NY Times Weekend Review, the article, Rethinking the Meat Guzzler,laid it on the line:

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor , an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.


An audience-member at yesterday's discussion said that she was vegetarian,
but was from a middle-state where animal agriculture basically employs
every resident, and what would happen to them if--poof!--factory farming
was no more? Marisa said that she understands that concern, but it is
not a black or white issue...like all movements (including slavery), it
will be gradual, and as the demand drops in one area, the demand of
other areas will rise, and so too will employment.

The other panelists continued to talk about transportation, and how if NYC lost its bridges and tunnels, we would lose our food supply within 8 days--that's how reliant we are, that's how unsustainable this all is.

Maybe we should stop creating a demand for animal foods, and eventually there will be so much more land to feed those who are starving, those who really don't have food in their fridges. Dietary racism is just one example of oppression feeding oppression.

Everything is animal rights. Everything.

OBVIOUSLY there are a million other issues involved in what I am saying here. I do not claim to have all of the answers. But I KNOW that many of these problems could be significantly lessened by going vegan.

Now I have to do my homework. For me, ignorance is not blissful--it's annoying and damaging.