Archive for August, 2010

30 August, 2010

Angelina Jolie close to death

Just how close to dying did Angelina Jolie really get?

Stories hit the media throughout the past week, that Angelina Jolie says she came close to death on a vegan diet. (A vegan diet is more correctly known as “strict vegetarian”)

Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie has blamed her vegan diet for “nearly killing” her, saying that she loves to eat red meat.

The Salt star says that when she restricted her diet to not include any animal products, it had negative effects on her health, reported Contactmusic.

“I joke that a big juicy steak is my beauty secret. But seriously, I love red meat. I was a vegan for a long time, and it nearly killed me. I found I was not getting enough nutrition,” said Jolie.

Jolie, pictured here, has never been one of the celebrities often quoted in lists of vegan celebs, so her admission that she was a vegan for a long time strikes actual vegans I speak to as an interesting comment.

She also clearly was NOT a vegan, but following a vegan diet (strict vegetarian) and her confusing the words shows how shallow her “veganism” really was.

And just how unhealthy is a vegan diet? Maybe Dr Ruth Heinrich would know. She is a
Vegan Triathlete who has run 67 marathons. And while it is possible that living the life of one of the highest paid actresses in the world may be tough, it’s hard to know just how tough compared to 67 marathons.

Yes, it does take a little thought into what you eat on a vegan diet in order to meet your nutritional needs, just as you would on a meat-and-dairy based diet. In fact it would be easier to meet your nutritional needs as a vegan, as long as you eat enough calories in a day.

What would be difficult is trying to meet your nutritional requirements on a diet that is high in saturated fat and low in fibre, calcium and iron on an animal-product diet.

If Jolie is accurate in what she says that she was “not getting enough nutrition” that would indicate someone who is not getting enough calories or getting enough Food!

In fact, as Amanda Benham (Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Murdoch), Grad Dip Human Nutrition (Deakin), Grad Dip Nutrition & Dietetics (QUT), Master of Health Science (QUT), Dip Journalism (ACJ), Member of the Dietitians Association of Australia, DAA appointed expert on vegetarian nutrition, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist
dietitian-nutritionist specialising in vegetarian and vegan nutrition, points out:

As far as nutritionally, people often think protein is a big issue. Protein is not a really big issue but instead of meat, people need to eat things like legumes, which is like your lentils and beans and things like that. Or there’s lots of different meat substitutes made now. Soy products like tofu and TVP are really good. And nuts are good too. So they’re all good sources of not only protein but iron and zinc, which often people think you can only get from meat.
… There is quite a bit of calcium in grains, also in almonds, and in soy products. So calcium isn’t exclusive to dairy products So finding other sources of calcium is a good idea.
… There’s no evidence that vegetarians have problems with either iron or protein. Vegetarians need to be more aware of vitamin B12. They do need to supplement with that or have fortified foods that have vitamin B12 added. And, vitamin D, which we can get from the sun, but if someone’s not getting out in the sun much, they need to be careful of vitamin D as well.

So maybe it was not the vegan diet that tried to kill Angelina, but her own lack of awareness of what she was eating and nutritional laziness to eat a well-balanced meal.

Feedback welcome.

30 August, 2010

Vegan – has a meaning, let’s use it

My thesis supervisor always said ‘define your terms’. That way, you explain your understanding of a concept up front. And if the reader has a different understanding, they still know what your meaning is.

This text is included in the above graphic, but depending on the size of your screen, or if the graphic is removed, the quote is reproduced below. Click to for full size, available for download.

The word “vegan” was invented in 1944, by Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson, who founded the UK Vegan Society. The British Vegan Society defines veganism this way:

The word “veganism” denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

Anyone who is involved with Animal Liberation today can see how since 1944, the word has been twisted and pulled in all directions. However, the UK Vegan Society founders invented the word, if this is their definition, this is what VEGAN means. If someone chooses to live differently to this, perhaps they should invent their own word.

This definition has 3 parts:
– the first part describes what it excludes, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for any reason.

ALL animals: it does not say mammals, it does not say except fish, nor except invertebrates … it says all animals. And, there are also no exceptions for Bees. Bees are animals, honey is not a matter for debate. Honey does not come from plants, any more than milk comes from grass or grains or the rendered bodies of their fallen comrades. It is not possible to use an animal for any purpose without exploiting it. Just as it is exploitation of people to use them without the consent or paying a wage (we call that slavery), since animals cannot give consent, even if we think they are happy, all animal use is exploitation.

for ANY reason, eating them because someone thinks animal corpses taste good is not a reason for cruelty and exploitation, wearing animals as clothes or jewellery is not reason for cruelty and exploitation, torturing them in labs for profit is sadistic and gives in accurate results and is not a reason, using them for sport by forcing them to race or fight is not a reason, entertainment in circuses and rodeos shows our lack of creativity and is not a reason, crush films are not a reason, hunting for “sport” is not a reason, canned hunts are not a reason either and not very sporting, turning their bodies into floor cleaner and mascara is not a reason, slicing a rhino or elephants face off and letting it die for horn or ivory as a sex powder is not a reason, slicing fins off sharks for soup and throwing the shark back to drown is not a reason, anger management is not a reason, sex is not a reason despite what the author of ANIMAL LIBERATION has to say*. There is absolutely no defensible reason for using any animal for any reason.

– the second part goes on to describe how vegan is more than just excluding or avoiding products from your own life, it involves by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. Does this mean that if a vegan isn’t actively out there promoting veganism, encouraging veganism, and seeking alternatives for animal products to replacing current products on the market they aren’t vegan? It would suggest so.

If someone merely avoids bringing suffering into their own life by avoiding animal products they personally purchase, but do nothing to prevent the exploitation and cruelty of animals which they know is going on beyond their own little life, it would seem to more easily fit the criteria of ‘welfarist’, which isn’t vegan.

– the third part, reiterates the dietary part, in case people are still confused about the whole not using any animal for any reason, In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
It does not mean a little bit of cheese now and again is okay, it does not mean it is alright to eat fish because they swim rather than walk, it does not mean it fine to use honey because some people cannot see bees as animals, it does not mean home-collected free range eggs (which I once saw a fruitarian describe as “chicken fruit” and acceptable on a fruitarian diet).

Vegan is not hyphenated, unlike vegetarian. A person cannot be lacto-vegan (lacto=milk), ovo-vegan (ovo=eggs), pesco-vegan (pesco=fish), mel-vegan (mel=honey)

If a person decides to eat cheese, fish, honey, and free range eggs, it is their choice to do so. However, they should stop calling themselves ‘vegan’ because it fails to meet even the most basic definition of vegan diet which excludes “all products derived wholly or partly from animals”.

No exceptions, no clauses, no loopholes. If it is an animal product, it is not vegan.

What vegan ISN’T is feminism, anti-agist, anti-semitic, pro-semitic, christian, atheist, anti-homophobic, pro gay rights, anti-racist, pro-multi culturalism or pro peace. It is none of these things. And when people try to claim that a person is required to be feminist or anti-racist in order to be a vegan, is missing the point completely. What they are trying to sell you is not veganism. But some bland melange of rights and justice dressed up in “animal rights” clothing.

Veganism is end the exploitation and cruelty of animals, and animals only. All these other liberations will flow from widening our circle of compassion (A Einstein). It does veganism a disservice to transform it into one-size-fits-all model of liberation.

Other liberation movements or civil rights activists are not required to free the world, why is this a necessary for animal liberation and vegans?

Do we really need leaders and gurus and experts to tell us how to live as vegans? Do we need to debate and philosophise about veganism? Do we need to be told what do in the fight to end exploitation and cruelty?

How much money is diverted from saving animals to propping up and lining the pockets of groups and leaders who use “veganism” and “animal rights” to push their own agenda.

Vegan has a meaning, let’s use it. And not try to transform it into something that never was and shouldn’t be.

What is not including in this definition is the means to how the end to exploitation and cruelty will be achieved. It does not specify ‘non-violence’, nor does it advocate ‘pro-violence’. It simply encourages us to do it, not how.

The ‘How’ we achieve that is up to each and every one of us who choose to take up the fight on behalf of animals. There is no right way or wrong way.


* Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation (1975) who wrote Heavy Petting, (Nerve, 2001) (original article), which he defends sex with animals as “mutually satisfying” (Singer) and it’s not so bad as using them for food is worse.
I would like to point out, that one of the definitions of rape of humans includes sex without consent, since an animal can NEVER give consent, it is always rape, and always exploitation and cruel.

28 August, 2010

25 Twitter Tips For Animal Rights Activists

guest post: MacLeod

Great leaders don’t try to build a larger following, they try to build more great leaders.

A lot of what is written here is common knowledge to people who use twitter already, but there are some people who don’t use twitter, yet. When I talk to them they say that knowing how can keep them away, so what may seem like old news to some might be new to others.

What do you want your experience of Twitter to be?
for example: an announcement feed, where you drop in to update followers to a [new blog post]; or build a community, find the people you like talking to everyday, participate in discussions and meet new people; use it as just another piece of multi-media with your other social networks, or just sit back and read the headlines and inspirational quotes without much interaction.

* If you don’t already have an account, something to consider is to sign up using a free email, such as yahoo or gmail, you will be getting notifications of DM (direct message) and new followers. You can shut off that feature under [settings] -> [notices]. Although, protecting your privacy is something to keep in mind when social networking. If you haven’t signed up under a separate email but wish to, you can change email under [settings]. If you find an organisation or group that you can email subscribe to, it keeps them all in one address.

* If all you want is an announcement account, sign up then stop by when you have a new blog post.

* Next decide if you want a private account or public account. If you want private you will only interact people who you approve. If you want public, your tweets are public to everyone regardless if they are followers or not. Change this in [settings] -> [account]

However, if you want to get a little more out of Twitter, there are some things to think about

* Write a bio, sum yourself up, or the You you wish to project on twitter in 160 characters. If someone visits your page, they can get an idea of who you. Include a few key words, example, vegan, justice, ARA
Maybe add a location, cute locations like ‘your computer’ or ‘the universe’ might be fun at first, and if it is about wanting to protect your privacy, narrow it down to a country, or region ‘West Europe’ or ‘South Pacific’ Bios help make it feel like there is a real person behind the account, not just a spambot.

* Include a profile picture. If you would prefer to not use your face, something that reflects you. An image, slogan, graphic. There are times where people haven’t been able to upload, be patient, a link to your blog can provide a better understanding of who you are.

* If you are not using your real name, choose a great name, that says something about you, veganmama, BettyARA or AnimalLibNYC, and people know a little about you, “hotgirl5678” or “wellhung007” will probably get you marked as spam, or not taken seriously. You can change your username and display name under [settings] -> [account] and [pro file].

* Integrate or not integrate; link your twitter account to facebook, and when you update facebook it also updates your twitter account, (watch for the personal stuff), or you could have a tweet feed on your blog, by adding an RSS. Or have links to your blog, facebook, twitter or other social networks alerting people how to find you in other media and networks, and they can choose to follow you or friend you or subscribe if they wish.
Include a link to your blog in your profile, if people want to know more about you they can visit, and unless your account is just for [new blog post] notifications, post more than just links to your own blog, and RTs of headlines, unless that is what you want. Be consistent in the format NEW BLOG POST or [new blog post] or New Blog Post✰ and your followers will know it is Your blog that has new post. (Personal opinion, Not as many people as I would like say it is their blog that they are linking to when they post tweets.)

* Personalise your page. It is a reflection of you, and gives you another opportunity to get your message out, maybe list your website and contact details as part of your background image. You can change the colours, to something that reflects who you are. But make sure it is readable, having to highlight the text on someone’s page in order to read it because the text is almost the same colour as the background, isn’t fun for your followers or potential followers.

* Consider using a desktop application, looking at the tweets in my feed currently “Tweetdeck” is the most popular, others include, Tweet-U-Later, HootSuite, and SocialOomph. They have different features, including schedule updates, access more than one account, track followers, set up groups, shrink urls, translate, edit ReTweets (RT), email tweets, and permanent word searches, as well as many of things that can be done from Twitter, unfollow or follow users, block, search and view profile.

* Before you try and get thousands of followers, especially if it is a new account, post some tweets, make them say exactly what you people to know about yourself (not a bio, but the sorts of topics you will be tweeting about, example, animal rights, veganism, abolitionism, the environment, links to petitions you support, or famous quotes, even a couple will give the Twitterverse an idea of what you want to say about yourself). There is nothing worse than visiting someone’s profile and they have 0 tweets and no bio.

* Politeness goes a long way. Don’t be nasty, unless that is your thing, but that generally only works for a very few. Be nice, thank people acknowledge them, they mention or RT you. You could send them thank you DMs when they follow you (or set up your desktop application to automatically do it for you). Similarly, there is no need to follow nasty, argumentative people, even if they follow you, just unfollow them. Don’t get dragged into pointless fights over nothing, that’s what facebook is for. Life is too short for negativity. You can engage with people who disagree with you and you with them, without negativity, and this can lead to some great discussions.

#FF, is a good opportunity to thank people for retweets and mentions through the week, or someone who provided an answer to a question. Some people just list everyone they know, or it seems like it, but people who interact a lot, may have a lot of people to give respect to

* RT; don’t steal. Related to politeness RT rather than steal, or include a [via @Someone ] or MT (modified tweet) or V @Someone, if it is basically the same as another persons tweet. However, sometimes people will ask for a RT on their tweets, example, Plz RT (please retweet), if you do oblige, it is fine to remove the request if you do. For alerts such as rescue or missing child it is acceptable, but for someone just promoting their own blogs, and they repost the same links repeatedly, it can get repetitive.

* Quality not quantity. It is not about the number of followers, but do you achieve what you want with being on twitter. Do you disseminate information, learn about new causes, find petitions that need signing, finding out how you can help a campaign. Or are you following too many people that the issues, people and causes that are important to you get lost in the clutter. Like facebook, Twitter also is just a tool. A small group of followers who have a positive effect on your life is better than a million followers or following a million people and doing nothing with it, and drag you down with time wasting and pettiness.

* Interact with people, find the balance that best suits you between tweeting too much and too little. Talk to people, if you want. Offer something more than inspirational quotes and the same headlines and ads that everyone else does.

* Lists, use lists. Lists can be public or private, use private for family and real world friends if you want to keep that part of your life separate. Give lists good names, no one wants to see themselves listed as “annoying and boring” instead, name the list something like “must visit” (for example, you don’t want to see them in your feed, as they tweet a lot of repeat headlines or on topics that don’t interest you most of the time, but you don’t want to lose them, they occasionally have brilliant things or you are reciprocating, so you will visit them on their page).

If you have your lists set up, it only takes seconds to add new people you follow to a list. It makes people easier to find, when you get thousands of people that you are following. See how other people have someone listed, it may give you an idea of what they tweet about, or it might reflect how someone sees them.

When your feed is cluttered, or you have no time, go to the lists you want to read and filter your feed that way. Don’t crowd your list, or you may miss seeing the things that you really want to, prune who you follow as your interests change, or move them to a different list.

One possible list is for tools, include accounts such as official twitter support, spam watch, twitter cleaner, and other accounts that relate to technology support and online censorship and privacy issues (oh you mean facebook have changed their privacy settings – again).

If you follow people for short term, for example, there has been a disaster in a part of the world you’re not normally interested in, wars, invasions, wildfires, elections or celebrity scandal, and you follow people for that reason, put them in a separate list, makes it easier to unfollow them later if you choose to.

* Follow back or not. It is a feature of twitter, unlike facebook, there is no automatic reciprocation of following. People can choose to follow you, they don’t need your permission (unless you have a private account) and you don’t have to follow them back. And just as random people can follow you, You can follow someone, there is no requirement they follow you either. However, since it is also possible to list people you don’t follow, it is also possible to talk to people you don’t follow and who don’t follow you, the same way you talk to others @TheirName). It is also possible to hide people from your feed that you do follow. So, it is possible to talk to and respond to people, without the need to follow them.

Do you follow back everyone or follow selectively. Some people who may at first seem like spambots with no profiles, turn out to post some great tweets. One theory is follow everyone, except the spammers, then unfollow those you don’t like. Unlike with facebook, there is no automatic follow back, which can be a good thing, your tastes and interests vary and don’t have to match those who you follow.

#hashtags with your community, the use of hashtags do more than just highlight key words. While it does act much like a tag applied to a blog, it can also identify communities that evolve. For example, the tags #tcot and #p2 don’t convey information in themselves, but to a self identified member of that community, it makes sense. The ‘top conservatives of twitter’ and their ideological opponents the ‘progressives’. Searches find search terms with or without the # added, so it does more than just label your tweet for searches, it makes a statement of what you want readers to know about that. Use the same tags that others use for a topic, it will be found easier. For trending topics, the longer the tag is used, the more likely it is to be taken over by spambots.

However, since searches do find the term, regardless of whether it has the #symbol attached or not, some people see the tag as a way to interact, you want it to be found. A couple of users I talked to about this, said it is like an invitation to a twitter party, meaning, conversations flow, you can jump in or out, talk to strangers, that #symbol is your way of saying, I’m joining the party, I’m putting my opinions out there. Or in the case of disasters, it is a way of saying, here is a specific use of the word, rather than just a regular meaning.

Trending topics at the moment are for a select few cities and countries or the rest of the world combines as ‘worldwide’. can show you what is trending in your part of the world, or where a particular topic is trending, not extensive but covers places not yet in twitters TT’s. If gives you a feed of that topic, or the most popular people posting on that topic. You can watch without joining twitter.

You can set up a search in a new tab through twitter or column in desktop applications. Searching for words such as ‘vegan’ or ‘AnimalRights’ and you can keep up with what is going on, without needing to follow people who write on that topic, or find people who talk about what you’re interested in (but not every use of the word is what you want, it could be anti-vegan or robots).

* Avoid sounding like spambots. Accounts can be suspended as with facebook. So take care of your account, especially if you build up a name and reputation. Warning signs of spambots (those to try to avoid), include 6000 followers and 0 tweets, repeating the same news headlines, only tweeting other peoples tweets and never interacting, using as many trending topics in one tweet with “I’m lonely tonight” thrown in, repeating the same link over and over especially in short url so you have no idea where it links to, repeating everyone else’s #FF (follow friday) in the hopes you will reciprocate, repeating the same link to a book or program they are trying to sell, trying to sell something with every tweet, (the really good professionals throw in some real tweets, inspirational quotes, interact with other, links to other than their own blog and the tweets that you Know are a sales pitch, you don’t really notice

* Don’t send anyone you don’t know any money, particular for human rights issues or animals, it’s easy to want to feel like your making a difference. If it is official cause or issue, find a group in your home town and donate to them, as heart breaking as it is, we can’t save every animal, instead of sending money to the other side of the world, donate to a local no-kill shelter or donate to the official charity in your city, but at least you can see where the money goes. Of course animal people are smart enough to research any organisation that is asking for money, to make sure they are legitimate first before donating.

* Verified accounts, for celebrities, world leaders and organisations, at the moment it seems verification is particularly for US or UK account, not so much in the rest of the world. If it is not a Verified account, it does not mean that it not an official account it may be the celebrity is a local celebrity. At the moment however, if it is a big name US celebrity, and they don’t have a verified account, there is a good chance it is not official.

Although, there is fun to be had with parody accounts, people calling themselves CelebFan, NotTheRealCeleb, FakeCeleb, FakeCompany, or in the case of openly gay celebrities, MrsCeleb. Or someone is using a television characters name, the good ones, soon attract others to play the rest of the cast, and tweet about topics that you would expect from that television character, done as a homage, tribute or parody, and these Non Official accounts can be as good as the real thing. As long as someone is upfront they aren’t the real celebrity, what is the problem.

* People who do nothing but provide links to their own blog, but don’t say it is their blog, or just post links with no description can clutter up a twitter feed. Saying something like “men are from Mars, women are from Venus, what do you think?” can drive traffic to your blog, and encourage people to comment, is more engaging than simply, which doesn’t exactly say what it is people are going to get out of clicking. However, if someone wants to just post links, then perhaps, using the longer url, and readers can see for themselves what the page is about, may be more helpful.

* People repeating headlines or links, can get more views if they add a few words about it, if it is a youtube clip, say why, is it funny, heartbreaking, relevant, outrageous. If you want to motivate people to do something more than just scan the headlines as the tweets roll down their page, offering something other than just links may help do that, give people a reason to click.

* Use the tools provided:
star on the top right of a tweet, “favorites” to bookmark a particular tweet, you wish to return to later
reply when you are responding to a particular person or discussion; and
retweet when you want to tweet is to your followers (reply and retweet serve two different purposes, reply is best for discussions with a particular person, or use DM private message)

* Consider how many news organisations you follow. Too many and you will have nothing but news headlines. If there is a breaking issue in the animal rights world, plenty of people you follow will mention it.

Like all media strategies, twitter can be an effective tool for activists, especially, if you know what you want to get out of it. Twitter participation is easy. However, that participation can be in an inverse relationship to effective activism. It does not matter if its a business, social marketer, or “fake” celebrity, what matters is you control what you see and who sees you, you can be public or private, you can use it a lot or a little.

Feedback welcome.

25 August, 2010

Online Activism for Social Change

Barbara Mikkelson “the desire people have to do something good without getting out of their chair.”

While we are currently running real world campaigns to spread the vegan message, but also see the importance of being online. This piece is taking a look at the opinions regarding online activism, and does it help or hold back activism.

Online activism, Facebook activism, fakebook activism, faketivism, slacktivism, passivism, copy&paste activism, social media activism. People are still trying to settle on a name for it, however, regardless of the name, it is all variations on the same thing – Using online social networks and websites as a form of activism and organisation.

Does this work?

For some, this activism, involves nothing more active than “clicking” share or ‘like’ on social networks. If might make people feel good, and generate a lot of sharing, although whether this translates into making a difference is yet to be seen.

One of the earliest descriptors of this concept is from early 2001

e-mail a petition [with] the words, “Forward this to everyone you know.” …They call it “slacker activism,” or “slacktivism” (the term preferred by slacker typists). It’s not that these e-mails don’t intend to do good, the experts say. It’s that they go about it in a way that can too easily become utterly meaningless.
—Month Phan, “On the Net, “slacktivism’,” Newsday, February 27, 2001

People end up signing so many petitions or signing up to websites or joining facebook groups that important causes get lost in the clutter.

When it comes to animal abuse, or environmental disaster, you might feel good, or less guilty, by clicking and sharing, although do you achieve anything.

Facebook is the largest social network in the world, if it was a country, it would be the worlds fourth largest in terms of population, is one of the main tools activists can use. This can in some instances be toxic for activism. When people care more about collecting friends and joining groups than activism. Facebook has a limit of 5000 friends, with groups included in that count. Some people meet that target, then set up Twin accounts and set out to collect another 5000.

Can anyone really have 5000 friends? Are these friends, really? or just groupies or strangers you allow into your life. Or does these ease with which people can do the point-and-click thing hide people’s true commitment to a cause or issue. Joining a facebook group is not activism. It is simply joining a facebook group, you must do something when you are there – interact, share ideas, meet others, learn about campaigns, encourage others to take action.

This is demonstrated when you hold an event, a real world event in one part of the world, and you see people who live on the opposite side of the world clicking attend, and you know they cannot possibly be attending. What does it benefit event organisers to see hundreds of people say they will attend, but when it comes to walking out the front door, attendees are in single figures. These false numbers artificially inflate the numbers of people interested in a cause. This actually can do activism a disservice.

Rather than focusing on people who want to make a difference and can make a difference, activists are chasing numbers; members in the groups, numbers of clicks on a link, number of retweets, with no real way to measure how this translates into deep interest and commitment or people who are just clicking on and clicking through.

In an age when everything can be counted, from site visits and followers, do we end up chasing these numbers rather instead of fighting for our causes.

When we sign online petitions, what does it show of our commitment level when it only takes a couple of seconds to sign and share. Would that really influence decision makers to change their minds?

However, Online activism is Only about numbers. Effective campaigns are designed to match this criteria, designed to harness the power of number, sheer overwhelming the target of activism with people power and volume.

Campaigns that don’t engage with the public fail to get shared. With so many new camaigns and issues every day, only the successful survive. This is the benefit of having a good network in place. And networking with activists worldwide (or at least those parts of the world online) is one of the benefits of organising online rather than the real world. Or parallel with the real world.

If someone can’t make an impact online, when they are asking so little from activists, then how will they make an impact in the real world. It can be good indicator of how well the ideas are translating to the wider community, and if more work is required.

If all someone can do is sign a couple of online petitions or email their local parliamentary person, then giving that person a space is a good outcome. Thousands of people around the world, all doing small things will add up. Particularly (and this is a reason, I have yet to see mentioned in articles of the benefits of online activism), if the activists are busy people with crowded lives who are active online, quite often so are the targets!

When people arrange their lives online – get their news online, shop online, catch up with friends online, online can have an influence. If someone reads an email about reasons to boycott a company for abusive practices then clicks for their daily dose of retail therapy, they may be influenced by the email they have just read when it comes down to buying product A or product B.

Other benefits include the “text ACTIVISM to 54321” emails and tweets which go around the world, passed on from user to user, following disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Linked to long established charities with good reputations, people know their money can go directly to those working to make a difference. Responses are immediate, and people receiving aid, probably don’t care if someone phoned it in or went to the bank and got cash and donated that way.

As Use your Cellphone to Help Pakistan Flood Relief shows, you can still be an activist, from your office cubicle, or bedroom, or train. Or Stephen Colbert’s “Retweet Colbert for the Gulf!” (middle of page), Comedy Central the network that hosts Colbert’s show, would donate $1 per retweet of a specific tweet (up to a certain amount).

The online game, Free Rice, allows users to click on multiple choice answers to word definitions, identify famous art, chemistry symbols, identify countries on a map or capitals, maths or learn a language quiz. Sponsors will donate rice for correct answers. And users can improve their vocabulary, maths, chemistry or other skills.

Any real world changes this style of online activism has, is due to the organisers making it easier for people to click-for-a-difference. They design the websites, find the sponsors, do the research, write the well worded petitions. They do the work so that it is easy for others to participate.

As online political groups such as GetUp! and MoveOn show, online campaigns can be used to get people interested in a cause, to act as a gateway into finding out more about the issue, and moving to real world activism.

However, in all of this, one thing online activists should not forget, online social networks are a tool. They are not the battle, if your goal is to get a staggeringly large number of followers or friends, how does that translate into activism. It is just one tool of many, another weapon in the arsenal of fighting for social change.

Online activism can promote, disseminate, propagate, simulate, imitate or distract, but not always replace real world activism.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” ~ Muhammad Ali

Feedback welcome.

24 August, 2010

Vegan Starter Kit

Thinking about going vegan, or thinking about helping someone else go vegan?

A starter kit is a great way to kick off a new life journey, for you or someone you care about.

Free Vegan Starter Pack
The pack includes information on how animals suffer for meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood, how meat eating affects the environment, the myth of “free-range,” what’s wrong with leather and wool, vegan recipes, and even some free stickers.

You can either get one by visiting major animal groups, and providing a mailing address:
for example
Request a Free Vegan Starter Pack
The pack includes information on how animals suffer for meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood, how meat eating affects the environment, the myth of “free-range,” what’s wrong with leather and wool, vegan recipes, and even some free stickers. You may also request a free copy of Meet Your Meat. We only ship Vegan Starter Packs to the United States, Australia, and Canada.

vegetarian starter guide
Says vegetarian but has a huge slant towards vegan diet, issues include factory farms, animals raised for food, nutrition, and recipes.

Vegetarian Starter Kit
Strict vegetarian with information on reasons to make the change, health, recipes, factory farms and use of animals for food.

Meet Your Meat, free download
yes, it’s Peta, and everyone seems to hate Peta, yet, this can be a very powerful video for people needing inspiration to make the change, and it is free and it’s downloadable
Pam Anderson Takes on KFC
also for download

PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)
21-Day vegan kickstart
Sign up online for emailed inspiration, recipes and support.

Vegetarian Starter Kit
Downloadable Brochure
Presented by Vegetarian Times and PCRM (the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)

has a large collection of resources available: booklets, translations of booklets,
for order or download, 10 letter size enlargements in a zip file, tabbed flyers (bulletin board size page with tear off strips), videos

brochures for download
the popular Why Vegan
Compassionate Choices: making a difference for animals
Even if you like Meat: you can end this cruelty
Guide to Cruelty Free eating
A Meaningful Life: make a real difference in today’s world

videos include
* Meet Your Meat
* 45 Days: The Life and Death of a Broiler Chicken
* Hope for the Hopeless: An Investigation and Rescue at a Battery Egg Facility
* Fowl Play
* The Auction Block: An Inside Look at Farmed Animal Sales

Or make your own Vegan Starter Kit: (for minimal cost)
be inspired by any of the Resources listed here, and make your own

find videos that have no copyright, and the makers encourage distribution, collect brochures from your favourite organisations and make your own using online tools and software, write PDFs,

21 August, 2010

Meaning Of Life

sayings for the meaning of life, rainbow hearts

The meaning of life…
why is this here, on a pro-vegan blog? – the meaning of life is LIFE, life is sacred, the mere fact of a person or an animal being born and having life, it deserves respect, life should be cherished and revered. When life is gone, there is no getting it back, it is not our right to take the life of another person or animal. There is no such things as “just an animal”, if an animal has a life, they deserve as much right to keep that life as any person.

Being vegan is the highest value a person can hold, it makes the statement that from the “lowliest” bug to the “highest” mammal, all life is precious. A vegan is seen to be saying, that I don’t think I am any more important because I am human, than you because you’re not.

and one more…

♥ Smile: Happiness and health, not money and possessions, should be our goal

The meaning of life? That’s easy. The meaning of life is: to be happy, try not to hurt people and hope that you fall in love.” – Mallory Keaton

Feedback welcome.

21 August, 2010

Can vegans own venus-fly traps? (and 6 more vegan ethical-dilemmas)

1. Some vegans try to force dogs and cats to eat a fully vegan diet, despite their naturally carnivorous nature.

But what are the ethics of owning a plant that eats meat? Can a vegan own a plant that kills living creatures for its protein? Or can we train them to eat tofu?

2. Should Vegans listen to music from artists who shamelessly wear fur, such as Beyonce and Kelis, and those who think they are artists such as J-Lo? Every CD, branded perfume, or official merchandise is just more income.

However, if we illegally download their music and listen free, they get no royalties. Does that count?

fur hag Beyonce

3. Non-vegans who you love and live with who refuse to share cooking with you, because they “don’t know what vegans can eat”, yet, fully expect to eat what ever you cook. Is it wrong to sabotage your food? Load up what you cook for yourself with spices they don’t like, or make it extra-hot if they like mild? until they learn to share the cooking duties and stop taking your food.

4. Eating in meat-centred restaurants can be a minefield for a vegan, especially in places where everyone splits several entrees and sides to shares from the food middle of the table. You know you won’t find nearly as much to eat, and yet when the bill arrives, you are asked to contribute equally.

Do you refuse to go? Go but make sure everyone knows you feel left out, by sitting with an empty plate in front of you. Could you even trust the food from a kitchen that serves predominately animal products to be free from cross-contamination?

Or do you first make sure that the final bill will be split equally between everyone and then order the most expensive drinks on the menu, and if other complain at the end of the meal, call them self bastards for dragging you to a meat-eating restaurant in the first place.

Vegan desserts – I’ve often brought a cake, dessert or meal to a friends, and they express surprise ‘that’s quite tasty… for vegan food’. So the dilemma is, do you tell people it’s vegan before or after they taste it. If you wait til after you might change someone’s mind about how delicious vegan food can be. It might not create any converts, but it may just remove (or reduce some of the stigma against vegan food.

Can / Do vegans watch television shows starring meat-eaters and promoters. Someone told me once that to watch Jamie Oliver made me un-vegan. I didn’t even know who Jamie Oliver was, until I searched it. Apparently he is a British celebrity chef. He cooks with meat, he slaughters meat, his School Dinner Revolutions make animal products a requirement of “healthy” food, was given an award from RSPCA for humane meat.
In the below clip, Jamie Oliver is making chicken nuggets, from chicken carcasses and fillers. Will this make anyone ‘go vegan’? Possibly not, although it may make switch to what they believe is a healthier version, and eating more chicken.

So, does watching Jamie Oliver make someone not a vegan? and is their veginity restored if they stop watching?

7. And this dilemma, which I never feel I can answer adequately. What do you do with products and clothes that you bought pre-vegan days. To throw them out will be wasteful, and contribute to landfill. To donate or gift the to others, gives the impression that they are acceptable to use. To continue to use them, even in the privacy of your own home, away from the Vegan Police no one will know except you, but they are not vegan. But throwing them out cannot undo the animals that died or were used to produce those products. Some people say, it’s never acceptable to use them once you know. Others say, use them but when you replace them, replace them with vegan products.

If someone is poor, and has a hard time making ends meet, going out and replacing all their cleaning products, personal care products, half their clothes, blankets, bone china and so much more might be a cost burden that people can not afford.

This is my dilemma, I don’t have an answer for this one.

Feedback welcome.

20 August, 2010

Stephen Colbert: Humans Can Be Meat |

A satirical look at what might happen in 50 years, when climate change obliterated the animals used for food, would it be acceptable to eat people?

Not as far-fetched as it might sound- hunters already proudly hunt endangered species
Wayne Pacelle: Poaching Doesn’t Rock: Ted Nugent Caught In Illegal Deer Hunt (

Nugent says one thing and does another. He says that sport hunters are great conservationists, and then he goes on to defend the most unsporting, reckless, and irresponsible forms of hunting, such as canned hunts, bear baiting, or pigeon shoots.

As Colbert points out, climate change will affect animals and then what will the hunters do? They have so little regard now, they may not change their behavoiur, just their targets.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

17 August, 2010

Mad cow beef in Australia

“US accused of sending mad cow beef here”

by Melissa Singer
A COALITION of cattle producers and consumer advocates has accused the United States of exporting beef to Australia despite a ban due to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. …

For the full article, go here
US accused of sending mad cow beef here

In this article, Singer looks at whether the United States of America has been sending their beef to Australia, contra to a ban on importing beef.

Beef was banned from being imported into Australia in 2003, except from disease free countries, in reaction to the Mad Cow cases that were breaking out across. Europe. Now, an investigation into import / export documents show that US beef may have been imported.

This does not mean that the beef from USA was infected, it simply means that USA is a country with a known outbreak, after the first BSE case was found in 2003.

Mad Cow disease is the name given to BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy: bovine=cow, spongform=turns brain into swiss cheese, encephalopathy=brain+inflammation).

The infectious agent is a prion, a mishapen protein, it not a virus or a bacteria. Being closely related “scrapie” the brain disease that infects sheep and goat, one theory of how Mad Cow got into the food system is from the feeding of infected corpses of sheep to cows. (A similar disease, Kuru, affects highlanders in New Guinea who ate practice a form of cannibalism)

In humans, the disease is CJD (Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease). This should raise questions about ever meat product eaten in that country. That little nagging uncertainty, is this mouthful the one that will kill you?

UK politician forced 4yo daughter to eat burger
In 1990, UK Agriculture Minister John Gummer, forced his 4-year-old daughter into the spotlight and tried to make her eat a burger, just days after a cat in England was found with BSE.

We have forced cows, naturally grass eaters to be become grain-eaters and carnivores, filled them with growth hormones, anti-biotics, leukemia, tumours, loaded with saturated fat and E.coli…. and a vegan diet is considered “extreme”?

beef cow with slogan go vegan

Feedback welcome.

16 August, 2010

Welfare Doesn’t Help Animals

It’s been said many times, that the difference between ‘animal welfare‘ and ‘animal liberation‘ is – welfarists want bigger cages, liberationists want empty cages.

And this is one reason why… (click free range chickens to see what “free range” is in reality).

Words such as “free range” may allow the consumer feel better with sentimentality about chickens roaming the paddock (a New Zealand word for field or pasture) at will, but, how does the egg-laying hen cramped in a barn never seeing sunlight or cow on the way to slaughter agree?

For example, the current campaign in New Zealand, Australia and United Kingdom, to oppose the religious exemptions for humane slaughter. This means animals are being slaughtered without stunning first. It does not matter how well the animal is treated during their unnaturally shorterned life, the use of any animal for any reason for food is cruel and exploitation. Humane slaughter is still SLAUGHTER.

(This religious slaughter is discussed at Ban Religious Slaughter in New Zealand,
and NEW ZEALAND GOVERNMENT overturns ban on hideously cruel ritual slaughter by Loredana Versaci, two petitions, that are still open for more signatures.)

An abolitionist vegan would say, the world should be vegan, and to support the ban on overturning of exemptions would suggest that any slaughter is acceptable. And to campaign for more humane slaughter is a welfarist position.

A liberationist vegan might say that animals shouldn’t be slaughtered at all, and seek to “liberate” them from their cages. Or perhaps be realistic about a situation and know that until the world goes vegan, to ignore the lack of pre-slaughter stunning inflicts more torture and unnecessary cruelty until then.

Chickens raised for slaughter
Farm Sanctuary's photo streem at Flicker
Source: Farm Sanctuary at Flickr. “Feel free to distribute freely for not-for-profit use, but please credit Farm Sanctuary” (photo linked to Farm Sanctuary, but uploaded at photobucket.

But what is the effect of more “humane” methods of raising animals for food or methods of slaughter? (I am not suggesting there are degrees of humaneness, rather that is how these issues are foisted on consumers)

For the life of an individual animal, it might be bigger cages, or equivalent depending on the animal involved. For all animals it is a set back in terms of the fight for rights.

Shoppers opt for ‘freedom food’ chickens

Sales of the RSPCA’s Freedom Food chicken is up £55 million from £16.4 million to £71.6 million since March last year, compared to a drop of more than £26 million for standard chicken, figures from Kantar Worldpanel show.

The amount of Freedom Food chicken sold in supermarkets increased by more than 15 million kilos, compared to a decrease of 11 million for standard chicken, according to the research.

The result of this “freedom” foods”*, is an increase in the sale of dead chicken body parts, by four million kilos.

This effect of increasing sales due to consumers feeling less guilt is dealt with by Matt Ball, of Vegan Outreach, when he asks the question: Does working for or supporting welfare measures harm the longer-term goal of bringing about liberation?

In this essay, Ball quotes the Brazilian Landless Farmers (Subverting the current system to achieve more democracy): “Expand the floor of the cage before you try to break out.”

Matt Ball takes the position, how would you feel if it was you? In a cage being tortured for day after day. Would you want people agitating for change , no matter how small, and then keep fighting with every incremental change, Or would you prefer to have a hard-line uncompromising absolutist say, if the prisoner cannot be free all the way, then let them suffer until we win their freedom.

Fighting for incremental reforms may make one a “welfarist” (oh the horror!) but what is a label? if that person is still fighting for liberation, something the critics often fail to.

However, the fight must go on, even if reforms are gained, it is not as if liberationists give up the fight, they just know there are other battles, life and death issues that are out there, and will stay out there, until all animals are free, until all cages are empty.


*Freedom Foods, a label from the RSPCA on animal products. Welfarism in action. Regulating the cruelty, not preventing it.

Feedback welcome.