Ida Hammer's blog

The Absurdity of 'Triage' and the Need for Social Change

In response to a recent blog post by Steve of L.O.V.E. on "Holistic veganism," Elaine Vigneault responded that she works within a "triage" framework. I understand the "triage" concept as Elaine and others use it in relation to nonhuman animals, but I also think it's a flawed and problematic metaphor.

Triage is where a degree of urgency is assigned to those with wounds or illnesses in order to most effectively treat the patients or casualties. By definition then, triage takes place after the harm has already happened, and is therefore incapable of dealing with the cause of that harm. As Steve says, it's about handling the consequences of exploitation without actually addressing the exploitation as the cause. So I think Steve hits on exactly why is "triage" is failing, and is doomed to always fail. Read more...

Taking the Exploitation of Bees into Consideration

Congratulations to Noah Lewis for successfully raising the funds he needs to update the "Why Honey is not Vegan" site!

In the first official update to the site, Noah talks about being biased toward a vegan world. I think he make a great argument about how veganism is about creating a world based on nonexploitation, which of course means starting from a bias favoring the nonexploitation of other animals.

I've noticed this is contrary to some who attempt to take a "nonjudgmental" position by making concessions for some forms of exploitation, such as the exploitation of honey bees. Read more...

Real Food Comes from Plants

The sight of slabs of flesh should horrify and disgust any sensitive person if they exercised their inborn compassion. Habit has dimmed their native kindliness. Their palates have become abnormally corrupted and conditioned by taste for dead food, its flavoring and odors. People who eat slaughtered creatures everyday find it hard to imagine what to substitute for meat, not realizing that meat is the substitute for vegetables. – Helen Nearing, Simple Food for the Good Life

October 1st is World Vegetarian Day, and one thing I think would bring about a great deal of positive change is for us to do away with the obsolete idea that plant-based foods are somehow a "replacement" or "substitute" for animal-derived pseudo-foods. I cringe nearly every time I read these terms in cookbooks and other dietary literature written from a vegetarian perspective. (Read more...)

A Conversation on 'Why Honey is Not Vegan'

The "Why Honey is Not Vegan" site is the most popular and authoritative online resource for veganism and honey bees. The site is the first result on Google when searching for "vegan" and "honey," and has been sited in multiple books, including the American Dietetics Associations' book on sports nutrition. With the help of Kickstarter, a new fundraising website, a project has been started to save the "Why Honey is Not Vegan" site and give it a complete overhaul.

I first learned about the website in Spring 1999 when my new girlfriend at the time brought printouts of the site – printed out at her office on honey colored paper – to a weekly activist meeting. I later first contacted the author of the site in 2004 when I was doing research for an article that asked, "Is Honey Vegan?" – my first official assignment as the newly hired staff writer for a national nonprofit corporation. Two year later I meet the author, Noah Lewis, when he came to work for the same nonprofit. We have worked closely ever since – including leaving the nonprofit we worked for with in hours of each other because we had views regarding the role and importance of anti-racism that were not shared by management. We've since gone on to work together and separately on a number of projects on a range of social justice issues. To say that the "Why Honey is Not Vegan" site has had an influence on the last ten years of my life would be an understatement.

I sat down last night with Noah to discuss the site and what can be done to help keep it alive.

The Garden: A Model for Change

I highly recommend watching Scott Hamilton Kennedy's documentary The Garden. This film brilliantly illustrates the following concrete realities as they are experienced by oppressed communities within the United States:

  1. It shows how the existing power structure is poorly suited to serving the interests of oppressed peoples.
  2. It shows how the existing power structure works extremely well at serving the interests of the owning-class.
  3. It shows how the existing power structure is bolstered throughout by White supremacy. (Read more...)

10,000 for Western Imperialism

Westerners may have physically left their old colonies in Africa and Asia, but they retained them not only as markets but as locales on the ideological map over which they continue to rule morally and intellectually. – Edward Said

On September 3, In Defense of Animals launched an online petition with the aim of gathering 10,000 signatures from people pledging to support a total boycott of the entire country of Korea and all its products until Korea's Animal Protection Law is amended to strengthen the ban on the consumption of dogs and cats. Currently the petition has over 9,000 signatures and is likely to surpass its goal by its seventh day.

In his book Yellow, Frank Wu recommends Asian Americans who are asked "Do Asians eat dogs?" to respond with the question, "What is the point of asking whether I eat dogs?" Building on Wu's recommendation, we might ask, "What is the point of campaigning against dog-eating in Korea?" I'm convinced the answer is that campaigns targeting dog-eating as a cultural practice, including I.D.A.'s anti-Korea campaign, are based on a subtext of Western supremacy, Orientalism and imperialism, as well as speciesism.


Pets or Meat: Confronting the Origin Myth of 'Man's Best Friend'

There is a persistent myth that portrays the domestication of dogs as a mutually beneficial development between humans and the fabled "man's best friend." Those who believe and promote some version of this creation myth claim that dogs have always occupied their token status among nonhuman animals as a source of companionship, as opposed to a source of flesh.

The belief in this special "co-evolution" of humans and dogs affects how nonhuman animal activists think about the oppression of dogs. To recall one succinct version of the myth as told by pattrice jones, an ecofeminist-vegetarian activist:

Humans and dogs co-evolved. Canis lupus and Homo erectus were in close relationship with one another, and that has helped determine the details of our evolution. Thus the association of people and dogs is written into our bodies. That being the case, dogs might prefer not to be left to their own devices but, rather, to return to the harmonious inter-species relationship that prevailed before people subjected their former friends to captivity, forced labor, and reproductive control.

However, The New York Times reports findings that challenge such romantic beliefs about a "harmonious inter-species relationship." (Read more...)

Get Help or Get Lost

Yesterday, Breeze Harper posted on the Sistah Vegan blog about her frustration with White self-identified vegans who think race and racism isn't an issue. Breeze says:

I'm at the point that if I have friends who are not willing to engage in anti-racist activism and aren't questioning "whiteness as a pathology"( because it truly is part of the fabric of the USA foundational beliefs), I am going to start kicking them to the curb. Seriously, if you haven't noticed, your friend Breeze here is B-L-A-C-K! If my real lived experiences of racism STILL don't convince you that it's a problem in the USA ... I can no longer be your friend until you seek therapy for your pathology.

Luckily, there are several self-help resources available to assist those of us who are White in managing our individual, cultural and institutional racism. Read more...

Opposing Sanism as a Rhetorical Tool

I believe we should strongly oppose using the phrase "moral schizophrenia" as a rhetorical tool for nonhuman animal advocacy. We should oppose this term as much as we would phrases like: "moral blackness," "moral gayness," "moral obesity," "moral poverty," "moral stupidity" or any other term that uses a group's identity, condition or experience as a means of conveying a message that something is — morally or otherwise — wrong or problematic.

Since first introducing the term in his book Introduction to Animal Rights, Gary Francione has popularized "moral schizophrenia" as a term used when discussing ethical contradictions with regard to nonhuman animals. Recently, Francione posted "A Note on Moral Schizophrenia" to clarify — or, rather, justify — his use of the term. In his post, Francione attempts to placate those of us who oppose the way this term targets people who are different mentally. (Read more...)

Pollan Favors Upscale Food Retailer Over Universal Healthcare

Whole Paycheck MarketIn spite of the national boycott against the high-priced chain of supermarkets, best-selling food author Michael Pollan insists he's going to keep on shopping at Whole Foods Market. The corporate "natural foods" retailer is currently being boycotted by consumers, healthcare advocates and labor because its co-founder and CEO John Mackey is lobbying against universal healthcare. (Read more...)