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Preview: This Little Piggy Had Tofu

These Little Piggies Had Tofu

Liam and Anna are happy and healthy. We're raising them vegan. It's not that hard.

Updated: 2016-09-26T11:28:40.099-05:00


ARZone Podcast


Well hello there! 

Just thought I'd let you all know that I'm on the most recent ARZone podcast

Carolyn Bailey and Tim Gier asked me some really great questions about my essay in Confronting Animal Exploitation and about vegan parenting in general. I also give a really long answer to "The Ronnie Question," which basically lays out my entire vegan history. 

This is the second podcast I've been on now, and I actually quite enjoy it. I'm amazed again at how coherent and knowledgable I sound. Sure, I'd change some things if I could. But for the most part, I'm happy with how it turned out. It shouldn't go without saying that Tim's editing skills likely have a lot to do with how pleased I am at the result. 

So click here and then choose a way to listen to it. And let me know what you think! 

Also, if you've read my essay in Confronting Animal Exploitation, I'd love to hear any feedback you have. I'm so used to the internet where people can tell me if they like or dislike what I've written right after reading it. It feels odd to have put such a substantial piece of work out there and for people to have no direct and immediate way to let me know what they think of it. So humor me if you can, m'kay? 

Until next time...

Bringing the Kids Along


The whole family volunteered at a street fair a couple weekends ago. Left to right is my wife Jen, Liam, Dallas (the program coordinator of Animal Rights Coalition, the organization we volunteer for), and Anna. We were handing out samples of Beyond Meat, telling people about it and explaining why and how one can go vegan. Dallas asked me if we would like to volunteer as a family and I told her I'd have to get back to her. I talked it over with Jen and the kids and they all agreed that it would be fun. When we got there, it was decided that Anna would tell people what the samples were made out of (she memorized some of the ingredients). While she did that, Liam would sort of sneak in and hand out a pamphlet about veganism. Which reminds me that I wrote something for my Vegan Parenting essay in Confronting Animal Exploitation that I never found a place for. Parents as Activists - Bringing the Kids Along Parents of all kinds find themselves with less time to do the things that are important to them. Raising our children becomes of the utmost importance, of course, but we all came into parenthood with passions, and those passions don’t evaporate when we start changing diapers. Maybe you leafleted every weekend before you had kids. Maybe you were a rabble-rouser at community meetings. Maybe you spent all your free time doing online activism. Regardless of what you did, you have less time for it after you take on the responsibility of raising a child or children. But this doesn’t mean you have to give up activism. While it’s tempting to get someone to babysit the kids so you can go out and do your adult-world volunteering, the reality is that there’s often no reason you can’t just pack the kids up along with your placards and pamphlets. Plus, getting a sitter costs money. Just bring the kids along. As long as it’s safe, bring them along and then they can see what their parents are passionate about. And maybe they’ll ask to join in once they realize what you’re fighting for. Or maybe they’ll choose to sit and watch. Maybe they’ll be embarrassed beyond words. Doesn’t matter. Maybe your friends and family will accuse you of using your kids to advance your cause. How do we respond to the idea that we’re using our kids to support a cause, instead of simply exposing them to that cause and letting them join in if they want? Fortunately, this judgment of parenting likely isn’t anything of the sort. It’s a veiled judgment of the ideology of animal rights. I saw a lot of children at the protests leading up to the Iraq war and I thought the parents probably just brought them along because they (the parents) really wanted to go and didn't want to have to pay for a babysitter. Those parents also probably wanted to show the kids what community involvement can look like and that standing up for something you believe in is something worth doing. The kids may have held signs, but I doubt the parents were intentionally using them as props. And more importantly, no one was accusing them of doing so. Anyone who did would rightfully be criticized as grasping at straws. Searching so hard for something to criticize that they set their sights on children. In addition to calling into question our parenting abilities on the face of it, the critics also negate our children’s obvious ability to grasp arguments and form opinions about issues. Yes, of course, very young children almost always believe what their parents believe, act how their parents act, do what their parents do. But for some reason, their ability to do even this is called into question when our kids are handing out a vegan pamphlet, or holding a sign critical of the pet trade. We may not bring them to the protest with the intention of them holding a sign, or maybe we do. But no one can make a child hold a sign. They choose to do it, and their choice should be recognized as just as valid as any other choice a child makes. Plu[...]



My friend Ryan has cancer.

You might remember Ryan from Midwest Vegan Radio. She and Dallas interviewed me and Anna for a podcast a while ago.

She has stage 3 breast cancer. She's 33. So far, expenses have surpassed $60,000 and she's had to miss quite a good deal of work because of chemo sessions and such.

At the end of the month, I'll be shaving my head to raise money for Ryan. If you can afford to donate, please do so at this medical fundraising site and write a note saying that you're sponsoring Al's not-yet-shaven head. Anything helps. If all of you reading this donated just a little bit, it would help a whole hell of a lot.

Plus, the head-shaver who raises the most money gets a prize. I'm not going to lie, I like prizes.

And since I'm shaving my head at the end of the month, I decided to take this opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for a long time: dye my hair blue.

First I had to bleach it (this photo was taken by Anna, by the way).

Then I turned it blue.

So there you go. I dyed my hair so that you would keep reading and see yet another link to go donate money to my friend who, in addition to having to deal with the horror of cancer, is also having to deal with the horror of paying for cancer.

Thank you in advance,


Panda Club


During recess at school, Anna participates in something called Panda Club. It's something one of her friends came up with. The gist is this, according to Anna: Pandas are endangered because people are cutting down the forests. Panda Club helps the pandas. At the beginning of recess, they have a meeting and each kid comes up with ideas to help out the pandas. I asked Anna what one of her ideas was.

"Plant more trees," she said.

Liam was sitting with us when we were talking about this. He chimed in, "But then they'll keep cutting down the trees."

"But then we'll plant more trees," Anna said.

"But even those trees you growed," Liam said, "they'll cut down."

At which point Anna started ignoring Liam.

One of her friends had the idea that they could stop the people from cutting down the trees. I asked how they go about doing that.

"We tell them that we'll hurt them if they don't stop."

Yeah. I know. If that ain't some militant FBI-probe-inducing stuff right there, huh? I hope the FBI isn't reading this, because then they might have to issue a grand jury summons to Mrs. Jones' first grade class.

I asked Anna, in a one-on-one conversation, if she thought it was OK to actually hurt people who wanted to cut down the forest. She said she didn't think so. I told her that people have done things like slashing tires and doing other things to stop people from destroying habitats. She thought that sounded better. I agreed, but then asked her to think about the people who work for those companies that cut down forests and how the money they make from that job might feed their children. On the other hand, they could just get a different job. 

Then I explained how we try to see the world in black and white, but sometimes it's actually grey.

You know what they weren't doing in Panda Club though? They weren't capturing pandas and imprisoning them in zoos in order to preserve their species. That's just ridiculous. Stopping the habitat destruction makes way more sense, right? 

The One Where Anna Goes to a Zoo


Anna's class took a field trip to the Minnesota Zoo today.We don't go to zoos, since we believe that animals have the right to live free from ownership and exploitation (if you want to read more of me moralizing and condemning zoos, read my post, One More Dead Wolf).We told Anna that she could make her own decision of whether or not to go on this field trip. She chose to go. And honestly, I would be a bit concerned if she chose to stay home. She's a social kid and she wants to be with her friends and classmates. She knows that simply going to the zoo on a free field trip (at least free to her and us, since we didn't have to pay anything for it) isn't going to make those animals' lives any harder. And yeah, I'm rationalizing letting her go. But the way I see it, it wasn't my decision. It was hers and I respect her right to make it. (Letting go is a long process that starts with baby steps like this, right?)Also, she was really excited to see penguins.Sigh.I can't help but sigh. Don't get me wrong, I would be excited to see penguins too! I totally get it. But I also get why zoos are sad, sad places and I want nothing to do with them.I gave Anna a basic rundown of why zoos are sad, sad places. I didn't do this to make her feel guilty for wanting to go (she didn't) but to clue her in on things to look for and think about while she's there. My hope was that she wouldn't uncritically accept the notion that animals in a zoo are as happy if not happier than they would be in their natural habitat."They try to make it like their natural habitat," she said, repeating something she heard from her teacher. I asked her to think of how big the savannah is. Now think of how big a lion's cage in a zoo is. They recreate just an itty bitty tiny slice of their natural habitat, if that. Lions move from place to place. They run distances zoos are unable to accomodate. They hunt."I know, but I still want to go and see different animals."Fair enough.Last night, we read some of her Wild Animal Atlas book, and there was some info in there about emperor penguins in Antarctica. They can dive to depths of over a thousand feet. "The amount of water they have for penguins in a zoo," I couldn't help but adding, "would be like us going to a water park and there being just a small bath tub to sit in."When Anna came home from school today, I asked how the zoo was. "I saw penguins!""What kind of penguins were they," I asked."I don't remember. I think they were the kind that build their nests out of rocks?""How much water did they have?" I asked."It was a pool. And it looked like there was an ocean in the back, but it was a painting.""Like in Happy Feet? Remember when Mumble runs into the wall painting and then dives into the water and runs into the glass because the pool is so small?"Yeah. She remembered.Again, I didn't say this stuff to make her feel bad about going to the zoo. I said it so that she would know why I think zoos are sad, sad places. She gets this. She's also able to completely separate it from the fact that she actually got to see Real. Live. Penguins. That's understandable, I think.I asked what other kinds of animals she saw. Some turtles and some bat rays, she said. She couldn't really tell me anything about the animals other than that she saw them. Nobody told her anything about the animals, according to her. She didn't read anything about them either. So, all in all, not really an educational trip to the zoo, which is one of those things zoos are always bragging about -- education.After looking at some animals, they took a break for lunch. I had to pack a lunch for Anna because she was told in advance that there wouldn't be a sufficient amount of vegan food there for her. I asked what the other kids ate.Hotdogs, she said. They ate hotdogs.So much for having the animals' best interests in mind, huh zoos? Not only are hotdogs made from the flesh (among other parts) of tortured animals, but they're also a product of the meat indust[...]

Living up to the Lessons We Teach our Children - an excerpt from Confronting Animal Exploitation


Here's another excerpt from my 23-page essay in Confronting Animal Exploitation, officially due out April 1st (though it looks like you can put it on a Kindle or a Nook right now if you wanted to).
The late Stanley Sapon, professor of psycholinguistics at the University of Rochester, said, “we typically raise children from birth to five or six years in a kind of fantasy-land of ideal behavior on the part of the world’s inhabitants … a ‘land of goodness and mercy,’ a land where the animals are our friends, and we are the friends of the animals.”

Children under a certain age are not taught that other-than-human animals are here for us to exploit and kill. Instead, representations of these beings are used in children’s media to illustrate life lessons, as in books like Chicken Little and The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Other stories also teach us that other-than-human animals should be spared suffering and death—as is the case in Bambie—and should live free from captivity and have their intrinsically valuable lives respected by others—a major theme of, for example, the children’s movies Free Willy and Rio.

Vegans parents take these lessons to their logical conclusions and teach their children to not only say that animals are our friends, but also act as if they are. It’s not enough to say, “Be nice to animals.” We need to actually be nice to all animals. Chicken dinner, steak on Fridays and eggs for breakfast run counter to this message.

Vegan Kids Rebelling Against Their Parents? - an excerpt from Confronting Animal Exploitation


April 1st! That's the official publication date of Confronting Animal Exploitation. To celebrate the impending release of this book, I'm posting an excerpt from my essay, Vegan Parenting: Navigating and Negating Speciesist Media, which appears in a section of the book titled Veganism in Action.

As the title suggests, my essay centers on speciesism in children's media. But the essay also includes a section that focuses on attitudes which undermine vegan parents and a section in which I outline some practical advice on how to talk to our kids about veganism and speciesism. This excerpt is from the section about attitudes intended to undermine vegan parents.

Another reason children of vegan parents will inevitably choose to eat non-vegan foods, according to some, is that they will rebel against their parents when they reach their teens. They will become ardent meat eaters, much to the joy of the meat-eating majority. It’s an interesting claim, but it’s one that doesn’t warrant much concern from vegan parents.

Vegan parents who are vegan for the reason of respecting the interests of other-than-human animals will likely pass that respect down to their children. An analogous example would be children who are raised as anti-racists. When a person learns from the get-go that oppression is wrong, it’s hard to lose that knowledge. If parents teach their children about the oppressive ideology of speciesism, the oppression of other-than-human animals, and sentience and the interest in living that it entails, then there’s no compelling reason to believe that the kids will someday unlearn that.

Of course, there is still a probability that children of vegan parents will decide that they shouldn’t respect other-than-human animals, or that respecting them means something other than being vegan. On the flip side, there’s also a chance that all the kids of non-vegans out there will come to veganism later in life. Parenting is full of unknowns. All parents need to make peace with that fact.

I'll be posting more excerpts as the publication date gets closer. I'm so excited for this book to come out and for all of you to buy it!

Want to know more about the book? Check out the descriptiontable of contents and author bios. And like it on Facebook

Apa's Nighttime Poem


Here's a Friday poem from Anna.

Apa's Nighttime Poem 
I love you in the morning
I love you when I'm at school
I love you in the afternoon
I love you in the evening
I'll always love you, Apa

Here's Apa. He's a flying bison. He's awesome.

Anna asked for and received a stuffed Apa for Christmas from her Grandpa Ned. She looooves him. So much so that he's started to eat breakfast with us:

And when he's done with breakfast, he plays with some Legos:

And she writes love poems to him.



Guess what happened to my blog? Facebook, that's what!This blog used to be the way I would communicate with my family and friends, in addition to the world at large. As such, I would put photos up from trips and holidays and all that. But now I'm connected with my family and friends on Facebook, so I put photos up there. And no offense world-at-large, but I just plain forget to put the photos up here, too. So my posts have been a bit more cerebral in nature as of late. And that's fine with me if it's fine with you. Actually, it's fine with me either way (again, no offense).But I occasionally need to remind myself of why I started this blog in the first place. First and foremost, I wanted to show the world my healthy and happy vegan family. I wanted to show how we exist within and contribute to our culture while abstaining from certain aspects of that culture. I wanted to contribute to the normalization of veganism in general, and vegan families in specific. Because I do feel like part of a normal family. So normal, in fact, that the average blog reader may find us boring. Which may, in part, explain the lack of photos and posts about our familial exploits. Anyway, enough of that. Here's a bunch of photos taken within the last few months.Liam with a sword.Liam with Darth Maul's double-bladed light saber. The kids have been big into Star Wars as of late. Took a trip to Colorado to visit family for Thanksgiving. Here, Anna and Liam duel their older cousin Noah, who wields the double lightsaber with great skill.First big snow of the year. Anna builds The Serpent's Pass from Avatar: The Last Airbender. That show is awesome. Jen and I loved watching it as much as the kids, if not more.Liam bought Saesee Tiin's Starfighter with the money he got for Christmas. It was a pretty big set and he put together about 90% of it (with my help, but he put the pieces together by himself ... I just sort of directed him and helped him understand the directions).Anna and Liam were pretending The Empire Strikes Back. Here's Anna's best "Han in carbonite" pose:And some original lego creations. This one by Liam.This one is Wolverine's House by Anna.And one more by Liam. These are 100% their own creations. I love seeing what they come up with.After a trip to the children's museum. According to Liam, one side of his face is Zuko from Avatar, and the other side is The Emperor from Star Wars. Anna put together one of Liam's birthday presents. That's an AT-RT.Finally, we went to Minnehaha Falls last weekend. It was frozen and awesome. We tried getting behind the ice, because it's like Superman's fortress of solitude back there, but it was too dangerous. Maybe next time...Hey, that wasn't so boring after all. We should do this more often![...]

Lego Birthday Party!


Liam's Lego birthday party, to be exact.My newly four year old son loves Legos, and this is probably the last big themed party that we're going to do (actually, we never did a themed party for Anna ... Liam's Star Wars themed party last year was the first time for us, unless you count the hospital-themed birthday party they each had when they were born). So we went all out (or at least our version of "all out") and dove headlong into the theme. I've been a big fan of Legos for most of my life, so that may have something to do with my willingness to put in time and effort.Here's a hot tip for Lego parties: Just buy yellow things and draw little smiley faces on them like this.Kids' cups, gift bags, etc. Easy peasey.We bought a couple lego molds online and had fun with them. The bricks on top of these cupcakes below (which are topped with the cookies and cream frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) look like plain chocolate, but I actually put a small layer of chocolate down in them, then a layer of crushed oreos and then another layer of chocolate. So basically, you have oreo candybars on top of a sugarbomb. We don't roll this way often, but when we do, we do it right.And yeah, I need to perfect making candy with chocolate. I guess I need to learn how to temper chocolate?We bought a minifigure mold, too. I made one batch of chocolate minifigures in it and then made the mistake of melting crayons in the mold (I didn't get a photo of them, but we sent two minifigure crayons home in each party bag), thinking I'd make more chocolate guys later. Well, after making the crayons, I couldn't get this white film off the mold, except for with Goo Gone, which then left a horrible orange smell (and probably toxic chemicals) on the mold. So yeah, no more edible minifigures coming out of of that mold. It was pretty easy to put a Lego twist on party games. This is Pin the Plunger. I built this on a baseplate, and the goal is to put a lego plunger (you know, those long skinny round pieces with a single round convex peg on the end of them? ... I really should have taken a picture of the plunger ... oh well) as close to the middle as possible. Blindfolded, of course. The winner got a little Lego set. Guess how many legos are in the jar. Spoiler alert: It was something like 152. Again, the winner got a little lego set or a minifigure. And that was it for games. Which is OK, because we brought a bunch of Legos for the kids to play with. And they did. (Megablocks for the little kids, regular Legos for the bigger kids.)Even the utensil holder was made from blocks. Liam and I made this one together. The food spread. We did make-your-own bagels this year. In addition to veganizing the two recipes from here, we cut up some cucumbers and tomatoes and had some Tofurky slices. We also made a delicious Maritime Chickpea Salad (that's what I call it, since I dislike the phrase "mock tuna") from Yeah, That Vegan Shit (I smile every time I see that blog title). And some fruit, peanut butter and jelly, and babka from Breadsmith. What Liam looks like when everyone sings Happy Birthday to him:What Liam looks like when he blows out all four candles from almost two feet away:Like I said, I didn't get a photo of the party bag contents, but it was two minifigure crayons, a homemade Lego coloring book (do a google image search of "lego coloring pages" to get an idea of what was in there), and a mini Lego set.So that was our Lego party. And now Liam's awash in new Legos and everyone's happy (including me ... because Legos are awesome). Um ... but with all that said, go check out this Birthdays Without Pressure page. As awesome as this party was, you really don't need to go stressing yourself all out in order to have a great time. [end of hypocritical PSA][...]

Veggie Nugget #35


"Take the broad view of what veganism stands for - something beyond finding a new alternative to scrambled eggs on toast or a new recipe for Christmas cake. Realise that you're on to something really big, something that hadn't been tried until sixty years ago, and something which is meeting every reasonable criticism that anyone can level against it. And this doesn't involve weeks or months of studying diet charts or reading books by socalled experts - it means grasping a few simple facts and applying them."

-Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society.

That quote is from an interview with Watson which you can read here. When I feel down about the prospects of a widespread movement toward veganism, I think about Watson, who died only 8 years ago. The man invented the word "vegan."

Tour of Chicken Run Rescue


This is how time has been going for me lately. In August I wrote a review of the book City Chickens. At the end of that review, I said, Coming soon: Photos and a re-cap of the VegKins tour of Chicken Run Rescue on July 21st. SPOILER ALERT: It will contain photos of adorable chickens and humans.Well here we are in mid-November and I have yet to post that re-cap. Better late than never, I guess! Here are some photos (I didn't get as many as I would have liked because I was too busy managing my kids and petting chickens):First up, our gracious host, Mary. Chicken Run Rescue is literally her and her husband's basement and back yard. The amount of good that they do with that square footage is awe inspiring and humbling.Anna wondering if this chicken would let her pick her up.She was unsure at first (they both were).Anna and Liam with a couple VegKins friends. VegKins (our vegan family group that meets up monthly) has blown up in the last year or so, largely because of events like this and our annual Halloween party and Spring (plastic) Egg Hunt.Your's truly. What a rare thing it is for me to post a photo of myself on this blog.Holy crap, here's another one of me! That's a six or seven year old Herbivore shirt that I'm wearing, by the way.Anna eventually grew more comfortable with the chickens. Liam never really warmed up though. Maybe next time...All in all, it was a nourishing day. All four of us met and held chickens for the first time in our lives (Liam held one briefly, but I didn't get a photo).I know on an intellectual level why I'm vegan. My kids know why we're raising them vegan. Meeting these birds though, really drove home a different aspect of veganism. It's one thing to say that the principle of equal consideration dictates that all sentient beings should have the right to live free from unnecessary harm and death, but it's quite another to hold a living, breathing, thinking, feeling being in your arms, stroke her feathers and scratch her head, apologize on behalf of your species, recommit yourself to never participating in the exploitation of beings like (and not like) her ... and to know that as long as you breathe you will be vegan because it matters as much as something can matter.[...]

Curried Squash Tomato Bisque


It's that time of year when my dad realizes that he planted waaaaay too much squash, and so he pawns it off on his more-than-willing children. Or maybe that's why he plants so much. Either way, I always get a ton of squash from my dad's garden around this time of year and I've found the perfect recipe for using a bunch of it. My mom made a vegan tomato squash soup a few years back for Christmas and it was delicious (yeah, my mom rocks). If I remember correctly, it was tomatoes and squash pureed together with some vegetable broth and then sauteed onions were added to it (or maybe the onions were blended in, I can't remember). She gave me the recipe and the first time I made it I taste-tested it and it wasn't as good as my mom's. Not a big surprise there. I let it sit for a while there on my stove and pondered my inadequacy. But instead of coming to terms with my failure in the kitchen, I decided to make the soup my own. I added a can of coconut milk to it and some curry powder, garam masala and cumin and BAM! It became something very different and very delicious. The recipe has been tweaked since then, of course. I took garam masala out of it because I ran out and didn't feel like buying more. I'm sure you could put a little in and it wouldn't hurt. And I found that it doesn't need veggie broth, though I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to have some in there if you wanted more leftovers. It eats like a meal. And it goes great with saltines or some good crusty bread. It's not every year I post an original recipe on this blog. So enjoy, dear readers:Curried Squash Tomato Bisque4 cups of butternut squash pulp (other kinds of squash work, too, but probably not every kind)2 tbsp. olive oil1 large onion chopped1 tsp cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp ground cumin)28 oz can whole tomatoes with juice15 oz can of of coconut milk1 tsp. curry powder (start with 1, add more to taste)1 tsp. salt¼ tsp fresh ground pepper1/8 tsp garlic powder2 bay leavesBake squash (cut in half the long way, place in 1/4 inch of water in a casserole dish, bake at 375 until easily pierced with fork) until tender. Scrape it all out.Heat oil on med/high heat, add cumin seeds and let them sizzle and/or pop for 30 seconds or so. Add onion and sauté until browned.Put Tomatoes (with juice) in processor. Blend.Add squash and onions, process until smooth (the cumin seeds won't blend up and that's fine). If you have an immersion blender, you can blend everything in the pot, but I like to used a food processor and then an immersion blender later if needed. I think it's easier to get a smoother texture that way.Put that all in a pot, add the coconut milk and heat it up. Add curry powder, salt, pepper and garlic powder (and ground cumin if you didn't use cumin seeds back when you fried the onions). Taste and add more of any of these spices as needed. Add bay leaves and simmer for as long as you want, stirring occasionally.I'd post a photo, but it's just orange. Close your eyes and imagine the color orange. There you go. That's what the soup looks like. OK fine, I'll take a quick photo with my webcam. See. Orange. And now you know I have a Maytag stove. Reheats wonderfully. Enjoy![...]

Veganism and Woo


Here's the third part of my veganism and religion essay series (parts 1 and 2 are here and here): What is Scientology? A cult? Religion? Despite what one wants to call Scientology, there’s no real appreciable doubt among the majority of society that it’s something rooted in an irrational, illogical, non-scientific, fantastical view of the world.Scientologists who are vegan—people may be tempted to refer to them as vegan Scientologists—may have a “VEGAN” bumper sticker on their car alongside a “SCIENTOLOGY” bumper sticker. Will this result in non-vegan-non-Scientologists thinking that Scientology is something that vegans do, or that veganism is something that Scientologists do? Both Scientology and veganism are on the fringe, as defined by dominant culture. Whether or not it’s true in any individual case, people who aren’t vegan will associate the other fringe aspect of a vegan’s life with veganism.When someone voices two distinct marginalized views in a society that is indifferent or hostile toward those views, they tend to get lumped together. It’s the bumper sticker effect. It may be that veganism or the other fringe element is seen to be the dominant element about a person—one may think, “Oh, being vegan is just something Scientologists do,” or, “Oh, Scientology is just something that vegans do.” Either way, it’s a lose/lose for veganism. It could be rightly said that I’m unfairly picking on Scientology by using them as an example. Other examples could be used, of course. I’m writing specifically about marginal systems of irrational belief here—marginal in the sense that they have a small numbers of adherents—as opposed to mainstream, culturally dominant religions. I'm not saying here that mainstream religions have some greater claim to supernatural truth than do these marginal beliefs.[1]I focus on marginal belief systems here because they are viewed by dominant culture as on the fringe, far beyond what the average person would believe. Given this, lumping veganism in with marginal belief systems hurts veganism. It may well be the case that the inverse is true, that the lumping hurts the marginal belief system, but that’s not my concern here. I wish to see veganism, an ethic of justice for all sentient beings, to proliferate beyond the fringe. As such, I desire to see veganism associated with the mainstream values it already reinforces. I’m not arguing that vegans should instead hitch the vegan wagon onto major religions, but that vegans shouldn’t hitch the wagon of veganism onto anything other than the idea that we should not cause the suffering and death of other-than-human animals when we don’t need to. Nothing else is required. This argument also goes for the bumper sticker effect that is observed when raw food and other dietary restrictions, myriad new age beliefs, and “woo” are lumped in with veganism. Regarding the extraneous dietary restrictions that get associated with veganism when vegans advocate them, vegan and registered dietitian Ginny Messina writes:Advocating diets that incorporate unnecessary nutrition-related restrictions makes it harder for people to go vegan. That goes for fat-free, soy-free, and raw foods diets. Sometimes these variations on veganism are perceived as steps in the same dietary evolution. They aren’t. Veganism is an ethical choice and it’s a diet that is healthful and appropriate at all stages of the lifecycle. Raw foodism is a fad diet that is appropriate only for adults and is based on shaky scientific principles at best. Fatfree veganism is a therapeutic diet for adults with health problems—and as I’ve noted before, it’s not necess[...]

Coming Soon: Confronting Animal Exploitation -- and another Deleted Scene


The book which contains my essay on vegan parenting is almost published. Confronting Animal Exploitation: Grassroots Essays on Liberation and Veganism should be out from McFarland Books early next year. I'm really excited for this book to drop. I've read most of the essays contained within and their awesomeness is matched only by their diversity. Some essays are heavy and ground-shifting while others are personal and contemplative. Here's a description of the book from McFarland. As animal exploitation increases, animal liberation issues are of growing concern, as seen through the rise of veganism, academic disciplines devoted to animal issues, and mainstream critiques of factory farms. Yet as the dialogues, debates and books continue to grow, the voices of "street level" activists--not academics, journalists or vegan chefs--are rarely heard on a national level. This volume broadens animal liberation dialogues by offering the arguments, challenges, inspiration and narratives of grassroots activists. The essays show what animal advocacy looks like from a collective of individuals living in and around Minnesota’s Twin Cities; the essayists, however, write of issues, both personal and political, that resound on a global scale. This collection provides a platform for rank and file activists to explain why and how they dedicate their time and what is being done for animals on a local level that can translate to global efforts to end animal exploitation.Pretty cool, huh?I'm going to start posting more snippets that I've cut out of my parenting essay on here, which I'm calling "deleted scenes" because it has a better ring to it than "essay cuts." Though these scenes won't be published, they should give you a decent idea of the sorts of themes I touch on in my essay.In the essay, I use books and other media as examples of the barrage of speciesism our children face. Thankfully, not all books perpetuate speciesism on a readily apparent level:Wild Talk: How Animals Talk to Each Other details the many ways that other-than-human animals communicate among one another. From the booming howels of howler monkeys to the songs of humpback whales and blinks of fireflies, the book presents conscious communication as just that. In addition to taking communication at face value, all animals in the book are either gendered or referred to as the plural “they,” as opposed to the genderless, deindividualizing "it."Wild Talk is not an animal rights book. It doesn’t give us any guidance on how to treat animals. And there are slight improvements that would make it even more animal rights-friendly. For example, after a section in the beginning that details how we humans talk to each other, the book says, “Animals have a lot to say to each other, too.” It should, of course, say, “Other animals…” because we humans are definitely animals as well. Also, referring to the animals in the book as “wild” lumps them in an artificial category that serves to further the perceived divide between humans and other animals. But aside from those qualms, this book is a great, neutral (in that it doesn’t take a stance on any contentious issues) treatment of how other-than-human animals communicate with one another.Just a note on the "wild animal" critique that I make there. I prefer the term suggested by Joan Dunayer, which is "free-living animal." The word "wild" reinforces the perceived normalcy and rightness of domestication in all of its forms. Free-living animals aren't wild, they're just animals, freely living in their natural habitats. By creating a category for animals who live in their natural state, we suggest that that state is just as benign [...]

Conversion Narrative in Veganism


The following is part two of a three-part series I wrote quite a while back. There was a chance that these were going to be published in an upcoming anthology in which a separate essay (by me) having nothing to do with religion will appear, but it didn't pan out (nobody's fault and no hard feelings). Honestly, I'm sort of OK with these mini-essays not being published, since they are sure to irk people in a way that I don't necessarily feel comfortable irking. The previous essay in this series, Religion and Vegan Advocacy, received a couple comments that deserve a response. I plan to write a separate post addressing these and any other comments I get on this second installment and the eventual third installment. OK. Here's the essay now. Oh wait, one more thing. If these essays had actually made it to the point of being published, I can assure you that they would have been edited and re-edited and fleshed out and would just be plain better (because my editors are rock-stars, that's why). So ... now that I've sufficiently lowered expectations, here you go!The words “convert” and “conversion” come up a lot when vegans talk about choosing to be vegan. In many ways, this makes sense. In others, it’s problematic. In what way is this conversion narrative a positive? First, it’s something that just makes sense. Everyone knows what conversion means: in the simplest sense, it’s changing from one thing to another. When non-vegans choose to be vegan, that’s a type of conversion. Often, it can feel like a religious conversion; something akin to a spiritual awakening. As one blogger writes: People often ask me why I made the decision to go vegan. I can point to certain events leading up to that moment that are helpful in explaining how I got here, but at the same time, when I really think about it, it’s almost as if it wasn’t a choice at all … What I mean is that it was almost like I had been asleep before and suddenly I woke up and saw the cruelty and suffering around me; being vegan seemed like something I simply had to do. I’m sure that many vegans can relate to this. I know I can. This blogger may not have used the word “conversion,” and maybe that was intentional on her part, but the above quote still falls under the umbrella of what I mean when I refer to conversion language.One could imagine Paul—formerly Saul—saying something similar about his conversion on the road to Damascus: “All of a sudden, I saw a light and I woke up.”Sentiments such as these are all over the internet. One blog, The Vegan Light Bulb, has the tag line, “Stop looking at the shadows and look into the light!” Another blog is called My Vegan Awakening. James McWilliams even has a "Vegan Conversion Narrative" series on his blog.[1]The word conversion is apt when describing the change from one ideology to another, and so I submit that the use of the word when talking about the change to veganism is technically correct. When one chooses to be vegan, it could be said that they are rejecting the ideology of speciesism and embracing equal consideration of other-than-human animals. Veganism could be said to be the ideology of this embrace. That said, it’s important to consider what problems arise from use of the conversion narrative. By framing veganism as a conversion, vegans present veganism as something ideologically different from what non-vegans believe. Conversion language doesn’t give enough weight to that fact that many people already agree, to an extent, with the precept that unnecessary killing of animals is wrong. The conversion narrative presents veganism as an ideology that is [...]

City Chickens


City Chickens by Christine Heppermann tells the tale of Chicken Run Rescue – the only urban chicken rescue in the United States – just across the river from me in Minneapolis, MN. Chicken Run Rescue is run by Mary Britton Clouse and Burt Clouse. The book tells the stories of how Mary and Burt came to care deeply about other-than-human animals as children, and eventually how they came to be the founders and caregivers of Chicken Run Rescue. Their stories are a short section of the book, but one that matters so, so much. This world cannot have enough examples of people handing their lives over to care for other animals. Everyone—young and old, vegan and non-vegan—can learn something profound from the dedication and care Mary and Burt unleash upon the world. City Chickens also does a fantastic job of telling the unique stories of several chickens who have come through the gates of Chicken Run Rescue. From Billiam, a rooster who was dumped on the side of the road with 105 other chicks; to Miss Manor, the hen who Burt rescued from the grounds of an apartment complex (for an uplifting and heartbreaking photo tour of Miss Manor’s rescue and care, see this photo album on the Chicken Run Rescue Facebook page). "Now she would have a warm place to sleep, fresh food and water, plenty of space to explore. Now Bert would hold her and hum softly while Mary attended to her wounds."There’s a ton of information and images packed into this book. In my opinion, the design suffers as a result. In order to break up large chunks of text, certain sentences are given a different and larger font. As a former newspaper reader (sorry, newspaper industry!), I’ve been trained to assume that larger text within smaller text is a pull-quote and is not meant to be read in sequential order (or read at all, if you’re already reading the whole story). It’s safe to say that the design took some getting used to on my part. What the book may lack in design, though, it more than makes up for in photos. The layout might not be perfect, but since, according to the publisher, this is a book for kids ages 6-9 (I think that top age range should go all the way to 13 31 103, especially given the importance of the subject matter), more photos equals more connections. These birds are beautiful beings and the multitude of photos does a great job of capturing that beauty.A note of warning to parents: There are three of what I would consider disturbing photos. One of a rooster who was rescued after police shut down a cockfighting operation, and two others of hens in battery cages. Probably not nightmare inducing images, but it depends on the kid (and adult). This is unavoidably a book about the refugees and casualties of humanity’s war of indifference on other animals. As such, you can expect to read about some of the horrible things that are done to chickens. The words are not graphic, but they’re there. One cannot talk about a sanctuary without talking about what it’s a sanctuary from. And Chicken Run Rescue is a sanctuary, even if only a temporary one for most guests. Thankfully, the homes these chickens end up in after adoption are also places that treat them as someones, not somethings – as an end unto themselves, not a means to another’s end – as beings with intrinsic worth above and beyond any extrinsic worth afforded to them.  The few graphic images and depictions of cruelty are certainly not necessary in order to educate our kids about animal rights, but they do portray the awful reality of countless chickens. Personally, I let my kids see the images and explain them with the tact and l[...]

Memories, Old and New


The kids and I went to the Children's Museum on Tuesday. After much fun at the Curious George exhibit and the rooftop art park, we took a break for lunch. Nothing fancy, just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oranges and carrots and hummus. We ate up the carrots and had some hummus left. So I bought some pretzels from the vending machine."How do you know they're vegan?" Anna asked as I slipped the second of two dollar bills into the machine."Good question," I said. "I've had these before, so I know. But I'll check anyway once they come out."They were vegan.After a while, Anna started eating bits and pieces out of the pretzel pieces to make letter shapes. I followed suit and I made an M which was also 3, an E and a W. As I held the piece in the W position, it reminded me of a "wishbone," the clavicle of a turkey, even tough they don't really look similar.I thought of the tradition in my family (and many families and cultures going back millennia, according to this random website) of pulling the wishbone apart with one of my siblings. First we'd make a wish. Whoever got the middle part after it snapped would have their wish come true.Memories like these are one of the hardest parts of going vegan as an adult, I think. Eating is easy. Finding non-leather shoes is a breeze. But viewing once-happy memories differently is just plain painful. It pained me to remember the glee I took in snapping that dried-out bone. It pains me to remember pulling fish from lakes with sharp hooks. Or taking joy in killing moths between my bare hands.I wrote about this recently on this blog's Facebook page:My little brother and I used to parade up and down the house clapping our hands and proclaiming ourselves, in song, the "Miller Killers!" We would kill millers (moths) by clapping our hands with them in between.Today, I caught a moth in a cup and let him or her gooutside while my kids watched. I do the same (and so do they) with spiders and other bugs all the time. But the moth today made me think of that once-positive childhood memory and, instead of making me happy, it made me sad. So ... that's one personal drawback of reevaluating our relationship with other animals, I guess. I told Anna and Liam about what my siblings and I would do with the wishbone. I explained that it's a good memory because it's something I did with my family, but that it also makes me sad because it was the bone of a turkey who wanted to live.I asked Anna if she'd like to play the same game, but with the pretzel instead. She glowed. I told her to make a wish and that I would too, but that we shouldn't tell each other what our wishes are. After a few seconds we pulled the pretzel and she emerged victorious, much to her delight. "You can't tell me what you wished for though, or it won't come true," I reminded her. She looked at me with a knowing smile and said, "Uh...""Do you think it's something that will ever come true?""No." "OK. Then you can tell me if you want. It's fine.""I wished," Anna said, "that no one would eat animals." After I caught my breath I gave her a big long hug and said, "Me too." Then Liam and I played. He won. I asked what he wished for. His answer: "To win." Then we went and played for a couple more awesome hours and made more awesome memories. [...]

Vegan Mainstream Interview


Hi there! Some of you may be coming here from Vegan Mainstream, which published an interview with me yesterday, Being a Vegan Dad (and Blogger).As I usually do when there's a chance that new people will be visiting my blog, I'm going to link to some posts I've written which, if I'm being honest, I feel represent me and my blog in the best light. But first! If you want to hear the voice of my and my daughter, check out the Midwest Vegan Radio podcast that we were interviewed on. And would you look at that, you can listen to it right on Vegan Mainstream!And here's an interview with Anna on Vegansaurus!Anyway, here are some posts I like: Stats: a post about the health of my children.Cat on the Playground: on Anna's reaction to kids chasing a cat on the playground.Flabbergasted: about Anna's reaction upon hearing that a lot of people care about dogs and cats, but not other animals.My Daughter the Monkey Eater: on pretending to eat animals.We're All Made of Meat: on explaining what "meat" is to Anna.This is Not a Post About Milo & Otis: on Anna trying to understand others who aren't vegan.The Life I Did Save: about a squirrel I brought into a rehabilitation center.Anna's First Correction of "It"Dolores Hureta: A Hero to Migrant Workers: a review I wrote of the book. Kale: It's What's For Dinner: in which I introduce a design and write about the wonders of kale. So yeah. That's my blog. Welcome to it. [...]

Silver and Gold


Anna graduates from Kindergarten today. Here's a song that she's going to sing with her class at her graduation ceremony.

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Awwdorable, right? Her voice is a little shaky since she's caught that horrible cough that's been going around. Which just makes it more adorable, in my unbiased opinion.


Make new friends,
But keep the old.
One is silver and the other gold.

The circle's round,
It has no end.
That's how long I want to be your friend.

When asked how she felt about school ending in a couple days (she has school until Friday even though she graduates on Thursday), she said, "Happy and sad." That's the exact same thing she said about school starting back up last fall. She loves her friends and learning, but she also loves her family and sleeping in!

Midwest Vegan Radio


Anna and I were interviewed for the most recent episode of the podcast, Midwest Vegan Radio. In it, Anna talks about being a five-year-old vegan and I talk about being a vegan father.

You can listen online here.

The episode is also listenable on Vegan Mainstream.

Or you can download as a podcast on iTunes here (that link will open iTunes for you).

You can visit the MVR blog here (you can also donate to the podcast while you're there ... because podcasts aren't actually free, folks).

And 'like' MVR on Facebook here.

So yeah. Give the podcast a listen. I'm super happy with out it turned out. I don't come off like an asshole, I can understand most of what I say, and I make some points that I think are worth making. Feels like a 'win' to me.

Thanks a ton to Dallas and Ryan for asking Anna and me to come on the show. Anna enjoyed it as much as I did, I think.

And if you haven't listened to MVR, I suggest checking out some (actually, all) of the old episodes. It's great.

Earth Day 2012


It's Earth Day today (for a couple more hours, at least). For us, that means it's the third annual "clean up one block of this filthy city" day, where we walk around our block and pick up every bit of trash we can find. Even the cigarette butts, of which there are many.

Liam helped.

Anna helped.

But mostly just Anna helped while Liam hit trees, bushes and lamp posts with a stick he picked up. That's just sort of how that kid rolls.

So yeah. That's all I have for you today. Peace out.

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers


Note: I don't think I've ever reviewed a book on this blog, but I've always meant to. So hopefully this is the first of several. And I feel I should say that I received a review copy of this book, because that's something an independent reviewer is supposed to say, right? OK. That's enough of this italics business. All parents (hopefully) teach their children about fairness. It's a rather simple concept, though it can be made complicated when you add tradition and prejudice into the mix. Fairness doesn't have to be hard, but the unfortunate truth is that it often is.Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers, by Sarah Warren, illustrated by Robert Casilla, is a great entry point into the ideas of justice and fairness and tells the inspiring story of an amazing woman. Anna, who will be six in July, was really interested in this book. She's a lover of non-fiction, especially when it tells a good story.And the story of Dolores Huerta is a heck of a story. The book focuses on how Huerta felt strongly about the rights of workers to receive fair pay and treatment. This meant organizing strikes and boycotts.Warren explores these weighty concepts (justice, strikes, boycotts) with simple language that is somehow far from simplistic. I usually find myself adding explanatory sentences to books like this so Anna can better understand the content. But I didn't have to do that here. It's all laid out in easy-to-understand concepts and language.But then, justice is sort of that way for kids. They get fairness. They get that when something is wrong, it should be made right.One part of the book that I thought really would hit home with kids is where it touches on the fact that these organizers and striking workers weren't able to spend as much time with their families as they would have liked.I asked Anna what she felt about this part, and she said, "Kind of sad."I asked, "Do you think the parents should stop striking so they can spend more time with their kids?"She replied, "No. Because they want the bosses to be good and it's more important to get more food than to be with their kids.""Do you think that was an easy decision to make?""Kinda hard," she replied.This is an issue that I struggle with as an activist (though I am under absolutely no illusions that I sacrifice anywhere near as much with my activism as Huerta and her fellow activists did). While I think there's nothing wrong with bringing my kids with me to activist opportunities whenever possible and appropriate, I'm not always able to do that. I spend less time with my kids because of my activism. I'm always up-front with them about where I'm going and what I'm doing (for example, that I'm tabling at an event, trying to get people to consider choosing to be vegan). My hope is that they'll glean a couple things from this: 1. I'm doing work that I feel is important, and 2. It's perfectly normal for parents to volunteer for a cause they feel is important.If you can't tell, I'm really happy that Warren included this section in her book. I feel that it's there for the adults as much as it is for the kids.The book also touches on the fact that Huerta was told to be quiet and let men do the talking. Of course, she doesn't listen.Hopefully our children are already surrounded by strong women. And even if they are, it's a good idea to occasionally point out that women haven't always been able to freely express themselves; that it's been a struggle and that t[...]

Minnesota Parent Article


Greetings to anyone coming here after reading the story in Minnesota Parent about raising vegan kids and the vegan parenting group, VegKins! Welcome to my sporadically updated blog. Feel free to have a look around. A few of my favorite posts are here:Stats: a post about the health of my children.Cat on the Playground: on Anna's reaction to kids chasing a cat on the playground.Flabbergasted: about Anna's reaction upon hearing that a lot of people care about dogs and cats, but not other animals.My Daughter the Monkey Eater: on pretending to eat animals.We're All Made of Meat: on explaining what "meat" is to Anna.Happy Feet: a review of the movie.This is Not a Post About Milo & Otis: on Anna trying to understand others who aren't vegan.The Life I Did Save: about a squirrel I brought into a rehabilitation center.Anna's First Correction of "It"And just for the hell of it, here's Anna singing a medley of tunes from Annie at a talent show. And here's Liam doing the same ... but not at a talent show. Please feel free to post a comment here or send me an email if you have any questions at all about being vegan or transitioning to being vegan. I'm more than willing to answer any and all questions you have. Even the stupid ones (kidding!). Now that I think of it, I should tell you that if you think you want to go vegan, you should check out Vegan University, which helps people transition to being vegan. We do mentorship (I'm a mentor), vegan shopping tours and workshops. And we're on Facebook, if you want to like us so you can get tips, tricks and reasons to be vegan dumped straight into your news feed. [...]

Kale: It's What's for Dinner


Tomorrow is St. Patrick's day. Eat some kale! It's green! Here are some ideas!

Speaking of the color green and kale, I made this:

If you click this here hypertext, it will take you to Zazzle, where you can put the logo on a t-shirt. If you  purchase a shirt, I will make 10% of the whatever you pay. That money will be donated to the vegan education efforts of the Animal Rights Coalition (click on that link - they have a sweet new website).

The idea for this design came when I read 7 Reasons Kale is the New Beef on the Huffington Post.

I get a kick out of the love for kale that many vegans (present company included) espouse. They treat it the same way that unfeeling hipsters treat bacon. It's a cheeky reverence that is matched only by our worship of nutritional yeast (which even has a cool nickname: nooch).

But the reverence makes sense, too. James McWilliams has written a great post: Let them Eat Kale (and Quinoa): Richard Oppenlander Offers a Brilliant Critique. I suggest going over there and reading the whole thing (it's not long). And read the rest of his posts while you're at it. He has a refreshing and powerful way of conveying the ideas and logistics of animal rights.

McWilliams' post makes the Only Kale Can Save Us Now shirt, from Herbivore Clothing Company, ring all the more true. Check out the design on that shirt. My little thing took ten minutes in photoshop. Theirs was done by someone who actually knows how to create beauty from scratch. If I were you, and I was making a choice between my shirt or their shirt, I'd pick theirs. Go ahead. I won't be offended.