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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Near and afar….

Near and afar….

When looking at the big picture, one of the main goals of the Food Empowerment Project is for people to grow their own food. And I do mean grow, not raiseit is unfortunate how many people are adding chickens to their community and/or backyard gardens.

That is why our website features a new page devoted to growing your own food, which you can view here.

These are just some thoughts and suggestions– we know you can find loads more on the web.

A huge thanks to Itohan Udogie for all of the incredible writing and research put into this piece!

Giving the world our mistakes…

I think all of us know that there is a huge movement right now where people are trying to eat local – localvores, Michael Pollan followers, whatever they are. They understand the importance of farmer’s markets, CSAs and of course growing their own food. They see that food grown closer to home is better for the planet (less of a carbon footprint) and the food tastes better.

Just as many of us in the U.S. are starting to recognize this, the corporations in this country are exporting our exploitation. Yes, we are giving the rest of our world our sickness, our greed, our absolute disregard for life. Read more about this on our new page here.

What are we giving the rest of the world? Factory farming! The same "farms" that have polluted our water, tortured animals who are being raised for food and exploited workers.

I can’t say I am shocked, because I know that U.S. corporations are not exactly known for protecting those in other countries from our mistakes – look at how when chemicals are banned in the U.S., corporations still sell them in poor countries.

The reality of this angers me – and it angers me all the more to know that it is greed that perpetuates the exporting of exploitation.

A big thanks to Mat Thomas for his work in writing and researching this important addition to our website.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Getting back to basics

Thanksgiving…always a tough time for many of us, not only as vegan activists who have to endure an entire day that focuses on the death of an innocent bird, but also for those fighting for indigenous rights. This is also a holiday when many spend time with their families and are reminded of the fact that maybe, ‘they don’t get it.’

A couple of weeks ago I spoke in El Paso at the Vegetarian Society of El Paso’s (VSoEP) Thanksgiving event. It had been a while since I had been in Texas (my home state) and it was incredible and refreshing to be around such wonderful activists.

While I lived in Texas I remember running various animal rights groups and, really, just doing what we did for the animalsnot being so impacted by conflicts in the animal rights movement but just hunkering down and doing what needed to be done. I sometimes wonder if that is because we were so far removed from it all, or perhaps it was simply because it was during the time before the Internet. Whatever it was, when I was there, it made me miss the days when I felt that we, as a movement, were truly united…maybe because we were even fewer back then. Or was it perhaps that the issues we worked on then were even less known at that time?

I think that sometimes living in California (the Bay Area, no less!) makes it hard to remember what it is like to live in places such as Texas, New Mexico and Georgia (places I have lived) and that vegetarianism, much less veganism, can be difficult. And I don’t mean just what we eat, I mean the mindset.

But I know these are the places where I learned a lot – where the concept of animal liberation is truly a foreign concept. It reminds me how life is for me now working outside of the paid animal rights movement.

You learn so much more living outside of the ‘vegan bubble.’ You learn what non-vegan people think and how they perceive us as well as the food we choose to eat. This type of interaction gives us the ability to learn what impacts people – not activists. We learn the various types of reactions we get on the issues we feel passionately about.

Now, I would love to do Food Empowerment Project as a full-time paid job, just as I know many activists want to work in the animal rights movement, so I say all of this to remind everyone how we can learn from the outside world. As good as it might feel to be around like-minded individuals all of the time, we learn how to be better advocates for animals when we remove ourselves from our comfort zone. I’m not saying it is easy, but just reminding everyone, including myself -- and even older activists like me -- that we can always learn more.

A quick thanks to the crew in El Paso! If you have been around for a while you know Sukie the rock star activist and founder of the VSoEP. I have worked with her for decades—from the anti-Procter & Gamble campaign to Fur-Free Friday, as well as many of my campaigns for Viva!USA on behalf of farmed animals. It was great to spend time with her, her husband, the critters and Greg, who is the president of VSoEP. I was also very excited to meet Charlotte and Lisa, a wonderful mother-and-daughter team. I apologize for not mentioning all of the dedicated activists I met. Thank you for all of the Texas friendly you offered.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Whining about wine….

Ever get frustrated when you go to a vegan restaurant and find out they don’t serve alcohol? Well, I do. Okay, I am not a lush, but I am also an ethical vegan, which means health is typically not on the top of my list when I make choices about what I do and do not consume. (And no emails about me needing to eat healthier – I am working on it!)

But one reason (and a good one) that some stay away from wine is that it is not always vegan (website link). Obviously, Food Empowerment Project only promotes veganism, but we also do our best to make sure that those who pick the grapes are also treated well.

That is why we have just put up our list of vegan wines that have additionally been screened for other ethical issues.

Let me explain a bit about what we did (and will continue to do). We got our hands on a list of wines from, a wine importer that focuses not only on profit, but on people and the planet. We then had a wonderful volunteer who contacted each of these wineries to find out which of their wines were veganthat is what's on our website. We also added the Black Eagle wine (the wine that benefits the United Farm Workers) and verified that their wine is also vegan.

Now, the list on our website is just the beginning. Our goal is to find more ethically produced wine that we can supportonce we find out which ones are vegan.

We really want to help those who care about all of these issues so that they can shop with their values.

If you know of any other lists of ethical wines, please contact us so that we can find out if they are vegan.

A big thanks to our volunteer Linda LaMar for all of her hard work on this!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Intolerant for lactose

We just posted a new section to our website on lactose intolerance.

One of the reasons we chose to highlight this issue on our website is because lactose intolerance affects communities of color at a higher rate than others and these are the same communities that are impacted the most by a lack of access to healthy foods – which include alternatives to animal products.

When you consider that 95 percent of Asians, 60 to 80 percent of African Americans, 80 to 100 percent of American Indians and 50 to 80 percent of Latinos are lactose intolerant, this is a huge issue.

In our report Shining a Light on the Valley of Heart’s Delight we found that only 3 percent of locations in lower-income areas (which are predominantly communities of color) had dairy alternatives in comparison to 23 percent in the higher income areas.

And when surveyed on how many stores had any information about lactose intolerance and/or information about alternatives to dairy, NONE of the stores in the lower-income communities had this in comparison to 6.1 percent of the stores in the higher-income communities.

I am not going to throw out any conspiracy theories here (even though I might be tempted), but the real issue is that this is truly wrong, and this situation is responsible for making people sick.

What makes me sad is thinking about how many children and adults probably have no idea they are lactose intolerant and possibly deal with discomfort on a daily basis.

I have no idea if I am lactose intolerant because I am vegan so it is not something I have to worry about, but I have no doubt that this is a real issue for many people given the advertisements for those who are intolerant (oh, the irony of taking a pill so you can consume dairy products versus eating dairy alternatives!).

Not only is this a matter of health, it is a matter of choice. Choice should not be defined by income level, just like healthy food should be a right and not a privilege.

As an organization that seeks to eliminate some of the suffering in this world by encouraging the most just food choices, the Food Empowerment Project advocates people giving up milk (and all animal products) due to the cruelty inherent in the dairy industry.

But the negative environmental impacts that dairy products have is enough to make one give up milk. Considering that one dairy cow produces 25 pounds of wet manure per day, it is no wonder that the dairy industry is wreaking havoc on our waterways.

Avoiding dairy foods is not only an important step for one’s health, but it’s good for the animals as well as the planet.

Not having the option to choose dairy alternatives denies consumers both the opportunity to eat healthier and the opportunity to make choices that are better for the animals and the planet.

A huge thanks to our wonderful volunteer Lex Berko (who is now in London for grad school) for writing this segment and to Valerie Belt for her editing.