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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Speak out Reach out for Meatout

The “Great American Meatout” (as it was called when I first got involved in the late ‘80s, when it always fell on March 20th) is one of my favorite events. Organized by FARM, a group in our movement, Meatout is an incredibly positive event that can be done in a big or small way.

This year, Food Empowerment Project is a proud co-sponsor of the event!

When I was introduced to the concept of Meatout, it was equated with the “Great American Smokeout.” I hope I am not showing my age by mentioning that… I remember being in elementary school wearing a sticker of a frog with big red lips and “The Great American Smokeout.” The point was to encourage kids to not smoke and we wore our stickers with pride.

Seems like it should not be our job to teach children to eat healthier (and obviously more compassionately), but it seems to be now. You don’t see the schools doing it – but wouldn’t it be great to hear them talk about Meatout over the loudspeakers and have a week of animal-free meals in the cafeterias? I would like to think this will eventually happen, sooner rather than later.

It seems to me that kids would understand this issue more easily than smoking. Most children have a strong love for animals; wouldn’t this be the perfect time to take advantage of children’s innate sense of compassion while at the same time helping them understand the importance of eating healthy?

Okay, back from my dream and back to why I love Meatout.

I have been participating in Meatout for more than 20 years. I remember organizing an “Adopt A Carnivore” week for Meatout with my university group. We set up a table for a week and had people pledge to give up eating “meat” for the week and people who were vegetarian pledged to go vegan. Everyone got a bag filled with cookies, a tiny statue of a farmed animal, literature, etc ., and then at the end of the week we all went to eat at a vegetarian restaurant (no vegan restaurants in Austin back then). Years later I heard from people who had actually stopped eating animals due to their one-week pledge.

Over the years, I have served veggie burgers at various State Capitols, restaurants and universities. Not long ago, I started a new job and moved to a new area so I knew I couldn’t do a big event. Instead, I bought everyone at my office a veggie burger. None of them were vegetarian, so it was a good test. One of my colleagues now only eats veggie burgers and has been taste testing some vegan cheeses!

So big or small, it doesn’t matter what you do. We should treat every day like Meatout and always use it as an opportunity to speak out for the animals around the world. But hey, this day is the time for special emphasis, when more people will notice it!

I just got back from handing out 200 vegan burgers at the great San Jose State University with my local group, Santa Clara County Activists for Animals. Students were eager to give the meatless burgers a try and learn more. Such a positive feel good event – for everyone involved. Our St. Patrick’s Day slogan: Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Be Green – Go Vegan!

So please, Speak out and Reach out this Meatout!

For more details:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Don’t Cry Me a River—Coke Might Buy It

In 2006, I had the honor of speaking at the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela. I spoke on corporate animal factories and the devastation they were having on animals, workers and the environment and how many of these factories were coming from the U.S. In attendance were activists from Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, the U.S., Venezuela and a number of other countries. Afterwards, we all ate at a vegetarian restaurant nearby.

As some of you know, this experience is what inspired me to create the Food Empowerment Project. So many the issues close to my heart were discussed—environment, labor, water, immigration—and I was there to help bring up the animals. Another incredible part of the conference was that we were able to take tours to see some of the progress that was being made in Caracas.

One of the speakers I was privileged to hear when I was there was Oscar Olivera, the coordinator of the Defensa del Agua y de la Vida (“The Coalition in Defense of Water and Life”). I had already seen him in the movie The Corporation and was familiar with the famous story of how he and others in his community of Cochabamba, Bolivia, eventually stopped the billion-dollar U.S. corporation Bechtel from privatizing their water.

This was the first I had heard of a corporation literally buying the rights to water. You can read more about this issue on a new section of our website: Water Usage & Privatization.

Even after I started to pay attention to the issue, I truly thought that this injustice was only taking place overseas, that somehow corporations were exploiting developing countries – and charging them for water. I knew Coke was privatizing water in India (and mostly recently I learned they are also doing this in Chiapas, Mexico). Luckily, in both Bolivia and India, activists have been successful in stopping it.

But did you know it was happening in the U.S. as well? Yes, even our water supply is being bought up. How short-sighted is this?

This is when I wish Alan Shore were real
! (Okay, I just started watching Boston Legal and wish he could take on some of these corporations that I vent about.)

A corporation owning water? I don’t mean they have water on their property and they own it; I mean they want to own rivers, and they want the water in our aquifers. We already lose so much of our water to animal agriculture, but now we are losing it to the likes of corporations like Nestlé and Coca Cola? How dare they. And how dare any government allow this to happen.

How did it come to this? How can we get out of it?

We have all been hearing for the past decade that water is going to be the precious fluid that wars are fought over in the future – not oil. And I guess these companies are getting a head start?

One might think that nothing can be done living in a community not currently affected by water privatization. But everyone should be on the lookout for these corporations seeking to privatize our water, and remember that we can all boycott companies such as Nestlé and Coca-Cola for their participation in depriving people of water. Water is a natural resource that we all need to live, and yet they've turned it into a commodity from which they make a huge profit.

Furthermore, we can avoid buying bottled water. Yes, I know, this is not the solution, but it is a small step that each of us can take to not support this form of exploitation. You can buy stainless steel reusable bottles—like those from our friends at Food Fight! or Herbivore (please do not buy Nalgene as they make equipment used in animal experiments).

Thanks to Mat Thomas for his research and work on the following sections: Water Usage & Privatization and Pollution.

And if you haven’t yet had a chance to check our other new section on our website about Farmers’ Markets, please do! Thanks goes out to Katie Cantrell for volunteering her time to write this section!