The Expanding Circle

A blog about what I eat. Whoopee!

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Posted by tinako on August 19, 2014

20140417173626-cowspiracy_posterThe movie Cowspiracy has come out.  I was so excited to learn that someone was finally asking these questions – why aren’t environmental organizations talking about livestock’s impact on the environment?  It’s such a glaring omission.  I supported the filmmakers on Indiegogo, so I received my promised DVD a few days ago.  You can look up local screenings at their web site.

The film is very well done, and I think it could have a big impact if it is put before local environmental leaders.  Two local vegan/AR organizations I’m in are going to co-host a showing.  Don’t miss it, and be sure to recommend it to your “environmentalist meat-eater” friends.

Posted in Environment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Surprising Speaker

Posted by tinako on July 8, 2014

The audience’s reaction is what’s interesting to me in this video about food marketing.

I’ve never seen anything like this and really wasn’t expecting her closing.  Sometimes I think surprise is the only way to get through.

Posted in Animals, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by tinako on June 23, 2014

I went out leafletting today.  In case you don’t know, to leaflet you get hold of some educational handouts and then find a place to hand them out to people.  I table a lot (which is setting up a table of materials at an event and letting people come to you) but I’m new to leafletting.

compassionate_choices_leafletIn my case, I’m doing this because a book I read, Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich’s Animal Activist’s Handbook, suggested leafletting about farm animal suffering as one of the more effective ways to reduce suffering in the world.  They’re associated with Vegan Outreach, so I chose one of the leaflets VO offers (“Compassionate Choices,” the one with the more pleasant cover).

When I table, I am usually tabling for the health or environmental reasons to eat less meat.  This is because most mainstream venues such as towns and colleges won’t invite someone to discuss slaughter or animal cruelty.  But I feel as though I would like to offer this information to people.  I am so grateful for the person who handed me a Farm Sanctuary brochure about veal 26 years ago – thank you, wherever you are.  I am glad to know the truth.  So I hit the street.

I was going to leaflet at Rochester’s International Jazz Festival, and grabbed a pack of 50 brochures and hopped on my bike to go to an afternoon venue, but I was late and everyone was already inside.  Undaunted, and determined not to go home with the brochures, I looked around and saw a lot of people on Main Street, about a block away.  So I rode up there and parked.  It was noontime on a lovely day in the business district right where all the bus lines meet, and walking along I was able to hand out all 50 brochures in 36 minutes within four blocks.

More than half the people accepted them (though I didn’t ask every person).  Some people were really happy, pleasantly surprised, a few wanted to talk, one informed me she didn’t need it since she wasn’t cruel to animals, one took a flyer and then offered to sell me some drugs, a few were mentally ill, but no one was mean.  A lovely man who seemed homeless was so grateful to get one.  I wish now I’d sat down and talked with him.

Posted in Animals, AR, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Energy Fair Tabling

Posted by tinako on June 22, 2014

Water Beef Infographic

I find that I don’t like the picture of packaged body parts on my blog.

For the 6th year in a row, I tabled at my town’s energy fair on the topic of livestock’s effect on the environment.  Here’s a post about what I say, and it includes a closeup of the main display I made for the first energy fair; this year I removed the rather confusing information about choice of car vs. choice of diet and instead put up a graphic showing how much water is used for beef.  That got some comments.

I had tried to update the pie chart on causes of Amazon deforestation but couldn’t find anything more recent than what I had, 2006.

Really, though, I barely need my display any more at this event.  Of the dozens of people I talked to, almost every one knew about the livestock/environment connection.  I’m kicking myself for not asking them where they found out, although several volunteered that it was covered in a 6-week course they took on plant based diets, offered by our vegetarian society’s co-presidents, one of whom is a doctor.  When I first put up this display at the first energy fair six years ago, not a single person knew.  Some of the people I recognize as repeat visitors, but most are finding this info somewhere else.  Great!

So my display was used as casual reference instead of an informational talk, but I also have a tableful of handouts provided by the veg society and a few I pick up at Farm Sanctuary, which has one of the only fliers on the environment issue.

I want to mention that I am aware of and considering the point made by some that to encourage people to eat less meat because it is bad for the environment is a betrayal of the animals, a betrayal of my values.  That is, I would not tell people not to eat children because their production causes greenhouse gases (or because it’s not healthy for you to eat them).  I keep this in mind.  However, it is a fact that I will not be allowed to come to this fair and talk about animal rights.  They do not allow our local AR group to table there.  I’m allowed there because they know me and while I don’t pull punches, and will talk about whatever my visitors bring up, my materials and talks keep on topic (my original pitch to the committee tied in the livestock/environment issue).  Our vegetarian society is invited to health fairs at schools and so forth to talk about health – if our argument is instead all about animal suffering, we won’t be invited back.  We reach a lot of people this way, and I see the same visitors year after year, making progress both personally and in their families.

I also hope that once people are cutting back on meat for environmental or health reasons, they will have less excuse to ignore the suffering.  I think a lot of people avert their eyes from suffering because they don’t want to change their behavior, but if the behavior is already changed, they are free to express their compassion.

These thoughts are in transition (you may see from my posts that I am thinking about AR a lot), but that’s where I am right now.

Posted in AR, Environment, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Gandhi Institute Nonviolence Intensive

Posted by tinako on June 21, 2014

gandhiAs a peace activist, I feel so fortunate to live less than six miles from the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence.  A few months ago I attended their seminar on NVC, non-violent communication.  I had read the book, but felt overwhelmed by the task of finding the wisdom to respond in different situations and overhauling my habits of speech, and so it was great that the seminar was half small-group practice session.  The main speaker also discussed race and status.  NVC, in addition to making me a better person in my community and family, can make me a more effective activist for social justice in the areas I focus, primarily, but not exclusively, animal rights.  I’ve thought a lot about the comparison between NVC and Buddhism, but I’ll hold off on commenting for right now.

So I am excited that I am able to attend the Gandhi Institute’s 2014 four-day all-day workshop, their Nonviolence Intensive.  They’ll spend time discussing the lives and teachings of Gandhi and King (whom I have been studying), NVC (I am happy to have more instruction and practice in this useful skill), “tools for inner change based on mindfulness” (I like tools, I like change, and I’m Buddhist!), and “Deep Ecology and the Work that Reconnects” (from a superficial Googling, Deep Ecology encompasses AR, though an AR friend told me he was troubled by it, so we’ll see; and as for work, as my kids are needing me less, I am in the process of deciding what to do with the rest of my life).  So this seminar seems perfect for me.

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Kids, TV, and Junk Values

Posted by tinako on June 19, 2014

I just read an article in Psychology Today, “Kids Under the Influence,” which reminds me why my decision to virtually eliminate TV watching by my kids almost from the start is my third all-time favorite parenting decision.  Number one: waiting till we could afford for me to stay home, which made possible favorite decision number two: breastfeeding, which led to attachment parenting.  None of these three choices mean I judge those who choose differently – I’m just so glad I did them.

I followed the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations to permit no TV until my son was age two.  At that time, I started letting him watch a bit of Winnie the Pooh, but I didn’t like what happened.  I thought we would watch together and talk about the show, but he would zone out completely, eyes glued to the screen, face blank, hearing nothing else.  It was creepy how much it held him, and I stopped.

I didn’t mind at all not having television to give me a break.  I wanted to treasure this time with him, and then my daughter.  I kept remembering the hours and hours a day I would waste after school watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, The Love Boat, even Love, American Style, whatever scheduled garbage paraded in front of my eyes.  I groan now and wish my parents had blasted the TV with a shotgun rather than allow my precious youth to dribble away in the darkness of the family room.  Instead, the kids, now middle-school age, had time with me, time to become best friends, time with other friends, and time to be creative alone.  Time, we had so much beautiful time, because we didn’t watch TV.

Because we watched no TV at all, the kids didn’t even really think about it.  It never occurred to them to ask for it.  One time I even asked them if they wished we watched more and they said no.  I mentioned to my son once that a friend had said, “No TV?  What do you do all day?”  He laughed and went back to building busily with his Lego.  For the last several years, as a treat, we have watched 1/2 hour pre-recorded age-appropriate programming one night a week, and a movie a second night, and that’s been fun, and they don’t seem to want it any more often.

Lately, as my children are becoming independent enough to make their own purchasing decisions, I have become aware of another benefit.  They have had limited exposure to junk values.  The most obvious is junk food ads.  They are aware of candy and pop, and they like it, but it doesn’t seem to have much hold on them.  They’ve heard of McDonald’s, of course, but I don’t think they’ve ever been in one – they don’t see what the big deal is.

There’s a broader picture here, though, in junk values.  I read a few years back that letting your kids watch TV was to invite strangers into your home to teach your kids values.  Often the values are to encourage kids to watch a show more by pressing their buttons (such as violence), so there will be as many eyes as possible watching the commercial, so there will be as many kids as possible nagging their parents for unhealthy food.  Even on non-commercial television, the values might not match up with my vegan non-violence: Sesame Street might visit a “farm,” by which I mean a pretend fantasy version of a farm, as opposed to where food really comes from.  Of course I don’t want Sesame Street to visit a slaughterhouse, but why actively lie?  Or the show might visit a zoo and  show how much fun the animals are having.  Circus, anyone?  There are shows I don’t like because the characters manipulate or exclude others without consequence.  There’s a critical few years where it’s easy for a parent to walk away from a program and not have any idea what’s going on, whereas if they’re reading to these pre-readers, they can have a teachable moment.  Even today, I can pick up a book my son was reading, flip through it, and start a conversation about aspects that bother me.  “Hmm.  Why do you suppose this character killed that one?”  Try doing that with a television program a child has watched in his bedroom.

Early on in this decision, someone mildly criticized it by pointing out that if my kids don’t watch TV, they’ll have nothing to talk about with their peers.  I have found that to a very small degree this may be true, and it’s possible it has made my son’s shyness slightly more difficult, though my daughter isn’t shy.  But I don’t think it’s worth opening my children to programming and values I think are harmful so they’ll have something to say to people who want to talk of nothing else.

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The Abolitionists

Posted by tinako on June 18, 2014

abolitionistsThis PBS series, available on DVD, was terrific.  I have been thinking a lot about how to apply the lessons of the past to the current abolition movement and the task ahead of us.  The five people depicted by actors on this cover dedicated the better part of their lives, decades, to abolition.

I was struck by how long they needed to work, in the face of how many disappointments and failures, virtually alone, at great risk to their lives, and with victory coming suddenly, at the whim of one man who until the moment he freed the slaves couldn’t seem to make up his mind – Abraham Lincoln didn’t come out of this series smelling quite as well as he did in his other movie.

I had always had the sense that abolition was pretty much inevitable, an undeniable truth, but instead I learned that something difficult is only inevitable if an incredibly dedicated group of individuals refuse to give up, and it was really disappointing to see that in the end, violence seemed to be the only solution.  It isn’t clear to me how slavery would have ended in a seceding south without their defeat in the Civil War, in which over half a million people were killed.  I began to wonder how Gandhi and King were able to succeed without violence, and realized that while their foes, white Americans and Englishmen, benefited mightily from their respective discriminations, the bigots were perhaps not as completely dependent as southern slaveowners.  Women’s rights and gay rights were even less of an economic issue to the opponents.  Unfortunately for everyone, I think the animal exploiters have much more in common with plantation owners than with bigoted segregationists, colonizers, anti-suffragists, or homophobes.  And Native Americans, steamrollered under the ultimate economic property, land, are an excellent example of our ultimate failure to do the right thing.

There are so many parallels between these two abolition movements, but one that really struck me is that Americans were certain the economy would be destroyed without slaves.  An economy without animal exploitation seems equally unthinkable to today’s businesspeople and politicians.

If the first abolition movement only succeeded with violence, is it a good model for the second one?  Is there a better way?  Can Gandhi and King’s ideas apply to a struggle that will probably be more difficult even than the one against human slavery?  Many still struggle with racism to some degree – have we as a people changed enough so that we can see the truth of speciesism when it is laid out for us?

Posted in AR, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

March Against Monsanto

Posted by tinako on May 21, 2014

MAM14The worldwide March Against Monsanto is back this Saturday.  There’s probably a march in your city.  Check out their website for a location near you.

Posted in Disease, Environment, GMOs, Social Justice | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Our Struggle

Posted by tinako on April 17, 2014

mlkI have been reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings.  I’m doing this for several reasons: He’s one of my top four heroes, I remember being moved when I read his “Letter From Birmingham Jail” in college, race relations are being highlighted this year in the newspaper and other forums, and I want to understand the history of racism, bigotry, and civil rights better, but my foremost purpose is that I want to know how the lessons of the past can be applied to the present issue of animal rights.  How can this man’s struggle to shame people into recognizing their better self help those of us today who want to bring another truth to light: speciesism is not a more logical or reasonable a position than racism.

I’m not going to explain speciesism here; I refer you to the first chapter of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation for an argument which is difficult to deny.  No, here I’d like to share some of King’s words which seem particularly suitable for scaling up, or are at least food for thought.  For example,

In their relations with Negroes, white people discovered that they had rejected the very center of their own ethical professions.  They could not face the triumph of their lesser instincts and simultaneously have peace within.  And so to gain it, they rationalized. – MLK, “Our Struggle

This resonates with a quote from Kafka, as he looked at a fish in an aquarium: “Now I can look at you in peace.  I don’t eat you any more.”  Can you hear the compassion of King’s words?  His writings are filled with compassion for those whose psyche’s are torn, a wall between their values and their actions so that impossible simultaneity is avoided.  Surely we can see this dissonance in people who say “I love animals” and “Pass the pork.”

King continues, “They argued that his inferior…position was good for him.”  King is referring to rationalizing segregation due to believing black people would not succeed if they set their sights too high, but we could just as well apply it to animals when we rationalize that animals won’t survive in big, bad nature, and so we must protect them by exploiting them on farms – it’s good for them! – this argument is taken directly from Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

White people “quickly were conditioned to believe that [segregation's] social results, which they had created, actually reflected the Negro’s innate and true nature.”  We take animals out of any sort of natural environment, separate them from their parents, deny them their most basic needs, and terrify them, and then they are called stupid when they don’t seem to understand how to get on or off a transport truck quickly.

King continues that black people, immersed in racism, came to believe they were sub-human and accepted “an uneasy peace in which the Negro was forced to accept injustice, insult, injury and exploitation.”  It is one of the few consolations in the situation of animal rights, that animals don’t know they don’t deserve this.  I’ve walked past polluted rivers and new housing developments and, sad as it makes me, I find a small relief that the displaced and injured animals don’t know about injustice, don’t know about our selfishness, don’t know it’s Man, Man, Man.

In the case of animals, they never will.  One enormous difference between the civil rights and animal rights movements is that the oppressed cannot rise up.  They are utterly helpless.  They cannot march in the streets or refuse to enter the slaughterhouse.  One by one the exploiters will have to face that triumph of their lesser instincts.  Who will help them see?  Who will open the doors?  Who will have the courage to testify for those who can’t?

Posted in AR, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

American Vegan Artist

Posted by tinako on March 21, 2014

I’m told an article about my art has appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of American Vegan.

Posted in Art, Social Justice | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »


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