In this edition of Activism Updates, I'm delighted to host my friend and fellow blogger, Lance Frizzell-Reynolds, who writes on Humanist Pagan, sustainability and LGBT issues, among other things. I have always found his work erudite and inspiring, and I'm honored he agreed to write for my blog.
Veganism, It 'Ain't' Nothing New But It Has a Big Impact!
Before I jump into my guest blog post, thank you C.S. for this awesome opportunity. I thought I would introduce myself and of course thank my incredible host for coming up with this cross-blogging idea.
My name is Lance Frizzell-Reynolds, I am 34, gay and married, and live in Massachusetts, USA. I am currently a graduate student at Marylhurst University in the Green MBA program in Sustainable Business, specializing in Government Policy and Administration. Essentially I am working towards becoming a sustainability expert that focuses on ensuring businesses, communities, and governments are making socially and environmentally sustainable choices and minimizing their impacts on people and the environment. Sustainability, as defined by James Hamilton at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is “using resources to meet present needs without compromising future resources1." I am not only focusing on environmental sustainability in my Green MBA program, but also social sustainability which, in a nutshell, is making choices that have the least negative effect and highest positive outcome on the people in our communities, states/province, nations, and around the world. Corporations, governments, families, and individuals all make decisions that have an impact on both social and environmental sustainability, and ignoring one in favor of the other does not improve anything.
With all of this in mind, and the fact that C.S. has an amazing blog on writing, poetry, literature, etc., I thought it would make the most sense for me to approach this from an area of my own expertise, sustainability. Within our personal choices in how we conduct and live our lives, we can have a huge impact on both social and environmental sustainability with each decision we make (i.e. foods we eat, biking vs. driving to work, products we buy, unplugging electronics when not in use, using efficient light bulbs, etc.). One of the ways that I know C.S. and I have in common is a vegan diet, which excludes any product that comes from an animal (i.e. leather, dairy, meat, fish, etc.). I was a lapsed vegan until the other day, going back to eating cheese because I have a weakness, but I am back on board and know that it is better for my health and our environment!
Many people have a tendency to think that veganism is new, but it has been around for thousands of years in different cultures around the world. One example is by the blind poet, philosopher, and writer Abul ʿAla Al-Ma’arri born in Aleppo, Syria around 973, but living in Iraq at the time he wrote the poem I share below. Al-Ma’arri, along with being a rationalist and opposing religious thought, urged people to not harm any living creatures. He stopped eating meats, fowl, and fish, and fought against the killing of animals, and of course the use of animal skins for clothing2.
The poem he wrote, that goes with my themes of sustainability and veganism, “I No Longer Steal From Nature” gives his views on rationalism vs. religion, veganism and the sanctity of ALL life:
You are diseased in understanding and religion.
Come to me, that you may hear something of sound truth.
Do not unjustly eat fish the water has given up,
And do not desire as food the flesh of slaughtered animals,
Or the white milk of mothers who intended its pure draught
for their young, not noble ladies.
And do not grieve the unsuspecting birds by taking eggs;
for injustice is the worst of crimes.
And spare the honey which the bees get industriously
from the flowers of fragrant plants;
For they did not store it that it might belong to others,
Nor did they gather it for bounty and gifts.
I washed my hands of all this; and wish that I
Perceived my way before my hair went gray!
Imagine, this man lived from 973-1057, he was not a “new-ager” or “hippy” from recent times, but a man that was surrounded in a culture and time that did not agree with his way of thinking! He was not alone though, if you look throughout time and various cultures, you can find cultures, religions, and tribes that had the same values and reasoning (various Buddhist and Hindu sects, Jains, etc.). I think this poem is not just poignant, but also incredibly beautiful and quite true!
So, to wrap up, I want to leave you with a list of reasons why becoming a vegan is both socially and environmentally sustainable according to David Quilty over at the Good Human3:
∗ More than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow go to feed animals. If that food were to go to humans instead, it would be enough to feed everyone in the world. Another fact: half the water used in the United States and nearly 80 percent of the land are used to raise animals.
∗ A major report by the University of Chicago in 2006 found that adopting a vegan diet has a greater impact in the fight against global warming than switching to a hybrid car does.
∗ The fast line speeds, dirty killing floors, and lack of training make animal-processing plants some of the most dangerous places to work in America today. Nearly one in three slaughterhouse workers suffers from illness or injury every year, compared to one in 10 workers in other manufacturing jobs. The rate of repetitive stress injury for slaughterhouse employees is 35 times higher than it is for those with other manufacturing jobs.
∗ Land, water and other resources that could be used to feed humans are being used to grow crops for farmed animals instead. Crops that could be used to feed the hungry are instead being used to fatten farm animals raised for food. Eating meat is inherently inefficient, as it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of flesh. And because the industrial world is exporting grain to developing countries and importing the meat that is produced with it, farmers who are trying to feed themselves are being driven off their land.
I hope I at least got you thinking about your impact on the environment and fellow humans, if nothing else.
- 1. Hamilton, J., 2012, http://www.bls.gov/green/sustainability/sustainability.htm
- 2. Nicholson, R.A. 1921. Studies in Islamic Poetry. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge: England
- 3. http://thegoodhuman.com/2007/03/02/going-vegetarian-and-vegan-sustainable