G is for Green — and it’s Coming to a School Near You
In a genuine coup for the movement, Connecticut’s beautiful new restaurant G-Zen teamed up this year with Rob Weber, who directs the Branford school system’s dining services, to offer the state’s first all-vegan lunch experience. This time the “option” was vegan or vegan! For the normal $3 lunch price, students and faculty could walk into the school cafeteria and choose vegan lasagne or a stir-fry with herb-roasted organic root vegetables, accompanied by a fresh salad of mixed greens.
The meal followed a vegan cooking demonstration presented by Chef Mark Shadle of G-Zen, with the help of students Christopher Garrity and Lauren Jackson , and was complemented by a presentation on organic produce and sustainability. All of this was heralded to the community and online, thanks to Nicole Ball, writer for the North Branford Patch.
G-Zen (which, we might add, recently received a rave review from The New York Times as well as from our own Priscilla Feral in the spring issue of this magazine), also has a GMonkey Mobile to bring vegan, organic food from “farm to street.”
Advocates monitoring animal agribusiness to ensure no “cruelty” goes on? That sounds awfully close to condoning it, yet activists who steer clear of policing the animal farms are often accused of “sitting on the sidelines” as terrible things happen on farms. In reality, activists are sidelined when they’re busy monitoring animal farming instead of cultivating a new paradigm. Yet many activists continue to insist on playing the monitor role. So today, there’s much anger about animal enterprises lobbying for “ag gag” laws—barring the public from attempting to record activities on animal farms and collecting any material for exposés (which seem to lead to yet more monitoring, in an endless symbiotic relationship between the farm-watchers and the farms they watch).
Former beef and dairy farmer Harold Brown has noted an irony in that advocacy groups are gagging their own activists throughout the United States this year. An agreement by the Humane Society of the United States to ensure activists will not produce exposés of farms affiliated with the United Egg Producers trade group is part of the HSUS-UEP pact to push together for federal legislation (H.R. 3798) that will mandate new standards for industrial hen cages. While claiming to the public that this bill is a win-win concept that would “enrich” hens’ cages, the federal bill would override and disallow state laws that ban or restrict battery cages, prevent voters from passing ballot measures that impact the industry’s husbandry methods, and de ny state legislatures the ability to enact laws to outlaw battery cages or otherwise regulate egg factory conditions. To secure the United Egg Producers’ agreement, the Humane Society has agreed not to conduct exposés at farms belonging to the trade association. Reasonable minds could deem that a gag.
- Should animal advocates tell someone who insists on consuming animals how to find products that don’t come from factory farms?
- “It's not our task to tell people how they must arrive at consuming an animal whose life has been so betrayed, it appears as a protein for a meal. Last night TV's Chopped segment had chef judges chiding other chefs for leaving the toenails in the chicken feet served as part of a three-part meal. Was it only grotesque that someone could eat the toenails? The way they carried on you'd imagine cutting someone's throat was no big deal. It's a huge deal, and no animal charity should suggest how we should best go about the misery of killing animals despite all of the benefits and education available to us. A vegan movement needs diverse voices that define why and how we achieve plant-based diets, and it's not about spilling the blood of animals.” - Priscilla Feral (Facebook comment, Apr. 15, 2012)
The Great Big Foie Gras Delay
Readers with good memories will recall that in 2004, California enacted a law that gave its in-state foie gras industry until this July to find an alternative to force-feeding ducks. Since then, the industry has force-fed and killed tens of thousands of birds for their grossly outsized livers; and in the compromise, advocates agreed to bar themselves from bringing anti-cruelty charges against any farmer throughout those many years. Thus, since 2004, Sonoma Foie Gras, California’s only producer, has enjoyed complete immunity from criminal charges or civil lawsuits related to forced-feeding.
Now comes the inevitable lobbying to change or repeal the ban before in ever takes effect. In an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times in April, John Burton, who chairs the California Democratic Party and penned the language for the foie gras bill as president pro tem of the state Senate in 2004—observed:
A group representing the country's handful of foie gras farmers, including Gonzalez [ Guillermo Gonzalez of Sonoma Foie Gras ], has launched a petition drive to repeal SB 1520 in advance of the ban's taking effect. And I just learned that a pro-foie gras group has retained not one but two powerful lobbying firms in Sacramento to seek repeal of the law.
Burton sounds surprised. But we all know that businesses lobby politicians to hold onto their source of profits. And Sonoma Foie Gras has been doing that all along.
When Burton first introduced the bill, it would have stopped the torture of ducks by the business in the only sensible way: by stopping the business. It would have banned the sale of foie gras in the state, too. But—as we noted then—the bill’s sponsors promptly betrayed their original intent and agreed to eliminate even the possibility of stopping foie gras production until this year. Sonoma Foie Gras got a free pass to keep force-feeding their hapless birds for the better part of a decade. The politicking continues, for legislation can always be repealed, and businesses know it.
If foie gras production is interrupted this year, it’s about time. But lasting change comes when we ourselves decide not to consider the organ of ducks our delicacies. When we prepare and serve fresh, plant-based offerings as the truly festive offerings, the animals win. The cookbooks offered by Friends of Animals’ Nectar Bat Press (see back cover) include gourmet appetizers. We think they’ll go down much more easily than laws trying to ban this or that item. Real progress means changing a culture’s mind about what constitutes our food.
Consider a parallel issue: the segment of animal testing related to cosmetics production. The European Union is poised for a ban in 2013 . How has this story unfolded? In 1990, animal-protection groups got under the umbrella of the European Campaign to End Animal Experiments. Like the production of foie gras, the testing of make-up and hair dye on animals screams frivolity. It ought to be easy for the European groups to bring to an end.
After a long struggle by the advocacy coalition and its member groups, the European Union did vow to bar cosmetics tested on animals. But under pressure from the cosmetics industry, the European Commission is now back-peddling.
The ban would be good for the animals, if it comes, as it should. But can any government be trusted to put morals before money without a groundswell of social change? This is why the key ban is the one individuals and communities impose upon ourselves by selecting vegan cosmetics and other products out of a desire to respect all conscious living beings, just as we respect ourselves.
For guidance in finding those products, readers might wish to check Friends of Animals’ Vegan Starter Guide, and learn more about ethics-based companies. Ecco Bella (eccobella.com) and Sevani Skin Care ( sevani skin.com) are pioneers in accommodating vegan clients.
- Foie Gras Isn't Forever” (10 Apr. 2012)