Animal Liberation is Human Liberation

Welcome to Peace to All Beings. Until we liberate animals from human exploitation and violence, we cannot expect to have true freedom and peace for ourselves. We human beings can awaken to our higher consciousness and embrace a new paradigm of living in harmony, rather than in fear and domination. We can become "Homo Ahimsa," my term for a new nonviolent and kind human, but we must make that choice together. There is hope for our species--hope that we will not continue this war against animals and the earth. Together let us co-create a new culture and heal the wounds humanity has caused to the earth, to each other, and to the animals who share this world with us.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gentle Thanksgiving Letter to the Editor

This LTE appeared in my local newspaper, The Lawrence Journal World on November 19, 2011.  It is always such a big help to the animals when a mainstream newspaper agrees to print an animal liberation letter.  There were 33 comments.  Most of them were mean-spirited, but Karen Davis and several others wrote very supportive comments.  Here is the LTE:

I’d like to propose a new tradition for Thanksgiving, one that is more in keeping with our holiday sentiments of kindness, giving and gratitude. The suffering of the turkeys on our tables stands in stark contrast to the joy of our family gatherings.

According to Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns ( in “More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality,” the turkeys who greeted the original colonists were friendly, playful and peaceful. I have met rescued turkeys at animal sanctuaries who love to cuddle and who have distinct personalities.

However, turkeys today in factory and so-called “humane” farms are prevented from expressing their true nature. Without anesthetics, they have their toes and beaks cut off, their snoods pulled off and are crammed motherless into buildings filled with pathogens and sick and dead birds. The end is the same for them all: a painful, undignified, undeserved death at the hands of people who have a choice.

Let’s give turkeys a reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving and have a cruelty-free celebration at which we can be truly grateful for the wonder, beauty and miracle of all living beings. If you need ideas for great nonviolent recipes for the coming holiday, just Google vegan Thanksgiving recipes, and you will have all you need.

Peace to you and to all beings.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Peace on Earth and Good Sandwiches

This is my article for  the Sierra Club Planet Kansas, December, 2011, January, 2012, Eating as Though the Earth Matters column.  Hope you like it. 

Please share it with all those lovable tree huggers you know.  May we all be tree huggers, animal huggers, and loving huggers of all living beings.  Once there are enough of us we can all get together and hug the earth. 

Here is the Sierra Article

Peace on Earth and Good Sandwiches

Somewhere on the planet today there is a little boy eating a tuna sandwich which was placed in his lunch box this morning by his adoring parent. If he likes that sandwich, his mom or dad may make another one for him tomorrow. They don’t know there is a sick, poisoned fish in that sandwich. According to an October 11 Sierra Club Insider email, two tuna sandwiches a week can contaminate this child with methyl mercury. In the U.S. alone coal plants release over 48 tons of airborne mercury every year. Yet it takes only one-seventieth of a teaspoon to pollute a 20 acre lake.

Coal, agriculture, aquaculture, overfishing, desertification, oil spills, rainforest destruction, extinction of species, human and animal slavery, nuclear power, war, and all the other animal, peace, justice, and environmental issues—they all grow out of the same root cause.

That one root cause at its core is human fear. We all have some amount of fear within us, of course. However, there is real trouble when people with a knack for gaining power attempt to ease their fear by gaining obscene amounts of money and convincing themselves that they have the right to exploit all other life forms and the earth.

The Occupy movement that is sweeping the country is being criticized for seeming to be confused about its issues. No wonder. This movement is revealing that corporate, political, and criminal greed has contaminated nearly every aspect of life on this planet. The breadth of the destruction is truly unfathomable. Tackling such a giant requires tracking every footstep and challenging all the forms of destruction no matter how vast.

It requires the joining together and participation of all the justice movements, for each one is equally affected by the domination of the system. It has been said that animal rights are human rights and that there is no peace without justice. We are coming to understand that we cannot end war against people and continue the killing of billions of animals every year. Tolstoy said it succinctly, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.” I would add that as long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be unbridled pollution and criminal devastation of the earth, wildlife, and human health.

Simply ending the practice of confining, killing and eating animals of land and sea would bring vast healing for the earth, the wilderness, and the seas. And it would bring a large part of the pharmaceutical, agribusiness, and oil giants to their knees.

The “Declaration of the Occupation of New York” lists a poisoned food supply, a monopolized farming system, the torture and brutal confinement of animals, endless wars, the blocking of alternative energy initiatives and the covering up of oil spills, to name just a few of the reasons for the occupation.

And yet I see within, under, and around these huge tentacles of domination three major reasons for hope.

More courage: It takes courage to face such widespread injustice. I see this courage among more people than ever before.

More unity: It is becoming ever more clear that these issues are all intricately interconnected. Activists are realizing that their issues overlap, that they need each other, not only because of the overlap, but also because of the attempts by the power elite to silence all the voices of truth, to prevent videotaping of atrocities, and to attempt to prosecute non-violent protesters as “terrorists.”

More love: The driving force behind greed is a deep, usually unconscious, fear. The motivating force for activists and the people who support them is an abiding love for what and whom they are trying to protect and heal. Love, whether in the microcosm of our own lives, or in the big picture, always trumps fear. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated “True pacifism is not unrealistic submission to evil power. It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of Love.” It is the most powerful force in the universe. I see more love than ever before at work in the world.

Arthur Conan Doyle once said, “At the moment our human world is based on the suffering and destruction of millions of non-humans. To perceive this and to do something to change it in personal and public ways is to undergo a change of perception akin to a religious conversion. Nothing can ever be seen in quite the same way again because once you have admitted the terror and pain of other species you will, unless you resist conversion, be always aware of the endless permutations of suffering that support our society.” I think this sentiment can be applied equally to all the justice movements. The endless permutations are everywhere evident now, and as people wake up, one by one, the singular cause is no longer hidden.

The Occupy movement and all the other great work that activists have done is all about hope in the face of madness, and it is about faith in the power of people. That power we share does not come from corporate oppression, from money, or from the exploitation of nearly every form of life on the planet. The power that we have comes from our love and respect for this exquisitely beautiful planet that is our home, for our non-human relatives, for plants that feed and heal us and astonish us with their beauty, for the poor of the world who suffer so much, and for each other.

As the holidays draw near, as always we will enter a magical time when most of the music we hear will be about love, peace on earth, family, friends, and all good things. We will be treated to, not just visions of sugar plums (whatever those are), but also to visions of what the world would be like if we really could create peace on earth. We’ll get holiday cards bearing wishes for “Peace on Earth,” as if, at least in December of every year, we have permission to believe that peace is possible.

And in January we will be prompted to make the mandatory New Year’s resolutions to become better people than we are, or shall we say—to behave in better ways. These two months make up a season of the heart more surely than any other time of year. It is a time to dream the impossible dream, to love more than ever before, to find tears in our eyes at the sight of snow and stars and puppies and the children who are trusting us to make non-toxic sandwiches and make the world safe for them.

During the holidays we can draw from and add to this charmed atmosphere of hope and love and peace. Let us, each in our own way, bring peace and healing to the soil, to seas and rivers, to the air we breathe, to forests and prairies, to fish and coral reefs, to whales and dolphins, to all animals longing for freedom, and to all people. May the wars that are ravaging animals, earth, and people come to an end and the truth be told again and again. May your holidays and your new year be bright with promise and may the vision you carry in your heart for a better world hold steady.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New York City Occupation Declaration includes animals

An official statement of purpose for the ongoing massive protest was recently released. 

It's title is “The Declaration of the Occupation of New York city." It is important for everyone as we see our world being held hostage in so many ways by the power elite. What I love about the declaration is that it is so inclusive—so inclusive, in fact, that animals are on the list of injustices. So often the many protests for human rights sadly exclude animals even though the rights of both are so intricately interconnected.  But this time, we see a wider view being taken. Here is part of the statement. (To learn more, go to

“As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

“As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.”

What follows the introduction is a list of atrocities. Two of the items on that list are:

• “They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

• “They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.”

It is so heartening to see human rights groups such as this acknowledge the suffering of animals as an intrinsic part of the struggle for an end to oppression in general. Animal rights are human rights. There is no separation. We cannot have one without the other. 

Wars, oppression, slavery, and all forms of violence toward people will end when we become nonviolent as a species, and when that bright day of higher consciousness arrives there will also be no more war, oppression, slavery, or any form of violence toward animals or the earth. 

In our prayers and thoughts as this awakening of the people continues, let us carry these heroic activists in our hearts and--
See the change and be the change. 
Peace is possible for all life everywhere. 
Together we can do this.  

May all beings be happy. May all beings be free.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Do Animals Go To Heaven?

Our town newspaper is the Lawrence Journal World.  On their Faith Page, they receive questions and then invite various community members to answer the questions.  I have been so thrilled to be asked to submit answers to several questions over the years, because it allows me to give voice to the animals who are so often misunderstood and mistreated by the human species.  Here is my recent answer to the question--

Do Animals Go to Heaven?
For the Faith Page, Lawrence Journal World
Lawrence, Kansas
May 14, 2011

One night Raymond and Suzanne Peters were awakened by their dog, Mac, barking loudly. Half asleep they hushed the dog, but the barking became so frantic that Raymond finally arose. When he did, he found, to his horror, that their house was on fire. Quickly the couple ran from the house carrying their children.

Once outside and safe, the couple suddenly realized the true extent of Mac’s devotion to them. Without doubt, it was Mac who had saved their lives, but Mac had died three months prior to the fire. Although this event may seem improbable, a quick look at the number of books and websites dedicated to such stories indicates that many people have experienced similar evidence of animals living on after death.

The Hebrew word for living soul in the Bible is “nephesh,” and it is given to both human beings and animals. This is the mysterious, unseen life force that animates all living beings. It is the breath of God infused with Divine Love.

When asked whether animals go to heaven, the beloved author, James Herriot, stated that he believed they do and added, “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”

St. John the Divine stated that he saw many animals in heaven. St. Francis of Assisi noted that “there is no degradation in the dignity of human nature in claiming kinship with creatures so beautiful, so wonderful, who praise God in the forest even as the angels praise Him in heaven.”

This question, though perhaps unanswerable in the literal sense, has profound implications for us. When we open our hearts fully to the realization that animals are sacred and endowed with Divine Love; when we look into their eyes and remember that they are our precious companions and not ours to use and kill; we enter a realm of infinite compassion, love, and inner peace.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Missing Dirt and Dirty Deeds

This is my latest article for the newsletter "Sierra Club Planet Kansas", April-May Issue, 2011.  I write articles for the "Eating as Though the Earth Matters" column for each issue.

Missing Dirt and Dirty Deeds

As environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts we are all keenly aware that the Earth does indeed matter—and not just to each of us but to everyone and all those who will live here after us. We are also painfully aware of what “civilization,” empire building, and runaway greed has done to our precious planet.

Yet caught somewhere in the shadows is another fearsome force that seems to have two faces. It is agriculture. This 10,000 year old invention has, on the one hand, the aura of love and care. It carries with it the pastoral images of farmers planting seeds and watching the miracle of food, flowers, pollen, and green leaves germinating from each tiny seed. It also brings with it our very survival since that is what the majority of people depend on in order to eat and stay alive. On the other hand, it carries with it a picture we don’t really like to face. Both animal agriculture and plowing to grow food are among the primary factors which have brought this planet nearly to the brink of disaster.

In order to take action, of course, we have to bear witness to this and fully understand what has been happening gradually over the centuries that has brought us, the earth, and the animals into this crisis.

In this article, let’s take a look at one aspect of the destructive face of agriculture—soil erosion and desertification. As we know, this is happening all over the world right now. As William Kotke explains in his book The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future, desertification occurs as follows:

1. Too many confined animals overgrazing their limited space, deforestation (often done to provide more grazing land for more animals), and plowing land for grain to feed animals strip the native vegetation. That vegetation was kept intact and nourished for centuries by wild herbivores, but domesticated grazing animals cannot roam freely, choose their favorite grasses, and move on before doing any damage.

2. Once stripped, the land begins to erode, and the topsoil leaves a more or less impermeable layer of soil with less vegetation behind. This layer does not absorb water as well and so begins to wash away as well. In addition the water tends to run downhill instead of being absorbed into the soil to work its magic there and to replenish the water table.

3. This begins a spiral of more and more erosion as less water is absorbed and instead races downhill causing floods followed by droughts. Springs and creeks dry up, and rivers run muddy and full of the many toxic products that come from upstream, including farmed animal urine, feces, pesticides, herbicides, and animal pharmaceuticals.

4. According to Kotke, the floods carry huge amounts of sand and gravel that then bury the fertile floodplains downstream. He states, “This is the history of civilization from China, to India, to the Caucuses of Central Asia, to Europe, and now to the whole world. Civilization equals aridity.” He calls soil erosion “one of the most life-threatening problems on the planet.”

5. As the ability of soil to retain moisture is lost, rainfall decreases.

6. The end result is desertification. We have seen this happen in the span of our own lifetimes, for example, where rainforests have been clearcut in order to provide grazing land for cattle.

7. It’s important to also face the fact that this desertification alters the ecosystems. So not only do wild, native animals suffer from loss of habitat, but ranchers kill them by the millions in order to maintain their domesticated herds.

A permaculture book entitled Forest Farming points out that land dedicated to animal herds can produce only an average of 200 pounds of food per acre, compared to 1 ½ tons of cereal grain or 7 tons of apples.

According to Kotke, domesticated herds are grazing 70 percent of the land in 11 western states.

I love deserts and semi-arid ecosystems, but that is not what is being created here. A healthy natural desert provides homes for many animals and plants, and life flourishes. But deserts that have come into being as the result of human manipulation and destruction support very little life.

Animal agriculture is an immense and overwhelming factor in this devastation to the earth. However, the very, very good news is—we don’t need legislation to change this. We don’t need to change the minds of ranchers. We need simply to stop supporting this destructive industry by ending our consumption of animal products. One of our greatest powers as people is the boycott. And as I have said before in this column—the Mother of All Boycotts is to go vegan. When we adopt a vegan lifestyle, which is essentially a commitment to nonviolence to the earth and all life, we no longer purchase animal products and, thus, end the demand for the destruction that such purchases cause.

As human beings dedicated to bringing our beloved, miraculous earth back to health; restore ecosystems for our wild cousins; show compassion for all animals; and repair the enormous damage caused by our species, we need to show the power elite that we do not depend on them to tell us what to eat or how to treat the earth.

The meat and dairy industry is heavily subsidized by the federal government. Otherwise, those animal products would be much more expensive than they are. Out of all federal agricultural subsidies, vegetables and fruit receive .37% of the take; nuts and legumes, 1.91%; sugar, oil, starch, and alcohol, 10.69%; grains, 13.23%; while meat and dairy receive a whopping 73.80%. (Source: And remember—the vast majority of the grains are fed to farmed animals. Powerful, special interest lobbies, good old boy networks and our own complicity have caused this dysfunction. We have the power to choose not to support them.

"I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence." Frederick Douglass, abolitionist (1818-1895)

As if it weren’t fun enough to say “we don’t need you” to the power elite, here are some vegan recipes to make life even more fun. (Use as many organic and fair trade ingredients as possible.)

Vegan Mac and Cheese from
1 1/2 pounds pasta, preferably macaroni
"Cheese" Sauce:
1 1/2 cups unsweetened nondairy milk
1 1/2 cups nutritional yeast
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce or Braggs Aminos
1/4 (12 ounce) block firm (not silken) tofu
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon vegesal or salt
1 dollop mustard, optional

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Boil water in a big pot and cook pasta according to package directions.
- Add all of the "cheese" sauce ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Once pasta is cooked, drain and put it in the baking pan (about the size of a brownie pan). Pour the "cheese" sauce over the pasta.
- Bake until the top of the pasta looks slightly browned and crispy, about 15 minutes.

Julie’s Amazing Cole Slaw
In a food processor, finely shred
One head of purple cabbage
Or ½ head purple and ½ head green cabbage
In a separate bowl mix
2/3 of a large jar of Vegenaise
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Adjust seasonings to taste
Toss in cabbage and mix together.

Submitted by Judy Carman, M.A., Author of Peace to All Beings, co-author of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animals.and owner of a truck powered by used veggie oil.,

Thursday, February 3, 2011


The Season of Nonviolence for All Beings

January 30 to April 4

The Season for Nonviolence begins on January 30 and ends on April 4. Created by Sunanda and Arun Gandhi, (Arun is the grandson of M.K Gandhi.), this annual observance commemorates the assasinations of M.K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Recently Cesar Chavez has been included in the commemorations. The Season of Nonviolence is recognized by hundreds of communities and groups.

• It is a call to all human beings to find ways to resolve conflict nonviolently.
• It is a time to remember these great visionaries and the values they taught.
• It is a season to learn about peacemaking and carry what we learn into the future.
• It is a sign that we human beings have the capacity to create a peaceful world.

But there is something missing. While there will be many blogs and websites and speeches about this inspiring time—in nearly all cases, there will be no mention of animals. Yet the animals of this world endure hideous violence at the hands of human beings. There will be uplifting talk among peacemakers of learning nonviolent communication, of changing our mindset from competition to cooperation, and that is all absolutely necessary and essential.

But we cannot aspire to such lofty goals only for ourselves as if we alone deserve peace, as if we can end war and rape and human slavery and still eat a steak at the end of our peaceful day. We cannot eat the misery and suffering of other beings and expect to have peace for our species alone.

John Denver, who sang many songs for the rights of animals, expressed it well in his “So You Say that the Battle is Over.” "Go tell that to those," he cries out, “with the wind in their nose, who run from the sound of a gun.” The same sentiment applies to those with the smell of death in their noses in slaughterhouses, factory farms, fur farms, laboratories, fish farms, fishing nets, and all the other instruments of suffering and death that the human beings have created.

Let us make this a Season for Nonviolence for All Beings. I cannot doubt that Gandhi, King, and Chavez would applaud such a noble goal.

May peace prevail on earth for all beings.
May all beings be at peace.
May all beings be free.

For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed,
 he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love. --Pythagoras

The human cycle of violence will not stop until we stop the underlying violence,
the remorseless violence we commit against animals for food.--Will Tuttle

As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields. --Tolstoy

As we talked of freedom and justice one day for all, we sat down to steaks. I am eating misery,
I thought, as I took the first bite. And spit it out. --Alice Walker

To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be
unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. --Mohandas Gandhi

Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we
have learned to live well ourselves—Cesar Chavez

Monday, January 17, 2011

Harpooning Mother Earth and The Paradigm Shift

With much gratitude for the opportunity to write for the Eating as the Earth Matters column for Planet Kansas, here is the article I wrote for the February-March Issue, 2011.

Harpooning Mother Earth and The Paradigm Shift

On December 16 of 2010, a little over a month ago, what we all worked so hard to prevent, happened (not that we’re giving up now). On that day the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) granted a permit to Sunflower Electric to build a coal plant near Holcomb, Kansas. In the Sierra Club’s press release we read “This politicized fiasco was plagued with leaked emails exposing permit process manipulation, backroom deals, unwarranted involvement from the state legislature, and the abrupt and suspicious removal of former Secretary Bremby from KDHE. ‘The rushed job on this permit is an injustice to the thousands of citizens who participated in the process with the belief that their input was meaningful,’ said Stephanie Cole of the Kansas Sierra Club. ‘By turning the permitting process into a race against the clock, the state has signaled that it does not value public involvement.’”

We all spent countless hours preparing statements, emailing, calling, and appearing at hearings to state the simple and obvious truth. Human beings do not have the right to pollute the air, water, land, people and animals with the toxins produced from the mining, transporting, and burning of coal. Not only do we not have the right, but in truth we have the obligation to protect the earth and those who live here

A friend recently shared a story with me that captures in a few words the essence of what we are seeing and what affects us on such a deep emotional and spiritual level. “Reputedly, when an early oil well was drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in the 1860’s, a former whaling captain was overheard to comment, “By God, they’ve harpooned Mother Earth.” (Leviathan, October 2010). Since then the harpoons have gotten much bigger, more destructive, and they seem to be held aloft everywhere ready for the next strike.

But wait—this is an article about food. What does food have to do with Sunflower Electric and whaling captains? Very simply, every moral and ethical issue that activists are addressing today arise from a single cause—human fear. It is a fear that has led us as a species to live within a paradigm of domination. That paradigm programs us to believe that those who dominate survive and gain power, money, and security. In addition, domination can only be maintained by never ending cycles of violence—against the poor, against women and children, indigenous peoples, wildlife, forests, prairies, rivers, seas, and (back to food) against animals.

As activists we are working to change the paradigm of domination to one of cooperation with nature and with each other and, of course, change the paradigm within ourselves. We have all had our share of cultural programming and must continually question our own thoughts and actions. As we lead the way into this noble way of living with Mother Earth instead of against her, we need to demonstrate consistency in our own lives.

Nobel Prize winner, Isaac Bashevis Singer once said “As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.” George Bernard Shaw expressed it this way, “While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?” In other words, eating as though the earth matters involves questioning what we have been taught about eating and food, and it involves not participating in the violence and domination of animals that so clearly defines our society today.

As activists, it helps us when we can see the connections that bind all this suffering together, because then we can more effectively work to bring an end to it. We can see the big picture—that all this human generated sorrow and pain to earth, animals, and people will ultimately end only when the paradigm shift happens--when enough people wake up and begin to live as caretakers instead of takers. We are the privileged ones, because we have glimpsed the beauty of how that could be, and we already have many tools to help steer our precious planet to safe harbor. We need to be vigilant and speak “truth to power” at all levels of government and industry, but we are also in an ideal position to demonstrate in our daily lives how to live nonviolently ourselves. When we take our own steps toward the shift, we show that it is possible for everyone.

In previous Planet Kansas “Eating as Though the Earth Matters,” columns, many statistics and facts have been reviewed to show how destructive animal agriculture is to our water, forests, wildlife, wild lands, and people, not to mention the animals themselves. By participating in what I call the Mother of all Boycotts, and refusing to eat the bodies and milk and eggs of animals, we exponentially increase the effectiveness of our other actions. We become consistent in our dedication to becoming nonviolent caretakers and healers of our beloved planet and all those beings who depend on us to live in harmony with them. The ravaging of the earth and of billions of “food” animals are tragedies caused by human beings who live in fear and so have lost their intimate connection to nature and the wild places we all love.

If the boycott of animal food and a shift in the kitchen sounds difficult to you, there is good news. Many restaurants now offer vegan options or will respectfully fix a special vegan meal for you. Most grocery stores now have health food sections well stocked with vegan food and organic fruits and veggies. Vegan cookbooks are easy to find, and there are thousands of vegan recipes online, such as Best of all, it tastes great, and the inner knowing that you are eating without causing suffering and violence to another beings brings joy to every cell of our bodies.  

Holiday Feasts that Heal the Earth

I am thrilled and grateful to have the opportunity to write a column for each issue of Planet Kansas, our local Sierra Club newsletter.  This article appeared in the December, January, 2011 issue.

Holiday Feasts that Heal the Earth

The holidays are upon us. Decorations have been up for a while now—reminding us of the countdown and the coming excitement. It is an interesting time for environmentalists and others who are working to heal the world. It’s such a mixed bag. On the one hand, we are entering a time that is loaded with tradition, family expectations, and a huge emphasis on consumerism. As would-be earth rescuers, we have to look at cherished traditions that may hold good memories for us—and question them. How do these traditions affect the earth? What sort of pollution is produced by the extra travel; the lavish decorations; the buying of gifts made in China and transported here; the landfills bursting with non-recycled wrapping paper, bows, and broken toys; and all that food?

On the other hand, we want to enjoy the holidays along with everyone else—most of whom would rather we not remind them of the environmental consequences of our holiday behavior. But environmentalists are visionaries, looking forward to how we can create small green footprint holidays in harmony with nature. It is never more obvious that we are standing with one foot in the old paradigm and one foot in the new than at holiday time. We walk the razor’s edge as we quietly swipe the wrapping paper out of the giant red plastic trash bag and hide it in our car (or bike) to recycle it later.

Of course we don’t want to “spoil the party” by loudly announcing the eco-sins committed by our 95 year old uncle Cedric. Instead, with our actions more than our words, we can be a peaceful, joyful example of how to start a new tradition of a green, organic, fair-trade, nonviolent , peace-promoting, earth healing holiday season.

Of all the things we can do to promote this new tradition of true peace for people, animals, and the earth , the most far reaching action we can take will be what we choose to put on the table. All over the world the various year-end holidays echo the universal human longing for peace. Yet the meals of age-old traditions tend to be loaded with the meat, dairy and eggs of animals who have certainly not lived or died in peace. Over the centuries such meals were symbols of wealth and power. For many of the world’s poor, a meat laden meal symbolized a reprieve from poverty. That has certainly changed in the U.S. where animal products now make up the bulk of American diets and waistlines regardless of one’s wealth or lack thereof. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that only 10.6% of Kansans daily consume the recommended two or more fruits and three or more vegetables each day. The highest percentage was only 20% in D.C. (AARP Bulletin, November, 2010). Good for McDonalds. Bad for us and the future of life on earth.

It is during these holidays that “Peace on Earth” somehow becomes a shared dream, a hope, something that, at least for now, we can believe in and celebrate the possibility. Yet when we take even the briefest of looks at animal agriculture in the world, we could not help but call it “hell on earth”—not just for the farmed animals, but for the land, for wildlife, and for our health and the health of our children. It is up to us to stop this agricultural engine of destruction, and we can. Of all the environmental challenges we have, this is the simplest to solve. It’s a matter of choosing non-animal food at every meal. Here is that brief look at the rampant devastation caused by the animal food industries.

Air Pollution: By now you have heard about the 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s conclusion that animal agriculture contributes more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the entire world combined. Also animal waste produces 80% of the ammonia emissions in the U.S., according to the EPA.

Water Pollution: The Audubon Society reports that over half of U.S. water is used to raise animals for food. The EPA states that animal agriculture excrement pollutes more water sources than all other industries combined. While human beings have sewage systems, animal farms are not required to have them. Instead, the manure and all its accompanying bacteria, drugs, and other contaminants fester in open air lagoons, percolate down into the ground and overflow during heavy rains. Of course, water pollution from slaughterhouses, tanneries, and fertilizer and pesticide industries add to the poisonous mess.

Poor Land Use: The USDA reports that 80% of agricultural land is used either to house animals or to grow their feed, and the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 30% of the earth’s entire surface is used for livestock. Approximately 70% of grain grown in the U.S. is fed to animals—enough grain to end starvation worldwide.

Deforestation : The FAO considers animal agriculture a major cause of deforestation as huge companies take over tropical and other forests from nature and indigenous people, clearcut the trees, and either grow grain for animals or run cattle on the eroding, damaged land that remains.

Decimation of Wildlife: The UN reports that such deforestation has caused the extinction of many plant and animal species in rainforest areas. Wildlife Services of the USDA, which is charged with protecting livestock from predators in the U.S. used taxpayer money to kill 1,642,823 animals in 2006 alone. They use steel jaw leghold traps, shooting from helicopters, and poisoning, among other cruel methods.

Fishing Hurts: It hurts the fish who are sensitive and intelligent beings, but also, because of drift net and other massive, industrial fishing techniques, the coral reefs and the oceans themselves are being devastated.

Clearly, the most powerful action we can take during this holiday season and into the new year is the mother of all boycotts. The adoption of a vegan lifestyle, which is synonymous with nonviolence, and includes an animal-free diet, is the most effective tool any environmentalist can utilize.

As we continue our mission to reverse the destruction of our precious jewel of a planet, and create a new paradigm of tenderly caring for our earth home, let us make this holiday season one of hope. We can teach and foster new human traditions that reflect real joy and peace, reverence for all life, and a deep awareness of our sacred connection to the earth and all who live here.

I wish you the most beautiful of holidays. May all wrapping paper be recycled and may all beings find peace. May we work together in this new year to “be the change.”