"This Is Hope" is a crossover book for self-identified environmentalists, species rights advocates, vegans and vegetarians, those dedicated to true sustainability, fish and wildlife "management" professionals, students of deep ecology, and those who want to know the biocentric solutions for our dietary, consumer, and reproductive choices.
Will’s Blog

The 2016 Election: Endless Green Vegan Opportunities?

It’s difficult to imagine what the next several years will be like after this—the 2016 U.S. election. Conservative Republicans will control all branches of the U.S. government. In this context, every progressive cause will be impacted. Will it be for better, or worse as many assume?

The vision of a just world in its most inclusive meaning is in extreme danger. People are turning to nonprofit organizations for hope, social support, information, and tools to fight the agenda of the incoming government and what it intends to impose upon us. People are responding by joining and donating to progressive organizations. Peter Dykstra of Environmental Health News and Climate.org (check them out!), in a public radio episode of Living on Earth interview, noted that, “Nonprofit environmental groups reported a surge in new members and donations and volunteers.” He also cited record increases in public support for organizations like The Sierra Club, The Environmental Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU. 

Advocates—from mainstream movements to those on the cutting edge of social consciousness—are building renewed strength and determination to push back. The goal? Limit damage as regressive conservatives position themselves to attack hard-won progress on civil rights, environmental protections, and justice for nonhuman beings. Aware we are still a long way from our goals, losing ground would be excruciating.

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This approaching social and political attack on us will be deep and wide. We will be forced to spend much of our time not building on the progress and victories we have won, but instead defending and perhaps salvaging what may be left of our work. Will we be consumed organizing and demonstrating against government repeals of environmental and minority protections and denials of climate change, or will we be inspired to unite our many causes under a common banner as never before?

What Is the Opportunity?

We have an opportunity. As I describe in This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology the challenges we face are actually one issue: changing human behavior. Changing human behavior is the essence of what organizations and we are trying to do. Human behavior is the cause and, thankfully, the cure for global ills that progressive organizations and individuals must address. 1600_legislative_branchMany environmental and some animal advocate nonprofits gave up on this approach. They looked to influencing policies and legislation to win goals. That arena is now closed for some time.

Human behavior can create environmental protection, veganism’s nonviolence and sustainability, social and economic justice, an end to human overpopulation, reformed financial and corporate institutions, and the separation of money from political elections. Conversely, our behaviors can push us to the abyss of environmental and social collapse that will be humanity’s legacy not unlike fictionalized, end-of-the-world movies, or totalitarian regimes.

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It’s easy to march together carrying banners that reflect our specific issues but we need to go further. There is nothing stopping us from organizing and uniting as a collective movement that encompasses all that is required for humankind and biodiversity to not only survive, but thrive in just societies all over the world—except ourselves. We and progressive organizations can win this but we have to be open to agreeing on what package of human behaviors needs to change. As for our common banner, consider human ecology because it goes beyond intersectionality to induce a more inclusive social movement.

Human ecology is about the relationships we create between each other and the world around us through our behaviors. We must change our human ecology via a wholesale change in human behavior. That is how we are going to end our personal and collective destructive relationships. As a movement, we offer a new human ecology, new behavior, new human.

Our Responses

Those soon to be in power will attempt to change, not one thing that is sacred to us, but many. They will try to force us back to behaviors that are detrimental to the ecosystems of the world, further empower corporate domination, and reduce liberties and justice for others. Those about to take over the U.S. government understand that their platform and strategy must address many belief-driven human behaviors to carry their vision forward. Ours is still incomplete because we haven’t yet agreed to include human overpopulation, veganism and what a sustainable economic system would look like—for starters.   istock_000012214795xsmall

Imagine this disaster of an election, so radically against what we believe in, pushing us to respond as a united community that advocates a new human ecology. It would be the ultimate intersectionality of issues and behaviors, underwritten by the Golden Rule.

 

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Conclusion

We lost the struggle for the original definition of “vegetarianism” and “vegetarian” in 1847, 168 years ago. That’s when dairy- and egg-consumption became acceptable to the Vegetarian Society. Donald Watson and his peers were right in 1944 to in effect regain the original intent of the term vegetarian (-ism) by declaring themselves “vegan” and founding the Vegan Society. Vegans are now the original vegetarians.

 

It’s true that Watson described himself and veganism as being part of the vegetarian movement.[i] But in this, the 21st century, it’s time to acknowledge what is self-evident: Veganism has become smothered as a lesser idea struggling for air and the truth of what it accomplishes. Veganism, as I have documented, is defined as just one of many types of vegetarianism. Organizations and businesses have demonstrated they are afraid of or don’t care about “vegan” because they can operate or turn a profit using the more generic, decidedly nonvegan word, “vegetarian.” In the preceding four parts I described and gave evidence for the confusion this creates, how it diminishes veganism. Unlike veganism, all other vegetarian-isms (excepting fruitarianism) harm and eventually kill chickens and chicks, cows and calves, goats and kids, and camels and their calves.

 

India-map

India’s 375 million lacto-vegetarians represent some 70% of the estimated half-billion vegetarians in the world and are glued to their cultural and religious customs. It’s a hopeless mission to think we can overcome that fact and reclaim the original definition of vegetarianism. The only way to acknowledge that reality is to declare that vegans are not vegetarians.

 

We celebrate and rely on the pioneering work that created contemporary veganism. However, we must not forget that vegan history and its evolution is a continuing process. It is people building upon earlier foundations as our understanding of nutrition, environmental science, sentience, food technology (not to be taken as better than raw food veganism), and the sophistication of social media tools grow our movement. Today, we are tasked to create what comes next. The purpose of veganism has not changed; its core goal is to end the exploitation and lethal injustice humanity wages against sentient beings and from that create the benefits flowing visibly to humans, non-humans, and ecosystems. Read more ›

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 4

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Food producers are harming veganism because of the way they label their products “vegetarian” and in many instances mix that word with “meat free, dairy free, veggie, and 100% vegetarian.” They should not be using these terms interchangeably with, or instead of, “vegan” as we saw organizations do in Part 3, but they are.

 

Look as long as we like at an organization with “vegetarian” in its name and we still won’t know if it is vegan or what kind of nonvegan vegetarianism it endorses until we dig through a labyrinth of text on their website. This lack of clarity extends to food labeled “vegetarian” because it means there isn’t an easy way to tell whether the contents are vegan. Veganism and its phenomenal benefits aren’t allowed to stand and be seen in daylight. Food companies are creating the shadows by using other terms. As long as we accept veganism to be defined as a subset of vegetarianism that lack of clarity and those shadows will continue. That is where it starts.

 

Veganism remains substantially buried in the sediment of vegetarianism, not understood as being the original vegetarianism that was abandoned in 1847 when the Vegetarian Society allowed for eggs and dairy products. It’s been 168 years since then. How much longer are we willing to wait to correct that mistake? I hope you are saying, “Not one more day.”

 

This is a big change. I believe my last post regarding the messy pile of definitions that vegetarianism has come to represent and my advocacy that we explicitly state veganism is not vegetarianism may have made some readers uncomfortable. It challenges our fears about unifying or at least not factionalizing our still relatively small social movement. We will need to address possible social challenges happening between vegans and vegetarians compassionately and delicately. I’ll address some of those concerns at the end of this blog series.

 

For the moment, I ask you to set aside those fears or hesitations unless you want to see dairy/egg/honey and other “vegetarianisms” remain the dominant pretender to ending the suffering and killing of individuals from other species in agriculture and ecosystems alike. In this post I’ll explore the problems that arise from food and products being labeled “vegetarian” and other descriptives. Just remember that veganism is what vegetarianism once was. We are simply reinstating the original to contemporary sensibilities.

 

“Vegetarian” Products- Or Not?

The growth of veganism depends on the shopper’s ability to make clear and easy vegan choices. Product labeling should empower us. When it doesn’t, others, including people, are exploited, suffer, and die as well, and it fuels climate change and other environmental disasters. How can we make consumer choices that define veganism when vegetarianism means nothing vegans can use? How often have you shopped and after seeing “Vegetarian” printed on a box or bottle find dairy, egg, honey, insect parts, and perhaps extractives from fish listed in the ingredients? Read more ›

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 3

Before I describe how international and U.S. organizations inappropriately reference veganism as vegetarianism, please remember my purpose for writing “Are Vegans Vegetarians?” We need to understand that defining veganism as a type of vegetarianism—and using those terms interchangeably—diminishes veganism, is misleading, and is an obstacle to ending the violence and exploitation of others and ecosystems. Veganism is profoundly different from vegetarianism. Veganism remains in vegetarianism’s shadow. We must make a conscious effort to change that.

 

That we have not clarified those differences more directly is a problem for the organizations I am about to cite as examples. However, this is far more a responsibility we all share. I will use material from organizations A, B, C and so on. This is not the same as heaping criticism on them. Their examples serve to show what we, too, have been doing. We must solve this problem together. We move forward together. Gorilla

 

In the following paragraphs, observe how organizations define vegetarian (-ism) and vegan (-ism). I do not name the organizations associated with the definitions because singling them out would miss the point: I am addressing a universal problem. You may recognize their work but please don’t let that distract you. My goal is to get grassroots agreement that veganism must be identified and defined on its own merits and never as a subset of vegetarianism.

 

How organizations with “vegetarian” in their name define “vegetarian”

Organization A explains, “What are the different types of vegetarianism?”

1) Lacto-Ovo Vegetarianism: does not eat meat, fish or fowl. Eats dairy and egg products.
2) Ovo Vegetarianism: does not eat meat, fish, fowl or dairy products. Eats egg products.
3) Lacto Vegetarianism: does not eat meat, fish, fowl or eggs. Eats dairy products.
4) Veganism: does not eat any animal products including meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy, honey, etc. Most vegans do not use any animal products such as silk, leather, wool, etc. as well.

That explanation is what we inherited. The first three types of vegetarianism they define make clear that adherents consume and exploit individuals from other species and by extension unavoidably create similar environmental impacts. ditional examples.

 

Organization B writes that a vegetarian is “Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs (my emphasis). A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter.” Read more ›

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 2

In Part 1, I noted that the conversation of what vegetarianism is and is not has been ongoing as a contemporary issue since the early 1800s. In Part 2, I review highlights of the historical context when vegetarianism lost its vegan meaning and the circumstances surrounding the creation of the term “vegan”.

As a preview, Part 3 will demonstrate the multitude of definitions for vegetarianism and veganism as written by organizations A through G. For Part 4 we’ll look at everyday examples of products labeled “vegetarian” and how this leaves everyone guessing about what is in the box, the bottle, restaurant—and organization. I’ll advocate we formally (and compassionately) separate the definition of veganism from any reference to vegetarianism in Part 5. Donald Watson’s comments in his later years are instructive for what veganism must accomplish.

My intent is not to put vegetarians on the defensive. I ask for your patience to follow through this thought exercise with me. Challenging the traditional sense of what “vegetarian” means may, by its nature, make some readers uncomfortable. Please remember this is the same discussion started by the founders of contemporary vegetarianism and veganism.

Our Era

We live in a different era than the founders and early members of vegetarian and vegan societies. We learned from them, built on the  foundation they laid, and thank them. Donald Watson and friends struck out to coin the term “vegan” and founded The Vegan Society because it  was necessary. Circumstances again create another urgent necessity—and opportunity—to rescue veganism from the confusing discourse of vegetarianism.

In our era, we know more than our predecessors about the science-based evidence of sentience, nonhuman personhood, and the physical and psychological needs of individuals from other species. We know more about their communities and experiences as domesticated and exploited individuals—as well as those living in the wild. We have a more accurate and abundant knowledge of nutrition for sustainable raw vegan diets as well as processed food alternatives—available choices that make change to veganism easier than ever before. We have access to amazing educational resources where knowledge is made available to a greater number of people every day, to anyone able to access a book, flier, and the internet.

 

With all of that, the power and growth of the vegan message and vision are diminished by our ineffectual use of the term “vegan”. This stems from how vegetarian organizations and many of us define and report veganism. We’ve become sloppy. My focus on “vegetarian (-ism)” and “vegan (-ism)” as terms starts with a brief review of when vegetarianism lost its vegan meaning.

 

In the 1830s, the original use of the word “vegetarian” indicated a person who lived on a vegan and predominantly raw food diet. After the founding of The Vegetarian Society in 1847, the word “vegetarian” came to indicate a diet that allowed eggs and dairy for those who chose to do so. There were debates about that change, but it remains the legacy we inherited. Yet, we still believe that vegans are somehow vegetarians. That causes harm.

 

Donald Watson

Donald Watson

In December 1943, Donald Watson gave a talk to The Vegetarian Society on vegetarianism and the use of dairy products. In August 1944, he and others discussed forming a sub-group of non-dairy vegetarians within The Vegetarian Society. The Vegetarian Society eventually refused to give them space in its journal. The non-dairy vegetarians were also non-egg and non- everything animal exploitation but eggs were in scarce supply during these WWII years and not as often mentioned. There was sympathy from the Society, but they felt that “the full energies of the Society must continue to be applied to the task of abolishing flesh-eating”. The creation of the word “vegan” and subsequent founding of The Vegan Society in November, 1944 is often credited to Donald Watson or he and his wife Dorothy but Watson credits a number of his fellow vegans as well.

 

The Vegan Society revised its definition of veganism over time. In 1969, Read more ›

Are Vegans Vegetarians?

And by extension, “Is Vegetarianism Relevant Today?”

Part1:

The content of this multi-part blog is based on one of my presentations at the 2015 NAVS Summerfest last week.

 

The debate over the meaning of vegetarianism is not new. People have deliberated whether dietary vegetarianism was entirely plant-based or included animal products like milk, eggs, and honey since the founding of the first Vegetarian Society in 1847. What I am proposing is not new, though the reasons (environmental, social justice) have grown. Here we are continuing a conversation about what the meaning of vegetarianism should be. We are part of a debate that has been going on most recently since the 1830s.

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In a break with tradition, I offer that veganism is not vegetarianism except in our minds by what we inherited as artifacts from vegetarianism’s history. The word vegetarian was first used in print in 1842. Practitioners of “the vegetable diet” of that era ate a largely raw vegan diet that often was associated with self-improvement, church congregations seeking to enhance their spiritual beliefs, and improving the higher self and that of humankind. However, the first Vegetarian Society at its 1847 founding allowed egg and dairy consumption as part of the vegetarian movement to accommodate its members.

 

The definition and our understanding of what the term “vegetarian(-ism)” means is inconsistently applied by organizations, food manufacturers, the media, vegetarians and the public. As we will see, this causes constant confusion and makes attaining a vegan planet unnecessarily difficult. How often should we be forced by this confusion to explain the “types” of vegetarianism and tag veganism into the mix? The violence and injustice waged against other animals, ecosystems and people will be reduced when we restore clarity to our language regarding vegetarianism and veganism. Read more ›

Vegan Environmentalist Campaigns

I am cross-posting this update from Green Vegans since I believe it will be of interest to you. To receive regular update on Green Vegans the organization, simply subscribe here

From Green Vegans:

Vegan Environmentalist Identity Campaign

While the world too slowly awakens to the environmental necessity of global veganism, vegans now must become highly visible advocates for ecosystems and all species. We must do what mainstream environmental organizations are failing to act on: advocate for the solutions that only vegan lifestyles and a consistent philosophy of justice and nonviolence can accomplish. Veganism is required to stop destroying the planet and biodiversity, slow global warming, and address human poverty.

globe_west_2048Vegans have a unique opportunity to reform environmentalism with our visible advocacy. To that end, Green Vegans will serve as a resource to vegan environmentalists. Green Vegans is the first organization to comment on state plans to kill wolves from a vegan human ecology (explained on our “about” pages). We were the first organization to be clearly identified as vegan at the last International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Panama as whale advocates. You can image our joy as the three of us, experienced IWC veterans, introduced ourselves as Green Vegans at meetings and in lobbying conversations with state department level representatives—IWC commissioners from dozens of countries. The vegan environmental movement can only grow. Our goal now is to enable you to participate and grow the vegan environmental movement.

Opinions matter to us personally, but they are often not effective in changing government decisions on the environment. Government agencies are influenced when we provide new information, evidence-based critiques of their policies and proposals, and challenges to the legality of their actions.

Though environmental issues can be complex, Green Vegans will make it easy for you to participate. We will post campaigns and what you can do on our main Green Vegans page.

Green Vegans has been campaigning since 2009. Welcome to our Vegan Environmentalist Identity Campaign. This is your preparation:

  • Tips for making effective comments on environmental actions proposed by government. This information holds true for federal and most state environmental campaigning:
  • Understanding how the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) works. It is the foundation for environmental advocacy. You do not need to memorize it; just read it here for context. Every environmentalist speaks NEPA.

We will post the first Vegan Environmentalist Identity Campaign on the Green Vegans website soon.

Part II: The Emotional State of Vegans, Economists,…

In part 1, I described emotional experiences felt by vegans, environmentalists and advocates for social and economic justice. We all see the world in a way that remains in the minority of perception and sense of urgency. I wrote about the problems we are working to solve—preventing the collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity, establishing social and economic justice, spreading veganism, reforming economic systems to make these goals possible, and reversing human overpopulation. Human behavior causes these problems and that is our advantage; they can be cured by changing human behaviors. Now we will look at how advocates for a Steady State Economy and the Center for Biological Diversity understand this as evidenced by their addressing multiple issues within their core mission.

 

iStock_000019441224SmallI referred to two blog posts on the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) website. The CASSE platform includes limits to human-oriented growth in our finite home called Earth. They recognize all life has inherent value that must be considered and protected when choosing an economic system. Prominent biologists (and Green Vegans) have endorsed CASSE’s platform. Both CASSE posts remind us that vegans are not the only advocates who are deeply pained when nonbelievers just don’t “get it.”

Read more ›

Karen Davis on HSUS and Disappearing Hens

looking_at_youIn earlier posts, I’ve criticized HSUS and other organizations for their subversion of the species rights movement. They support slaughter and consumption of meat. Some question the wisdom and the necessity of bringing our differences up for debate publicly. Challenges and debate are healthy, essential for any movement. Doing so tests our beliefs and strategies for effecting justice and stopping the violence. It is honesty in action.

Karen Davis’ recently wrote an article about what happens when an organization like HSUS provides us with compelling evidence and an opportunity to stop the violence waged against chickens but instead abandons those very same chickens to the immoral and depraved treatment they document. Given the HSUS support for incrementalism and worse—instead of abolition—this outcome is inevitable. If you or someone you know supports these HSUS platforms and strategies and their moral corruption, read Karen’s post below and look, at least as much as you can stand, at the HSUS undercover filming. Listen carefully to what the HSUS states at the end of the video. It exemplifies why we must have these disagreements and dialogue out in the open for the sake of chickens and everyone else.

Disappearing Hens:
Stopping Short of What Needs to Be Said – and Done

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

A video released by The Humane Society of the United States on January 5 (see Spent Hen Slaughter Exposé) shows what happens to millions of egg-industry hens in their final hours of suffering a life that words like horrible, miserable and appalling are too feeble to describe. One has to steel oneself to look at the scenes at the Butterfield spent hen slaughterhouse in Minnesota. If you’re like me, the first time you click on the link, you might turn down the sound and look at the video with eyes semi-averted from the screen. Life doesn’t get any worse than this, and neither does death. And it’s all for omelets and fried eggs.

Watching the video, you catch sight of a hen’s face and her living eyes that are about to be pulsed with volts of electrical shock. You turn up the volume and feel the agony in your gut and the sickness in your heart, even as you realize you cannot possibly imagine the feelings these hens are carrying inside themselves, the accumulation of their experience with human beings. As the video winds down, the narrator says, “You can help reduce the suffering of chickens on factory farms simply by eating less meat.”

This video is being advertised as the first footage from a slaughter plant designed for spent hens. People need to see this. We all need to know, show and tell others what eating eggs and egg ingredients means for hens regardless of whether they lived in barren battery cages, “enriched” battery cages, cage-free organic compounds, or wherever they came from on their way to this final place of execution.

Instead, the narrator blandly suggests eating less meat from factory farms.

The art of persuasive discourse teaches that when we present an ethical problem to an audience, we follow up with a positive, liberating, inspiring, and doable solution – “Here is what you can do to help stop this cruelty and help these hens. You don’t have to wait, you can start today. Please start today. Here’s how.” The goal is to solve the problem and empower the person – who is very upset and charged with a desire to take action – to be confident that she or he can actually do something commensurate with the situation just witnessed. “What can I do to help these birds?” What is our answer?

In the case of the Butterfield hen slaughter video, the first shock comes when the narrator doesn’t even mention the hens or their eggs in the How You Can Help part. Instead of something like: “To help end this cruelty, please visit Eggfree.com for delicious egg-free recipes and cooking ideas,” the message drains out in generic terminology and flaccid advice.

To state the obvious: This message is not inspiring, invigorating or empowering. It does not address or facilitate the urge to do something truly meaningful to help the hens. It does not seize the moment. It says that neither the hens nor their suffering matters enough to do much for them. Their plight isn’t urgent. They aren’t that important. Just reduce their meat consumption. And if you don’t, okay. Not a word about eggs. When people are told they don’t have to do much, most will do even less. That part of the person that wants to act SIGNIFICANTLY is undercut by the part that wants to rest easy. The “experts”are telling you to relax, it’s okay. Watching the Butterfield video I felt overwhelmingly sick and sad, but when the narrator bypassed the hens and lamely advised eating less factory farm meat, I felt that our movement needs a new lease on life. Get active! www.upc-online.org/alerts 

See the original post here.

The Emotional State of Vegans, Economists, Environmentalists, and…

Man tending his store. Kandahar, Afghanistan. 1970. Photo: Will Anderson

Man tending his store. Kandahar, Afghanistan. 1970.
Photo: Will Anderson

Part I

I recently came upon two blog posts that reminded me of the anguish many vegans feel when faced with the “great mystery”: why don’t environmentalists (and other advocacy groups) get the vegan message? Since it resolves so much of the environmental movement’s agenda, veganism, it would seem, should be a no-brainer. There are two unifying themes hidden beneath their irrational non-response.

 
First, we should recognize that advocates from other causes feel the same pain in their advocacy as we do. Though they do not yet get the necessity of veganism, the rest of their work is essential to addressing major issues. Like us, they have to petition the public for support and win hearts and minds. Despite their selfless hard work, low pay, and scarcity of clear victories, they persevere. Public support is seldom sufficient to win their cause any time soon and they live with that. Like us, they have straight-forward answers (conserve energy–don’t export coal and don’t build the Keystone pipeline) but face powerful, culturally resistant, opposition. Environmentalists are aware that toxic substances run off of streets and chemically-treated lawns into creeks, rivers, estuaries, and oceans when it rains. The damage is real; there is suffering in ecosystem destruction and they know it. Beauty is destroyed. They feel it.

 

Aldo Leopold, a wildlife biologist who later in life regretted his many murders against wolves and other individuals, summed up the environmentalists’ lament:
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

  Read more ›

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The 2016 Election: Endless Green Vegan Opportunities?

November 30th, 2016

It’s difficult to imagine what the next several years will be like after this—the 2016 U.S. electi[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Conclusion

September 19th, 2015

We lost the struggle for the original definition of “vegetarianism” and “vegetarian” in 1847, 168 ye[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 4

August 17th, 2015

Food producers are harming veganism because of the way they label their products “vegetarian” an[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 3

July 26th, 2015

Before I describe how international and U.S. organizations inappropriately reference veganism as veg[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 2

July 19th, 2015

In Part 1, I noted that the conversation of what vegetarianism is and is not has been ongoing as a c[...]