Holidays teach cultural values. What values are accepted and celebrated at Thanksgiving?
The holiday was established, we're told, to recall the day the Pilgrims, having arrived in North America, dined peacefully on turkey flesh with the Native Americans. Most CARE members and supporters challenge the notion of an animal-killing as a sign of peace. So we have celebrated together on the final Thursday of November with an animal-free feast.
But there's another problem, evident if we revisit history. Thanksgiving was first proclaimed by the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to commemorate the 1637 Pequot massacre, when 700 indigenous adults and children were killed during their annual Green Corn Dance celebration.
We shall participate in this year's dinner on Nov. 27 with our friends, as CARE already committed to the event. But in our October board meeting, Dr. Ayo Gooden reminded us how this day of celebration hurts those who survived the genocide perpetrated against their ancestors. And after this year, CARE might establish a Friday gathering, perhaps named Beyond Thanksgiving. (You'll find other potential naming ideas at the conclusion of this column.)
As we talk with ourselves and our supporters, some find it hard to give up something we've grown comfortable with over two decades! We love celebrations, friendships, unity, and gratitude.
With all this in mind, the CARE board members have been working to achieve a full consensus on this, as it greatly matters to CARE’s way of being in the community, of projecting our values, of understanding each others’ viewpoints. At the same time, we believe it's important to have patience with those who have not yet had the opportunity to make the mental and social transition. We have therefore not yet come to a consensus as to how to create CARE's new tradition.
Activists from Friends of Animals and Compassion for Animals, Respect for the Environment (CARE) filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against Valley Forge, opposing the deer-reduction plan. The lawsuit argued that the Pennsylvania Game Commission could instead stop hunting and trapping coyotes, allowing their population to rebound and naturally keep deer levels in check.
Lee Hall, an environmental lawyer who helped develop the case for the two nonprofits, said deer should not be the park's biggest concern. Cars zoom through Valley Forge, using it as a cut-through...Horses trample the hills, and the park is so crowded by human tourists parking is often difficult to find.
- Erin McCarthy, Inquirer Staff Writer. Read the full article.
Lee Hall: When you’ve got the expanded farms, the pasture-based, the grass-fed ... you are fragmenting habitat; you are setting the stage for systematic predator control, followed by a cascade of consequences.
Caryn Hartglass: Wait a minute. What is systematic predator control?
Lee Hall: Well, for example, coyotes and foxes are the animals who are normally targeted. Coyotes come to the pastures and they are irritating to farmers, obviously. A coyote, bobcat, fox, a grizzly bear is going to be tempted understandably to eat an animal so the more free-range the farm is, the more vulnerable they are to what they do. Shooting coyotes is legal in most places...
For the full audio and transcript, click here.
As I sat around the Thanksgiving table
with family and friends,
I knew that the bird had met with a terrible end.
As we went around the table giving thanks,
I read the poem “A Turkey named Hope.”
But what I didn’t do,
which I shall share with you,
was to give thanks to all those
who had made an effort
to acknowledge the presence
of someone different
by bringing vegan dishes and vegan wine,
that everyone said tasted divine.
We need to learn to live with and love
the many varied folks and critters
whose paths cross ours
as we travel through life.
Poem by Lee Ruslander, CARE president (November 2012). Photo source here.
We got to hang out with Harold Brown again, I met up with my dear friend Andrea and her family, and of coures we ate a ton of yummy vegan food! Burgers, kebobs, baked beans, potato salad. I had some pie and ice cream, too!
The weather was just perfect, we explored the park a bit...We visited various organizations tables, including Friends of Animals...And, I got to hang out with my new bud Lydia of From A to Vegan. It was a great way to spend an afternoon benefitting a great organization!
Read more: Local Activism: CARE Veggie Fest 2012
Dinner with Harold Brown of Peaceable Kingdom: A Journey Home by The Vegan Version
Last night (Friday 22 June 2012) I had the pleasure of having dinner at SuTao Cafe in Malvern where I got to hear and meet Harold Brown, former beef farmer and subject of the upcoming documentary Peaceable Kingdom; The Journey Home. This soon to be released documentary explores the story of several people who grew up in a traditional farming culture that have since come to question the basic assumptions of their way of life.
What a great evening. We started out with a huge buffet dinner (all vegan!). I had my daughter with me; I opted for a lot of things I normally don't eat- sweet and sour veggie "meat balls", General Tso"s "Chicken", fried bananas, and tempura battered vegetables, among other things (yes, that is kale you see in the front!). My daughter opted for a healthier plate, sushi, rice and fruit. Good for her!
After dinner was a real treat as our small group ( maybe 30 or so people) got to listen to Harold Brown tell his story. It ended up being far less a "speech" and much more of an interactive discussion. I found in fascinating to listen to his journey.
From cattle farming in Michigan, to working in a dairy plant to a working in a meat packing facility I found it so inspring that the thing that opened his heart was an encounter with a rescued steer at a sanctuary.
As inspiring and uplifting his story is, equally inspring is is knowledge of the food industry, organic farming techniques, the science behind why people are unable or unwilling to give up dairy, government subsidies for farmers, etc. I really like his brand of activism, he seems unassuming, non judgmental and genuine.
Harold made a statement last night that really resonated with me. He said that he thought people generally understood what they thought about farm animals but that most don't understand how they feel about them.
He went on to discuss the idea that people have a "compassion switch" that can be turned on and off. It goes on for the family dog or cat and and then goes off for the cow or sheep that is destined for slaughter. By telling themselves they don't care, people allow the switch to be turned off.
And he said, he made a vow never to say he did not care again. I think that is a pretty good way to live and some very sage advice.
So what do you think about the way people regard farm animals? Do you agree people can turn compassion on and off at will?
* A big thanks for our hosts last evening- CARE Compassion for Animals, Lee Hall and Lydia and Mauro Grossov of From A to Vegan. ORIGINAL POST: http://www.theveganversion.com/2012/06/local-acitivsm-care-veggie-fest-2012.html
Interview with Harold Brown*
Former beef and dairy farmer; founder of Farm Kind
Before we begin, we would like to extend a very warm welcome to Harold Brown, a subject of Tribe of Heart's documentary film Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. Harold, thank you for giving CARE the opportunity to interview you and to get to know you on a rather intimate level.
We understand that you spent over half your life in the business of animal agribusiness. Can you tell us something about your experiences as a beef and dairy farmer?
Harold: Just to clarify, I worked at a dairy plant not far from ours. One of my great-uncles had a dairy farm. Growing up in a rural and farming community is kind of unique. As a child I, like any farm kid, was indoctrinated into agriculture. It began with my folks and what they taught me, my extended family, my community, church, and 4H, and I eventually went to a land grant college. My worldview of nature and animals was, in some respects, the same as any person's, but on the other hand, it was different in that the farming I learned was that of my grandparents and my great-uncles. The Green Revolution was taking over, but our family resisted it. We were small family farms, what by today's standards would be considered pretty much organic and definitely grass-fed, free-range. While there are many great things about growing up in the country and farming, there were the downsides, like animal husbandry. My relationship to animals was one of benign ambivalence. They were necessary for income and food but sometimes I would make a connection to them. At other times I would observe their behaviors, communities, interactions, but I rarely let myself dwell on them. I say "animals" in that my worldview wasn't confined to farm animals. I was also a hunter, and wildlife was seen as competition for space, feed, and the possible spreading of disease. When someone portrays animal farming on any scale as a harmonious balance of natural forces, they are either delusional or lying.
My time working at a dairy processing plant was educational in that it showed me the inside of dairy production. Some of the suppliers were farms and people I knew, others were not. In short, I learned that dairy products are not food, nor are they good for you. That said, I had my addiction to ice cream.
CARE: How did you make the connection between driving cattle, castrating and dehorning them, and butchering their remains, with viewing animals as sentient beings? Was there a singular moment, a revelation, that changed your perspective, or was it a gradual change brought about by a little voice from the back of your mind that brought about your conversion? And do you consider this a redemption?
Harold: As Tom Regan would say, I was a muddler. I converted to a plant-based diet to reverse my heart disease. It took several years for me to make a connection to the interests on nonhumans. I always had a soft spot for animals. As my family members would tell you, I usually didn't have it in me to shoot deer. I tried, but after sitting in the woods, in the quiet, I would marvel at the beauty of the deer, and sometimes they would walk up to me and sniff me. I couldn't kill that beauty. The little voice was always there. I chose to ignore it most of the time. A day came when I had an interaction with a steer at a sanctuary that unified my mind and my heart. I share this story in the documentary Peaceable Kingdom, The Journey Home. Redemption is an interesting word to apply to my transformation. I feel that redemption is borne out of forgiveness. I have asked for forgiveness countless times from those souls I used, abused, and killed. Perhaps they have forgiven me; I don't know. I suppose I have to forgive myself first.
CARE: How important is the support of your family and associates in the animal rights community in your journey from animal farmer to animal protector?
Harold: The support we have makes a great deal of difference. It buoys us up emotionally and spirtually. We all long for belonging, and community gives us that. I haven't had the support of my family other than a benign regard for what I do. On the other hand, I have had incredible support from a few organizations and individuals. There have been and are people in my life that have helped me develop a larger understanding of many issues. As a matter of fact, if it had not been for the people in the first vegetarian group I was exposed to, I wouldn't have been able to deconstruct my past indoctrination and come to see the world through the eyes of those other than my species. As it is said, some of us have two families in life: our biological family and our chosen family. My chosen family are those I have met in the social justice movements of animal, human, and environmental causes. I am a work in progress and I am so grateful for those friends who have the patience to listen, understand, and teach me.
CARE: Harold, the pending federal egg bill (H.R. 3798), which would establish egg factory cages as a national standard that could never be challenged or changed by state law or public vote, would allow a bit more space for hens used to produce eggs. The Humane Society of the United States has partnered with United Egg Producers in promoting passage of this bill. Would you please share your opinion on this compromise, as well as your thoughts on the long-term implications such legislation would have on the hens?
Harold: Compromises are just that, compromises. I don't see anything good in this for the hens. It certainly is a plus for those who have political ambitions and see their mission as assuaging the conscience of voters and consumers for profit. This particular bill has 18 years to become the law of the land, and in the meantime, the egg industry is exempt from prosecution for abuse and cruelty. In my opinion, this is an Ag Gag bill**, but from a supposed animal advocacy organization. Interesting. Will it make the lives of hens better? Maybe, but it doesn't do a thing for the inherest self-interest of the hens. If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all you have left is a compromise. The human spirit will not invest in a compromise.
CARE: Can you tell us something about Farm Kind? How has this foundation affected those who have been exposed to its principles?
Harold: Farm Kind is my nonprofit that enables me to share what I know for the public, activists, and farmers. I have had some success with helping animal farmers change their perspective on their relationship to those they use. The best story I have is of a farmer that I ran into at a conference who was there to confront those of us who didn't support the use of nonhumans. I talked with him for a few minutes and shared with him the book Growing Green, the definitive book on veganic farming. The next year he came to the same conference and shook my hand and said that the organic techniques worked so well that he had to reevaluate his relationship to the animals in his care. He then asked me if I knew where his animals could find sanctuary, and later I transported his animals to a sanctuary.
It is hard to quantify the returns on an educational endeavor. I do get a lot of feedback from individuals who have said that what I share has helped them. I would say that if there is one thing that comes back to me via women who are in relationships with men is that my example has given their significant others permission to challenge our male-dominated dominant culture. Trusting our hearts is one of the most powerful things that we can do. Especially if you are a man.
CARE: I believe that acknowledgement of animals having inherent rights is the basis of your evolution from animal farmer to vegan. Please explain what the philosophy of animal rights means to you.
Harold: That is a topic that is still evolving for me. What I do know in my heart of hearts is that all beings have an interest in living their own lives, on their own terms. Rights in our society are a contract of negative rights. That is to say, historically, when society has accorded rights to others, it is to protect one group from the bad behavior of another group. At this point I tend to agree with Lee Hall's take that it is an acknowledgement of the dignity of others and respecting them for who they are. Rights may be a moot point, say in the case of farm animals or cats and dogs. These are species that are bred for food and vanity who would not be here otherwise. How do we talk about rights when it concerns others that would not be here if rights did exist and in that case they would no longer be bred? Quite simply my definition of rights is the Golden Rule.
CARE: Thank you, Harold, for sharing your views and shedding light on issues that are important to us as humans, but especially for those animals who find themselves caught in a web from which there is no escape except through the mercy of those who, like yourself, see them as beings in their own right, with their own interests, and their own lives to experience without the yoke of human oppression.
* Harold Brown was interviewed by Maryanne Appel via e-mail in April 2012. Harold will be back by popular demand as guest speaker at the annual Chester County Vegan Festival, hosted by CARE, on Saturday 9 August 2014.
** Ag-gag laws, a term coined by Mark Bittman, are proposed ways of making it illegal for whistleblowers to observe and report misconduct in animal factories and slaughter plants.
By Maryanne Appel
Several months ago, an article titled “The Last Green Thing You’ll Ever Do” (Spring 2011 issue of The Compassionate Vegetarian) explained the choices we can make in preparing for that final journey that awaits all of us.
A recent death in my immediate family made me realize how important it is for us to make our own funeral arrangements in preparation for that inevitable day. By planning in advance, we can make those decisions with a clear and focused mind, thereby alleviating the burden on those we leave behind and preventing less-than-ideal decisions made under stress.
My lifelong partner and best friend, Steve, decided to join me in this endeavor. Having learned that a funeral home and cemetery certified by the Green Burial Council existed not far from our home, we made an appointment to visit Bringhurst Funeral Home, located on the grounds of West Laurel Hill Cemetery. This is a beautiful 186-acre historic site in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
After being greeted by the welcoming staff at Bringhurst, we were made to feel comfortable in pleasant surroundings while discussing our final arrangements.
In keeping with the “green” idea, instead of the usual casket, choices offered to us included a box made from untreated wood, a wicker basket, and a variety of cloth wrappings. Steve and I both opted for the beautiful plain linen shroud.
We were advised that if clothing is desired in addition to the shroud, only biodegradable items may be used. Of course, there will be no embalming. After being transported to the funeral home, the body is kept under refrigeration.
On the cemetery grounds, an unpretentious one-acre plot of ground called Nature’s Sanctuary is set aside for green burials. This area was opened in 2008 and contains several graves, each one marked with a river stone etched with the name of the deceased, along with dates of birth and death. Flat stones obtained locally are also available for the purpose of marking the graves. The funeral home keeps records of the various sites, but since this area is still comparatively small, it is easy to find the site one is looking for.
More plots are available and will be taken as more people learn about, and choose, green burials.
Bushes, shrubs, or flowers may be placed at the head of the grave; however, care must be taken to ensure that these plantings are native to the area. Steve and I chose two plots side-by-side under a tree. By paying in advance, we are assured that these plots are reserved exclusively for us.
Benches made with untreated wood invite visitors to sit and share a unique and pleasant experience while visiting the graves of their loved ones. Wildflowers blooming in the spring and fall transform a plain burial ground into a beautiful garden.
This area is set aside as “nature’s sanctuary,” completely devoid of fertilizers, pesticides, and artificial irrigation. One sobering thought, however, resulting from the human impact on our environment no matter how much care we take, is that groundhogs are trapped live on the cemetery grounds and transported to the local zoo, apparently to provide food for the resident carnivores.
Family and friends attending funerals at Bringhurst can meet at the funeral home, with a memorial service, if they so desire. They may then follow the service vehicle a short distance to Nature’s Sanctuary. The grave will have been opened by hand with shovels, and the body will be lowered into the ground using ropes. No earth-moving equipment, no automatic machinery, no metal, and no concrete! Just a natural burial in keeping with nature’s intentions.
Family and friends may witness the body being lowered into the grave, if they wish to do so.
For those opting for cremation, a beautiful building houses the urns. Urns are also located outside on the grounds in front of the building. So if one family member chooses natural burial, and another cremation, both can be accommodated.
As an added convenience, a catered luncheon may be held in either of two lovely rooms, one accommodating up to 50 people, another 150. Since vegan and vegan-friendly caterers are available in the Greater Philadelphia area, a vegan meal can be offered, with no need to travel elsewhere.
For Steve and me, the cost for the funeral home is $4,293 ($4,730 less 10% discount for burial on the same grounds, plus $36 for death certificates), as described below:
Basic services (funeral director, staff and overhead)..........................$2,595
Transfer of remains to funeral home ........................................................400
Service vehicle, van or sedan .................................................................150
Less discount........................................................................................ –473
Death certificates: 6 @ $6 each.................................................................36
The funds paid to the funeral home were placed into an annuity, earning 3% interest annually, with the accrued interest paid into our respective estates.
For each of us, the cost for the cemetery includes:
Burial rights, i.e., side-by-side single garden plot.................................$3,000
Inscribed river stone ...............................................................................250
Interment services (weekdays) ............................................................1,875
Additional information may be obtained by calling West Laurel Hill Cemetery at 610-664-1591, or Bringhurst Funeral Home at 610-668-9900. You may also visit the office located at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, 215 & 225 Belmont Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004.
Saving the gentlest departure for last. By Maryanne Appel, CARE Board Member
You’ve lived your life mindful of the footprint you are leaving behind, treading as lightly as you can on the earth. But what about the aftermath, what imprint will you be leaving then? Here are some choices, the pros and cons, to consider when planning for the inevitable journey that awaits all of us.
Conventional Funerals—For those concerned with environmental sustainability, it is advisable to avoid burials that use embalming, a process that slows decomposition. Cemeteries are filled with heavy metals, reinforced concrete, and hardwood, along with formaldehyde and other toxins from the embalming process, all of which can leach into the soil. Improvement has been made, however, in that at least some formaldehyde-free embalming fluids are now available.
The Green Burial Council informs us that “the manufacturing and transporting of vaults uses a tremendous amount of energy and causes enormous carbon emission. In the U.S., vault manufacturing requires the production of 1.6 tons of reinforced concrete.” Plus, huge amounts of pesticides and herbicides are used on the cemetery grounds year after year. “The box is pretty, the lawn is neat, and nature can’t get a word in edgewise.” (C. A. Beal in Be a Tree.)
Cremation—Although cremation does not require large tracts of land for cemeteries, fossil fuels, burning more than three hours for each cremation, are used in the incineration process. And the extremely high heat that is used (up to 2100 degrees F) vaporizes the body, releasing toxins, including heavy metals, that pollute the air and seep into soil and waterways. Newer facilities may be more environmentally friendly than older ones. For standards on cremation disposition programs, contact the Green Burial Council.
Green Burial—Natural burial uses biodegradable coffins which decompose along with the body. The interest in green burials is growing and the funeral business is taking heed.
In green burials, the body is prepared without chemicals and is buried in a shroud or a biodegradable casket made from woven-fiber containers, such as bamboo, wicker, and sea grass. Shrouds are made from organic cotton or hemp. Burial grounds may use natural
grave markers—native shrubs, trees, and flowers—which create a truly beautiful living memorial. An engraved flat stone obtained locally may also be used to mark the spot. So instead of a dead zone covered with irrigated, chemically treated grass, intrusive stone makers and mausoleums, natural cemeteries are ideally suited for birds, small mammals, and even deer. It’s a peaceful and inviting place for family and friends to visit.
Green burials are not only energy-efficient, and eco- and animal-friendly, they are also economically feasible: The cost for a conventional funeral averages $6,500; for cremation, about $3,500; and for natural, or green, between $1,000 and $4,000.
To guarantee that your burial is “green,” be sure that both the funeral home and cemetery you choose are certified by the Green Burial Council.
If your cemetery is not certified green, here are some tips from the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Philadelphia:
• If you reside in a rural area, check your local zoning laws. Most states allow green burials.
• Laws do not routinely require embalming, nor is embalming required by cemeteries.
• Laws do not cover the types of caskets used, so you may choose a biodegradable casket, or even a shroud.
• If your cemetery requires a vault, choose a concrete box with an open bottom to allow the body to come in contact with the earth.
The green burial movement has attracted much attention in the funeral business; unfortunately, a large number of funeral homes engage in “greenwashing” (the deceptive use of eco-friendly marketing). For reliable information on green burials, visit the Green Burial Council--the only one owned by an independent, nonprofit organization, with verifiable standards. Several GBC-certified funeral homes and cemeteries can be found in the Greater Philadelphia area. The website gives information on finding a responsible provider.
GBC also works with the Cremation Association of North America to encourage a more environmentally responsible cremation process.
Saturday, 28 January 2012, 6 pm: A gourmet dinner was prepared for us by renowned macrobiotic vegan chef Ken Williamson. Thanks to Marian Walker we had a spacious, lovely venue with a professional kitchen: the Friends Society House off High Street in West Chester.
Recipe for A New World: Macrobiotic Vegan Cuisine in the 21st Century
Miso Scallion Broth
Land & Sea Vegetable Pastry Tarts
Three Color Rice & Quinoa Pilaf
Roasted Butternut Squash Chunks
Herbed Green Lentils and Dill Tahini Sauce
Apple Oat Crunch Dessert
Tea of Choice + a little something from Iron Hill Brewery (local - West Chester)
The kale, cooked just to the point of maximum health benefits...Most people had tahini-dill sauce on this, but Dara liked it with the gravy the oil-free people got.