Since I apparently have a fondness for everyone getting all touchy and angry at me for not toeing some magical lefty line, I thought I’d start a whole new giant fight with some controversal thoughts on veganism.
Some of these were inspired by discussions we had a few weeks ago, here and on another site I’m not going to link to because I don’t wanna. I’m thinking this is going to be a three-part post. Here’s Part One. Look out for Part Two: My Gloves, and Part Three: BEES!! soon.
At said nameless other site, someone was talking some smack about my besties over at Bloodroot. Said someone had once written a letter to their local paper (said someone apparently lives near Bloodroot) attacking them for not being 100% vegan, and repeated their arguments in the context of my supposed general shittiness.
Their argument: because the restaurant isn’t totally vegan, “the owners of Bloodroot are making money from their continued exploitation of other animals.” Of course, this is true. However, as usual I wanted to make this more-complex, long-view N*U*fuckin’A*N*C*E*D argument about why, though I wish Bloodroot was 100% vegan, I’m not heartbroken that it’s not. Surprise! It didn’t take. Let me try again here. Here’s what I said:
Hello, Person Who Wrote A Whole Essay About How Shitty I Am!
….It occurs to me to ask if you’ve ever spoken to Noel and/or Selma about veganism, since it appears that you live in Connecticut? If you had, you’d have a fascinating, nuanced conversation that would leave you refreshed and inspired about your own vegan practice. I’ve had countless talks with them about it, all of which were respectful and friendly.
Bloodroot is not a vegan restaurant, it’s about 90% vegan. Selma and Noel spin wool and other animal fibers. These sentences seem so damning to vegans, but there is a lot behind them.
First of all, the tiny bit of eggs and dairy that they use truly does come from sustainable, humane sources. Their cheeses are all vegetarian and are from small, artisanal businesses, many of whom they have visited themselves to verify that the animals were treated well. I haven’t eaten cheese in 17 years, but I respect the way that Bloodroot serves cheese.
Their dairy and eggs are locally produced, and the truth is that many of the dairy dishes on their menu are literally DEMANDED by longtime customers, many of whom would, without a doubt, stop coming to the restaurant if they couldn’t get their green tomato pie with cheese or butterscotch pudding with heavy cream.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever run a business, Person Who Wrote A Whole Essay About How Shitty I Am, but if you have I’m sure you understand the importance of keeping repeat customers. If you’ve ever fun a food business, where margins are notoriously tight, you will understand this even more.
In fact, I believe you could make a strong case that Bloodroot has done more to usher vegan meals into non-vegans’ diets than most vegans I know. Because many of their customers are not vegan, the 90% of their menu that is vegan is serious activism–getting vegan food into non-vegan bodies. [Many of their customers are not exactly the type to frequent 100% vegan restaurants, thus if they weren’t at Bloodroot, chances are they would be eating meat somewhere else.]
Similarly, the animal fibers that they use in their fiber arts are 100% from living animals who are treated well–no animals are ever killed for their wool sweaters. I adore a pair of rabbit fur gloves that Selma made for me–the rabbit fur was spun from a rabbit while it sat in Selma’s lap, being brushed and living a wonderful, pampered life. Selma dyed the fur with natural dyes made from plants grown in her garden, then knitted a pair of gloves I will always cherish.
So then, said person said:
The idea of something being “90% vegan” is misguided. It’s as absurd as claiming a business can be “90% feminist” if it only exploits women 10% of the time. Even if only a tenth of a business is actively involved in the exploitation of women, it should still be considered anti-woman and anti-feminist. The same goes for the exploitation of other animals. This is because exploitation is a qualitative matter, not a quantitative one.
Also, the use of percentages is intentionally misleading. A plate of pasta with meat sauce may be made up of 90% plant-derived ingredients and 10% animal-derived ingredients, but we rightly consider such a dish to be inappropriate for vegans. Regardless of the limited content derived from the exploitation of other animal, it is the quality of the dish as a whole that is important. Likewise, the 10% of the Bloodroot that is directly involved in the exploitation of other animals can’t be separated out from the other 90% that is assumed otherwise.
I completely disagree! In my book, opposition to exploitation must be both qualitative and quantitative, and both are equally important. We’ve got to be vegan, yeah, but if we aren’t, 50% vegan is better than 0% vegan. And even though a plate of 90% vegan food isn’t suitable for vegans, it’s better, in the long run, than if it were 100% not vegan. Obviously, the more vegan food non-vegans eat, the better things are.
I see why you think the way you do (veganism is a totality, like being pregnant, blah blah), and in the case of feminism I do think it makes a teensy bit more sense, but, I live in the real world. (I mean, I try very very hard not to, but I have to sometimes, enough to know how it functions, at least.) And if 90% of the world became vegan, I’d be so fucking happy I might explode, and so would you. So don’t tell me I’m being INTENTIONALLY MISLEADING. It’s, first of all, just FUCKING RUDE. I’m FUCKING VEGAN HERE, OK? I WANT! PEOPLE! TO! BE! VEGAN!. My FUCKING GOD.
Let’s talk about this in a calm way. Because I’m sure you get my point by now, but I want to beat it into the ground.
Yeah, OF COURSE (oops. Calm.) a “plate of pasta with meat sauce may be made up of 90% plant-derived ingredients and 10% animal-derived ingredients, but we rightly consider such a dish to be inappropriate for vegans,” but…that argument doesn’t hold water if you take it out of the narrow context of a plate of food. Do you not shop at a supermarket that might have 50% vegan shite food and 50% not vegan shite food? When you go to non-vegan restaurants you’re not forced to eat the non-vegan food. (You might remember I’m the one in my vegan family who makes it a point to eat at non-vegan restaurants, to the dismay of my moms). Do you live in the world AT ALL? In the real world, honey, I’m thankful for people who are trying, who are being as vegan-friendly as they feel they can safely be. Of course I want the world to wake up vegan tomorrow, but I won’t be boycotting every single inch of this earth that isn’t vegan until that happens. I’ll just keep on keepin’ on, doing what I can and supporting others who do the same.
Then, someone else said:
Seems like you’re saying people have to exploit animals in order to advance veganism (or that it’s OK if they do).
And, uh, that comment is just so….SOMETHING, that I am pretty much flabbergasted. Uh, no [insert WTF here]. I don’t think Bloodroot serving slivers of cheese is OK (and I never said I did)—I’m just trying to explain why I think it’s not the horrible horrible crime some are making it out to be. There’s a whole world between “I am just fine with this” and “it could be a whole hell of a lot worse.”
I’d much rather support a restaurant like Bloodroot, where the owners are engaged with vegan ideas and are thinking about problems and solving them in their own ways (though they might be sometimes different than how I would solve them), than your standard shitty vegan restaurant that uses tons of processed fake food (food bought from a Sysco truck, microwaved, with no soul or life) and doesn’t offend any vegans (except me). Bloodroot is a multi-faceted, complex, astonishingly fascinating universe. People who decide that their lines in the sand are made of stone won’t understand them, and they taught me long ago to accept that (I’m not listening lately, obviously).
I remember once Selma (Bloodroot’s co-owner) told me she was reading some gardening magazine or other put out by a Catholic group (she also reads Tikkun, which sort of equally astonishes me, knowing of her vehement atheism). I was astonished—Selma, who had an abortion at 16 (in the 1950s!), radical feminist lesbian Selma, Selma who talks shit (often using the word “shit”) about any religion to any religious person who might come through the door—how could she? “It’s a good magazine, interesting ideas,” she responded simply. We both read lots of non-vegan food magazines, calmly tearing off and tossing* the November turkey covers and gleaning what we can from the rest. We both mourned Gourmet’s death. We adore finding treasures at the Fancy Food Show, a trade show we go to every year where maybe 10% of the vendors have vegan samples and the atmosphere is thick with half naked women handing out energy drink samples.
You snatch out and cobble together the good parts of this horrid old world, and discard the rest. At Bloodroot, they call that “levity.” Rising above the shit, into your own thoughtful, personalized universe. It’s what smart people do.
(Ah, but I know what you want to talk about, antsy vegan pals o’ mine–those gloves I mentioned. Let’s have a fun fight about them in the next post! Disagree with me! Change my mind! Lets do this! But if you say my heart isn’t in the right place, I WILL FUCKING TEAR YOU UP—OK? Deal?)
*Of course, I mean RECYCLING. Gotta watch my language in this hyper-sensitive old internet, I guess.