Ask Alexandra – May 2008
Thank you so much for being brave and publicly speaking up for animals. You truly are a hero, and definitely a role model of mine.
I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 20 (I am now 28), and my goal is to become a vegan. I’d say I am about 70% there. Unfortunately, so many people in my life simply do not understand why I do not want to consume any animal products. They say things like, “If we didn’t farm the animals, they would die out. Who would look after all those free-roaming animals?” Too many people also assume that being a vegan equals being someone who routinely commits acts of violence, running around town breaking windows and attacking meat trucks. What do you say to people when they question, attack or ridicule your eating choices? How do you stay strong in your belief that you’re doing the right thing, and in your commitment to animals?
Thank you so much for your time,
Much love & appreciation from Jessica, Sweden
It is wonderful that you have been a vegetarian for so long, and I am glad you are setting your sights on being a vegan. I am about 90% vegan, but being 90% vegan still means I am a vegetarian, I guess, and I hope one day to make the full transition also. It is easier because my brother is vegan and several of my friends are also, but it is still hard!
I am fortunate that nowadays people don’t question my diet choices. In the 1970s, when I first gave up meat, there were certainly some raised eyebrows, but in 2008 California it is common to be a vegetarian. I guess Sweden is more of a meat-eating country.
Here is my advice to you regarding people who may challenge you on your vegetarianism: don’t engage in an argument. If someone genuinely wants to know, then by all means explain to them your animal rights beliefs. But you don’t have get into a debate about it; when I feel someone wants to be argumentative, I just shrug and say, “I just feel it is the least cruel way to live”. Or, “I feel that it is the diet that is most aligned with my personal beliefs”. And then I walk away.
An important way to remind yourself of your beliefs and the terrible things that go on in slaughterhouses, factory farms and laboratories is to continue to go to websites that promote animal rights, such as www.lcanimal.org (Last Chance for Animals), www.peta.org (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) www.hsus.org (Humane Society of the United States). In Sweden, where you are from, I found http://www.arkangelweb.org/international/sweden.php and www.djurensratt.se . I also recommend reading books about animal issues, like those by John Robbins (Food Revolution and Diet for a New America are two of my favorite books).
One of the tenets of veganism is non-violence, so it is silly to equate all vegans with breaking windows and attacking meat trucks. Certainly there are animal rights activists who have broken down doors to free animals in cages, and I support those actions. I believe that a broken door or broken lab equipment, or even burned buildings, are not as violent as what is happening to the animals when they are experimented on in labs, or held in feedlots. If you knew sentient beings were being tortured behind those doors by that equipment, would you say it is wrong to break in and save them? So, when people talk derisively about animal activists, I would ask them, What have you done to stop suffering?
Be yourself, do what you believe in. Don’t feel a need to explain or defend.
I applaud you.
While I respect and admire your attempts to raise awareness on the dire issue of overpopulation (a topic far UNDER-discussed….particularly by famous folks).
However, I was a bit disheartened to read your belief that overpopulation can be helped by simply “replacing yourself”, i.e. breeding only one child per parent. It appears you’re shooting yourself in the foot on that one. Even if it’s only one child, it’s still exacerbating the problem….There are too many hedonistic, over-consuming, space-taking, resource-devouring waste-making machines on this planet….So I must ask, how does making a NEW one HELP this issue? I you are considering that a child doesn’t make much waste (a gravely mistaken belief, btw), you must remember that this child is going to be a grown adult in due time. Also I must point out that in choosing to concieve a child, you’re not necessarily “replacing yourself”. You’re not swapping one space on this planet for another. You don’t disintegrate into compost immediately upon childbirth *lol*. Someone must be present to raise the child so it will, in fact, be yourself PLUS ONE MORE…which is, by definition, contributing to overpopulation. There is an article that illustrate my point perfectly. I urge you to take one minute & give it a look: http://childfreenews.blogspot.com/2008/03/environentalists-convince-themselves.html Please don’t think this is a ‘hate mail’ or that I’m ridiculing your efforts. I’m trying to approach you from a place of logic, rationality and respect. If you truly feel as strongly as you claim to regarding overpopulation, you’ll give this some serious consideration….Thanks for reading this far *lol*.
I am well aware that population would continue to grow for a while if humans continued to reproduce with no more than 2 children per family (replacement rate is technically 2.1 children per family), because the parents are still alive for about 40 years after they have their kids. And grandparents are in the picture too, so for probably 12 years, there would be 3 generations of a family alive, even if each generation only had 2 kids to” replace themselves”. Eventually, however, the population would stabilize, and then hopefully go down. I see the ideal number of people on this planet as 2 billion, well below the 6.8 million people now on earth). I remain an advocate of families with no more than 2 children, and a proponent of the ethic of simply replacing oneself.
I read the link you sent, and I agree that to justify having a kid with “well, it is going to be a kid who cares about the environment and will do good things for the planet” does not make up for the resources that baby will consume in its lifetime. Even though a lot of people encouraged me to have a baby with that line, I would respond with, “Well, actually my smart, educated kid will use up many more resources than a whole family in Kenya, so no, I am not going to bring another person into this world, and there are plenty of kids I can adopt whom I can also educate.”
I feel very strongly about human overpopulation, but if you are suggesting that we should not have any children at all, then I disagree completely. North Americans are among the most wasteful humans on earth, and that no matter how “green” our lifestyle is, it is still undoubtedly more destructive to the planet than someone from a developing country, and I stated that in the video I co-produced, co-wrote and hosted, The Cost of Cool. But telling people not to have kids at all is not going to help stabilize the population in the long run, it will only serve to alienate people from our cause.
How do you feel about Ralph Nader’s bid for the White House? I know you were a big supporter of Dennis Kuncinich and I’m sorry to see that he is no longer running.
Your biggest fan,
I was very disappointed when Dennis dropped out of the presidential race, but I supported him financially when he ran to defend his seat in Congress a couple months later. He is an asset anywhere, and I am so happy that he was re-elected to represent Ohio.
As for Ralph Nader, I supported him in 2000 when he ran, but at the last minute I voted for Al Gore. This year, I think it is folly for him to run. I believe he would better serve this country in more local politics, and that he should then work his way up to running for President. I can see him doing a lot as mayor, or even on a city council. Nader argues that he cant have as much of an impact on a lower level than President, and I completely disagree with him. Really progressive changes usually begin on the local level, and as they gain acceptance from the public they widen out to the national level. Just look at the smoking ban, for example – that started in a few cities and, when the local economy didn’t collapse because of it, was able to spread to more municipalities quickly. Now it is pretty much normal to not be able to smoke in public places, and a lot of other countries have adopted those rules too. So, the local level is where I see Ralph Nader as most effective, but I think he has been on the national stage as a consumer advocate for so long that he believes that would be a step backward.
Thank you for writing,