Spread the Word: Latina* Vegan Anthology from Lantern Books!

I’m super duper excited about a new book anthology, and I hope you’ll join me in spreading the call for submissions far and wide so that the collection can be a great success. Lantern Books, who produced the Sistah Vegan anthology, is currently selecting non-academic personal essays written by Latina* vegans. The publisher wants to hear about the connections between Latina vegans’ veganism and their culture, as well as conflicts or challenges that have come up. Submissions should be between 2,500 and 5,000 words and be sent to

As I wrote recently, it is essential for us to elevate the voices of vegans of color. (White vegans, I’m talking to you! Be a good ally and be more intentional and proactive about sharing POC vegans’ work.) It’s true that a lot of us, whether white or POC, grew up eating animal products (I loved some cold chicken feet when I was a kid) but POC are targeted by racism in some specific ways by the mainstream animal rights movement. People of color are often demonized as somehow less capable of compassion than white people even though, in my not-so-humble opinion, eating dogs or animals’ feet and heads is no more cruel than eating any other type of animal (a cow, pig, chicken) or body part of an animal. Bull running and dog fighting are no more cruel than the circuses and rodeos that are totally acceptable in white American culture. Hugo Dominguez, of Direct Action Everywhere, reflects (puzzled) on his loved ones’ reactions to him going vegan: 

“I couldn’t quite understand in what way my culture and heritage and my compassion for animals were mutually exclusive? How was it that me being against dog fighting, beating elephants with bull hooks to perform cruel tricks, the slaughter of baby farm animals, the killing of dolphins and whales, driving nails inside a conscious monkey’s skull, force-feeding a duck until their organs give out and die, injecting a bunny’s eye with poison and needlessly killing animals in the trillions every year was considered ‘Un-Mexican.’

We can and should adapt our beloved cultural traditions to fit with our vegan lifestyles. As a Chinese person, I am excited to be getting together with some friends in a few weeks for vegan hotpot. I would love to see a restaurant or recipe book featuring vegan dim sum recipes, which is another favorite dining tradition of mine. Rejecting certain parts of our culture that we disagree with, and adapting other things so that we can hold onto them doesn’t make us any less authentic or committed to our roots, and calling us “more white” because we are trying to be more sustainable and compassionate is undoubtedly racist. Meanwhile white people who are traveling to other countries can stop eating crickets and live sushi and supporting other animal-exploitative industries in their efforts to have a more “authentic (read: exotic)” cultural experience.  

Another point: stop using the word “vegan” as a synonym for “cruelty-free” because they are not the same thing. Trust me, I wish they were. I wish that every single fruit, vegetable, bean, nut, and grain that I ate was harvested by a worker who was properly fed, housed, compensated, and otherwise cared for, but this is not the case. A. Breeze Harper makes the point that plant harvesting is often romanticized as “cruelty-free” when in reality the conditions of harvesting certain crops such as strawberries are very cruel indeed

As vegans of color, I both think it’s important to work on building coalitions across culture and race, but I also think it’s important for vegans within one particular cultural context to build community with one another. In A. Breeze Harper’s book, Sistah Vegan, she was very intentional about exclusively bringing together black female vegans to talk about their unique perspective. Lagusta wrote a great review of Sistah Vegan and excerpted some of her favorite parts, which I hope you read and share. I hope that this new anthology featuring vegan Latinas can serve a similar purpose as Sistah Vegan. I hope also that the contributors will bring in analysis of misogyny and feminism (or however they choose to describe it.) 

*Lantern is using the term Latina to refer to those with Mexican, Central and South American, and Caribbean backgrounds. Even if writers don’t love the term “Latina” they are encouraged to submit to this collection. 

Some favorite links/resources: 

  • Everyone must check out Food Empowerment Project’s work immediately. They are the beneficiary of the book royalties and I can’t imagine a more deserving organization. They are a vegan organization so educate around cruelty to nonhumans in the animal agriculture industry, but they understand and advocate for the human workers in our food industry as well, which I think is absolutely critical. The founder and director, lauren Ornelas is brilliant, and I really hope that I can met her someday! 
  • Animal Liberationists of Color (Facebook page here) in Oakland, CA is tightly associated with the creative and active organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). Hugo Dominguez I mentioned above and is doing great work with DxE in Chicago. He wrote this essay, “My Experience as a Mexican Vegan Animal Liberationist of Immigrant Parents.”
  • La Loba Loca is an fierce Peruvian artist and rabblerouser and wrote “D.I.Y & LOCALLY MADE FOOD: What the hipsters din’t tell you” 
  • Vegans of Color is an excellent discussion group on Facebook. @vegansofcolor is also a good account to follow on Twitter, though you’ll have to request to follow because it’s private. 
  • Luz Calvo and Catriona R. Esquibel are the geniuses behind Decolonize Your Diet, which advocates for a MesoAmerican plant-based diet. ¡La comida es medicina! They have some good links to other kindred spirit organizations too. 
Vegan MoFo

Vegan MoFo: Why SNAP to it?

Vegan MoFo

For this Vegan MoFo 2014 and Hunger Action Month, I am going to take the SNAP challenge and live within the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) budget of about $4.50 per day ($137.05 per month), which is the average benefit here in Colorado where I live. I don’t actually qualify for the SNAP program, but I want to take a month of intentional eating: carefully planning what I’m going to eat each day, making time for meals, cooking from scratch, and planning scrupulously so that I don’t waste food. I am in nursing school and currently taking an OB class, so I would also like to write about how food insecurity impacts families with babies and young children. There’s a WIC clinic at the hospital where I will be working this month, which I plan to investigate, and I’ll also map out the food shopping in my neighborhood, a food desert in Denver. Because this is Vegan MoFo, I’ll add a few low-cost, speedy recipes suitable for a busy nursing student schedule. I’ll also throw in a couple of posts about edible weeds in Denver, and vegan gardening!

Being vegan is often talked about as an upper middle class white lady thing, which needs to change! I want to prove that being vegan and healthy is possible for low-income people, even if it requires a great deal of planning. Food insecurity is a huge issue: over 47 million low-income Americans participate in SNAP to help purchase food, and 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. I hope that a month of the SNAP challenge will help me come to a greater awareness of food justice issues and examine my own class privilege and food security.

My rules for myself:
-Don’t eat/drink out, even for coffee, tea, or drinks! Eating out isn’t covered by SNAP benefits. I want to challenge myself to do other activities to connect with people socially, besides go to a restaurant and eat food.
-Prepare everything with basic kitchen utensils – time to give the VitaMix, dehydrator, other fancy appliances a break! This expensive equipment is not accessible to low-income people.
-Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or while at work. (Exception: I will attend a weekly potluck that some friends and I organize, because I will be bringing something. I’m all for supporting one another and combining resources for greater strength.)
-Keep all grocery receipts to ensure that I’m staying within budget.
-Don’t include food that was purchased prior to the challenge, except for small amounts of oil and spices.


It Ain’t Easy Being Green: Confronting Colonialism and Whiteness in Vegan Communities

I want to make abundantly clear that I am not a Native person, but a queer and genderqueer biracial Chinese-American vegan. I cannot and do not wish to speak for Native people on veganism, so I’ve grounded this commentary in as many Native perspectives as possible. This piece will appear in the inaugural edition of Project Intersect, a new radical (eco)feminist and intersectional ethics zine. 

Recently my partner and I went to a local cafe in Denver that serves various salsas, meats, and vegetables over frybread or corn chips in a “taco bar” style. I appreciated the food, the atmosphere, but most of all, the ownership by Native people from the Osage Nation. In a world where (mis)representations of Native people are controlled and exploited by non-Native people all the time, it’s critically important that we support Native people representing themselves, as these restaurateurs do.

This meal got me thinking about histories of colonialism and violence in my homeland. The frybread was not vegan, so instead of eating it, we pondered this simple symbol with a vexing past. Wheat is a European import, so frybread was created out of necessity 150 years ago during “the Long Walk” of the Diné (Navajo) which was a 300-mile forced walk at gunpoint from Arizona to New Mexico facilitated by the U.S. government. To prevent starvation during this walk and after the Diné were removed to land that would not sustain their traditional plant-based diets, our government gave them canned food, white flour, sugar, and lard with which they invented frybread.

 There are many crops indigenous to the North American continent that have been cultivated for generations and yet Native American cultures are used as one of many tired excuses by animal eaters trying to justify their choices and attack mine. One classic line is, “What about Native American people, game animals, hunting, ‘respecting the animal’s spirit’?” To them, I say, “Is this relevant to you, and your life? In other words, are you Native?” They usually aren’t… I am frustrated when white or non-indigenous people use a shallow understanding of Native American spirituality to justify consuming factory farmed animals. They do however bring up a good point: How do Native people fit into veganism? I was honored to speak with Native activist and artist Linda Fisher on this topic. She explained to me that the traditional lifestyles and ancient spiritual practices of indigenous people throughout the world are nearly extinct, and that hunting is often a way to put food on the table in poverty-stricken communities. Before addressing animal consumption in Native/people of color (POC) communities, we must first address poverty, healthcare, healthy food access, education, and other pressing needs.

I strongly support reducing unnecessary suffering, part of which is certainly raising and killing animals for human consumption, but efforts to promote veganism in Native communities must be led from within. I’m happy to say that there are many Native-identified activists writing about plant-based knowledge and traditions. For example, Native scholar Margaret Robinson wrote an excellent postcolonial ecofeminist essay on mythology entitled “Veganism And Mi’kmaq Legends: Feminist Natives Do Eat Tofu.” In “Decolonize Your Diet: A Manifesto”, Catriona Rueda Esquibel and Luz Calvo discuss cooking a pot of beans as a revolutionary act.

Whiteness, visibility, and power in vegan communities must be addressed. When discussing indigenous food knowledge and communities we must recognize the painful parallels between the forced removal of indigenous people to make way for white settlers, and the forced removal of indigenous herd animals such as bison to make way for factory farming and subsidized ranching. We must think critically about and reframe veganism to make sense outside of a white upper middle class framework. Part of this process involves elevating vegan POC voices, actively challenging racism in the animal rights movement, and always including human animals in our advocacy. When I was searching for vegan frybread recipes I found one by a prominent white author on a popular vegan site that described frybread as “perfect for Thanksgiving.” This type of insensitivity about our violent colonial history and specifically a holiday that many Native people consider a national day of mourning is a perfect example of how the mainstream animal rights movement alienates POC. I certainly do not think that veganism will solve all the world’s problems, and I’m all for having nuanced conversations about veganism’s limits with POC, but I want to support those discussions with writings by other POC writers and activists.

Further reading:

“Native Americans and Vegetarianism” by Rita Laws


Not a Pretty Picture: Pinup Slaughter

I love pinup, and I love when women celebrate one another’s beauty by dressing up in vintage styles for creative photoshoots.

I do not love animal slaughter, not even a little bit. I do not love that the real-life Portland area “humane” chicken slaughtering operation Marion Acres invites women in pinup over once a year for their “Ladies’ Chicken Harvest” as if the brutality of slaughter could be masked by the presence of a few attractive women in dresses and red lipstick. “Harvest” meant something along the lines of “gathering crops,” not ending the lives of sentient ambulatory beings, last time I checked.

Picture pilfered from the Modern Farmer article.

Some of the women talked about knowing where their food comes from as if that knowledge is mutually incompatible with learning, harvesting and eating vegetables. I would like to remind them kind treatment of chickens during life (and how kindly were they treated, anyway?) does not justify raising them for food at all, or make their deaths any kinder.

My veganism is deeply, deeply, connected to my feminism, and my feminism is grounded in the belief that all beings, human or nonhuman, should be able to live lives free from violence and full of joy shared with their loved ones. How could I call for my liberation, as a queer person, a female-assigned nonbinary person and a person of color, while simultaneously sanctioning the imprisonment and eventual slaughter of other critters? How could I defend my choice not to reproduce but manipulate other beings’ reproduction in order to feed myself? I find it disappointing that these women would uncritically and proudly adopt violent practices in an attempt to gain some of the power of masculinity. I wonder what it would look like for women/feminine people/queers to reject the most problematic aspects of patriarchy and violent masculinity to form a resilient, independent way of providing for ourselves and our families? I would love to see us providing for one another in a way that didn’t harm anyone, and to see partners to equitably share responsibilities of nourishing and caring for families and one another.

P.S. One thing that I am still grappling with, by the way, is how my unwavering support of spay-neuter programs fits in with a reproductive justice, anti-speciesist and anti-oppression framework. I think that it has to do with the fact that spay-neuter is a key part of a no-kill advocacy framework, which I believe fits in very well with a vegan ethic. No-cost and low-cost spay/neuter programs reduce the number of animals entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives. In the human realm, I believe that affordable and accessible and voluntary birth control and abortion are critical to ensuring reproductive justice for all: “when all people have the social, political and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about our gender, bodies, sexuality, and families.” Of course, there is a long and ugly history of compulsory sterilization in marginalized communities, particularly with transgender people and people of color, but the obvious difference between human and non-human animals is that humans can consent to or refuse procedures, so they should always be given that choice. I’m still thinking about this, though!

P.P.S. (ETA) Originally I had use the world “femme” to describe the feminine women who participated in this slaughter and the associated photoshoot. I write this from a queer femme perspective, but the women who came to the so-called harvest were heterosexual cisgender women and so using femme (a term specific to LGBTQ community) to describe them was inaccurate and appropriative, so apologies about that. For more about how femininity and women are used to sell meat, check out The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams.