Sunday, January 8, 2017

If I had only known…



This year will mark my 29th year of being vegan. I remember thinking more than a decade ago that in 10 years we should be able to put an end to people wearing fur and animals used for cosmetic testing in the US. It is so sad to me that we seemed to have slipped backward on both of these issues.

I don’t know about you, but I have often wondered that if there had been great protest against the first animal put in an aquarium, would aquariums still be around today?
 

I often struggle with, Am I doing enough? And I know I am not alone here; I know that many of us feel that way, whether it’s about non-human animals, human rights, or both.


But this gets me to why I am writing this blog.

I have thought to myself, If another non-human species were being prepped to be killed in a large-scale manner—being touted as a more environmentally friendly source of food—would I do all that I could to stop it?

The answer is yes.

Would I stop advocating for other animals to be eaten instead?
 

The answer is no.


Would I advocate for both?


The answer is yes.


Would I take every opportunity to advocate for this animal and to stop the industry before it starts?


The answer is yes.


Would I ever make this animal seem more important, more special, cuter, or smarter than the rest?

The answer is no.

Does this change my efforts to promote veganism?

The answer is no.

I raise this issue because the animal ag industry is trying to popularize the slaughter and consumption of yet another species in the US.

The
bunny.

(My
husband has often reminded me that these animals are used in nearly every form of exploitation—fur, testing, food, entertainment, hunting, etc.—which is why his heart goes out most to these gentle creatures.)


Unfortunately, for some reason beyond me, activists campaigning for bunnies is seen as a controversial issue.

And for the most part, advocating for these animals has been left to the bunny groups.  There are many of these organizations, and those groups that are vegan have managed to open the hearts and minds of many people who might otherwise not have considered the needs of animals other than rabbits or that they deserve our protection.

For those of us who are vegan and who have campaigned for bunnies, some of our detractors have accused us of not caring about or neglecting other animals.

(As for Food Empowerment Project, you can and see links to animals from fish to goats we advocate for:
http://www.foodispower.org/veganism/. And we also organize protests every month in front of a chicken slaughterhouse.)

So we push for veganism, but I don’t see an issue with trying to stop an insidious animal agriculture industry in its tracks.

But maybe I am getting distracted. My point is this: we need to take the industry’s promotion of bunny meat seriously and stop it before it grows.*

How? If you hear of a restaurant or grocery store starting to sell bunny “meat”, speak out NOW. Don’t wait for anyone; you can talk to the manager and/or restaurant owner. If they aren’t budging, get others in your community to speak out—letters and phone calls make a big difference. You can contact groups such as SaveABunny and the House Rabbit Society for help.

We can do this. The power of the animal movement has always been you, individuals speaking up for justice and compassion.

I have had the privilege of spending time with bunnies, and even though we don’t hear them much, they have no trouble letting us know what they want (looking at you,
Emmeline!).

 Let’s do what we can to take a stand for all animals and against an industry that puts profits above everything else. As we seek to take all animals off the menu, let’s make sure one more is not added on.

Photo: By Tara Baxter of Emmeline, who was rescued from a bunny "meat" farm in Sonoma County, CA.

*Just think: If we took issues seriously and addressed them head on, would we be where we are now politically? Read:
http://appetiteforjustice.blogspot.com/2012/09/chipping-away-at-injustices.html.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

¡Qué Vergüenza Safeway!


FEP ha estudiado el acceso a comida saludable en comunidades de color y de bajos recursos en dos áreas: el condado de Santa Clara, CA y en Vallejo, CA

FEP en enfocó en el condado de Santa Clara porque es donde estábamos ubicados en ese entonces. Yo vivía y trabajaba en el centro de San José, donde habían licoreras una a través de la calle de la otra.

Luego de hacer un seguimiento en el condado de Santa Clara, se encontró que la comunidad más afectada en el condado es San José. Allí condujimos grupos de enfoque para aprender a través de miembros de la comunidad cuáles son las barreras más grandes y qué se necesita para mejorar esta situación.

Ya que sólo trabajamos en comunidades donde hemos sido invitados, fue la solicitud de David Hilliard (uno de los fundadores del partido de las Panteras Negras) la que nos llevó a trabajar en Vallejo. Trabajamos en conjunto con Vallejo People’s Garden, un huerto comunitario que cuenta con voluntarios y organizaciones asociadas en todo Vallejo. Cuando comenzamos nuestro trabajo en Vallejo, no teníamos idea que uno de los factores contribuyentes a la falta de comida saludable iba a ser un supermercado en sí: Safeway.

En una reunión pública, Erin Hannigan del consejo de supervisores de Vallejo, nos informó que Safeway había colocado una restricción en el título de una propiedad que les había pertenecido en el pasado. Este título previene que cualquier otro supermercado use la propiedad para el mismo propósito. Los efectos de este hecho, que dejó al vecindario y sus áreas adyacentes sin un supermercado, son resaltados en la página 15 de nuestro reporte sobre Vallejo publicado recientemente.

Algo para tener en cuenta: No estoy hablando del impacto de un supermercado cerrando una locación y abriendo un par de cuadras más lejos. Estoy hablando sobre el supermercado dejando áreas sin ningún acceso a otro supermercado cuando se mueven a millas de distancia.

No es necesario decirlo, pero estaba absolutamente disgustada e indignada al ver que Safeway tenga la audacia de crear estas restricciones y que arriesguen la salud de las comunidades (incluyendo comunidades de color y unas de las más vulnerables: los discapacitados y las personas de la tercera edad). Pero también sabía que Vallejo no debe ser la única comunidad impactada por este tipo de avaricia.

Enlistamos la ayuda de la Dra. Carol Glasser (quien lideró la investigación de nuestro reporte) y uno de sus estudiantes, Joseph Tope Sanni, y descubrimos que algo similar había ocurrido en Washington, DC. Contacté a un miembro del Consejo de la ciudad en DC, quien trabajó para pasar una resolución que previene que esto continúe en Febrero del 2015.

El 27 de Mayo del 2015 le envié un carta al CEO de Safeway (cuyo dueño es Alberton’s) instando a Safeway a que pasara una norma para terminar con ésta práctica. En Julio 6, 2015, recibimos una respuesta insatisfactoria de su Vicepresidente de asuntos públicos. Continuamos la discusión con su Vicepresidente hasta Febrero de este año, cuando por fin nos dimos cuenta que no íbamos a poder hacer que cambien sus normas.

Entonces, hemos decidido traer esta desgracia a la luz.

Queremos que esta práctica dañina de restringir los títulos de propiedades que eran supermercados que no permiten que otros supermercados abran en la misma locación pare por completo. ¡Todos los vecindarios merecen el derecho de acceder a comida fresca!

Hemos consultado con abogados sobre la legalidad de estos títulos, y sabemos que aunque es posible que sean legales, es algo inmoral.

Existen numerosas barreras para que una persona pueda acceder a comida saludable – incluyendo el costo- porque desafortunadamente, muchas personas no reciben salarios que cubren sus necesidades y otros no tienen el tiempo o el dinero. Pero no deberían existir barreras creadas por las mismas corporaciones que deberían estar proveyendo el acceso a comida saludable.

Detener esta práctica puede ayudar a comunidades a acceder a comida saludable a través de los EE.UU. Como mínimo, los supermercados no deberían interponerse a este acceso. ¡Ayúdanos a corregir esta injusticia!

Por favor únete a nosotros demandando exigiendo a Safeway/Albertsons que elimine los títulos restringidos en sus antiguas propiedades que previenen que otros supermercados los reemplacen

*  Vale la pena anotar que FEP no está implicando que los supermercados son la solución a los problemas que enfrentan muchas comunidades, y tampoco implica que vayan a crear una solución; sin embargo esto es claramente una barrera masiva. FEP prefiere abogar por que la gente cultive su propia comida, o supermercados que sean propiedad comunitaria (cooperativas) y soluciones que tengan en cuenta los aportes de la comunidad y tenga su apoyo.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Language



Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) acknowledges that actions are more important than words; however, language is incredibly important.

In fact, we have guidelines for writing for F.E.P. that describe what words we do and do not use. One example is that non-human animals are never “it.” Non-human animals are sentient beings and should not be referred to as inanimate objects. We also seek not to identify animals based on the oppressive system they are in – not “circus animals” but animals in circuses.

We are also careful with other issues, such as not using the word “American” unless we are referring to all of the Americas (America is NOT just the United States).


But we are always learning and adding more to our repertoire (lactose normal instead of lactose intolerant – thanks, Mark; Latinx instead of Latino/a – thanks, Anika).

Recently, I traveled outside of the US and spent some time in a country where English was not the primary language, and I started to notice how my personality changed. I am the type of person who says thank you often and wants to talk with service workers and people in general. And, well, even when I tried to say something to the one person I saw wearing fur, I realized they could not understand what I was saying.

I was not only in a different country, I was different. I felt a bit hindered, not like myself. Even though I was with my husband and I could talk to him, I was quiet when he wasn’t there and we weren’t able to strike up conversations with others on the train. I felt out of place.
 

I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be there permanently. *

This of course made me face the reality that migrants face all over the world, and most certainly where I live in the US.

I remember seeing the movie The Namesake (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433416/), which does a beautiful and heartbreaking job of showing first-generation immigrants from West Bengal in the United States. It shows the woman (the mom) struggling as she tries to adjust to life in the US and having to do things like buy groceries.

I am not sure how many people stop to realize how brave people are who leave everything to come and live in another country where they do not speak the language. Many people do not want to leave their homelands, but they do, and many, like farm workers, do it with the hope of a better life for their children.

There is a lot that they leave behind – not just their families, but their ancestors’ land and familiarity; many also leave good jobs behind. There are doctors from other countries who end up being cab drivers here. Mark and I went to a Thai restaurant where the young woman serving us was actually a dentist, but she couldn’t get a job in the US doing that type of work.

When I travel to non-English-speaking countries, I am always so thankful for how kind people are to me, especially with my very bad attempts to speak their language. More than not, they apologize for not knowing English, and I always have to remind them that their English is far better than my Cantonese, Italian, etc. 


I worry that many in the US forget that English is not the most widely spoken language in the world, yet we expect others to conform to us.
 

Ironically, when we returned from our trip, we went to an electronics store (I had been without a phone for over two weeks as mine was run over by a truck) and an older white man came into the store. I won’t go into all the details, but he berated one of the employees (the manager, who was a POC) about a fee. I bit my tongue for quite a while, but when the man started to speak to the worker in his version of Spanish, I’d had enough.

I had to speak up. I found this to be incredibly racist. As if the worker wasn’t quite understanding him in English?

I told the man that the worker clearly spoke English so there was no need to speak to him in Spanish. I went on about him being an employee of a corporation and he was just following their rules so that the man should definitely follow up with them. I also mentioned how workers and POC are treated, and he said that this man was not a POC.


Then I had to ask why he was speaking to Jesús in Spanish and had to explain some colonization to him.


Many of the employees seemed to appreciate what I did, and the man (who I did agree with his complaint and told him so) didn’t seem to understand what was wrong with what he was doing. (“Jesús, I am going to spend 10 hours writing them a complaint letter and mention you specifically.”)


I don’t think that many white people understand the privilege they have of learning and speaking Spanish. For many, speaking Spanish or having an accent is NOT a bonus. Latinx communities have been encouraged to assimilate and have been punished when Spanish was spoken.

We have been made to feel ashamed of our language and our people. So, please don’t assume every Latinx person speaks Spanish or express shock when they don’t. For many, there is a history behind it.


When a non-native English speaker talks to me in words and not in sentences while not using perfect grammar, that is who I sound like when I try to speak Italian and am doing my best.

No one is perfect, but we can all do our part to use language like the living tool it is, and when necessary, adjust it to be more compassionate and inclusive when communicating with others.

*Okay, I am a resilient person and I could adjust, but what came to my mind were all of the people living in the US who do not speak English. (Just a reminder that many places in the US, like where my ancestors are from, used to be Mexico.)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Shame on Safeway




Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) has extensively studied access to healthy foods in communities of color and low-income communities in two areas: Santa Clara County, CA, and Vallejo, CA.

F.E.P. focused on Santa Clara County because, at the time, this is where we were based. I lived and worked in downtown San José, where there were liquor stores across the street from each other.

As a follow-up in Santa Clara County, the most impacted community in the county was found to be San José. We conducted focus groups there to find out from community members what the biggest barriers were and asked what they wanted and needed to improve the situation.

Because we only do our work in communities when invited, it was a request by David Hilliard (one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party) that took our work to Vallejo. We also worked with Vallejo People’s Garden, a community garden with volunteers and partner organizations throughout Vallejo. When we started our work in Vallejo, we had no idea that one of the contributing factors for the lack of healthy foods was going to be a grocery* store itself: Safeway. 

At a public meeting, Vallejo Board of Supervisor Erin Hannigan informed us that Safeway had put a deed on their former property. This deed prevented another grocery store from using it for the same purpose. In our recently released Vallejo report, we highlight on page 15 the impact this had on the community, which left the neighborhood and surrounding areas without access to a grocery store.

Keep in mind: I am not talking about the impact of a grocery store closing one location and re-opening a couple of blocks away. I am talking about leaving areas void of a grocery store when they move miles away.

Needless to say, I was absolutely disgusted and outraged to find out that Safeway was putting the health of communities at risk (including communities of color and some of the most vulnerable: the differently-abled and the elderly) and had the audacity to create such deeds. But I also knew Vallejo must not be the only community impacted by such greed.

We enlisted the help of Dr. Carol Glasser (who led the research on our report) and one of her students, Joseph Tope Sanni, and discovered that something similar had occurred in Washington, DC. I got in touch with a City Council Member’s office in D.C., who worked to pass a resolution in February of 2015 to stop this from continuing.


On May 27, 2015, I sent a letter to the CEO of Safeway (which is owned by Albertsons) urging Safeway to pass a policy to end the practice. On July 6, 2015, we received an unsatisfactory response from their VP of Public Affairs. We continued to engage with their VP until February of this year, when we realized that we were not going to get them to change their policy.

So we have decided to bring this disgrace to light.

We want to stop this damaging practice of placing deeds on former grocery store properties that don’t allow another grocery store from opening in the same location. All neighborhoods deserve the right to have access to fresh food!

We have had attorneys look at the legality of such deeds, and we know that even though it might be legal, it is immoral.

There are numerous barriers for people to be able to access healthy food—including the cost—because, unfortunately, many people are not paid living wages and many people are “time-poor and cash-poor”; they don’t have a lot of time OR money.  But barriers created by the very corporations that should be providing access to healthy foods should NOT be one of them.

Stopping this practice might just help communities across the U.S. gain access to healthy foods. At the bare minimum, stores should not stand in the way of access. Help us right this injustice!

Please join us
in demanding that Safeway/Albertsons eliminate restrictive deeds on their former properties that prevent new grocery stores from replacing them.


*Please note that F.E.P. is not implying that grocery stores are the solution to the problems that face many communities, nor will they create a solution; however, this is clearly a massive barrier. F.E.P. prefers to advocate for people growing their own food, community-owned grocery stores (co-ops), and solutions coming from community input and with their support.