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New AAFL column launched at tastebetter.com

Many of you may remember Vegan Pr0n, now known as Taste Better!

Jason Doucette’s site is feature-packed, having expanded well beyond its initial scope to include a number of columns, now including one by me, which launched today with an essay called “The Power of Privilege.” I hope you’ll click through to give it a read and share your comments.

Taste Better still centers around Jason’s witty takes on current animal- and veg-related events, which I have read with much amusement for some time. I’ve always enjoyed how he can take crappy news and find something funny to say about it. I think humor is something we could all use more of. That said, I like that Jason is increasing the variety of information and voices at his site, and I am pleased to be a part of it.

My monthly AAFL contribution to Taste Better is where you’ll find longer exploration of ideas on my mind that don’t necessarily fit the format here. Whereas this site is more of a journal with the occasional news commentary, reviews and so forth, you’re going to find a bit more reflection over there. The monthly cycle gives me the opportunity to actually take a topic, consider it more thoughtfully, and take the time to rewrite it enough that (hopefully) it’s more like an article than an off-the-cuff blog entry. I hope you enjoy it, and I encourage and look forward to your feedback. Also, if you have an idea for a column you’d like me to consider, please let me know.

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2nd Blogoversary

Today marks 2 full years that I’ve been writing at An Animal-Friendly Life about issues that affect animals, and those of us who care about them.

No fancy vegan cake celebrations around here, or anything like that (though I might cave in and bake cupcakes with my wife later), but it is satisfying to reflect back on the past 2 years and see that I’ve published well over 1,400 posts on behalf of animal interests, as well as a couple dozen podcasts. That makes it tougher to review the blog for highlights to link, but skimming through the posts, I’ve found it interesting to note the development of my thinking on the various issues over time.

In some cases, not much has changed. But, as my fellow activists in the animal protection movement(s) and I continually stimulate thought-provoking discussion amongst ourselves in such venues as magazines, message boards, blogs, podcasts, books, conferences, and interpersonal conversations, it is hard not to find one’s self growing.

Of course, there are many ways to approach one’s activism. Taking stock, I’m as opposed as ever to engaging in activities that threaten, intimidate, and are otherwise destructive, but I’m also less inclined than before to cheer incremental welfare reforms. Privately, I’m happy for any meaningful reduction in true suffering. But, at the same time, I find it difficult now to publicly applaud companies for successfully being pressured into doing something they didn’t really want to do, particularly when the change does little if anything to change society’s concept of animals as commodities. Animal exploiters really don’t need any extra help burnishing their image to look more appealing to consumers.

Still, there are victories I can heartily praise. When high schools and universities successfully offer vegan menu options in their cafeterias, for instance, we are seeing the manifestation of a major shift in thinking. This widening of options speaks to a broad-based societal change and acceptance of veganism, normalizing a compassionate lifestyle to the point where it can grow beyond the niche of dedicated people who aren’t impressed that a cafeteria’s sole nod to reducing animal suffering is switching to cage-free eggs. After all, vegan options often still amount to little more than a salad, sometimes settling for oil and vinegar dressing to avoid dairy.

But to broaden to the mainstream, the less committed diners need to see vegan options everywhere they turn. Seeing vegan options for sale helps to validate a dietary choice rooted in compassion. When a cafeteria offers vegan options, not only do the vegans feel better respected (and eat better), but every non-vegan who sees these dishes starts getting used to the idea of veganism, and may even be enticed into trying more of this healthy vegan food they keep hearing about. And since this is happening more and more often, and since products geared toward vegan eating (even if flexitarians account for a major chunk of the consumer-base), we are seeing growth in an area that was quite new when I started this blog only two short years ago.

I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen in the news since I began AAFL, despite the occasional mind-bogglingly backward editorials and fluff pieces that encourage animal exploitation and suffering for trivial matters of fashion and the culinary arts. After all, I started this site because I was surprised by just how much daily news I was seeing about animal issues, and this trend has only picked up over the past two years, both in smaller, local papers and in the major newspapers.

So, obviously I’m not posting less lately because there’s less news, but rather because we’ve gotten to a point where it feels redundant to dissect certain stories. Foie gras again?, I think to myself. While it might be titillating to joke about a hot dog vendor getting fined $250 for violating Chicago’s ban on the stuff, that’s not really my modus operandi here. If the U.S. Congress votes to ban foie gras, then you can bet I’ll be commenting on it. Heck, even if Chicago’s ban is reversed, you’ll hear about it, but I’m getting too busy with other projects to comment on every animal or vegan story that comes my way. There were some days where I posted more than ten times, and I don’t think either blogger or reader gained from that.

If you want witty banter highlighting the ridiculousness in the day’s events, visit Vegan Pr0n and SuperVegan. They specialize in those brief, sarcastic posts that seem to be the mainstay of modern blogging. If there’s anything I’ve gathered from this 2007’s slow-down in posts, it’s that I want to focus more on major trends, the uniqueness of what I’m covering, and the quality of what I’m writing. Considering that there’s a plethora of blogs and podcasts all covering a non-story about Jamba Juice’s mysterious non-dairy blend that I don’t think is currently even being used, I don’t see the added value in contributing to the noise.

Plus, I don’t want to let the news cycle rule my life. I have projects that don’t respond well to the constant interruption, and they are really crying out for my attention. Fortunately these other projects are animal-friendly, and perhaps I will be writing about those, and maybe even podcasting or vodcasting about those when they get to a place where that makes more sense.

In the meantime, stay subscribed through the RSS feeds (gotta love Bloglines.com) or email via the Subscriptions box in the sidebar, and I will continue to post when the mood strikes or some particularly interesting news or events spark a post. Sometimes I won’t post for 2-3 days, perhaps, and other days I may post 4-5 times or one of those lengthy compendiums where I catch up on the news. Regardless, I’ll still be posting.

And, as ever, I will continue to syndicate Totally Not Vegan. I’ve gotten a few emails over the last few months, in which readers have told me that they don’t think the strip is funny (where’s all the appreciative emails?). I do get you, people, but there are two reasons why I run Totally Not Vegan: 1) It is vegan, so we have a strip of our own, and that’s worth supporting; 2) I think the strip is more about recognizing the everyday nonsense vegans deal with and, while it may not always come off laugh-out-loud funny, when we see situations we recognize reflected in those panels, we realize we’re not alone in our frustrations, and that’s cool.

Speaking of frustrations, I have to tell you, it sucks going to other animal- or veg-friendly blogs and seeing 18 or more reader comments, or going to a blog on other political topics and seeing dozens upon dozens of comments, then seeing my own page, which gets hundreds and hundreds of impressions every day, and only seeing the occasional comment or two, and that includes the anti-animal rights types!

I know you’re out there, I know you’re reading, and I know you have some thoughts on these issues. Speak up! I’m not whining here, I’m encouraging you to participate. It really helps me to know what readers respond to. If you prefer, hit me up with an email. Either way, let me know what you think of the site, other than, “Hey, can you fix this link?” If you have no idea how to comment, just scroll down to the gray footer bar at the end of each post. You’ll see an icon that looks like this: Just click on that, and you’re good to go. Talk to me!

Okay, this has been a suitably self-indulgent post. If you can’t be self-indulgent on an anniversary, then when can you?

I’m looking forward to another year of writing about the exciting developments in animal protection at An Animal-Friendly Life. I know there will be much to report and comment on. Also, don’t forget to look for my reviews in VegNews Magazine, including an upcoming feature review on the movie Sustainable Table, and a brief review of the book Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of Mother Earth.

Finally, look for me July 19-23 at AR2007, “the world’s largest and oldest animal rights conference.” I hope you’ll attend. While the online world is great for sharing and disseminating ideas and information, face-to-face interaction and networking is really important to growing the movement. You’ll find animal activists of all stripes there. So, even if you disagree with one person, you may find a “soul mate” of sorts later in the day. Part of the excitement and vitality at this event is the difference in opinions. I think the generally healthy debates and discussions are good for personal growth and development as an activist, and it would be a shame to miss such an opportunity simply because there are people at an event with whom you disagree.

Thanks for sticking with me through this post and through the past two years, for those of you who’ve been here all along. I will endeavor to continually merit your time and consideration.

Welcome!

AAFL is making its debut foremost as a blog oriented toward leading an animal friendly life. Over time it will incorporate the elements that inspired me to create it: primarily animal-friendly listings (and possibly boycott or “blacklists”) in various categories of businesses, products and services, such as restaurants, personal care, entertainment, and so on. As these lists become reasonably useful, they will begin to appear at the site as subwebs linked from this main page, which will be updated frequently as I come across items that inspire comment regarding their friendliness (or antagonism) toward animals.

Some observations may seem over-sensitive at first, and some items will inevitably fall through the cracks, but an essential part of generating awareness of animal suffering in the world is thoughtful scrutiny of our current memes and paradigms, so stick with me. I’ll try to keep this from being entirely academic!

Not content to let anything remain static in form, much less content, the site will likely evolve in exciting ways as I incorporate other points of view and features. So while I do not intend for this to be the most comprehensive site on animal-friendly living ever, it will continually grow — particularly with visitor input and my own compulsive edification. I hope that you’ll join me on this journey and contribute to its success!

Best wishes,

Eric Prescott
An Animal Friendly Life