Saturday, August 6, 2011

Learning From the Women's Suffrage Movement

My history classes, like most in the United States, were always white-male-centric, with wars being a primary focus. So it's sad that I didn't learn the details of a battle fought by women--the right to vote--until I was 34.

"A Woman's Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot" by Mary Walton is a biography of an important woman few have heard of. Alice Paul, an American Quaker, began fighting for women's suffrage in Great Britain. Armed with the tactics of English "militants," she returned to the States and fought for the right to vote here.

In addition to being enthralled with history that directly affected me--and about which I knew virtually nothing--I was also interested in how some details of the women's suffrage movement mirrored today's animal-rights movement.

Alice's time in England had taught her about civil disobedience, including hunger strikes. Officials there had no idea what to do with imprisoned suffragettes who refused to eat. They didn't want the women to die on their watch, so they released them. Incidentally Mahatma Gandhi attended a meeting featuring these hunger strikers.

Eventually, though, prison officials decided to forcefully feed the women. Alice was force-fed both in England and in the United States. (She refused to open her mouth, so the tube was inserted into her nose.) Of course, when I think of force-feeding, I think about the ducks and geese who have tubes shoved down their throats and are pumped full of food in order to engorge their lives for foie gras.

Lucy Barns, Alice's right-hand woman, smuggled this description of force-feeding out of prison: "Food dumped directly into stomach feels like a ball of lead." Alice called her forced feeding "something like vivisection." Rose Winslow, another activist, wrote this:
Miss Paul vomits much. I do too, except when I'm not nervous, as I have been every time but one. The feeding always gives me a severe headache. My throat aches afterward, and I always weep and sob.
In England, frustrated by the government's lack of action, the suffragettes turned to methods employed by the Animal Liberation Front (and the Environmental Liberation Front) today.
British suffragettes had blown up the cactus greenhouse in a Manchester park, destroying a $50,000 collection; set fire to an elegant mansion; and burned down the pavilion at a bowling and tennis club in London.
So when an arrest warrant was issued for Lucy Burns in the United States, a reporter asked her if her offense was a form of militancy. What was her offense? Chalking a sidewalk. (If that doesn't sound familiar, check out this post at "Green Is the New Red." Lucy had written "Votes for Women" on a sidewalk across from the White House.

These women who fought for the right to vote, both in the United States and in England (and probably in every other country), were courageous.
All over England, suffragettes "hid in bushes and under platforms, scaled roofs, let themselves down through skylights in order to interrupt meetings with the dreaded call, 'votes for women!'"
In an act that got them arrested and Alice force-fed in England, Alice and activist Amelia Brown crashed an event that Winston Churchill (not yet prime minister) was attending.
For all [the police] vigilance, they missed two young women dressed as charwomen and toting buckets and brushes, who had arrived at 8 a.m. armed with the password, "kitchen." Climbing up to the balcony that overlooked the hall where the guests would dine that evening, Alice Paul and Amelia Brown found a hiding place and remained there throughout the day. One officer making the rounds came so close his cape touched Alice's hair.


Just as [Prime Minister Herbert Henry] Asquith began to speak, Amelia took off her shoe, reached over, and smashed a window. Both she and Alice cried, "Votes for women."
When Alice returned to the United States, she began working for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, aka the National. But just as the animal-rights movement consists of different cliques that disagree about how animal rights should be fought, similarly Alice eventually left the National to form her own organization, the Congressional Union.

The latter's goal was to convince Congress to amend the Constitution to give women the right to vote. The National's tact was to encourage each state to give women the vote, and some Western states already had. Instead of simply agreeing to disagree about which approach was better, the National (like a certain animal-rights organization, in particular, and some activists in general) actively criticized Alice's group.
One woman complained to a supporter of Alice's that the National was sending her so many "long screeds" denouncing the Union that she didn't have time to read them.
Imagine if Facebook was around then.

Alice, like many animal-rights groups, today didn't play the National's game.
When a new Union press secretary was quoted as saying the National was "lacking in political wisdom," Alice warned her never to do it again. "It puts a bad spirit through all our work and can do us nothing but harm."
When the Congressional Union began to stage picketers outside the White House, the president of the National, Carrie Chapman Catt, called the move "[a] childish method of appeal [that] will never bring a result." She also "sent newspapers an open letter addressed to Alice in which she claimed the picketing was 'hurting our cause in Congress.'"

But after the Nineteenth Amendment passed Congress, the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court wrote Alice, "There were politicians, and a large degree of public sentiment, which could be won only by the methods you adopted."

(Book cover courtesy of Better World Books.)

(Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

mouse photographs for sale

Friday, July 22, 2011

Milk Board Pulls Sour Ad Campaign

After 10 days of running its sexist ad campaign, the California Milk Processor Board has withdrawn it.

Its campaign had featured men apologizing to their female significant others for offenses that weren't their fault. The kicker is that the women are PMSing. And, ha-ha, what guy can't relate to that, right?

Except don't women do most of the grocery shopping? The milk board actually thought this campaign would appeal to women?

Jeff Goodby, a co-chairman at Goodby, Silverstein, the advertising agency that created the campaign, told The New York Times that he was "surprised" by people's reactions.
[He also said that] "in no way was this done cynically" — that is, designed to provoke consumers deliberately in a way that would generate publicity for the product.
Either Goodby's ad agency isn't very good, or he's lying. Most women--and likely most men--could have told him the ads were offensive.

A day after the campaign was announced, Carol J. Adams wrote a blog post about it that's definitely worth reading. Of the ad campaign, she says the following:
All this to promote a product that actually helps deplete calcium from women's bones rather than strengthening them. And contributes to the ongoing medicalization of women's lives.
Milk contains cholesterol and saturated fat, which can lead to obesity and heart disease and lots of pills and surgery.

If you want to reduce your PMS symptoms, try eating a plant-based diet. I used to have days where I was doubled over, rocking back and forth on the floor, because my cramps hurt so bad. Not being fond of pills, after years of this I finally gave in and would down a Midol when the cramps came. After going vegan, though, I found that I didn't need the Midol. I still have cramps, but they're just a minor discomfort.

The milk board's campaign was odd, too. The average person consumes cow's milk, so shouldn't the average woman's PMS already be reduced? The study the board cites is a 1998 one that says that calcium and vitamin D help to reduce PMS symptoms.

Women don't need to consume milk to get those vitamins and minerals. Leafy greens are full of calcium, and you have vitamin D right outside your front door (ie. the sun). But if that isn't enough, soy milk and other plant-based milks are fortified with both, allowing you to get what you need to reduce PMS symptoms while avoiding the antibiotics, hormones, cholesterol, and saturated fat of animals' milk.

(Sexist ad courtesy of the California Milk Processor Board.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Martosko Out, Coggin In

Registered dietitians Jack Norris (from Vegan Outreach) and Virginia Messina have just published a book about nutrition for vegans called "Vegan for Life," and they list "Digging Through the Dirt" in the list of resources at the end of the book!

As you've probably noticed, work and slacking have taken their toll on "Digging." But I owe it to Jack and Ginny--and to my other blog readers--to begin posting regularly again. And what better way to start than by giving you an update on the man I love to hate: David Martosko?

If you follow you should--you'll know that Martosko was either fired or quit from the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom, likely due to his penchant for drinking and driving. ( is opposed to and keeps tabs on the CCF's I didn't post anything about Martosko's departure because, other than, I didn't have any proof that he actually left. But now I do.

Martosko is now the executive editor for Tucker Carlson's Republican political Web site, "The Daily Caller." Asked by Media Bistro about Martosko's police record, Carlson said this:
David's not the only person in this office who's been arrested, by the way, and I've made it clear to the staff that anyone who judges him for it can leave.
I think people deserve second chances--yes, perhaps even people who risk others' lives because they drink and drive. But what about judging Martosko for his other acts? Like misinforming the public. Defending animal abusers. Combine those things with his drinking and driving, and you get one sleazy, selfish jerk.

As for who has taken Martosko's place at the CCF? says it's Will Coggin, arguably even more vile than Martosko.

A 2007 graduate of William and Mary, he was already causing controversy during his college years.
As a freshman, he co-founded the conservative student group Sons of Liberty. Among this group's claims to fame was an affirmative action bake sale held in 2004. According to news reports, prices were 50 cents for "Black/Hispanic/Native American," 75 cents for "White/Asian/Indian" and $1 for "Human (if you prefer to be judged by the content of your character, rather than by the color of your skin)."
In 2006, as editor of the libertarian student publication "The Remnant," Coggin printed the name of a rape victim and called her a "wannabe victim" and "con artist."

Public-relations guru Rick Berman, who created the CCF, was probably drooling as he read Coggin's resume.

I'll miss Martosko, but I'm sure we'll meet again online. As for Coggin, you have small shoes to fill.

(Photo courtesy of

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Striking out at the Plate

The pyramid is a thing of the past.

That's right -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shunned its nutrition pyramid in favor of a plate, which it unveiled today.

I wasn't expecting a vegan overhaul; although that would have been nice. But I still have questions about this new image, the biggest one being: How large is the plate?

Serving sizes play major roles in weight gain. I use a "lunch" plate for most of my meals at home. (I call it a "lunch" plate because that's the size plate I used for lunches growing up, one size down from a dinner plate.) But I would think that most Americans use dinner plates more often than "lunch" plates.

It's nice to see that half of the plate is devoted to fruits and vegetables, but that confuses me to. As a kid, I'd have a steak, a baked potato, and another veggie on my plate for dinner. I can't imagine eating fruit with that. Yuck.

And what about breakfast? True, I do have veggies for breakfast now. (I blend fresh spinach into a smoothie. Sounds gross, but it's delicious.) But the average meat-eater isn't going to eat veggies for breakfast. Except for hashbrowns, I suppose. But at that point in the processing, can they really be considered veggies? And that plate actually looks like a lot of food. That's gonna be one big breakfast.

Maybe I'm just not a visual person. I prefer numerical serving amounts to slices of a generic plate.

I had mixed feelings about the word "protein." At first I thought the meat groups would be annoyed that the word "meat" was omitted. But now I think "protein" just reinforces the myth that one can only get protein through animal flesh. And why is this the only nutrient mentioned? Where's my slice for Omega-3s? Or for fiber? And if I'm getting my protein through veggies, then what do I do with that other "protein" slice?

As for the "Dairy" piece, I'd like to flick it off the page. It's worse than worthless; like meat, it harms one's health.

If I were artistically inclined, I'd create my own nutrition plate containing of fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and soy milkshakes. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine came close with their own image. (Where are the milkshakes?)

I hate to be so cynical and complaining, but all in all, this new nutrition image is about what I'd expect from the USDA: confusing, vague, and harmful.

(MyPlate image courtesy of the USDA.)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Vegan T-shirt Day

Vegan scientist and author Jonathan Balcombe has created Vegan T-shirt Day, in which we're are encouraged to wear pro-vegan shirts on the first Saturday of every month.

This venture began a month ago, so you can take part in the second Vegan T-shirt Day on Saturday, June 4. Of course, it's great to wear shirts with vegan messages any day, but I think it's cool to have one day a month when all vegans wear these shirts. Not only does it allow us to recognize fellow vegans, but perhaps meat-eaters will be prompted to research veganism if they see a couple people wearing these shirts.

Don't have a shirt with a vegan message? Check out this blog post for links to great shirts. In addition, you can shop for shirts and benefit farmed animals at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and Farm Sanctuary.

Of course, if you live in a hot climate like me, you ladies may have to hold off on T-shirts for the next few months. But never fear -- cute spaghetti-strap shirts also proclaim pro-animal messages.

If you have links to other cool shirts, please post them in the Comments section.

Be sure to "like" the Vegan T-shirt Day Facebook page and upload a photo of yourself wearing a pro-vegan shirt on Saturday.

(The beautiful Jenny Brown models a pro-vegan T-shirt, courtesy of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.)
(You can find the In Defense of Animals spaghetti-strap shirt here.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Plant-Strong Memorial Day

Keith and I are going to celebrate Memorial Day with Rip Esselstyn and Gene Baur!

No, we don't know either of them personally. I'm Facebook friends with Rip, and he issued an open invitation for a potluck at his house in Austin. Gene Baur will be in town as part of his cross-country trip celebrating the 25th anniversary of Farm Sanctuary.

For those who don't know, Rip Esselstyn is an Austin firefighter who wrote "The Engine 2 Diet," a book that advocates a "plant-strong" diet, which means a diet consisting of whole, plant-based foods. That may sound familiar, as that's what the film "Forks Over Knives" advocates.

Rip's father, former heart surgeon Caldwell Esselstyn, was one of the two primary experts "Forks Over Knives" focused on. And Rip was in the film, too. He's the buff firefighter who can climb up a firepole without using his legs. The next time someone skeptically asks me where vegans get their protein, I'll tell them to look him up.

In addition to the potluck, there will also be a barbecue cook-off. I've never made barbecue, so I won't be entering that, but I'll have to decide what to make for the potluck. I'm thinking macaroni and cheese.

I'll try to take lots of photos of the food and festivities for those of you not able to attend. Whatever your Memorial Day plans are, please leave animals--at least the dead kind; your dogs and cats lounging around the house are fine--out of them.

(Photo of Rip Esselstyn courtesy of
(Photo of Gene Baur courtesy of

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adopt--Don't Shop

I joined Toastmasters a few months ago. It's a group that helps people become better at public speaking. Of the 15 or so members of this particular group--it's an international organization with groups all over--I'm vegan and two others are vegetarian. Still more are dog lovers.

I've decided to share my second speech with you. I gave it a couple of weeks ago. My next speech will be on the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and I'll post that here after I give it.

This speech was titled "Adopt--Don't Shop." Enjoy!

In the first speech I gave at Toastmasters, I mentioned that my husband and I share our home with three dogs. But in my nervousness I forgot to mention that all three of our dogs are rescue dogs. That doesn’t mean that they’re trained to find people in a collapsed building or in the wilderness--or that they’re superheroes. For Poncho, Cooper, and Snickers, work means going outside to use the bathroom. What I mean by rescue dogs is that Keith and I adopted them from animal shelters or rescue groups instead of purchasing them at a pet store.

I'm sure you all know that song "How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?" Well, the actual cost of that puppy at the pet store is higher than the dog's monetary value. Puppies and kittens in pet stores, like Petland, come from puppy mills. At puppy mills female dogs are confined to cages and are kept pregnant, churning out litter after litter, to be shipped off to pet stores. When the breeding dogs' fertility wanes, they're often killed, abandoned, or sold cheaply to another mill to try to get one more litter out of the dogs.

I used to foster dogs for a rescue group, and you would not believe the physical and emotional states of the dogs who came from puppy mills. These were breeder dogs who would have been shot if the rescue group wouldn't have taken them in. The mill owners had used them until their bodies were spent. They were no longer profitable, so they were expendable. Their fur had to be cut short because it'd be matted with urine and feces. They smelled awful. But the worst thing was how afraid some of these dogs were. For example, one of my fosters, who I named
Straggles, was scared to walk outside because she'd never been on grass before. Most dogs at puppy mills spend their whole lives in wire cages. And, of course, she was scared of people. The one bright spot is that, after these dogs are given some love and some time, most make dramatic recoveries. Straggles, while still timid, was adopted by a couple who had another dog whom Straggles took to.

It's understandable why people buy puppies from pet stores. Who can resist a cute, wiggling dog who flashes his puppy eyes at you? Some people also rationalize their purchase by saying that the puppy needed a home just like a dog in a shelter does. But by purchasing that puppy, that person has created demand for another puppy to take its place. So the puppy mill will continue cranking out more puppies. It’s a never-ending cycle unless we stop patronizing these stores.

Animal shelters take in six million to eight million dogs and cats each year, and half of those are euthanized because there simply aren't enough resources to care for them. Most of these animals are healthy and adoptable. But when someone decides to purchase a dog or cat from a pet store, that leaves one fewer good home for an animal who really needs it.

My husband and I adopted Cooper from a humane society back in Illinois. He was 2 years old and housebroken. He's a miniature pinscher/Chihuahua mix. We adopted Poncho--a Chihuahua/rat terrier mix--from a rescue group in Illinois that specializes in placing older dogs and cats. Adopting an older animal was perfect for me because he was past the hyper stage of being a puppy or young dog. He is content to lie on my lap and nap while I read. But if you want a puppy, shelters and rescue groups have those, too.

Like I said, both Cooper and Poncho are mixed breeds. But if your heart is set on a purebred, you can find those in shelters, too. About a quarter of all dogs in shelters are purebreds. Another great place to find purebreds is a breed-rescue group. There are organizations across the country that each specialize in one particular breed. Snickers is a Cairn terrier whom I adopted from a breed-specific rescue. Some organizations even allow you to foster a dog for a while to see if he or she is a good fit for your household.

Older dogs have a more difficult time getting adopted than younger ones. Oddly large black dogs also have a hard time. Maybe it's because they seem scary. Maybe it's because they don’t photograph as well as lighter-colored dogs. Shelters often run one or two photos of their animals in Sunday newspapers.

The same is true about black cats; shelter workers will tell you that the other colored cats get scooped up first. Like black dogs, perhaps black cats don’t photograph as well. Their low adoption rates could also be due to the superstition that black cats bring bad luck.

Keith and I don't share our home with any cats right now. But sometime in the future we'd like to. When we do, we’ll get two of them, so they have someone to play with when we're not home. We’ll adopt them from a shelter or rescue group, and at least one will be black.

It's easy to locate shelters and rescue groups nearby. There are several shelters in the Georgetown area. In fact, you've probably seen two of them at local festivals. The Georgetown Animal Shelter is, of course, in Georgetown, and the Humane Society of Williamson County is located in Leander. is also a great resource to find shelters and rescue groups. Just type in your ZIP code, and you'll be surprised at the numerous organizations from which you can adopt. You can also search by the type of animal, the breed, the age, the gender. It's very user-friendly.

If you want to open your heart and your home to an animal in need, instead of purchasing one from a pet store, please consider adopting from a rescue group or from your local animal shelter.