Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances""
Contemplating the words of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, that imperfect yet powerful piece of parchment that ostensibly bestows all humans in the US with a set of basic rights enshrined and protected by the legal system, demands that we ask ourselves if we are going to continue apathetically allowing corporations and plutocrats to wrest those rights from us. Will we continue to stand idly by as C. Wright Mills' "Power Elite" reduces us to over-consumptive, indentured automatons, with no voice and little choice but to devote our lives to the hollow, meaningless pursuits of materialism, the bread and circuses they provide, and narcissistic "fulfillment" via the wage and debt slavery that enables the perpetuation of their obscene gluttony and condemns our souls to pecuniary bondage?
Green IS the New Red
No group has seen its First Amendment rights erode more quickly and dramatically than those of us who are vegan and agitate for Animal Rights and the Earth. In 2005 John Lewis, deputy assistant director of the FBI, declared that, "The No. 1 domestic terrorism threat is the eco-terrorism, animal-rights movement." It has been a down-hill slide for us ever since, with ever-increasing degrees of harassment, surveillance, persecution, arrest, and imprisonment for the "crime" of defending the Earth and other sentient beings and attempting to stop a holocaust that kills billions upon billions of nonhuman animals annually.
Here are the stories of but a handful of our movement's political prisoners:
Aside from the gross injustice of those who've lost their freedom fighting for nonhuman animals and the Earth, consider the fact that there is a strong component of spirituality to veganism which receives no recognition or protection. The atheists and agnostics who practice vegan ethics notwithstanding (and with no disrespect to them), many vegans revere and respect other animals and Mother Earth to an extent that there is a high degree of awe and even worship, indications that veganism is spiritual. Vegans also make significant sacrifices in striving to eliminate animal-derived products and sources of entertainment from their lives and face a high degree of marginalization and hostility for their extension of compassion and basic rights to nonhuman animals. Sacrifice is yet another component of spirituality. Alternatively, being a mainstream Christian in the US requires nearly no sacrifice and hollow lip service to the principles of their faith is the order of the day for many who "practice" Christianity.
Yet there is nearly no end to the rights afforded "Christians" in the US.
As a relatively small group facing a great deal of hostility and numerous structural barriers to practicing our spiritual beliefs, vegans need (and are entitled to) the same Constitutional protections granted other spiritual and religious groups in the US. Yet vegans aren't even guaranteed something as basic as a vegan diet if they become political prisoners of a penal system that is allegedly premised on the Constitution. Public schools are not required to provide vegan alternatives in their cafeterias or curricula. Vegans are not protected from discrimination or hate crimes. Why does one have to check one's rights at the door when one chooses to hold a reverence for nonhuman animals?