Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Daily Archives: October 10, 2008

vegan food in prisons

At the AR conference this year, Dallas Rising made an announcement at the end of one of the sessions about a new group being formed to work for getting vegan food in prisons. The other members of the board of directors are Peter Young and Aaron Zellhoefer. I signed up to be on the mailing list, but have yet to hear anything. Anyone else sign up? And if you did sign up, have you heard anything from them?

I finally found a website for them, SARP (Support Animal Rights Prisoners), which looks like it is very new, so perhaps they’re not yet ready to bring on the mailing list aspect, and organizing the interested folks into targeted campaigns.

Vegan food in prison is important. I can’t imagine how demoralizing it would be to be sent to prison for, say, waging a successful and non-violent and legal (if controversial) campaign against a company that tested on animals, only to get there and have a daily struggle for vegan food.

I was, of course, talking about the SHAC folks, and I know that they are having a hard time even though they (or at least some of them) have court orders requiring that they be given vegan food.

But it isn’t just activist prisoners who are impacted by the lack of vegan food in prisons. A former cell mate of Josh Harper‘s went vegan after many conversations with Josh. Jesse is someone I keep in touch with, and he amazes me. He is completely dedicated to being vegan, he researches issues, is incredibly thoughtful about all of it, and he’s doing all that in prison. He is working on getting soymilk into the commissary at the state prison he’s now at, even though he doesn’t expect it to happen while he’s there. And even though he’d have to pay for that soy milk out of his own pocket if it was there. He just wants that option.

I think it is absurd that a healthy, if basic, vegan option isn’t given for prisoners.

Some might think that these people are in prison, and thus don’t deserve options or special consideration for ethical decisions, but I can’t agree with that. People end up in prison for many reasons, sometimes legitimately, sometimes not. Regardless, not all prisoners are the hardened criminal types of people, and even if they are, the supposed mission of prisons is rehabilitation. Encouraging, or at least not blocking, prisoners in making ethical choices could only be a good thing. Part of the mission, you’d think.

If nothing else, it is the compassionate thing to do. And, as it happens, in the UK where there has been a lot of work done to get vegan meal options into the prisons, there are quite a few prisoners who go vegan because the vegan meals are better.

While it is true that most of these prisoners are likely to only be temporarily eating vegan food, it is still less animal products being consumed. I can’t fault that. And you never know what long-term changes people might make after they have a chance to step away from their animal-product habit.

Hearing that there was a group being formed in the U.S. to work towards the same goals was very welcome, especially as it seems more personal to me, from keeping in touch with Jesse. I know from him just what he has to deal with, and how much it would mean to him to see even small positive changes.

Jesse is inspiring, and in his dedication and positive spirit despite an almost oppressive lack of options he makes one truth bitingly clear – no matter what our food situations are on the “outside”, we really have nothing to complain about. We have options, and even when our options suck on planes or at conferences or for team lunches, all we have to do is put up with it for a few hours, and then find ourselves some real food. Jesse has to wait years, not hours. It puts an entirely different perspective on things. Working on a campaign to get vegan food in prisons seems like an fantastic way to participate in prisoner support.

Though for immediate support, nothing can really beat writing them letters. I do that too.

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