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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


March/April 1997
Volume XVI, Number 2

Sing a Song of Veganism

By Courtney Centner

"Realistically, I suppose our simplest goal is to encourage people to think critically and share perspectives with others concerning how society could possibly be reorganized to improve the quality of life for everyone on the planet."

Can you guess who said this? A candidate you voted for? Your local politician, perhaps? Many would be surprised to discover that this is a statement by Chris Hannah, vocalist of the Canadian "punk" band Propagandhi.

Many people connect rock music with teenagers and a lifestyle of irresponsibility or mindless rebellion. These stereotypes can lead to an ignorance of the efforts of various groups and individuals within the music industry. I recently had the opportunity to speak with members of two bands whose music and lifestyles contradict the stereotypical "slacker" label some groups and their listeners have endured. Hannah and Dennis Merrick, drummer for the band Earth Crisis, are both involved with bands in which every member is vegan and takes an active role in trying to change the state of the world's inequities.

Propagandhi, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, will erase many impressions you may have about apathy in certain elements of the music industry. On their most recent album, Less Talk, More Rock, Propagandhi repeatedly addresses the importance of a vegan diet: "And I kinda thought we all shared common threads in that we gravitated here to challenge the conventions we've been fed by a culture that treats (living, breathing, feeling) creatures like machines."

Propagandhi's concern for human rights issues is highlighted in their lyrics and actions, which include donating a portion of the sales proceeds from Less Talk, More Rock to organizations such as Food Not Bombs, which provides vegetarian food for homeless people. Inside the album's cover are essays on religion, governmental policies, and human rights issues. Also, Propagandhi is a strong advocate of educating oneself about these issues, becoming aware through education and activism. With song titles such as "Nailing Descartes to the Wall/(Liquid) Meat Is Still Murder" and "Resisting Tyrannical Government," it is obvious that Propagandhi's intellectual and critical approach to the existing injustices separates them from the aloof messages of many of their contemporaries.

The Syracuse, NY band Earth Crisis is another group of people professing concerns through their music. Earth Crisis' lyrics address such issues as the problems of a meat-based diet, the unnecessary practice of animal testing, and the general lack of respect for human life. The song "Eden's Demise" suggests a solution: "To end the enslavement and slaughter the antidote is veganism." Merrick, drummer for Earth Crisis for the past three years, claims that the band has received various letters and its members have spoken with listeners from around the world, who have thanked them for introducing the need for veganism into their lives. Without the explanations in Earth Crisis' songs of the pain endured by animals and the destruction of the environment caused by the use of animal products, many of the listeners would have never discovered the vegan lifestyle. Merrick comments on Earth Crisis being an engine for vegan awareness: "I am not, in any way, claiming sole responsibility for the transformation of people's consciousness. It takes more than one band to do that. I am saying that doing the type of work that Earth Crisis does has an effect."

For both Propagandhi and Earth Crisis, veganism is an extension of their members' empathy for all those who suffer from social injustices. Hannah emphasizes the importance of their connectedness to all rights-related struggles. "For us, that's the bottom line," he says. "All forms of oppression are connected, whether it's racism, sexism, homophobia, or speciesism." Merrick makes a similar statement regarding rights struggles. "We are all actively seeking to bring human, earth, and animal liberation," he says. "We see the connection between all of these struggles and recognize the necessity of working simultaneously in all of them. For any true liberation struggle leaves no one behind."

Though music is an effective way of introducing the issues of veganism and social villiany, more is needed to actually cause humane, personal values to become pragmatic goals of the population. Hannah claims that there is a danger of being misinterpreted when trying to relay messages through music. "If you are unable to provide a listener with a convincing set of arguments in the span of a two-minute song as to why, say, eating meat is immoral, you are in danger of being perceived as a lunatic and jeopardizing any further consideration of the issue." Hannah suggests that supporting and practicing moral decisions is integral to enabling others to comprehend the issues. Merrick says that Earth Crisis supports even stronger methods to secure moral ideas. "We believe that militant resistance is often a valid and necessary solution in certain situations. How many people or animals must die waiting for people's consciousness to change?" Propagandhi and Earth Crisis are both successful examples of people using their talents to promote causes. Many dismiss music as simply entertainment, but Hannah suggests that, "Music has historically always been at least a peripheral element of radical/revolutionary movements." Earth Crisis and Propagandhi have realized this idea and are using it to further the animal rights and human rights movements by featuring the issues in their music. Hannah suggests what is to come: "The next goal is to encourage ourselves and others to put those perspectives into practice by showing solidarity and/or taking direct action that supports liberation movements." Merrick agrees: "We all must continue to do the work that we do to ensure that our movement keeps growing."

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

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