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Vegans in Prison Deserve Proper Food

Vegans in Prison Deserve Proper Food

Due to the recent political climate surrounding the Animal Rights movement and in light of new laws like the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act which ramp up punishment for those working to end animal oppression, addressing non-religious dietary restrictions in the prison system is becoming an ever more pressing issue.

There is a deficit of empathy in America for prisoners because people who have been incarcerated are not only disenfranchised but are easy to stereotype as unsavory characters. But when new laws like the AETA are criminalizing even constitutionally protected activities like public education and leafletting, we are forced to reexamine some of our ideas about people in prison. Acknowledging that many people in the prison system are wrongfully incarcerated is the first step toward rehumanizing them, turning them from political whipping boys into citizens again.

How many activists in history have gone to prison for acts of conscience? From anti-war activists during the conflict in Vietnam, to civil rights leaders, and suffragettes, some of the most important agents of change had to spend time behind bars for their beliefs. Sadly it is often only in hindsight that we realize how harsh the treatment of political prisoners actually is. Suffragettes in prison who went on hunger strike in the early 20th century were force-fed by guards simply for demanding their right to vote.

Many animal rights activists who are currently in prison for various activities linked to animal liberation are denied vegan food because their reasoning for not eating animals doesn’t fit what the government sees as “acceptable” reasons for requiring special dietary accommodations. Because of the first amendment, the government cannot deny someone proper food if it is required under their religious practices, but they can deny someone proper food if they request it due to their secular morality. Non-religious vegans in prison have the option of lying in an attempt to convince the administration that their dietary requirements are religious, or trying to make a case to receive vegan food on other grounds, which is too often unsuccessful.

It is nearly impossible to get Americans to speak out on behalf of prisoners, but it is high time that we start to recognize that religion is no longer the only form of moral practice that needs to be respected. Humanity has come a long way from the medieval standards of spirituality and moral mandates of the past thousand years. To deny the dedication of members of progressive secular movements simply because they lack belief in an incorporeal omniscient being is not only an outdated mindset, but factually false. It benefits everyone when the government acknowledges and respects people who wish to do good in the world, even if they aren’t doing it in the name of a god.

The amount of accommodation required to give a vegan in prison proper nutrition is so minute, and the ethical importance of doing so is so great that there is no excuse for the government’s obstinacy. No matter how much they are vilified in politics or the media, prisoners are human beings with basic rights including proper nutrition. To deny someone their basic rights for not being religious is a perverse and backwards interpretation.

There are few better measures of the moral health of a society than the way it treats its prisoners and its animals.  It would go far to bring America into the 21st century to not only show respect for veganism, but especially for vegans in the prison system.

I also wanted to make it very clear that none of this should be interpreted as a slight to people of faith who work for animal sights, there are many wonderful people involved with groups like the Christian Vegetarian Association who have my profound respect.

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Photo: Mr.Thomas on flickr

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265 comments

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7:06PM PST on Nov 19, 2013

thanks....in a humane society all food options should be available even to prisoners...

2:43PM PDT on Sep 16, 2012

Thank you.

2:42PM PDT on Sep 16, 2012

Thank you.

11:36AM PDT on Sep 21, 2011

shannon I don't hate vegans I hate the self rightous I'm better than you because I don't eat animals attutude. If they would stop insulting people who ate differntly then them it would be different.

11:01AM PDT on Sep 12, 2011

I'm amazed at how many people HATE vegans! Is it because vegans point out the ugliness of where cheap carcasses come from? The hate & intentional cruelty perpetrated on the innocent from inception to death? Take a look at what vegans are being arrested for, because you haters are the ones who put them there to silence them from speaking for the voiceless. And to those who seem to think vegans "only care about animals" Do you realize we are animals too? Is slavery okay in your eyes too? And human trafficking? domestic violence? I bet there's a higher percentage of vegans standing up for the helpless & innocents (women, children, poor, exploited) than any other group.

Yes. Vegans deserve the right to vegan food in prison. period.

8:12AM PDT on Sep 12, 2011

stupid. go on about human rights? don't vegans want the whole world to be vegan? down to the "stupid savages, using an ox and horse to plow a field, haven't those bimbos heard of a tractor"? But because they do it "to protect them animals, a fly is worth more than a Somalian" thinking. they should be "coddled" by "human rights". when they make petitions to ban eating guinea pigs in Peru, because Americans keep them as pets.

OHHH yeah. veganism is not a religion. or should I make one based on foods I do not really like? like potatos. "sorry I hate potatos, can I have carrots insted?" if I had to go to jail for picking on your child to the point of suicide(out of your wanting human hunting to be legal)

then all the vegans should turn it into a religion. as a religion you are protected.

7:57AM PDT on Sep 12, 2011

they commit a crime. why let them have their way. veganizm is not a religion so it is nothing like making Muslims eat pork.

and how the hell does a vegan get in jail? I thought they were peaceful. oh yeh "so called terriorism". i mean "being a hero".

if not, good old "bread and water", or maybe pellet food you feed bunnies.

12:01PM PST on Mar 8, 2011

in my opinion they are already serving their times for the crimes they have committed, and i'm sure that they serve vegetarian food like vegetables and beans , so they can easily trade their portion of dairy food and meat with vegetables ..as simple as that

8:42AM PST on Jan 15, 2011

A proper meal for a whining vegan would be bread and water. The bread stale with maybe a little green fungi in the corners. And the water, slightly brown and questionable. That should fix a whiny vegan.

9:25AM PST on Dec 27, 2010

There seem to be a significant number of posters that have missed the point by condemning vegans as cold blooded killers, vicious or any number of inappropriate descriptions and generalisations. People end up in prison for many reasons besides being violent or vicious. Those that end up in prison as a matter of conscience be they animal or human rights protesters who are vegans for example should have the same right to an appropriate diet as those of any particular religious affiliation have. Anything else results in a double punishment not meted out to their possibly violent fellow inmates! Considering the individuals described by various governments as terrorists such as the Dalai Lama, Ghandi, Martin Luther King,The Suffragettes, Nelson Mandela, Paul Watson, Archbishop Makarios and the UK Government's inclusion of former terrorists in high office! "Terrorism" has some strange manifestations! I understand LA County has even described cats as potential terrorists! One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter!
Interesting video disclosing some UK political big business connections in the perpetuation of vivisection as a huge money spinner that kills people and animals whilst lining the pockets of the rich and powerful which may explain the need to describe protester as "terrorists"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWV2XI-FnYw

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