This is my response to the National Lawyers Guild’s recently released NLG Food Justice Guidelines. I wrote an earlier version of it for some of the NLG email discussion groups but thought it might be helpful to rewrite it a bit and share it more widely.
With all due respect for my comrades who hold to different convictions on these issues, I would argue that two of the planks in this statement contradict themselves in our local context in Oklahoma and for many other parts of the USA.
The two planks in question are:
1. “That all the food served at all of our National Conventions be entirely vegan, free of any animal products such as meat, dairy, including eggs and other animal byproducts;”
2. “Encouraging the National Conventions strive to use locally sourced, organic food when possible and to purchase from businesses owned or run by marginalized communities and which have good labor practices;;”
In the prairie regions of the USA, the most sustainable form of agriculture is raising 100% grass-fed animals, since it enables for food to be produced without plowing the ground (with its resulting issues of erosion), and instead transforming grass (which humans can’t eat thanks to our inability to digest cellulose) into meat. Certainly other forms of agriculture can be done (including growing fruits and veggies, as well as grains) but these other forms of agriculture are fairly seasonal in nature and require tilling the earth which has environmental costs.
A healthy vegan diet by definition is difficult to pull off but is doable. I have several friends locally who are vegan and I know they do well at it. But they can’t eat vegan, healthy and local at the same time for all of the year. My vegan friends probably see this as a trade-off but one that is worthwhile to avoid the abuse of animals.
I believe that the current NLG Food Justice Guidelines is out of touch with local reality. A vegan diet might be both sustainable and local in coastal areas with mild climates, but it can’t be both sustainable and local in our local context. And given this reality, why weren’t the local chapters of the Guild consulted on these guidelines?
And why is veganism now the stated no-compromises position of the Guild at the national level, while “locally sourced, organic food…from businesses owned or run by marginalized communities and which have good labor practices” only an encouraged position?
All of this said… I am very encouraged to see these issues coming to the forefront of discussion in the Guild. How we eat is of critical importance. I’m just not sure that dictates from the NEC is going to further this conversation, but rather is more likely to stop the conversation and move towards outright hostility.
James M. Branum
Oklahoma NLG Local chapter Chair