Tag Archives: vegetarian

Can Tofu be Vegetarian?

Can Tofu be Vegetarian? Edition One 2015

Mark Allen and Michael Bayliss
feetlittle (at) gmail.com
I got my copy for $1 at Sticky

That title sounds familiar… (and/or I don’t understand the title?) That’s because this zine is crafted as a response to the Australian zine Tofu Is Not Vegetarian reviewed here.

Do yourself a favour: Read the original zine that inspired this effort.  This? is very much a counter argument and kind of a mini essay in defence of vegetarianism. (Yes, that’s as exciting as it gets).  See, the original zine has some really great criticisms of vegetarianism and veganism. This zine is the “no, wait, vegetarianism is still righteous” voice. And it’s not the most charismatic. Unfortunately. The main argument is that the original zine is essentially misrepresentative of the larger vegetarian movement – so, you know, it’s an injustice. Don’t listen to me, let’s hear a direct quote: “Some of the arguments that the authors of aforementioned articles make is that veganism is a movement borne of white privilege and that it objectifies and places value judgements upon western culture..” etc. That’s pretty much the tone of this zine in a snapshot. Stop poking me. I was asleep just then.

The Writers Did Some ‘Soul Searching’: Well, that’s what they claim, as vegans and as white Australians. But I seriously doubt it. ‘Soul searching’ is too strong an expression. How about they started to draft a response for their first year journalism assignment then decided to print it out and circulate? Harsh, I know.

Thank you, Spokespersons: Not only is this body of formal writing devoid of passion, spark or wit, but this entire written response seems to totally miss the point of the original zine which was refreshingly critical of vegan culture, full of personal insights, valid accusations and really thought provoking material. This response? feels like something an authority in Canberra signed off on for the parliamentary press gallery to assert that the veganism movement may include some discrimination and racism but this is a reflection of greater society as a whole and not reflective of the actual movement, no correspondence will be entered into.

Cringeworthy: There’s a section at the back designed to break the ‘endless cycle of ego’. It’s more a list of tips and tricks on how to try and socially integrate and be tolerant (and not be an annoying dick). But I just can’t take lifestyle advice seriously that a) cites an endless cycle of ego and b) when one of the sentences begins, “I recently went out to dinner with my parents…”. This whole effort just kind of misses the point so woefully it’s painful.

The good stuff: Well, it’s always good if someone is inspired enough to put pen to paper. So there’s that. And the makers are interested in what people think, so there’s that too. They also preach tolerance.

Aesthetic:  Because this is a serious word document set out in A5, it does feel more like a booklet than a zine. Zines are more fun.


Tofu is not vegetarian Volume 2

Jeanette de Foe & Friends
I got my copy for $7 from Sticky Institute, 10 Campbell Arcade, Degraves Subway, Melbourne VIC 3000. I’d link you to their site but in the last few months it’s remained down and/or hacked and/or virussy.  Stop by the shop or maybe approach the zinemaker direct about obtaining a copy.

A personal zine-slash-anthology of accounts and essays about the ethics of vegetarianism – and veganism.

Wow: I found this zine to be truly radical. And I was not prepared for it. I’m not vegan or vegetarian, so when i saw the title of this zine start with the word ‘tofu’ I’ll be honest, my mind wandered and my eyes were already on the next zine. I had moved on. Oh no. You don’t walk on from this title. It’s hammering out so many interesting ideas.

I never expected: to read former vegans call out veganism. This zine is not anti vegan, not at all, but it does call the practice out on a lot of its shit. Which is challenging and provoking and really refreshing in any activist scene. Well any SCENE, period.

Whats right, whats wrong? Make up your own mind. The zinemaker doesn’t want to tell you how to think, it wants to tell you how to question. It’s not militant and it’s not looking to pick a fight.

Here is a zine coming from a genuine desire to create greater discourse. The zinemaker makes that clear right at the beginning: “..I wanted this zine, like the previous things I’ve written, not to be the final word on the topic, but to be starting/continuing a respectful dialogue. On some things I have a resolved position, on others I don’t and maybe never will…”
So reasonable! so moderate! and I like the sense of humility.

The zine itself is kind of an anthology but it really feels like a personal zine that happens to open with mini essay contributions or editorials. Because of the chaos of the layout, they all kind of bleed into each other so all the voices get kind of mixed.

My eyes hurt: the zine itself has been printed on a rizzo with cut’n’ paste text printed in blue ink throughout. There’s cute little line drawings of tofus or mushrooms etc with googly eyes. All good. But the text is cut and pasted against multiple jarring background patterns which are too intense at the scale they’ve been reproduced. They are just hugely distracting, changing with every page and constantly breaking your concentration. I had to visually claw from one sentence to the next, fighting daisies, knives, forks, polka dots, feathers, geometric shapes, corn cobs, carrots, tractors, pigs, geese, and baroque wallpaper designs. It was painful. Let me make this clear to the zinemaker.

Things you’ll be left thinking about:
The cultural meaning and emotional role of food in your life, your friends and family.
How a restricted diet can not only be socially isolating, but isolate those who prepare foods or culturally significant meat-centric meals that cannot be shared with you- (Are you staying true to newfound political ideals or rejecting your own culture? can the values be reconciled or are they inherently contradictory? is this an embodiment of racism?).
Are all indigenous cultures with meatcentric diets necessarily cruel, exploitative or disrespectful to animals?
What do vegan and vegetarian lifestyles set out to achieve and how successful is the practice on a practical level?
Is boycotting effective and does it imply a certain judgement of others? (fairly or unfairly).

You’ll also be thinking about also another element: That of health. Is a restricted diet something that can be done safely amongst all individuals or is it irresponsible to promote a vegan lifestyle as a ‘simple’ healthy alternative?
Are supplements adequately addressing your bodily requirements and is ‘adequate’ good enough for your particular body and needs?Even if you are doing everything right, is your health suffering as a result of your political choices?
And should you politely be excused if you can’t commit to a restricted diet? As if you contain a personal flaw or defect. How do you fit, then?

The zine draws from many stories of life in political activist circles, specifically events or conferences which have involved separate food preparation and eating spaces where the question of tolerance and cultural sensitivities has come into play. In some of the zinemakers experiences, these have lead to open conflict and hostilities that have been poorly managed and ended up creating hurtful divides.

Plus: Theres lots of other aspects to vegan and vegetarian culture and its stereotypes that get explored by the zinemaker and contributing writers. Everything from the assumption that vegetarianism is exclusive to white culture, to reverse cultural appropriation, food hygene, food affordability, sustainability, animal rights, capitalism, and common misconceptions. Some of the arguments are problematic and flawed, some wonderfully articulated, defended, and fully convincing. I guess the important thing is the diversity of the opinions as much as the convergenance of perspectives found here. An utterly refreshing read even for those of us who normally pass up tofu titled zines.

What was Volume 1? I haven’t seen the issue to read it (from 2011) but there’s also a thinner zine by the same maker called ‘Veganism, Racism, Culture and Identity’ still in print. So there’s further reading out there and possibly a volume 3 sometime in the future.

See also: A review of zine that responds, ‘Can Tofu Be Vegetarian?’ The debate lives on.