"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


National Hollerin' Contest

This past weekend, I competed in the 40th annual National Hollerin' Contest in Spivey's Corner, North Carolina. Men, women, juniors, and one teen hollered to honor this rural folk tradition that preceded cell phones, instant messaging, and other technological advances in communication.

I went into the event with a lighthearted approach and a desire to have fun. Despite not knowing anything about hollerin' and being the only contestant from outside North Carolina, I tried to get into the spirit of things in my own way. I wore my grandpa's out-of-fashion hat and a friend's extremely baggy overalls, and I tried my best to fake a Southern accent. Needless to say, I didn't stand a chance against the nine other competitors in the men's division, six of whom were former champions.

The Daily Record did a good job of telling my story:
"I'm here because I love good competition," said Michael Croland, who made the trip to Spivey's Corner from Norfolk, Va.

Mr. Croland said he's competed in everything from air guitar competitions to peanut butter sculpting contests and that when he heard about the contest a year ago he had to come down and give it a try.

"To quote Hillary Clinton, I'm in it to win it," he boasted, before adding, "Of course, I'll probably meet the same fate she did."

It turned out, Mr. Croland's prediction wasn't far from the truth as his offering of "how a peanut would holler" was unable to garner him the championship.
As The Fayetteville Observer reported, I couldn't help but be impressed by the other hollerers' skills:

Michael Croland drove from Norfolk, Va., ... to compete. He said he loves fun competitions.

“I was really impressed,” he said after the contest. “It is an art form. It is a rich tradition and I have the utmost respect for these people and what they have done today. I don’t think I will ever be an 'A' list contender, but it is an honor to be in their presence.”
Click here to see a video of hollerin' performances from this year's competition. A one-minute video of my performance is below:


'Kosher to Eat Is Not the Same as Kosher to Buy'

I haven't devoted a signigicant amount of time or posts to the many developments and discussions related to the latest AgriProcessors scandal. But they are important, and I encourage you to follow them (e.g., on the blogs I mentioned in my post about AgriProcessors last month).

Here are excerpts from "Kosher to Eat Is Not the Same as Kosher to Buy," an article that appeared in J. The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California this week. It's written by Rabbi Shlomo Levin, a Modern Orthodox rabbi from Milwaukee.

I don’t think whether the meat produced by Agriprocessors is kosher to eat or not is really our concern. We don’t want to know if it is kosher to eat. We want to know if it is kosher to buy. . . .

When we buy the meat, even though as consumers our role in perpetrating the alleged violations is passive, we nevertheless associate ourselves with doing something wrong.

The Orthodox Union states clearly that its supervision relates only to whether food is permitted to be eaten. It does not consider labor issues, animal cruelty, environmental impact or anything else of this nature and has no plans to start doing so. Why not? For many reasons.

The list of potential issues to include in expanded supervision is nearly endless. The government already regulates some of these matters; the O.U. lacks the required resources and expertise.

And many of these concerns are not uniquely Jewish, while the O.U.’s purpose is to serve the special needs of the Jewish community.

There is nothing wrong with the O.U. conducting itself in this manner, as long as we understand what the O.U. symbol means. A product is kosher to eat, but whether the company manufacturing that product is kosher to do business with is unknown.

What we need is not a replacement for the current kosher supervision system, but an addition to it.

Since how a business treats its workers, the environment and its animals is important, we need another mechanism by which consumers can receive that information.

The Conservative movement has taken some steps to form a “hechsher tzedek” kosher certification focused on the above issues. Some other small, independent groups have done the same.

The Orthodox kashrut establishment, however, due to its large existing infrastructure of supervisors, would be able to produce a new certification with the greatest ease, efficiency and speed.

As kosher consumers, let’s make clear that we want them to do so. Only if we as consumers make known that we will base our purchasing decisions on the presence or absence of such a new symbol is it likely that substantial action will be taken.


A Niche in the Jewish Blogosphere

In a Passover preview post in April, The Jew & The Carrot used the term "Jewish food blogosphere." Just when you thought that the Jewish blogosphere was a specific niche, it turns out that there is a niche within the Jewish blogosphere, and heebnvegan is a part of it! (heebnvegan doesn't focus exclusively on food issues, but vegetarianism, veganism, and animal agriculture do make up the lion's share of posts about animal protection issues.) The Jew & The Carrot's post linked to six blogs (including heebnvegan) that were talking about Passover foods.

Just how big is the Jewish food blogosphere? The somewhat comprehensive "Jewish Food Blogs" blogroll on The Jew & The Carrot's site lists 26 blogs, including heebnvegan and not including The Jew & The Carrot. However, one blog is listed twice (with diferent spellings), at least one of the links won't open, and some listings are for great Web sites that don't have blogs. In other words, the Jewish food blogosphere isn't a major movement (as of press time). But it is cozy, and it includes some all-stars.

How big is the vegetarian Jewish food blogosphere? Besides heebnvegan, the only vegetarian J-blogs that come to mind are Jewish Vegan, In Mol Araan (which is largely in Yiddish), and Begano (which is in Spanish). I wouldn't count ShalomVeg.com (a Web site that occasionally features blog posts), Kosher and Humane (which is defunct), Counting the Omer (which is inactive), Two Heads of Lettuce (which hasn't posted since November), Kosher Vegan Lasagna (which regularly features nonvegetarian dishes), or the Jewish Vegetarians of North America newsletter (which gets published on a Blogspot site).

In my last post, I wrote that heebnvegan "serves as a vegan voice in the Jewish blogosphere." Without myriad vegetarian Jewish food blogs, heebnvegan is proud to serve that role. In many cases, the discussion about Judaism and vegetarianism extends beyond the "Jewish food blogosphere" into other Jewish blogs as well. And I'm proud to be part of that discussion.

It may seem silly to specify, categorize, and pigeonhole. But sometimes in life, it's good to know where you stand. It's not the first time I've been interested in a "subsubsubsubgenre."


About heebnvegan

Updated 11/12/09

heebnvegan (pronounced "heeb 'n' vegan") is a Jewish blog about animal protection issues. Founded in August 2005, heebnvegan serves as a vegan voice in the Jewish blogosphere. heebnvegan is run by Michael Croland, a Jewish vegan, who writes all posts that aren't explicitly marked guest posts. Although I have attended Conservative synagogues most of my life and generally identify as a Conservative Jew more than any other variety, I'm not a big fan of labels and I have flirted with Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Modern Orthodox, Chabad-Lubavitch, and nondenominational services, events, and thinking. I serve on the advisory board of Jewish Vegetarians of North America. heebnvegan is not affiliated with and does not represent any organizations or third parties.

My initial exposure to the Jewish blogosphere came in late 2004, when PETA released an undercover investigation of AgriProcessors, the world's largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse. My article about the investigation was published in the Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh and helped me win The Humane Society of the United States' Student Genesis Award and Carnegie Mellon University's Alan and Gloria Siegel Award for Professional Writing. I followed developments about the AgriProcessors scandal closely, and in the words of a Jewsweek article:
In the Jewish community, coverage has been characterized primarily by non-traditional outlets. With the weekly schedules of most Jewish publications simply insufficient to keep up with the demand for information, much discussion and reporting has taken place in the blogosphere. There, various blogs have kept on top of the latest press releases and reporting, but have also begun to do some reporting of their own, contacting individual rabbis and experts for comment. If this keeps up, the PETA video story could be the big one that finally gets the Jewish blogosphere to beat the Jewish weeklies to the punch.

During the spring 2005 semester (my last semester at Carnegie Mellon before graduating with a BA in professional writing and a minor in religious studies), I wrote a term paper for an Advanced Journalism class that was titled "From Weaklies to Strength: The Emergence of Online Media in Jewish Journalism." In May 2005, I attended the National Jewish Student Journalism Conference, which included a panel discussion titled "Jewish Blogging: Tips, Theories, Tales From the Field." I launched heebnvegan shortly afterward.

heebnvegan primarily focuses on the Jewish side of animal protection issues. heebnvegan frequently discusses vegetarian connections to Jewish holidays and traditions as well as the questionable practices of the kosher meat industry. I frequently post about newspaper articles and blog posts that promote vegetarianism in the Jewish community. My experience with heebnvegan also led me to launch CountingTheOmer.blogspot.com in 2007.

E-mail mcroland@gmail.com with any questions about heebnvegan or to propose a guest post.