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Monday, August 8, 2011

Vegan Fight! Activist Doesn't Want PETA Getting Credit for Vegan Meals in Jail

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 2:40 PM

click to enlarge TAKVER / FLICKR

Last month, SFoodie discovered that if you're vegan and you go to jail in S.F., you can get vegan meals. Eileen Hirst, chief of staff at the Sheriff's Department, told us that vegan food in S.F. county jails came about because of vegan PETA protesters who were arrested in antifur protests in the '90s.

We're sure that news prompted celebrations all over the Bay Area, but at least one person was infuriated: activist Anita Carswell, who called up SFoodie to set the record straight. PETA had nothing to do with getting vegan food in jails, she says; the credit belongs to her and her organization, In Defense of Animals.

In an e-mail to SFoodie, Carswell writes:

PETA had nothing to do with this vegan victory. Gerard Livernois who worked for In Defense of Animals (and where I work to this day) was serving a concurrent six month sentence for pieing [Mayor] Willie Brown and for a anti-vivisection sit-in at UC Irvine. He was vegan and not served vegan food. He went on a hunger strike and after a long campaign by independent animal rights activists in SF, Act Up San Francisco, and In Defense of Animals, Sheriff Hennessy sent a letter confirming that the SF Jail would start serving vegan meals.

PETA also have nothing to do with the anti-fur demonstrations at Neiman Marcus. As a co-founder of Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade San Francisco and an activist with Animal Rights Direct Action Coalition who has done anti-fur demos in front of Neiman Marcus weekly for almost ten years, and an employee of In Defense of Animals who organized Fur Free Friday locally for years, I can assure anyone reading this that independent activists formed this CAFT group.

Carswell also sent us an article to prove her involvement in Livernois' arrest and subsequent sentence.

SFoodie called up Hirst, who said she couldn't recall exactly who had been protesting, but that after Livernois and the antifur maybe-maybe-not-PETA protesters were arrested, the sheriff's department was flooded with mail from around the world asking them to serve vegan meals. "We got over 200 letters, with many of the writers identifying themselves as PETA," she says.

Hirst added that besides Act Up and In Defense of Animals, the Biotic Baking Brigade was also involved, providing the pies that were used for pie-ing Brown. "There's credit to spread in many, many places," says Hirst.

SFoodie also called PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to inform the group that its involvement was being disputed.

"I think PETA did start the protests years before any other group came along, not that it matters, and I can't swear by it, but what I do know is that at some point a group started to specifically target Neiman Marcus ... and then we called out our members to join them at their demos. I remember being part of those demos myself," Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, responded to SFoodie via e-mail. "I regret that's all I recall as it was long ago, but I'm happy to let anyone take credit for it if they would like to!"

So PETA is happy to share, or even give away, the credit -- everybody should be happy now! If anyone else would like to chime in and tell us about their involvement in the crusade to get vegan food in jails, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments section below.

Now that that's been cleared up, the only question lingering in SFoodie's mind is this: Were the pies used to pie Willie Brown vegan pies?

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Caroline Chen

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