A couple of days ago, I received a very angry email from someone in reference to an article I wrote about a restaurant. In the article, I mentioned that I wasn’t a huge fan of eating in pretentious restaurants. I also mentioned that I am a vegan. This did not sit well with the young man who emailed me. “You’re going to make fun of people for being pretentious when you’re a fucking vegan?” he wrote. “Fuck off.”
I went back and looked at the comments on the post in question. He was not alone in his sentiment.
One commenter, a man named Dante Thompson, told me that I was a “dick” for ordering vegan food. He also called me a “fucking hipster.”
Another guy named Riley Ulrich wrote, “You are a fucking piece if [sic] shit and you should be fired. Everybody hates you.”
The implication that I am a pretentious eater is odd to me. Above is an image of what I had for lunch today. A slightly miserable-looking faux-meatball sub. For breakfast, I had Doritos. For dinner, I intend to go to Taco Bell. Animal products aside, I eat like a particularly fussy child (or, at the very least, an adult skateboarder).
When I hit my 20s, I started trying to eat a salad or some other such healthy bullshit for at least one meal a day, because that feels like something a grown-up should do. But my heart isn’t in it. In an ideal world, I would eat pretty much nothing but meat and cheese served in or on some kind of gray carbohydrate.
But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where the best-tasting kind of foods are literally made from death and suffering.
This is why I don’t eat meat or animal products. Because meat and animal products are a giant fucking bummer. I don’t need to tell you where your meat and dairy come from, because you’ve already seen it. And you know it looks like a fucking miserable nightmare of seared-off beaks, bolts through brains, and twitching corpses on dirty floors.
And we can all agree it’s miserable, right? Regardless of whether or not you consume the end products of the meat and dairy industries, surely we can all admit that mass, industrialized death is not all that nice? There’s a bunch of other stuff I could go into here about greenhouse gases caused by the meat industry, or contaminated water run-off, or meat causing colon cancer. But that would be dishonest, because I didn’t consider any of that stuff when deciding to become a vegan.
I’m not saying that, because I try to avoid hurting animals, I’m somehow more ethical than you. Nobody is ethical. Humans are cancer. Everything would be better off if we were all dead. I’m typing this on a fossil-fuel-powered laptop that contains conflict minerals and was, I assume, manufactured in conditions that look vastly different from the conditions that I am working in right now.
I’m also wearing a shirt that cost $6. I’m not totally sure how it was manufactured, shipped to the US, and sold to me, but I’d imagine someone is getting shit on pretty heavily somewhere along the chain if the whole thing cost $6. And how awful is that? I’m wearing a shirt that probably made multiple humans miserable as it was being created, and almost certainly harmed the planet in a fairly major way, and I don’t even know where it came from or how it was made. There is no way of living in the modern world without doing morally reprehensible things on a daily basis.
What I’m trying to say is that I am a piece of shit. And so are you. And I don’t care what you eat. You can eat whatever, whenever, and however the fuck you want. As previously discussed, beyond the whole murder thing, I barely even give a shit what I eat. I definitely don’t have time to worry about what you put in your mouth.
Cannibal Cop and the Freedom to Have Fucked-Up Fantasies
As every middle schooler knows, the internet is a repository of strange shit. A few casual keystrokes can take you to Goatse, Lemon Party, Cake Farts, and a dozen other weird porn memes. A few more clicks and you can find photos of mass graves, diseased genitals, rotting animal corpses teeming with maggots, open wounds festering and dripping with pus. Most hardened internet denizens laugh (or turn away in disgust) and move on when confronted with the web’s dark corners, but occasionally, people end up curling up inside them and making a home.
“Once the lies and the fantastical elements are stripped away, what is left are deeply disturbing misogynistic chats and emails written by an individual obsessed with imagining women he knows suffering horrific sex-related pain, terror and degradation,” Judge Paul Gardephe wrote in an opinion released Monday night that sided with the defense. “Despite the highly disturbing nature of Valle’s deviant and depraved sexual interests, his chats and emails about these interests are not sufficient—standing alone—to make out the elements of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.”
Above: Children who died during the Rwandan Genocide
At the entrance to Nyarugenge Prison in Kigali, Rwanda, armed guards stand beside painted letters that read, “No Corruption.” Through the gates, I spot guards escorting inmates around. Prisoners wear pink if they are awaiting a sentence, and orange if they are serving one.
During the three-month long Rwandan Genocide 20 years ago, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died at the hands of their friends, neighbors, and colleagues. After the catastrophe ended, a huge amount of people needed to be prosecuted, but there were limited resources to conduct the trials. To speed up the prosecution procedure, a system of local justice called gacaca courts was brought in. Trials were held in villages, where victims and their families publicly confronted the accused before their communities.
Gaining access to a prison here is a complicated affair that involves collecting and submitting several letters of recommendation, culminating in written permission from the Rwanda Correctional Services. After supplying all the necessary proofs, I wait on a couch in the reception area and then speak to two former Rwandan genocidaires: Justine, a 50-year-old woman wearing a polka-dot orange head scarf, and Thomas, a 54-year-old man who wears a watch on his wrist and shakes my hand before he sits down.
VICE: Why are you in prison? Justine: I’m here because of the genocide issues. I was part of the ruling party, and I did participate in what happened to my neighbors. When the genocide started, a roadblock was set up beside my house. They said they were trying to capture the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] soldiers there. I didn’t know it was a genocide; I just believed that this was true. It continued, and my neighbors were killed. To save my family members, I began killing people too and was in the Interahamwe [a Hutus militia].
How long is your sentence? I’ve been in prison since 1996, but in 2007 I was released and allowed go home. But later they pressed more charges against me, and after three years, I was brought back again. I had already confessed to everything that I did and had asked for forgiveness. I thought it was over—people tell me that I’ll be here for a lifetime.
Why Are So Many Aboriginal Women Being Murdered in Canada?
In February, the frozen body of 26-year-old Loretta Saunders, a pregnant Inuit woman from Labrador, Canada, was found dumped onto a highway median in New Brunswick. Saunders, a student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, had been writing her thesis on missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada—in a tragic twist, she became one of the subjects of her own research, the latest in what is estimated to be hundreds of murders and disappearances of indigenous Canadian women. Just this month, the head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told reporters that 1,186 aboriginal women had been murdered or went missing over the past 30 years.
The sad irony of Saunders’s death shed light on a human rights issue that has been quietly brewing for years in Canada, a progressive country that is generally known for treating its citizens—including most women—well. The Canadian government doesn’t collect data on the race and ethnicity of missing persons, but a new database compiled by independent researcher Maryanne Pearce documents 4,035 cases of missing and murdered women and girls, 883—or nearly 25 percent—of which involve aboriginal women. That’s a shocking statistic, considering that aboriginal women make up just 2 percent of the population in Canada. While some of the cases date back to the 1950s, the majority took place between 1990 and 2013.
“This is part of a larger phenomenon of violence against women, period,” Pearce said. “It’s such a complicated issue. We have to look at every layer, with a special focus on systemic racism. There isn’t one answer—there isn’t one person or group who can address this. It has to be everybody—the First Nations governments, the provincial governments, the police forces, and the national government. And the Canadian public has a responsibility too.”
Peruvian artist LU.CU.MA spent 27 years in jail for the murder of his brother, among other crimes. After his release, LU.CU.MA—short for Luis Cuevas Manchego—swore to turn himself around. He traded the machine guns, hand grenades, and knives that he once used to ambush buses for art supplies.
VICE traveled to Lima, Peru, to talk to LU.CU.MA about his life, how he uses art as a way to repent, and why all his paintings involve things like corrupt politicians being beheaded by snakes.
This Death Row Inmate Is Dying to Donate His Organs
In 2001 Christian Longo killed his wife and his three young children and fled to Mexico. Once he was brought back to the US, he was convicted of those murders and placed on Oregon’s Death Row, where he has resided since 2003. He was once on the FBI’s top-ten most wanted list, and James Franco is even going to play him in an upcoming movie.
Christian, now 40 and still in jail, is turning a new leaf. In an effort to give back to his community, he has decided to donate his organs upon his inevitable execution. The only problem is, due to the lack of an efficient prisoner donation protocol, he pretty much can’t. Chris is even willing to forgo all appeals of his death sentence if he can donate his organs upon his execution. Still, he’s been denied.
Through his Gifts of Anatomical Value from Everyone (G.A.V.E) organization, Chris is looking to change that. The mission of G.A.V.E is to remove the medical and ethical issues involved with prisoner organ and tissue donation and gain approval for some of the 2 million incarcerated individuals to donate. If successful, the organization will substantially reduce the number of people on waiting lists for organ and tissue donation (which is more than 121,000, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network).
I recently conducted an email interview with Longo about how he came to found G.A.V.E, the work his organization is doing, and the impact prisoner donation could have if certain ethical and political barriers were removed.
VICE: What piqued your interest in prisoner organ donation? Christian Longo: After watching a friend increasingly suffer from a degenerative disorder called scleroderma, it became apparent she would eventually need a kidney transplant. After being told by my prison system that consideration may only be given for donations to immediate family, I put together a proposal for my unique circumstances as a death row inmate. I offered to end my remaining appeals and face execution if my healthy body parts were able to be donated to those in need. My request was denied.
How surprising was it to find out you couldn’t donate? It was a Spockian “that’s illogical” moment followed by a fear that someone I cared about might not be able to find a suitable donor… which pissed me off.
Out of the frothy, weird sea of people typing stuff into Twitter, hardly anyone makes me laugh as often, or genuinely shocks me more, than Nancy Grace. Thousands upon thousands of wannabe writers and comedians attempt to subvert Twitter’s format and play with surreal connections and black humor, but I doubt anyone has ever topped “I want answers #BoxOfInfants”—a tweet that, like “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” is a brilliant and complete short story told in the space of a single sentence.
Nancy Grace, for the uninitiated, is a former prosecutor who hosts her self-titled show on HLN, where she becomes furious at the evils that men do four times a week and stops just short of calling for the public execution of criminals. Like any vigilante, she’s got a backstory tinged with tragedy: She dreamed of becoming an English teacher until her college fiancé, Keith, was gunned down in front of a convenience store. From that moment on, she pledged that she would devote herself to fighting evil. “I would go to law school, become a prosecutor, and put people in jail who hurt victims like Keith,” she wrote of her life-changing epiphany.
She was really, really good at putting people in jail—she once told Larry King she never lost a case—though she was also later cited for pretty serious ethics violations. She went to television armed with that same zeal for watching people get thrown behind bars and the same disregard for any code of professional conduct.
At the turn of the 20th century, Enriqueta Martí—a woman from the witchcraft-steeped countryside of Cataluña—came to Barcelona. Like many of the poor rural immigrants flooding into Barcelona at the time, she found that the Catalan capital was less “Pearl of the Mediterranean” and more “City of Death.” This didn’t bother her, though, because it was in Barcelona that she became her country’s answer to Jack the Ripper, luring children back to her house, killing them, and then drinking their blood.
Fast forward a century and Marc Pastor, a CSI detective based in Barcelona, finds himself working on a case involving another female serial killer. In his spare time, he writes Barcelona Shadows, a retelling of Martí’s diabolical career redolent of Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and David Peace. Already a bestseller in Spain, the book has just been published in English. I caught up with Marc for a trip back to the dark alleys of the Barcelona slums.
VICE: Hi, Marc. When exactly is your book set? Marc Pastor: It’s in 1912. Barcelona is leaving its rural past behind and becoming a modern city. There is the biggest casino in Europe, which was an amazing amusement park with a rollercoaster. There’s a lot of poverty. People are living in the streets and there’s a lot of sickness. This is where Enriqueta appears, where she rises up. A woman. She is a female killer, which is very unusual because 99 percent of serial killers are men. It’s a dark and creepy city with a dark and creepy serial killer.
And Enriqueta came onto this scene from the countryside, to work as a servant in a house? Actually, as a whore.
I was about to say: she swiftly becomes a prostitute. How quickly does she start to kill people, and can you tell me about her methods?
We don’t know exactly how many people or children she killed. That’s part of the myth. Jack the Ripper had five victims, but you don’t know how many victims Enriqueta had. She was arrested in 1912, but she went to Mallorca in 1901 for three months and had to come back because people wanted to kill her. So you can imagine she was murdering people and children for 12 years, at least. I met a lot of people after publishing the book who told me, “My grandma was a victim of Enriqueta,” or, “My grandmother-in-law was one of the people Enriqueta tried to kidnap.” They showed me pictures. She tried to kidnap a lot of people. One woman told me her grandmother-in-law was approached by a woman who tried to give her candy and told her to come with her.