Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Three Types of Animal-Rights Vegans (and summary of how I did with last New Year's resolutions)

People who go vegan due to animal rights concerns can fall under three categories. Of course, there are many different ways to classify vegans, since vegans are as diverse a group as anyone else. However, regarding the diet, there are three main types:

1) The "Oreo-Cookie Vegan". Oreo-Cookie Vegans don't particularly focus on their health. They eat regular food, as long as they believe that it is vegan (I call them "Oreo-Cookie Vegans" because apparently Oreo cookies are vegan, so many vegans-- typically the Oreo-Cookie Vegans-- eat them.) While these people don't necessarily have an environmentally-friendly or healthy diet, they stress that that's not the point, anyway-- it's because they disagree with animal farming and they care about animal rights. One thing I can admire about Oreo-Cookie Vegans is that you know they aren't just doing it as a fad diet (eating Oreos and Wonder Bread doesn't sound like a fad diet to me), which means that they really do care about animals-- which is great, but they also run the risk of ruining their health by eating a lot of empty calories and not enough nutrients.
Oh, and by the way: Even if you don't eat Oreo cookies, you still could be an Oreo-Cookie Vegan. I just call them Oreo-Cookie Vegans because it makes sense to me to call them that. Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.

2) The Healthy Vegan. Yay-- this is where we all should be at. The Healthy Vegan, being under the category of those who go vegan due to animal rights concerns, does care about animals. This doesn't stop him or her from eating healthily, though. Healthy Vegans usually forgo the Oreo cookies and eat some healthier food instead, maybe a fruit salad or some occasional whole-wheat cookies. Healthy Vegans tend to try healthy recipes from vegan cookbooks, buy some of their food from health-food stores, and go out to vegan restaurants on occasion. Healthy Vegans remember that they went vegan so that they would stop eating animals and start supporting a compassionate lifestyle. Healthy Vegans don't "cheat", and they don't sneak a few cubes of cheese once in a while either, but if someone accidentally drops a cube of cheese onto their plate while leaning over the table, the Healthy Vegan just picks it out and puts it aside and eats their meal anyway. They make the right decisions and aren't obsessive.

Image Courtesy of http://mevegan.com/2010/08/the-everyday-vegan-2/. (Looks like a good website-- check it out.)

3) The Obsessive Vegan. The Obsessive Vegan is like an OCD version of the Healthy Vegan. "Oh yeah," they'll tell you, "I went vegan for animal rights, but I have to remain personally pure, too-- otherwise I can't call myself a vegan anymore!" The Obsessive Vegan probably wouldn't eat something if it said "Made with machines that also process dairy and eggs" on the label, because they'd be too worried that there would be a small amount milk or eggs in it. Obsessive Vegans might end up wrecking their health because they don't eat a great variety of foods. To be fair, I have to applaud the Obsessive Vegan on his or her devotion to veganism and animal rights, but clearly, he or she is misinterpreting the whole concept of veganism. The real idea of veganism is to help animals, but to the Obsessive Vegan, personal purity conquers all. I would suggest looking at it more rationally. Technically, every product we buy in our society is-- in some vague, distant way, or in a very direct way-- going to be linked to the suffering of animals. We can't control the vague, distant things-- like when mice get killed by tractors that harvest our grain-- but we can control the direct things, like when turkeys get slaughtered for meat consumption. Focus more on the direct things than on the less controllable ones, because that is what really will make a difference in the world.

Broccoli is good. I just put a picture of it here because it must be what the Obsessive Vegans, well, obsess over. Image Courtesy of http://www.topnews.in/broccoli-reduces-skin-cancer-risk-study-24453.
If you're wondering which vegan I am, I'll have you know that I've been all three at different times in my life. Right now I'm sort of transitioning from the Obsessive Vegan to the Healthy Vegan, and I hope to stay at the Healthy Vegan stage for as long as I can. As I've said before, that's the best place to be!
You might not fit into any of the categories listed above, and that's okay. You can identify as whichever kind of vegan you think you're closest to, or you could just call yourself a "vegan".
If you have not gone vegan yet, I strongly urge you to stop consuming animal products immediately. Lives are at stake. If you want to learn more about veganism, please visit The Vegan Society's website at http://www.vegansociety.com/.
I know I talk a lot about veganism on this blog-- especially recently!-- but it is a big part of animal rights, and also a big part of one's everyday life, if you think that food is a big part of everyday life.

BY THE WAY, I wrote out some New Year's resolutions for my two blogs-- Hug a Tree Today, Seriously, and The Animal Rights Action Site. For Hug a Tree, I wanted to reach 1000 page views by the end of the year. I did reach that goal, but I also reached a quite incredible number for this blog. My goal was 500 total pageviews by the end of the year, and at the time of this writing, I have reached 3,876 pageviews for this site! WOW! Thanks everyone. Come back again in the new year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

WINNER of the Great International Vegan Soup Competition!

Recipe #3, you take the prize!I love the garlicky flavour of this soup and the hearty chunks of vegetables and butternut squash. Highly reccommended for anyone looking for a tasty soup recipe! It did take a long time to make, however. Still, I said I was judging on taste, didn't I? Besides, I cooked the lentils from scratch, which the recipe didn't call for.
Here is the recipe again, just to exalt it on a throne a little bit:
 
Lentil Butternut Squash Soup

Submitted by Margo, near Ottawa, Canada

(All measurements are approximate)


In a fairly large pot, stir fry, in olive oil, one onion chopped up and one cup washed lentils. Stir fry till slightly browned.

Add (all chopped up): 2-4 cloves garlic, 2-3 celery stalks, 3 carrots, about 1 cup butternut squash, or other squash will do as well, about 5 cups water, Salt to taste, pepper to taste, dried or fresh parsley...about 1/4 cup, and 1 can of stewed tomatoes.
Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer for at least 1 hour. Stir once in a while while cooking. Taste to make sure lentils and veggies are cooked.
 
For those curious as to what I'm talking about (for some of you might be hearing of this contest for the first time), you can read my previous posts on the contest (in this order ) at the following links:
Since less than five people entered, there will be no prize-- apart from the happy celebration that comes from winning the contest! Congratulations!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Animal Rights, Veganism, and The End of The World

December 21, 2012 is rapidly approaching. At the time I write this, in fact, it's only FIVE DAYS AWAY! Does this matter? Not necessarily, but I think it could. Today, I want to explore the animal-rights-related implications of what would happen if civilization collapses, which is what some people believe will happen on the 21st.
Even if nothing abnormal happens on Friday, a collapse of the global economy, a food crisis, or environmental collapse could bring about drastic changes to our civilization at any given time. We live in uncertain times. The more complex our food systems and economy become, the more disastrous it would be if there was even a minor malfunctioning in the system. As the environment becomes further degraded, we will face problems that no civilization before us has faced: How will we get our resources to live, and from where? What will happen if there are no longer trees and plants to absorb the toxic chemicals which are spewed out of factories and which are in our consumer products?
If our civilization collapses, we'll probably have to go back to farming, or hunting-and-gathering. Communities would be strengthened-- no more "global economy" nonsense-- but we would have to be self-sufficient, and that would be hard. Self-sufficiency may include using animals for farm labour, transportation, clothes, and food. Veganism would be an incredibly difficult concept to adhere to-- at least, it would be difficult to follow veganism up here in Canada, where winters are cold and summers are hot, and where nutritious food for humans doesn't grow in abundance without intervention.

"Ahh! It's all too much!" Photo Courtesy of http://runningcode3.com/2011/07/04/an-ostrich-in-disguise/
Don't bury your head in the sand, though. I want you to read this blog post! This is an incredibly important thing to think about.
"I'm ready to face the truth-- bring it on!" Photo Courtesy of http://pat-aviewfromtheedge.blogspot.ca/2010/03/ostrich-festival.html
If our civilization DOES collapse (whether on December 21 or another day), what would become of the animal rights movement?
One thing is for sure: a lot of animal rights would be squashed, because everyone would be too busy trying to survive. If you mentioned the idea of "animal rights" to your neighbours, they would probably laugh scornfully and tell you to get your head out of the clouds. This is the read world, not a utopian society.
Sigh! I suppose we mustn't ask, then, what most people would do. After all, I find that most people can be pretty selfish when times get difficult. Perhaps the better question is this: Should we, the animal-rights-believers, keep going on with our animal rights beliefs in disastrous situations?
It's just like the old you-and-a-goat-both-starving-in-a-boat question. Do you eat the goat? Or do you both perish? Or is there another way?
In this case, and in the civilization-collapses situation, we have to take a number of factors into consideration.

1) If we follow our animal rights beliefs (for example, don't breed horses to ride around on, don't eat animals, etc.), will we die? If not, will we be inconvenienced in any way? How will we be inconvenienced?
2) How much do we care about animal rights? How much do we care about ourselves, our own well-being and happiness, our lives? Which is more important? Are the two things equal?
3) What will we be willing to do once our survival instincts kick in?

As you can see, it's no easy question to answer. It demands a different answer for each different situation.
Let's use an example situation, just so I can show you how I think you should run this through your head when thinking about your own situation.
Erm, how about we talk about what would happen to me if the global food market and economy collapsed? And, just for the fun of it, let's pretend that this would happen on December the 21.
Well, first of all, super-markets would either close down or become rather empty. People would rush to the stores, grabbing every last can of beans, jar of peanut butter, and loaf of bread. Thankfully for my family, it wouldn't be so bad, because we are going to make sure to stock up on non-perishable food supplies today-- just in case. Still, though, we wouldn't have much time to sit around thinking about what to do.
The trees in my neighbourhood would probably come down, much to the dismay of local wildlife. Not all of them, but a lot of them. So many of them, in fact, that I would describe it as a breach of the animal-rights ethic. The trees are homes of many creatures, after all. We would need firewood to burn for heat in our houses, and remember, the stores probably wouldn't be very helpful in providing anything anymore if there was no more global economy. A lot of people would cram into one house, leaving many houses empty, and, therefore, unheated, which would help a little bit with saving trees.
I would be forced to confront the problem of what to eat. Like I said, we'll be stocking up on enough supplies that I could eat for a while, but then what? Would I take what I could get, regardless of its ingredients, or not? From a philosophical  standpoint, I should try my very best to keep my vegan diet, no matter what, because I don't want to kill animals. But if we somehow came across a cow or hen or some other creature and brought her into our house, I would possibly eat her eggs and/or milk to survive. However, I would not eat the animal's flesh or that of a wild animal, for I feel that doing so would reduce me to a sort of savage. In case of imminent death by starvation, however, who knows what I would do? How can I make that sort of decision now, sitting in front of my computer with relatively little worries? In the survivalist realm of nature, animals frequently eat each other for survival. Humans have been known to become cannibals when faced with the choice between death and eating each other. That doesn't mean we should become cannibals in modern-day society, nor should we stop being vegans in our current lives, but in a survivalist world, there is a lot more moral ambiguity-- an "anything goes" ethic.
For horse-back riding as a method of transportation, I would first and foremost try to avoid it. If I couldn't, however, I would opt to look for a rescue horse or pony. And, again, if things got so bad that I had to buy one from a breeder-- heck, if things got so bad that I had to steal one from a breeder-- who knows what I would do? I don't want to admit it, but I would probably do whatever I had to to survive. It's called survival instincts, you know.
What would you do if civilization collapsed, readers?
Regardless of what you would do in an extreme situation, I urge you to remember that we aren't living in a survivalist era (yet), so you have no excuse to break the ethic of animal rights for now. This is just to get you thinking about it in case of civilization's collapse, or, perhaps, just for the intellectual stimulation of philosophizing on the finer points of animal rights. It can also strengthen your current resolve over animal rights-- when you decide for yourself how far your beliefs into animal rights go, you'll be less likely to break them later on. Decide now on how far you'll go with it, and be spared the pain of uncertainty later.

Photo Courtesy of http://www.atinachile.cl/content/view/19162/quieres-ser-buena-persona-VEGAN-una-ideologia-para-ser-Feliz.html

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vegan and Non-Vegan Microingredients

So I've finally taken that picture of Christofer Drew off the sidebar. It's about time, admittedly!
This week I'm finally getting around to writing my post about microingredients and hidden ingredients, which are both a concern for vegans. Here's a quick description of the two terms. When I say...
  1. microingredients, I mean those obscure-sounding ingredients listed at the bottom of the ingredients label of a food product (such as calcium chloride, sulfites, etc.)
  2. hidden ingredients, I mean the ingredients used in processing a product (which may or may not be in the final product) that (gasp) aren't listed on the label at all (yes, it does happen!).
Which of these should you care about, and how can you figure out whether or not your food really is vegan, then? This is the question that I hope to answer in this post.

Microingredients
When it comes to microingredients, I recommend being as diligently vegan as possible. If you don't know where an ingredient comes from, for example, look it up! I am by no means an Internet worshipper, but I have got to admit that the Internet is a great tool for this. You can use Vegan Peace's Ingredients List as a resource, which is a great website that lists a great deal of ingredients and states where they come from, as well as whether they are suitable for vegans. I have found this an incredibly helpful website over the years.

Hidden Ingredients
Hidden ingredients can be found in flour and sugar among other things.
Flour may be sometimes treated with a "treatment agent" called L-Cysteine, which can come from animal feathers and human hair. This may or may not be true; it's hard to tell. You can learn more about L-Cysteine in a forum at http://www.veganforum.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-3402.html. (Read the fourth post down to find the part on L-Cysteine-- apparently it isn't listed in the ingredients list because it isn't actually present in the finished product.) Now, you might decide that this is not a big deal, and eat flour anyway. After all, it is hard to avoid flour in your foods, and I don't know whether or not "flour" includes all the kinds of flour, including gluten-free ones. However, I find it repulsive that people might be putting derivatives from feathers in my food. Because of this, I don't eat flour. (This is the reason why The Great International Vegan Soup Competition is a soup contest, as opposed to a sandwich contest.) If you feel uncomfortable with eating possible animal products but you don't want to stop eating flour and bread, contact the bread and/or flour company to ask them. Also keep in mind that enriched flour may contain nutrients that are animal-derived.
Sugar sometimes is refined using animal bone char. In Canada, the sugar companies Redpath and Lantic do not do this, however. (My mom contacted the company and asked them.) I suggest avoiding other brands of sugar until you get a chance to contact the company. Again, though, when it comes to this sort of thing, there is more of an ambiguous grey area where you can decide what's important and what isn't. For interest's sake, I do avoid sugar that may be processed with animal products.
Don't become too obsessive over hidden ingredients. True, some company may use a bunch of weird chemicals and ingredients behind the scenes and then not tell you. This could, indeed, be happening with more products than just flour and sugar, but you can't stop eating for the sake of complete personal purity. Veganism is a lifestyle, not a death-style.

My best advice is to read the ingredients label, look up ingredients if you don't know what they are, and contact the company for flour and sugar. This isn't supposed to be extremely hard. If you go out to a vegan restaurant and they tell you it's vegan, you should just beleive them, and the same goes for when you buy a food that says that its vegan on the label.

Speaking of food, The Great International Vegan Soup Competition soups are being made in my kitchen over the week! I've already made one, and it was delicious, but I won't tell you which one it was... yet. I've got to make them all first, and then rate them.

Come back soon for the winners of the contest!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

CONTESTANT RECIPES for the Great International Vegan Soup Competition

This week I've got the Contestant Recipes for the Great International Vegan Soup Competition to show you. Entries are now closed, but there were three entries all together. I haven't chosen a winner yet, but I will do so when I have the time to make all these soups! If any of you out there would like to vote, please comment on this post or e-mail rabbit-cat[at]vegemail[dot]com with your selection.
Last week, I promised to talk about something very, very tiny... but I'll have to do that sometime soon, instead, because these recipes take up enough (delicious) space as it is.

And so... here are the contestants, folks...
(You'd better try out these recipes yourselves, okay?)

Recipe #1: Pumpkin Soup
 
Submitted by Carol-Anne (not the author of this blog), near Ottawa, Canada
Ingredients:
Medium size pumpkin about 10 inch radius.
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp medium curry powder
1/4 tsp mild cayenne
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup rice yogurt
4 cups vegetable stock
 
Method:
Cut top out of the pumpkin and remove seeds (save the seeds and roast them separately)
Roast the pumpkin at 350 degrees Fahrenheit
until tender.
Allow pumpkin to cool enough to handle.
Using a large blender, pour in all ingredients except chives and rice yogurt, and blend until smooth, pour into a large pot and heat until boiling reduce heat to low, allow to stand on low stirring occasionally for 30 minutes..
Ladle soup into bowls, add a tablespoon of rice yogurt in the center of the bowl of soup and garnish with chives.

Recipe #2: Auntie Lu’s Vegan Cream of Zucchini Soup
Submitted by Lucinda, near Ottawa, Canada

You will need a frying pan, a kettle, a measuring cup, a glass or ceramic bowl, a whisk (or fork if you do not have a whisk), a blender and a large sauce pan.
Ingredients:
·         4  tablespoons olive oil
·         4 cups diced zucchini
·         1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
·         4 cups vegetable broth (you can buy non-GMO, organic vegetable broth cubes that you dissolve in boiling water)
·         2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk (if possible, use non-GMO organic soy milk)
·         Sea salt to taste and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper just before serving
·         1 cup chopped packed fresh parsley or ½ cup chopped packed fresh basil (or half and half if you want)
Preparation:
Stir fry the zucchini and onion in the olive oil on medium heat until the onion is soft and transparent and the zucchini is soft but not mushy.  Take it off the burner.
Boil water and pour 4 cups into a large bowl.  Then crumble the vegetable broth cube(s) (as per the instructions) into the boiling water and whisk it until it is not lumpy.  
Blend (a bit at a time) the zucchini mixture, broth and fresh parsley or basil (reserving about ¼ cup of the parsley/basil to use as garnish) together in a blender until smooth and then pour it into a large saucepan.  It is important to make sure that you blend it a bit at a time so that it doesn’t overflow when you turn the blender on (the blender should only be about half full) and, for each batch of vegies and broth, start the blender on low gradually increasing the speed.  Once you have the entire mixture blended, and in the large sauce pan, gradually stir in the soy milk and a little sea salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon).  Heat the soup gradually over medium to medium-high heat while stirring (to prevent it from burning or sticking to the bottom of the sauce pan) and serve with a sprinkling of cayenne and use the rest of the parsley/basil to garnish each serving.
If you don’t want the soup to be completely smooth and creamy, but want it to have some pieces of vegetable, you can reserve about a cup of the cooked zucchini and onion to add to the soup after adding the soy milk.  Serve with crackers and/or fresh bread with vegan margarine.
ENJOY!

Lentil Butternut Squash Soup
Submitted by Margo, near Ottawa, Canada
(All measurements are approximate)


In a fairly large pot, stir fry, in olive oil, one onion chopped up and one cup washed lentils. Stir fry till slightly browned.
Add (all chopped up): 2-4 cloves garlic, 2-3 celery stalks, 3 carrots, about 1 cup butternut squash, or other squash will do as well, about 5 cups water, Salt to taste, pepper to taste, dried or fresh parsley...about 1/4 cup, and 1 can of stewed tomatoes.
Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer for at least 1 hour. Stir once in a while while cooking. Taste to make sure lentils and veggies are cooked.




 That's all for this week, folks. Come back next weeks for further awesome-ness. (Hint: the very, very tiny thing starts with an "m" and ends with a "t". And no, it's not meat!)

C.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vegan on Christmas

Christmas is one of those times when vegans have got to try extra hard to avoid eating animal products and otherwise harming animals. Still, it's extremely important that you don't slack off! (The X-mas turkey won't forgive you for eating it, even if it is on Christmas.)
Last year, I talked about being compassionate to companion animals, buying animal-friendly gifts, eating vegan turkey, and being eco-friendly on Christmas. These are great topics, but that's just the tip of the iceburg, so this year I get to elaborate. (Yay!)

Vegan Christmas Foods
What's on your X-mas grocery list this year? If you're not the one doing the shopping, I suggest talking to the person who is. Often, people will buy things like turkey or ham, eggnog, and milk chocolate. You can avoid these things, however, by buying Tofurkey, making vegan eggnog, and getting vegan treats. Here is a picture of a vegan treat plate from VeganBits.com:
Vegan Christmas Cookies
Click on the picture or here to see which vegan treats were purchased to make this delicious-looking plate!
If you have kids, you can get them vegan chocolate advent calendars from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B009H89QQK/lucysveganhous0d.
Vegan Christmas is getting easier every year, folks!

Getting your Relatives to Understand your Awesome Vegan-ness
Unfortunately, sometimes vegans have to cope with annoying questions and complaints about our diet on Christmas. We also have to deal with the unpleasantness of people eating meat while we have an otherwise-nice conversation with them. I cover these issues here in another blog post.

How to Recieve Non-Vegan Gifts When You ARE a Vegan
Has Aunt Sally ever tried to give you a nice warm pair of wool mittens, or Cousin Bob gifted you a bag of bacon strips? Sometimes it does happen, and you have to be prepared. First, make sure your relatives know that you will be remaining vegan this Christmas (sometimes they need reminding), and that yes, meat (including poultry) and wool and honey and eggs and milk aren't vegan. And fish isn't vegan (another thing they need to be reminded of, especially if they think veganism is a fad diet). Let them know that your vegan lifestyle is very strict and that you won't make a few "exceptions" to make people happy. (But please, be less blunt about it than that.)
If someone gives you a non-vegan gift and asks you, "Is this okay? Is it vegan?", tell them the truth. This could prevent further mishaps next year. If they offer to take it back, let them.
If you recieve a non-vegan gift and the person doesn't know it isn't vegan, you might want to tell them. If it's too awkward to tell them in the moment (ie. you're at a huge family party and everyone is watching you open your gift), tell them later, but only if you think they'd understand.
However, if someone gives you a non-vegan gift and they really don't understand that they shouldn't, and you don't think they can ever understand, just smile and thank them and move on. You can always donate it to the Salvation Army or something.
Lastly, if someone gives you a non-vegan gift with a wink and says, "I know you're vegan, so I thought I'd treat you to something you wouldn't allow yourself normally", seriously tell them what your lifestyle choice means to you. It's about saving animals (and maybe also the environment). You don't "cheat" like when you're on a diet for your health (or appearance, as many modern diets are focused on).

Lastly, remember that the holidays are about spending time celebrating with family and friends. It is an unfortunate fact of modern life that most Christmas celebrations in developed countries place a high degree of importance on gifts and food. Your celebrations don't have to be like that, though. You can have gifts and food as an aside to the real importance of Christmas, which is joy, love, peace and hope. Not devotion to the consumer cult.
Adios for now! Next week I think I'll talk about something very, very tiny...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Filler Post

Dear friends, please allow me to write a filler post this week. I am a few thousand words behind on my novel, and today may be my only plausible catch-up day! (And I only have the morning at home, anyway.)
Please come back next week for a delightful treat (it has to do with the winter holidays and Christmas!).
Thank you!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

PETA: Good Or Bad?

Aah, I love talking about controversial stuff. So today, let us talk about PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PETA (pronounced "pita") was founded in 1980 by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco. It is currently the largest animal rights organization in the world and has over 3 million members and supporters. It states that "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way."
I totally agree with that statement-- isn't that what animal rights is all about? It's PETA's tactics, however, that get a little bit more foggy, at least from an ethical point of view.
Some of PETA's tactics include:
  • Keeping a website about animal rights and PETA's current efforts to help animals;
  • Hold protests and demonstrations (sometimes grotesque, sometimes naked) for animal rights issues;
  • Advertise for the animal rights cause on posters, billboards, and videos (I think some are on television, but I wouldn't know, because I don't watch TV!);
  • Engage children and youth in animal-rights-related activities;
  • Hold petitions for change;
  • Keep animal shelters (which are NOT no-kill shelters).
PETA upsets people often. Take, for example, one of their advertisements which compares the animal industry to the Holocaust:

Photo Courtesy of HamptonRoads.com

I see their point in the above ad-- and it is a very good point, since the whole idea of animal rights is that animals and humans should be treated as morally equal-- but many people would be appalled. Other examples include some of PETA's sexist ads:

petawhales.jpg

Some other of PETA's sexist ads, which I won't show here because I don't want people to associate them with my blog, are much worse.

Oh, and this one has offended many autism groups:
got autism

When you couple these sorts of things with their naked protests and the fact that they euthenize many of their animals, many people begin to hate PETA's guts. I can't say that they don't have a point, but PETA does do some good things, too-- for example, they're the ones who made me want to go vegetarian in the first place! Without them, I would very possibly be an entirely different person-- although I might have gone veg eventually anyway, because of the environmental costs of meat production.
I'm also a member of the peta2 Street Team, which is for young people to join. peta2.com is a really cool website, I've got to admit. On the right hand side of my blog is an advertisement by peta2-- the one with Christofer Drew.
To be fair, this is what PETA has to say about their tactics: "Unlike our opposition—which is mostly composed of wealthy industries and corporations—PETA must rely largely on free "advertising" through media coverage. ... the media, sadly, do not consider the terrible facts about animal suffering alone interesting enough to cover. It is sometimes necessary to shake people up in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action.
Thus, we try to make our actions colorful and controversial, thereby grabbing headlines around the world and spreading the message of kindness to animals to thousands—sometimes millions—of people. ... In the two decades since PETA was founded, it has grown into the largest animal rights group in the country, with more than 3 million members and supporters worldwide. We have also had major groundbreaking successes, such as bringing about the first-ever cruelty conviction against an animal experimenter in the case of the now-famous Silver Spring Monkeys; orchestrating the first-ever raid on an agricultural facility (a factory farm in upstate New York that raised ducks for foie gras under horribly cruel conditions); and convincing more than 200 cosmetics companies to permanently abandon animal tests."
It's up to you to decide whether or not PETA is good, bad, or somewhere in between. I think that they're in between. They can be horribly sexist and rude at times, but they do what they do for the animals, so it's a mixed bag.
See you next week!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Let's Send Down Sales Down!

Sorry for the bad pun.
Down (the under-feathers of birds) is sometimes an ingredient in pillows, comforters, jackets and coats, and more. Although it may seem harmless, it actually isn't. Birds used for down are not treated well and are repeatedly plucked. Read what Ari Solomon has to say about the down industry for Huffington Post:
Ari Solomon
Ari Solomon, president and co-creator of vegan candle line
"...if you're taking feathers off a bird, there are two ways to do it: you can rip them off while the bird is still alive, or you can rip them off after the bird is dead. The feather industry considers feathers from live birds better quality, hence they're more valuable. So geese and ducks get "live-plucked" 3 to 4 times a year. This happens from the time they are 10 weeks until they're 4 years old. Then they're sent to slaughter for their flesh. Ducks and geese in the wild have a lifespan of 12-15 years."
The birds are plucked without anesthetics and many are also raised as fois gras (more on that some other time)!
Down is a poor choice for the consumer's sake because it doesn't stay warm when wet and it is expensive. My point: there is no reason why you need to buy down. There are plenty of warm winter coats and cozy comforters that use synthetic materials.
All you have to do to avoid buying down is to read labels. Check to make sure that there is no down in it and instead look for ones that contain polyester fill or another alternative.
Have a good week!
Photo courtesy of United Poultry Concerns (www.upc-online.org)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Be a Foster Parent for a Homeless Animal

Some of you probably aren't able to make any long-term commitments by adopting a pet for the rest of his or her life. I understand-- maybeyou are planning on starting a new job in a year, or a new school, or you simply have only a little bit of stamina. Whatever the reason, though, you should look into being a foster home for  a shelter animal.
Fostering an animal is great because it is a one-time commitment, you can choose how long to keep the animal for (within reason-- you wouldn't be likely to find an animal who needed to be taken in for only a few days!), you don't have to pay for food, litter, or veterinary bills, and you won't be stuck with the animal for the rest of his or her life if it doesn't work out.
Foster
Photo Courtesy of the Ottawa Humane Society
You can usually foster an animal from a local humane society or another animal welfare organization. If you live in the Ottawa area, you should consider fostering a rabbit from New Moon Rabbit Rescue or one of many species of animals from the Ottawa Humane Society.
The only problem with fostering an animal is that you are not allowed to adopt the animal who you have fostered. You have to let someone else adopt your new friend-- which can be heartbreaking for many people. As long as you begin fostering with this in mind, though, you should be fine. You'll be doing the animals a favour, too!


I know that this is off-topic, but November is National Novel Writing Month (and this one I didn't make up on the spot, unlike the GIVSC). This is a "contest" (no cash or material prizes, though) in which you have to write a 50,000 word novel in a month! There is also a Young Writer's Program for youth who don't want to write quite so much. I'm writing a YA/sci-fi/old-fashioned/school-story/etc. novel that takes place around 2030. By then, people don't keep pets as much as they used to (in many cities it is outlawed by that time-- and actually, in real-world 2012 pet sale in Los Angeles is outlawed, too!), and "vegetarian" and "vegan" have come to mean the same thing due to the fact that so many people are going vegan (I think; the planning is still in progress). However, it isn't all good-- technology is rampant, stress is high, and there are huge gaps between social groups. I'll let you know when the book is done and published so that you can buy it. ;)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Was Almost Roadkill, Too!

This week I was riding my bike home from school and got hit by a car. It was partially my fault, admittedly; the driver didn't see me and I assumed that she was going to wait for me to cycle by. Although I didn't get seriously injured (I came away with a slightly discoloured patch on my leg), it did make me think about a number of things, including roadkill.

File:Roadkill kangaroo.jpg
Aww, so sad...
The question I want to ask today is this: should we stop driving cars in order to prevent roadkill? And, if so, how do we do it?
The lady who crashed into me was very apologetic. Would she have been apologetic if she had run over a squirrel? I think she would have, although it is not a social necessity to feel this way in our culture.
A lot of roadkill is the result of speeding, too-- and, of course, the simple solution to that one is simply don't speed. Speeding puts animals in danger, it puts you in danger of crashing or getting a ticket, it puts poor careless cyclists like me in danger, it bothers neighbours, and it puts the environment in danger due to too much pollution. The only thing that speeding does accomplish is lessening your chances of being late for your next appointment or school or work day. You just need to plan ahead of time. It won't always be easy, and sometimes you will be late. But, well, that's life, as they say!
But I'm skirting the question. Cars-- or no cars?
I want to say no cars, due to my environmental concerns, but I've got to look at it from the roadkill perspective, too. Just how many animals are killed when the person is not speeding? I can't find any statistics, but I'm sure that many roadkills happen within the speed limit (especially on highways). If you are concerned about roadkill, drive your car as little as possible-- and carpool with a safe driver at the wheel whenever you can. If you are an open-minded, eco-friendly, animal-friendly, lovely person who always puts others first, stop driving your car altogether! (And if you're not, stop driving it anyway and I'll give you bonus points for going against your stereotype.) :D
You can't always stop yourself from driving over ants with your bicycle tires (believe me, it's pretty dangerous at times, and I should know), but you can try to reduce your impact as much as possible. Similarly, buses may not slow down to prevent the squishing of squirrels, but bus-ing is so much better for the environment that you should take the bus instead of the car anyway.
Here are some things you can do to stop roadkill:
  1. Get your neighbourhood to start an anti-speeding campaign. Some neighbourhoods just need a sign that displays your car's speed as you go by-- others may need more police to hover around. Talk to your neighbours about what would work for you.
  2. Don't get in the car with someone who is known to speed (if you have trouble refusing, just imagine me and my poor little bicycle going along the road at the same time).
  3. Please be careful with your cats-- do you want them to get hit by a car?

Whew. I hope I didn't ramble there. Remember to enter The Great International Vegan Soup Competition before December 1, 2012, by the way!
Oh, and don't worry. I've learned my lesson not to go out in front of cars without getting their permission first. Your lovely blogger isn't dead yet! ;)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to Get Your Friends to Go Veg

How many of you out there have some non-vegan friends? I wouldn't be surprised if all of you raised your hands (well, I don't mean actually raise your hands-- you get the point). It's hard to limit yourself to only befriending vegetarians. After all, vegetarianism probably isn't your only interest; you're probably involved in some sports team, writer's group, workplace or school where you all share another common interest.
It's okay to have meat-eating friends-- it's their problem, not yours. However, I still recommend that you try to convince them to go veg, and to generally become active in the animal rights movement.

Here is how you do it...

1) Make sure they know that you're vegetarian/vegan and that you care about animal rights. This will hopefully start to dispell any myths that they might have about us, realizing that you are not a stereotypical vegan (because no one is 100% a stereotype, as far as I'm aware).
2) A bit later, invite them to go out for dinner or to your place for food. Take them to a vegan restaurant or whip up a delicious vegan meal with side dishes. Don't try to convert them on the spot. Don't be too single-minded; just be a friend.

3) After the meal, tell them that if they go vegan, too, you can help them with recipes, product recommendations, nutritional information, animal rights information, etc. in order to help them get started. If they refuse, say that you understand and change the subject. After all, you don't want to ruin the friendship.
4) If they say that they are interested, great! Send them some information on how to get started, but don't be annoying. Otherwise, they'll be frustrated with the whole thing and stop being veg just to shake you off. Once you've gotten them started, let them come to you with their questions, should they have any.

See you next week, and don't forget to enter the Great International Vegan Soup Competition before December 1, 2012!

Photo Courtesy of Gentle Thanksgiving

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Great International Vegan Soup Competition!


Hi everyone! Since today is a holiday (Thanksgiving here in Canada), I figure that it's okay to post on Monday instead of Sunday. I hope you don't mind!

So, what is the Great International Vegan Soup Competition? It's a wonderful contest that The Animal Rights Action Site is holding, starting now.

Here are the rules:
  • You must create a soup recipe completely from scratch. Just experiment, and then try it. If it is good, send it to me by e-mail [rabbit-cat AT vegemail.com] or post it as a comment.
  • The soup recipe MUST be vegan.
  • You must not copy anyone else's soup recipe. I'll be checking the Internet to make sure it wasn't copied.
  • It would be appreciated if your recipe directions were for a small serving. I don't want you to have to waste any if your experimenting goes awry.
  • Entries are no longer accepted after December 1, 2012.
  • I will choose the winner based on how tasty the soup is!
  • PRIZE: TBD! E-mail me your entry with suggestions. If I get at least 5 entries, I'll add a prize! The winner will also get their soup recipe and bio (optional) posted on The Animal Rights Action Site.
Today I made a really cool soup by experimenting. Here is the recipe (you'll have to beat this to have a chance at winning, but my recipe isn't exactly genius anyway, so it won't be too hard):

1/2 cup chopped vegetables (celery, carrot, cucumber)
1 cup legumes (mix of chickpeas and black beans)
sea salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon herbs (nettle, mint, stevia)
hot water

Pour hot water over vegetables in non-plastic bowl. Add legumes. Add sea salt. Add herbs.
Using food processer, slightly blend the food. Don't overdo it, though!
Put in microwave to heat.

It tasted so good! Who knew that animal-friendly food could taste this good? (Well, I did, but that's not the point, now is it?)

Happy soup-making!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Starting an Animal Rights Club-- Part II: In Your Community

Hey everyone! Today I'm going to talk about how to start an animal rights club in your community. I'm really sorry about being late for this post. I was away at the 2012 Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Justice. I had a fantastic time!!!
Here are the steps that I would advise for you to take to start an animal rights club that isn't at school:
  1. Do you have any friends or relatives who would also like to be involved? Ask them first. You should have a backbone of solid members to base the thing around. Also ask around to see if a friend of a friend, or your cousin's girlfriend, might be interested. Meet with these people all together first, and write the club's mission plan. If you have enough members by now, you can skip step 2.
  2. If you can't find anyone using the strategies I have outlined in step 1, skip right to this step: Recruit! Put up posters at your local community centre and coffee shop. On your posters, remember to put a contact number and the details on what the club's about and who is invited. For example, it might be an animal rights club for youth, a vegan mom's club, or a general club that is dedicated to abolishing animal testing.
  3. Have your first meeting. Use the tactics that I have explained in my previous post. Have fun!
Ta-ta! I'll try not to be late with my posting anymore.
By the way, you might want to check Hug A Tree Today, Seriously (my other blog) in the next few days. I'm going to be putting up a very special post within the next few days...!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Starting an Animal Rights Club, Part I: At Your School

Hello everyone...
What's up in the animal rights world? Do you ever find it hard to keep track of all that's going on? Do you feel like you are spending so much time keeping up to date that you never get a chance to do any activism yourself?
I know the feeling! A good way to deal with this is to start an animal rights club in your school or community. Having a group of people to work with you is not only fun, but it also keeps you on track.
This is part I of a two-part series on my blog. Part II will focus on starting an animal rights club in your community.
I attempted to start an animal rights club in grade 9, but failed rather miserably. I'd like to use this as an opportunity to warn you about the mistakes I made, so hopefully you won't make the same ones that I did. I also want to share my ideas with you.
  1. Choosing a name for your club: I recommend "Animal Rights Club". It sounds nice, and you can use the acronym, too: "ARC". However, you may run into administrative difficulties if you choose such a name. I definitely did, due to the fact that the teacher-sponsor thought that "Animal Rights" was a too politically-charged term. I gave in to her views, and agreed to change it to "Animal Awareness Club". This was a mistake! What teenager wants to join an "Animal Awareness Club"? None at my school, as I soon learned. So please, leave it at "Animal Rights Club", and you'll attract members much easier.
  2. Scary Administration: The admin are often closed-minded to students starting new clubs all of a sudden. When I first spoke to the Vice-Principal about starting an animal rights club, it was like talking to an evil villainess about how I wanted to rally her slaves into saving the kittens. The room was dark, she looked at me with these cold, evil eyes, and she spoke about how the school was focused on learning and not activism. I held my ground, and she agreed to let me give it a go, but only if I could find a teacher to sponsor me. I fled from her torture chamber (which was actually a simple office) and later asked my favourite teacher if she would sponsor me, or if she knew of anyone who would. She led me to another teacher who agreed to sponsor me. I then went back to the Vice-Principal, club mission plan and goals printed on a sheet of paper in hand. I handed the sheet to her and waited, like a criminal awaiting a verdict of either guilty or innocent. Her heartless eyes scanned the paper distastefully. She agreed that I could do it, but of course I was in charge of getting it on the announcements and putting up posters.
    I think the important thing to remember here is that the admin usually are restricted from discriminating against you. They have to agree, as long as you are reasonable. So no matter how evil you think the admin are, don't give up.
  3. Getting Attention: So how do you attract members to your club, anyway? Just because it is on the list of school clubs doesn't mean that anyone will know about it. There are 3 ways of getting attention for your club: 1) put up appealing posters with all the necessary information on them (you might need permission from admin for this); 2) get it on the announcements (again, go to admin); 3) tell all your friends to come along and bring their friends! I did the first two things for my club, but I didn't have any friends when I was in grade 9, so no one came. Really, guys. It helps if you have friends.
  4. Meeting Plans: What are you going to talk about? This is up to you. Certain animal rights organizations want you to start clubs under their name or using their materials (ie. peta2 and Roots & Shoots), but I think it's best if you are independent. By all means, use the resources that you can find from any groups, but keep your options open. You can talk about (and act on) any of the following things:
    1. Veganizing your cafeteria (or working for vegan options at your cafeteria);
    2. Abolishing dissection at your school (or eliminating the requirement for students to dissect);
    3. Stickers, leaflets, and posters: distribute them around school (everybody seems to LOVE stickers!!!);
    4. Holding presentations to teach classes about animal rights issues (you can either prepare the presentations yourself or bring in someone from another organization);
    5. Fundraising to do all the cool stuff you want to accomplish (but remember, you can achieve a lot for free, too):
    6. Supporting group members in living an animal-friendly life-- exchanging recipes, website URLs, books, clothing recommendations, etc.
  5. Organizational Structure: I suppose you'll be the president, but don't be bossy. That would be a "turn-off" for your members. Instead, allow others to take the lead once in a while. Accept that others have different opinions, but don't let them steer the club entirely! Try to achieve a balance, okay?
I hope you found that useful! It took me ages to write, so it had better have helped! :)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Heartless Robots R Us"

Last week I promised to write about my experiences at the local vetrinary hospital, so let me do that now. About 2 years ago, my school sent the students in my year on "Take Your Kid To Work Day", where we got to job-shadow our parents for the day. I was already very aware of my parents' jobs (I frequently visited my mom's workplace, and my dad works out of the home), so I job-shadowed someone at the animal hospital instead. Mistake?
When I got there, I was immediately thrown into the hectic and uncaring atmosphere of the back rooms at the animal hospital (the rooms that the clients don't get to see). One vetrinarian (or vetrinary assistant/technician-- you can't really tell) was talking about "knocking out" a dog, which I learned meant putting him under anasthesia. The vetrinarians were like the worst heartless robots I have ever met-- not like I have had the pleasure of meeting any real heartless robots, but still. They were so overworked and pressed for time that they could not allow themselves to look on each animal with kind eyes and a gentle touch. Instead, they would pick up the animal as though "it" was a fax machine or a squirming water balloon.
It all resembled so much of a factory-- the focus was on quantity, not quality. I started to feel ill, as I often do when I see animals suffering needlessly from violations of dignity and respect. As two women pinned down a dog and started shaving his neck I felt queasy. When a large black dog who I had started to grow to appreciate was dragged away to be euthenized, I felt as though part of me was being dragged to die along with him. And, as I observed the vetrinarian I was shadowing carve away part of the skin inside a little white dog's mouth for a "tissue sample", I collapsed-- yes, collapsed!-- on the ground. (At which point the vets made me get up and sit in the hall, threw a bag of chips at me, and got back to work.)
Before you say that I'm just overly sensitive, let me continue to explain. True, the vetrinarians did, at times, physically fix (I am hesitant to say "heal") their charges, but they also caused them unnecessary suffering. Can you imagine how it must feel to be roughly picked up by a severe-looking stranger and put in pain by them? If you went to the hospital with a strange growth on your gums and the doctor came and shaved it off (collecting a "tissue sample", of course) and sent you home with a bloody mouth and in no better condition, would you ever go back?
It is importatnt to keep our companion animals from getting ill, of course-- but be wary of vetrinarians taking your furry friend out of your sight. They may just transform into the worst  heartless robots you have ever met!

Alternatives
  • Independent vetrinarians (no back rooms!)
  • Alternative Vetrinary Hospital in the UK: http://www.alternativevet.org/index.htm
  • Keep your animals healthy so they won't have to go to the vet as much.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Euthenasia: Dignity vs. Convenience

Today I'm going to write about whether or not people should be allowed to euthenize their animals and the difference between compassion and cruelty depending on the situation.
Is euthenasia really about "putting an animal out of its misery"? Or, is it simply that the owners no longer wish to care for their pets? I think it's both.
In a fascinating book I'm reading called The Philosopher's Dog, the author Raymond Gaita says that you should not euthenize your animals, just as you would not put your granny "to sleep". He makes a good point. The basic rights of humans should typically be transferred to the ethics of animal rights. If it's okay to put terminally ill humans "to sleep", then it's okay to put mortally sick domestic animals "to sleep", presumably. But if it's not okay to do this to humans, then why would it be any better to do this to animals? I am not 100% opposed to the euthenation of sick animals. I am merely saying that we need to develop some kind of moral consistency between when enough is enough for humans and when it is for animals. Also, how will we know when an animal is consenting to euthenasia and when he/she is not?
Some people point to the pet overpopulation problem as an excuse to euthenize healthy animals. But this would only be a valid reason if you also thought that the human overpopulation problem could be solved in the same way. And goodness knows, I certainly don't want to live in a world where the excess human beings are rounded up and gassed. Do you?
I think that these are the reasons that people euthenize their animals, in typical situations, and I also provide my responses:
  • The animal (let's call him "Fido") is unable to take care of himself (ie. can't walk, can't go to the bathroom without help, can't eat through his mouth), and so the owner (let's call her "Yasmin") feels that Fido is in too much suffering, and not truly living anyway.
    • Maybe it is a good idea in this situation. It depends how bad it gets. If your dog has gotten so bad that he is simply lying on his bed all day and can't move or eat without someone doing it for him, then I think it might have gotten too far.
  • Fido's treatment is too expensive for Yasmin to pay for, so she feels she has no choice but to put him down.
    • Unfair! If Yasmin truly loved her dog, she could never put him to sleep due to financial issues. She should try to give him up to someone who could provide the treatment. Sometimes this doesn't work out and it truly isn't Yasmin's fault, but she should still try her hardest to save him.
  • Fido's treatment is extensive and time-consuming. Although it would possibly cure him of his ailment, Yasmin does not want to invest the time in it.
    • Again, so unfair. If I had a serious illness, no one would euthenize me! Thus, they shouldn't euthenize poor Fido.
  • Fido doesn't have an owner. He's in an animal shelter. He is just one of many. They don't have space for him any more.
    • :( No. That isn't right, either.
Enough of the depressing philosophy (for now!). The real question is this: What do we do with all the extra animals-- the ones that we don't euthenize for medical reasons? Do we keep them in cages in overcrowded animal shelters? Let them all go to wander the streets?
No. I don't think so.
What we need is more people to take animals into their homes-- even if only temporarily, as "foster owners". Many people say, "If you want a pet, go to the animal shelter and adopt one!", and that is great, but we really need to say is this: "Adopt an animal from the shelter whether or not you want a pet-- save a life." (I'm excluding those people whose lifestyles can't even permit the care of a little mouse because they are so busy or don't live in a suitable environment or aren't capable of caring for an animal.)
If we all went out to the animal shelters and adopted a hamster or a bird or another animal, we could save millions of animals in the Western world alone. That, I think, coupled with not breeding your animal and boycotting the pet industry, could be a large chunk of the solution to the problem of euthenizing healthy albeit unwanted animals.

And so, here is another one of my (not-so) famous lists on what you can do:
  1. Adopt an animal!
  2. Don't buy an animal from the pet store or a breeder-- ever!
  3. If you can not take care of your animal anymore, give him or her up to a no-kill animal shelter or a friend.
Next week, I'll tell you all about what happened when I job-shadowed a vetrinarian at a local animal hospital in grade 9-- and how horrible it was. Be careful around animal hospitals...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

What to do about the PLANTS issue?

Sometimes people ask you, when you are a vegan, why you think it is okay to eat plants and not animals-- after all, you're still hurting the poor plants! Besides this being one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard, it is also one of the most annoying. This is why I want to answer it on my blog once and for all.
Super-Obvious Point #1: Plants do not have brains. They do not have neurons, nor do they have nerves. Therefore, the notion that they could feel physical, excrutiating pain is very unlikely, if not impossible. Since they do not have brains, it also follows that they can not have conscious thought, as long as conscious thought is defined by having a brain. Some research has gone into whether or not plants have consciousness, which I applaud for its audacity and its open-mindedness, but even if plants did have consciousness, it would not be a reason to eat animals over plants, because...
Super-Obvious Point #2: Animals eat plants! Farmers have to feed cattle, pigs, chickens, etc. vast quantities of grain to get them fat enough for slaughter. And not all those calories become flesh ("meat"), either-- in fact, most of them get burned off when the animals move, digest the food, breathe, think, etc. So it is highly inefficient to raise livestock, and it results in the deaths of more plants anyway.
Super-Obvious Point #3: Animal products are bad for you. I've already given ample evidence of this on my two blogs, but if you haven't read that yet, then perhaps you should read the articles on www.chooseveg.com and www.goveg.com, hm?
PETA T-Shirt Design
Whew. I'm glad I finally did a good job of explaining that. Now I hope that nobody will ask me again, and instead just read my blog!
I'm sorry for forgetting to post last week. I was on vacation. See you next week!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vegan Travel

Vegan On The Road
Photo Courtesy of www.spencerhopedavis.com
I'm going on vacation, starting today, so I think I should post today instead. For the next two weeks, my posts might be a little... er... spontaneous. It is hard to know when I'll have access to the computer, you know?
But here is my post.... about how to be vegan while travelling!
Preparation is key. You should either bring your own food, or money to buy it at a grocery store, or you should research vegan restaurants along your route.
Bringing your own food can mean a lot of packing and lugging around coolers. Of course, if you are going on a road trip, this shouldn't be a problem, but if you are flying or taking a train or taking another less predictable form of transportation, you need to buy most of your food along the way. If you can't bring all your food with you, bring along some non-perishables, like crackers, granola bars, and cookies. Make sure you use eco-friendly packaging-- take a look at my blog post on Hug A Tree Today, Seriously for ideas about eco-friendly camping for more information. You can also buy special containers of soy milk that don't have to be refrigerated until you open them (these are usually only individual boxes, though).
Grocery/Health Food Stores can be useful, since you can buy things like fruits and vegetables. You can whip up some of the foods you eat at home in your hotel room.
For a directory of vegan restaurants, go to http://www.happycow.net/.

I'd love to write more, but I can't spend any more time on the computer because I have to finish packing!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How to Raise Vegan Kids Who Care About Animal Rights

If you have young children or plan to have kids when you are older, this post is for you!
You might think it is hypocritical for me to tell you how to raise your kids, since I am not even out of high school yet and definitely don't have kids, but I hope that my perspective will help you all the same. I am a vegan, and I have thought a lot about how animal rights should play a role in young children's lives.
Here is my advice:
  1. Don't let them eat animal products. To refuse to let them eat animals is not torture or abuse or meanness in any way. Think about all the awful chemicals and hormones that can be found in meat and milk and eggs. Studies have shown that the growth hormones in cattle, pigs, chickens, etc. pass themselves on to the consumer and can even cause obesity. The chemicals can also be dangerous and toxic-- if you would not feed your child arsenic or anti-freeze, then why would you feed him industrially produced animal products? Even organically-grown animal products are unhealthy, and can cause cancer, diabetes, and a shorter life-span. If you need further convincing on the health implications of animal-product-eating, please go to http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/health.html, where you will find more information and links. Another thing to keep in mind is that vegetarians and vegans tend to be more mindful and conscientious than meat-eaters. To conclude, not allowing them access to animal products is actually doing them a favour. When you combine the health implications with the environmental and animal rights arguments, there is really no way you can compassionately feed them meat, milk, and eggs.
  2. Once they become teenagers, the choice is more up to them. However, this does not mean that you should cook them animal products if they ask you to, nor should you buy anything that came from an animal. Tell them that if they want to eat animal products, they must do it outside the house or in their room, and they must buy it themselves. I am writing this from the perspective of a teenager, remember, and it sounds about right to me. Hopefully, if you have raised them properly, they will not want to eat animal products, which leads to my next points...
  3. From the time when they are very young, educate them on why your family is vegan. Remember, the rest of society is constantly indoctrinating anyone in it that eating animals is normal. If you live in society (which I'll bet you do), then they will constantly be around people who, from time to time, will challenge their beliefs. Over time they will make up their minds for themselves, but that does not mean you can not try to teach them ethics beforehand. To teach them, you can read them books, show them kid-friendly animal-rights movies, or simply explain to them when the topic comes up. Here is a list of children's books that might help: http://www.veganfamily.co.uk/kidsbooksveg.html.
  4. Take them to volunteer at an animal-friendly organization on a regular basis.
  5. Take them to natural places, so that they earn an appreciation for nature, where most animals live!
  6. If you send them to school (I think that home-schooling and unschooling is better, however; click here for details), encourage them to talk about what they experience at school and whether anyone talked about them being vegan. You need to make sure that they are not being bullied about being a vegan.
Resources:
Food ideas and more: http://www.keepkidshealthy.com/welcome/treatmentguides/veganchildren.html
Nutritional details: http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/kids.htm
One-stop site for lots of information: http://www.vegfamily.com/vegan-children/index.htm
Something to further convince yourself: http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/realveganchildren

Ellen, who was raised as a vegan and still is at 17. Photo Courtesy of veganhealth.org

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not Dead Yet!

To begin this post, let me tell you a true story.

The Tale of 6 Dead Insects
Or, The Case of The Undead Snail

One day (this most recent Wednesday), a girl named Carolyn (me) was working her volunteer shift at the raw organic vegan gluten-free take-out place, washing vegetables. While taking apart the lettuce and the kale to be washed, she found 6 dead insects in the vegetables. By the time her shift was over, she had uncovered 1 dead little winged black bug, 1 bronze-coloured winged insect, 1 wingless green one, 1 wingless black one, and 2 snails (well, snails aren't really insects, but the title of this story is meant to be decieving anyway).
At first, she had dumped the bronze one outside, and then the first snail. She figured that they were both dead.
Upon finding more insects and the second "dead" snail, she stopped bothering taking individual trips outside for each find. Instead, she just left them on the counter. She continued to wash the produce, spin them in a spinner, and then dump them in the right bins.
Then she noticed something strange.
The second snail had moved ever so slightly up the counter from where she had last seen it.
Ew, she thought, I must have bumped it with the lettuce. Gross. It's dead, though. It couldn't have survived for so long in the freezer, where the lettuce had been. And besides, it just looks dead.
She forgot about it for a while, washing more lettuce. Until she looked again, that is.
It had moved again. Had she bumped it again with the lettuce, or was it still alive?
The snail wasn't dead. But Carolyn refused to accept that it was alive. That left only one possibility... It was undead!

Sometimes we think that a creature is dead, when really, it isn't dead at all. This can definitely lead to problems. I might have thrown that snail in the compost bin or out on the pavement if I had not noticed soon enough that it was alive-- er, sorry, I mean, undead.
Insects are not the only creatures who we think are dead when they really aren't. What about pet fish? People often flush their sick fish down the toilet because they can not help them recover. But please, have compassion. Imagine getting sick with the flu and suddenly someone comes in and flushes you down the toilet! It will not kill the fish right away, but will slowly suffocate them in feces.
And then there is the lobster scenario. When people cook lobsters, they boil them alive. People re-assure themselves that lobsters can not feel or think, so they are perfectly okay with it, or at least, they try to be okay with it. Why, then, do lobsters desperately struggle to escape while being boiled?

Of course, you can't always save every little insect (or snail), but it is important to help when you can. Here are some ways to help:
  1. Don't assume an insect is dead if you find one unmoving; take it outside and let it recover. At worst, it will be eaten by a bird, and at best, it will recover and fly away. Either way, someone wins.
  2. Be the goldfish saviour. Every time someone you know has an ill goldfish, make sure that they do not flush it down the toilet.
  3. Don't eat lobster, obviously.
  4. Sign my petition against lobster-boiling. See the gadget to the side of my blog for details. It will be there for most of 2012.
  5. Let people know about how lobsters do, indeed, have sensitivity and feelings. You might need to quote some researchers to convince them of this.
See you next week!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dog Walking: Pleasant Stroll or Power Struggle? You Choose!

This summer I have been walking some friends' dogs while they are away. Collie (not her real name) is a lovely dog, and really energetic. The problem is, however, that she loves to stop and sniff every ten seconds or so! I let her stop sometimes, but I have to pull her along many other times to keep up a decent pace. I sometimes feel like taking her on walks is a power struggle in which one of us has to win and the other has to lose. Either I win (we keep walking) or she wins (we stop for a nice long sniff). Surely there has to be a better way to go about this?

Photo Courtesy of https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/VLQjft4yCTz62R7az9v8cg
I am not the only one who faces this dilemma, however. Many dog owners are downright nasty to their dogs if they bark, or tug, or sniff while on a walk. Although I don't act inappropriately to my dog or any of the others, it is a problem with many people (and their poor dogs!). Once I was walking at a large park where dogs are allowed on a leash. I passed by some people and a woman with a dog on a leash. The dog tried to come close to me, jumping and tugging at the leash, but certainly not hurting me in any way. The woman shouted "No! No!" at her dog and dragged him away. I was just dying to scream, "No! No!" back at her, and see how she liked it, but by the time I thought that maybe I would confront her, we had already walked too far in the opposite direction. I suppose it was for the best, really-- I don't want to make her think that animal advocates are a bunch of screaming "extremists"!
Although walking your dog is a great way to give her exercise, sunlight, fresh air, a chance to meet other dogs, and some new places to sniff and explore, it also can provide quite a strain on Collie's neck, prove disappointing when not allowed to stop and sniff, and sometimes even exhaust her.
I feel that if a few considerations are made, dog-walking will become a lot more peaceful and happy.
Here are my suggestions:
  1. When possible, use a retractable leash, as shown below. This means that your dog will have to strain less on the leash. When you reach a busy intersection, you can just press the lock button on the leash to keep your dog safe.
  2. Photo Courtesy of BlankTerrMall.com
  3. DON'T attach your dog's leash to your bicycle while riding. If your dog falls or tries to stop, he will be dragged along behind you. If you fall, he'll be squished under your bicycle. Yikes!
  4. Let your dog stop and sniff at regular intervals, but it's okay to pull her along once in a while.
  5. If your dog absolutely detests going on walks and you have to drag him all the way, look for other ways to give him exercise. These "other ways" include dog parks, the backyard, or simply carrying him halfway and setting him down on the ground. He will be trotting along-- in the direction of home-- in a flash.
  6. Don't scold your dog while on a walk. That will just make her associate walking with negativity.
    1. I find it odd how when people are in the city and walking their dogs and someone (me) comes along, they start scolding their dogs. Do they think it makes them look like responsible owners? It doesn't. It just makes them look mean and stupid.
  7. Don't be too passive. If your dog is eating something off the ground or in danger of being hit by a car, you have to drag your dog away.
  8. Be sure of yourself, as is necessary when dealing with dogs.
  9. Don't bribe your dog with treats. This is not going to contribute to your dog's health.
  10. Only let your dog off a leash if it is safe and you know he will not run away.
If we were all good to our dogs, dog-walking could be less of a pain and more of an adventure. Let us work hard to accomplish that.