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)