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.