Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why Vegan-- Justice or Compassion?

Although almost all organizations promoting veganism do so for the sake of the animals, these groups seem to tend to fall into two (not entirely separate) categories-- those who promote veganism for compassion's sake, and those who promote veganism to ensure justice for the animals.

VEGAN
Image from http://www.nonviolenceunited.org/veganfuture.html

Compassion
On the one side, there are groups like Vegan Outreach that promote the practice of compassion through the vegan diet. On their website, in their e-newsletter, and in their booklets, the words "compassion" and "suffering" come up frequently. The ethic of Vegan Outreach is simple: there are countless animals suffering right now on factory farms, yet by acting with compassion and choosing to go vegan, we can help reduce the problem. By working together to "veganize" the world, we can eventually greatly minimize and maybe even eliminate this cruelty. According to Vegan Outreach's website, we can argue for veganism using the logic, "I know that I don’t want to suffer. Therefore, I don’t want to cause others to suffer."
Other people and vegan organizations seem to fall in the "compassion" category, as well. For example, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, also known as "The Compassionate Cook", speaks a lot about compassion when she talks about veganism. You can listen to two of her podcasts about compassion and veganism here: http://www.compassionatecook.com/category/writings/podcast-media/the-compassionate-life.
According to the American Vegan Society,
"Veganism is compassion in action. It is a philosophy, diet, and lifestyle.
Veganism is an advanced way of living in accordance with Reverence for Life, recognizing the rights of all living creatures, and extending to them the compassion, kindness, and justice exemplified in the Golden Rule."
The animal rights/welfare organization Mercy for Animals actually has "inspiring compassion" as the slogan at the top of their website. As you can see, compassion is a very important value for vegans-- as it should be!

Justice
Some people, however, argue that compassion is secondary to a more important concept that drives their vegan choices: justice, they say, comes first.
Gary L. Francione, a Board of Governors Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, promotes the "abolitionist approach" to veganism and animal rights. He states that practicing veganism solely as a means of reducing suffering is misguided; instead, veganism should come from the principles of justice.
In his blog post, "Veganism: Just Another Way of Reducing Suffering or a Fundamental Principle of Justice & Nonviolence?", he writes:
"It is important to understand that there are significant differences among those who regard themselves as vegans. 
"One important difference is between those who maintain that veganism is merely a way of reducing suffering, and those who maintain that it is a fundamental commitment to justice, nonviolence, and a recognition of the moral personhood of nonhuman animals. 
"...We can no more justify using nonhumans as human resources than we can justify human slavery. Animal use and slavery have at least one important point in common: both institutions treat sentient beings exclusively as resources of others. That cannot be justified with respect to humans; it cannot be justified with respect to nonhumans—however “humanely” we treat them."
He goes on to say, "Veganism is not just a way of reducing suffering; it is what justice for nonhumans requires at the very least."
There is also a blog called "The Rational Vegan" that explains it very well in the post "Compassion or Justice?":
"...watching a video showing animals being mistreated can make us sad. The message is "You're compassionate, right? Don't eat animals!"

"For the non-vegan, the argument comes down to tastiness of animals versus feeling bad for the animals that suffer to make that tasty food. It's a battle of emotions, not reason. How often does self-interest win out over compassion? How often does an "ex-vegan" find that compassion is suddenly outweighed by the desire for a hamburger?

"You hopefully are able to see why an appeal to emotion is considered a logical fallacy. It depends on emotional state, which is fickle."
Which is Right, Then?
My conclusion to all of this is that both compassion and justice are important when making the decision to go vegan. For some people, compassion will play the biggest role. For others, justice may be their sole reason for shunning animal products. The point is this: both compassion and justice are valid, good things, and if they make people stop causing the murder and imprisonment of animals, then great!
Compassion is a wonderful thing. However, compassion on its own may be not be enough to make someone go fully vegan. PETA, Peter Singer, and Vegan Outreach talk about compassion and "humane" animal products, but they don't advocate for true veganism-- they tell you to "do the best you can without looking obsessive", etc. Advocating for "almost-veganism" is detrimental for practical reasons (more animals being harmed) and philosophical reasons (it's morally inconsistent).  Also, the Dalai Lama-- thought to be the Bodhisattva of Compassion-- is not even a vegetarian. Simply feeling compassion for the animal on your plate is not going to help the animal who was killed for you to eat. Also, there are some people who may not feel much compassion towards animals-- however, that should not mean that they can be excluded from having ethical obligations to others. That's why a belief in animal rights, nonviolence, and justice for all is also a good thing to have.
Some people, however, may go vegan for only one of those reasons-- or an entirely different reason altogether, such as spirituality-- and that's fine, too. If you are completely committed to act on your values of compassion alone or your values of justice alone, there isn't a problem!
Now you tell me! Why are you vegan-- justice or compassion, or both, or something else?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Healthy Vegan Desserts Just in Time for the Holidays!

Hi everyone,
Now that Christmas is approaching, lots of people are getting ready to cook, bake, and prepare food items for Christmas parties and potlucks. Vegans can use this opportunity to explore new vegan recipes and share them with others as well. (Doesn't it feel great to give meat-eaters some healthy vegan food and watch their faces light up as they eat it? They might not pledge to stop eating animal flesh on the spot, but at least it helps them realize that vegan food isn't disgusting, or weird, or boring. And it also hopefully means that they'll eat less animal products, because they're filling themselves up on your vegan treats instead.)
There's a great healthy-dessert blog out there called Chocolate Covered Katie. All the recipes on Katie's site are vegan (Katie is a vegan because she cares about animals and her health), and the recipes are generally healthier than most dessert recipes. Healthy doesn't mean boring, though-- they look really tasty, too!
Here's an example of one of her healthier-looking recipes:


Healthy Chocolate No Bake Cookies
They're called "Mexican Chocolate No-Bake Cookies". You can find the recipe at http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/12/19/mexican-chocolate-bake-cookies/

And here's another one:

Fairytale Fruit and Yogurt Smoothies - the link includes many recipes for different flavors: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/05/17/fairytale-fruit-yogurt-smoothie-flavors/
Fairytale Fruit and Yoghurt Smoothies (using vegan yoghurt, of course!): http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/05/17/fairytale-fruit-yogurt-smoothie-flavors/ 
And since this is supposed to be about vegan recipes in time for the holidays, here's a recipe for Healthy Eggnog (without the eggs): http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2012/12/06/healthy-eggnog/


healthy eggnog
http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2012/12/06/healthy-eggnog/

 
And Gingerbread Breakfast Cereal:

gingerbread bowl
http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/12/19/gingerbread-breakfast-cereal/

 
Wow, that's a lot of recipes already. If you want to see even more (note: many of her recipes are actually much richer than the ones I've posted above-- she's got recipes for chocolate frosting in a glass, brownies and cakes, as well!), you can go to www.ChocolateCoveredKatie.com, or, for more holiday recipes, you can look here: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/?s=christmas.
 
Happy holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Free-Range" Farming: NOT Compassionate

Many people claim that "free-range" or "organic" milk and eggs are okay to consume, becuase the animals were treated "fairly" on "small-scale" farms. If you have been duped by these labels, please think again. "Free-range farming" is simply a deceptive label meant to reduce the guilt of people who don't want to give up the milk and eggs that they grew up consuming.
What business do we humans have in restraining, killing, raping (also known as "artificially inseminating"), and exploiting animals just so that we can eat chicken's periods (eggs) and cow's breast milk? It's not only gross; it's also totally inhumane and cruel.
Please watch this video explaining some of the horrors that a group of "free-range" hens had to endure (don't worry, it's not a violent video, so even sensitive people will probably be able to watch it):


If you haven't gone vegan yet, please do so. There are plenty of good resources out there to help you get started, such as these ones:
Nobody who has a choice of what they can eat has any excuse to eat animal products. Remember to watch the video above and share it with anyone who needs to see it.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!


Photo Courtesy of KissMyVegan.blogspot.ca

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Animal- and Eco-Friendly Christmas Ideas!

On this blog, I have posted ideas for animal-friendly Christmases before, but this year I'm going to expand the horizons a bit. Why not be eco-friendly on Christmas as well as being animal-friendly?
The Earth is the home of humans, animals, and plants. We all need it to be in good condition so that we can survive; unfortunately, Earth is being devastated and polluted so quickly that it will only continue to support us if we take the necessary steps to stop destroying it!
Every one of us can play a role in saving the Earth. Simply consume less, drive less, spend more time doing fun low-impact activities, get outside more, and advocate for others to do the same. Or, as Gandhi once put it, "Live simply so that others may simply live."
With that in mind, please consider using the following ideas for having the most compassionate Christmas as possible this year:

For the Earth
  • Guess what? You don't have to do any Christmas shopping if you don't want to. Instead, you can make all your gifts at home-- what about freshly baked vegan cookies in a re-purposed jam jar? A beautiful necklace you made yourself? An exciting story written especially for the recipient? A painting, drawing, or sculpture? A useful wooden shelf, rocking horse, or stool? Dehydrated raw vegan kale chips? You can use your talents to make your presents. Not only does this (in many cases) lessen the environmental impact of creating the gift, but it also is a more useful, heartfelt gift that is less likely to end up in someone's basement or relegated to the status of "Stuff".
  • Alternatively, you can treat people to special events and places as a Christmas gift. For example, you could take someone out to a show or concert.
  • Giving consumables (such as vegan food, candles, and soaps) ensures that the gift almost certainly won't be wasted.
    Fresh Bruschetta
    These high-quality raw vegan chips are delicious! Photo Courtesy of RawMountainFoods.com
  • I'm not saying that it's completely unacceptable to purchase Christmas presents. However, it makes sense to purchase wisely. When you see something at the store that you'd like to give to someone as a Christmas present, ask yourself the following questions:
    • Will the person use it? Would they want this?
    • Am I choosing this gift for him/her because I truly think it would make a good present, or am I merely grabbing it off the shelf because I can't think of anything else he/she would want?
    • Where does this come from and what is it made of? Is there an eco-friendly alternative to this gift? (For example, if you want to get someone a notebook, consider getting them a nice notebook made from recycled paper instead of one made from freshly killed trees. Or, you could buy a locally-knit cotton scarf instead of one that's been shipped halfway across the world.)
    • Am I buying expensive gifts for someone to make up for not spending enough time with them? (Please, don't do that. You don't need to buy any gifts for anyone-- you can make inexpensive heartfelt gifts instead!)
    • Who (human or animal) would be impacted by my purchasing this gift? Is this a positive or negative impact?
  • You can choose to ask people to make donations to your favourite charity instead of buying you more stuff for Christmas this year.
  • Shop for Christmas gifts at eco-friendly stores, such as eco superstores and small, ethical shops.
  • Wrap presents in recycled materials-- newspaper, scarves, comic book pages, socks, jars, cardboard boxes, etc. In their blog post, Treehugger has some cool ideas on this subject.
  • Christmas isn't only about the presents, of course. What about decorations? When going to big-box stores around Christmastime, I tend to notice lots of Christmas decorations for sale. Some of these "decorations" are so ridiculously large that it shocks me (like those blow-up light-up Santas and Christmas trees that people put in their front yards), while others items for sale, although smaller, could easily pile up in someone's house as he or she gets more and more decorations year after year. Here are my recommendations:
    • Don't buy a lot of new Christmas decorations if you already have enough at home! It'll only pile up later, and the Earth won't thank you for overconsuming materials taken from its precious ecosystems.
    • Make your own Christmas decorations out of materials you have around the house! It could actually be really fun-- who knows what you could make out of cardboard boxes, jam jars, and old socks?
  • Re-use Christmas card covers every year. If you're the type to get rid of Christmas cards a few weeks after Christmas, cut off the cover and use it again next year for someone else's Christmas card. This might sound stingy, but really-- think about all the trees people could save if we all did this!
  • Please don't buy a once-living Christmas tree! Buying plastic trees isn't good, either-- it would take a long time for that "tree" to biodegrade, since it's plastic. Why not decorate a tree in your front yard, instead?
  • Eat organically-grown, animal-free food on Christmas and every day.
For the Animals
Oh, and by the way, if you are a vegan but your family isn't, you might be worried about surviving a meat-centred Christmas dinner with them, right? Well, please refer to my post "Surviving Non-Vegan Meals with Family and Friends" to see my advice for that one!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Balancing Your Life: Saving the World and Taking Care of Yourself at the Same Time

Many people talk about work-life balance, but the concept of work-life balance is slightly different for animal rights activists and compassionate vegans. You see, people almost always become activists because they care about something deeply. The boundaries between "work" and "life" are blurred, and that's probably a good thing, too: when your work becomes a relevent part of your life, you're more likely to enjoy the work you do and live by your values. Some activists feel guilty about stopping to relax and take care of themselves when there are so many animals suffering in the world. On the other hand, other people want to help animals, but they're too caught up in their own bubble of problems and concerns that they feel they just can't reach outside of themselves to make a difference.
It's important to retain a healthy balance between activism/volunteerism and taking care of yourself and your relationships without neglecting one or the other.

Take time to help the animals!
If you want to make a difference but feel too caught up in other things to have time to help animals, please re-evaluate your priorities. Making a difference doesn't have to be a huge commitment. It can be something as simple as a blog (like this one!-- which is remarkably easy to upkeep, by the way) or going leafleting once a month. It's so easy nowadays to get brainwashed by this crazy consumer culture that tells you to only care about yourself-- your comfort, your money, your happiness, your health, your date, your stuff, your weight loss plan, etc. Think about it-- how many hours a day do you spend focusing on helping yourself? How many hours a day do you spend helping humans/animals/the environment?
...It can be pretty surprising just how easy it is to get swept away on the "me-me-me" bandwagon. While you shouldn't neglect yourself (and, sometimes, people in poor financial or health situations need to devote all their energy and time to simply surviving, and I don't blame them for that), please remember to take the time to reach outside of yourself to help others if you can. Not only is it simply a good thing to do, it's also good for you!

Take time to help yourself!
That being said, some activists may feel like they can't stop trying to help animals. It simply makes them feel too guilty to stop-- there are, after all, billions of animals imprisoned and killed each year in the animal industries. It's great that you want to help animals-- I do, too!-- but make sure that you keep yourself healthy and sane while you're at it. If you eat nothing but veggie burgers on white bread and potato chips because you're too busy trying to save animals to prepare real food, eventually your health will probably fail. Then you won't be able to help animals very much, which is bad for the animals (and you'll probably become very unhappy!).

Have a great, balanced week!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Remembering Animal Victims of War on Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is this Monday. While most people use this time to remember the countless human lives lost to warfare, we can also take the time on Remembrance Day to remember another group who have suffered and continue to suffer in human conflict-- animals.
Animals are forced to help humans fight bloody wars, whether the animals want to help or not. In this way, they can be considered victims of warfare.
Eight million horses died in World War I. Mules, donkeys, dogs, pigeons, elephants, camels, oxens, bullocks, cats, canaries, glow worms, and probably other species, too, have all been used for warfare by British, Commonwealth, and Allied forces in 20th century conflicts, and countless animal lives have been lost as a result. For more information on how these animals have specifically been used in warfare, please see Animals in War Memorial Fund's website, http://www.animalsinwar.org.uk/index.cfm?asset_id=1375.

From Animal Aid, here are some of the many ways animals have suffered in war:

"Collateral damage: Some of the most indelible images of the 1991 Gulf War showed the scorched and bloated bodies of camels abandoned in the shadow of burning oil wells. Photographer Steve McCurry describes ‘driving through the oilfields for several weeks after the hostilities ended and often [coming] across cattle, camels and horses wandering around like zombies. I guess most died eventually – all the water holes and vegetation were covered in oil‘. (Blood in the Sand, The
 Guardian newspaper, G2 section February 14, 2003).
Willful assaults: During the Serbian conflict – also in the early 1990s – bored or hyped-up soldiers amused themselves by taking shots at wild animals. Zoo inmates were starved, beaten, fired upon and even attacked with grenades.
The deserted ones: These include the farmed animals abandoned in their sheds or in fields once the shooting starts. And dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs and birds left alone in people’s houses after those people take off to escape the mayhem. The animals starve and cry out for water, while the terrifying din of gunfire and explosions sound around them.
Front line victims: We can go back to the ancient Greeks and their use in pitched battles of Indian elephants – or consider the recent deployment of German Shepherd dogs, parachuted into Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan to search buildings for the enemy. A new generation of animal conscripts is even more expertly controlled and manipulated than those in the past – dolphins trained under extreme psychological and physical duress; and rats with gadgets implanted into their brains so that they can be directed, punished and rewarded at the tap of a keyboard.
Animals in weapons research: In Britain, most war-related vivisection is conducted by the Ministry of Defence in Porton Down, Wiltshire. Animals have been poisoned by chemical warfare agents, subjected to blast injuries, force-fed sensory irritants and deliberately wounded and killed by bacterial toxins. Porton scientists have described how monkeys, dosed with the nerve agent soman, became prostrate with violent convulsions, made attempts to crawl about the cage and then lost consciousness."
- Excerpt from "PREFACE FOR 'Animals and War: Confronting the Military-Animal Industrial Complex' (Lexington Press) - By Andrew Tyler, Director of Animal Aid" from http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/NEWS/news_other//2974//


Animal Aid, the UK's largest animal rights group, provides purple poppies to be worn alongside red poppies on Remembrance Day. The purple poppy is a way to remember the animal victims of war. This year (2013), Animal Aid are unable to fulfill any more orders for poppies, but please buy one of their purple poppies in 2014 or later to show your support for the animals (or make your own purple poppy). Those in the UK may be able to find these poppies being sold in various UK shops. You can also purchase Animal Aid's Purple Poppy Car Sticker to raise awareness for this important issue. On Animal Aid's website, the organization lists other ways to get involved: http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/CAMPAIGNS/living//2256//. (Please note that those living outside of the UK must purchase at least one non-poppy item along with the poppy items so that you can have your order placed.) (I only hope that the poppies aren't made of animal-derived felt!-- although I doubt that they would be, since Animal Aid is an animal rights group.)
Even if you don't wear any poppies, you can still take a moment to contemplate the human and animal cost of war this Remembrance Day.
purple poppy
Photo Courtesy of Animal Aid: http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/CAMPAIGNS/living//2256//
purple-poppy-appeal
Photo Courtesy of On the Wight: http://onthewight.com/2012/11/05/purple-poppy-appeal-remembering-the-animal-victims-of-war/

Sunday, November 3, 2013

ChooseVeg.com: A Great Resource for Making Veganism Easy and Fun

ChooseVeg.com (or ChooseVeg.ca for the Canadian version) is a website run by Mercy for Animals that explains the reasons for going vegan and provides really cool how-to's on vegan eating. It's a bright, colourful website that is really fun to look at. You simply click on a section you want to read about, and scroll down the page at your leisure!


Here's a screen capture from the BAM (Build A Meal) section of their website.
If you know anyone who wants advice on going vegan, please tell them about this site! If you are trying to incorporate more vegan recipes into your life or are looking for some vegan inspiration, why not check out the website yourself?
Veganism is a very powerful way of living by the value of compassion. This is put into practice in a practical manner by the more than a hundred animals whose lives are spared when you cease to consume their flesh, lactations, and eggs. (Obviously, those specific animals you would have otherwise eaten aren't saved from death-- unless you were going to hunt for them and kill them yourself-- but over time, with many people going vegan every year, the animal industries will exploit and murder less and less animals because there will be less of a demand for their products. And anyway, simply being a vegan is a statement to the world that you are ready to live by compassionate values. It also encourages others to follow your lead.) You can see some progress that vegetarians and vegans have already made in this graph by Vegan Outreach:

Total Meat & Poultry Consumption Per Capita
Courtesy of Vegan Outreach (I'm not sure if this repesents global statistics, or simply those for the USA.)
If you're not already a vegan, please take the step and try it for at least a month! A one-month commitment should be enough time to help you get used to the vegan diet and realize how great it really is. It may seem like a big leap to commit to being a vegan, but you hopefuly will want to remain a vegan after you take that first step-- which is truly a great thing for the animals.

Courtesy of veganismisnonviolence.com



Dairy is great violence. Please go vegan
Courtesy of veganismisnonviolence.com


 
Anyway, please go ahead and check out ChooseVeg.com or ChooseVeg.ca!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Being a Vegan at the Dentist

When I first went vegan, I dreaded the dentist. I was too shy to speak up about what they were putting on my teeth, so I unhappily let them do whatever they wanted to do, even though I knew that the products they were using may have contained animal products. Fortunately, my mom eventually called the dentist in advance of one of my appointments to let them know that I was a vegan. This led the dental hygienist to search around for a vegan tooth-cleaning product. Since then, whenever I go to the dentist, the dental hygienist uses an animal-free product on my teeth!
You can maintain your vegan values at the dentist, too. All you need to do is call in advance-- let them know that you're a vegan, and you want to only have products used on your teeth that are vegan and free of animal testing. It's best to call at least a few weeks in advance so they have time to do their research and order/recieve the product.
Other things to keep in mind:
  • Not all toothpastes are cruelty-free/vegan. Many of them contain animal products and/or are created by companies that test on animals. There are companies that do provide vegan toothpaste, however. Here is a list of a few companies that sell vegan and cruelty-free personal care products, including mouthwash and good toothpastes (note: some of these companies may sell both vegan and non-vegan products, so check their websites for more information!):
  • Oh, and if you floss, make sure that your floss doesn't contain animal products such as beeswax or silk!
Photo courtesty of jpockele on flickr



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Vegan Thanksgiving and Halloween!

Thanksgiving
Here in Canada, Thanksgiving is tomorrow! For Thanksgiving dinner, many people go to family parties that unfortunately often involve a killed and cooked turkey and other non-vegan foods, such as gravy, mashed potatoes with milk, etc. If the other attendees/hosts are not vegans or even vegetarians, you might be worried about what you'll eat and how you'll cope!
I had my Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, and I can assure you that your fears are probably unfounded. I brought my own main dish-- Eden rice and beans-- and I brought vegetables for the potluck, so I could have those, too.
Although every family is different, many of you probably won't have to worry about being criticized for your vegan lifestyle. More and more people are following "special" diets nowadays, so it has become pretty commonplace for people to eat different things at parties.
In fact, if you are going to a Thanksgiving potluck party, you could even try promoting veganism-- bring a delicious vegan dish to the party, for instance, for everyone to try. Or, if you're hosting a party, make all the dishes yourself so that it'll all be vegan. This will help people understand just how easy and tasty it is to be a vegan!
If you're seriously worried about how you'll cope with your family and friends at parties involving food, see my post, "Surviving Non-Vegan Meals with Family and Friends".

Halloween
Granted, most of you probably don't go trick-or-treating anymore. But there are still lots of occasions when food might become an issue on Halloween-- for example, if you want to hand out candy at the door of your house or if you're going to/hosting a Halloween party.
Although some sites claim that many conventional candies are vegan, these "foods" often contain truly unhealthy ingredients that no kid should be eating. They also may contain sugar that's been processed with animal bone char.
There are some specialty vegan Halloween candies (made with much healthier ingredients!) that you can hand out instead. Here is a list of some of them:
If you're going to or hosting a Halloween party, never fear! Just make one of these vegan Halloween-themed recipes (http://www.care2.com/causes/11-vegan-treats-for-kids-and-parties-this-halloween.html) for a frightfully good treat!

Happy celebrating!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Recent History of Veganism: Part I-- The Vegan Society

Vegetarianism has a long history, stretching back all the way to Ancient Greece, Ancient India, and more. Veganism also has a long history-- in fact, in Jainism, veganism plays an integral role in the practice of compassion and non-violence. However, for most of history, veganism was referred to as "pure vegetarianism", "strict vegetarianism" or "total vegetarianism" (and in some parts of the world, it still is!). Although this pure/strict/total vegetarianism has a rich history of its own, today I want to explore with you the recent history of veganism as we know it today in the Western world, starting with the year the word "vegan" was born.
In this post, I'll be discussing the history of the Vegan Society, which is how the term "veganism" came to be.
The word "vegan" was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the Vegan Society, which is based in the UK. According to Wikipedia,
"In August 1944 two of the Vegetarian Society's members, Donald Watson (1910–2005) and Elsie "Sally" Shrigley (died 1978), suggested forming a subgroup of non-dairy vegetarians. When the executive committee rejected the idea, they and five others met in November that year at the Attic Club in Holborn, London, to discuss setting up a separate organization.
They suggested several terms to replace non-dairy vegetarian, including dairyban, vitan, benevore, sanivore and beaumangeur. Watson decided on vegan.... As he put it in 2004, the word consisted of the first three and last two letters of vegetarian, "the beginning and end of vegetarian." He called the new group the Vegan Society. Its first newsletter... was distributed to 500 people."
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism
To read the FIRST EVER copy of the Vegan Society newsletter from 1944 ("The Vegan News" (Quarterly Magazine of the Non-Dairy Vegetarians)), follow this link: http://www.vegansociety.com/uploadedFiles/About_The_Society/Publications/The_Vegan_magazine/Feature_Articles/1944-news.pdf. It's really cool to see on page 2, for example, where they discuss what to call themselves:
"We should all consider carefully what our group, and our magazine, and ourselves, shall be called. ... As this first issue of our periodical had to be named, I have used the title "The Vegan News". Should we adopt this, our diet will soon become known as a VEGAN diet, and we should aspire to the ranks of VEGANS. Members' suggestions will be welcomed."
In 1976, The Vegan Society produced a 30 minute program on veganism. It presents shockingly similar knowledge to the modern-day information on veganism and is still highly relevant to veganism today-- watch it to see for yourself!


If you can't watch this video on my blog, you can view it on Youtube instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VlTYjaQLy2o

The gardener who was interviewed, Kathleen Jannaway, later left her position as the secretary of the Vegan Society and formed The Movement for Compassionate Living, which focuses on both veganism and sustainable living (the two are closely correlated, of course).

The Vegan Society focuses on a wide variety of tactics, including education, food labelling, and their (still quarterly!) magazine, The Vegan. Check out their website: http://www.vegansociety.com/default.aspx.
The Vegan Society is definitely one of my favourite vegan organizations; it doesn't do offensive things like PETA, and it doesn't scorn personal purity in the vegan diet the way Vegan Outreach does.

Here is a much more recent video from the Vegan Society:


Check back soon for my next post, everyone!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Ghosts in Our Machine: Film Review

Recently, I went to see a screening of a new documentary film, The Ghosts in Our Machine. It's a breathtaking film about a photographer named Jo-Anne McArthur, who goes on a mission to document the exploitation of animals for human use in modern society. The "ghosts" referred to in the title are the animals who we don't see, and they work in "our machine", which is pretty much our industrial system of production and research.

THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE signed poster
The movie poster, from their online store, at https://the-ghosts-in-our-machine.myshopify.com/ (not the same as their main website)
This was a fantastic movie. It truly re-invigorated my passion for animal rights, reminding me why I care about animal rights issues and veganism in the first place. The movie "takes" the viewers with Jo-Anne and friends on an undercover photoshoot of a fur farm. It also shows Jo-Anne's photographs from other excursions-- photographs of imprisoned monkeys, dogs, cows, and many more animals. All of this is shown from the perspective of Jo-Anne, a passionate animal rights activist with immense concern and empathy for animals.
One of the most heart-rendering scenes was the one with the pigs. There was a truck-load of pigs being shipped away to be slaughtered, and animal rights activists gathered around and took pictures of the animals in the truck when it slowed down on its route. The frightened piglets looked so emotional and intelligent in very human ways... and yet you knew that they were going to be killed. I felt somewhat reassured by the animal rights activists standing by the road holding signs urging drivers to honk their horns to show compassion for the pigs. They were also wearing Go Vegan T-shirts. Many cars did honk their horns.
Some people who have seen animal rights films or photographs before might be hesitant to see another movie on animal rights. Wait a minute... you might be thinking, Is this going to be full of gory, disturbing footage of dead, dying, and horribly abused animals? Well, friends, don't worry, because you can rest assured! Although this movie shows you some heartbreaking photographs and film footage-- which is a good thing, since that's the only way you can really come to understand the urgency of animal rights issues-- the filmmaker (Liz Marshall) tactfully switches the view from suffering animals to happy animals whenever it starts to get to be too much to handle. This is done in an effective, relevant manner, since Jo-Anne regularly visits Farm Sanctuary to re-charge after emotionally-draining expeditions. This also allows the viewer to ponder what they have just seen and breathe a breath of fresh air while watching beautiful sheep frolick through the fields!
Also, instead of outright giving instructions on how to go vegan at the end of the film (which is something that most animal rights films would do), "The Ghosts in Our Machine" leaves it to the viewers to come to their own conclusions. Although references to veganism are made in the film (the Go Vegan shirts, the food that Jo-Anne ate at meals, and a sign at Farm Sanctuary asking people not to consume animal products while visiting), the movie was not at all preachy. Even so, it was certainly moving enough to convince people to go vegan.
This is the movie that the world needs to see. "The Ghosts in Our Machine" has the capacity to change the world by first changing the minds and hearts of the world's people. It is professional enough to be taken seriously, gentle enough to enter the mainstream, and heartbreaking enough to truly inspire change.
Regardless of who you are (although you shouldn't show this movie to very young children, as it can be disturbing) or how familiar you are with animal rights, this movie is for you! I repeat, the world needs to see this movie!
If you'd like to learn more, order the film, find out when the next screenings are coming up, or if you'd like to order copies for your local library (which would be a lovely thing to do, don't you agree?), please go to their website at http://www.theghostsinourmachine.com/. Their website is full of information and food for thought in itself. You can even request permission to hold a community screening of the movie for 2014. To go immediately to their online store, you can click here: https://the-ghosts-in-our-machine.myshopify.com/
For the animals!
Cat

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Moral Purity?

A big thing that vegans and animal rights people always seem to be talking about is moral purity (also known as "personal purity"). In this case, it refers to the question of how meticulous you should be when making sure that the products (food, clothing, toiletries, etc.) you buy are completely vegan. For example, sometimes sugar is refined using animal bone char, which isn't listed on the ingredients list because it's not an actual ingredient-- it's just something that's been used in the process of producing the sugar, even though it isn't actually in the finished product. Another example is when you buy foods with extra-long ingredient names on the label, and you don't know if those trace ingredients are vegan. The question is, how far do you go? Is it realistic to be "morally pure"?
Different people and organizations have different opinions of this. Here are the opinions of some of them.

On the "Don't worry about it" side:
PETA has made the following statement regarding trace ingredients in otherwise vegan foods:
"Some packaged foods have a long list of ingredients. The farther an ingredient is down the list, the less of that ingredient is in the food. People who have made the compassionate decision to stop eating animal flesh, eggs, and dairy products may wonder if they need to read every ingredient to check for tiny amounts of obscure animal products. Our general advice is not to worry too much about doing this. The goal of sticking to a vegetarian or vegan diet is to help animals and reduce suffering; this is done by choosing a bean burrito or a veggie burger over chicken flesh, or choosing tofu scramble over eggs, not by refusing to eat an otherwise vegan food because it has 0.001 grams of monoglycerides that may possibly be animal-derived.
We discourage vegetarians from grilling waiters at restaurants about micro-ingredients in vegetarian foods (e.g., a tiny bit of a dairy product in the bun of a veggie burger). Doing so makes sticking to a vegetarian diet seem difficult and dogmatic to your friends and to restaurant staff, thus discouraging them from giving a vegetarian diet a try (which really hurts animals). And we urge vegetarians not to insist that their food be cooked on equipment separate from that used to cook meat; doing so doesn’t help any additional animals, and it only makes restaurants less inclined to offer vegetarian choices (which, again, hurts animals)."
In fact, PETA's "Accidentally Vegan" list of processed foods isn't actually 100% vegan. PETA does point this out at the bottom of the page, and they provide a link to the above quote to explain why.

Vegan Outreach, another organization, says that personal purity is impossible, since many everyday objects contain animal products:
"When you first discover the reality of modern ani-
mal agriculture, you might feel compelled to try
to root out every single product associated with
animal suffering. Unfortunately, personal purity is impossible.
All around us are items connected in some
way to animal exploitation: organic foods (animal
manure used as fertilizer), cotton (animal products
in the bleaching process), bicycles (animal fat used
in the vulcanization of tires), books (hooves and
bones in binding glue), roads and buildings (animal
products used in curing concrete), water (tested
with animal products, often filtered through bone
char), etc. Even many vegan foods result in killing
some animals during planting and harvesting.
[...]
We believe that framing veganism as the avoid-
ance of a specific list of “bad” ingredients is not
the best way to achieve results. When looked at
closely, any ingredients-based definition of vegan
collapses into inconsistencies. This is why we
stress that
the essence of being vegan is working
to end cruelty to animals."
They go on to say that "our time and energy are most likely better spent focused on spreading vegetarianism than on shunning minor ingredients." In one of their booklets, "Compassionate Choices", they even go so far as to advise, "Years of eating less meat and eggs will prevent more suffering than a brief stint on a vegan diet, so it’s more important to take an approach you can sustain. If you make exceptions, such as eating meat on certain occasions, you’ll still make a big difference by eating vegetarian the rest of the time." (Note: I don't agree with this latter statement!)


On the "You should be true to your values" side:
A blog post by Reverence Lily on Vegan FAQs (http://veganfaq.blogspot.ca/2007/09/look-at-this-list-its-all-about.html) tells another story. She points out that a product is vegan if it contains NO animal products. If it does contain animal products, it's not vegan. Commenting about PETA's note at the bottom of its "Accidentally Vegan" page, she says that:
"PETA (regardless of their other sins/accomplishments) is trying to make vegans into non-vegans. [...] the second part of that second sentence. "Personal purity." Ouch. So my wanting to eschew all animal products is about "personal purity"? Okay, I'll give you some of that - it can make and has made me feel extremely guilty to accidentally eat an animal product [...], and I don't like to do it at all. But accusations of not caring about animals and just being squeamish to actual vegans? With friends like these, who needs enemies? [...]
Y'see, the reason I'm vegan is not just because of "personal purity". It's not just because I don't want to be a part of the commodification and suffering - it's because I want the commodification and suffering to stop. It's because I know that, even though I'm just one person, many vegans would be a force to deal with. You know. "Together, we are strong." Call it following the herd, I don't care - I'm pushing the inevitable revolution rather than resisting it. And I wouldn't want it any other way.
So save your money, and go buy a can of chickpeas and make hummus rather than serve us (processed) non-vegan crap - which, if we're knowledgeable, we'll end up turning down, and make you feel bad. Veganism is easy! - it's just that there's a lot of people spreading misinformation about how not everything has to be vegan to, um, be vegan. "
I feel tempted to say "Hear, hear!" right now. But then, how can you say that it's okay to buy bicycle tires (which might have been made using animal products) yet you can't eat anything that's been made using small amounts of animal products? Where do you draw the line?
How does one decide this? Does one eschew all foods that have been processed using animal products and refuse to use obviously animal-derived goods (such as a wool sweater, for example)? This is what I do. I don't eat refined sugar of dubious origins, for instance, yet I do buy books once in a while, even though I know that they might have been made with animal-derived glue. Hypocritical, perhaps, but it's the only realistic way to survive in society, it seems. Still, is there a way to stop being a hypocrite?
Keep reading, because this is the really cool part...
There is a way to stop being a hypocrite. It's to reach outside yourself and your own personal boundaries and to become a world-changer, instead of only avoiding hurting others. Through your diet, you're already avoiding hurting others (if you are a strict vegan, that is-- which is very important, since only reducing your intake of meat still means that your lifestyle hurts animals). Instead of only focusing on the negatives, however, focus on the positives as well! This way, any minute negative impact that you may have by buying a book, for example, will be offset by all the positive impact you're having.
Photo sourced from Vegan Rabbit blog

Another thing to remember is that animal rights isn't the only issue in the world. There's also human rights issues and environmental issues. These matter, too! When you buy anything for yourself, you should also keep in mind whether or not it was manufactured sustainably, and whether or not the laborers' rights were protected, among other things. While it may be an impossible goal to find a morally "perfect" book/T-shirt/bicycle, you can still do your best to find animal-friendly, environmentally-friendly, human-friendly ones. And you can simply buy less stuff! After all, who needs a Smartphone, Blackberry touch, and a laptop all at the same time? Do you really need a new pair of jeans, or is that tear reparable? Will you ever actually use that dollar-store mini camera stand, or can you just leave it on the store shelf? That sort of thing. And when you do need to buy things, you could always try thrift stores, consignment shops, and online second-hand trading sites (such as kijiji.ca or ebay) before going to actual stores. Even then, you may still have the choice of going to small, independently-owned stores before making your way to the dreaded big-box stores.

When it comes to focusing on the positives, here are some ways you can do just that:

  1. Join/volunteer with your local vegetarian/vegan association or animal rights group; you can also join larger organizations, such as the Vegan Society in the UK.
  2. Hand out booklets, pamphlets, or brochures educating people on animal rights issues and veganism.
  3. Go to events, protests, rallies, VegFests, conferences, and more!
  4. Start a blog or a website-- be an online activist! (If you have never made a blog before, trust me-- it's easy.)
  5. Write letters to the editor and newspaper articles on veganism and animal rights.
  6. Set a good example of veganism for other people. Live by your values, and be happy and responsible!
  7. Join the activist world for other causes (if you're interested in other causes besides animal rights) and bring your vegan values into new places. Once other activists become educated on AR issues, they might become AR activists and vegans, too!
  8. Give speeches, workshops, and/or presentations.
  9. Share vegan recipes with vegans and non-vegans alike.
  10. Hold "bake sales" for free-- let people taste free vegan food, and then hand out literature! (You may want to fundraise for this, or get other people to help cover the baking expenses.)
  11. Become a "foster parent" for a rabbit or a dog or a cat or a gerbil, etc.
 There are many ways to change the world. Remember...

"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." Mother Teresa

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"Rescuing" Animals from Pet Stores... and Shelters

Hello, everyone,
Before I get started with my next post, there are a few things that I'd like to clear up:
  1. I haven't been posting new blog posts solely on Sundays recently. Originally, that was my goal: one post every Sunday, usually in the morning. However, posting at the same time every week doesn't work out all the time. Therefore, I have changed this guideline: from now on, I'll try to post every Sunday, but I might end up posting on another day of the week, instead. I'm still posting (generally) once a week, however. You can count on me for that much!
  2. A couple weeks ago, I promised a "Part II" to my "Animal Rights, Backwards" series. I've decided to not do a Part II any time soon (if at all), however. The issue of native cultures and animal rights is too complicated and controversial for me to want to touch on at this time.
  3. Have you tried the search bar at the right-hand side of my blog yet? It's very handy, usable, and spiffy, don't you think? It displays results without taking you away from the page that you're currently on!
Today I'm going to talk about this weird habit that some people have... "rescuing" animals from the pet store. Essentially, this is either when:
  1. an animal at the pet store is getting old or is sick and no one wants to buy him or her, so a "compassionate" person comes along and buys the animal instead, or
  2. when an exotic pet (or any pet) is being improperly cared for at the pet store, so someone decides to buy the animal to take him/her home so they can take better care of him/her.
This may seem like a compassionate thing to do at the time, but it's actually detrimental to animals as a whole. As you may already have realized, "rescuing" that animal from the pet store only gives the pet store more revenue (and empty cage space) to buy more animals to fill its cages. In fact, you are actually encouraging the pet store to keep buying animals from breeders/puppy mills/etc., since by buying from the pet store, you're letting them know that there is a business for these pets. And so the vicious cycle continues.
The best way to help the pet store animals is to not buy them! If everyone avoided buying animals from pet stores, we would save generations to come of animals from the same pet-store fate.
Admittedly, that much was pretty obvious. Now I'm going to talk about the second part of this post, in which I pose the question,
"Under what circumstances is it not O.K. to adopt animals from animal shelters?"
File:Puppy on Halong Bay.jpg
Photo Attribution: By Andrea Schaffer from Sydney, Australia (Puppy on Halong Bay) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Many people believe that adopting animals from animal shelters is always completely morally pure. However, there are some circumstances in which I think it's best to generally avoid adopting from animal shelters:
  • If the animal is pure-bred or a "hard-to-get" breed or species that everyone else wants. Many people will rush to shelters in order to get their hands on a standard poodle, a Bernese Mountain Dog, or a pug. If you adopt an animal who everyone else is vying to get, your contenders may simply go to a pet store or breeder to get a different animal in the same breed, just because they want the breed. This means that for you to adopt the animal is just as bad as buying one from a pet store; the effect is merely displaced.
  • If you can't take on the responsibility of having a companion animal, please don't get one!
Other moral quandaries surrounding animal shelters also arise; however, I don't consider them significant enough to not adopt an animal just because of them. Here are some of these problems:
  • Spaying/neutering. Read my position on spaying and neutering here (scroll down to the section on "When You Shouldn't Spay Or Neuter, Or, Why Spaying And Neutering Is Sometimes Wrong").
  • Euthanasia. Some-- but not all-- animal shelters put their animals "to sleep" if they are overrun with animals (which, for most animal shelters, is a large proportion of the time!). This is cruel and uncompassionate.
When you pay an animal shelter for the animal you adopt, some of the money usually goes towards one or both of the things mentioned above. However, like I said, I don't believe that these are significant enough to not adopt an animal from the shelter. The animals may die or become ill if they don't get adopted, and supporting animal shelters is nowhere near as bad as supporting pet stores. (Of course, some pet stores sell only pet supplies, but not actual pets. Other pet stores only sell rescued animals in conjunction with shelters. These two kinds I'm not as concerned about-- the real "baddies" are the pet stores that sell animals from breeders and/or puppy mills-- those involved in the "animal industry".)

Thank you for reading, everyone! Have a lovely week!

    Monday, September 2, 2013

    Animal Rights, Reading, and the Internet: What to Believe

    I've spent quite a lot of time researching different animal rights and vegan topics on the Internet and in books over the last few years. I've found that, although the Internet can be a great source of information, there is often a load of very conflicting data on the web. In books, too, one author can authoritatively tell you one thing, while the author of another book will insist on the opposite. How does one separate the fact from the fiction, the truth from the opinion?
    That's what I plan to write about this week. :)
    First of all, let's start with the Internet. There are a few types of sources that you can use to find info from the Internet. I'll discuss all the most relevant ones in turn:
    1. Animal rights organization websites: These are generally some of the most trustworthy sites that you can gather information from (although I think that PETA is kind of sketchy). These organizations have to uphold their reputations, so they research their information carefully, consult professionals, and cite many of their sources. Good websites include:
      1. Mercy for Animals International: www.mercyforanimals.org (Canadian version: www.mercyforanimals.ca)
      2. Vegan Health: www.veganhealth.org
      3. The Vegan Society: www.vegansociety.org
      4. Vegan Outreach: www.veganoutreach.org
    2. Blogs and personal websites: My website is a blog! And you can trust me to do research before giving information about a topic, although I acknowledge that those of you who don't know me have a right to be skeptical. Many bloggers are very careful to do their research, cite their sources, and keep opinion separate from fact. However, not all of them are. Although blogs and personal websites can be a great source of info, inspiration, and ideas, it's always a good idea to double-check any facts posted on blogs and personal websites that might have a significant impact on your life. Good sites in this category include:
      1. The Animal Rights Action Site (my blog, of course!): www.theanimalrightsactionsite.blogspot.com
      2. Think Differently About Sheep: www.think-differently-about-sheep.com
      3. Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach: www.abolitionistapproach.com
      4. The Breath of Empathy: www.breathofempathy.blogspot.ca
    3. Reader comments on blogs, forums, and other websites that allow for commenting: These are truly untrustworthy sources of information. On my blog, I published a post called "Say Neigh to Trail-Riding", and I received a myriad of rude, uninformed comments (and some neutral and/or polite ones, too). For example, one commenter said:
      "...Horses WERE put on this earth as "Beasts of Burden" meaning they are here as transportation and to be utilized as such. Horses that stand around and have no job are truly miserable...they get depressed if their human isn't with them."
      Of course, anyone who does not accept the anthropocentric view of the Universe would find this statement absurd, even laughable. The way this person stated this "fact" as if they were so sure of themselves-- as if they knew that horses are "beasts of burden" for human use, and nothing more-- illustrates very nicely why we shouldn't believe random comments posted on the Internet. They're often just passing opinions of whoever happens to be visiting a site. Although these comments can lead you to find more trustworthy sources, or they might inspire you, they shouldn't be automatically trusted. Comments are often less trustworthy than blogs and personal websites because there's little commitment involved in making a comment, while setting up your own site involves a degree of thought and commitment. Maybe I, as a blogger, have a biased view of this, but it seems like a reasonable statement to me.
    Next: There's books. Books are an even better source of information than all Internet sources (authors usually do a lot of real-life research in order to write their books, after all!), although they are, of course, less interactive. I love reading animal rights and vegan non-fiction books. Here are a few that I think you should read:
    1. Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog: A wonderful book that challenges conventional thinking about animals and rights.
    2. The Dog by the Cradle, the Serpent Beneath by Erika Ritter: An intriguing book that discusses paradoxes in human-animal interactions.
    3. Wild Justice by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce: A look into cognitive ethology of animals. Not completely about animal rights or veganism, but fascinating nonetheless.
    4. Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina: A book by two dietitians outlining guidelines for healthy vegan nutrition.
    5. Thrive by Brendan Brazier: A book by an Ironman triathlete about eating to increase vitality and remain healthy for life.
    Of course, a great source of info on animal rights issues is personal experience! Get out there-- go on a tour of a farm to see for yourself how the animals are treated (I did this once-- you can read about my experiences at teenink.com/hot_topics/health/article/369490/The-Dark-Side-of-the-Dairy-Industry/, although keep in mind that I wrote this when I was younger and a less proficient writer), volunteer at an animal shelter, interview scientists and psychologists specializing in animals and animal rights, talk to the manager at a local vegan cafe. You decide how to get involved! Books and the Internet can be great resources, but don't forget to spend time in the "Real World" of animal rights, too!
    Bye for now!

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013

    October 1-7, 2013: International Vegetarian Week!

    Go Veg – be Healthy, Save Lives and Avert Climate Change
    International Vegetarian Week's logo
    October 1-7 is International Vegetarian Week! According to IVW's website:
     They offer some tips on how you can help to raise awareness for this special occasion:
    "As an individual:
    • Send letters to newspapers or magazines, sharing your experience;
    • Participate in leaflet distributing events;
    • Invite friends or family to a vegetarian dinner;
    • Join your local vegetarian organisation;
    • Ask for vegetarian meals and talk about the vegetarian week at your local restaurants;
    • Speak to local clergy, educators, media and other people, stressing the multiple benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle."
      [For info on what non-profit organizations and for-profit companies can do to celebrate International Vegetarian Week, please go to http://www.vegetarianweek.org/Article-36-Call%2Bfor%2BAction.html.]
    These are great ideas, but I'd like to add a few more:
    •  At your school or workplace, offer free vegan food for anyone to try, and provide some vegan literature that people can take home with them. A good source of reliable vegan literature is Mercy for Animals' "25 Reasons to Try Vegetarian" booklet. This booklet may say "vegetarian" on the cover, but once you look inside, you'll see that it actually promotes veganism.  You can order these booklets for free or for a donation, or you can simply look at the PDF file online.
    • Wear vegan-promoting clothes and buttons.
    • Put up posters (with permission, if needed) on telephone poles, community centre bulletin boards, etc. advertising for veganism! I'd recommend not using the International Vegetarian Week posters, because they adverstise for simply vegetarianism and not necessarily veganism. Even so, why not make your own poster? Or you can find other ones online.
    • Celebrate World Vegetarian Day (held by the North American Vegetarian Society) on October 1st. (Their website is different from the International Vegetarian Week one, and it's more colourful and easy to navigate. It can be found here: http://www.worldvegetarianday.org/.) Here are some ways you can get involved in World Vegetarian Day:
      • If you're not already vegetarian, try veganism for the month of October. If you already follow a plant-based diet, get your non-vegetarian friends to pledge to go meatless for a month. Participants can win prizes!
      • Go to their website and click on "What you can do" to get an extensive list of ideas of other ways for anyone to help!
    NAVS - North American Vegetarian Society
    North American Vegetarian Society logo
    • Do something for World Day for Farmed Animals (held by the Farm Animal Rights Movement, or FARM). You can search for an event on http://www.dayforanimals.org/. There is even an event going on in Ottawa-- but of course, there are many other events in many other cities as well.
    Logo for the World Day for Farmed Animals

    World Animal Day
    World Animal Day logo

    Have a nice rest of the weekend!

    
    

    

    Monday, August 26, 2013

    Healthy Quick Vegan Food Combos

    Hi there,
    I've been experimenting with simple vegan food combinations recently. They can be quite handy when you're looking for a quick snack. Here are some of my favourites (you can adapt them as you wish, of course!):
    • Chickpeas + Tomato Paste or Tomato Sauce (not ketchup!) + Cooked Broccoli Pieces= Tasty Protein-Rich Pasta Sauce!
      • Mix them together at whatever ratios to suit your fancy.
    • Steamed Eggplant Slices + Dried Ground Ginger + Peanut Butter = Delicious Appetizers!
      • Sprinkle the ginger on and spread the peanut butter on (in whatever order you want).
      • Eat with a fork and knife, or with your fingers if you're so inclined.
    • 1 c. Kale + 1 c. Almond Milk + 1 Banana = Green Smoothie!
      • Put them all together in a blender.
      • For more green smoothies, see Angela Liddon's Oh She Glows.
    • Rice Cakes + Flaxseed Oil = Rice Cakes with Flaxseed Oil on Top! (I know, uncreative name, but oh well.)
    • Garden Salad + Dried Goji Berries = Healthy Fruit and Vegetable Salad!
    What vegan food combos do you find delicious?

    Sunday, August 18, 2013

    Animal Rights, Backwards: Part I

    There are plenty of different viewpoints in our world, as I'm sure you know. Unfortunately, this means that many people see animal rights in quite a different light than we animal-rights folk do.
    When you look at the term "animal rights" you notice the word "rights", which applies to the rights given to the animals. This is similar to the way we use the term "human rights", for example. However, you could also look at the term "animal rights" the way you talk about "land rights". That is, you could interpret "animal rights" to mean the "right" for humans to use/abuse animals. This is potentially problematic!
    Average individuals may feel this way about meat-eating, and certain hunter-gatherer cultures may also state that they have the right to use animals. Today, let's look at individuals' claims that humans in general have the right to eat meat:

    On University of Guelph's Animal and Poultry Science website, there is a rant ( http://www.aps.uoguelph.ca/~swatland/rights.htm) about why humans should eat meat:

    "...what gives me the right to eat beef? I claim the grandparent clause, long-established habit and tradition. From my personal ancestors over the last million years, I have inherited dentition and digestive enzymes ideally suited for meat-eating, I have a predilection for juicy steak, and I lack the appropriate education to devise for myself a perfectly healthy diet free of meat."

    Basically, the author claims that he has the right to eat meat because of humanity's meat-eating ancestors, because he can, because he likes meat, and because he doesn't know how to follow a healthy meatless diet.
    The "Because We Can" argument and the "Because I Like Meat" argument are particularly weak. There are many things that humans can do, like murder people and abuse their spouses, that we mostly collectively agree that we shouldn't do. What makes the exploitation of animals any different? Similarily, people may like to do harmful things, like raise roosters for cockfights or spread rumours about their friends, but that doesn't mean that they should have the "right" to do so.
    The fact that the author lacks the education to go vegan should be a non-issue. Someone who supposedly works for a university should have little trouble accessing information on following a healthy vegan diet. (Just look to the books Becoming Vegan or Vegan for Life for reliable nutritional advice!) To me, this just seems to be an excuse more than anything else.
    I saved the most important point for last: his argument that humans are naturally omnivorous creatures. This is the one that requires the most attention, since it appears to make sense at first glance.
    Indeed, humans have typically eaten meat throughout our history. Humans can eat meat, meaning that we may biologically be omnivores, and we need B12 in our diets, which does not come from plants. However, this does not mean that we need animal products in our diets!
    I would guess that most people who claim that "meat eating is natural" participate in a lot of unnatural activities in their lives. Many people depend on the flu shot (although I think it's unnecessary!) and take multivitamins and supplements. Almost everyone uses computers, cell phones, electronics, microwaves, cars, etc. Is any of this "natural"? I'd say not! Some of it (like using cars) is actually unhealthy. So why would you target veg*nism as being the one "unnatural" thing that you shouldn't do, when vegan diets are actually usually very healthy, as long as they are supplemented with adaquate vitamin B12?
    As humans, we have a choice. We can go through life following the guidelines set out for us by society, not really following our morals but instead doing what is easy. Or, we can make ethical decisions that most other animals are unable to make (due to their need for survival). (Some animals, of course, do have a sense of morality, too. However, they often have to set that aside when trying to survive in the wild, I think.) We can be grateful that we, as humans, have the ability to frequently choose compassion over competition.

    In the article "Top 8 Arguments Against Animal Rights" on About.com (http://animalrights.about.com/od/animalrights101/tp/ArgumentsAgainstAR.htm), argument #4 is "AR activists have a right to be vegan, and should respect my right to eat meat." The response to this in the article is the following:

    "Eating meat infringes on the rights of the animals to live and be free, so animal rights activists do not believe that people have a moral right to eat animals.
    Regarding legal rights, in the United States, eating meat is legal and our laws allow animals to be killed for food. However, AR activists cannot remain silent in the face of injustice and have a legal right to free speech that is protected by law. To expect AR activists to remain silent is failing to respect their right to express themselves and advocate veganism."

    I believe that whether or not you have the "right" to consume products from animals is irrelevant. I believe it's more of a question of what is the most compassionate, ethical thing to do. And practicing kindness for all creatures while following a healthy vegan lifestyle is definitely more ethical than supporting the cruel exploitation of animals!

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    Picture Sourced from http://www.veganise.me/animal-rights-vs-human-rights-part-1


    In Part II, we'll examine how animal rights relates to hunter-gatherer cultures that still exist today. Soon, I'll also probably do a post about my crazy-easy vegan recipes that I've been working on!