Friday, May 31, 2013

Get Talking!

A really great way to get people to go vegan is to hold presentations, workshops, and discussions on the topic. It doesn't have to be a big event. A few weeks ago, I went to a high school near Ottawa to discuss veganism with two classes. I had prepared a PowerPoint presentation, but it didn't work, so I had to talk from memory instead. One class in particular was very interested in what I had to say. I'm not a master public speaker, I'm still a high school student, and I haven't got a "narrator"-style voice, but I still was able to make a difference!
You can do this, too. It's easy. All you have to do is prepare a short presentation, whether you memorize a speech, put together something on PowerPoint, make a short video, or prepare a workbook to go through with your audience. It's up to you!
Some tips:
  • Play to your strengths. If you are a fabulous baker, perhaps you could bake vegan cookies and cake, and then have people ask questions about why you're a vegan, whether it's hard, etc. They're more likely to agree to try it out if their vegan cake tastes delicious! ;) On the other hand, if you are an athlete, you could show them a video of you doing your athletic exercises while talking about how going vegan is good for your health. Or, if you are just a do-gooder activist who feels deeply for animals, you could talk about your concern for the animals, and why they matter so much to you.
  • Be friendly and thoughtful of others' feelings. See my post on the Socratic method for information on how I think you should approach the subject with non-veg*ns. And, a post I did on demonstrating compassion towards animals in everyday life and conversation can be found here.
  • Show them a video that lists off loads of famous vegetarians and vegans. You can find a good one on Volentia.com.
  • If you want to make a video documentary to show people (and it would be great if you did), see my post on the subject here.
  • You might find my "Culminating the 3 essential skills" post very helpful, as well.
  • If you generate enough interest through the presentation, you can even start an an animal rights/vegan club at your school/community centre/etc. (depending on where you are presenting). See my two-part series on starting a club here:
Some ideas for venues you could speak at:
  • Your local community centre. Community centres often hold baking classes and other cool things.
  • Your local library. Libraries hold loads of information seminars, discussion groups, book clubs, etc.
  • A local school. I recommend speaking to students in grades six to twelve; anything younger than that probably won't be able to convince their parents to let them go vegan. If you are currently in elementary, middle, or high school, you could speak to your fellow peers, or with others at different schools. If you're currently a university student, you could also speak to your peers there.
  • A nearby healthy/vegan/green/equitable/etc. eating cuisine. Sometimes they have places to give cooking workshops and information sessions.
For information, you can turn to plenty of sources, including my blog. Many of the posts (especially the ones from last summer, I think) contain lots of information on various issues. If you want other sources of information, you can turn to www.VeganOutreach.org, www.ChooseVeg.com, and more.
I've posted this early because I am going to be away at an environmental retreat this weekend. Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Delicious Vegan Baking for All Levels

Vegan baking is easy. You don't have to get a special cookbook or buy any weird ingredients to make delicious vegan cookies, muffins, brownies, breads, or cakes (although you can if you want, of course). You can just take any old non-vegan recipe and use the following substitutions:
If the recipe calls for...
  • 1 egg: replace with 1-4 tbsp applesauce (depending on sweetness of recipe), or 1 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 1/4 cup water, or 1/2 large banana, or 2 tbsp cornstarch, or (if the baked good is supposed to be light and fluffy) 1/4 cup soy milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice. If the recipe calls for more eggs, just use more of the replacing ingredient. Sometimes, you can even get away with just omitting the eggs with no replacement, depending on the recipe.
  • milk: replace with soy milk, almond milk, or another kind of non-dairy milk. (If the recipe calls for 2% milk, you should probably make sure your non-dairy milk contains fat, which will make it more creamy.)
  • honey: replace with agave nectar, maple syrup, date syrup, brown rice syrup, or golden syrup. Keep in mind that some maple syrups made by small producers may have been processed using bacon strips hanging over the pot, which prevents frothing while the syrup is being boiled.
  • butter or margarine: replace with vegan margarine (not all margarines are vegan!) (Earth Balance is one company that provides 100% vegan products, including margarines. Becel also provides a vegan margarine option at many stores, including my local grocery stores.)
For more comprehensive information, you can visit The Vegan Wolf website, http://www.veganwolf.com/vegan_cooking_substitutions.htm, or Savvy Vegetarian, http://www.savvyvegetarian.com/vegetarian-cooking/vegan-baking-substitutions.php. The latter contains a lot of info on the best ways to replace eggs in recipes.
If you'd like special vegan cookbooks, never fear! There are loads of awesome vegan cookbooks out there. For example, you could get the vegan cookbook Veganomicon, which contains recipes for yourself on a casual day and for special days when company comes over. There are many more cookbooks, too. Look around!
Online, you can head over to the following websites:
Photo Courtesy of The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur (see link above)
Until next week!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Richard Adams' "The Plague Dogs"

If I could recommend one fictional book to all of you people out there, I would probably recommend The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams. The Plague Dogs is about two dogs-- Snitter and Rowf-- who escape an animal research facility and venture throughout beautiful Lake District in England. Soon, however, a dishonest journalist named Digby Driver sets out the alert that the dogs were kept in a laboratory that also contained carriers of the bubonic plague-- and now the dogs might be carrying it, too. A wild chase ensues as the humans of Lake District make it their mission to destroy the dogs, who are soon blamed for not only carrying the plague, but also killing sheep and being generally murderous. (Admittedly, they did kill sheep, but they only did it to survive. They're dogs, for heaven's sake!)

Colourful book cover for The Plague Dogs
The book cover from the "The Plague Dogs" book I've read.
Richard Adams brilliantly combines action, drama, suspense, contemplation, and romantically describing Lake District's beautiful scenery in this once-in-a-century novel of morality, friendship, survival, and love. It's easily one of the best books I've ever read.
While in the laboratory, Snitter the terrier was subjected to brain surgery experiments to discover if one could recreate a strange delusion from a fictional story inside the head of a dog. Although he is rather mad, he is also entirely charming. Rowf was repeatedly drowned until he stopped struggling, then pulled out and resussitated. According to a disdainful Adams, all this was done in the name of "science" simply as because-we-can experiments. It was incredibly cruel, and it reminds one of real animal research-- rather insane and nonsensical tests that are done simply because we think that maybe, someday, they'll add to our overall understanding of the world.

Quotes from near the beginning of The Plague Dogs:

"'The wire swing!' said Snitter, sitting up suddently. 'The door, Rowf! That's why I came! The door of your pen's unfastened!'
The Alsatian had stopped howling and for some moments the only sound in the block was a sudden dripping from the tap, plangent on the convex edge of the overturned bucket beneath it.
'We can go through it, Rowf!'
'What for?'
'Rowf, we might be able to get out of here!'
'They'd only bring us back. Dogs are supposed to do what men want-- I've never had a master, but I know that.'
'The suffering, Rowf, the misery you've endured--'
'As dogs we're born to suffering. It's a bad world for animals--'
'Rowf, you owe them nothing -- nothing -- they're not masters --'"

“A quick run past the rabbits' execution shed, a turn around the kittens' quicklime pit, a moment's hesitation beyond the monkeys' gas-chamber--and they are gone: ay, not so long ago these canines fled away into the storm. It would be pleasant to report that that night Dr. Boycott dreamt of many a woe, and all his whitecoat-men with shade and form of witch and demon and large coffin-worm were long be-nightmared. One might even have hoped to add that Tyson the old died palsy-twitched, with meagre face deform. But in fact--as will be seen--none of these things happened. Slowly the rain ceased, the grey rack blowing away and over Windermere as first light came creeping into the sky and the remaining inmates of Lawson Park woke to another day in the care and service of humanity.”

"Freedom-- that consuming goal above doubt or criticism, desired as moths desire the candle or emigrants the distant continent waiting to parch them in its deserts or drive them to madness in its bitter winters! Freedom, that land where rogues, at every corner, cozen with lies and promises the plucky sheep who judged it time to sack the shepherd! Unfurl your banner, Freedom, and call upon me with cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer and all kinds of music to fall down and worship you, and I will do so in an instant, for who would wish to be cast into the fiery furnace of his neighbours' contempt?"

Richard Adams manages to create a truly thought-provoking story without sounding didactic or preachy. I highly recommend any of you to read it.
If you don't want to read the book, you could always watch the movie; you can definitely find it on Youtube. I'm not sure whether it's good, since I haven't watched it yet, but it probably is great. You can watch the WHOLE movie here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBxfOvx7QmU
Until next week!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Why are the Filler Posts so Popular?

Why is it that my filler posts on both of my blogs are so popular? They easily get the some of the most pageviews. It's odd. If anyone knows why, please let me know.
And indeed, this is a filler post. I'm preparing a post on a very special book and the animal rights and philosophical ideas it raises. It will be up next Sunday (if all goes as planned).
Bye for now,
Cat

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Philosophy and Animal Rights-- Part II: Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778, portrait done in 1753
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Franco-Swiss political philosopher who lived during the Enlightenment. He was partly responsible for the French Revolution, which was inspired by his political works which stated that "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains". The revolutionaries of his time adopted his slogan of "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité", which is still widely remembered to this day.
Animal rights activists, then, will be happy to hear that he also believed in animal rights!
Rousseau believed that animals and humans are subject to "natural law" because of their sentience. This means that they should be compassionate towards others if they are able to understand this "law" of compassion. The following quote is from one of Rousseau's books, The Social Contract:

"In proceeding thus, we shall not be obliged to make man a philosopher before he is a man. His duties toward others are not dictated to him only by the later lessons of wisdom; and, so long as he does not resist the internal impulse of compassion, he will never hurt any other man, nor even any sentient being, except on those lawful occasions on which his own preservation is concerned and he is obliged to give himself the preference. By this method also we put an end to the time-honoured disputes concerning the participation of animals in natural law: for it is clear that, being destitute of intelligence and liberty, they cannot recognise that law; as they partake, however, in some measure of our nature, in consequence of the sensibility with which they are endowed, they ought to partake of natural right; so that mankind is subjected to a kind of obligation even toward the brutes. It appears, in fact, that if I am bound to do no injury to my fellow-creatures, this is less because they are rational than because they are sentient beings: and this quality, being common both to men and beasts, ought to entitle the latter at least to the privilege of not being wantonly ill-treated by the former.
Every animal has ideas, since it has senses; it even combines those ideas in a certain degree; and it is only in degree that man differs, in this respect, from the brute. Some philosophers have even maintained that there is a greater difference between one man and another than between some men and some beasts.
Compassion, which is a disposition suitable to creatures so weak and subject to so many evils as we certainly are: by so much the more universal and useful to mankind, as it comes before any kind of reflection; and at the same time so natural, that the very brutes themselves sometimes give evident proofs of it. Not to mention the tenderness of mothers for their offspring and the perils they encounter to save them from danger, it is well known that horses show a reluctance to trample on living bodies. One animal never passes by the dead body of another of its species: there are even some which give their fellows a sort of burial; while the mournful lowings of the cattle when they enter the slaughter-house show the impressions made on them by the horrible spectacle which meets them."
Rousseau promoted vegetarianism, but he didn't go so far as veganism, probably because it would have seemed so radical at the time, and because people didn't know as much about how to have a healthy vegan diet (and, as well, the word "veganism" didn't even exist back then). Another of his works, Émile, or On Education, discusses why children should not be fed meat:
"Beware of ... making children flesh-eaters, if not for their health's sake, for the sake of their character. For however one tries to explain the practice, it is certain that great meat-eaters are usually more cruel and ferocious than other men. This has been recognised at all times and in all places. The English are noted for their cruelty while the Gaures are the gentlest of men. All savages are cruel, and it is not their customs that tend in this direction; their cruelty is the result of their food. They go to war as to the chase, and treat men as they would treat bears. Indeed in England butchers are not allowed to give evidence in a court of law, no more can surgeons. Great criminals prepare themselves for murder by drinking blood. Homer makes his flesh-eating Cyclops a terrible man, while his Lotus-eaters are so delightful that those who went to trade with them forgot even their own country to dwell among them."
I always love to look to people of the past for the answers-- the world is so messed up now, so I find the stability of the past calming (yes, I know I'm talking about the time of the French Revolution! But at least there was a certain degree of predictability outside of politics). Now, we seem to be in a cultural free-for-all where "anything goes"-- except for true individuality of personality, that is. In Canada, you can dress the way you want, eat the way you want (which is a good thing for vegans!), and swear the way you want, but the moment you start to "think outside the box" in a big, philosophical, socio-political, conspiracy-theorist way and start to live by your values, people get all weird and shun you and call you a freak. It's so annoying. You shouldn't let that stop you from being yourself and living by your values, though. The question always comes down to this: How do you want to be remembered? As someone who was afraid to speak up and never really thought for themself? Or as the one who started a movement that changed the world for the better, because they believed that they could make a difference, despite adversity and ridicule? Or, if the limelight isn't for you, something in between? It's okay to be in between those two extremes; just please remember to think for yourself-- don't end up as the person who only ever believed the fads of the time. Be bold. Be daring. And be yourself, honestly. Being yourself will usually get you further in activism or any other pursuit than being a faker will. As John Mason once said, "You were born an original. Don't die a copy." Okay, enough inspirational ranting.
In part III of this series, I'll be talking about more philosophy as it pertains to animal rights. Have a nice week!