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!

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!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vegan Athletics!

Hey everyone,
Since we already know that a vegan diet can allow people to be very healthy and active, it doesn't come as a surprise that there are many vegan professional and hobby athletes out there. Today I'm going to talk about how to be the best vegan athlete you can be! :)

Brendan Brazier
Almost every vegan athlete has heard of Brendan Brazier, "a former professional Ironman triathlete and two-time Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion. He is now a successful performance nutrition consultant, the bestselling author of the Thrive book series and formulator of the award-winning line of plant-based Vega nutritional products." (Source). He lives in North Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada.
His resources are fantastic place to start if you're looking to learn more about maximizing your athletic performance, or just feeling healthier.
He has a free online "course" called Thrive Forward. It's quite good if your looking for quick info on vegan health that relates to your specific issues. He has also written books on vegan athletic health:
  • The Thrive Diet: The Whole Foods Way to Losing Weight, Reducing Stress, and Staying Healthy for Life (Penguin, 2007)
  • Thrive Fitness: Mental and Physical Strength for Life (Penguin, 2009)
  • Whole Foods to Thrive: Nutrient-Dense, Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health (Penguin, 2011)
The titles are slightly different in the U.S. You can get more info on his website: http://myvega.com/team/brendan-brazier/
As mentioned above, he has a line of products called Vega (only in the United States and Canada), which are nutritional supplements/shakes/protein powders/etc. I've been using the Vega One nutritional shake every day for the past few weeks, and it has totally improved my health in so many ways. It contains 50% of your RDA of many vitamins and minerals, though, so you probably shouldn't use it if you have an overdose of a specific mineral or vitamin. (And it's expensive.) You can figure out whether it is the right choice for you. Here is the website: http://myvega.com/
(UPDATE: A lot of people have found this product to cause them sometimes severe digestive problems. I stopped taking it recently because of this; I recommend using other products that you can take for vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, instead. However, reading his books or using the course may still provide valuable information, since it does not demand that you use his product. In fact, I recently took out The Thrive Diet from the library, and it looks like a really good book-- not just for losing weight or for athletes, but for everyone looking to be healthy!)

Brendan Brazier. Photo Courtesy of Thrive Forward
Vegan Athlete Inspiration!
If you want to see examples of successful vegan athletes, just head on over to http://www.greatveganathletes.com/ and bask in the awesome vegan-ness of it all!

No Meat Athlete
The No Meat Athlete website is about vegetarian running. It isn't solely vegan (which I'm not too happy about), but a lot of the recipes and tips are perfect for vegans and vegetarians alike, so it's a great resource for you to use (just don't be tempted by the non-vegan recipes, please!). Matt Frazier, the author of the website, is a vegetarian ultramarathoner. He's written a book called No Meat Athlete, and his website provides a lot of other resources for vegans and vegetarians. Surf his spiffy-looking website to learn more!

Bye for now!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vegetarianism: "Outlawed" in France?

Hi everyone! Sorry for being mysteriously missing from my blog last week-- I had no idea what to write about. However, I've definitely got some things to write about in the next few weeks, as you will see...

In France, there is a law which states that school cafeterias MUST serve animal products to their students. The law, effective as of 2011/2012, was made to comply with the French Rural Code and the fisheries, as well as the code of public health. Here is a translated version of part of the law, from LegiFrance.govr.fr (I've bolded part of the text to highlight the important part):

"The nutritional quality catering

  "Art. D. 230-25. - To achieve the goal of nutritionally balanced meals served by school food services are required, pursuant to Article L. 230-5 of the Rural Code and marine fisheries:
"- Four or five dishes each lunch or dinner, which necessarily includes a filling main course, and a dairy product;
"- Compliance with the minimum requirements of variety of dishes;
"- The provision of suitably sized portions;
"- The definition of rules adapted to the service of water, bread, salt and sauces.
"A joint order of the Minister of Defence, Ministers overseas and local government, health, food, consumption and Education requirements specify the nature of the diversity dishes served on the service of water, bread, salt and sauces as well as the size of food portions.
  "They are required to identify clearly on menus, seasonal ingredients in the composition of the meal.
" (See the original, untranslated version at http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000024614716&dateTexte=&categorieLien=id)

According to the European Vegetarian Union, meat and fish will have to be served at "a certain minimum frequency". Similar laws are being proposed for other public spaces in France-- hospitals, prisons, kindergartens, and retirement homes. And they all will be given milk and some meat with their food, whether they want it or not. They won't actually have to consume it-- they could just leave it on their plate, or, if the food is being served as a buffet, avoid it altogether-- but still, think of all the cows who would have to be exploited and animals who would be killed just to give people these "foods"!
This could be a problem for vegan kids, who will not be able to get balanced meals from their school cafeteria. If they're given a meal of meat, milk, potatoes, and vegetables, for instance, they could only eat the potatoes and vegetables. They won't be able to get the healthy plant protein necessary for good health on a vegan diet, because it wouldn't be provided! Some of kids and teenagers might be able to bring in a lunchbag or go home for lunch, but I can only imagine that this would make life difficult for them. (It would be great to hear about this from an actual student living in France to get a better picture of what it's actually like over there.)

According to an article in The Guardian,
A law was passed on 3 October which obliges school canteens feeding more than 80 children to adhere to minimum nutritional requirements, setting in stone how much protein, iron, calcium and fresh fruit schoolchildren should be given. 
Schools now have to provide meals which include a protein element with accompaniment, such as rice or vegetables, a dairy product (for example cheese or yoghurt) and either a starter or a pudding. The protein can be cheese but a dairy product is also obligatory as a separate element.
So while the new rules do not explicitly ban vegetarian meals, Brigitte Gothière of the vegetarian association L214 says they make it clear that the state believes all sources of protein should come from animal, not vegetable, products. On a 20-meal cycle, a minimum of four meals must include "quality meat" and four "quality fish," and on the other days, egg, cheese or "abats" (offal) should be the main dish. Isabelle Dudouet-Bercegeay, president of the Association Végétarienne de France, says: "It's a case of 'If you don't want your child to eat meat, don't use the canteen.'"
For vegan prisoners and hospital inpatients, who have very little freedoms already due to their circumstances, not getting a vegan meal plan could almost totally eliminate the viability of a vegan diet during their inprisonment or hospital stay. The same goes for residents of retirement homes. One can only hope that this law does not extend to these latter places!
Although there is no law that states that people aren't allowed to live an animal-rights-centred lifestyle (so, contrary to the title of this post, vegetarianism isn't technically "outlawed" in France), the above law could definitely make it difficult for people to follow their values on a daily basis.
A great analysis of the law, as well as a more thorough translated version, can be found at http://www.icdv.info/index.php?post/2011/10/23/The-legal-texts-banning-vegetarianism-in-school-canteens-in-France.
From what I'm reading on the Internet, vegetarianism is hard enough in France as it is, simply due to the meat-eating culture. If you live in France and would like to go vegan, or if you want to visit France, please visit http://vegan-france.com/index.html.
Au revoir pour maintenant, mes amis!