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!

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".

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 ( 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."
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: 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:

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:
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 movie poster, from their online store, at (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 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:
For the animals!