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!