Sunday, December 4, 2016

Veganism in Politics-- Britain's new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism

Good news-- in the UK, an "All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism" has been formed. This group will be made up of politicians from various UK political parties, and it will aim to promote legislative change that will have a positive impact for vegetarians, vegans, and the issues that matter to us (which may include "food and medicine labelling, vegetarianism and veganism as protected beliefs, impact of diet on climate change, and institutional catering provisions", according to the group's website,).

Photo from the Vegan Society's website.
The Vegan Society, the Vegetarian Society, and Vegetarian for Life are collaborating to form this group. The groups has four "Officers": Christina Rees (Labour MP), Kerry McCarthy (Labour MP), Henry Smith (Conservative MP) and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (Green Party Peer).

I don't know whether all the Officers of the group are vegan or not, but I do know that Labour MP Kerry McCarthy is vegan, according to The Vegan Option podcast (see link below).

According to the Vegan Society,
"The APPG on Vegetarianism and Veganism will be a great platform for discussion and learning, with the aim of encouraging legislation change.
This will be a forum for exchanging ideas and concerns relating to vegan and vegetarian issues. Speakers will be present at each of the quarterly meetings, providing an insight to their various expertise. Experts, leaders in their fields and parliamentarians are all welcome to join."
As the Vegan Society mentions, "The APPG on Vegetarianism and Veganism is an important opportunity to get veganism on the political agenda."

I think that it's extremely important for veganism to be acknowledged in political forums. If we want to create a world in which all animals are free from abuse and exploitation, it's important for veganism and animal rights to enter all major areas of society, including (but not limited to) popular culture, industry, media, commerce, law, education, and, indeed, politics.

I'm glad that this group plans to put a focus on veganism, rather than farm animal "welfare" reforms. Although I respect my fellow vegan activists who take a "welfarist" approach to farmed animals, I never spend my time advocating for farmed animal "welfare" reforms. The problem with simply enacting more farmed animal "welfare" reforms (such as putting chickens in bigger cages, etc.) is that "welfare" reforms don't work to eradicate the underlying exploitation of the animals, and they often don't translate into a big change for the animals, anyway. Rather than encouraging people to go vegan and therefore stop the inherent cruelty of exploiting and killing our fellow sentient beings, arguing for farmed animal welfare reforms is ignoring the fact that exploiting and killing animals is fundamentally wrong. Although I would never advocate against farmed animal welfare reforms, I believe we can save more of these animals and transition to a vegan world faster if we focus our energies on veganism and animal rights. I hope, therefore, that this group will keep the focus on vegans/vegetarians and veganism.

If you're interested in learning more about vegan politicians and how veganism has begun to make its way into the political realm, The Vegan Option podcast has a three-part series called "Veganism in Politics". Part 1 includes interviews with some vegan or vegetarian MPs from Britian, the US, and India who were in office at the time the episode was recorded. Part 2 has a Q & A with three vegan British MPs, and Part 3 is the recording of a debate in the British House of Parliament on World Vegan Day. You can also read about two more vegan politicians in a blog post on The Vegan Option's website here.

If you are a member of the British public and would like to attend the first meeting of the APPG on Vegetarianism and Veganism, you can RSVP on the group's website. If I lived in Britain, I would be very keen to go!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Fixing the Problems on Canada's Food Guide

Some of you may remember the blog post I wrote for the NCVA blog a little while ago, on teaching kids about healthy vegan nutrition. In that post, I mentioned how the dietary recommendations of Canada's Food Guide were influenced by the dairy, meat, and egg industries, according to this CBC article. For example, the 2003 version of the Food Guide was revised by a panel that included food industry lobby groups. More shockingly, when the 1992 revision of Canada’s Food Guide was released, the meat, dairy, and egg industries successfully lobbied the government to increase the recommended number of servings of these products, according to the CBC article. You can see the effect that these lobby groups had on the government-endorsed dietary recommendations in the article "Canada's Food Guides from 1942 to 1992" on the Government of Canada's website-- in 1982, the Food Guide had 2 servings of "Meat and Alternatives" and 2 servings of "Milk"; but in 1992, these numbers increased to 2-3 servings of "Meat and alternatives" and 2-4 servings of "Milk". These new, increased recommendations continue to exist on the most recent Food Guide to date.

Canada's current Food Guide consists of four food groups: Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives. In school, children are taught that the recommendations on the Food Guide comprise the fundamentals of a healthy diet. Growing up, I, too, assumed that the Food Guide was based upon scientific fact. More recently, however, science has been finding something different: meat, dairy, and eggs actually increase the risk of many chronic diseases, while a vegan diet is a very healthy way to eat and can prevent certain diseases.

Although many vegan activists are already spreading the message about the healthfulness of veganism, it isn't just activists who are willing to point out the health benefits of an animal-free diet. Here are some statements on veganism and plant-based diets from just a few high-profile organizations around the world:

  • Dietitians of Canada: "A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer."
  • American Dietetic Association: "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
  • World Health Organization:
    • "Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids."
    • The WHO has declared some types of meats to be Group 1 carcinogens (right up there with cigarette smoking) and Group 2 carcinogens.
  • According to a study conducted by students at the University of Oxford, if the world went vegan, millions of human lives would also be saved due to dramatic reduction in the incidence of chronic disease: "A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion (US)... ...They found that adopting diets in line with global dietary guidelines could avoid 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050. Even greater benefits could come from vegetarian diets (avoiding 7.3 million deaths) and vegan diets (avoiding 8.1 million deaths)."
  • British Dietetic Associaton: "Well planned vegetarian diets [including vegan diets, which they mentioned as a form of vegetarianism] can be nutritious and healthy. They are associated with lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and lower cholesterol levels."
  • United Nations Environment Programme: "A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products." (Found on page 82 of this document, or page 84 of the PDF)
Based in the United States, an organization of medical professionals called the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine more actively promotes a vegan diet as a way to prevent and reverse chronic disease. They've devised a new food guide made up of "The New Four Food Groups", which include Fruit, Vegetables, Legumes, and Whole Grains.

Click on the image to see it in full-size!



When one combines the health, environmental, humanitarian, and, of course, animal-related reasons to live vegan, it becomes obvious that the government ought to start supporting it, too!

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, Health Canada is now working on its next revision of Canada's Food Guide. From October 24, 2016 to December 8, 2016, Health Canada is holding an online public consultation on the Food Guide to get the public's input; all Canadians are welcome to submit their opinions through the Government of Canada's website.

In Mid-2017, the government will present a revised version of the Food Guide to the public, at which time Canadians will have another opportunity to provide their feedback on the revisions. After that, the new materials will be published.

I've already completed the questionnaire. On one page of the questionnaire, I was asked whether I find the current four food groupings in the Canada Food Guide helpful. I clicked "no", and then a box came up asking, "Why do you say that?"

Here was my response:

"I don't bother using the Food Guide, because the current recommendations simply doesn't apply to vegans like myself. The Food Guides' current food groupings are actually promoting ill health among Canadians. Furthermore, the current Four Food Groups are not at all accommodating for vegans and others who follow a dairy-free diet.
Dairy is not essential to the human diet. Although it is the perfect food for baby cows, it simply was not designed for human consumption. Some may claim that dairy is healthful because it contains calcium and protein, but the fact is, there are plenty of healthier plant-based sources of protein and calcium available. According to the Dieticians of Canada, calcium can be found in abundance in leafy green vegetables, fortified soy products, tahini (sesame seed butter), and many more vegan foods; protein can be obtained from soy products, beans, grains, nuts, and nut butters, to name a few.
According to the Dieticians of Canada, “A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.” (Source: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vegetarian-Diets/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans.aspx)
I would like to propose 4 new food groups: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, and Legumes/Nuts. The latter category combines the current two food groups of “Dairy and Alternatives” and “Meat and Alternatives” into an overall “Plant-based Protein” food group. The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, an organization of medical doctors in the United States, also promotes this idea (Source: http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vsk/vegetarian-starter-kit-new-four-food-groups).

I hope that Health Canada can start promoting healthy eating in the ways I’ve mentioned above. I also hope that Health Canada can specifically mention the word “veganism” as a healthy diet on the Food Guide itself."

I also gave more information, such as statistics on the environmental benefits of veganism, in response to another one of their questions.

In addition, one thing that Health Canada seems to be focusing on in this revision of the Food Guide is reducing sugar consumption. If you are going to be filling out this survey, you may wish to point out that dairy products are actually quite high in sugar-- for example, there are 13g of sugar in one cup of 1% M.F. cow's milk. It is a good idea to focus on the health and environmental benefits of veganism in your response, because the government is more likely to be interested in those things than animal rights (although animal rights is extremely important, of course!). That being said, don't hesitate to voice your ethical views about veganism, either-- if Health Canada is aware that people are vegan for ethical reasons, they may be more likely to accommodate vegans in their next version of the food guide.

If you believe that veganism should be better represented and promoted on the Food Guide, please consider taking a few minutes out of your day to fill out the questionnaire. Feel free to copy and paste the quotations from the organizations I've listed above in your responses.

Thank you for believing that we can create a healthier, kinder, and more sustainable world.

Printable Vegan Environmental Brochures!

Hi everyone!

I've created some more brochures that promote veganism; these ones have a focus on the environment this time. Please feel free to print them and give them out to your environmentally-conscious friends, and/or hand them out while leafleting at environmental events!

The brochures can be downloaded (for free, of course) here.

Photo Courtesy of Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

Opinion Article: "Canada's Food Guide Should Recommend a Vegan Diet"

An opinion essay I wrote, titled "Health Canada Should Recommend a Vegan Diet", was published on the Epoch Times website on November 2-- you can find it on the Epoch Times website here.

Although the Epoch Times website makes it look like I wrote this Op-Ed on behalf of the NCVA, please note that I only wrote it as a representation of my own opinions.

A longer blog post on Canada's Food Guide is coming soon!
Logo of the Epoch Times

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

2016 Ottawa Earthlings March

Hi!
I recently participated in an animal rights march, and I've written a blog post about the march. You can find that post over on my newer animal rights blog, Vegan Forget-Me-Nots.
If you haven't already signed up to receive e-mails every time I write a new blog post on Vegan Forget-Me-Nots, you can do so in the right-hand sidebar on that site. I'm trying to make Vegan Forget-Me-Nots my main animal rights blog, although I am still posting on The Animal Rights Action Site, too, of course.
Have a nice week!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Bringing Education on Plant-Based Nutrition into Schools

I have recently written a blog post for the National Capital Vegetarian Association's blog (I'm currently a member of the NCVA's Board of Directors) that discusses and shares some resources for bringing education on plant-based nutrition into schools. The resources that I linked to in the post are in English, and in the comments section, I've also linked to some that are in French. You can find my post at https://ncva.ca/2016/09/04/giving-kids-a-plant-based-education/
Have a great day!

Monday, August 22, 2016

My New Printable "Why Vegan" Brochures!

Hi everyone!

Lately I've been working on writing literature on animal rights and veganism. One of the things I've written is a brochure called "Why Vegan?". In the brochure, I discuss the reasons for going vegan and  include some details on how to make the switch. I also provide links to other websites, so that people can learn more! I've used some of Jo-Anne McArthur's beautiful photos of animals and humans (since she allows advocates to use her photographs as long as they give her credit for her work) in these leaflets, so they are visually attractive, too!

I created these brochures because I felt that there weren't enough options of leaflets out there. I wanted to hand out leaflets that were non-graphic, that promote veganism unequivocally, that focus on the underlying values of veganism, and that would appeal to people in the mainstream.

I have recently made a brochure for the National Capital Vegetarian Association that is very similar to this one, but that one isn't available for download through my blog. If you live in Ottawa, you might see the NCVA version being handed out at events, however!

You can find my brochures at Google Drive at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzC9bTdfS67Pb1VnYldFWXFHUmc/view?usp=sharing

Feel free to print off my brochures and hand them out, if you'd like-- let's spread the word about compassion and justice, one leaflet at a time! :)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Free Downloadable "I Am A Vegan" Posters

Hi everyone!
Want to put up more posters advocating for veganism? I've created some downloadable posters that you can print off your computer and put up around your city or town! Each poster says, "I am a vegan..." and then gives a reason to go vegan. Some of them are in colour, while others are not. There are five of them in all. Thanks to Jo-Anne McArthur for letting me (and all other animal rights activists!) use her lovely photos!
To give an example, here is one of the posters:

To download all of them, see the PDF here!
Thanks, and keep advocating for the animals!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Favourite Animal Rights/Vegan Podcasts

In order to be the most effective animal advocates as is possible, it's important to regularly remind ourselves of why we went vegan, to network with other vegans, to stay informed about animal issues, and to be inspired to help animals. After all, if we don't work in an animal-related field or have frequent discussions with other vegans, it can be easy to go long periods of time without really thinking about why we went vegan. Regularly networking with other animal activists helps us to exchange ideas, stories, and tips, and to have a sense of community.

One excellent way to stay informed and inspired is to listen to podcasts. Even those of us with busy lifestyles can find the time to listen to a podcast or two, as listening to audio is a great way to pass the time while commuting, exercising, relaxing, washing dishes, and doing other activities that don’t require your undivided attention. (It's best not to have earbuds in while walking, running, biking, or driving on the road, though!) And, unlike when you’re browsing the web, when you’re listening to podcasts you don’t have to worry about getting distracted by annoying comments or accidentally seeing graphic photos of animals on factory farms.
I’ve been listening to several animal rights/vegan podcasts lately. Here are my top 3 favourites:
1) Food for Thought Podcast with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
I could write a whole article about Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, but in short, Colleen is a vegan advocate who promotes joyful vegan living and compassionate communication. Her podcast, Food for Thought, focuses on a different topic to do with animal rights and/or veganism in each episode. Examples of podcast episode titles include “Traveling to Africa: Planning and Preparing for a Dream Trip” (this was an exciting one), “Advocacy and Adaptation: Fitting In and Living Joyfully in a Non-Vegan World”, and “Animal Word Origins”.
Although of course I don’t agree with everything Colleen says, I do love her message of unapologetic and compassionate vegan living. I’ve listened to about 25 of her podcast episodes so far. They are inspiring and informative!
In addition to creating her own podcast, Colleen also makes videos, writes books and articles, gives speeches, and more! Her podcast and other materials can be found on her website at http://www.joyfulvegan.com/podcast

I'd recommend Food for Thought if you are looking for: information, advice, and inspiration to help you lead a joyful, compassionate, and unapologetic vegan activist lifestyle.
2) The Vegan Option with Ian McDonald.
The Vegan Option is a documentary-style podcast hosted by Ian McDonald. The episodes are so fascinating—and sound so professional—that they are definitely worth a listen! Examples of episodes include the “Vegetarianism: The Story So Far” series (about the history of vegetarianism—it’s very interesting), “Science Fiction and Animals” (which includes a funny Doctor Who parody audio sketch), and the “Veganism in Politics” series (which I look forward to listening to soon). Find his podcast at http://theveganoption.org/category/show/.

I'd recommend The Vegan Option if you are looking for: compelling documentary stories and ideas about animals and veganism in society.
3) Our Hen House Podcast with Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan.
Our Hen House Podcast is a weekly podcast hosted by Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan. The main section of each podcast includes interviews with various animal rights/vegan activists; there’s also an animal rights news segment and a “Rising Anxieties” segment about how the animal industries are taking notice of the animal rights movement. Each episode also includes some commentary and chit-chat. It reminds me of listening to the radio because it has lots of different sections to it. I don’t agree with all of their positions on certain subjects, but I usually really like listening to this podcast. And it provides plenty of inspiration to activists who are looking to do more to help animals. You can find the podcast at http://www.ourhenhouse.org/podcast/. They also have an "Animal Law" podcast and a "Teaching Jasmin How to Cook Vegan" podcast.

I'd recommend Our Hen House if you are looking: to keep updated on the latest goings-on in the animal rights world, and to be inspired to help animals by hearing about what other activists are doing.
 
Just to let you know, I will be posting this post on my new blog, as well. Have a nice week!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Big Announcement

Hello everyone! Today I have a big announcement to make... I'm starting a new blog! It's called Vegan Forget-Me-Nots, and it's a blog on which I will share my latest activism projects and provide resources for other animal rights/vegan activists.

I felt the need to start a new blog in addition to this one because I wanted to start a more focused "homepage" of sorts for my activism-- one on which people can be easily find videos, posters, and other content that I'm making.

I am still going to keep posting sporadically (as I have been doing) on The Animal Rights Action Site, however. I started writing for this blog when I was 15, and have been keeping at it for nearly the past 5 years! This blog has been a useful place for me to develop my writing skills and spread the word about animal rights, and I'm so glad I have kept with it for so long. I love this blog, so don't worry, it isn't going away!

On Vegan Forget-Me-Nots, I am working on a project called "Reasons To Be Vegan". I'm making (a) video(s) and posters for this, so please check out my new blog and sign up for e-mail updates of new blog posts!

You can find it at http://veganforgetmenots.blogspot.ca/ .

Have a great day!


Copyright C. H. 2016

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ban of Selling Commercially-Bred Dogs and Cats from Ottawa Pet Stores!

Hello everyone,
A while ago, I did a post on how the City of Ottawa was considering banning the sale of commercially-bred dogs, cats, and rabbits from pet stores in Ottawa. Well, now I have some pretty good news-- a new law has been passed! Once it starts being enforced, the only dogs and cats that will be allowed to be sold at Ottawa pet stores will be animals from animal shelters and rescues.
The bad news, however, is that these changes will not come into effect for 5 years. Also, none of the articles I have seen on the subject mention rabbits or other small animals at all, so presumably rabbits and other "pocket pets" will still be sourced from commercial breeders. :(
Still, it's encouraging to know that the regulations are changing surrounding this! :)

Here are a couple of links to articles about this:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/council-bans-for-profit-pet-sales-ottawa-1.3534339
http://www.metronews.ca/news/ottawa/2016/04/13/ottawa-council-approves-pet-shop-bylaw-reform.html

Monday, April 11, 2016

Why whether or not one eats meat is not a "personal choice"

Sometimes non-vegans say that vegans shouldn't try to convince others to go vegan, and that "eating meat is a personal choice" that vegans should respect. But is eating animals really a "personal choice"?
I don't think it is. Here's why...
To begin, let's define "personal choice". In this context, a personal choice is a decision that does not harm or seriously affect anyone else, so the individual making the choice has the right to do as they wish, without anyone else intervening.
But eating animals-- and supporting the cruel and exploitative animal industries in general-- does harm others. It harms the animals. Animal agriculture is responsible for the imprisonment, torture, exploitation, and murder of billions of animals every year.
Whether you are a vegan or a non-vegan is technically a choice, but it is not at all personal. It affects others. For this reason, although I respect individuals who eat meat, I do not have patience for the choice to eat meat. I don't try to aggressively push veganism on people, because I respect the personal space of others. However, when people tell me that they eat meat, I don't simply smile and shrug and say "it's a personal choice", either. Instead, I politely mention that veganism isn't as hard as many people make it out to be, and then let them change the subject if they want to. If they do want to engage in conversation about veganism, I am all too happy to talk about it, though!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Amazing Spoken Song

This is an incredibly powerful video. This spoken song was written and performed by M. Edward King, son of a British farmer (his website is http://vegansongs.com/). Please watch it, and then show it/send it to anyone who will watch it! Thanks! I believe that his song has the ability to change hearts and minds, and to markedly shift the way many people think about animals.
For the animals,
Cat
(If you'd prefer to see the video on YouTube, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYyjel5VuHg)


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

City of Ottawa Considering Restricting Sale of Dogs, Cats, and Rabbits in Pet Stores

Good news! The City of Ottawa (in Ontario, Canada) (a.k.a. my city!) is considering banning the sale of commercially-bred dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores. If these new laws come into place, the only dogs, cats, and rabbits who would be allowed to be sold in pet stores would be animals from non-commercial sources (animal shelters, rescues, humane societies, and maybe even from owners who surrender their pet directly to the pet store). I am very excited to hear this news-- it is long overdue!

This new law will likely help to reduce animal breeding operations (including puppy and kitten mills) and encourage adoption, as well as helping to curb the numbers of animals currently entering, living in, and being euthanized in animal shelters. Besides, animals are not property, and should not be treated commercial "products" to be bought and sold!

Currently, there are only three pet stores in Ottawa that sell dogs, cats, and/or rabbits from commercial breeders, but ending this practice in Ottawa once and for all will be a further "win" for the animals. Commercial breeders would still be able to sell animals in venues other than pet stores, but at least more homeless animals from shelters will be adopted than they otherwise would, and it will be harder for commercial breeders to profit from selling sentient creatures. I would like to see these new regulations extend to ALL animals-- not just dogs, cats, and rabbits-- but this is a step in the right direction, at least!

The City of Ottawa encourages residents to read the document explaining these proposed changes, and then to submit their opinions on the City's website.

Discussion Paper with more information:
http://documents.ottawa.ca/sites/documents.ottawa.ca/files/documents/discussion_paper_pet_shop_bylaw_review_en.pdf

Comment Sheet, which can be submitted online:
https://app06.ottawa.ca/cgi-bin/form.cgi?dir=pet_shop&form=form_en

If you live in or near Ottawa, please take a few minutes to submit your opinion!

For the animals,
Cat