Friday, October 31, 2008

World Vegan Day and Media

November 1st is World Vegan Day and kick-starts World Vegan Month. It was initiated by the Vegan Society in 1994 to mark its 50th anniversary. I'm guessing that veganism will be discussed a bit more than usual in the media as a result for the next week or so. For instance, Time's website has an article called "A Brief History of Veganism" by someone called Claire Suddath. She uses terms like "extreme", "strict" and "ism". Suddoth also insinuates that most vegans aren't really vegan since

like any lifestyle choice that ends in "-ism," there are plenty of people who cheat. The vitamin B12 is found almost entirely in animal products, so many vegans eat fortified food or take a vitamin to get the right amount.
She asserts that "American vegetarianism has broken free of its philosophical [...] roots, becoming an accepted health choice" as if ethical reasons now have less to do with American vegetarians' decision to stop eating animals. She juxtaposes this with veganism by asserting that veganism is "out there on the fringe" and is "still tied to" -- gasp! -- the animal rights movement. She also kinda makes Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, sound like a fearmongerer by stating that when he coined the term and he took "advantage" of a tuberculosis scare to prove that veganism would protect people from "tainted food".

Basically, the article reads as it was written by someone already biased against veganism, but it's done in such a mild way that your average reader, unfamiliar with veganism in the first place, wouldn't really pick up on it, but would just walk away thinking that vegans are radical and hypocritical nutcases who are (or who associate
with) nasty animal rights terrorists.


A San Francisco Chronicle blogger posted that her 5 year old daughter announced to her that she wanted to be a vegan and asked for advice / input. The majority of the responses have been thoughtful, informative and supportive.


Kim O'Donnel of the Washington Post had her live / online discussion, called "What's Cooking?", about meatless eating yesterday; you can find the transcript here. I've written about O'Donnel's "Meatless Monday" food column before. There'll be a special installment of her "What's Cooking?" feature on Thursday, November 13, when she'll be focusing on how to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Interview with Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

We are conditioned to respond in socially acceptable ways i.e. protests, petitions boycotts etc. We also have the problem that nature and other species are an abstraction to us. Humans fight for property, for immediate self defense and for religion. Hominids are a self centered species. When people ask how I can risk human life to protect a whale, I cite the fact that we do not think it is unnatural or unethical to risk our lives and to kill over property like land and oil. And we accept dying and killing for ridiculous religious beliefs. I think fighting for endangered species and threatened habitats to be much nobler.
--Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shephard Conservation Society

Paul Watson was interviewed by Jason Miller recently and talked about his work defending marine life, as well as his issues with Greenpeace (whose solicitors he calls the "Avon ladies of the environmental movement"), veganism, and the conflicts between capitalism and the basic laws of ecology. Read the full interview here on the Axis of Logic website.

Guns Don't Kill People

Absolute stupidity does. Who the hell hands an 8 year old kid an Uzi??

As his father raised his camera, an 8-year-old boy aimed an Uzi at a pumpkin set up at a shooting event. Before his father could focus, the third-grader from Connecticut squeezed the trigger, and the high-powered weapon recoiled and fatally shot the boy in the head.


In a telephone interview yesterday, the boy's father, Dr. Charles Bizilj, said he stood 10 feet behind his son as a professional trained in using the 9-mm Micro Uzi machine gun stood beside the boy on Sunday afternoon. He said he doesn't think the shooting instructor was holding the weapon as his son pressed the trigger, as guides did with other children firing the weapon.

"This accident was truly a mystery to me," he said. "This is a horrible event, a horrible travesty, and I really don't know why it happened. I don't think it's relevant that [the instructor] wasn't holding the weapon."

Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Crochet Chain Stitch

The chain stitch is sort of the equivalent of "casting on" in knitting. It's basically what you need to do to get started -- to create that first row from which you then crochet your project. I like this video better than the previous video I posted. It only covers this one part, though. Before you can even get to this point, you need to know how to make a slip knot. Click here for a video that shows you how.

These, and the rest of the instructional crochet videos I'll be posting, were found via the Knit Witch website.

How I Spent My Saturday Afternoon

I suspect that once I get the hang of this, it should be a breeze. Here's a beginner's video on how to crochet. The talking and baby in the background are a little distracting, but the instructions and image are clear. I'm sure there are better intro videos out there, but this one was good enough to get me started.

Edit: Actually, the problem with this video is that it doesn't show you what to do when you reach the end of a row. I'll have to find something else to post.

Nicole Atkins - The Way It Is

This was the incredible voice coming through the earphones of my trusty little MP3 player when it plopped through the bubbles and into the tub this afternoon.

That's what I get for letting myself get lost in thought. One less toy...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Veganism in the News

The Baltimore City Paper printed an article in its Eats section by a woman called Violet Glaze (I think she usually covers entertainment). She starts off by asserting that she's a vegan, "but not a very good one". She refers to her "ravenous, carnivorous muscles" sending "red alerts" to her subconscious when she purportedly becomes protein deficient (perpetuating the myth that vegans don't get enough protein). She quips that her skimping on seitan leads to dreams of animal flesh, and that although she knows that she can get sufficient protein from vegetable sources, that it's animal flesh her body craves anyway. She presents veganism as a struggle against these sorts of cravings.

She uses this as a diving board to plunge into -- you guessed it -- an argument for the ethical superiority of eating animals grown and
slaughtered locally, versus eating plant-based foods that are shipped in from far away. She quotes Barbra Kingsolver, who mused that opting for plant-based foods and meat alternatives from great distances leads us to "overlook the suffering of victims of hurricanes, famines and wars brought on this world by profligate fuel consumption". Therefore, we're left with an either / or situation where you can either eat local animals and their products or be a vegetarian and have your animal-free food shipped in from far away, which apparently leads to great human suffering. The assumption is that all meat and animal products are local and that everything else has to circle the globe to get to us.

Glaze accepts this either / or scenario and refers to the "rug of vegetarian moral superiority" being "yanked out from under" her feet (perpetuating the myth that vegetarians are, by default, smug and holier-than-thou types). So her solution to what she feels is a true ethical dilemma left in her lap by Kingsolver? To eat insects, since (as she puts it) "an insect is practically a plant, right?". In the end, she asserts that her experiment has likely left her a more "dedicated" vegan, but she continues by saying that if she ever sees insects on a menu in the future that although the "saint" in her won't order them, the "omnivore" in her might.

(Photo of the article's author from the Baltimore City Paper)

In other news: Time magazine recently featured an article in its "10 Questions" series that allowed readers to ask Ingrid Newkirk of PETA some questions. I liked her response about the whole Ben & Jerry's breast milk campaign that left so many people outraged and ranting. Newkirk essentially points out that it was indeed a joke to get people -- as well as the media -- talking about how cow's milk is meant for calves. I didn't quite like how she answered the question concerning how one could fight for animal rights in a world filled with poverty and starvation. She focused on the unhealthiness of meat, when so much more could have been said.

I'm not a huge fan of PETA, but in all, I guess that this bit by her in as mainstream and conservative a publication as
Time wasn't all that bad.

Brooklyn Goes Veg! Responds to The Brooklyn Paper

I'd written a week ago about how Mike McLaughlin of The Brooklyn Paper had proclaimed, based on a few quotes and conversations and the low participation of restaurants this year in Brooklyn's annual vegetarian restaurant week, that vegetarianism is dead. It seems that McLaughlin, whose proclamation had seemed an ill-researched knee-jerk assumption, had misrepresented the Brooklyn Goes Veg! organizer's views in his attempt to stress the decline of vegetarianism. Read the response to his article here.

Apologies and Secrets, Oh My!

Too many years ago, whilst going to school somewhere in the Ottawa Valley, I enjoyed a few years of the most amazing radio reception I've ever had in my life. I'd stay up late at night -- college insomniac, often cramming for midterms or forcing essays out through writer's block -- listening to American talk radio on AM stations that would sort of disappear at sun-up. (Yes, even then, Rush Limbaugh was still a sorry jackass.)

I remember being fascinated with a program that I think ran on late night American radio
(although part of me is tempted to say that it ran on CBC). It had a twisted sort of appeal that tapped into my inner-voyeur. The program involved the broadcast of message after message left on Allan Bridge's Apology Project phone line. The art project was a confessional sort of thing, meant to provide catharsis to callers (and inevitably, a bit of titillation for those who listened to the messages or read about them). Bridge, or Mr. Apology (as he called himsef), left posters around NYC inviting people to call a phone number to apologise anonymously for something they'd done -- to relieve themselves of the guilt of long-held secrets. Of course, many probably took off running with it, although from listening to some of the messages, I'm sure that many took it quite seriously. I was surprised, upon Googling the whole thing, to find out about the book and movie the project led to, as well as about the magazine Bridge apparently published called Apology, which contained transcripts of the messages. Bridge, as it turns out, was killed 1n 1995 by a hit-and-run jet skier.

I was reminded of all of this earlier this morning as I sipped my green tea and tried to liven myself up to shower before heading off to work. I came across a blog called
PostSecret, which is another sort of art project. In this case, people mail in their secrets on one side of a postcard, and the product mailed in gets posted to the blog. Some of them are funny, but so many of them are so incredibly sad. I guess that this project is churning out books, as well.

(Photo: From the PostSecret blog.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book: Alan Weisman's The World Without Us

Has anybody here read this book by Alan Weisman yet? I just nabbed a copy through the library and am about 40 pages into it -- it's hard to put down. It examines what sort of impact we've had on the world and the earth's ability to heal itself. It follows a sort of timeline going from things that would occur a mere handful of days after humans were taken out of the overall equation, to what the world would look like a few years down the road, hundreds of years, thousands, etc. Weisman talks to scientists and experts to get as accurate an idea as possible of how things would pan out. The first section looks at New York City and how quickly the city would fall apart without the constant upkeep of human beings -- everything from water flooding the subway tunnels to larger species of wildlife repopulating places like Central Park.

As much as the book uncovers the extent of the damage we've caused to the planet and its other inhabitants, it's almost a relief to read about how quickly a lot of this damage could -- or will -- be undone.

There's an excerpt on the book's web page that talks about the crazy longevity of polymers and plastic that's a must-read. It's been out for a while (it was first published in 2007) and it's been getting great reviews. There's a great piece by him in Vanity Fair from earlier this year that's worth reading, as well.

First Monsanto, Now Dow

A company that makes the commonly used herbicide ingredient 2,4-D is challenging the Quebec government under the North American Free Trade Agreement for banning its product.

The Canadian unit of Dow AgroSciences alleges the prohibition of the weed killer is without any scientific basis and in violation of the trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

"We are of the view that this is in breach to certain provisions of NAFTA," Jim Wispinski, president and CEO of Dow AgroSciences, said in a press release. "We don't welcome this step but feel it is necessary given the circumstances."

Wispinski called the province's prohibition "tantamount to a blanket ban based on non-scientific criteria." He argues public policy decisions should be based on scientific evidence and a clear set of rules.

The company is challenging the province under Chapter 11 of the free trade agreement, which includes a provision that allows private companies to sue the federal governments of any of the three countries if a member country enacts laws that "expropriate" their profits.

(Read the rest here on CBC's website.)

Yet another agribully forcing its product upon someone who's said 'no'...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Knowledge: Liberating or Debilitating?

I'd rambled on about knowledge and freedom a while back. I went back and re-read it after an online friend paraphrased Paula Poundstone earlier today -- a quote about the potential effects of knowledge. I found the original in a Mother Jones article: "What moron said that knowledge is power? Knowledge is power only if it doesn't depress you so much that it leaves you in an immobile heap at the end of your bed."

She's right. Sort of. There's more to it, though. I've had conversations that have danced around this notion with my dear friend J. who (for the record) personifies the term 'piece of work' in more than one of its aspects, and for whom learning is like breathing, with knowledge his oxygen. J. introduced me to the issues surrounding Peak Oil, including its probable implications in terms of industrial food production. We've talked about the differences between denial and saturation points, about indifference and that 'deer-caught-in-headlights' sensation that can leave someone seeming avoidant or shell-shocked. The manner in which J. approaches knowledge is contagious and consistent, regardless of how dark and radical it may appear, or of the hot potato that bit of knowledge may actually be. J.'s response to the scenario presented by Paula Poundstone would be to tell the person left in an immobile heap at the end of the bed to "get off the cross" -- to get over it, because there's no time for wallowing.

In a sense, this takes the onus off of the knowing and puts it on the doing. You don't avoid knowledge because it's too depressing. If it's too depressing, then there's a reason for its being depressing. It's information about something which you feel or think isn't right. If you can do something about it, then do it; if you can't, then walk away from it. In avoiding the 'knowing' in the first place, though, you can never get to that point where you can -- and need -- to make this decision for yourself. Then you really need to ask yourself what's motivating you to avoid making that decision. Fear? Apathy? Laziness? Who wants to be motivated by that?

Vegan Recipes in the News

The Food & Dining section of the Courier Press from Indiana features an article today by Sara Anne Corrigan on her attempts to throw together a tasty vegan meal for her guest, the town's new vegan rabbi. In it, she describes the addictiveness (and B vitamin goodliness) of nutritional yeast. She includes recipes for Soy Fritters and Tofu Dipping Sauce from the wonderful The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook (I have a copy of it myself and need to buy the most up-to-date verion). She also features a strange-sounding recipe for a Molded Gazpacho Salad that conjures images from my mom's old 1960s cookbooks. This salad in question is made with vegan-friendly Pomona's Universal Pectin, though. (The Farm's cookbook can be ordered via their catalog here.)

The Patriot Ledger from Quincy, MA has an article on raw-food chef Brenda Richter and includes a recipe for her Garden Blend Soup. (Since when is miso considered a raw food??)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Green Crafts: Making Paper Outta Lint

I stumbled across this Instructable on a craft blog -- it gives you step by step instructions on how to make paper out of lint. I usually compost my dryer lint, but am going to start collecting it to try this out. I'm not sure I have enough at home right now (I don't remember how recently I emptied the container into which I usually stuff it). Depending on how fine the screen mesh needs to be, I may at least be able to make a deckle and mold this evening. I think that I still have the screens from the old recently-replaced windows from the back of my building. I'm not sure of how practical this finished paper actually is. I suspect that it may be tricky to write on it. It could be used to make mattes for photos or to make decorative wall hangings or to add to collages. I'll have to think about this for a bit or Google some more.

Other uses for dryer lint (according to various tips online) include: using it to cushion small parcels you mail, making stuffed animals or leaving it hanging from trees in the spring for birds to use for their nests. You can even make dryer lint clay or papier mâché. And then there are folks like these who take it to a whole other level.

The nice thing about dryer lint is that it's easy to get your hands on it. Especially from people who'd otherwise just throw it out with the trash.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Todd Palin Says America's Core Values Are Hunting and Fishing

I found this article via the Huffington Post, which found it via this blog. Word gets around, I guess.

Todd Palin spoke at a gun club in Pennsylvania on Saturday and proclaimed to the 75 or so people present that "it is important to have a ticket that 'supports our core values -- hunting and fishing'".

How can fishing be a 'value'?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

On Sorting Out the Hooch

I found a site that lists the vegan-friendliness of alcohols, according to brands and labels. It's something to which I've never paid all that much attention before and I figure that I should start doing so. The site's called Barnivore and has alphabetical lists in its beer, wine and liquor categories, as well as a search field where you can plug in a brand or label's name. The site posts the company's information, as well as its official response to a query sent about animal ingredients contained in its products or used in processing them. It also provides when the company's confirmation was received and whether the information was double-checked.

My cheap Aussie favourite, Lindeman's, is processed with dairy, eggs as well as fish products. The cheap Aussie red that's (I think) the only red served at my favourite local Indian restaurant, Banrock Station, is also processed with egg and dairy products. No entries on Picaroon's beer -- a local brewer's stuff. I may contact the company myself and submit the info to Barnivore.

On Being Single

I woke up curled up around a couple of cats this morning and mulled over the week's events. After many good-natured conversations lasting into the wee hours with various friends this past week, I've come to the conclusion that:

  • Friends in relationships view my being single as some sort of illness, and that I'm (of course) seeking to get "better" (i.e. find another long-term relationship).
  • Friends who are single and not seeking (or finding) relationships think that if I'm actively seeking a relationship, I'm weak or needy and that I invariably need to spend some time "finding myself" and that if I do find someone, I'm "settling" and much better off staying single.
  • Friends who are single and who are either seeking relationships and who are already involved in the dating process are too busy keeping their own heads above water to sit back and try to assess my goings-on in terms of their own respective relationship statuses.
  • My cats, I'm sure, would view everything in terms of the potential of their obtaining a second lap versus the possibility of having to find a different place to sleep at night other than sprawled all over the bed around me. I'm equally sure, however, that if I keep them in organic catnip, they'll be supportive of any decision I make.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Wildlife Penning Prohibition Act of 2008 in the US

Although nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to what humans will do to non-human animals to amuse themselves (e.g. bull-fighting, canned hunting, trophy hunting, et al.), the practice of wildlife penning is something with which I was unfamiliar up until this morning. I read about how Congress in the US is presently considering amending the Lacey Act to prohibit the interstate travel of wild animals used in penning.

So what's involved in wildlife penning? Basically, animals (generally foxes or coyotes) are caught -- usually in steel leg traps where they're seriously injured -- and then thrown into cages together and transported to these events where they're penned and packs of dogs are set loose on them to rip them apart. The dogs are numbered and judged on how quickly they attack and eviscerate the trapped animals. HSUS is encouraging people to contact their representatives to urge them to pass this legislation.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vegetarianism is Dead?

According to The Brooklyn Paper's Mike McLaughlin, in his article on Brooklyn's second annual vegetarian restaurant week (Brooklyn Goes Veg!), vegetarianism is a fad whose day has passed. He writes:

Many of the proprietors told The Brooklyn Paper that demand for their animal-free fare has flattened out. Melissa Danielle, the restaurant week producer, said that the crash of vegetarianism is a result of livestock being raised more humanely and in a more environmentally conscious manner — reducing the knee-jerk reaction against consuming animals.

In discussing what he says is a decline in restaurants now offering strictly vegetarian or vegan fare, McLaughlin adds that:

the trend is definitely in the direction of all-vegetarian menus going the way of the dodo bird (which, apparently, tasted pretty darn good) since the bumper years of vegetarian restaurant, 2002–2005.

According to the SuperVegan website, which offers a NYC veggie restaurant guide, there are currently 44 strictly vegan restaurants in the Big Apple. There are 48 that self-identify as mostly vegan and 31 listed as vegetarian.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Banksy's NYC Installation Examines Animals We Call Food

Banksy, mysterious UK artist extraordinaire, who's more well known for his satirical street art than anything has set up an animatronic installation in a shop front in New York City's West Village. Called "The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill", the shop contains everything from chicken nuggets feeding from a disposable dipping sauce container, to fish sticks "swimming" in a fishbowl.

Located at No. 89, Seventh Avenue South in Greenwich Village (between West 4th and Bleeker), the "shop" is open for viewing daily from 10 am to midnight until October 31 (according to the website). The shop is staffed by actors playing the part of pet shop employees.

Here's a picture gallery featured on the Sky News website.

(Photo via The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill website)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jim Kunstler's Take on the State of the World

This is the kind of fiasco that brings down governments, propels societies into revolutions, and starts wars. In a few months, America will be full of angry economic losers. We're not the same nation that crowded around the old radio consoles for Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats. Back then, we were mostly a highly-disciplined, regimented, industrial society full of citizens who mostly did what they were told to do, and mostly trusted in authority. Today we're a nation of tattooed barbarian "consumers" with no impulse control, a swollen sense of entitlement, ruled by a set of authorities ranging from one G.W. Bush to the grifter-billionaire pantheon of Wall Street CEOs -- now heading into secret bunkers with their stashes of krugerrands, freeze-dried veal Milanese, and private security squads armed with XM-8 carbines.

I go along with Nassim Nicholas Taleb's idea -- read "The Black Swan" -- that nobody really knows anything. We construct our narratives to try and explain circumstances that are unraveling non-linearly before us, and some narratives are more plausible than others, depending on your vantage point. There are infinite narratives. This is nothing more than my narrative.

Read the rest of his post "The Nausea Express" here.

(via J.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hey Sarah Palin

"Just because I can see the moon doesn't make me an astronaut, you loon."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Zeitgeist: Addendum

Some of you may already be familiar with the original Zeitgeist movie, directed by Peter Joseph. It ended up becoming a veritable internet phenomenon. I remember there being quite a bit of controversy last year when Wikipedia came under fire for deleting its entry about it, leaving many crying "censorship". That entry is back up now. The original Zeitgeist movie was a three-parter focusing on the Jesus myth, the 9/11 attacks and an exposé of the formation and function of the United States' Federal Reserve Bank. Its purpose was to reveal the myths that have been used over the years to maintain the established order in the United States.

Zeitgeist: The Addendum is a continuation of the first movie and seems a bit more focused in its purpose. It seeks to explain how the global monetary system uses debt to control how the world is governed and leaves the interests of transnational corporations trumping those of ordinary people. Some of this was ground covered in a great little animated documentary by Paul Grignon called Money as Debt. Zeitgeist: The Addendum takes it further, however, by attempting to outline steps that can be taken to weaken this debt-based monetary system which Joseph presents as being at the root of all social instability. Joseph presents a case for the social transformation necessary to end a status quo propped up by corruption , where sustainability and the interdependence inherent in community could lead to a better world for all.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Alternative Energy Bits

The U.S. Geological Survey just conducted its first national geothermal assessment in 30 years. The conclusion they've reached is that if fully developed, geothermal sources could contribute significantly to energy production in the U.S.. (via CleanTechnica)

Researchers have made significant advances in learning to create hydrogen gas from biowaste -- ordinary sewage. A possible side-effect? Cleaner water. "Conceptually, treatment plants could be developed that take in sewage on one end and send clean water and hydrogen fuel out the other." (via

The World Bank is currently under attack by environmental groups for continuing to fund fossil fuel heavy projects in developing countries and dropping their funding of renewable energy projects. (via

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I found the original recipe for this strawberry pudding / jelly on a Medieval "cookery" website. I've tweaked it a little. I've been reading up on vegetarianism throughout history and trying to dig up traditional recipes that were animal-free. There are variations on this recipe all over the internet, including this one here which uses rice flour as a thickener. This one below uses almond milk, which was commonly used by medieval cooks since refrigeration wasn't available and dairy milk would spoil.


2-1/2 cups fresh strawberries
1 cup almond milk
1 cup red wine
2 Tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup currants
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 cup (vegan) sugar
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of saffron
pomegranate seeds

Clean the strawberries and cut into quarters. Simmer them in the wine in a pan until they're soft. Strain the mixture to remove the seeds and pulp and return the strawberry / wine concoction to the pan. Add everything else except the cornstarch and bring to a low boil. Once it's boiling, stir in the cornstarch and stir the mixture until it's thickened. Remove from the heat, heap into bowls and garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve warm.

Now, the original recipe called for "amidon" instead of cornstarch, but suggested cornstarch as a more readily available substitute. The word 'amidon' is French for cornstarch, though. I'll have to see what that's all about. I was also left wondering how readily available ordinary old sugar would have been in the 15th century, which is apparently when this dish would have been made. You can see a picture of it here.

I haven't tried it yet, myself, but may give it a shot over the next few weeks. That's a lot of sugar, though, and I don't have much of a sweet tooth.

Steak Doesn't Grow on Trees

OK folks, repeat after me: A vegetarian is someone who refrains from eating the flesh of animals. Not just on Mondays or Thursdays. Not just during daylight hours. Not just when it's convenient. It's a definition, not a judgement.

There is no such thing as a ''part-time vegetarian'' or ''casual vegetarian''. Someone who only eats a little bit of meat some of the time is an omnivore who only eats a little bit of meat some of the time. It's like saying that someone can be a ''part-time Christian'' or ''casual Christian''. A ''flexitarian'' is an omnivore who doesn't eat a lot of meat. It's not a subcategory of vegetarianism, regardless of how desperately one wants to cling to a label that doesn't fit.

Yes, eating less meat is good for your health, good for the environment and good for the animals whose lives aren't lost to end up on your plate. That being said: Meat eating isn't vegetarianism.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Response from the NBSPCA

I just received a response from Glen McGuire, Executive Director of the NBSPCA, concerning the New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association (NBVMA)'s members' recent decision to ban their performing of ear cropping, tail docking and dew claw removals on dogs in New Brunswick. I'd written out of concern over responses to this decision from people who make a living off of the breeding of purebreds, and who've seemed to be asserting that breeders and show dog owners will likely resort to going out of province or to getting someone else to butcher his or her way through the procedures and then see the vets (legitimately) to heal the damage that's been done. I asked him what the NBSPCA's response would be to someone's docking or cropping dogs' tails or ears -- what the legal repercussions would be.

Note: By CC of C Section 446, Mr. McGuire means the Criminal Code of Canada, Section 446 concerning cruelty to animals.

He wrote:

Hi M,

Thank you for your letter re: Our position on the NBVMA resolution adopted last week. As you can imagine, we are never in agreement with any unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted upon animals. Many of the veterinarians in the Province have refused to do this type of cosmetic alteration as a matter of principle. With the adoption of last week's resolution, it will now be a prohibited procedure.

This then goes to your question as to what we would do in the event that people decide to perform surgical alterations without the benefit of a veterinarian. According to our Chief Inspector, we would have to charge people under CC of C Section 446. Causing undue pain and suffering. To do this we would need witnesses and confirmation that this had been done. We would also need to have the Crown seize and prosecute the case.

We will of course be raising this issue in our ongoing talks with the Government with the view, if necessary to adding or amending regulations to address this potential problem. Thank you for your concern.


Glen McGuire

Albert Einstein on Compassion

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the 'Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.

-- Albert Einstein

The plus / minus columns and a self-exploratory ramble

I've been spending some time trying to pinpoint what the triggers are that can sometimes blindside me when I'm having an otherwise exhilarating (or even just contentedly happy) day, as well as the things that do the opposite. Trying to stay on an even keel can be hard when balancing time and energy devoted to meaningless work, family, aging cats, friends' anxieties and stumblings, my own anxieties and stumblings, trying to figure out what I ultimately want to do when I grow up while trying hard to challenge myself to learn new things -- relevant and meaningful things.

It seems that once you let yourself lean towards the negative (e.g. fall into a snit or some sort of bad mood), the triggers that can unbalance you further get smaller and smaller. So in identifying some of the things that get under my skin, I guess that I can learn to shuffle them into one of two piles: I can either address the issues, or, if they're things that are silly or about which I can't really do anything, I need to learn to take a deep breath and walk away from them. Some things just are what they are and it doesn't matter how much time I spend grumbling over them -- at the end of the day, they're still going to be what they are. Unfortunately, at the end of that day, I could end up being broody and off-track thanks to having spent a ridiculous amount of energy resenting the great "Unchangeables". And that's when little irritants start to become big distractions.

So rather than let said things get under my skin and then let smaller things tack themselves on to an established bad mood, I'm going to try to be a bit more pro-active. No more dwelling on things I can't change, and if I can change them, I will. I think that sometimes ranting about the things I feel I can't change (e.g. animal suffering that takes place on a wider scale in factory farming) feels pointless, but in terms of blogging about them publicly, I can't help but at least hope that bringing them to enough people's attention might in fact trigger some sort of incremental change.

In identifying some of the things that often make me most happy, I can learn to focus on them or seek them out. (I get a kick out of this website,, where readers submit posts of 250 words or less of things that make them happy.) I'm not into self-help or self-improvement gurus, but sometimes glean a bit of good from them. Some of it ends up being fairly self-evident in theory, if not in practice. For instance, this. There's much to be said about learning to identify your own values and then being true to yourself -- it's living an authentic life. It gets the Jean-Paul Sartre thumbs up of approval, for sure. Inner peace and a renewed sense of vitality can come from accepting unchangeables as unchangeable and moving on from them.

By learning to identify what's meaningful in your life and being true to it, and not letting things you simply cannot change sap your time and energy, you learn more about yourself. You become more certain about who it is your are -- more confident about who you are. You can free up more time and energy to enjoy the things that make you happy and to share that happiness with others. Sometimes negative energy ends up being an unwelcome gift we hand off to strangers and loved ones. We project it on them, sometimes inadvertently. Awareness of this and conscious attempts to alter that mindset and behaviour are the sorts of things that lead us to becoming more compassionate and more emotionally available -- more giving.

(Now why is it I feel that I should be wearing a flower wreath and dancing barefoot around the perimeter of a fairy ring?)

Rosinha de Valença - Acalanto (1966)

Rosinha de Valença was a Brazilian artist who was especially prominent in the 60s. She toured with Sergio Mendes and Brasil 65 for eight months in America, recording two albums with them along the way. She spent the next couple of years touring Europe, Africa and the Middle East, eventually returning to Brazil, where she alternated between recording and touring until brain damage due to a heart attack forced her to abandon her musical career in 1992.

Monday, October 06, 2008

On the Upcoming Elections in the US and Canada: A Gentle Reminder to Women Voters

Some of my younger friends don't believe me when I point out that women in Canada were only granted the right to vote less than a century ago. It was in 1918. Women in Québec were only allowed to join in 22 years later, in 1940. Women in the US were only guaranteed the right to vote in all US states by 1920. In fact, in the West, most women have only been guaranteed the right to vote within the past 30-90 years (in Switzerland, for instance, women were only granted the right to vote in federal elections within my own lifetime -- in 1973). Yet as recently as 2004, only 65% of American women voted in federal elections (with the percentage lower for lower age groups). In 2006, 4 million Canadian women eligible to vote did not do so.

According to the International Women's Democracy Centre, out of 189 governments in this world today, only 13 are led by women. In this world today, women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to vote. Women in Brunei have been denied the right to vote or run for elections since 1962. In Lebanon, women are only allowed to vote if they can prove they've received elementary education -- something which is not required of Lebanese men.

So? So the luxury of voting ain't so much a luxury in other parts of the world. Take a few minutes out of your day and exercise your right on October 14 (in Canada) and November 4 (in the United States). There are women in the world today who sure as hell wish they shared a fraction of the freedom possessed by the women in North America right now:
A Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia is now calling for one-eyed veils for women, since showing both eyes supposedly encourages women to wear eye makeup to look seductive. In Saudi Arabia, adult women still need to get permission from a guardian (i.e. father, brother or husband) to study, work, travel, marry or even obtain basic health care).

In countries like Libya, girls and women are locked up in "social rehabilitation centres" after having been deemed "vulnerable to engaging in moral misconduct". In some cases, all these women have "done" is that they've been raped and then rejected by their families for having been "tainted". These women have no access to lawyers or the legal system, and are only released from these jail-like institutions if a male family member comes forward to get them (which happens almost never), or if a stranger comes looking for a wife (i.e. shopping for a wife-slave).

For five years, women and girls in Darfur have remained under the constant threat of violent rape from the government's own soldiers and allied militias. Neither the government nor international peace-keepers have done anything about this and the women and girls in question have no means for legal redress.

These women could be you or me. Please, just vote.

Cropping and Docking: A Backgrounder and the Global Status Quo

I decided to research this topic further and found that the American Veterinary Medical Association's stance on cropping and docking is for vets to counsel people requesting them that the procedures cause ''pain and distress'', but AVMA stops short of condemning them.

According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (which does indeed condemn both), the procedures have been illegal in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1978 and are outlawed in many European countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand. There are, of course, exceptions for medically justifiable reasons.

In Indiana, in 2002, a defendant was convicted of animal cruelty for cropping the ears of several puppies with office scissors without anesthesia. Furthermore: The court held that the evidence supported conviction for cruelty under the definition of "torture." Further evidence supported conviction for unauthorized practice where defendant engaged in a traditional veterinary surgical procedure and received remuneration for his services. I wonder if there've been similar cases in Canada?

For more information on the issues surrounding the practices of ear cropping and tail docking, check out "Cropping and Docking: A Discussion of the Controversy and the Role of Law in Preventing Unnecessary Cosmetic Surgery on Dogs" at the absolutely amazing Animal Law Web Centre. It discusses the history and legal status of the procedures. The UK's Anti Docking Alliance website features an article from a 1996 issue of the Australian Veterinary Journal that goes into greater detail about the medical issues related to tail docking, as well as the pain and suffering inherent in the procedure.

I commend the NBVMA's members for having taken the stance they have. I hope that the rest of the veterinary associations in Canada follow suit soon.

No more cosmetic surgery for dogs in NB

According to the CBC, tail docking and ear cropping are cosmetic procedures that will soon no longer be performed by veterinarians in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The New Brunswick Veterinary Medical Association (NBVMA) reached this decision recently, prompted in part by the recommendations of Canada's national body of veterinarians. According to one vet who

cringes whenever dogs come in for these procedures because she believes they are painful [:]

"Usually, when it's done, it's done between three and five days old. It's done without the benefit of anesthesia. People say it doesn't really hurt them, but they scream when you do it," she said.

So far, the only folks who seem to be complaining are the breeders and kennel clubs -- people who raise animals expected to fit into a certain aesthetically acceptable image. And they're responding with fearmongering:

Judy Burn from the Saint John area, a judge at Canadian Kennel Club competitions, said the province-wide policy is unfair to breeders, and may even put dogs at risk if owners try to do the procedures themselves.

"They may attempt it themselves and probably end up a mess on their hands that the vet will end up seeing anyway. Then you get breeders, or someone that knows someone that can do it, and infections set in. To me, the dog ends up suffering," Burns said.

It seems to me that if the vets in the province have deemed these procedures cruel and unnecessary that people attempting to submit the dogs in the care to them through other means should be punished under current animal cruelty legislation. I decided to send an email to the NB SPCA to inquire about this -- to ask whether current legislation would prohibit breeders from doing this themselves, and if not, what could be done to alter current animal cruelty legislation so that breeders could be prohibited from mutilating their dogs themselves (or have them mutilated by others). I encourage interested readers to do the same. The NB SPCA's contact form is available here. I'll post an update with any response I received from them as soon as I do.

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performing the theme to Shaft

Sometimes a gal just needs to kick back and enjoy the cheese. (The guy on bass and the singer seem to be the only two members of the orchestra really getting into it, unfortunately.)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Jesus Camp

I went to see Religulous last night. I'll blog a bit about it later. I mentioned to my friend J. this afternoon that I'd gone to see it and he brought up another documentary about religious fundamentalism that he said had really had an impact on him. Jesus Camp lost out to An Inconvenient Truth for the Academy Award in 2006, they say. It's about the "Kids on Fire School of Ministry", which holds summer camps for born again kids to teach them all about taking back America for Jesus Christ. It's probably one of the spookiest things I've seen in a long time. Here's some info on it.

And here's the thing itself:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Are you a good vegetarian guest?

This article in Thailand's Pataya Daily News on how to be a gracious vegetarian guest applies to anyone anywhere in this big ol' world. Years ago, shortly after first transitioning to vegetarianism, I used to feel a certain amount of anxiety upon receiving dinner invitations. Vegetarianism was new to me and not as widely known and accepted as it seems to be now. These days, I lose track of how often people tell me they have a niece who's vegetarian, or about how their teenager's boyfriend is a vegan -- that sort of thing. I used to feel awkward telling someone about my diet, wary of offering up an unwelcome hassle. Thankfully, I've learned to become a somewhat decent cook so that bringing a dish along not only lessens any potential burden on my host, but often triggers a light conversation about vegan cooking.People always seem pleasantly surprised that it's neither bland nor repulsive. Go figure!