Saturday, April 30, 2011

What This Vegan Eats

I'm wandering away from the soup photos this week...

Open-faced seitan sandwich with cheddar Daiya on pumpernickel toast, topped w/gravy made from leftover seitan basting liquid. Peas and sauerkraut. Comfort food extraordinaire!

Steamed broccoli w/oven-baked Gardein chunks and plum tomatoes.

Oven-baked sweet potato wedges (seasoned with chipotle powder) and Gardein strips.

Yes, sometimes vegans eat simple salads. This one had romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes and scallions and ended up topped off with ground flax and Italian dressing.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gary Francione: I'm Vegan

Earlier today, Eric Prescott, Director and Co-founder of the Boston Vegan Association, released this interview with Prof. Gary L. Francione. It was taped as part of the upcoming I'm Vegan project:

I'm Vegan: Gary Francione from Eric Prescott on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How Do You Protect a 'Thing'?

I wonder sometimes how many hours of my life I could give up just addressing some of the more problematic information and opinions Mark Bittman releases into the ether. His Opinionator blog post from late yesterday ("Who Protects the Animals?") is certainly no exception to much of the confusion he spreads about what we do or don't owe non-human animals. He has rejected veganism publicly and periodically asserts that veganism is a bad idea because it's supposedly all about eating processed fake meat. And regardless of this, he's co-opted the word "vegan" to describe a diet by which someone only eats animal flesh for dinner.

In his recent piece, Bittman writes about E6 Cattle Company in Texas which recently came under fire when undercover video taken by animal advocacy group Mercy for Animals revealed incidents of cruel behaviour by employees, including but not limited to bashing in the heads of live cows with pickaxes. Bittman goes on to describe other widely-reported cases involving animals raised for human consumption and describes as "horror stories". He expresses what seems to be indignation over the fact that "federal laws governing animal cruelty apply [only] to slaughterhouses" where animals spend their last few moments alive before they're "dispatched". On the actual farms or premises where animals are enslaved and raised, they are only "protected" by state laws, he criticizes. He calls this, along with lack of enforcement of any laws at all in place the "root of the problem".

Bittman asserts that this videotaping is necessary to ensure that animals raised and slaughtered for human consumption are treated "humanely". Furthermore, he writes that polls have shown that "almost everyone believes that even if it costs more, farm animals should be treated humanely". Bittman's concern is over the law that's being considered in Minnesota, Iowa and Florida, by which it would become illegal to engage in undercover videotaping on factory farms. Bittman insists that because of this, welfarist groups like HSUS and Mercy for Animals must not be hindered legally from "documenting the kind of behavior most of us abhor".

At this point, I would have been ready to jump in to add that the heinous video footage that gets passed around from time to time is not the exception to the rule and that the lives of all animals enslaved to be slaughtered for our consumption are horrible lives. But Bittman himself jumps in to admit as much, stating that the video footage we end up seeing merely serves to remind us of what goes on. Of course, he specifies that this is standard on factory farms, but it's not. The same things -- the branding, the dehorning, the forced impregnation and subsequent removal of offspring from their mothers so that they may be sent off to slaughter (or otherwise enslaved themselves for human use and eventual slaughter), et al. -- they occur wherever and whenever non-human animals are treated as future food for human consumption. It's not limited to factory farms. Bittman says that "some abuse is pretty much guaranteed" when the truth is that there is no way in which you can enslave an animal -- treat her like a thing with no interest in a life of her own -- then kill her, and not call it abuse.

Instead of calling for welfarist organisations to be allowed to engage in covert videotaping operations to spot-check for the worst forms of torture imposed on these animals we call "food", why is it so difficult for Bittman to consider suggesting that we don't, in fact, need to use them in the first place? Why is it so difficult for Bittman to consider that since "some abuse is pretty much guaranteed" that all of it could be prevented by educating people that it's wrong to treat sentient non-human animals as if they were things? Bittman inadvertently provides the answer to my questions by saying that "[t]here is, of course, the argument that domesticating animals in order to kill them is essentially immoral; those of us who eat meat choose not to believe this". He argues that allowing welfarist groups to continue videotaping animal agriculture operations would ensure that existing regulations concerning the levels of torture inflicted upon non-human animals would be better observed, while on the other hand, Mercy for Animals' Nathan Runkle elaborates that allowing them to continue videotaping "would allow the public to trust these operations rather than fear them".


And thus lies the absolute moral confusion inherent in speciesism. On the one hand, you have "almost everyone believ[ing] that even if it costs more, farm animals should be treated humanely". Yet the undeniable facts are that all animals raised for food suffer wretchedly on some level or another and that regardless of where they're enslaved or of how they're slaughtered, these animals are treated like things and deprived of being able to live out their own lives on their own terms. And while Bittman himself is willing to admit that the standard practice involved in raising and slaughtering almost 10 billion animals a year in the US alone undeniably involves tremendous suffering, he's not willing to view their enslavement and slaughter as "immoral". And rather than focus on educating the public about not using animals, welfarist organizations like Mercy for Animals work towards facilitating the public's ability to "trust these operations"-- to feel better about continuing to use non-human animals. So, indeed, who does protect the animals? Not Mark Bittman. Certainly not Mercy for Animals.

Please consider going vegan. If you're already vegan, talk to others about doing so. That's the only way to protect non-human animals. At the very, very least, we owe them that much.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What This Vegan Eats

A few delicious things I've made and devoured over the past week:

Dill tabbouleh on quinoa. It was my first time using dill to make tabbouleh and it ended up being a very interesting twist on an old favourite.

This concoction is a tomato-rice soup w/spinach, onions, mixed legumes, turnip, carrots & corn. I seasoned it with smoked paprika & tarragon, which left it with a rich, earthy taste, punctuated just right with a subtle tang.

I've been having fresh fruit with my meals a lot lately. This bowl of cantaloupe and wild blueberries accompanied a leafy salad and a piece of pumpernickel toast.

Sweet potato and red lentil soup, with various Indian seasonings (including fresh curry leaves) and topped with cilantro.

More fruit! I bought a whole pineapple for the first time in my life today. (No, really.) I've had it canned before, but had never gone at one myself. I've since learned that around half of pineapple's Vitamin C is destroyed in the canning process, along with almost all of its bromelain.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vegan Pregnancies: The Portman Debacle

Since last week the internet has been buzzing with the news that actress and vegan shoe line owner Natalie Portman has admitted in a recent radio interview that she's resumed consuming animal products. I wrote about it not particularly caring which celebrity goes or stops being vegan this or that week. There's a constant churning, it seems, and the interpretations of "veganism" presented by the celebrities vary enough that any message that could get out to the public about what we really owe non-human animals almost always either gets mangled or lost.

The worst part is that each time a Natalie Portman decides to do an ethical about-face and cites lame or misinformed reasons to justify having done so, it actually sends a strong negative message out to the public about veganism -- or at the very least, it sends out an awfully confused one. And it's what it ends up triggering in its ensuing discussion that leaves me groaning a little. In Portman's case, for instance, every half-wit with access to a keyboard and an internet connection who is either antagonistic towards or dreadfully misinformed about veganism has been been rubbing his hands together in glee since the story broke (and I say "broke" although it wasn't exactly news, but just the first time Portman had gone in as much detail about her change in ethical stance).


Veganism Is teh Evil

The
OC Register (which I was told is published in one of the more nutso right wing areas of California) jumped on the opportunity to write a piece that not only questioned the safety of veganism for pregnant women, but its safety for anyone and everyone ("Is veganism right for pregnant women?"). The article starts by mentioning Portman's decision to stop being vegan because of cravings, as well as a vague reference she'd made in her radio interview to pregnant women needing to watch their iron and B12 levels. The article then proceeds to twist those comments into a given that veganism is unhealthy for pregnant women and extends that assumption further: "If shunning animal products is bad for pregnant women and unborn children, is it good for any of us?" The article's writer then talks to an OB/GYN "who knows a lot about prenatal nutrition" and who is "definitely against the vegan diet". And what did token expert Dr. Felice Gersh have to say?

"What is necessary when a women is pregnant to develop her baby or when she’s nursing, is really a good clue for what she needs her whole lifetime," she said. "Some vegans live to be 100, but in general it’s not a good idea to be a vegan."
The reasons for this, according to Gersh, are that vegans don't get enough omega-3 fatty acids through their food and are "notoriously deficient" in B12 and zinc ("because they eat so many grains"). To his credit, the article's writer does point out that omega-3 supplements are readily available, although he doesn't address her comment concerning B12 or zinc (nor their purportedly notorious deficiency for vegans) except to add that vegans claim that they can get everything they need from food itself. Basically, the article started with the assumption that veganism is unhealthy for pregnant women and then tried to carry it further (albeit in a really sloppy and open-ended manner) to extrapolate that it's unhealthy for everyone, perhaps planting a seed in the minds of its readers. This is the sort of thing that celebrities announcing their renunciation of veganism and then mumbling a few sentences about health concerns can trigger.

(No Really... Veganism Is teh Evil
)

Another anti-vegan opportunist to take off running with Portman's radio interview was
Wesley J. Smith, a lawyer and ethicist (of sorts) whose focus is on "human exceptionalism". Gary L. Francione debated Smith around a year ago on the Michael Medved radio show. Smith sees humans are more morally important than non-humans and periodically takes issue with the abolitionist approach to animal rights on his blog. In response to the whole Portman affair ( "Natalie Portman Puts Unborn Baby First by Abandoning Veganism"), Smith had this to say:
Vegans like to say that it is a perfectly healthy diet–more healthy than the biologically natural omnivorous human diet. While it can certainly be indulged healthily–if carefully managed with supplements, etc.–unlike our natural diet, it is potentially hazardous for pregnant women.
He then lapses into fear mongering by referring to the recent case in France where two flaky parents decided to ignore the recommendation of their doctor to seek further medical and nutritional counsel concerning their baby, opting to rely on things like cabbage poultices instead. As UWM Post writer Sarah Hanneken pointed out in a recent article ("Vegan parents in the media"), bad parenting is bad parenting and it's unfortunate that sensationalism-seeking mainstream media would rather jump on the word 'veganism' and vilify vegans to more easily sell a story than to actually present all of the facts. It's no surprise that someone as antagonistic to animal rights as Smith, then, would try to link a story such as this one to Portman's announcement, as if it could lend credence to his suggestion that veganism may be hazardous to pregnant women:
Good for her. She listened to what her body needed during gestation. Her baby matters more than “the animals.” Parents should not put their children at physical risk over ideology or belief.
So on the one hand, we have something like Natalie Portman's renunciation of veganism leading to the anti-vegans' spewing of more anti-vegan misinformation. Because of course, a celebrity's half-hearted reference to a vague possibility of nutritional deficiencies for pregnant vegan women who don't stay on top of how they're fuelling their bodies, combined with a story about a couple of flaky neglectful parents -- who happened to be vegan -- whose neglect led to the death of their child pretty much cement it that vegans opting to stay vegan through a pregnancy and to raise vegan babies (like Kenya, Anna and Woz and many more women I know) are putting "their [future] children at physical risk over ideology or belief". Riiiiiight.

On Not Really Ditching Veganism


Then there's the problem with "not-really-vegan" vegans hooking on to the news story to absolve themselves of deciding to become less than "not-really-vegan". For instance, on some baby blog today, a pregnant woman called Elisabeth Lambert who self-identified as vegan latched on to the news about Portman's having ditched veganism ("I'm pregnant, vegan, and all I want is a Junior Burger"):
So when Natalie Portman announced last week that her vegan diet had given way to the cravings she was experiencing as a result of her pregnancy, I breathed a sigh of relief. If Ms. Portman, Oscar-winning actress with millions in her bank account to spend on chefs, dieticians, nutritionists and health professionals, couldn’t keep up a vegan diet during pregnancy, then how was a mere mortal like myself expected to? And really, as long as your pregnancy is progressing well, and both you and your baby are healthy, that’s all that matters.
So you've got a pregnant woman who calls herself vegan attempting to absolve herself of having given in to a craving to eat a hamburger because the oh-so-famous Natalie Portman ditched veganism during her own pregnancy? (Why do I hear my mother's voice in my head asking me if I'd jump off a bridge if all of my friends did so?) Thankfully, before she reaches this conclusion, Lambert makes it crystal clear that her "veganism" was restricted to the consumption of food and that her "reasons for adopting a vegan diet were health-related, and not due to any ethical or moral stances". So when she writes:
The saltiness, the texture, the bun, the sauce…and the meat. Oh the glorious meatiness of the meat. That meat pattie [sic] was the best thing I’d eaten in forever, so much so, I let myself go into a burger stupor, knocking back burger after burger.
I'm a little less inclined to be shocked. Here was a woman who had merely avoided eating animal products up until that point, and very explicitly for her own personal health reasons. Rather than being some sort of ethical vegan confessional, she merely attempts to hop on the Portman story's bandwagon by admitting that instead of perhaps using animal products on her hair or to clean her counter, or to entertain herself, that she put some in her belly. "Meh," I think to myself. "Just another example of a non-vegan's seeking attention by co-opting the term 'vegan' and grabbing a headline to get her five minutes. The true disappointment with this article, however, comes at the end when Lambert asserts that there is a lack of information concerning veganism and pregnancies, which is just plain wrong. There is information to be had in everything from books on vegan nutrition to fact-sheets and guidelines by experts on various vegan websites, as well as on mainstream medical websites. Someone obviously forgot to use teh Google.

When the Vegans Who Think Unequivocally Promoting Veganism Is teh Evil Get Involved

Perhaps one of the worst things that ends up happening when some celebrity in the public eye gravitates from supporting veganism to reverting to using animals is when some animal advocates end up shaming other animal advocates for taking issue with it on any level, presenting what's too often valid criticism as making veganism seem too hard. Sara Best (self-described "mom
to two little omnivores and married to one dedicated carnivore") over at This Dish is Veg, for instance, wrote a piece ("Let's all take a breath and give Natalie Portman a break") in which she refers to vegans who'd engaged in discussing Portman's public about-face as having "erupted in a cacophony of chirping" and as "howling in response". With the same derision, Best denounces the criticism raised by vegans of pseudo-vegan Kathy Freston's attempts to water down veganism with her catch-word "veganish" and of vegans' clarifying that Bill Clinton's eating fish meant that he wasn't the vegan mainstream media was widely reporting him to be.
All this judgment flying around the purity of someone’s food choices scares regular people. [...] That soccer mom or that truck driver who heard about the benefits of a plant-based diet and thought about maybe trying it out, might just stick with the KFC if they think they might be attacked should they announce their intention to be vegan but be unable to stick to it a hundred per cent of the time. [...] It’s easier to just not try.
I don't even know where to start with this statement. First of all, the word "purity" almost only ever seems to get hauled out when someone is attempting to undermine anybody's holding veganism as a moral baseline when it comes to animal advocacy. It's used to shame those who refuse to condone "some" animal use as praiseworthy. But when Best emphasizes "food choices" and uses "plant-based diet" interchangeably with "vegan", it becomes clear that her interpretation of veganism does indeed allow for "some" animal use (i.e. that of animals not used for food), so it's no surprise that she would begin on this note.

Best goes on to tell advocates to keep their eye on the big picture, which she says is to reduce suffering for the non-human animals, animal industry workers and the very planet itself. (Funny that I thought that this big picture for most vegans actually involves an end to all non-human animal use -- not just a reduction in the suffering of some.) She points out that Portman didn't tell people to "load the kids into the minivan and hit McDonald’s for dinner" but that she's just admitted that she, herself, has gone back to consuming this or that animal part -- to treating animals as things that exist to satisfy her celebrity cravings. Best applauds Portman by saying that she's "still a vegetarian" and that "she still promotes conscious eating". But how the hell do either of these things matter? Whether you're eating animal flesh or eggs or dairy products, it's all the same to the animals enslaved for our use in the end. And as for this promoting "conscious eating" garbage, how on earth is it more ethical to use animals if you are actually aware -- "conscious" -- of what such use entails? One should hope that awareness would actually lead one to cease using animals and to not condone their use, rather than attempting to absolve oneself by claiming "I know where my food comes from".

Best claims that "what you choose to eat speaks volumes about what kinds of actions and policies you support and encourage". Well, Sara Best, what Portman chooses to eat speaks volumes about what kinds of actions and policies she supports and encourages. And your defending her and accusing vegans who've expressed concern over this and seems to speak volumes about what This Dish Is Veg supports and encourages -- and that doesn't seem to include not using animals or treating them like things. Instead of trying to silence valid criticism by conflating it with "attacking" and instead of accusing vegans of expecting those in the public eye who renounce veganism of expecting those celebrities to be "perfect vegans", how about recognizing that those vegans in question are actually worried about the fallout? How about recognizing that pregnant vegans aren't looking forward to having friends, family and even medical caregivers take off running with the ensuing media stories painting veganism as dangerous or portraying pregnant vegans as jeopardizing their future offspring? How about recognizing that shirking off the question of whether or not it's right to treat another sentient creature as a thing shouldn't be excused because of something as ludicrous as a food craving? Instead of accusing vegans discussing their concerns as "attacking" Portman, why not look at what really constitutes the big picture? How about not letting mainstream media -- as well as other animal advocates -- present veganism as involving any degree of deliberate unnecessary animal use?

The whole Portman debacle merely serves to drill home that as animal advocates and activists engaged in vegan education, we shouldn't focus on celebrities hopping on bandwagons. That being said, we really realistically need to make ourselves aware of the problems and additional work which may ensue when they hop off.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What Vegans Eat, Part II

I've written it often enough here: I love to make soup. As long as I have some basic herbs and spices stowed away, maybe a handful of dried beans or grains and a few odds and ends in the crisper, I can come up with something tasty and nutritious. The flexibility involved is nuts once you get the hang of figuring out complementary tastes and textures, and recipes for old favourites are often very forgiving.

I always get a little excited when I see some of my favourite food bloggers posting new ideas for recipes, since it gives me the opportunity to expand my own experimentation with a bit more confidence. I noticed a whole bunch over the past month when I did some looking around last week and decided to post them here separately, since there were so many of them to share:

Things to Do With Tomatoes

Renae from i eat food posted a recipe for a seafood-less Old Bay Soup which, even with its lengthy list of ingredients, sounds incredibly simple to make. I've never used Old Bay before and may give it a short starting with her recipe.

Liz at Food Snobbery Is My Hobbery ended up succumbing to a craving to whip up a Midnight Minestrone (see her photo at right) that sounds exactly like the sort of quick-fix soup I'd whip up close to the wee hours, as well.

Vegan Epicurean featured a variation on another old tomato-based favourite -- Creamy Mushroom and Tomato Soup. I've really not experimented much with cashews, although I see them come up often in recipes for things like fake cheeses as well as in various creamy dishes. I should really play around with them, since one of the people for whom I end up cooking most has a bit of a soy intolerance; it would be nice to explore alternatives to soy-based products.

Speaking of Creamy Dishes

Meg at The Snarky Chickpea shared a recipe for Potato-y Soup for One a few weeks back, which was an adaptation of one she'd found on a friend's blog. Having recently started trying Daiya, myself, I'm curious now about using it with potatoes and particularly in potato soup. I agree with her that cheddar Daiya might be a more interesting addition to this.

Allyson at Manifest Vegan posted something I tried making this past weekend and adored -- Carrot Cilantro Soup (see her photo to the right). It's so simple to make and its flavour is so different from the usual standbys I prepare. This will definitely be one to haul out to try on dinner guests in the future if I can just figure out what to include in the meal to round it all out.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Vegans Eat, Part I

It's been a while since I've checked out my favourite food blogs to see what folks have been preparing and sharing. I've been busy with work and school (I love that I can say that I'm busy with school again!) so web-gawking time has mostly been spent socializing or volunteering here and there. Plus, to be honest, I've had so little free time and tempting myself to try out new recipes would invariably have just left me with even less free time, which would have left me cranky (and the cats deserve better than a cranky can opener). A couple of hours to spare last night, however, left me digging up a few things I may try out over the weekend.

Salads!


Angela at Oh She Glows posted an adapted recipe for
Cilantro Lime Spelt Berry Salad yesterday (see her photo to the right) and that post ended up being a high-protein salad pay dirt. She provided links in it for the following salads she's been posting over the past while:

Carrot Raisin Spelt Berry w/Cumin and Cilantro, Cinnamon Sweet Potato Chickpea, High Protein Lentil, Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean, Buckwheat Taboulleh, as well as her Back on Track Wheatberry and Bean.

Absolute Decadence


I've been spending most of the past few months focused on getting into better shape so that I can jump back into long-distance trail cycling this summer. Part of that has involved things like running "needless" errands just for an excuse to get on the bike for an extra half hour. Part of it has also involved spending a lot more time being mindful of how I fuel my body, opting for lighter fare and reaching for the bag of baby carrots rather than the bag of potato chips at the grocery store. Every once in a while, though, a little bit of indulging is fun. That being said, my eyes still widened in awe a little as I contemplated making some of the recent decadent offerings I spied, even if some of them were still quite healthy :


Kelly Garbato shared a recipe of hers a few weeks ago that made my jaw drop. (No,
really. It did.) It was for Cheesy Vegan Tater Tot Pizza and to kick it up a notch, she posted the results of her partner Shane's further tinkering with the recipe and came up with a second version, which she refers to as Cheesy Vegan Tater Tot Garbage Plate Pizza. She recommended a bib when eating the second version, and I don't think she was kidding.

Ordinarily, when I think of queso dip, I think of fat; after all, the stuff is usually prepared with gobs of cheese. However, Meg over at
The Snarky Chickpea shared a recipe around a week ago for a Vegan Queso Dip that looked absolutely delicious and she used almond milk and nutritional yeast to make up its "cheesy" component.

Allyson at
Manifest Vegan left more than a few vegan friends and acquaintances of mine drooling after I tweeted her recipe for Besan Fries a few weeks ago (see her photo to the right). At first glance, seeing seasoned deep-fried flour left me thinking these babies would be oil-drenched. I mostly oven-roast or sauté -- deep-frying is something with which I haven't had much experience in over a decade. A couple of vegan friends assured me that the high temperature of the oil would seal the surface of each besan fry, leaving it crispy.

Manifest Vegan was the source of another oh-my-gawd-this-looks-fabulous treat: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Tartlets.

(Check back over the next few days for Part II of this post, which will at the very least focus in part on sharing links to all of the wonderful soup and stew recipes which have been posted by vegan food bloggers over the past month!)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Point of View

Point of View

Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless,
Christmas dinner's dark and blue,
When you stop and try to see it
From the turkey's point of view.

Sunday dinner isn't funny
Easter feasts are just bad luck,
When you see it from the viewpoint
Of the chicken or the duck.

Oh, how I once loved tuna salad,
Pork and lobsters, lamb chops, too,
Till I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner's point of view.

-- Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Veganism in the Media

In completely unsurprising news, another popular PETA-beloved vegan celeb has recently outed herself as having abandoned veganism. In an interview this morning with Atlanta-based Q100's "The Bert Show", actress Natalie Portman admitted that she resumed consuming eggs and dairy at the start of her pregnancy, citing nutritional concerns and convenience as her reasons for doing so:

"I actually went back to being vegetarian when I became pregnant, just because I felt like I wanted that stuff."

[...]

"I know there are people who do stay vegan," she added, "but I think you have to just be careful, watch your iron levels and your B12 levels and supplement those if there are things you might be low in in your diet."

[...]
"If you're not eating eggs, then you can't have cookies or cake from regular bakeries, which can become a problem when that's all you want to eat," she laughed.
(ETA: Portman was apparently described by Vogue magazine in an interview in December as a "vegetarian at home and a vegan when out", so although the media has been all over this story this morning, it's not exactly breaking news. It seems to be the first time she's gone into detail about it though, as well as the first time that she's blamed it on her pregnancy.

A lot of vegans get really excited when a celebrity starts self-identifying as vegan publicly, saying that it's "good exposure" for veganism. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that every single word concerning veganism that spills out of a celeb's mouth is assumed by the public to be accurate (even when it isn't) and then when the celeb invariably hops off the bandwagon (and depending on the reasons given), the general public sees veganism as too hard, unhealthy, temporary, et al. This story is all over the news this morning and now we're going to have people thinking that vegan pregnancies are risky and that food cravings trump ethics.)

---------------------------------------------------------

In a post last October, I wrote about a previous piece by The UWM Post's Sarah Hanneken in which she had attempted to correct various assumptions made about vegans. I came across another solid article by her this morning ("Vegan parents in the media"). In it, she criticizes mainstream media for choosing to malign veganism instead of sticking to the facts and of doing so to pander to the general public's hunger for sensationalism. She writes that
mainstream news media has become nothing more than a subset of the entertainment industry. They have mastered the art of storytelling – drawing in their subscribers with dramatic tales, complete with heroes, villains and urban mythology.
Using two news stories involving trials in which vegan parents were found responsible for the deaths of their offspring, she elucidates how bad parenting is simply bad parenting, pointing out how the media focused on a catchword rather than provide further significant details to accurately contextualize what occurred. It's definitely worth a read!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

What This Vegan Eats

Even without using a cookbook or trying to concoct anything elaborate, it's so easy to slap together simple, tasty and nourishing plant-based meals. Here are a few things things I prepared over the past few days using whatever I had on hand.

A "whatever's in the fridge stir-fry with celery, green beans, re-hydrated organic TVP chunks, udon noodles, corn and scallions, tossed together with tamari, ginger and some sesame oil.

Vegetable soup with diced tomatoes, spinach, onions, broken noodles, celery, kidney beans, fava beans, black-eyed peas, green beans, corn, carrots and peas. I seasoned it with sambar masala. I really have to take a crack at making actual sambar sometime soon.

Lima bean soup with frozen vegetables thrown in (I was lazy) and seasoned with rosemary, crushed garlic and dill weed.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Relationships Revisited

How We Sometimes Question

The topic of where to set boundaries when it comes to romantic entanglements is one that cycles in and out of discussion more often than
most for vegans. The question which invariably introduces it is something along the lines of "Would you date or otherwise get involved with a non-vegan?" and the responses to it--and the tangents that fire off from it--vary considerably. We ask each other about the non-vegans we (either have or might) let into our lives. Sometimes the discussion concerns those who have gone vegan while in the midst of a relationship with a non-vegan and who perhaps end up feeling a weight when this person doesn't "get it" and remains non-vegan. On the other hand, some of us ask each other--ask ourselves--whether we should or even could become involved with a non-vegan.

How We Sometimes Respond

For a sampling of how widely opinions differ and for a good handful of shared anecdotes, have a look at the comments left in response to a post I'd written around the topic a year and a half ago. They range from stories shared by vegans who are either dating or married to non-vegans, to assertions from others who are not that they would rather spend the rest of their lives alone than become involved with a non-vegan. Some felt hopeful that patience in educating another would bring him/her around and others insisted that not making it explicitly and repeatedly clear to one's partner (or potential partner) that his/her non-veganism is unacceptable is tantamount to condoning non-veganism in general on a wider scale.

We're each responsible for establishing and maintaining our own personal boundaries when it comes to our interaction with others. And the truth is that it can often be hard to deal with the overwhelming prevalence of speciesism around us--a speciesism which underlies the actions of the majority of those around us, whether acquaintances, coworkers, family members or even our closest friends. I admit that it can sometimes be hard on the head to interact with others around me who still believe that non-human animals are somehow ours to use regardless of their sentience; the rest that's involved in being vegan is so easy in comparison.

Differences and Similiarities, Oh My!

It makes me sad to watch loved ones, particularly those with whom I've discussed veganism, continue to consume animal products altogether quite nonchalantly. The thing is, though, that for most of my life I was one one of those people who didn't give a second thought to using animals. Even after first becoming conscious of some of the horrors inherent in the raising and slaughter of animals, I didn't immediately go vegan. It took time to wear away at the compartmentalization in which I'd been engaging for so many years--the same sort of compartmentalization that facilitates the perpetuation of speciesism and entrenches it in the lives of so many. That I can admit this to myself leaves me able to better understand why many of those who are closest to me continue to use animals, even though they're well aware of exactly why I don't anymore.

Speciesism is a form of discrimination, not unlike racism, sexism or heterosexism. However, speciesism fits like a second skin as almost all of us are taught from the moment we're born that non-human animals are different and that this somehow justifies our commodification of them. Over 95% of us take off running with this and spend most of our lives consuming accordingly. Our parents taught us that it's perfectly normal to treat and use some animals as if they were things; they, in turn, were taught the same by their own parents. We all come by it honestly and then spend our entire lives having it reinforced by sociocultural norms and the advertising campaigns of those who profit from providing us with the parts and secretions of non-humans. This doesn't excuse it, nor does it somehow make it any more "right" that it exists or that the overwhelming majority of humans haven't even thought to question it too closely. But it does put it into perspective and it does help explain the compartmentalization that continues with those around us. In many ways, it also emphasizes the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done right now to educate non-vegans about why it's wrong to use non-human animals.

Choices

As I stated previously, I think that it's up to each and every one of us to establish our own boundaries when it comes to our interaction with others. Some who've gone vegan choose to maintain an emotional distance from non-vegans; some don't. We all have to eke out our lives forming meaningful bonds with others around us and we each have to know our own limitations in terms of what would enable or hinder forming those meaningful bonds. No two lives are alike and the complexity of the mesh of relationships we weave or into which we're drawn as we exist covers so much ground.

When it comes to the choices I make when I let others into my life, I can't help but factor in that for almost 90% of my life I wasn't a vegan. And even after having been presented with the facts by some, it took me years to transition from being a lacto-vegetarian to finally committing myself to veganism. I think that there are so many traits in another person that constitute what goes into the plus column when we're learning to know who or what that person is that I would find it hard to dismiss a person based on his not already having reached the same conclusions about certain things that took me so long to reach, myself. This certainly doesn't mean that I would choose to overlook another's use of non-human animals; over the years, I've grown more comfortable discussing veganism with people in my life in a pretty straightforward way and the subject would surely not be side-stepped. Basically, I think that it takes time to suss other people out to see what it is that makes them who they are (and even of whether what that is could expand to embrace veganism). All things being equal, I would definitely prefer to let someone into my life who'd already reached that point of clarity that led to my own going vegan, but those opportunities are less than scarce.

It's worrisome to me how some advocates who assert their own chosen refusal to involve themselves romantically with non-vegans occasionally end up communicating (whether inadvertently or not) to those vegans who do, that in doing so, they're perhaps not serious enough about veganism. When vegans sometimes say to me that involving oneself with a non-vegan is no different than involving oneself with a racist, sexist or heterosexist, I have to wonder if that bright point of clarity that triggered their own decision to go vegan left them a little blind to their own journey towards veganism and to the fact that speciesism is something that doesn't even occur on a conscious level for most people. That animals are ours to use seems as much of a no-brainer to most as air being ours to breathe. Sometimes we're oblivious until we have the obvious pointed out to us. I know that I was.

I understand that some vegans would rather never allow themselves to become emotionally attached to a person who is non-vegan or who doesn't become vegan shortly after having been presented with the facts about the brutality and injustice inherent in animal use. I obviously respect that. It seems like a rational way to ensure consistency and harmony in one's life. I hope, however, that we never get to the point where those who hold on to hope are made to feel ashamed for recognizing a little bit of themselves in others and for opting to attempt to educate and guide--whatever the emotional risks. I hope that as vegans we can continue to offer each other support and encouragement, regardless of the decisions we each make concerning whom to let in and whom to love.