Sunday, October 30, 2011

What This Vegan Eats

It's not hard to tell what sort of food kick I've been on by eyeballing photos of some of the dishes I make. I've definitely been on a tahini and nutritional yeast kick lately, using it in salads and as a spread and dip for sandwiches, crackers and raw vegetables. (I have a lengthy tahini post in the works that I hope to wrap up sometime this week. Consider yourselves forewarned!) Avocados were on sale in most local supermarkets earlier this month, so garlicky guacamole showed up again and again. So did Thai seasonings as I've been working my way through a new favourite cookbook and learning about using curry pastes and various Thai ingredients. Here are a few things that showed up on my table these past few weeks:

Hot organic fair trade coffee with loads of plain almond milk. Shredded broccoli/carrots, cherry tomatoes, hot banana peppers and tofu (marinated in soy sauce and toasted sesame oil) on romaine lettuce. Sprinkled with ground flax, garlic gomasio and a bit of rice wine vinegar.

Curried sweet potato soup with chickpeas (seasoned w/curry paste, amchoor powder, Indian chili, cilantro and lime). Gardein strips on a toasted kamut roll with guacamole, Vegenaise and (did I happen to mention that I like) hot banana peppers.

Shredded kale tossed with tahini, nutritional yeast, crushed garlic & a pinch of salt. Topped with green bell pepper, tomato & scallions.

Gardein strips with homemade guacamole, salsa & a sprinkle of dried chipotle in a whole wheat pita.
Split green pea soup with brown rice, turnip, carrots, kale, celery, peas, herbes salées, garlic, liquid Mesquite smoke and ground black pepper.

Green Thai curry, this time with onions, zucchini, green beans and red bell pepper. It gets hotter and hotter each time I make it. I love it!

Sesame noodles with garlic & ginger. Organic tofu marinated overnight in sesame oil & soya sauce, dredged through flour/nooch/crushed ancient grains cereal and pan-fried. Onions, zucchini and red bell pepper chunks stir-fried with Massaman curry paste.

Improvised super spicy green Thai curry w/sweet potatoes, marinated tofu, red bell peppers, onions and water chestnuts, coconut milk and finely minced dates (because I had no brown sugar on hand). Served on Thai rice and topped with chopped cilantro (not shown, obviously).

Tomato, avocado, Spanish onion, radishes, kale and parsley on a bed of lettuce and later drizzled with a garlicky lemon vinaigrette and ground flax.

Thai soup seasoned with green curry paste, keffir lime leaves and galangal. Onions, broccoli, green beans, red bell peppers and quinoa. Toasted coconut on top.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm Vegan: Gary L. Francione

Watch part of the I'm Vegan documentary project below, as Prof. Gary L. Francione talks about his own journey to veganism and discusses the inherent differences between the animal welfare and animal rights movements:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meat-Free McCartney

Animal advocates on various social networking site have been getting excited over the news that Paul McCartney (formerly of some band or other) has just released a cookbook. Why the excitement? Some say that it's another step forward for nonhuman animals. Me? I say it's another step backwards, thanks to another well-intentioned celebrity who doesn't understand that animals aren't ours to use.

The Meat Free Monday Cookbook -- by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney -- has just been released to further promote McCartney's campaign (i.e. its namesake) to get people to not eat meat one day a week. According to The Telegraph, royalties from the book will go directly into funding for the ongoing Meat Free Monday campaign McCartney's been promoting for the past few years now, whose greatest accomplishment thus far seems to have been to make people feel better about themselves for meaninglessly shuffling around various animal products so that they omit one particular type one day a week. "But meat-free Mondays promote veganism!" I was assured earlier today by a fellow vegan. "You're being too cynical," I was told by another.

Not unlike the North American Meatless Monday fad, however, the Meat Free Monday campaign doesn't concern itself with persuading people to go vegan. It doesn't really concern itself all that much with animal use at all, actually. The McCartney family's statement from the official website:

"By giving up meat for one day each week you can save money, reduce your environmental impact and live a healthier life.

In 2006, a United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, highlighted the environmental impact of meat-eating and the importance of making more environmentally and socially conscious food choices. In 2009, we launched the Meat Free Monday campaign as a simple and straightforward idea to show everyone the value of eating less meat – and to make it easier for us all to do so.

We’re not asking you to give up meat completely, we’re encouraging you to do your bit to help protect our planet."
Where do animal rights fit into all of this? How does this campaign purportedly promote veganism? Right! It doesn't. In fact, the recipes link on the official site leads to a veritable smorgasbord of animal products, with milk, cream, butter, a seemingly never-ending variety of cheeses, eggs and honey.

If you have any lingering doubts about where veganism fits into McCartney's campaign, a couple of preview glances on Amazon UK's page for the book should clear things up for you. The very first recipes listed from Page 19 of the book are for Blueberry Pancakes (which include unsalted butter, organic milk, buttermilk and organic eggs), along with one for falafel and another for quinoa salad (both of which are free of animal ingredients). The second page of recipes listed (Page 44) lists recipes for a dish called Laban Bil Bayd (which contains unsalted butter, Greek yogurt and organic eggs), then an Asparagus Tray Bake (with crème fraîche, Parmesan cheese and eggs) and then a final recipe for Lemon Pistachio Biscotti (containing eggs). The third page of recipes listed (Page 159) lists recipes for Poached Quince with Vanilla (with a suggestion to serve it with yogurt), Puy Lentils with Roasted Red Peppers and Goat's Cheese (containing the aforementioned goat's cheese) and then Cheese and Chive Potato Jackets (which include butter, organic milk and Cheddar cheese as ingredients). The very last page of recipes featured (Page 222) lists three recipes which happen to be free of animal ingredients. Basically, out of 12 recipes from the book happening to be featured on the Amazon UK site, over half of them use animal ingredients -- easily avoidable animal ingredients.

If you're vegan and thinking of picking something up for a non-vegan friend or family member, please don't waste your time or money buying this book. There are so very many excellent vegan cookbooks available on the market right now. Why waste an opportunity to show someone you love how delicious food can be without animal products? A book like McCartney's accomplishes nothing but to to reinforce to the public that animals are ours to use and that food somehow requires animal products to be tasty. We know better, though, don't we?

Help your non-vegan friends and family connect the dots about what we owe nonhuman animals; please don't follow Paul McCartney's lead and merely confuse them further.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Veganism 101: Back to the Basics

I think it's pretty clear that most of the posts on My Face Is on Fire are written for folks who are either already vegan or who are, on some level, already making the transition. I don't spend a lot of time writing persuasively about the basics of going vegan, though, and it's something that's nagged at me for a while now. I can't help but wonder if spending so much time writing for people over the past few years who are generally close to being on the same page as I am on many advocacy issues -- people who are at the very least conscious of the pervasive speciesism in this world -- has led to my stumbling into fewer discussions with people who are curious, but for whom "vegan" is still a strange and misunderstood word and for whom going vegan may seem daunting.

Writing with a vegan or already-moving-towards-vegan readership in mind has left me not spending as much time as I should reminding myself of what it's like to be taking those initial steps towards going vegan, and of the bumps and obstacles sometimes encountered during those initial stages. It's easy for me to forget the wide range of questions -- from the simplest to the most complex -- that sometimes creep up at the strangest of times for new vegans, particularly since my own veganism has sort of become second-nature to me over the years. At this point, family and friends have at least a basic understanding of my needs and if not always an understanding, at least a begrudging
acceptance of my choices. Between this and my spending a fair amount of time engaged in online discussions with other vegans, I think it's become too easy to forget what new vegans walk into as they begin to make the changes in their own lives to reject animal exploitation and often find themselves answering to others about those choices while sometimes looking for answers, themselves.

I
do have ample opportunity to have the same types of run-ins with non-vegans and it does indeed happen, but answering many of the same questions that pop up over and over again (e.g. "Where do you get your protein?") has left me pretty much tossing out answers almost by rote. Situations that used to feel awkward or even confrontational are no longer a big deal. I live in a mostly rural Canadian province whose forests and streams ensure that most who grow up here take it as a given that killing non-human animals is "fun". Even with the increased frequency of the word "vegan" coming up in mainstream media, I still get a lot of blank looks when I drop the word, and even more blank looks if I mention my reasons for being vegan. More often than not, I just get labeled a big softy who's too sensitive to deal with what's regarded as the "normal use" of other animals. I can shrug that off now, but I realize that I need to remind myself of what this experience is like for someone who is newly transitioning to veganism in what sometimes feels like being under a microscope with the people you love most and the people who are in your daily life expecting you to have a perfect answer to each and every question they throw at you -- and sometimes promptly challenging or discounting your answers.

The truth is that I say that veganism has become second-nature to me, but I mean this more in terms of knowing basic questions to ask or certain items or activities to avoid when situations arise. In terms of dealing with other non-vegans, when I
do let someone new into my life on a level which surpasses the occasional crossing of paths over a cup of coffee or plate of food -- someone I'd like to actually let in and maybe consider keeping in my life for a spell, I do get a sharp reminder of what it's like to have to introduce someone from scratch to the idea of my being vegan in a way that elicits memories of the tentative awkwardness with which I used to sometimes field queries from non-vegans around me when I'd first gone vegan. It's a damn good reminder.

A few months ago, I'd picked the brains of some fellow vegan friends and acquaintances to ask them what, in hindsight, they'd wished they'd been given as bits of advice when they'd first gone vegan themselves. It was interesting to find myself reading some things I hadn't consciously weighed in many years (as well as of a few things I'd never really weighed at all). The responses covered a wide range of aspects of transitioning to veganism and reflected common-sense, a wizened sense of rolling with the punches, and in some cases a little bit of shared self-deprecatory humour. I figured I'd take some of those results and weave them into a
series of posts, starting with this one.

Taking the Plunge?


So you've spent some time mulling over what's involved in the human use of non-human animals and you've decided that the only choice you can make at this point is to go vegan. Maybe you'd been wondering what motivated a friend or family member to go vegan, or you'd been wrestling with and weighing the arguments which may have been presented to you by a vegan you know. Maybe you'd come across a story about a specific case of animal abuse in a newspaper and decided to explore things further, only to have it hit you that the specific case was actually reflective of the more wide-scale horrors in fact inherent in animal exploitation. Maybe it was something as simple as ending up at the vet's with a non-human family member in crisis, and suddenly thinking to yourself how strange it is that you could adore your cat so much and feel so much distress over his potential loss, yet think nothing of grabbing a hamburger and milkshake on the way home while stressed out over Fluffy's being in surgery. Regardless of what brought you to this point and of how long it took you to get to it, you've made the decision: You're committing yourself to going vegan.

Research

Going vegan can indeed be fairly easy once you've made the decision to do so, and that decision is without a doubt the right choice. The thing is though, that as with any sort of significant change in consumption habits of any sort, it does require that you do your homework and inform yourself about nutrition. It's also important
that you actually follow-through on what you learn -- that you apply that knowledge. It also requires that you consciously re-examine various aspects of your life to identify where animal exploitation occurs and how you can refrain from being a participant in it. What's funny is that what may seem very obvious to some may not be so clear to others at first. Remember that when each one of us goes vegan, we undo a lifetime's worth of generally taking most animal use for granted.

Track down a book, web page or shmancy app for your phone that can provide you with a list of hidden (and not-so-hidden) animal ingredients. Familiarize yourself with some of the more common ones and get into the habit of reading the ingredients listed on items at the store. This may seem time-consuming at first, but you'll find it getting easier as time progresses.
I used to carry around a little copy of the E.G. Smith Collective's Animal Ingredients A-Z. To make life a little easier and to dodge a huge chunk of those hidden animal ingredients, try opting for more unprocessed foods -- whole grains, legumes, fresh produce, nuts and seeds. Experiment with these with or without the help of a few good popular vegan cookbooks. Spend some time reading vegan food blogs.

Spend some time learning about other forms of animal use. Contrary to what the mainstream media and some PETA-adored celebrities would like you to think, veganism isn't just about what you put in your mouth; going vegan means eschewing all forms of animal consumption and exploitation, where reasonable and not just those animals whose flesh and secretion some call "food". Animals are used to make clothing and furniture, they're exploited for human entertainment, they're used for the testing of a wide range of ingredients that end up in things like household products and cosmetics. Animal use is everywhere and the more you learn about when and where it does occur, the easier it'll be for you to make the transition. It may feel overwhelming at first, but arming yourself with information is key to making a smooth transition.


Support

Look around to find a vegan group in your area. Barring that, find an online vegan forum or Facebook page or group where you can go and actually talk to other vegans about whether certain ingredients are vegan, whether certain less obvious activities involve animal exploitation, and where you can get tips or information on substitutes from others who've walked in your fabulous new non-leather shoes. There are many animal advocacy organizations right now offering vegan "kickstart" or "pledge" programs where for a limited period of time, they will hook you up with a vegan mentor of sorts -- a go-to person for any questions you may have -- and set you up with everything from nutritional info to meal plans for anywhere from 1-4 weeks. The Vegan Society has its Vegan Pledge program, for instance. For those living in the Philadelphia or Phoenixville areas in Pennsylvania or near Baltimore, Maryland, Philly's Peace Advocacy Network (PAN) offers a similar program, but with a focus on "in person" meetings, cooking classes, guest speakers along with the meal plans and mentoring. The Boston Vegan Association (BVA) offers newcomer orientation sessions and monthly meetings, guest speakers, invaluable information resources on its website and a discussion forum for the exchange of further information. The bottom line is that there's information out there and that there are vegans who are ready and willing to help you make the transition. Make contact with them! Heck, if you have any questions about any aspect of going vegan, feel free to drop me a line. If I don't know, I'll at least know where to look and would be glad to help.

Oh, and...

Cravings (if you have 'em) will subside. Better yet, if you do get the urge for this or that dish that you used to enjoy, there's a good chance that some fabulous food blogger has long-since veganized it and that the non-vegan main or secondary ingredients which would have been used in a given recipe have tasty vegan equivalents available on the market or are even altogether unnecessary. Hopefully, as you settle into being vegan, you'll also learn to look beyond the notion that most non-vegans hold that meals need to revolve around a chunk of animal protein and you'll learn to explore recipes which don't require vegan facsimiles of those chunks of animal protein. That being said, there are tons of substitutes for most animal products available on most store shelves right now, particularly for meat and dairy and whether or not you choose to use them is up to you. Whatever you do, if you poke around, you'll see that there's what seems to be an infinite number of scrumptious vegan recipes to be discovered, whether online, in cookbooks or by word of mouth in vegan discussion forums. Get out there and explore!

Cut Yourself Some Slack!

Nobody expects you to be an expert overnight. You may choose to start shuffling animal products out of your life gradually or you may clear your fridge, closet and medicine cabinet and go vegan immediately. Chances are that you'll fall somewhere in-between those two scenarios and the thing is that regardless of how quickly you decide to transition and of how determined you are, you may very well slip up and find yourself inadvertently and unintentionally consuming an animal product. You may miss an obscure ingredient on a package and suddenly find yourself noticing and identifying it as you're throwing the balled up plastic away. You may end up taking a huge bite out of one of the cookies a coworker's brought to the office after hearing assurances that it's vegan, only to find yourself then hearing "You eat eggs, don't you?" just as you've swallowed that bite. Accidents happen. Don't beat yourself up, but instead, learn from them and move forward.

To learn more about veganism and animal rights, please visit the Abolitionist Approach website.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What This Vegan Eats

The thing about eating is that it provides a never-ending series of opportunities to snap photos of awesome vegan food. I mean, barring coming down with the flu and curling up beneath a blanket for a day or trying a fast, I end up making something or other pretty much at least every other day or so. Some things look (and taste!) less spectacular than others, but hopefully sharing the photos here can at least serve some sort of purpose, even if only to give folks some ideas for easy things to whip up or to show others considering veganism that eating vegan by no means mandates self-deprivation.

Swedish gingersnap cookies, fair trade coffee with maple syrup and plain almond milk.

Chunky tomato sauce with onions, carrots, banana peppers, kale, garlic, basil and red pepper flakes. (I had this for dinner over baby lima beans -- yummy!)

"Garlicky Cheezy Kale" and tabbouleh with pea shoots.

Green Thai coconut curry with broccoli, carrots, onions, tofu, water chestnuts and chow mein noodles ('cause I'm not a huge fan of rice noodles).

Pita pizza topped with homemade red sauce (seasoned w/crushed garlic, fennel, basil, dried chipotle), pickled hot banana peppers, green olives, onions and cheddar Daiya. Salad with lettuce, Spanish onion, radishes, sweet banana peppers from the garden and parsley tossed with a sweet onion/lime vinaigrette.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Vegan Eats in Halifax: Heartwood

I recently spent some time in the Halifax, Nova Scotia area -- old stomping grounds for me from my first few years out of high school. It involved my first year at university followed by another year of spending too much time spinning vinyl at a college radio station and getting sneaked into bars for gigs by the radio station's program director and some of the other volunteers there at the time. I was still figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up (and go figure that I still haven't quite figured that out). My time in Halifax preceded my initial interest in vegetarianism and my ensuing transition to veganism. However, I was aware even then of the existence of one vegetarian restaurant at that time, Satisfaction Feast (a Sri Chimnoy restaurant, methinks), which as it turns out, closed its doors permanently just days before what was to be my first visit to the city in over 10 years and my very first as a vegan.

Thankfully, though, Halifax does indeed have its share of fairly vegan-friendly restaurants (although none of them, as far as I know, are actually vegan). One of those is a place called Heartwood located on Quinpool Rd within a short walk of downtown Halifax. It's described as "vegetarian" and "organic" and when I mentioned the place to my host, he piped up that he'd had the most amazing tofu scramble breakfast there and that he'd love to go again. All it took was one look at their fabulous menu for me to decide that I was all in. I'd not only love to go there once, but determined after a few glances at the menu and then letting the indecision over the options set in that I would undoubtedly want to visit the restaurant a few times during my stay.

I live in a tiny city which up until a few months ago, had nothing even resembling a vegetarian restaurant, never mind a vegan restaurant. A juice bar and self-described bistro opened up earlier this summer, offering salad and a daily soup option, dehydrated kale chips, a few raw dessert balls and a rotating mostly-raw dinner option based on whatever local ingredients the chef has on hand. I've checked the place out a few times and have enjoyed it, but have been frustrated at the lack of options and the never knowing from one day to the next what dish or dishes would be available. The few times I do eat out locally, I usually gravitate towards vegan options at a handful of decidedly non-vegan ethnic restaurants. Heartwood offered up a wide variety of sandwiches, bowls, a veggie burger, a burrito, a tofu dish, some salads and a bunch of vegan dessert choices.

The day after my arrival in the Halifax area, my host Mike and I hit a few farmers markets and lucked out, after munching on a couple of large but somewhat disappointingly bland potato samosas, to stumble upon a table set up by the operator of The Kind Cookie, featuring vegan and gluten-free baked goods. We each gobbled down a whoopie pie after some tentative initial bites and discussion of the butter-cream-iness of their filling and of how different they were from the super-sweet versions of homemade whoopie pies we'd each enjoyed as kids. We agreed, however, that they were quite tasty. We scooped up a small bag's worth of peanut butter and oatmeal-raisin cookies and ended up taking a stroll outside the Halifax market to enjoy the sun and gaze at the harbour, only to find ourselves dipping into said bag to discover that the cookies -- teff flour based -- were quite possibly some of the best cookies we'd each had. They were awesome and I wish I'd had a camera on hand to photograph them. If you're ever in the Halifax area, do visit the Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market and try them out. I digress, though...

After a day spent enjoying the farmers markets, the ferry across the Halifax harbour for a stroll in nearby Dartmouth, a return ferry and then stints at JWD -- a favourite used bookstore from back in my college days -- to pick up vegan (for my host) and vegan-friendly ethnic (for me) cookbooks and at the Strange Adventures comic book store to gawk at boardgames, we decided to hop in the car and head over to Heartwood to get a late lunch. Although they serve an all-day brunch on Saturdays, we decided to forgo the Organic Tofu Scramble with its Herbed Organic Potatoes and Sourdough Toast. No, we gave in to the temptation of splitting Heartwood's Classic Vegan Pizza, ordering their Guacamole and Hummous Platter first. The waitress brought us water and delicious cups of strong coffee with a tiny dispenser of soy milk to indulge in while waiting. The platter arrived shortly thereafter, large and luscious with sliced red bell pepper, cucumber and zucchini slices, organic corn chips and garlicky foccacia to dip into generous bowls of yummy hummus and rich guacamole.

We were still picking away at the crisp vegetables and dredging them through the dips when our pizza arrived. With its thin spelt crust coated in splotches of red sauce, the thing was fully-loaded with roasted red bell pepper, spinach, marinated portabello mushrooms, artichokes, (what I think was tamari) marinated tofu and was covered with dollops of the most incredibly tangy tofu-garlic sauce. I suspect there was some sort of cashew and lemon thing going on with that sauce. I should have asked. We decided then and there that it was quite possibly the best pizza either of us had ever had. I've been a pizza-addict for many, many years and due to the lack of vegan options in my city and my general dissatisfaction with vegan frozen pizzas in terms of taste, topping amount and price, I've made my own pizza -- with homemade pizza crust or with large pita bread -- for years. This pizza was simply awesome. It was incredibly rich and my greatest regret is that I did not have a camera on-hand to photograph it before we devoured it. It's definitely too much for one person to handle in one sitting, we agreed. When next I return to Halifax, it will be a priority for me. I would travel to Halifax again, just to enjoy this pizza. By the time we were done and the waitress tried to entice us with dessert options, we realized fairly quickly that anything over and above that pizza would have been uncomfortably excessive. We paid the bill and left, still discussing the awesomeness of the pizza, even as we agreed that we were both more than full and sort of in need of naps to compensate.

I didn't get a chance to return to Heartwood for a meal, but did take advantage of a jaunt into Halifax later that week to swing by to taste-test their supposedly infamous Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake. The photos in this post were all taken on that day, incidentally, which was a Wednesday afternoon just after 3 pm. (When my host Mike and I had popped in on the previous Saturday afternoon, the restaurant had been full. When I walked in on Wednesday, a couple of the booths were occupied and several customers came and left with takeout orders. There did end up being a lull, which left me happily snapping away for a while, thus the photos.) The cheesecake was priced at $7.25 a slice. I ordered some, along with the coffee I'd loved so much on the previous visit. My first few bites of the cheesecake were disappointing. It was creamy-rich, but the chocolate-y taste reminded me of that sort of half-hearted result you get with carob or with cheap frosting. It was really sweet, but not fulfilling. The coffee, however, complemented that well, and as I picked away at the slice and got closer to its heel, the peanut butter kicked in and was just super. I sat there munching and sipping away, watching passersby on Quinpool while old 1920s jazz played quietly, really loving being there. And hell, it looked lovely before I tore into it.

Would I get it again? Likely not. I've since been told by Haligonian vegans that The Wooden Monkey (another vegan-friendly but non-vegan restaurant) is the place to go for mind-blowing vegan cheesecake in Halifax. I will, however, definitely revisit Heartwood when I hit Halifax again, if only to allow myself to taste that incredible vegan pizza again and to actually branch out a bit and try a few other entrees on their menu. I did end up visiting The Wooden Monkey later that evening, but it was cheesecake-free and that story's best left for another post.

Heartwood Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Speciesism at Home

I've been following the activities of a local chapter of a trap-neuter-return (TNR) group called ca-r-ma. At some point a few years ago, a former coworker had posted about them on Facebook and I had become intrigued, since the work in which they engaged stood out a little from the activities of the two local SPCA shelters. I discovered soon enough, however -- and somewhat sadly -- that a common thread they share with the SPCA shelters in my city concerns the manner in which they choose to raise funds for their organization.

I was picking up some cat litter at the store a few days ago when I noticed a colourful poster up on a bulletin board promoting a "Harvest Supper" to be held on Saturday, October 22. Then I noticed that proceeds from the supper were going to ca-r-ma, as well as to The Chickadee Cat Club. Items listed as being included in the supper were baked ham, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, homemade brown bread, mustard pickles and pie. Yep. They are indeed planning to serve up the flesh of one species of animal (i.e. pigs) to raise money for two groups associated with another species (i.e. cats).

This chapter of ca-r-ma has been partnering up with The Chickadee Cat Club often over the past year, which also baffles me somewhat. The club portrays itself as a group devoted to educating people about cat welfare and "responsible pet ownership", when according to its Facebook page, The Chickadee Cat Club is also a Charter Club of the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) and -- how I know it best from observing its goings on in my city -- it regularly hosts cat shows where breeders show up to promote their services as people gawk at caged cats, purebred or otherwise.

I'd brought this up with a friend who is involved with them and her response to me was to insist that most of the money they raise through these cat shows goes directly to ca-r-ma and to the two local SPCA shelters. This misses the point, however, that it is wrongheaded to use some cats as entertainment -- as things -- purportedly for the worthwhile cause of raising money for
other cats. It also misses the much more obvious point that promoting the profitable breeding of cats for the supposed purpose of raising money to assist those cats who've been abandoned or left to fend for themselves is, well, kind of ludicrous. According to its Facebook page:

THE MANDATE OF THE CHICKADEE CAT CLUB IS:

To sponsor and promote the welfare of all pedigree cats and household pet cats;


To cultivate friendship among and promote the interest and education of the owners, fanciers and registered breeders of cats;


To host cat shows and promote interest in and knowledge of pedigree cats and household pet cats;


To encourage pedigree breeding toward the ACFA standard of perfection; and,


To encourage kindness and assist in the prevention of cruelty and mistreatment of all animals
The fact that a group like ca-r-ma, dedicated to spaying/neutering ferals, is partnering with a group which both promotes and provides a venue for cat breeders does not make a whole lot of sense on any level. TNR is being turned into a band-aid solution to a problem partially fed into by the deliberate breeding and bringing into this world of more domesticated animals. It's being turned by them into a justification to promote even further breeding of cats, when in the United States alone, anywhere from 3-5 million unwanted dogs and cats are killed in shelters each year. Instead of promoting the breeding of more cats and the refining of purebred traits, wouldn't it make more sense to promote spaying/neutering across the board and to promote shelter adoptions? I mean, that would be the obvious option to me, but what do I know? "But it's to raise money for a good cause," I was chastised, as if questioning their methods was somehow akin to rejecting the cause.

I find it hard to walk away from blatant speciesism, particularly when one type of animal use is engaged in and excused for the supposed sake of helping other animals. Thus, I left a polite comment on one of The Chickadee Cat Club's many posts on its Facebook page which plugged the dinner, expressing disappointment that it would choose to sell the flesh of dead animals to raise money for a different species of animal. No surprise that it was removed with no response. Having already somewhat pointlessly discussed the fundraising with animal products issue with a few of its volunteers, I haven't yet left a comment on my local chapter of ca-r-ma's Facebook page.

It's a shame that the question of rights gets buried in a confused message of welfare. It's also a shame that people who are obviously well-intentioned and who no doubt earnestly care about the well-being of a certain species of animal are unable to connect the dots and to recognize that no nonhuman animal deserves to be treated as a thing -- regardless of who benefits from it.

And yet...

We all start out looking quite the same...



(Initially viewed on the Alice Springs Vegan Society page on Facebook.)