Friday, February 27, 2009

Mud Slinging in Slaughter Industry Publications

I stumbled across this opinion piece on the Farm Journal-affiliated AgWeb site this morning. In it, vegetarianism is equated to eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. As well, those who abstain from eating meat are more or less labeled by the piece's author as being mentally ill and in need of therapy. All this came about as a skewed (and obviously hate-fueled) response to a recent New York Times article about food choices and eating disorders. I'm still a little surprised that they would have printed something so juvenile and ill-informed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Rant and Rave About the Rise in Pro Bono Work for Animal Rights

I read an article this morning whose title started off making me feel hopeful. A few lines in, I was then left me mired in a desire for clarity and consistency. According to an article in the National Law Journal yesterday, pro bono work done by lawyers on animal rights issues has been spiking. A lot. The study of animal law, itself, is one of the fastest growing. So the article presents this increase as if it's a reflection of these attorneys' interest in defending non-human animals -- in defending animal rights. There are so many inconsistencies in it, though, and there's such ample opportunity to cock an eyebrow or two in suspicion or derision.

For instance, the article describes the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as an "animal rights" organization, when it's in fact a welfarist organization, and it focuses on HSUS and the Animal Legal Defense Fund as two groups to which attorneys seeking to do pro bono work are drawn. The article mentions that Latham & Watkins is one of the only firms HSUS will mention as one of its major contributors. Far from being goodly, Latham & Watkins has a lengthy history of fighting on behalf of everyone from humungous pharmaceutical companies to the Church of Scientology and Monsanto.

The article goes on to quote a Latham & Watkins attorney extensively, including how his summation of the various reasons behind attorneys' increasing involvement in animal "rights" and how he desbribes that what "makes the Humane Society and the ALDF attractive clients is they avoid most of the extreme stances and practices that some animal rights groups are known for" and then quotes him as stating: "I may not be a vegetarian, but I can still agree that a calf shouldn't live its entire life in an enclosure so small it can't turn around," he says.

So basically, an article presented as an increase in pro bono work for animal rights by compassionate attorneys who are purportedly getting behind the cause is really an article about an increase in pro bono work for new animal welfarism by attorneys of all ethical persuasions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vegan Recipes and Food in Online Media

Once again, I just though I'd share what I've run across on various newspapers' websites.

Maine's Ellsworth American featured a short and simple recipe for Sweet Maine Turnips w/ Maple Glaze.

The Epoch Times had a short piece on the health benefits of beets which included a traditional Ukrainian recipe for Christmas Borscht.

Yesterday, Sudbury's Northern Life featured a scrumptious sounding recipe for Moroccan Vegetable Soup.

Finally, New Jersey's Cranford Chronicle had a piece about tofu that just left me with a slightly furrowed brow, wondering what the writer's point had been in writing it in the first place. It's basically a piece written by someone who claims to like tofu and who goes on and on about how most people don't like it. Aside from praising her own purportedly innovative squeezing technique, her only recommendation concerning its preparation is to "cook the blazes out of the tofu over a high flame until every last drop of moisture is removed". Um, okay. You may not end up with something "rubbery" or "gelatinously slimy", but it's almost guaranteed that you'll end up with a hard inedible brick. Honestly -- what's the point?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Commentary on the New "Happy Meat" Movement on AlterNet

I read a really good article this morning on AlterNet about the "happy meat" movement and all of the articles that have been popping up in mainstream media about so-called concientious meat consumption. Sunaura and Alexander Taylor point out that the movement is just a half-arsed and unrealistic dismissal of industrial meat production that doesn't really get to the root of what's wrong with consuming animals in the first place.

The article acknowledges the inherent suffering involved in factory farming, as well as its environmental destruction, and points out that neither of these issues is resolved with this alternative (i.e. buying local and free-range products from small farmers) that's being touted and misrepresented by foodies the world over as humane and sustainable:

This meat is high-priced, and its production is an even less-efficient use of land and resources. It is often marketed as luxurious, an indulgence to be lingered over. It is inherently not adaptable to a national or international solution. Local organic meat is for an elite few, and not a practicable alternative to the massive crisis of industrial meat production.
And furthermore (and most importantly) that,
all of this is in many ways ignoring an even more complex question. Do humans even have the right to make other living beings into objects of production that we can kill even when it is unnecessary to do so, merely for our pleasure?
Taylor and Taylor then proceed to dismantle a couple of the arguments frequently given against veganism's being a viable solution to the environmental impact of meat-eating -- that vegans need to eat processed foods that waste natural resources and that soy is dangerous to one's health. Neither soy nor processed foods, of course, are necessary for vegans, so these arguments are irrelevant.

They then focus on this pervasive culture of meat-eating that seems to leave purportedly "conscientious carnivores" unable (or unwilling) to admit that consuming animals is, at the very least, unnecessary, and at the very worst (as stated by Gary L. Francione), "morally schizophrenic" and proceed to present different arguments for veganism, including that
[v]eganism is humanitarian. Becoming vegan is good for the planet and for hungry people around the globe. It is perhaps the only practicable solution to the global food crisis. It does not indicate a preference for animals over people. It is egalitarian as it does not create a class system of food access.
and that
[w]e are animals that have evolved to recognize other beings' subjectivity, to experience empathy, and who have advanced beyond the necessity of violence to supply ourselves with food. We, uniquely, choose what we eat.
The article is definitely worth a read, although many of the the readers' comments following it aren't worth much more than a roll of the eyes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Conscientious Killing

A friend sent me a link last night to yet another article where attempts are made to justify a sense of ethical correctness to killing animals for food. The piece was posted on a site called Eco Child's Play which touts itself as being about "green parenting". The term "conscientious carnivores" is used to describe people who "just aren't ready" to stop eating animals but who are "honestly trying to live as green as possible". According to the piece's author, some of the purported reasons people won't stop eating meat are that they're "just not healthy without some animal protein in [their] diet and that there is some logic to the argument that humans are biologically omnivorous". The thing is that just because humans can eat meat, does not mean that they need to eat meat.

A link is given to back up the statement concerning omnivorism, but the article to which it leads actually states outright that we "are not, however, required to consume animal protein. We have a choice." It goes on to state that the best "arguments in support of a meat-free diet remain ecological, ethical and health concerns". Strange that this article would be referenced in a piece that's all about how to seek out happy cows to eat because although you want to pat yourself on the back for being "green", you're "not ready" to make the right choice.

It's a real shame that so many of those involved in environmentalism today are hopping on the "happy meat" bandwagon. It's alienating a lot of people who've been a part of the movement who aren't desperately seeking excuses to continue raising animals for food.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Yesterday I Learned to Use teh Google (and teh Wikipedia)

A discussion over at a favourite vegan forum about a campaign to encourage Boca to stop using eggs in its veggie products morphed into a discussion about how it can become ethically problematic to support this or that company for a multitude of reasons. Once upon a time, Boca was owned by Kraft, and Kraft was owned by tobacco giants Phillip Morris, founders and funders of the Center for Consumer Freedom (or as someone at the forums called it, the Center for Consumer Freedom From Information). A couple of quick Google searches brought up info on the Boca-Kraft-Phillip Morris connection, and, the Phillip Morris-Center for Consumer Freedom connection is known fact.

I found myself arguing that it made little sense to support a company whose parent company funds anti-animal rights lobbyists. Thankfully, someone more able with teh Google brought up the point that
Phillip Morris rid itself of its shares in Kraft in 2007 and it's now a publicly-owned company. (Of course, my additional gripe with Kraft, regardless of whether it no longer has ties to Phillip Morris, is that its products are GMO -- even its Boca products, but that's going off on a tangent...)

In my Googling, though, I did end up finding a website for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, whose website features a section devoted to exposing Rick Berman, Executive Director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, as well as the guy behind innumerable front groups funded by big industry to fight against the public's interest. More info on Berman can be found here, and more info on some of the many front groups he oversees can be found here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Veganism and Animal-Related Bits in the News

If you need another reason to not eat eggs, consider that according to the Windsor Star:

[a] study just published in the journal Diabetes Care (2008) has found that eating seven or more eggs per week -- that's just an egg a day, a number probably quite common in Canada -- increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 per cent if you are a man and by 77 per cent if you're a woman compared to people who don't eat eggs.

First of all, I had no idea that Fangoria magazine (provider of the lining of many a junior high school locker of mine) was still around. They had a blurb on a figure of Tofu the Vegan Zombie that's now available for purchase.

From the official website fo the computer animated short film from which the character hails:
Vost didn't notice the dark shadow rising behind him. The mess in front of him consumed his mind. The dark shadow rose higher and higher.

Vost picked up the bag of groceries from the floor and turned around. The boy, with outstretched grabbing hands stood face to face with the professor - his stitched mouth gnawed hungrily in the air. The boy lunged at him. The professor dropped the grocery bag and fell instinctively to the floor, imagining a painful and ghastly death.

The cowering professor peeked through his cupped hands and saw the boy kneeling on the ground in front of him- the bag of groceries ripped apart and food littered across the floor. The boy attacked the fruits, and veggies with fury and vengeance. Lifting his head from the battle below, he let out an intelligible sound from his reddened and gooey face: "GGGGGRAINS!"
For more information on Tofu the Vegan Zombie, check out the site. Here's the trailer:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Norfolk town's schools first to be heated by burning cattle

This takes my disdain for the biofuels movement to entirely new heights (not to mention weaving a little bit of "blech" into it).

A "trailblazing" Norfolk town has begun heating many of its buildings - including the schools - by burning oil made from melted-down cow and pig carcasses. The strategy is described as "equal or lower in carbon footprint than natural gas".
Read the whole story here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Noble Bean Tempeh

I've never been much of one to indulge in soy products, myself. Whilst vegetarian (and then vegan) and living with an omni partner, though, I did tend to pick up a lot more soy-based substitutes to have around the house. We had a meat-free home and he really enjoyed the subs, perpetually swigging back glasses of chocolate Silk or piling soy meat analogs into sandwiches packed for work.

One thing I've come to like in recent years, though, is
tempeh. Unlike the blank slate that is tofu when it comes to preparing it, tempeh has a mild nutty taste (as well as an interesting crumbly sort of texture). It also escapes a lot of the recent criticism and disputes over the possible issues with unfermented soy products that seem to be all over the internet right now. I'll leave that topic for another time...

Strangely, although every supermarket in my city carries tofu and soy dairy substitutes of all kinds, I can only find a good selection of tempeh at the two small health food stores in the city. One of the major supermarkets carries
Green Cuisine tempeh burgers (which are decent enough), but both health food stores carry my favourite: Noble Bean tempeh. At a time when most soy is GMO and most meat analogs in the stores aren't organic (and therefore, almost certainly GMO), it's also a plus for me that the Noble Bean tempeh is organic. I just recently picked up their Sea Veggie Tempeh and pan-fried it with a little bit of garlic and lemon juice and it was amazing. I quartered it to make tempeh burgers with tomatoes, lettuce and diced red onions on Vegenaise and Dijon-smeared multigrain buns. I can't recommend it enough.

I think that I'd like to tackle making tempeh on my own, sometime. The starter required to make it can be ordered online from a number of places and there are tons of instructions available on how to make it. For instance, this PowerPoint presentation and this step-by-step Instructable.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Tim Buckley - Sing A Song For You

The amazing Tim Buckley is as good a reason as any to get completely off-topic.

Random Bits About Veganism and Non-Human Critters

Radio Netherlands recently had a blurb on their website about Professor Gary L. Francione and his stance on animals we call "pets". For a more thorough look at it, check out the Opposing Views website, where Prof. Francione has elaborated upon various aspects of it within the context of his abolitionist philosophy.

Vegan cookbook author Hannah Kaminsky is offering up a chance to win one of two copies of her vegan dessert book My Sweet Vegan. Check it out on her blog before Valentine's Day, which is when the winners will be announced.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Veganism in the News

In a guest article for the Globe and Mail, "Vegan diet has surprising stick-to-it-iveness", dietitian Leslie Beck discusses the recently published results of a PCRM study on losing weight and reducing bad cholesterol levels by following a strictly plant-based diet. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but within the context of her article, I can't help but feel that a more accurate way of describing what she calls a "vegan" diet would be to call it a "strict vegetarian" diet. Veganism isn't just about what you put into your mouth; it's a way of life wrapped around an ethical belief system that concerns itself with not using or consuming non-human animals.

In the last third or so of the article, she juxtaposes achieving the same the same health benefits as those touted by PCRM, but by following a
lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (she mentions "other studies" without actually citing sources). The positive side of the piece is that it drills home that it's not hard to follow a plant-based diet. The negative is that it presents veganism outside of any sort of ethical context, which inevitably waters down the actual meaning of the term.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Mark Bittman's Anti-Vegan Stance

I'd posted about an interview with food writer Mark Bittman a short while back. In it, he wrote off veganism as a viable option. Since he's making the rounds to promote his book Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, he's pretty much all over the place in recent days. In an article about him in New York's Metro, Bittman once again tries to promote his idea of ethical eating (with the added selling bonus of a weight loss plan thrown in for good measure) and takes a shot at veganism:

“Veganism makes sense to me, but I don’t want to go there, and it’s hard for me to recommend it to others,” says Bittman, who still appreciates a nice hunk of prosciutto. “Part of the problem is that vegans haven’t done themselves any favors with the fake meat stuff. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Eat rice and beans. Eat plants.”
Who says that vegans are all over fake meat? And don't make a big deal out of what? Animal slaughter? Sheesh. It's one thing for a writer like Bittman to hop on the post-Pollan "happy meat" train, but his insisting on taking cheap shots at veganism just makes his attempt to seem ethical all the more nonsensical.