Thursday, April 30, 2009

Watering Down 'Veganism'

Indianapolis' featured a surprisingly positive piece by Shari Rudavsky today on going meatless. She ends up focusing on the health aspects of eating a completely plant-based diet, touching upon how consuming substances like dairy can often aggravate allergies or other medical issues. Her piece also addresses some aspects of the protein myth by explaining that protein deficiency is far from being a concern for vegans, and that we don't need to worry about complementary proteins -- an erroneous belief that's still promoted in mainstream media.

The article's focus on health issues leaves it falling short a bit in terms of giving readers a glimpse at the full picture concerning veganism, unfortunately. Rudavsky reassures readers that "it's not necessary to go all the way to see a health benefit. Just forgoing meat one day a week or before 6 p.m. can have an impact." She's obviously been
reading Mark Bittman, the NY Times foodie who's been cashing in on veganism's rising popularity by attempting to co-opt the term.

One bit of the piece reflects precisely how people's misunderstanding of the philosophy behind it have led to attempts to water down the term 'veganism'. For instance, Rudavsky describes a man who managed to lose around 120 lbs over the course of a year and a half following a plant-based diet that was mostly raw. She then says that "more recently, the Indianapolis student has become more of a self-described 'flexitarian.' About 95 percent of his diet is vegetarian, and he is still largely vegan, mostly for health reasons." The thing is that you're no more "largely vegan" than you can be "largely celibate". Either you are, or you aren't.

It's contradictory to call someone both flexitarian (which, let's face it, is a kinder gentler term for 'omnivore')
and a vegan in the same sentence. People like Mark Bittman and others trying to label-drop by calling variations on meat-eating 'vegetarian' or 'vegan' are just confusing the issue. Furthermore, asserting that someone is vegan for health reasons ignores the fact that veganism involves eschewing all consumption of animals and animal-derived ingredients -- not just the ones we'd eat.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Earthlings is a multi-award winning 2003 documentary by writer/director Shaun Monson. Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, it uses facts and footage to examine in a blunt and methodical manner how through speciesism, humans have come to treat non-human animals as property. We use them for food, clothing, entertainment and experimentation. We breed and exploit them for profit and in doing so, we neglect them, frighten them and often torture them until they're deemed ready for slaughter.

As sad and awful as the sounds and images are in this documentary, they reflect quite accurately what goes on "out of sight". Regardless of whether or not you choose to consume animals, the information you'll hear and the images you'll see will disturb you. If you do consume animals, I hope that watching this film will lead you to reconsider.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Slow Food International's Interview w/ Peter Singer

It seems that the purported father of the animal liberation movement is now openly embracing a lot of the views espoused by the "happy meat" movement. Peter Singer's been making statements for years in favour of welfarism, but this interview seems to nudge his views further away from anything remotely resembling animal liberationist views.

Some excerpts:

Professor Singer, it’s almost 20 years since your influential book Animal Factories was published. Could you summarize briefly if, given the sensation caused by the book, there have been any significant changes in farming systems? If not, what are the main reasons why there hasn’t been a radical change in consciousness?

I’m very pleased to say that there have been a lot of changes, especially in Europe, but also some in the US and other countries. In Europe, all the worst and most abusive forms of factory farming are being modified. New laws are being phased in that require giving veal calves and pregnant sows room to move a little and turn around, at least. Hens will get more space, and have a nesting box to lay their eggs in. These laws will bring improvements for hundreds of millions of animals across the entire European Union. In the US and Canada, the biggest pig producers have agreed to phase out individual stalls for sows, and in Florida and Arizona, citizens have voted to ban sow stalls. There has also been a big change in consciousness, with consumers becoming much more aware of factory farms and many more of them buying organically produced animal products instead.


Reading your book, it seems that the only truly ethical conclusion is the vegan diet. Indeed, for those who choose to follow this choice, difficulties are still lower than a few years ago but, however, according to your opinion, what is the most common attitude towards vegans?

The vegan diet, especially buying organically produced plant foods, does solve more of the ethical problems about eating than any other. But I admit that it is not for everyone, and it will take a long time before it becomes widespread. So I don’t want to give the impression that it is the only thing one can do to eat ethically. Just avoiding factory farmed products is a big step in the right direction, even if you continue to eat a moderate quantity of organically produced, pasture raised, animal products.

Friday, April 24, 2009

100-Mile Diet Authors on "Getting to Know the Meat You Eat"

I read Alisa Smith and J.B. McKinnon's 100 Mile Diet book around a year and a half ago. I was curious about what they had to say about sustainable and regional eating. Little did I know at the time that I was getting my first whiff of the whole "back to meat" locavore movement. Smith and McKinnon have since landed their own 100 Mile Challenge foodie show on Canada's Food TV network. They've been writing a series of articles for the National Post to promote the show, the most recent of these covering what they portray as respecting the animals you end up eating. In it, McKinnon writes about how becoming locavores ended the couple's 20 or so years as vegetarians:

"We had quit eating meat because we didn’t want any part in the cruelties of factory farms that seem to have forgotten that they work with living creatures. As we met small-scale farmers and saw the deep care that some bring to their animals right up to the moment of slaughter ('Many good days, one bad day,' as one farmer says in a video short at, we felt comfortable bringing meat back into our kitchen."
I guess that I'm a little dense for want of understanding how the words "deep care" can be used to describe how one treats a creature one intends to slaughter. McKinnon elaborates upon this by describing how various people who what passes for emotion while engaging in the process on some level or another, and proves how little worth he, himself, actually ascribes to a sentient creature's life by comparing slaughtering an animal to composting plants:
"Most people turn out to be more sensitive than they expect. The Weremchuk-Williams found themselves thanking the fish that they caught — out loud. The Clark-Vernons, despite living on a small farm, shed tears for Duncan, a ram who went on to become two kinds of very, very local sausage. Alisa and I even struggle a bit each spring when it’s time to compost extra seedlings that won’t fit into our tiny garden. The power of life is so strong that it stings a little to put out even its smallest spark."
McKinnon's concern for the purported "deep care" brought to animals by small-scale farmers ends up sounding even more hollow, as he describes in a flippant manner how a turkey named after him was, essentially, not so much a life to him, as food-in-waiting:
"To have a barnyard animal named after you is bittersweet. On the one hand, I feel oddly connected to James Jr. (I’ve asked for a photo for my desktop.) On the other, this James will one day be eaten. Who knows? I may even be invited over for a drumstick."
Sussing out the sincerity of a single iota of the sentimentality locavores like McKinnon insist on trying to display when they describe (or, attempt to justify) the rearing of animals for slaughter is irrelevant. If anything, if any of it is in fact sincere, it sort of creeps me out. There just seems to be something innately wrong-headed in sentimentalizing the taking of a life -- whether it's a farmer or foodie doing it about domesticated animals, or a killer doing it about his human victim.

Veggie Burgers Galore!

Madison's The Daily Page ran an article yesterday called "I can has veggie cheezburger?" that features no less than eight very different recipes for variations on veggie burgers -- and aside from one that uses egg as a binder -- something very easy to substitute, the rest of the recipes to which the article links are all vegan. They range from a Red Bean Chipotle Patty to an Apple Burger. If you're always looking for something new to stick between a couple of slices of bread and you can ignore their Mark Bittman references, you should definitely check it out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Iron and Wine - Resurrection Fern

A recent musical infatuation...

The Real Key to Protecting Animal Rights

I haven't had enough coffee today to sort out and tone down the many different things that popped into my head this morning after spying this piece while perusing vegan-related news stories and opinion pieces this morning. I guess that all I can really say about it is that it's a prime example of someone's wearing her asshattery on her sleeve. Prompted by a lecture at her school by Bill Nye The Science Guy, University of Texas at Austin student Laura Covarrubias wrote an article for her paper The Daily Texan to share how she became what she dubs a "meat-eating vegetarian".

A supposed vegetarian of five years who'd cut meat out of her diet for what she calls "self-righteous" environmental reasons, she decided to reintegrate it into her diet, insisting that she "didn't cave", but that she figured that since she's doing a two-month stint in West Africa this summer where she figures she'll need to eat meat, she claims that she wanted to give her digestive system time to adjust. Furthermore, her doing so left her changing her mind completely about eating animals:
"Now, after a month of eating animals, I have come to only one solid conclusion: Meat tastes good. Five years of abstinence resulted in an amazing sensation on my tongue when I finally succumbed, and eating that Chik-fil-A sandwich for the first time in years was the sweetest moment of my life. No matter what PETA tells you, there’s just something in animal flesh that even the best tofu or veggie burger lacks.

So now I am the vegetarian who likes eating meat. In order to combat the accompanying guilt, I’ve been applying the Buddhist concept of the Middle Path to my dilemma. This approach lies between the austerity of vegetarianism (and the torturous nature of veganism) and the indulgence of regular, thoughtless meat eating. It is the happy medium followed by the Dalai Lama himself, who graciously treats each infrequent serving as a delicacy. This is the same path that Bill Nye endorsed during his lecture, and it is the path that will make the most headway in both protecting animals rights and reducing global warming."

Who would have thought that the real key to protecting animal rights is to eat them? You heard it here first, folks!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vegan Recipes in the Blogosphere

I was going to post a couple of vegan recipes that have ended up on mainstream media websites this week surrounding Earth Day, but after finding a couple of scrumptious sounding ones for soup (Minestrone and African Yam and Peanut, to be precise) on the Winnipeg Free Press' site, I got sidetracked by a couple of recent posts from vegan food bloggers I follow and decided to throw out a few kudos:

Jessy over at happyveganface (a vegan food blog I adore) recently posted about Snobby Joes -- one of my favourite recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's Veganomicon. I raved about them, myself, a while back, lover of lentils that I am. The original recipe can be found here on the Post Punk Kitchen website.


Melissa at
The Papaya Chronicles recently posted about the type of meal I enjoy throwing together often, myself, when I don't particularly feel like cooking but don't want to junk out. She threw an assortment of raw vegetables, seasoned and baked flour tortillas and fruit on some trays and served them up with her favourite hummus recipe (one I've since tried and loved).


Over at
Carrot and Potato Time, Anna's been writing quite a bit about her recent experiments with baking with sourdough starter. This is something I've been meaning to try out myself for quite a while with my own trusty bread machine. For those who are uninitiated, her posts will surely be more than helpful (and her photos will leave you eager to get some baking of your own done, pronto).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Random Veganism Bits in the News

Chrissie Hynde's VegiTerranean restaurant, along with Standing Rock Cultural Arts and Kent State Dining Services hosted the first annual Vegan Iron Chef competition at Kent State to kick off a weeklong celebration of Earth Day. Two Kent State Teams competed against three University of Akron teams in the first half of the competition which involved preparing an appetizer, salad and entrée. Two of the Akron teams took first and second place. The second half of the competition involved seven professional chefs.


Last month, Newsweek senior editor David Noonan outed himself as being a "vegan". His article focuses on what he should really be calling a "strict vegetarian" diet, however, since no mention is made of the consumption of animal products other than food and his reasons for embarking on it were solely weight-loss related. It's nice to see the eschewing of animal products being promoted in such a mainstream new source, however, Noonan's using the term "vegan" becomes even more problematic when he inadvertently outs himself as actually being a non-vegan: "I have strayed a bit myself—I don't believe it's possible or even proper to eat a baked potato without at least a dab of butter."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rush Limbaugh as HSUS Mouthpiece

OK, this is just so weird on so many levels that I can't stop giggling. That Limbaugh is becoming a spokesperson for welfarism is funny enough on its own. That HSUS continues to be linked to veganism and described as extremist by conservatives and animal slaughter industry types, though, still gets me shaking my head a little in disbelief.

Limbaugh a spokesman for vegans? Say what?
By Drovers news staff | Friday, April 17, 2009

Several news organizations are reporting that Rush Limbaugh has recorded Public Service Announcements supporting the vegan-driven Humane Society of the United States. According to the Animal Agriculture Alliance, worse still is that one of the two audio spots promotes HSUS’ outreach to religious organizations.

One commentary by Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow in bioethics, says Limbaugh supporting HSUS “is really against everything for which he stands.” Read his comments here.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance has urged livestock producers to e-mail Rush today at to urge him to further examine HSUS and reconsider his support of the organization. AAA also urges you to write your own letter expressing your feelings, but to get you started AAA has written a sample letter that is available here.
I tried to copy the text from that sample letter, which is a .PDF file, but failed. It stresses, basically, that HSUS' true agenda is to "eliminate animal protein from people's diets" and put ranchers and such out of business.

The link to the comments by purported ethicist Wesley J. Smith leads to an Opposing Views piece that's really nothing but an excuse to park a rant or temper tantrum. The Opposing Views piece also features this YouTube video with an audio track of Limbaugh speaking out against dog fighting (and talking about his "little cat Punkin) in one of two PSAs he's done for HSUS:

This second clip, however, is the one that has the Animal Agriculture Alliance aflutter and is the one which is most telling concerning how it's not really such a far stretch to consider that the conservative right could indeed get behind welfarism:

Shel Silverstein's Point of View

I stumbled across this online this morning; I'd never seen it before. Not a whole lot is known about Silverstein's personal life, but I don't think that he was a vegetarian, much less a vegan. Does anyone know?

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)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson Tackles Veganism -- or Does He?

Years ago, shortly after I first became a vegetarian, I picked up a copy of Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals. I remember bringing it up in conversation to omni friend after omni friend and even lending it out to a few. It was overflowing with touching stories that I figured might influence friends and family to take animals more seriously -- to reconsider our treatment of them. I ended up forgetting about him as my attention turned to a more serious study and consideration of animal ethics and I became a vegan . I was intrigued a few days ago when I stumbled upon a reference to Masson online that indicated that he'd written a new book -- this time, about veganism. It's called The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food.

A search of news stories about it only brought up a handful of results, albeit a few of them somewhat
impressive. The Washington Post, for instance, has a review of the book that's juxtaposed with Chicago Tribune entertainment writer Mark Caro's "kinder / gentler" exploration of the foie gras industry, The Foie Gras Wars. The much less significant Seattle Weekly's got a blurb on it that starts off with an ill-researched gratuitous stab at veganism (its writer, Brian Miller, uses the term "vegan militia" and defines what he calls the vegan "creed" as "no meat, no eggs, no dairy, sometimes no fish"). Where the book is concerned, Miller obsesses over Masson's comparison of chicken factory farms to concentration camps and on Masson's off-beat history. However, Miller also brings up that he feels Masson's work does not present any new information and that he lacks credentials as an actual philosopher. The review that really got my attention this morning, however, was The New York Times' piece on his book, which contains snippets of interview.

The piece states that -- as I'd known back when I'd read his earlier books in the late 90s -- Masson was raised a vegetarian. What I didn't know is that, according to the
Times' piece, "Mr. Masson began eating meat as an adult and became vegan just five years ago". It's strange to think that he would have been writing all of these books touting the complex emotional lives of animals after having himself gone back to eating them; I guess that this is something to research at some point, more to satisfy my own curiosity than anything. What did elicit a raised eyebrow from me, however, was to read Masson present himself as a vegan, then state

“I call myself an aspiring vegan — sometimes I say veganish,” Mr. Masson said. “I make mistakes sometimes.” If he’s at a restaurant and finds out he ate cake made with a bit of butter, he said: “I can live with that. It’s just too weird and too hostile to go ‘blech’ and throw up and say, ‘I can’t believe I just ate that.’ “

But that, Mr. Masson said, is a fairly typical response to accidental dairy consumption by vegans, who will eat nothing produced by or from an animal.
Although not freaking out over having accidentally consumed animal products is understandable, offering up the term "veganish" to describe consuming an animal product through no fault or intention of one's own seems problematic at best. Masson manages to take it one much more damaging step further, though, in the piece's final paragraph, in which he certainly leaves this wee blogger unable and unwilling to give serious consideration to anything further he could possibly have to say about veganism or the ethics of animal consumption:
This summer, Mr. Masson and his wife and sons are going on a bicycling tour of Italy. “I can see a situation where we’ve been riding all day, and we’re going to be hungry and the Italian people are going to give us pasta with cheese and we don’t want to hurt their feelings,” he said. “So I may just not be vegan for two weeks.”
It's Singer's "Paris exception" revisited. In those few sentences, Masson manages to convey that not hurting a human's feelings is more important to him than valueing the lives of non-human animals. In those few sentences, Masson manages to completely undermine much of the work he's published over the past ten years, and he's pretty much left anything he could possibly have to say or write about veganism a bit of a farce. I haven't read his book and after reading what I did this morning, unfortunately, I'm not sure that I'd see any point in doing so.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Vegan Abolitionism in a Nutshell

Here's a short video on animal abolitionism I stumbled upon on YouTube. Its title pretty much sums it up.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Foodie Fads: Trying on and Discounting "Veganism"

There are two major themes that are playing themselves out ad nauseum in confessional-like foodie articles in mainstream media today. One, of course, is the trend towards the purportedly sexy hands-on involvement in the slaughter of animals that some foodies seem to think leaves them holding the ethical equivalent of a "get out of jail free" card with regards to their embracing their more carnivorous urges (and they sure as heck like to harp on the "c" word). Another trend popularized by some folks like Oprah Winfrey (and no, this isn't going to be an Oprah rant, for those of you who've expressed concern over my dissing her in the past for her cleanse last year), where for one reason or another, veganism -- more often, a strict vegetarian diet -- is tried out temporarily for its short term benefits, or sometimes merely to assess its merits outside of any sort of ethical context.

One article I stumbled across this morning was written by someone in the latter camp -- and to be fair, this person is more of a general "writer" than an actual foodie. Tulsa World's Cary Aspinwall's five day stint eschewing animal products reads like a disgruntled teenager talking on the phone to a friend about having been forced to participate in a family outing. Plus, it includes all of the customary (obligatory?) jabs at veganism and the ethics inherent in it. For instance, she starts off the article mentioning her long-time curiosity about veganism, but qualifies that it's

curious, with a mild disdain. Good for vegans if they don't want to eat any cows, pigs, lambs, chickens and fish. In my view, those animals died for the sake of deliciousness.
Yes, we get it, Cary: Savouring the taste of animals is hip. Mark Bittman loves you. And since most of your five days were spent trying to find identical substitutes for animal products instead of really exploring all of the other things that you could have tried eating -- and since you've stated outright that you walked into this with your nose wrinkled, you were disappointed.

So? The article ends with a bunch of regurgitated information about the potential health benefits of lowering one's consumption of animal products somewhat, and touts the John Hopkins Institute's "Meatless Mondays" as being an ideal path to follow in lieu of veganism (and by "meatless", this means "abstaining from red meat, poultry and high-fat dairy products" and that "fish and seafood, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids, are encouraged"). I remember getting a lot of spammy comments on my blog from one of their people sometime before Xmas, more or less saying the same thing over and over again as leavers of spammy comments are wont to do. But I digress... It's a shame that in writing an article about the possible benefits of reducing one's consumption of animals that Aspinwall felt the need to both misrepresent and undermine the lifestyle that's most conducive to reducing one's consumption; it's also a shame that she did so without even once taking a fair and serious look at the ethics behind that lifestyle. Ultimately, though, presenting eating animals as sexy is what's selling in mainstream media today, so this article was just yet another feeble manifestation of this trend.


Although it's not worthy of its own post, I thought I'd also tack on this link to an article by a vegetarian of eight years who decided to try to go vegan for a week, but who -- while avoiding any real discussion of the ethics behind veganism -- failed to reproduce what she deemed a tasty vegan mac and "cheese" dish, and so decided that veganism is too time-consuming and expensive to bother. She asserts that she envies those with enough willpower to be compassionate, but that she feels that merely focusing on being a "conscious" consumer is the better way to go.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Vegan Recipes in Mainstream Media

A scan of internet-ish media today dredged up a handful of interesting-sounding vegan recipes.

The first was in a Killeen Daily Herald article on Julie Rodwell's book The Complete Book of Raw Food: Healthy, Delicious Vegetarian Cuisine Made With Living Food, whose second edition came out just last year. The article features her recipes for Sunflower Paté and Spring Rolls.


Last week, the New York Times' "Dining & Wine" section had a recipe for Spinach Salad w/ Mushrooms and Hibiscus Flower Vinaigrette that sounds really intriguing, although unless you grow them yourself, you'd likely be hard-pressed to find edible hibiscus flowers anywhere convenient. There's information on where you can order them online in the piece.


The Columbia Daily Tribune's site featured a story on Terry Bryant's recently published Vegan Soul Kitchen. It includes recipes for Citrus Collards w/ Raisins Redux and Agave-Sweetened Orange-Orange Pekoe Tea. (See his recipes for Vegan Succotash Soup and Garlicky Corn Bread Croutons and a BBQ Tempeh Sandwich and Carrot-Cayenne Coleslaw I'd mentioned in blog posts last month -- he's really promoting the hell out of his book.)

'Tofu' is Apparently a Dirty Word

I read this story from the The Denver Post earlier this morning and had a good laugh.

Tofu license plate too foul for Colo. DMV
A tofu lesson to learn: Mind your P's, Q's, F's and U's

By Tom McGee
The Denver Post

Kelley Coffman-Lee's plan to advertise her love of tofu on a license plate ran afoul of censors at the Division of Motor Vehicles.

The 38-year-old mother of three asked the DMV to approve a special plate emblazoned with "ILVTOFU" for her Suzuki SL-7.

It was not 2 B.

The agency turned down the request, saying the plate might be offensive to some people.

"My whole family is vegan, so tofu is like a staple for us. I was just going to have a cool license plate, and the DMV misinterpreted my message," the Centennial resident said.

It turns out that "FU" is on a long list of letter combinations barred by the division, said Mark Couch, spokesman for the Department of Revenue. Think of it as "Eff you," he said.

"We don't allow 'FU' because some people could read that as street language for sex," Couch said.

A committee meets periodically to update the list so that plates stay free of letters that abbreviate gang slang, drug terms or obscene phrases made popular in text messaging, Couch said.

Among the more than 200 examples of alphabet soup are obvious red flags such as PIG and KKK and head- scratchers such as BUB and HEN.

The rear of Coffman-Lee's vehicle is festooned with a multitude of bumper stickers that leave little question about her feelings on issues such as global warming and meat-eating.

As a vegan, she won't consume or wear anything that comes from an animal. "But it's not just about food. It is a philosophy of life. It means you have compassion for animals; it means that you don't want to see them performing or research done on them or them being eaten."

So far, Couch said, no carnivore has requested ILVMEAT.