Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gary L. Francione's Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights

I've had a couple of vegan friends and readers unfamiliar with Professor Gary L. Francione's work email me over the past few weeks with some questions about its basic arguments for an abolitionist approach to animal rights. I figure that the best place to start is by sharing this video from Professor Francione's website, Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach. It's around a half hour long and is an incredibly effective slide-show presentation. For more videos and slide-shows, visit this page of his site. Information on some of the work he's published can be obtained here. I'll try to focus on some introductory types of pieces on the abolitionist approach to various animal issues over the next couple of months, contrasting them (where applicable) to common new welfarist approaches to the same issues.

Theory of Animal Rights from Gary L. Francione on Vimeo.

Friday, May 29, 2009

White Castle Meets Flashdance

Thanks to the folks over at the Suicide Food blog for posting about this commercial. It has to be seen to be believed. As the Suicide Food bloggers suggested, however, once you've seen it you may find yourself wishing you could "unsee" it.

Canada's Governor General Eats Raw Seal Heart

Up until today, I've never had a problem with Michaëlle Jean. In fact, given her life story, I even had a fair amount of respect for her, albeit a fair amount of disinterest in the rubber-stamp position she holds as Governor General. This news story from the BBC that I read late last night, however, has changed my mind about her. I know that the Canadian government is grasping at every single thing it can reach to try to show solidarity with the Canadian seal hunters whose livelihoods and butchering have been affected by the EU's recent vote to ban the importation of Canadian seal products, but c'mon?

Ms Jean used a traditional Inuit knife to help gut the animal then ate a slice of raw heart.

It came weeks after the EU voted to ban Canadian seal products, but Ms Jean did not say if her actions were in response to the EU proposals.

An EU spokeswoman said the story was "too bizarre to acknowledge".

The governor general is the representative of Canada's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II.

Ms Jean was touring northern Canadian communities and was at a festival at Rankin Inlet on Monday attended by hundreds of Inuit when she ate the seal heart.

Asked later if her actions were a message to the EU, she said: "Take from it what you will."

Trying to make a statement is one thing, but did anyone really think that this could possibly drum up any postive PR? I mean, really?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Slaughter in the City

Thanks to Keith Burgess-Jackson at Animal Ethics for posting a link to this New York Times story about the rising popularity of small-scale urban slaughterhouses. The story features an accompanying slideshow of images which leaves me wondering how these animals fare in their final days and how those who tout the supposed humaneness of smaller-scale slaughter operations over larger operations could possibly argue that this current trend is in any way more justifiable.

My favourite quote from the article about surrounding urban residents' "concerns" is particularly telling about societal norms concerning the usage of animals considered "food":

Last year, residents of St. Albans, Queens, blocked a small slaughterhouse from opening on Farmers Boulevard. One resident, Marie Wilkerson, told The New York Times that she feared its stink would ruin backyard barbecues.
Heaven forbid that you really get a good real whiff of what it is that you're eating, Marie. I mean--that would be unappetizing.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Just Different

Brandon over at Abolitionist Education made this short video with his little brother Ayden. The following is the script he included in his YouTube post.

The Script:

I had never thought about it until someone asked me. The question itself wasn't a life changing question, but it was the tip of a life changing iceberg. I never knew that such a causal remark could change me so much.

Now that I think about it, the signs were there all along. Its almost crazy, that I didn't see them sooner.

I loved him, he was my best friend. I would never think of hurting him. And yet, how did I persist so long living like that, hurting others like him?

Its not in me to be full of malice. Im a caring guy, and I know that. No, I wasn't actually part of the process. But when you pay someone to do it, its pretty much the same thing isnt it?

I would never hurt them. Never cause them harm for a reason as small as my pleasure. There is simply no need to, and I knew that. And yet, somehow I did cause them harm. For years I did, and I didn't think twice about it.

Perhaps I didn think about it, because there was nothing to think about. No one had mentioned it to me. I probably would have never entertained the thought of discussing such a topic. The reality is so absent in our world.

But I changed and I realized that I was wrong. Wrong, without even knowing there was a question of right or wrong.

Ive realized now, its not that their better then us. And its not that were better then them. Its not a question of who is better. I don't think that even matters anymore. Were just different. We speak different languages. We live in different worlds.

Its not as if there's a conflict either. I don't know why I thought it was that way at first. Knowing this strengthens my resolve.

My resolve, that its just not right to abuse someone, simply because we can. Or, simply because it makes us feel good. Or simply because we can talk and think and they cannot - Simply, because we are different.

And even though we are different, we are the same in the areas that matter. We can both cry out in pain, or laugh with joy. We both seek comfort and avoid discomfort. Just because we can talk and they can fly doesn't mean we are better. Just different.

And they are so innocent. They have done no crime. They didn't ask to be brought into this world. And yet here they are, completely innocent and yet so hated.

So helpless they are. But I'm not supporting that anymore.

I realized I wouldn't do it to him, and now Im over my moral confusion. Im over pretending that because I am stronger or smarter that that gives me reason to use or abuse others.

I am not describing our relationships with other worlds, or other existences. I am talking about other inhabitants of our planet earth. Other beings who exist with us, caught together in this web of life. These animals have done nothing wrong, and yet they are so vilified.

Remember that life changing iceberg? While I uncovered the whole thing, and it turned out to be a life changing and life saving iceberg. Each day, I choose to save a life, simply through what I eat.

I would never think of eating him, so why would I eat another of his kind?

We are not better then them, that doesn't even matter anymore. We're just different.

Applauding Token Gestures: HSUS and Wendy's

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced yesterday that it's applauding Wendy's for its recent decision to use a minimum of 2 percent cage-free eggs. It's such a token gesture that's so clearly designed to just drum up some positive welfarist PR:

"The Humane Society of the United States applauds Wendy's for responding to customers' concerns about animal welfare and taking this positive step," stated Paul Shapiro, senior director of The HSUS's factory farming campaign. "Wendy's new policy is reducing the number of birds confined in cruel cages, and is sending a clear signal that it's time for the egg industry to move away from inhumane confinement."
If Wendy's customers were indeed so concerned about animal welfare, would changing how a mere 2% of the chickens used by Wendy's are treated really have that much of an impact on whether or not they continue to spend their money at Wendy's? An overwhelming 98% of the chickens they'll continue eating there will still be subjected to the same brutal confinement. How does the change in treatment of 2% of the chickens in any way make it more ethically acceptable for them to continue supporting Wendy's and continuing to eat the other 98% of the sourced birds?

I wonder what the real concerns were in the first place and suspect that it's not really so much about the chickens as it is about people wanting to try to alleviate some of their guilt.
If Wendy's customers were indeed so concerned about the well-being of these chickens, then wouldn't it make sense for them to just not eat the chickens in question? Are Wendy's chicken products so bewitching and addictive that Wendy's customers just can't not stuff them into their mouths? I guess that they really aren't that concerned after all.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Veganism in The Media

I write (too?) often about the increase in non-vegans' co-opting (and often distorting) the term "vegan" to cash in on the current mainstream interest in exploring the ethics of eating; it's getting even more annoying to see a rising trend in bits or interviews with vegans engaging in confessional-like admissions to non-vegan indulgences, often shrugging them off as indiscretions. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between non-vegans pretending to be vegan, and vegans trying to gain the approval of mainstream foodies by offering up titillating bits of information that only seem to perpetuate the current foodie obsession with presenting the eating animals (and their products) as overwhelmingly enticing.

For instance, yesterday there was a quick reference to Lorna Sass' new cookbook Short-Cut Vegan by Boston Globe foodie Sheryl Julian. Tucked away in it was yet another supposed vegan's confession, and its mangling of the meaning of veganism:

Sass was vegan for almost a decade and wrote a bunch of vegetarian books, which she told me are really vegan books. She only broke her very strict vegan regime when she met a guy who liked to eat cheese and sip wine.
Well then, she wasn't vegan for almost a decade if she ate cheese, was she? The full interview with Sass should appear next Wednesday; it'll be interesting to see how she ends up clarifying her statement, if she does so at all.


Nothing screams "summer" like the arrival of cheaper produce in grocery stores and the steadily increasing trickle of produce from early crops at the local farmer's market. I become salad-obsessed this time of year. It's funny, since when I've discussed meals with omni friends these past few weeks and have mentioned having lots of salads or raw vegetable wraps, I've gotten more than a couple of well-intentioned comments expressing that it must be really hard to find things to eat when you're a vegan. The truth is that you can incorporate an infinitesimal number of things into a salad -- they're far from being limiting. They're also not just about lettuce.

This time of year, the salad recipes appearing in food articles and magazines serve as yet another heads up that the long dreary winter is indeed far behind us (or far behind me anyway -- I don't even want to think about snow anymore). Some, like this simple Sesame Cucumber Salad featured in the Sun Sentinel yesterday (along with this S
picy Jicama Salad) make great sides. So does this Asian Slaw. On the other hand, others like this Southwestern Quinoa Salad w/ Roasted Vegetables, Black Beans and Pumpkin Seeds posted yesterday on The Examiner website, or this Southwest Pasta Salad make great hearty dishes.

A few of my own favourite salads to make include Joanne Stephaniak's variation on Tang Tsel (which is a gorgeous and tangy side dish and is always a pleaser at potlucks), this Marinated Lentil Salad and an Egyptian Orange and Olive Salad (I could eat this almost every single day -- it's that good). The salad I like throwing together the most---often after a walk through my garden to pick the ingredients fresh--is tabbouleh (or tabouli). I think that every second eclectic vegan cookbook has a variation on this. Here's mine, which is loosely adapted from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook and which is incredibly tweakable:


What you need:
1 cup whole wheat bulgur
1-1/2 cups boiling water
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup chopped scallions (including green part)
1/2 tsp dried mint flakes
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
freshly-ground black pepper
2 medium plum tomatoes, diced
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped and packed tightly
1/2 cup chickpeas, cooked or canned
1 cucumber, chopped

1 small zucchini, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped

What you do:
Combine the bulgur, boiling water, and salt in a bowl. Cover and let stand 20 minutes or until bulgur is chewy. Add lemon juice, garlic, oil, and mint, and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate 2-3 hours. Just before serving add the vegetables and mix gently. Adjust seasonings and serve. Makes lots!

It seems that I'm not the only one who gets excited about tabbouleh:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Corn, Soybeans and Monsanto, Oh My!

Ever really wonder what the heck it is that you're putting into your mouth when you're eating plant-based food? Whether it's food from the grocery store when we're at home, from restaurants and cafeterias when we're at work or school, from baskets in boardrooms, and bowls in front of the telly at friend's homes on movie nights, we're constantly munching on one thing or another. For vegans, the first and main concern is obviously whether the food in question contains animal products. Once that's been covered, though, the only questions that generally concern us are whether the substance in question tastes good, smells good and looks good. Occasionally, we'll wonder what potential it has to additionally pad our arses.

But what about how it was grown?

The USDA has documented the increase in planting of genetically modified (or transgenic / genetically engineered) crops in the US over the past several years. It's somewhat shocking just how large a percentage of the corn, soybeans (and cotton) grown today is actually derived from genetically modified seed. The Ethicurean featured a short article last year about the USDA data. More and more people are becoming aware that the use of genetically modified plants in the North American food supply has been widespread and status quo for many years now, but I wonder if many have any idea that it's reached this magnitude.

Looking at the USDA's charts really drills it home, and makes me even more resolved to continue integrating more and more organic foods into my own diet where it counts. and to educate myself about what's happening. The Organic Consumers Association's website is a fabulous resource for anyone interested in learning the benefits (health, environmental, et al.) of consuming organic products, as well as the potential and proven dangers of perpetuating and consuming genetically modified organisms. The OCA's site also features all the latest news on the biotech industry.

As well, Jeffrey Smith, founder of The Institute for Responsible Technology and author of the bestselling book on GM foods Seeds of Deception has put together a DVD/CD set called The GMO Trilogy that's selling for less than $20 and that he's encouraging people to buy to show at house screenings -- the goal being to expose as many people as possible to the truth behind the biotech industry and how it's endangering the food supply and the very soil from which these genetically modified crops are grown. You can also view and/or listen to them here on Google Video.

Reading all of this also makes me eager to kickstart (albeit somewhat late) my backyard garden again this summer, after. But delving into that's probably left to another post...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dan Piraro is Bizarro

Vegan cartoonist Dan Piraro in action on a Montreal stage!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Paying Attention to Detail

I was nosing around earlier this morning and came across a marketing website with a blurb on Quorn, and how its makers have apparently redesigned its packaging to appeal to more "mainstream" consumers while "retaining its core vegetarian and vegan customers".

I don't know which vegan customers the company is supposedly retaining, since Quorn's not vegan. According to the company's website, all of its products contain eggs, and most of its products contain milk ingredients.


This next ramble's much more significant in terms of the need to pay attention to detail. A poster on the wonderful Vegan Freak Forums gave everyone a heads up today about the need to be careful when purchasing Red Star Nutritional Yeast from bulk bins. This person noticed a taste difference after buying some, which prompted her to check the fine print on the bulk bin's label and to discover that it was listed as an "NBC600" formula (now called LYNSIDE® FORTE Bmore). The Red Star Nutritional Yeast ordinarily used by vegans for its B12 content is the Vegetarian Support Formula™ (which used to be called T6635+).

When she contacted the company for clarification, she was told that the NBC600 / LYNSIDE® FORTE Bmore formula is only fortified with B1, B2, B3 and B6. So if you're relying on Red Star Nutritional Yeast as a B12 supplement and buying it from a store that keeps it in bulk, make sure that it's the correct formula. For more information on the vitamin content of the nutritional yeasts the company sells, visit this page on its website.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

If It Comes From a Cow, It Ain't Vegan

I got a little excited over my lunch break after finding a Dallas Observer writer's blog post announcing a vegan 'cheese' taste-testing. Alexa Schirtzinger wrote yesterday that she gathered some coworkers and had them sample different purportedly vegan cheeses to see which one(s) came out ahead. They tried out:

  • Rice Vegan in Pepper Jack, Cheddar and American Flavors (Galaxy Nutritional Foods)
  • "The Original" Almond® in Cheddar Style (Lisanatti)
  • Soya Kaas in American Cheddar
So, in her first comments about the results, Schirtzinger ends up writing of Lisanatti's almond cheese that "it tastes just fine--although it contains both casein (milk protein) and lactic acid, so I kind of think it should have been a better product". (Better?) Then in her final paragraph, she ends up writing that one of the Rice Vegan cheeses "won" the taste testing, since "Soya Kaas contains casein and lactic acid".

So in which Twilight Zone episode was this a vegan cheese taste-testing?

The Fiddleheads Are Comin'!

The Bangor Daily News has a neat little story today about vegan blogger-turned-food-writer Mary Lake. Her blog, Mitten Machen, is mostly focused on vegan living in Maine. Her recent post on her favourite nearby farmers' market resuming its summer schedule featured a yummy sounding simple recipe for Fiddlehead Pasta w/ Lemon & White Wine, which leaves me excited about the arrival of fiddlehead season in my neighbouring province. This spring's flooding left water levels higher than usual, which means that many of the fiddleheads are still underwater right now. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that relatives who forage for them every year will share their bounty with me, once again.

The VeganYumYum blog has a great information piece on them, for those who've never heard of them and who are curious. Most people living in the very northeastern United States and the Maritime provinces should find them in stores soon, if they aren't already.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vegan Nominess Tidbit

The National Post's food and drink section "The Appetizer" featured a simple plant-based recipe for a scrumptious-looking Vegetable Veggie Burger today. I should never scan the interwebs for veganism-related news stories right before lunch -- I always get so easily sidetracked by descriptions of food.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Atlantic's Foodie Max Fisher's Misguided Rant at Veganism

In an opinion piece entitled "The Fervour of the Vegan" a few days ago, The Atlantic's Food Channel producer, Max Fisher, ends up ranting at what he describes as a sort of ascetic righteousness he sees vegans as possessing. Fisher pretty much inadvertently lifts his shirt up to readers to display all of the welts borne of his own obvious self-flagellation, though, when he writes

I know all too well about the cruelties of egg and dairy factory farms, cruelties to which, as I pat myself on the back for not eating meat, I continue to contribute every day.

Facing this basic contradiction of vegetarianism made me recognize a weight I'd been carrying ever since I gave up meat: I resent vegans. I resent that their mere, if rare, existence calls attention to the hypocrisy underlying the vegetarianism so central to my daily life.
This very quote pretty much says it all. Fisher is acknowledging that he is a hypocrite, but has neither the balls nor the sense of accountability that would entail his having to address this hypocrisy by changing his own life. Instead, he shirks off his self-loathing by directing hostility at vegans for holding the mirror in front of him so that he can see himself.

That makes about as much sense as a serial rapist continuing to rape occasionally, while ranting about the existence of self-help groups consisting of reformed rapists for making him feel guilty for continuing to rape.

He continues, in an accusatory tone, stating "
vegans are a blow to any confidence I feel in my chosen lifestyle" and asks what should, in fact, be a rhetorical question: "If I really cared about animal welfare, wouldn't I be vegan?"

Indeed, Max Fisher. Indeed.

Friday, May 08, 2009

PETA's 'Mister Manners' Tells Vegans to Eat With (and Even Kiss!) Meat-Eaters

A press release was issued by PETA today to promote a new book called The Animal Activist's Handbook. Co-written by welfarists Vegan Outreach's Matt Ball and PETA Vice-President Bruce Friedrich, as well as endorsed by both welfarists Peter Singer and Matthew Scully? Buyer beware!

My favourite bit from the press release: "[Friedrich] argues against questioning waiters in restaurants about the ingredients in menu items". Uh, so what? Don't eat? Pretend you're not vegan? So now PETA is saying that if I adhere to an ethical framework that permeates every aspect of my life, including what I eat, that it's "impolite" and somehow harmful to the animal rights cause to find out if what's offered on a menu is suitable for me to eat? I'll guess that they'd probably OK my doing so if I had a life-threatening food allergy, so why should merely asking be portrayed as socially unacceptable if you're doing it for ethical reasons? Why seek to shame people for merely informing themselves?

The full text:

New Book Tutors Activists on the Finer Points of Being the Biggest Nags in Town (and at the Table)

For Immediate Release:
May 8, 2009

Jake Smith 757-622-7382

Dear Editor,

That irritating animal rights activist who never stops bugging you about your leather shoes and complaining about meat at the office potluck is about to get a makeover--courtesy of a new book by PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich, a man with a mighty bullhorn and a life mission. Along with colleague Matt Ball, Friedrich has authored The Animal Activist's Handbook, a first-of-its-kind guide that explains to activists that if they want to be effective, they'd better brush up on their social skills and appearance, or people may just ignore the message and shoot the messenger.

In the book, Friedrich--a vegan for more than 20 years--knocks down quite a few of the "sacred cows" of the animal rights movement. Taking on the role of PETA's "Mister Manners," Friedrich explains the importance of socializing and breaking bread with meat-eaters--and even dating them. After all, he explains, boycotting holiday meals or applying a vegan litmus test to our love lives will only alienate friends and family and cut down on our dating pool and sphere of influence.

Friedrich gives specific examples of what to say in "mixed" company when the topic of eating meat comes up. He suggests that meat-eaters should be fed faux meat rather than ethnic or other less familiar foods as their introduction to vegetarianism, and he argues against questioning waiters in restaurants about the ingredients in menu items.

The book has gotten raves from a diverse group of reviewers that includes Rory Freedman, number one New York Times bestselling coauthor of Skinny Bitch; Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University; and Matthew Scully, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Scully wrote that Friedrich's book "is full of good sense, thoughtful advice, and practical action on helping all of us to reduce the needless suffering of our fellow creatures. I recommend it."

With an inspiring foreword by PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk, The Animal Activist's Handbook also addresses several tangential issues, including why striving to make the world a better place is the most rewarding endeavor anyone can undertake as well as why Friedrich and his coauthor believe that animal liberation is not only possible but also inevitable.

I hope you that will consider running a profile on Friedrich and The Animal Activist's Handbook.

Best regards,

Jake Smith
Media Coordinator

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Of Life and Lacks (Some Ramblings on the Eve of a Dreaded Visit to the Vet's)

This thought popped into my head today, like some trite and simplistic revelation: I can finally understand one aspect of why people get so excited about welcoming grandchildren into their lives. The older we get, the more death we're dealt, so how could new life not be met with such joy? These additions spill over into the expanding lacks that were brought about by persons we love disappearing from our worlds -- persons who cease to "be".

And although years ago I would have thought that viewing death in terms of one's self is selfish, I now realize after been battered with it over the past two years that viewing it in terms of one's self and how it affects those around you who share that death with you -- who share that tremendous loss -- is pretty much it. My friend John used to say over and over to me: Death isn't about the dead; it's about the living. He was right. It's the living who are left to accumulate losses until their own turns come. Those who are dead... well, they're just dead.

I think of my life with companion animals and can't help but feel, for all of the goodness that's been reciprocated through sharing my years with them, that having those bonds has in one way ended up leaving me with more death than I'm ready to deal with at this point in my life. I have no regrets, though. I'm damn grateful to have been able to provide care and shelter for these magnificent others with whom I've shared my life. Some people scoff at the expressions of sadness and emptiness that are uttered by those who lose their beloved non-humans, but what greater lack can develop than one that stems from losing someone -- human or non-human -- who was a part of your daily life (as you were a part of his or hers), who accepted you unconditionally, who relied on you for all of his or her needs and who, in turn, sought you out to comfort you when he or she sensed that you were unhappy? I suspect that some will shrug and say that this just leads to the anthropomorphizing of non-humans. At the other end of it, some may shake their heads and assert that thinking about non-humans in terms of what they bring to your own life (i.e. as if they exist for your pleasure) is contrary to abolitionist principles. There's no shame in feeling emotional bonds, though, whether they be with humans or non-humans, and the species of the other with whom you share that bond should in no way qualify its weight, nor should it taint it.

The truth is that there's no need for anybody to justify the extent or profoundness of his or her sense of loss when a loved one ceases to be. And it's not about whether the loved one had two legs or four, or whether that loved one could discuss Heidegger's most dense points with you or share your enthusiasm for a good Coltrane record. It's not even about whether the beloved was good to you or to
anybody, really. You're the only one who can assess your own sense of loss -- who can measure the width of that big gaping hole left in your life after a loved one ceases to be. And thinking about loss in terms of it being "yours" is normal, regardless of the species of your loved one.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

More Vegan Recipes in Mainstream Media

I love it when I find these. Yes, there are hundreds of wonderful websites and blogs on the internet devoted to vegan nomness, but when I find vegan cooking and recipes on the websites of ordinary newspapers, it makes me particularly happy. Regular people who wouldn't ordinarily seek out specifically vegan recipes get a chance to sample foods or dishes they might not otherwise get the chance to try out, and if the recipes are good, stereotypes about animal-free cooking get broken, and maybe some person out there starts to incorporate animal-free meals into his diet. I used to view potlucks as an opportunity for sneaky subversive activism.


Northwest Herald has a recipe today for Glazed Chocolate-Avocado Cupcakes that sounds decadent.


A couple of months ago,
I'd posted about an informative article I'd found about agave nectar (also known as 'agave syrup'). Maybe it's just the after-buzz from Cinco de Mayo, but it seems that agave has been getting even more attention in mainstream media, since then. The Binghamton Press has both an article about its increasing popularity, as well as a recipe for a Mango-Pineapple Mojito Sorbet that almost makes it feel worth running out to buy an ice cream maker. And then there's OK! Magazine's easy-peasy recipe for a low-calorie Margarita that's definitely worth trying out.


Finally, although it doesn't contain any recipes, this Tacoma
News Tribune piece on the financial and health benefits of eating more beans and grains does contain some cooking instructions and suggestions.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Insanity of Vegetarianism Has No Limits

I feel awful admitting it, but this article in Pravda about vegetarianism and veganism left me chuckling a little earlier this morning. The title of the article -- "Insanity of Vegetarianism Has No Limits" -- is about as subtle as a massive coronary. In it, Irina Shlionskaya examines what she calls six myths about meat eating (or eschewing meat and other animal products). I'm just going to share the entire article here, since it has too many gems for me to be able to quote from it without feeling I've left anything out.

It seems that the discussion of the good and bad of vegetarianism will never subside. The proponents of abstinence from meat claim that meat contains a whole bouquet of harmful substances. Their opponents say that the animal protein is absolutely essential for the human body. Who is right and who is wrong here? Below you will find the list of most talked-about statements about the vegan diet.

Myth No. 1. Meat contains toxins – by-products of the decomposition of the post-mortem poison, which gradually intoxicate the human body.

As a matter of fact, it is dangerous to eat only tainted meat, which indeed contains the products of decay. Many vegetarians do not eat meat, but they do eat fish assuming that there are no toxins in fish. Some others decline even eggs, in which there can be no vestiges of post-mortem poison found, of course.

Myth No. 2. Meat contains cancer-producing substances. Eating meat on a regular basis leads to the development of cancer.

As a matter of fact, carcinogens can be found in fried and smoked food. If you eat boiled, stewed meat or shashlik (shish-kebab) there is no danger posed whatsoever.

Myth No. 3. Meat makes one put on weight.

As a matter of fact, all sorts of meat differ. It is generally believed that meat adds more fat to the body because it is digested entirely. A person eating fatty meat all the time will definitely put on weight, but they have a variety of other sorts of meat to choose from – low-fat beef or poultry, for example.

Myth No. 4. Vegetarians live longer than non-vegans.

As a matter of fact, there are many factors that exert influence on longevity: genetic background, ecology, stresses and many other aspects. Many long-living individuals have never stuck to any diets at all. Many of them eat anything they want and whenever they want.

Myth No. 5. Vegetarians are generally healthier than those who eat meat.

As a matter of fact, meat contains protein and ferrum, which is a compound of hemoglobin. The shortage of ferrum develops general fatigue. Some sorts of fish, which vegans strongly decline, contain omega-3 aliphatic acids, which produce the anti-inflammatory effect. It has been determined that those excluding meat from their daily menus suffer from heart diseases a lot more frequently.

The shortage of useful substances shows a direct influence on vegans’ looks. As a rule, many of them look pale because of the disturbed blood circulation. In addition, they are more prone to cold-related diseases.

Myth No. 6. A human being is a herbivorous creature by nature.

As a matter of fact, many researchers say that humans are genetically capable of digesting meat food. Carnivorous beings cannot digest too much vegetable food and cannot live normally without the products of animal origin. Herbivorous beings cannot consume meat. If humans were not omnivorous, it would never occur to anyone to eat meat.

Researcher Barry Groves, the author of “Trick and Treat: How Healthy Eating Is Making Us Ill” said that diet food is mostly unnatural for humans because human beings are carnivorous by nature, and the human digestive system is made to digest fatty meat and other anti-vegan food. A healthy diet is a diet of no extremities

Where to start with this mishmash of errors and contradictions? She states that "many vegetarians" eat fish and that they do so because they think it contains no toxins? Vegetarians don't eat fish, and I'd guess that most people who do eat fish certainly don't do so because they think it contains less toxins. She states that carcinogens in meat are limited to smoked or fried meat, yet claims that "shish-kebabs" are exempt; unless I'm missing something, aren't "shish-kebabs" generally cooked over an open flame, thus exposing the meat to similar chemical reactions?. Her assertion that those who eschew meat suffer more from heart disease is especially laughable, considering that most mainstream sources of information on the matter indicate otherwise and less mainstream (yet still very sound and credible) sources state the exact opposite. And those are actually some of the least funny little bits in the article.

I guess that my reaction to the whole piece is likely strongly affected by my "disturbed blood circulation", which undoubtedly leaves me unable to pick up on any strong arguments she may have made in it. Thankfully, the ensuing light-headedness caused by my veganism has left me giddy enough to have a sense of humour about her article. Now, please excuse me as I go powder my pale nose and contemplate my diet of "extremities"...

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Bon Iver's "For Emma"

An off-topic musical interlude is almost always appropriate. I've had this song on heavy rotation on my iPod for the past week. I came across this neat little YouTube clip of the group singing it while wandering around Montreal's winter streets. Enjoy!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Missed Emails

If anyone's tried to use the "Email me" button I'd had at the bottom of my posts to try to contact me during the past month, it seems that technology has, once again, failed me. I was wondering why things had gotten so quiet.

I've since added a link off to the right of the blog (just below my profile info) in case you'd like to contact me about something rather than leave a comment. I reserve the right, however, to use my discretion to weigh whether something should be slapped into a comment box anyway. I would also like to point out that a comment will probably get noticed and addressed much faster, since I'm more likely to eyeball the blog throughout the day than I am my email.

David Mintz: The Man Behind Tofutti

While looking around for tempeh recipes online earlier this morning, I ended up stumbling upon an article about David Mintz, the creator of Tofutti dairy-free products. Now the company's CEO and director (and supposedly earning somewhere around $800,000 a year), Mintz has definitely come far from his more simple beginnings as a delicatessen owner. Curiously enough, what drove Mintz to create the line was anything but a concern for animal sentience:

Recognizing a needy market. An observant Jew, Mintz was aware that many Jews would dearly love to eat ice cream (milchig) for dessert after a meal that includes meat (fleishig) — something forbidden by Jewish law. Good-tasting pseudo-ice cream without milk would do nicely. Besides, a great many people (30 to 60 million Americans, according to various estimates) are allergic to milk products. Their stomachs cannot break down the lactose in milk, so they get bellyaches and other abdominal problems. Indeed, many people, as they grow older, become somewhat lactose intolerant — including Mintz himself.
In fact, the article pretty much limits itself to focusing on the religious reasons surrounding Mintz's creation of Tofutti, as well as on how the products benefit those who are lactose-intolerant. There's not a single mention of vegetarianism or veganism. What's even more interesting is that Mintz himself admits in the article that fish is his favourite food and that one of his hobbies is raising Japanese koi.

I hopped over to the Tofutti website to read its origins story there
and pretty much found more of the same, as it was explained how Mintz initially sought to provide dairy-free substitutes for his New York delicatessen for his customers who kept kosher. Although veganism is mentioned in passing in the company website's FAQs, the focus on the website is kept on the religious reasons the products are dairy-free (as well as on the fact that they're cholesterol-free -- a health bonus). Furthermore, it's explained that many Tofutti products aren't, in fact, vegan. All of their frozen food entrées and all of their cookies contain eggs, plus one of their Better Than Cream Cheese varieties isn't even vegetarian, but contains smoked salmon.

It was interesting for me to read about this since, aside from their more straightforward dairy substitutes, Tofutti products aren't widely available in stores in my area. Plus, I don't generally seek them out since I avoid soy products that aren't organic, since most soy produced in North America is GMO unless labelled otherwise. It's funny that a company that provides foods widely-enjoyed by so many vegans and vegetarians came to do so more or less accidentally in a way that had nothing to do with animal ethics.

Peter Singer's Interview w/ Slow Food Movement International Revisited

At the beginning of the week, I posted about a recent Peter Singer interview in which he seems to come right out and embrace all that is touted as ethical in the "happy meat" movement. Gary L. Francione expressed his thoughts on the same interview in a blog post on his site on Wednesday. Francione goes into much greater detail to show exactly how the rift between the abolitionist and welfarist approaches to animal ethics issues has continued to grow.