Thursday, April 29, 2010

PETA and HSUS Tag-Team to Take on Pizza Industry? Hardly!

The trade website Pizza Marketplace ran a piece yesterday about how supposed "animal rights" groups PETA and HSUS are tag-teaming to take on the pizza industry. According to the site, both organizations "are 'crashing' Papa John's and Domino's shareholder meetings". What they mean by this is that HSUS has recently used its supporters' dollars to become a shareholder in Domino's Pizza and that PETA has done the same with Papa John's. PETA has, of course, been doing this sort of thing for years. I remember back in 2003, for instance, when it proudly announced its having become "part owner" of Tyson Foods, Inc., the world's second largest processor and marketer of the flesh of chickens, cows and pigs.

Why on earth would two organizations that promote themselves as advocates for animals and let others misrepresent them as "animal rights" organizations choose to profit from animal exploitation?
Both PETA and HSUS claim that these actions were taken to give them each an official say in the decisions each pizza company makes (via shareholders' meetings) with regards to the animal flesh and secretions it uses to garnish the products from which it profits -- the animal flesh and secretion covered products from which supposed animal advocacy organizations PETA and HSUS also now profit. So will PETA and HSUS try to convince these companies to stop exploiting animals? Nope. Will PETA and HSUS maybe opt for the token gesture of trying to convince these companies to incorporate some animal-free substitutes for the dairy cheese and animal flesh they use on their pizzas? Nope. A half-hearted attempt to get them to use less animal flesh or secretions? Nope. According to Pizza Marketplace :

The Humane Society of The United States' Kristine Middleton said she would address what she said is [Domino]’s practice of using pork from suppliers that confine breeding pigs in gestation crates.
So HSUS bought stock in -- and is profiting from -- a company that uses the flesh and secretions of cows, the flesh of pigs and chickens and the flesh of fish. And why? To talk to Domino's about using gestation crates? As Gary L. Francione stated in his 2007 interview with Eric "Happy Meat" Marcus, enlarging or getting rid of gestation crates is like offering someone a "string band on the way to the gas chamber". Furthermore, aside from the fact that it does nothing to address animal use, it would only serve to make people feel more comfortable about eating pig's flesh on their pizza. This is how HSUS justifies profiting from the use and exploitation of non-human animals. As for PETA, the self-described "animal rights" group:
Stephanie Corrigan from PETA said the group would like to work with Papa John's on the company's dairy standards. "We're looking at the dairy farms they're using and encourage pizza companies to make sure their suppliers implement the most basic animal welfare standards," she said.
While PETA is profiting from the use and exploitation of animals, it wants to try to ensure that the companies exploiting the animals in question at the very, very least offer those animals "the most basic animal welfare standards". How charitable of them! While this is going on, the people over at the industry-front Center for Consumer Freedom (via its HumaneWatch site) are having a really good laugh, chortling that "PETA has been doing this for years [and that] [t]hey never got more than about 3 percent of support from any shareholders." I wonder, on the other hand, what percentage of the world's third largest pizza delivery company's profits PETA will get; with Papa John's over $1B in revenue in 2007, I'm guessing that it could be a nice chunk of change.

Of course, one does have to take what spews out of the Center for Consumer Freedom with a grain of salt, since they do also insist that in seeking to regulate various companies' use of animals and in choosing to profit directly from the use and exploitation of non-human animals, that somehow, HSUS has a "vegan agenda". It seems to me, however, that if HSUS actually had anything even vaguely resembling a "vegan agenda" that it would actually spend some of its millions seriously advocating for veganism. It doesn't. Furthermore, as long as HSUS can trick its financial supporters into allowing it to sell them indulgences while profiting from the actual hands-on exploitation of animals -- its bread and Earth Balance, why on earth would it have any interest whatsoever in actually advocating for the actual end of animal exploitation? Why on earth would it seek to educate consumers about not providing demand for animal exploitation, if doing so would ultimately affect its own profit margins?

I love pizza with the sort of ferocity that most people reserve for chocolate or reality TV shows. Thankfully, my pizza fix comes animal-free quite easily now
. Between the vegan cheese and meat substitutes available on the market right now, the frozen vegan pizzas and the hundreds of other plant-based ingredients available to use as toppings, there's no need for a single animal to be enslaved and then slaughtered for anyone to indulge themselves in a slice.

Of course, you won't be hearing about that from HSUS or PETA, now, will you?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Official My Face Is on Fire Pre-podcast!

Enjoy it in all of its technical splendour! Heh. These are just a few words to set up what I hope to accomplish with this thing, if I do indeed decide to keep plugging away at it. Many thanks to William Paul for suggesting The Internet Archive as a host site for now. To visit the My Face Is on Fire page there, click here.

If you have any suggestions for topics you'd like to see covered / questions you'd like to have answered once the actual podcast gets rolling please drop me a line at m.of.the.maritimes at or contact me on Twitter (@MFIoF).

Now go laugh heartily at the technobe's first podcast! :-)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How to Make the Perfect Falafel

I usually make falafel using an inexpensive mix I buy at the health food store. Although this method below seems a bit more time consuming, it's so very much worth it in the end. Although she doesn't mention it in her video, hot sauce is frequently used in falafel sandwiches and is a must-have when I make them. You can find pickled turnip in the ethnic foods section of your grocery store or use one of the numerous recipes available online to make it yourself. Traditionally, other pickled vegetables are sometimes served with falafel balls, so don't feel guilty about doing what I do, which is to occasionally use things like pickles or hot peppers.

To make the garlic sauce to which she refers near the end of the video, peel one whole garlic bulb and toss it into the blender, slowly adding a half cup of oil and around a tablespoon of lemon juice while blending until smooth. The finished product should have a mayo-like consistency and some like to salt it a little, but I don't. There are variations on this garlic sauce recipe available online, so Google away.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What Vegans Eat

I'm always a bit surprised at how quickly time has passed when I remember to scroll back through posts to see when I'd last posted updates on what some of my favourite vegan food bloggers have been writing about. In this case, I'm surprised it's been a whole month since my last "What Vegans Eat" post. Without further hemming and hawing, here are just some highlights of what's caught my eye over the past few weeks:

I have been on an almond kick for the past few weeks, enjoying tamari-roasted almonds, almond milk and almond butter. Almonds are such a great source of healthy fats and Vitamin E that their tastiness is just a real perk. I'm going to try something a little bit different this weekend, however, and make this recipe for "Almond Feta" that was posted on Vegan Epicurean just yesterday.

Claire at
Chez Cayenne leaned towards Indian flavours this past month, posting recipes for both "Sweet Potato-Edamame Mini-Samosas" and "Mushroom-Lentil Burgers with Indian Spices". Both sound absolutely yummy!

Somehow overlooked when I wrote up "The Ultimate Mac 'n' Cheese Post" a few weeks ago, the VeganDad blog featured his first attempt at concocting a vegan KD knock-off -- "Vegan KD 1.0". I've gotta try this one over the weekend, as well.

Over at Manifest Vegan, allyson posted the following recipe just in time for its main ingredient to start popping up all over my backyard: "Dandelion Fritters"! I should cross-post it into a "veganism on the cheap" post, since foraging for wild edibles is a side-interest of mine that's a worthwhile -- and fun -- pursuit for those who want to eat well and pinch pennies.

I'll wrap the recipes up with one that involves one of my favourite combinations ever that doesn't include garlic. At the Big Raw & Vegan blog, Zucchini Breath featured a recipe for
"Vegan Peanut Butter Cups". Go ahead and try not to try them -- I dare you! And pass them on to all of your non-vegan friends to show them just how deliciously decadent vegan cooking can be.

(Remember to check out My Face Is on Fire on Facebook!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Veganism in the Media

Earlier this morning, I read yet another "news" article ("Is veganism safe for kids?") conflating veganism with malnutrition and conveying that raising a child as a vegan is dangerous -- perhaps even leaving vegan parents at risk of having their children removed from their custody. At the top of the article is a photo of a young girl guzzling milk with the caption: "Full-fat dairy produce has health benefits for under-fives." The writer starts off discussing a case in England where social workers attempted to remove a child "who appeared to have rickets" from the care of his parents, claiming that the parents were vegan. As it turns out, the parents weren't vegan -- they ate fish. They did, however, avoid dairy products for health reasons and won their legal battle to keep their child. Nonetheless, with the "v-word" dropped, the tone is set: Restricting your kid's diet might lead to the intervention of authorities!

One such authority is Helen Wilcock, a naysayer and pediatric dietitian who -- uh -- confirms her lack of bias when she states that she "tries not to be judgemental about the rights and wrongs of vegan diets for young children" (can someone please explain this assertion to me?). She goes on to warn that
"Vegan children can be deficient in vitamin D, calcium, iron and possibly vitamin B12, so they need supplements."
Furthermore, according to Wilcock, vegan diets aren't very calorie-dense (because vegans only eat raw fruits and vegetables?) so she recommends "adding oil to their food". What about nuts, seeds and nut-butters? What about soy milk or other soy products? What about avocado? Nope -- just add oil. And a multivitamin.

The pediatric dietitian goes on to say that -- wait for it! -- protein is an issue for vegan children, because you can only get complete amino acids by eating meat. I wonder how many decades ago Wilcock obtained her certification, since it is now widely known and confirmed by health professionals that the whole myth of "protein combining" is bunk. A healthy diet with a good variety of plant-based foods is all you need to worry about to obtain your protein. Read more about it here. Yet, according to Wilcock, it's a problem and "when a vegan diet starts to go wrong, the first symptom is usually that the child fails to thrive or grow properly. It's the shortage of calories and protein that kicks in first."

Thankfully, the article presents other view that balance out Wilcock's fear mongering. A representative from the British Nutrition Foundation is quoted saying that nutrition can be an issue with any child, vegan or not, when parents feed that child a diet that is too low-fat and too high-fibre. Amanda Baker from the Vegan Society takes this even further by pointing out that vegan parents tend to inform themselves better about nutrition and cook at home more often, with many relying on healthy whole foods and avoiding processed foods. Baker also states that too often, the problem is, in fact, that "many people, doctors and health workers to social workers and other parents, are badly informed" about veganism.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

On Doing (More Than) the Bare Minimum

I read an article earlier this morning by Stephanie Ernst (
"A Vegan But Not an Activist? Sure. An Animal Lover But Not a Vegan? Nope.") which I'd like to bring to people's attention. Ernst writes about how people too often assume that being vegan means that one is also active in animal rights advocacy. Ernst describes how some people who may be uncomfortable advocating for causes, whose time is already gobbled up advocating for other causes or whose lives are just too busy to take on any additional responsibilities, sometimes shrug off going vegan because they think that the burden of activism comes with the label. She adds to this:

If you truly oppose something, you seek to not participate in it. If you believe in an ideal such as nonviolence, you don’t actively, daily make choices that stand in direct contrast to that belief. It’s not a choice of (a) devote yourself completely to activism against the injustice or (b) be a participant in the injustice. If you love animals, you don’t kill animals. If you respect animals, you don’t torment animals, emotionally, mentally, or physically. If you believe in nonviolence, you don’t engage in violence. And choosing to eat animals and animal products is to participate in torment, to participate in violence.
I agree with her that conflating veganism with animal rights activism seems a fairly lame excuse to not go vegan (although she expresses this much more diplomatically). I also agree wholeheartedly that it's completely nonsensical to call yourself an animal lover and to not go vegan.

I'll also admit, though, that
in all of my years as a vegetarian and then a vegan, I have never had anyone say to me that he or she did not want to go vegan because he or she didn't have the time/interest/inclination to be an animal rights activist. People generally say to me that they don't want to go vegan because it's "too hard" in terms of willpower or convenience, or they say that they're not convinced that the health arguments for it are sound. Sometimes they tell me, occasionally apologetically, that they don't want to be labeled "extremist". These are pretty lame excuses, as well, but they're the ones I hear most often. They're also pretty straightforward to address -- if one is willing to go the extra step. But you can't really alter people's misconceptions of veganism or correct the misinformation they have if you don't actually talk to people about veganism, right? This doesn't just apply to excuses people give you for why they wouldn't or "couldn't" go vegan, but it also applies to occasions where your own (or a fellow vegan's) choice to be a vegan is questioned or criticized, or where any aspect of the ethics of animal exploitation are brought up at all (and we all know that in this society, animal exploitation -- as an acceptable norm -- comes up in conversation constantly).

Ernst mentions that sometimes educating others about veganism becomes a "byproduct of the process — the more you learn, the more you want to share that information with those you care about, for their sake as well as for the sake of the fellow animals". She adds, however, that
even if that’s not you, even if you never write a letter to the editor or directly rescue an animal or hold up a sign or organize a boycott or even talk in much detail about your choices to your friends and family, you can do the bare minimum — you can remove yourself from the cycle.
I appreciate the spirit in which she asserts this -- particularly within the context of arguing that someone's shrugging off veganism for fear of feeling obligated to become an animal rights activist is no excuse to not go vegan. I also do indeed believe that veganism should be the moral baseline and that removing oneself from the cycle of violence is the very least -- the "bare minimum" -- someone can do.

The truth is that you can advocate for animals in all kinds of ways that need not fill up every second of your free time and that need not induce anxiety at the idea of speaking in front of a crowd. The stereotypical behaviours people often associate with animal rights activism--e.g. circulating petitions, holding demonstrations, organizing boycotts, et al.--are not only far from the only forms of activism in which animal advocates participate, but in many cases, activities like the aforementioned concern themselves with single-issue campaigns which end up presenting one single type of animal treatment or use, or the treatment or use of just one particular species of animal as having more importance than others. You can actually start advocating for animals today by just talking to people about veganism conversationally. You'd talk to people about your favourite television show or about your favourite hobby--why does it have to be so taboo to talk to them about why you choose not to use nonhuman animals as things?

Don't we owe animals more than just the bare minimum? What about our friends and families, or those who may in fact be open to veganism were it not for this or that obstacle they've (perhaps unwittingly) set up for themselves thanks to years of speciesist indoctrination or just plain old misinformation? Don't we owe
them more than just shutting up and letting them continue to participate in this needless cycle of violence? There are some who think that vegans should just shut up and embrace the status quo: I reject this and hope that anyone who takes seriously the interests of animals to not be used as things will also reject this.

So although I agree with Ernst that it's illogical to refuse to go vegan because one equates veganism with animal rights activism, I'd like to say that in light of the fact that there are over 10 billion animals killed for food in North America alone every single year, that I really hope that those who do make this very important decision to take that step -- to do the bare minimum and go vegan -- also come around to realizing that we owe animals so much more. I really hope that those who go vegan realize that there is no shame in talking to others about veganism. If we don't talk to others about the immorality of the exploitation and use of nonhuman animals, who will?

Go vegan. If you are vegan, please talk to others about going vegan.

For thoughts on creative vegan education, tips and resources, please check out my posts on what other abolitionist vegans have been doing, check out the vegan blogs and podcasts I've listed off on the side, and visit the following links:

From Gary L. Francione's Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach

What YOU Can Do to Help Achieve Abolition!
Some Thoughts on Vegan Education
Vegan Education Made Easy -- Part I
Vegan Education Made Easy -- Part 2
Vegan Education Made Easy -- Part 3: An Abolitionist Pamphlet
Abolitionist Vegan Literature
Making a Vegan Education Kiosk
A Smart Idea about Community Education

From Dan Cudahy's Unpopular Vegan Essays:

Vegan Education: A Background (Part 1 of 2)
Vegan Education: An Incremental Abolitionist Approach (Part 2 of 2)
Just Being Vegan (a gem!)
Abolitionist Vegan Education: The Vehicle of Progress
In Praise of Vegan Food Blogs

From Vincent Guihan's WOARadio podcast:

How to Answer a Question About Veganism

To talk to other abolitionist vegans about what you can do to educate others about veganism, visit the Animal Emancipation discussion forum:

Animal Emancipation Discussion Forum

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to Make Your Own Soy Milk

I found a number of recipes for homemade soy milk online, most with only slight variations. Many of them called for the use of a soy milk making contraption, however, which I'm guessing that most people don't have on hand. I neither have one, nor do I intend to get one--I've got too many electric kitchen gadgets as it is, and want to scale back on what I already have and use. I found a number of videos, as well, using the same. I ended up finding this one below on YouTube and really liked it. It shows how easy it is to make soy milk from scratch using nothing but the most basic kitchen tools, a blender and your stove (or other source of cooking heat).

Given the relative ease with which most people can find soy milk in stores these days, the idea of making it yourself may not seem that appealing. The cost-saving benefit is worth noting: Dried organic soy beans are cheaper to use and you will indeed save money making it yourself--up to half or more of what you'd pay for the commercial soy milk. When you make it yourself, you get to flavour it however you like it. Also, remember the energy and resources wasted during the manufacturing of commercial soy milk and of its packaging, and of where that packaging often ends up even if it may be recyclable. Another thing I've been noticing is that the availability of organic soy milk seems to declining somewhat, with brands like Silk switching from organic to beans that are almost certainly genetically modified, and then sometimes even reintroducing organic versions at higher prices.

So do indeed use organic beans and give this recipe a try. Save that soy pulp (also called
"okara"), since it's incredibly nutritious and there are innumerable recipes available on the internet, particularly Asian recipes, in which you can use it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Non-Ambulatory Animals as Persons?

I have been an admirer of Sherry F. Colb's FindLaw articles for months. It's always interesting to me to come across and read intelligent critical examinations of issues from a vegan -- and even an abolitionist -- perspective. Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell Law School, Colb has been a FindLaw columnist for the past ten years, providing clear insight into what sometimes seem to be morally complex court cases and media stories. A piece of hers from mid-April ("Federal Appeals Court Rejects Preemption Claim Against California 'Downed Animal' Law: A Victory for Animal Rights?") displays more of that keen and clear insight--although I disagree with part of the conclusion she reaches in it.

Colb's article is about U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversal the previous month of a district court's decision that preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of California Penal Code §599f. This is the "downed animal" law of which there's been much discussion in the animal movement over the past several months. According to this law, if it were actually enforced, slaughterhouses would be required to immediately euthanize non-ambulatory (i.e. so-called "downer") animals originally intended for slaughter for human consumption. They would also be required to utilize humane methods to move them, rather than dragging/pushing them. Much of the support for this law, as Colb explains, really rests upon concern for human safety, since the flesh of an animal incapable of standing or moving could very well be diseased and unfit for human consumption. Part of it stems from public response to a video circulated widely by the welfarist HSUS showing conscious "downer" cows being tortured by slaughterhouse workers trying to coerce them to keep moving.

Colb makes some excellent critical points concerning the law's pitiful shortcomings. First, she notes that "California's downed animal legislation does not recognize that any pig, cow, or other nonhuman animal has the right to live out her natural life". The law is about treatment and not about use. She goes on to note that the law in no way prohibits

the infliction of suffering on sentient animals. Though it is in reality not possible to slaughter billions of living creatures a year without causing immense pain and suffering to those creatures, consumers do seem to nurture the belief that while animals must die for meat (and, as informed consumers realize, for dairy and eggs as well), they need not necessarily suffer.
Basically, the law in question only targets the treatment of animals deemed unfit for human consumption -- not the ones who continue to considered useful as property, from which producers may still profit. Those other animals still labeled potential "food", she explains, will still live horrible lives by virtue of their being bred into a cycle whose only end is slaughter for human consumption. She points out that the "truth is that the entire group of animals would benefit from immediate euthanasia, if the alternative is the terror and pain of the slaughter process". I winced a little at the idea of the term "euthanasia" being suggested for living and relatively (i.e. compared to animals described as "downers") healthy enslaved animals who'd otherwise be capable of living out long lives, if given the opportunity to do so (and of course, there's the rub). I think that Colb's suggestion could very well warrant a separate blog post in the future, since the word, I think, is often misunderstood and sometimes the actions described by it are grossly misrepresented in mainstream media. Take, for instance, the recent news story concerning PeTA's killing of 97% of the animals relinquished to it in 2009 and of how the killings were described as "euthanasia". But I'm off on a tangent and need to get back on track...

Colb also points out, rightfully so, that even if this law does go through, that based on what seems to be the norm in the animal slaughter industry, it is unlikely that it would be consistently enforced. She describes the unfortunate norm in graphic detail -- the current grossly flawed inspection process which, even if performed in good faith and as efficiently as possible, cannot possibly keep up with and cover the "over 300,000 pigs" slaughtered daily in the US alone. According to Colb, it's this very flawed inspection process upon which pig farmers have come to rely to squeeze through any animals who, if noticed, would not pass inspection. More animals getting through to slaughter = more $$.

What concerns me about Colb's article is her conclusion that she writes, going on a hypothetical assumption that the law would pass and that it would be enforced appropriately. She writes that
once a law has passed, we ought to judge that law on its own merits (rather than focusing exclusively on what could have been accomplished instead).
She sees the hypothetical passing of the law as a "tiny step in the right direction" as it "rejects the status of non-ambulatory animals in instrumental terms". Furthermore, she states:
Within its relatively narrow domain, the law will do something positive and important. It will require that an animal who cannot be placed into the food supply be treated – if only for a tiny fraction of her life – as if her own experience matters. When she proves unable to walk to slaughter, the slaughterhouse that is holding her becomes obligated to provide her with an actual humane death.
The thing is, though, that non-ambulatory animals are animals whose status as property becomes deemed potentially irrelevant because downer animals are not, theoretically, supposed to be turned into food. Colb writes that the law "rejects the status of non-ambulatory animals in instrumental terms", but isn't it that they've been deemed useless that alters their status as property? Assuming, of course, that they're identified . Also, the fact that this law may apply to cows, for instance, while baby chicks are still disposed of as usual just reinforces that some species are more worth of a certain type of treatment than others. It seems to me that this law would be just one more drop in the regulationist bucket from which people who choose to continue consuming animals and animal products obtain the fodder they need to nourish their self-deception that there is anything ethical about continuing to use animals.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's Getting Harder and Harder to Be an Ethical Consumer

From SMBC.

Vegan Simplicity

When I started writing My Face Is on Fire a couple of years ago, I did so with a couple of intentions. I wanted to write about veganism, but I also wanted to write about other issues involving the ethics of consumption that have to do with over-consumption in general. Cheap oil (among other factors) has facilitated a sort of rampant consumerism in "developed" countries, and this consumerism has enabled our becoming disposable societies. Cheap oil facilitated the Green Revolution, which has left us with a hyper-industrialized agricultural system which has poisoned the land, water and air around us, and which has also left global food production--much of the world's actual seed supply--in the hands of a very few gigantic biotech companies. It's also left us eating questionable concoctions out of disposable (albeit sometimes recyclable) paper, plastic and metal packaging--foods whose ingredients sometimes travel halfway around the world to get to the machines used to slap them together before they hit the store shelves.

So along with talking about the ethics of veganism, when I started this blog, I wanted to focus on the things we can do to reduce our consumerism by eating lower on the food chain, relying less on manufactured goods, and supporting agricultural practices that
don't involve tithes to Monsanto (i.e. practices which are instead focused on supporting organic agriculture, and on even growing some of your own food while avoiding chemical fertilizers, pesticides and frankenseed). I think that with veganism as its foundation, an ethical consumption mindset that also involves consideration for treading lightly can lead to a lifestyle that is healthier for us, for non-humans, as well as for the environment we all share. It can also be a fun and educational process, as you teach yourself methods you can use to simplify your life and pass on any acquired knowledge or skills to others interested in learning more.

I'm sure that some vegans get a bit of a negative knee-jerk reaction to mentions of things like "locavorism" and "small-scale organic farming" because of the emphasis often placed on animal use and exploitation when discussing either--particularly in purportedly hip mainstream articles about either topic. The truth is, though, that there are so many benefits to be enjoyed from incorporating a variety of fresh and unprocessed plant-based foods into your diet and in knowing what's been used to grow them. I also think that along with treading more lightly when choosing what we eat, that we have so much from which to benefit in learning how to simplify our lives in other ways that leave us consuming--and

I've been chatting with a number of fellow vegans (as well as non-vegans) over the last few months, mostly via email or in some discussion forums, about how pricey or difficult to track down certain processed vegan items and personal care products can be. While doing this, I've realized that there are too many instances where veganism ends up deemed "too difficult" because of the expense or scarcity in some stores of items with otherwise readily-available non-vegan equivalents. In many cases, the items in question are, in fact, items that are neither critically essential nor completely unaffordable if consumed in moderation. That being said, while extending the blog's focus to include the exploration of less expensive lifestyle choices for vegans that rely less on manufacturing and instead lean more towards sustainability and voluntary simplicity, that could be an interesting "issue" to tackle. Over the next while, I hope to include tips, tricks and do-it-yourself instructions for a variety of things that may be helpful to those interested. I look forward to getting some feedback on it all in the posts to come.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What Other Abolitionists Have Been Doing

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a long overdue list of some recent activities in which various abolitionists have been engaging. I'd meant to post a second part to it later that week, but got side-tracked, so I'm going to throw in a few things now, but will then stick to monthly updates.


Prof. Gary L. Francione recently posted an excellent critique of HSUS' "Save a Seal Today" campaign on the Opposing Views website. The fundraising campaign calls for a boycott of Canadian seafood products to pressure the Canadian government to end the annual seal hunt. The message this campaign sends out is that the interests of "cute" seals matter more than the interests of all other regularly exploited sea animals, since HSUS more or less tells us that 1) it's OK to continue to consume all other sea animals as long as they don't come from Canada, and that 2) as soon as the seal hunt ends, it's OK to go back to consuming other Canadian sea animals. Most significantly, though, the messaged conveyed is that HSUS--with its annual budget of $150 million--somehow needs more money.

Read more about it here in the original piece on Opposing Views, and join the discussion.


Sam Tucker, host of Food for Though Radio (among many, many other things), has been updating a Flickr photo set of images of foods he customarily eats. Of it, he writes:

Whenever I talk to anyone about veganism, one of the most common questions I get asked is "what do you eat?". They assume that by the time you've taken out meat, dairy, eggs, honey and other animal products off your plate, all there will be left to eat is some dry salad and lentils.

I have set this set up to bust that myth, and to prove that there are plenty of delicious foods available to vegans. I use ingredients available here in New Zealand.
You can check out his photo set here: "What This Vegan Eats".


Vincent J. Guihan, subject of this somewhat shady and speculative Facebook page, weighed in on the recent buzz over the Slate piece by Christopher Cox proclaiming that it's perfectly justifiable for vegans to eat oysters. In "Of oysters and education: why a rights-based approach to vegan education makes sense", Guihan explains why arguing for veganism using environmental reasons or by focusing on animal suffering (i.e. their treatment) is ineffective, including that
the general secrets are out: we use animals; they suffer because we do; it is typically very bad for the environment when we do. The advocacy problem is that, historically, most people have not really cared enough to change their lives and go vegan in light of these reasons.
Guihan then calls for an emphasis on rights-based abolitionist vegan education, and particularly on community organisation to mobilize the sort of meaningful and long-lasting social change that will really make a difference to all victims of exploitation, humans and non-humans alike. To find out what you can do to help, please visit the Animal Emancipation discussion forum.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Ultimate Mac 'n' "Cheese" Post!

Amanda from Vegan Mafia was jonesin' for a vegan macaroni and cheese recipe on Facebook earlier this week and apparently got her fix yesterday. When I think of macaroni and cheese (a.k.a. mac 'n' cheese), I think of two completely different dishes. The first is the straight-from-the-box stove-top meal that used to be a lunchtime staple for me when I was a kid, as well as when I was a penny-pinching college student. The second is that gooey and greasy oven-baked concoction that conjures up images of casserole dishes, oven mitts and aprons.

Variations on either version get tried, tested or tweaked by so many North American vegans. I challenge you to visit a vegan discussion forum with a recipes thread and to not find at least one or two lengthy exchanges where favourite vegan mac 'n' cheese recipes are shared, with tang and texture discussed in great detail. Ingredients like cashews, miso, tahini and pop up alongside the nutritional yeast or vegan cheeses used in the recipes in an attempt to satisfy cravings for the nutty, tangy taste of cheese--without exploiting animals in the process. The "cheese" portion of the recipe titles is often places in quotation marks or changed to "cheeze" or "cheez". They're everywhere and they range from ones with creamy nutritional yeast-based sauces, to (yep!) gooey oven-baked concoctions that, thanks to the wide variety of vegan cheese now readily available on the market, are nearly identical to what your mom (or dad) used to haul out of the oven in a casserole dish.

My quick-fix stove-top mac 'n' cheese over the years has almost always involved a variation of this "cheese" sauce recipe posted at It's a simple nutritional yeast sauce that's easy to adjust for taste or thickness and that hits the spot with so little effort--check the comments and suggestions left in response to its original posting to get an idea of just how versatile it is. Another recipe I've loved (and which others for whom I've made it have loved) is the oven-baked "New Farm Macaroni and Cheese Casserole" from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook. You can find an adapted version of it here on the Get Sconed! blog, or many other places online.

Joanne Stepaniak's "Melty White Cheez" is another standby I use for quick stove-top mac 'n' cheese, and you can find the "Baked Macaroni and Cheez" recipe from her Uncheese Cookbook right here on the Comfort Food Vegan blog. Another variation of a stove-top nutritional yeast based mac 'n' cheese recipe can be found on the
FatFree Vegan Kitchen blog; the list of ingredients for SusanV's "Easy Macaroni and 'Cheeze'" is a bit more lengthy and includes smoked paprika -- which I love -- as well as optional mellow white miso. Bryanna Clark Grogan has a somewhat more elaborate recipe on her Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen blog; "Bryanna's New Baked Vegan Macaroni and Cheese" offers up many variations, including a gluten-free option for the recipe.

If you're not a purist and are looking for a bit more variety with your mac 'n' cheese (i.e. more veggies, please!), check out the "Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower and Tomato" and "Mexican Macaroni and Cheese" nutritional yeast-based recipes on one of my favourite food blogs, Vegan Epicurean. You can also try Robin Robertson's soy- and nutritional yeast-free "Mac and Chard" or her Sheese-based "Easy Green Bean Mac and 'Sheese'", both featured on her Vegan Planet blog.

Speaking of processed vegan cheese substitutes: Here's a recipe that is the stuff of legend on the Vegan Freak forums. Using Sheese, Cheezly and Teese (all available via Pangea), it's the "Holy Trinity 'Mac 'n' Cheese'" recipe from the Yummy Vegan Dinners blog and I swear to you that I've heard that people have wept in absolute joy while eating it. And of course now with the "stretchy" Daiya available in more and more US stores (and also available by mail-order anywhere in North America), how could a post on vegan mac 'n' cheese be complete without an oven-baked Daiya-based recipe or two?

So there you have it--comfort food without compromise! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

By Way of Explanation

I love Penny Arcade, sometimes, including this strip from today called "By Way of Explanation"

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Essence of Nonviolence Is Love

"The essence of nonviolence is love. Out of love and the willingness to act selflessly, strategies, tactics, and techniques for a nonviolent struggle arise naturally. Nonviolence is not a dogma; it is a process."

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, April 04, 2010


I've never been a food blogger and have no interest in being one for various reasons, including that others are doing a much better job at it than I ever could. I have, however, spent many (many!) years experimenting in the kitchen. Those who've been around when that experimentation spiked as a passionate indulgence rarely complained about the outcome--including my mostly omni friends. One of my biggest loves over the years has been making soup (or stews) and I have a couple of favourite recipes I'd like to share.


First up is a variation on a green lentil soup recipe I've been making forever (and which I've posted here before). I've no idea of whether there was a specific recipe of origin for it--it's become so "off the cuff" for me. The tarragon is really a worthwhile addition!

Lentil Soup

What you need:

1-1/2 cups lentils, washed
1-1/2 quarts veggie stock or water

1/2 tsp salt

3 Tbs nutritional yeast

2 stalks celery & tops, chopped

1 Tbs celery seed, ground
1 onion, diced 2 carrots, diced
1-1/2 to 2 cups tomatoes, stewed (I just use the canned and diced)

2 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 or 1 tsp fresh tarragon, shredded (optional but recommended!)

What you do:

Place lentils in pot. Add water / veggie stock, salt and yeast. Cover and simmer until almost tender. Add remainder of ingredients. Cover. Simmer until carrots are done (about 15 minutes or longer). Add the tarragon during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

This soup is great with fresh whole grain rolls smeared with vegan "cream cheese" or a bit of Earth Balance margarine sprinkled with nutritional yeast.
Serves 5-6.


Next is an adaptation of Dorothy R. Bates' "Noodle Soup", from The TVP Cookbook. This soup is a ridiculously easy to make side for a sandwich, and reminds me a lot of the canned chicken noodle soup mom would often serve up when I was a kid.

Not-Chicken Noodle Soup

What you need:

1 cup of onions, chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
6 cups of hot water
1 cup TVP granules (smallish)
2 cups noodles, broken
1 tsp (or less) salt
1 tsp dried parsley, heaping
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 cup frozen vegetables of your choice (optional)

What you do:

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion until it's just beginning to brown. Then add the 6 cups of hot water, TVP, noodles and salt and bring to a brisk boil and simmer for around 5 minutes. Add dried parsley and frozen vegetables (if using) and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. When done, stir in nutritional yeast flakes and serve. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Serves 6


Each spring, I have a moment of veritable "doh!" when I remember that I've once again forgotten to place an advance catalog order for tomatillo seed to have time to sprout them early enough to grow seedlings to transplant into my garden. You can't get fresh tomatillos here and local seed choices are (sadly) limited. If I manage to find a way to get my hands on some soon so that I can grow them, I'll surely be making the following amazing soup by late summer. It's an adaptation of a recipe that was given to me in a vegan recipes forum years ago, and I'm unsure of its origins but ended up tweaking it and making it several times the two summers I didn't forget to buy seed.

Tomatillo Soup

What you need:

2-3 Tbs olive oil
2-1/2 cups chopped onion
5 medium fresh poblano or Anaheim chili peppers (or if you need to substitute, see here)
2-3 Tbs garlic, crushed and / or minced
2 tsp salt
2 Tbs chili powder
6 cups tomatillos, husked and chopped
4 cups water
2-3 Tbs sweetener
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

What you do:

In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the onion for 4-5 minutes. Mix the peppers, garlic, salt and chili powder into them and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes or so. Add the tomatillos and mix well, cover and continue to cook for another 8-10 minutes, allowing the tomatillos to begin to soften. Add the water and bring to a quick boil, then lower to a simmer, cover the pot and allow to cook another 10-12 minutes. Purée some or all of the soup in a blender or food processor and return to the pot to heat. Stir in the cilantro, saving some to garnish, and serve immediately. Serves 6.


General Soup Tips:

If you're serving hot soup, preheat the bowls and tureens you're using to serve it. If you're serving cold soup, chill the bowls or tureens you're using to serve it. It really makes a difference!

Garnish your soup! Although soups often turn out looking quite lovely and colourful, I often add a little something to individual serving bowls. Suggestions include:

-Chopped fresh herbs (e.g. dill, parsley, cilantro, et al., depending on herbs used in soup)
-Grated citrus rind (organic is ideal)
-A dollop of soy yogurt topped with a thin slice of lemon or lime
-Minced scallions or chives
-A sprinkle of paprika
-Thinly sliced radish, carrot
-Chopped nuts (e.g. walnuts, pecans, peanuts)
-A spoonful of chutney
-Black olive slivers
-Toasted almond slivers

You get the point... Now go make soup!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

"My Transition to Vegan Wasn't Easy"

This headline caught my eye earlier today: "My Transition to Vegan Wasn't Easy". It's an interview with someone called P. K. Mohankumar, featured in this weekend's Business Standard in India. I stifled a slight groan at the hint of "veganism-is-hard" I detected with a slight sense of hope, triggered by the use of the word "transition" with a past-tense verb. The first paragraph belies anything positive as soon as Mohankumar states that he is sharing his favourite fish-based recipe with the Business Standard. Mohankumar goes on to talk about his conversion to "veganism" from having been a "hard core non-vegetarian" and lists off a wide variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and legumes he regularly consumes. And then:

My transition to being a committed vegan took 90 grueling days. So, every Sunday is a ‘fun’ day for me and I indulge my palate with a typical south Indian breakfast of steaming idlis, home dosas or puttu followed by an appetising fish curry, masala grilled mackerels and sardines, with rice and tomato-garlic rasam.
He goes on to mention loving "probiotic ice-creams [and] flavoured yogurt", and of course since I wander in the world of vegan alternatives, I'm used to assuming that when people self-identify as vegan that when they say "ice cream" or "yogurt" they mean the soy- or coconut-based kinds. I can't say that I feel comfortable giving Mohankumar the benefit of the doubt, however, since he goes on to describe some of his favourite non-Indian dishes as follows:
I like Italian cuisine a lot. Penne arrabbiata, herb-crusted John Dory with grainy mustard sauce or tomato vinaigrette with olives and capers, is what I usually order when I eat Italian food. I also like Mediterranean cuisine, especially olive oil-poached salmon and grilled cod with caper sauce.
So, rather than say that his transition to veganism "wasn't easy", I think it's safer to say that Mohankumar's transition to veganism just plain old "wasn't".

Thursday, April 01, 2010

On Goodall and Hummus (i.e. More Things Overheard)

In a Huffington Post interview with Marianne Schnall today, Dr. Jane Goodall displayed a disappointing and marked lack of consistency in her view of whether nonhuman animals exist solely for human use and pleasure. To defend her own choice to use nonhuman animals, Dr. Goodall fell back on that old familiar excuse that veganism is "just too hard". When asked about the hypocrisy of calling one species 'pet', while calling another 'pest' (in this case, with reference to hamsters kept in cages vs. mice killed in traps), she responded:

And you get the white coated scientist who has a dog at home who's part of the family who understands ever word I say - but then he goes and puts on his white coat and does unspeakable things to dogs in the name of science. There's a real schizophrenia. Yes, we are very peculiar [laughs].
Then, after describing the health benefits she experienced when she chose to stop eating meat, she was asked about going vegan and responded:
Well, I can't go vegan because travelling like I do, I really, really don't think I could. You know, it's really difficult. And I stay with people - we had a vegan staying us one time, and it's very difficult. Three hundred days on the road - you go to North Korea - it's jolly hard to be vegetarian much less a vegan [laughs]. But I do my best. And if people would think about intensive farming - if they would think of the damage to the environment of growing all this corn or raising all these cattle. If they would think about the torture of the animals on the intensive farms. And then if they would realize about the antibiotics getting out into the environment, the bacteria building up resistance and the superbugs that we are breeding, more people would become vegetarians.
So she has no difficulty promoting vegetarianism for the environment, for one's health and because of "the torture of the animals on the intensive farms" -- but veganism (i.e. refraining from using animals and their products altogether) is off her radar because it's "very difficult". Considering that as recently as 2007, Goodall was asserting that some cases of vivisection could be justifiable, and that vegetarianism is "not necessarily an option that everyone has to adopt" ("Goodall on Vivisection and Vegetarianism", from Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach), her own schizophrenia today isn't all that surprising. There were bits in the rest of her interview that I also found disconcerting. For instance, a) she presented what she called "good zoos" as perhaps being a better place for primates to be than in the wild where they still experience "fear" and "pain", yet b) states later that chimpanzees or the "voice of the natural world" would, if given the opportunity, tell us to bug off and stop interfering and then c) asserts that humans need to get involved--that we "have to go in and manage very often". The one thing that is clear from the interview is that Dr. Jane Goodall thinks that some animals are ours to use--just not the specific ones that she doesn't want us to use.


I found an interesting looking recipe for hummus this morning that uses ginger and heaps of fresh mint to flavour it. The filler in the article that leads up to the recipe, however, left me with a (yep--here I go) bad taste in my mouth.
Because they don’t eat dairy products or meat, vegans can have difficulty getting enough protein in their diet. Combining grains and legumes can be a good source of protein. This hummous can be made with a whole grain to ensure for maximum protein intake.
Vegans do not have difficulty getting enough protein in their diet and the whole protein combining theory has been discredited. Why, oh why do people not take 10-15 minutes to do a little bit of background research before perpetuating misinformation? The folks at the University of Victoria's independent paper The Martlet should know better!