Optimistic Vegan


Earthlings
May 30, 2010, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Animal Rights, Celebrities, Films | Tags: , , ,

While at Folklife yesterday, one of my wonderful table mates raved and raved about the movie, Earthlings. A wonderful film narrated by vegan actor Joaquin Phoenix (soon to be my husband) of movies like Walk the Line and Gladiator, this film describes animals and humans alike as “earthlings” or “those of the planet earth.”

Wow. Believe me, this movie is not for the faint-hearted. The 95 minutes of it were almost unbearable (and at times, they were unbearable) to watch. The utter disregard we have for animals’ lives is disgusting.

The documentary discusses 5 ways that we exploit animals: pets, food, clothing, entertainment and science. It describes how many animals are killed each year because of the refusal to spay/neuter pets or animals that are abused or given up by their owners. Hopefully how they are exploited for food is clear to you, but the film discusses each main type of animal briefly, with very graphic imagery. When the film talked about clothing, it focused on leather (but that isn’t to say wool and other types of clothing aren’t as brutal) and that was very enlightening as I hadn’t known much about that before. Zoos and circuses and the abuse these animals endure, as well as the horrible tests that animals go through, unnecessarily (I’ll blog about that a different time) are also all discussed in this film.Earthlings

I probably spent about 80 out of the 95 minutes of the film bawling my eyes out, but I couldn’t make myself turn it off. It’s so horrific but I can’t bring myself to put it out of my mind, like so many others do. It is the least that I can do to watch what these poor animals go through, and shed tears for the blood they have lost. I don’t think anyone can watch this movie and continue to eat meat. Like Paul McCartney said, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” I’m convinced that no one (the majority at least) would want to continue to inflict that kind of harm on other living, breathing, feeling beings.

Watch it. Force yourself if you have to. If you haven’t already given up the tradition of eating meat, you will.



Folklife Volunteering

In Seattle this weekend is Folklife-a kind of showcase of Seattle itself. After wandering around a bit (and eating a delicious vegan cheesesteak sandwich!) I volunteered to pass out pamphlets for a local animal rights group, NARN (Northwest Animal Rights Network).

In the past when I think about an animal rights group handing out pamphlets (mostly thinking of PETA) or other public displays, I think crazy people harassing passersby in attempts to inform them about their meals.

This was nothing like that. It was great! There were two lovely people handing out pamphlets with me, and we just had a fabulous time handing out vegan restaurant guides. Most people were really sweet, and even if they didn’t take them they were polite about refusing. For myself, it was important that I experience the true, grassroots informing that truly propels the vegetarian movement.

At the beginning I wasn’t outgoing enough to ask anyone—I just sat back and watched my fellow tablemates ask any and all people walking by. I regrettably fell back on prejudice and offered them to the people that I thought looked least threatening and most friendly. However, not only were there not many of that sort walking around in downtown Seattle, but not even all of them would accept my information. I’m proud to say that I threw all of that prejudice out the window and was able to confidently talk to any person walking by. Not only was I able to experience actively putting the key to a more compassionate life into someone’s hand, but I was able to step out of my comfort zone, and for that I am really excited!

PETA makes this fun stickers that have little animal characters and little sayings like, “Meat’s no treat for those you eat!” that are just a thrill to pass out. People any age will stop in their tracks if there’s a sticker involved 🙂

If you’re interested in helping animals (more than by just not eating them!) this is a wonderful experience, and every bit helps. All you can do is inform, and in my opinion, offering this information in a positive, constructive manner is the only way to do it.



Three Years!
May 12, 2010, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Animal Rights, Food, Lifestyle, Personal | Tags: , , ,

Well today is my three year anniversary of being vegan! Doesn’t seem very long! I can assure you that it is by far the best decision I have ever made.

When people ask me how long I’ve been vegan or vegetarian (almost 5 years now) they’re usually impressed that I’ve been sticking with it for so long. Although on the one hand I’m flattered, I also know that 3 years isn’t a long time. Even though I’m so proud of the decision I made (all by myself!) I could only wish that I had made it sooner.

I blame society. We are kept in the dark about where our meat comes from, and because it’s such a taboo topic, it’s difficult to ask others. (Oh Internet, how much I love you) In 9th grade I did a project about slaughterhouses (freshman project!) that literally changed my life. I don’t remember how I chose it, but once I did, I was addicted to the information I was seeing. I remember watching movies like “Meet Your Meat” over and over, tears streaming down my face. I was shocked and disgusted that I had contributed to something as horrible and bloody as this, and for 13 years of my life! Of course I stumbled upon information about dairy farms and so on and immediately made the switch.

It always shocks me that someone could be vegetarian, or even vegan, for an extended period of time, and then start eating meat again.  When I first became vegan, my choice was very controversial to those around me. I was so overwhelmed with all of the negative attention, and surprisingly, even from my vegetarian friends. Once I had seen those videos, and learned what was REALLY happening, there was no way they would persuade me out of it. After the initial shock wore off, I remember telling them that I would never eat meat again, but one day I might drink milk or eat cheese again, you know if I got pregnant or something. For this I can be ashamed, that I even thought of altering my morals for what society dictates is weird or taboo. Since those first weeks of being vegan, I have never, and could never, consider exploiting animals again.

The reason I continue to abstain from eating or using animal products, is solely for the animals. I watch undercover videos, and learn about the horrific things that happen in slaughterhouses—not to keep myself from slipping, but to remind myself why I’m doing the things I do. However, I also have to surround myself with hope that there is a light at the end, by listening to Colleen’s podcasts, or dreaming of visiting Farm Sanctuary. These past three years have been the best of my (short) life, where I’ve learned about myself, and what truly matters making me only more excited for the next ones to come!

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Sammy and me! When he was  baby! Yes, unrelated to my post, but too cute to not put here.



The Meat Industry and the Environment
May 11, 2010, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Environment, Food | Tags: , ,

It makes sense that eating a vegetarian diet would save more land and resources than that of a meat eating one. When eating a plant-based diet, land is used to grow the crops and water is used to water them (also gas to transport, pesticides/fertilizer, etc.). However, for a diet that includes meat, the crops need to be grown (using water and land) to feed the animals, who also need water and land. Where these crops could go to feed humans (or other crops could be planted in their place to feed them) they are being fed to livestock.

Each year, 760 million tons of grains are fed to livestock.

“The average U.S. diet gets 47 percent of its calories from animal sources, resulting a carbon footprint of 2.52 tons per year.”

Switching “to a lacto-ovo (dairy and eggs allowed) vegetarian diet where 25 percent of your calories come from animal sources, will drop you down to about 1.5 ton of emissions per year”

Of course these numbers will vary, depending on how much meat you eat, where you live, etc, but this is pretty concrete evidence that a vegetarian diet is better for the environment.

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Me and the tree we saved by clearing the blackberries!

 

For those of you who want to reduce your “carbon footprint” or just your impact on the earth, try cutting out even a little bit of meat, I promise you it will make a difference! 🙂



The Truth about Milk

When we refer to “milk” we refer to cow’s milk, without thinking about the connection from “cow” to “glass of milk.” Something that Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (my hero) is fond of pointing out is that we are perfectly fine with drinking cow’s milk, but the idea of drinking human milk is disgusting. When you think about it, how odd is that! We would rather drink the milk of another species before we would drink that of our own.

Besides the fact that we are drinking cow secretions, how milk is obtained is another interesting topic. What most people don’t think about (or know) is that cows only produce milk when they are pregnant or when they have a baby. Why? To support their babies. So to efficiently gather milk from cows (in factory farms) cows are impregnated, and then once their babies are born, they are taken away. The baby boy cows are sent to become veal and the baby girl cows are raised to be dairy cows like their moms.

On a side note, how are the cows impregnated? Well factory farms need to obtain bull (boy cow) semen, so they have specific people who collect” the semen from  the bulls so they can artificially inseminate the cows. I’m not lying. Can you imagine explaining to someone what you do for a living? Yikes!

Colleen and Cow

My hero ^ Colleen Patrick-Goudreau at Farm Sanctuary

 

Why do we drink so much milk? Well besides “it tastes good” some would say it’s where we get our calcium. Where do the cows get the calcium? Well calcium is a mineral, and minerals come from the ground, and then cows eat the grass that grows in the ground. Cows get calcium from plants! Unfortunately, dairy cows don’t eat grass. Dairy cows are too busy being hooked up to milking machines to go outside and eat some grass. To make sure their milk has calcium, factory farmers supplement their feed with calcium. Wait. Why can’t we just supplement our diet with calcium? Or better yet, eat the veggies that have it! (Spinach, artichokes, green beans, bok choy, swiss chard, collards, dandelion greens, kale, cucumbers, soybeans, turnip greens, and wasabi all have ridiculously high amounts)

Factory Farmed Cow

The life of a dairy cow.

 

Naturally a cow would produce about 1,000 liters of milk, but in the dairy industry a cow could produce between 6,000 and 12,000 liters, in 10 months. These cows are bred to produce a lot of milk, in addition to a growth hormone that is given to them. Mastitis, a painful inflammation of the utters, and is known to happen between 30 and 60% of all dairy cows.

This is just about cow’s milk, but sheep and goats are also raised for their milk. Humans are the only species that drinks the milk of others, and though it may seem like an efficient way to get your calcium, it isn’t natural and comes at a high cost.



What do you eat!?
May 7, 2010, 3:15 pm
Filed under: Food, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Personal | Tags: , ,

This is another one of those questions that will inevitably be asked when someone finds out that I’m vegan. This one might not seem like it, but is probably the easiest yet hardest question to answer, especially on the spot.

Usually I’ll say what’s in my lunch and leave it at that, or spew out some random food that they wouldn’t expect to be vegan (oreos!) but I’m going to attempt to give a more complete answer.

First off, it’d probably be easier to say what I don’t eat, because the list of things I do eat is much longer. (I’m assuming you know what I don’t eat, but just to clarify: no meat-cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, fish, etc. and no animal products-honey, milk, cheese, gelatin, etc.) The ideal vegan diet would consist of a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and beans. However, there are also what some people call junkfood vegans who are the ones that eat “accidental” vegan foods like oreos. It’s easy to veer towards this side, just because it’s easier, less of a lifestyle change, etc.

So that laundry list of foods I do eat seems to amount to something the equivalent of a salad. Far from! There are so many delicious foods that are either altered “meat-centered” foods or veggie dishes. A disclaimer about trying to recreate meat based foods: it will not taste the same. Just so you know! I have a pretty bomb recipe for meat loaf (which I never liked when it was the real stuff, but I’m in love with this version!), there’s a billion lunch meat replacements, tofurkey (BEST!), vegan pizza, etc. As great and tasty as these foods are, I’m always a little uncomfortable eating them, because it just shows the attachment to meat that we have. BUT it’s a more compassionate, and healthier version.

Along with “meat-centered” dishes, there are a billion (I swear. A billion.) tasty recipes just surrounding the wonderful array of vegetables. There is this green bean dish at a Chinese restaurant we frequent that is to die for, that is vegan without having to adjust anything. Then there are a large number of soups that are veggie based (many squash ones) or chili or stew. And no one can forget the many different types of salads there are.

If someone asked you what you eat, what would you say? It’s a tough question to answer!



Where do you get your protein!?
May 6, 2010, 12:43 pm
Filed under: Food, Nutrition | Tags: , , , ,

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this…

Protein. What is protein? I’m sure you all know this, but just as a reminder, protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are necessary in any diet, whether or not you’re eating meat. There are 22 amino acids, 8 of which need to be eaten.

Something that isn’t always realized is that everything has protein. Yes, all fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, everything has some amount of protein, some combination of amino acids. Some foods just have more than others, such as quinoa. (Quinoa is the coolest grain ever. It has all of the 8 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Plus it’s just so darn tasty!)

This may all sound just too complicated, having to combine foods to get all of your protein. It’s not. As long as you’re eating a balanced diet, with a variety of fresh foods (which everyone should be doing, even if eating a meat-based diet) you will consume plenty of protein. You don’t have to eat meat to get protein.

Another interesting thought-where do you think the cows got their protein? Plants! Or supplemented feed (I’ll save that for another post).

The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “protein is so abundant in the foods Americans eat, that most of us, children and adults alike, consume more than we need. Protein overload may be a more serious problem than protein deficiency.” So be assured that you’ll be fine if you eat a little less.