Monday, December 1, 2008

Reichert: What I don’t get about vegetarians

The University Daily Kansan - Saturday, November 30, 2008


Save the environment - stop eating so much of it!

You know who I’m talking about. Thick, black-lensed glasses, ironic yet socially aware T-shirts, Netflix queue a veritable discography of African poverty-related documentaries and teeth like miniature lumberjacks, that chomp away at chlorophyll, destroying millions of Mother Nature’s solar energy panels, all to sate their terrible hunger.

The vegetarians.

Vegetarianism, or “recreational anemia,” is one of the leading behavior-modifying ethical beliefs, meaning that its adherents practice what they preach. As a Catholic, I find this troubling.

We must destroy it. Vegetarianism presents a challenge to the very nature of man.

We’ve struggled and clawed and basically devoured our way up to the top of the food chain. We have an urge to discover life on distant planets and then eat that too.

The pursuit of edibility is what drives mankind, no matter the cost or the effect.

To illustrate, draw the circle of life, like the one from “The Lion King,” where Simba’s father tries to explain why Simba will eventually devour the animated entrails of his best friends, Timon and Pumbaa. Now draw a big, gaping mouth in the middle of it. That is mankind, devouring its way through life, consuming animal, vegetable and mineral alike.

But not vegetarians. No, they insist on limiting their dietary drive to vegetable matter, for ethical reasons. Vegetables! Vegetables are just fruit that didn’t try hard enough, fruit from the bad side of the tracks, toughened by life and social circumstance into surly imitations of edibility. Cucumbers are bananas with a jailhouse tattoo.

“Oh, yum, this one tastes like chewy water! Oh, try this one, it tastes like crispy water! And have you tried that mushy water one over here … Delicious!”

Yuck. I had to stick in a plug of jerky chew just get myself through this column. I’m a third degree Carnivoran, which means I eat things that have eaten other things that eat things. Like if a lion ate a gazelle and was then eaten by a whale, I could eat that whale. Or if you went cow to wolf to supercow, I could make a supercow hamburger.

“But vegetarians are such nice, caring people!” Oh, I don’t dispute that. Some of my best token friends are vegetarians. But, remember, it is exactly because vegetarians are such nice people that their behavior-modifying ethical beliefs are such a threat.

The disgusting sincerity of vegetarians presents a direct challenge to the moral hypocrisy that we normal people hold dear.

How will it be possible to believe in things if we must also then do those things with our hands and mouths? How can we be good people in our minds if must also be them with our bodies?

So, like every great movie villain, I will offer vegetarians a choice. We are not so different. If one takes circles seriously, then it follows that plants thrive on decomposing animals and each carrot has devoured a thousand little rabbit corpses.

Join the Dark Side, vegetarians. Join us, or if Earth is ever invaded by giant beets, I will tell the Beetonians of the terrible deeds you have committed against their kin.

- Reichert is an Oberlin graduate student in law.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Vegan Education Made Easy Part 2

May 8, 2008

Posted by: Gary L. Francione in Blog

A friend of mine recently asked the following question: “What do you say to people who are vegans and who educate others about veganism but who are also concerned about circuses, hunting, and other particular forms of animal exploitation. Do you advise that they not address those issues at all and just focus on veganism?”

Of course not.

It is certainly the case that I do not advise that advocates spend their time and resources on single-issue campaigns. The reason is simple: single-issue campaigns invariably convey the impression that some forms of animal exploitation are morally distinguishable from others and are worse or should be singled out for special criticism. For example, a campaign against fur conveys the impression that there is some morally relevant difference between fur and other forms of animal clothing, such as leather or wool. A campaign against eating animal flesh conveys the impression that eating flesh is morally more objectionable than drinking milk or eating eggs. A campaign against conventional battery eggs suggests that “cage-free” eggs are morally desirable.

This problem is inherent with single-issue campaigns in a society in which animal exploitation is regarded as normal. If X, Y, and Z are all considered as normal practices in a society and are closely related, then a campaign against X, but not against Y and Z, suggests that there is some relevant difference between X on one hand and Y and Z on the other. For example, we live in a society in which it is considered as normal or “natural” to eat animal flesh and other animal products. A campaign that focuses on flesh conveys the impression that there is a moral difference between flesh and other animal products, which is not the case. The proof of this is found in the fact that many animal advocates are vegetarians but are not vegans. If they draw a distinction, then what can we expect from the general public?

This situation is to be distinguished from one in which X, Y, and Z are all regarded as objectionable activities or practices. For example, we all regard genocide as a bad thing whether it is happening in Darfur, Somalia, or Bosnia. If we have a campaign to stop genocide in Darfur, that does not mean that we think that genocide in other places is acceptable. We regard rape and pedophilia to be morally objectionable. A campaign against one does not imply any tacit approval of the other or any view that one is morally distinguishable from another.

This inherent problem with single-issue animal campaigns is exacerbated by the fact that animal groups that promote these campaigns often explicitly praise exploiters who may stop or modify some exploitative practice but who continue to engage in other, related practices. For example some animal advocates praise “cage-free” eggs as the “socially responsible” alternative to conventional battery eggs. Many large animal advocacy organizations sponsor or approve of “humane” labels that are placed on animal products. A prominent animal ethicist claims that being a “conscientious omnivore” is “a defensible ethical position.” This conveys a very clear and explicit moral message: some forms of animal exploitation are morally acceptable.

Moreover, single-issue campaigns not only create the misimpression that some forms of exploitation are qualitatively different in a moral sense from others, but often result in false “victories.” For example, the single-issue campaign in California against foie gras (1, 2) resulted in a law that was actually supported by the one foie gras producer in California because it immunized him against any legal action until 2012 and will probably be repealed before it ever comes into force if foie gras production can be made to be more “humane.”

So I am not a fan of putting time and money into single-issue campaigns. I maintain that our time, effort, and other resources are better placed in promoting veganism.

As long as 99%+ of the planet regards the eating of animal foods and consumption or use of animal products to be acceptable, we will never make the paradigm shift that we need to make if we are going to dislodge the notion that humans have a moral right to exploit nonhumans. We need to build a nonviolent movement for abolition that has veganism as its moral baseline.

But that does not mean that we should not oppose particular types of exploitation.

For example, last weekend, a horse, Eight Belles, who ran in the Kentucky Derby was killed immediately after the race and on the track when her ankles gave out as a result of her running for a duration and at a speed for which she was not suited. I was interviewed on a radio show and asked about my views on the matter of Eight Belles.

I explained that I opposed all horse racing but as part of my general view that humans have no moral justification for using nonhumans at all, including for food.

The host of the program picked up on that and talked about how he very much loves and cares for his dog but had a barbecue that past weekend at which he consumed other animals. So in a matter of a few minutes, the connection between horse racing and other forms of exploitation, particularly eating animal products, was made.

When we do discuss and criticize particular forms of exploitation, it is important to make clear that we regard the particular practice as morally unjustifiable and not that we think that the practice or activity can be made to be better if only we regulate it so that it is more “humane.” And it is crucial to make clear that our opposition to the practice or activity is part of our overall opposition to all animal use. We should not shrink away from making clear that we seek the abolition of all animal exploitation.

So when you are confronted by a particular practice or activity and want to or are asked to comment, you should do so if you are inclined. Just be clear that the solution to the problem is not to make the activity or practice more “humane,” but to recognize that the practice is transparently frivolous, as are most of our uses of nonhumans, and should be abolished - as should all animal exploitation.

Here are two examples:

Q: I was reading about foie gras. The way they make it is terrible, isn’t it?

A: It surely is. But it’s not really different from everything else we eat. The steak you had tonight, or the glass of milk you drank this morning, involved a production process every bit as horrible as that involved in foie gras. And we have no right to kill nonhuman animals just because we think they taste good irrespective of how well we treat them.

Q: The circus is coming to town. What do you, an animal advocate, think about the use of animals in circuses?

A: I think it’s terrible. We impose suffering and death on animals for sheer amusement and that is really inconsistent with what we claim to believe when we express our agreement with the idea that it’s wrong to inflict “unnecessary” suffering on animals. But then, using animals in circuses is really no different from eating animals, which is also something that involves our pleasure or amusement and is just as inconsistent with what we say we believe. There is no way to make sense out of the fact that we treat some nonhuman animals as members of our families and we stick forks into others or torture them for our enjoyment in circuses, zoos, or rodeos.

Whether you should spend your time and energy on legislation concerning circuses is another matter. As I have said, at this point in time, the cultural context is such that it makes far more sense to spend our time focused on the use of animals for food, which is the primary practice that, in effect, legitimizes other forms of exploitation.

But if you do decide to campaign against circuses, your campaign should, at the very least, oppose the use of all animals in circuses and have no exceptions, and make clear that circuses are no better or worse than other forms of animal use, all of which should be abolished if we are to take animals seriously.

Gary L. Francione

© 2008 Gary L. Francione

Vegan Education Made Easy Part 1

March 25, 2008

Posted by: Gary L. Francione in Blog

One of the things that I hear frequently is that educating people, particularly strangers, about veganism, is difficult.

On the contrary, our everyday interactions with people provide us with many opportunities to discuss veganism. This essay will discuss a couple of examples. I will discuss more examples in future essays.

For example, in January of this year, I had to take Robert, one of our dogs, to see a specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. There was a woman - I will refer to her as “Jane” for purposes of this essay but that was not her real name - sitting with me in the waiting area. Jane had a greyhound with her. And, as always happens when two humans are in such a place with their nonhuman companions, we got to talking about what health problems had brought us to Penn. And that led to how Jane had adopted her dog from a rescue group and how our dog was found living under an abandoned car.

After a minute or two of discussing how horrible the greyhound racing industry is, I told Jane that I used to teach at the University of Pennsylvania many years ago, and that Penn was notorious for the horrible experiments, testing, and “educational” procedures that it performed on dogs and other nonhumans. She said that she had heard about Penn’s animal experiments and I mentioned how strange it was that one part of the building was devoted to the application of veterinary medicine to help the animals who were loved by humans and another part of the building was devoted to torturing nonhumans who were not members of anyone’s family. Jane made the point that it really made no sense that we treat some dogs or cats as family members and we treat some dogs and cats as “research tools.”

“How true,” I said. “But in many ways, we’re all just like these Penn vets. We treat some animals as family members and we harm others.”

She look bewildered. “What do you mean? I would never hurt a dog or cat.” I moved the conversation away from dogs and cats and starting talking about cows, pigs, and chickens, and how they are really no different from dogs and cats. There is something very strange about the fact that we regard some nonhumans as family members, as beings whom we love and whose personhood we recognize, while, at the same time, we stick forks into other animals who are no different - morally or empirically - from those whom we love.

Jane was silent for a moment and then asked, “are you a vegetarian?”

“I’m a vegan,” I replied.

“You mean you don’t even drink milk?” she asked.

“That’s right. I don’t eat eggs, or any dairy products.”

“I can understand not eating meat. But what’s wrong with dairy and eggs?”

“Everything. The animals used in the dairy or egg industry are kept alive longer than most of their ‘meat’ counterparts, are treated worse, and end up in the same horrible slaughterhouse.”

Jane looked troubled.

“But isn’t it really hard to be a vegan?” she asked.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. “It’s unbelievably easy and it’s better for you and for the planet, in addition to being the right thing to do if you regard nonhumans as members of the moral community.” I spent a few minutes talking about the health benefits of a vegan diet and the ecological disaster of an animal-based agriculture.

Our conversation stopped for about 30 seconds and then Jane asked, “could you get me some information about how to go vegan?”

“Sure. Give me your email address.” She did.

We talked for a few more minutes about the wide range of vegan foods that are now available, and Robert and I were then called in to see the vet. Jane was gone when we came out. That afternoon, I sent Jane a number of things to read about veganism - both about the moral, health, and environmental issues concerning veganism, and some practical information on nutrition and making quick and easy vegan food. That evening, I got a short reply, “Thanks. I will read these with interest.”

Two weeks ago, I got an email from Jane - the first I have heard from her since sending her the materials. It read, in part: “I am about 60% vegan already and am working toward 100%. I already feel better both as a matter of my spirit and my body. I am using the vegan dog food that you recommended and she loves it! Thanks for taking the time.”

Veterinary hospitals and offices are always great places to start up conversations about veganism. People are focused on their nonhuman companion and are emotionally very open to thinking more abstractly about nonhuman animals as a general matter. I cannot recall ever being in a veterinarian’s office (and we have had up to seven rescued dogs at one time, so we’ve had plenty of experience at the vet’s office) where I did not start up a conversation with someone that drifted to veganism.

Another great place to talk about veganism is on an airplane.

When you order any sort of special meal on a flight, those meals are usually served first. The air host comes over and asks whether you ordered a “special meal.” I always respond, “yes, I ordered a vegan meal with no animal products whatsoever.”

Most of the time, the person sitting next to me, or the two people sitting on either side (if I am in a middle seat) ask me whether I have allergies or why I have requested such a meal. This, of course, opens the door to a discussion about why it is that I am a vegan. Depending on the delay between getting my meal and the distribution of everyone else’s, I have had about 20% of the people I talk to ask the air host whether there is another vegan meal when the cart comes around. (Actually, I never start eating my meal until the cart comes around in the event that this happens and there is no extra vegan meal as I will happily give mine to my neighbor and have done so on a number of occasions.)

Some of the best discussions I have had on animal rights and veganism have occurred on airplanes, particularly transatlantic flights. You are stuck next to someone for about 7 hours and people are often very happy to spend at least some of that time talking with the person sitting next to them.

One of my favorite stories occurred several years ago. I was on my way to Paris and was seated next to a woman who had a fur coat. She was not wearing the coat, but had it against her seat. I was reading a copy of my Introduction to Animal Rights, which, at the time, I was thinking of doing a second edition and I was considering changes that I might make. The flight was delayed leaving Newark Airport, so we had some small talk about connecting flights that we had in Paris. She saw my book and asked, “is that a good book?” I smiled and said it was an “excellent” book! She asked me if I was an “animal rights type.” I replied that I was, and she spent the next 30 minutes (during which we were still at the gate) talking about her 2 dogs and how much she was going to miss them while on the business trip to France, etc.

And then she raised the issue of her fur coat. She said, “my coat must offend you. I’m sorry.” She started explaining to me that it was a “ranch raised” fox coat and that the animals were not caught in traps. I explained how “ranched” animals are tortured as much as trapped ones, but I made the point that I found her fur coat - whether “ranch raised” or trapped - no more offensive than a coat made of leather or wool.

She seemed astounded by this. “You don’t wear wool or leather?” “No,” I replied, “I am a vegan.”

I spent the next 15 minutes (still at the gate) explaining what veganism is and assuring her that veganism provides a wide variety of exciting and healthful food choices, and is the logical choice for anyone who cares about nonhuman animals. I then suggested to her that the foxes that were killed to make her coat were no different from the dogs that she was very sad to be leaving behind in New York for two weeks. We then started talking about our “moral schizophrenia” that affects and infects our thinking about nonhumans.

The plane took off, the meal service started, I was given my vegan meal and my neighbor asked the air host immediately whether there was an extra vegan meal on board. There was an extra meal and she requested it. We spent the next several hours talking about animal rights and veganism and I confessed to being the author of the book that she had asked about!

About two months after that flight, I got an email from this person. She had given her fox coat to an animal group that would use it in anti-fur demonstrations and she had ordered Introduction to Animal Rights from and had read it. She was working toward veganism, using a technique that I had suggested to her where she gave up all animal products for one meal, then for 2 meals, then 3, and then for all snacking. Another 2 or 3 months went by and she wrote to say that she was completely vegan.

Vegan education is challenging. We live in a culture in which most people assume without thinking that consuming animal products is “normal” or “natural.” Vegan education is time-intensive work; it often means working one-on-one and spending a good deal of time.

But every day life presents us with all sorts of opportunities to educate others and the most effective opportunities are calm, friendly exchanges between two thinking human beings.

And every person who goes vegan is a vital contribution to the nonviolent revolution that will eventually shift the paradigm away from animals as property and toward animals as persons.

Gary L. Francione

© 2008 Gary L. Francione

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Brock recognized for meat-less options

Campus nominated for vegetarian-friendly award

The Standard - Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Brock University has been nominated for the title of most vegetarian-friendly campus in North America.

Brock is up against 47 other post-secondary institutions to win the Most Vegetarian-Friendly Universities competition, which is organized by peta2, an international youth animal rights organization.

The St. Catharines campus offers a wide range of meatless options, from vegetarian shepherd's pie to vegan burritos to mushroom pot pie.

"Brock is showing its respect for students by offering them food choices that are good for their health, animals and the planet," said Ryan Huling, a peta2 spokesman.

Other Canadian nominees include the University of Guelph, the University of Toronto, and the University of Waterloo.

University nominations were based on student recommendations.

Everyone is eligible to vote. The school with the most votes will be announced in November and will receive certificates to display in its campus dining halls.

To vote, go to

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Brief History of Veganism

TIME USA - Thursday, October 30, 2008

Photo by Simon Reddy/Alamy

November 1 is World Vegan Day, a celebration of people who don't eat meat. Or eggs. Or cheese. Or mayonnaise. Or honey. Or whey. Or gelatin. Or anything that comes from or includes an animal. Nor do they use any clothing, accessory or object made from an animal. No leather, no wool, no pearls, no ivory-keyed pianos. The animal-free holiday began in 1994, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vegan Society.

Veganism is an extreme form of vegetarianism, and though the term was coined in 1944, the concept of flesh-avoidance can be traced back to ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies. Vegetarianism is first mentioned by the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras of Samos around 500 BCE. In addition to his theorem about right triangles, Pythagoras promoted benevolence among all species, including humans. Followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism also advocated vegetarianism, believing that humans should not inflict pain on other animals.
The meatless lifestyle never really caught on in the West, although it would sometimes pop up during health crazes and religious revivals. The Ephrata Cloister, a strict religious sect founded in 1732 in Pennsylvania, advocated vegetarianism - as well as celibacy. The 18th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham believed that animal suffering was just as serious as human suffering, and likened the idea of human superiority to racism.

The first vegetarian society was formed in 1847 in England. Three years later, Rev. Sylvester Graham, the inventor of Graham crackers, co-founded the American Vegetarian Society. Graham was a Presbyterian minister and his followers, called Grahamites, obeyed his instructions for a virtuous life: vegetarianism, temperance, abstinence, and frequent bathing. In November 1944, a British woodworker named Donald Watson announced that because vegetarians ate dairy and eggs, he was going to create a new term called "vegan," to describe people who did not. Tuberculosis had been found in 40% of Britain's dairy cows the year before, and Watson used this to his advantage, claiming that it proved the vegan lifestyle protected people from tainted food. Three months after coining the term, he issued a formal explanation of the way the word should be pronounced: "Veegan, not Veejan," he wrote in his new Vegan Society newsletter, which had 25 subscribers. By the time Watson died at age 95 in 2005, there were 250,000 self-identifying vegans in Britain and 2 million in the U.S. Moby, Woody Harrelson and Fiona Apple are vegans. So is Dennis Kucinich.

Strict veganism prohibits the use of animal product, even if it isn't food, but like any lifestyle choice that ends in "-ism," there are plenty of people who cheat. The vitamin B12 is found almost entirely in animal products, so many vegans eat fortified food or take a vitamin to get the right amount. And while American vegetarianism has broken free of its philosophical and religious roots, becoming an accepted health choice - many restaurants offer vegetarian options and most dinner party planners now ask "is anyone vegetarian?" before planning the menu - veganism is still tied to the animal-rights movement and is out there on the fringe.

Vegans can be as strict or lax as they want to be in their food choices: the International Vegetarian Union's website includes vegan-friendly reminders about baking pans greased with animal fat, grain cereals that include animal-based glycerin, and sugar refined with bone charcoal. Then there's raw veganism, which is an offshoot of veganism in which none of the food can be cooked. Take that a step further and you get "mono meals," the idea that the stomach should only digest one type of food at a time. Basically, if you eat it, there is probably someone else out there who won't.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

COUNT HER FEET: The moral high ground is meatless

The McGill Tribune - Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I'm not a zealot, an animal liberationist, or dedicated to the pursuit of global misery. But I've been a vegetarian for nine years-for moral reasons. I don't claim to live among intolerant, meat-eating hooligans who throw cooked flesh into my mouth when I'm not looking in order to relieve me of the disease that is vegetarianism. However, I don't understand why meat eaters don't concede the moral high ground to us.

I agree wholeheartedly with Eric Weiss when, in his last column, he described People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a truly, deeply evil organization (see FOOT IN MOUTH: Stay out of my kitchen, PETA) . I agree with PETA that humans should treat animals better in a broad sense, but PETA's extremist and often criminal actions make them as alien to moderate vegetarians as they are to meat-eaters. Any group that opposes animal testing for life-saving medical purposes is deplorable.

My anti-PETA stance often gets me the instant, albeit fleeting, approval of meat-eaters. To them, I am one of the rare "reasonable ones," who are vegetarian perhaps by accident. This good impression lasts until I explain that, for most people, a vegetarian lifestyle is a morally superior choice. And while vegetarianism alone doesn't guarantee my moral fibre, it should count in my favour rather than against it.

We've all heard of vegetarianism's many moral perks. I won't explain all of them in detail, but consider two important ones: the meat industry is often incredibly cruel, and vegetarianism is much more environmentally sustainable. If you don't believe me, do some research. However, the main argument for vegetarianism's moral superiority is this: animals aren't necessarily equal to humans, but as sentient beings, we ought to care about them at least a little bit.

In his article, Eric wrote that "Eating meat is not wrong. Our ancestors ate meat in order to survive and we've inherited their place at the top of the food chain." Ah, the good old naturalistic fallacy. Being natural or traditional doesn't make something morally legitimate. This is especially true about eating meat, because the context of dietary decisions has changed dramatically in recent years. Our ancestors didn't have access to modern soy protein, vitamin supplements, and the like. Meat was often their only option. But just because meat was the right choice then doesn't mean it's the right choice now, when being vegetarian is easier than ever.

Don't get me wrong-like Eric, I think that humans are superior to animals. But our superiority isn't based on our place "at the top of the food chain." (Besides, any lion you meet alone in the jungle will beg to differ.) Humans are uniquely important because we're capable of making moral judgements. We have the capacity for compassion, for reason-in short, for humanity. Only humans can weigh the minor pleasure of eating beef against the pain and suffering that produced it.

Human superiority is precisely why we shouldn't be needlessly cruel to animals. We're not special because we happen to have a perch atop the food chain. We're special because only we are in a position to use our power ethically. For every cow we kill when we could easily eat tofu, for every chicken we needlessly coop up, we lose a little bit of our humanity.

Aside from cases of anaemia and poverty, I have yet to hear a compelling moral argument for eating meat. And until I do, I will continue to take the moral, and distinctly human, high ground at every animal-free meal I enjoy.

Ultimately, every individual makes their own choices. I have no intention of joining radical, anti-meat protest groups, or proclaiming that animals are equal to humans. It's precisely because humans are not like other animals that we shouldn't be acting like them when we make dietary choices.

To view this story and some pretty interesting comments, go to: COUNT HER FEET: The moral high ground is meatless

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Family brings vegetarianism to Orillia

The Orillia Packet & Times - Saturday, October 11, 2008

Posted by Sara Ross

Jocelyn Losole-Stinger, 11 and her 9-year old sister Natalie have never eaten meat before in their lives.

Once Jocelyn accidentally began chewing meat, believing it was something else, but she spit it out when she realized her mistake.

“It was kind of strange because I had never tasted it before,” Jocelyn said. “It wasn’t like anything I’ve tasted before.”

Natalie said when she goes to friend’s houses and they eat meat it’s sometimes hard for her, but she has a friend whose family that will cook a veggie burger for her.

“I say they taste just like hamburgers, but I don’t know that because I’ve never tasted (hamburgers) before,” she laughed. “I’m going to be a vegetarian all my life. I know what happens to animals in factories, so I don’t want to be eating that.”

Janet Losole, the mother of the two girls said she and her husband Lloyd Stringer decided to become vegetarians 14-years ago for their own personal beliefs.

“For me it was a boycott as an expression of the unfair distribution of the earth’s resources. Most grain is used to feed beef cattle and the vast majority of humans on the earth are starving as a result of not having access to those grains,” Losole said.

“For my husband it was animal rights all the way. He has a view that animals are treated unfairly and he couldn’t tolerate the cruelty.”

She said that the amount of water and acres of land required to feed about 10 head of cattle could feed thousands of people.

“I think, especially today, over consumption has gotten us into a lot of trouble,” she said. “Over consumption, no matter what it is, means that some people on the earth are not going to have enough.”

Recently the family began to be even more thankful for their decision 14-years ago as there are so many problems with the current food system.

“Look at the news all these recalls and bacteria,” she said. “I want to take control of my own health. The decision I made with my husband was ever a good one because every year the food supply gets worse.”

Losole said it’s a myth that humans require meat in their diets, adding that people can be healthy without it.

“Once the kids were born a lot changed. Not only were we going to continue eating vegetarian, we were like what else are we consuming that isn’t good not just for the earth, but (also) for our bodies. Then it became local, organic,” Losole said.

When the couple first decided to become vegetarians they were living in Barrie and found it extremely difficult to find vegetarian alternatives.

“Back then it was very basic just pasta and salad. There weren’t very many options,” she said. “We’ve come along way in 14-years.”

Losole said going out for dinner in restaurants is still hard in a small town like Orillia, however she does know a place in town that offers a wide-range of vegetarian foods.

“You can go to any restaurant and you have to get a salad, but Brewery Bay is the best restaurant in town because Steve (Clarke, the owner) is a vegetarian, so he’s got loads of options on his menu.”

In January of this year the couple decided to start the Orillia Vegetarian Club as a way to meet more people in the community they had just moved to.

The 20-person club meets once a month for a potluck dinner, where they socialize and share recipes. There are also “meat-eaters” in the club who joined to learn how to cook healthy dishes.

Losole said she would like to see the group expand and be able to host guest speakers during their monthly meals.

“I’d like to see people coming as a response to not being happy with the food supply.

(The club) is a support system and it’s nice to be with people who think the same way,” she said. “It’s all about what is on your plate, where does that come from and what’s in it.”

For more information on the Orillia Vegetarian Club visit

Saturday, October 11, 2008

PETA’s complaints to ice cream company an embarassment

The Badger Herald - Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Ice cream is the quintessential summer treat and the best late-night binge. Smooth, sugary and… made from human breast milk?

Or so People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urges Ben & Jerry’s.

I don’t think so, PETA. If you’re ready to eat ice cream made from milk of the lactating teats of pregnant women, you can form your own commune to churn your mammary cream and make your idealistic sundaes elsewhere because no one’s going to market frozen breast milk as a dessert here.

The ice cream controversy began with a new PETA campaign that took the form of a letter to Ben & Jerry’s, imploring them to stop using dairy in their ice cream. They cited animal rights and health reasons to support their ridiculous request and drew inspiration from a Swiss restaurant that uses donated breast milk in their soups, stews and sauces.

I’m a vegan myself, and I don’t get it. Sure, the motives are clear, but why not suggest something less… human excrement-filled? Perhaps soy ice cream, which is just as delicious and a whole lot more appetizing than human breast milk, unless you’re under the age of 12 months.

By urging Ben and Jerry’s to switch their ice cream production into a lactation station and processing plant, PETA made their organization look absolutely dimwitted. It’s embarrassing for many vegans to be associated with such dolts and supposed animal rights advocates.

PETA’s version of ice cream simply wouldn’t sell, unless there was some sort of “buy one, get one free” deal for mothers. Ben & Jerry’s knows this, as does PETA. Such a proposal probably wouldn’t even make it past bathroom humor among co-workers. PETA most likely sent their letter as a rhetorical request, whose premise was flawed ad absurdum and ad nauseum. They created an analogy that made drinking another animal’s milk equal in displeasure to the milk of the breasts of a plethora of pregnant women. Most people, however, are too busy laughing in derision at the idea to see any logic in it.

In fairness to them, PETA had several valid reasons for their request, though it was disguised behind a “Fear Factor”-type challenge that involved drinking human excrement.

Their motives were completely right - drinking milk supports a harmful practice. Cows are sucked dry in dairy plants; for cows to be able to produce milk, they are artificially inseminated and their young are deported to be tortured as veal, Holocaust-style, while they produce 10 times the amount of milk that is natural for them. Humans are also the only mammals that drink milk past infancy, which is why some people have lactose intolerance. What makes cow’s milk so covetous? What about horse milk? Or bobcat milk?

But then again PETA is right - what about breast milk? We drank it when we were young. It makes some sense. The reason why the idea of breast milk in normal dessert consumption is so disgusting is just because of our societal eating patterns. People eat gross stuff like hot dogs all the time, but everyone’s used to it.

I think I’ve milked this for what it’s worth, so vegan morality aside, PETA made the wrong move once again. They only furthered their reputation as a radical terrorist group that propagates unrealistic measures for real moral issues. And they do it with a blithe unawareness that makes them look absolutely foolish.

Take, for example, PETA’s 2001 “Eat the Whales” Campaign, which solicited meat-eaters to eat whales instead of conventional animals like chickens or cows. The idea was that one whale could be slaughtered instead of the thousands of smaller animals which were raised in factory farms. In this case, the logic is completely sound: There would be thousands fewer animals in crammed factory farms because the whale can swim the expanse of the ocean, and everyone is fed. What’s irrational about the campaign is that it gives meat-eaters the opportunity to mock animal rights advocates as freaks. And no one likes to eat whale, even if it is a mammal.

PETA just gives being vegan a bad name. The organization itself isn’t inherently evil, but its practices are often out of touch with its motives. The leader of PETA has single-handedly done a great deal for animal rights, but when some vegans get together, being more radical supposedly means they care for the animals more. The organization’s work doesn’t make anyone more sensitive to animal rights because of how detached their requests are from reality. When PETA makes proposals such as this, it distracts the everyday omnivore from any sort of compassion regarding the issue at hand. And because of this detachment, no one is willing to put down a hamburger to hear what PETA says anymore.

Patrick Johnson ( is a freshman majoring in English and journalism.

For comments on this article, click on:
PETA’s complaints to ice cream company an embarassment

Thursday, October 9, 2008

FOOT IN MOUTH: Stay out of my kitchen, PETA

The McGill Tribune - Tuesday, October 7, 2008

By Eric Weiss

I was at Oktoberhaus last week, drinking a beer and pondering the sexual implications of sausage on a stick, when something occurred to me. Back when I named this column, I intended to put my foot in my mouth with controversial material-something I have yet to do. So instead of writing another self-indulgent piece about some movie you should have seen, I'll discuss something a little meatier.

I'm not a vegetarian. Why? Because I sleep better at night knowing that something died for my dinner.

Alright, that isn't true. But like most people in this country, I enjoy meat and I don't think my dietary indulgences are morally reprehensible. It's about time somebody explained why it's okay to chow down on a succulent, juicy hamburger. And it's about time somebody told People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to fuck off.

I eat meat because it's delicious. I don't care about scientific or philosophical explanations-eating meat is intrinsically pleasurable, and I don't want to live the rest of my life without tasting bacon. According to the Canada Food Guide, meat is an important part of a balanced diet and I would much rather get my protein from poultry than soy.

Beyond the sensory pleasure of consumption, meat has real cultural significance: it brings people together to share good food. Some of my fondest memories were formed around my family's kitchen table, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, a festive turkey dinner will be on Canada's collective menu. Like most foods, meat transcends social boundaries. People of all persuasions can unite thanks to the harmonizing influences of filet mignon or pepperoni pizza.

For me, vegetarianism can't compete: tofu, tofurkey, toveal, and to-whatever are inadequate substitutes for meat. Don't get me wrong-I don't hate tofu. When prepared properly, it's quite tasty. But no matter how well it's made, tofu still tastes like tofu-not meat. It's not the same, so don't pretend it is.

Eating meat is not wrong. Our ancestors ate meat in order to survive and we've inherited their place at the top of the food chain. Like most people, I distinguish between humans and animals in questions of morality. I might risk my life to save a child, but never to save my neighbour's cat. So why should I apologize to the cow I'm having for lunch?

I don't have anything against vegetarianism. It's a popular lifestyle choice that can be made for any number of reasons, ranging from health concerns to spiritual fulfillment. If that's your preference, more power to you (and I mean that). But it's not for me, and I'm sick and tired of zealots turning vegetarianism into a moral crusade.

Believe it or not, I don't eat meat to be cruel. Yes, I've been known to club baby seals and feed puppies to sharks, but that has nothing to do with my diet. I'm sympathetic to many criticisms of the meat industry. Foie gras and veal (neither of which I eat) can only be produced through torture, so I understand why people oppose their production. I also support greater regulation and accountability in the meat industry.

A diet that includes meat is still compatible with the humane treatment of animals. The condescending and inflammatory propaganda of groups like PETA-who tried to exploit Tim McLean's murder for publicity this summer-is insulting to meat lovers and drives us away from the animal rights movement. Turning vegetarianism into an all-or-nothing proposition creates an unnecessary divide between those who eat meat and those who don't. The ways in which animals are raised and slaughtered should be improved to avoid needless cruelty, but my diet isn't responsible for an industry's shortcomings.

Alienating the majority has never been a recipe for progress. I'll support campaigns to improve the meat industry, but only with a compromise. Dear PETA: I stay out of your kitchen, so please stay out of mine.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It's a vegan recipe even carnivores can enjoy

The St. Catharines Standard - Monday, October 6, 2008

St. Catharines resident Laurie Sadowski a runner-up in Canadian Living magazine's cook of the year competition


Laurie Sadowski tested her vegan recipe on a bunch of carnivores.

And they loved it.

That's precisely what the 25-year-old St. Catharines resident hoped would happen when she served the dish to her family.

Sadowski, a vegan, created the Tofu-Stuffed Eggplant Rolls with Mushroom Ragout for Canadian Living magazine's cook of the year competition.

She made it to the semifinals and in August went head-to-head with three other amateur chefs at a cookoff in Toronto.

Sadowski was a runner-up. The winner was Montreal-resident Tania Chugani, who first made her winning Anytime Seafood Bake when she was pregnant and craved lobster.

Finalists were chosen from hundreds of entries from home-based cooks across Canada.

Recipes and details of the competition can be found in the November 2008 issue of Canadian Living, on shelves today.

Another St. Catharines resident, Gennie Wright, made it to the semi-finals - the final 16 - with her Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia with Roasted Pepper and Arugula Salsa.

Sadowski, who writes occasionally for The Standard's Flavours section, has Celiac disease, a condition that prevents her from eating grains like wheat, and also has a food allergy to dairy. In addition to eating a vegetarian diet, she also avoids eggs and dairy.

"I wanted to make something that could be enjoyed by everyone," says Sadowski.

Her personal challenge was to come up with a novel use for tofu, and make it tasty enough that even the most devout meat-eater would find it tasty.

She decided to stuff the tofu mixture into an eggplant roll.

She also wants people whose diets are restricted to know that eating healthy, delicious food is still possible.

"You just have to have an open mind and get creative," she says.

Sadowski is in the process of completing her master's degree in musicology from York University. She plans to open her own business related to cooking and fitness.


Makes eight servings

Recipe by Laurie Sadowski

Canadian Living says: This fresh-tasting vegetarian dish impressed us because it is suitable for not only vegetarians, but also for vegans, as well as people who eat gluten-and dairy-free diets, making it perfect for gatherings of those with food allergies and intolerances. Nutritional yeast, such as that from Bob's Red Mill, can be found in health food and some grocery stores.

2 large eggplants (about one pound/500 grams each)
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) salt 2 tablespoons (25 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper

Tofu stuffing:
2 tubs (each 12 ounces/375 grams) silken or soft tofu, drained
1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed or dried and reconstituted)
1/4 cup (50 mL) thinly sliced fresh basil
2 teaspoons (10 mL) nutritional yeast flakes (optional)

Mushroom ragout:
1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil (approx)
1 small red onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1 /2 pounds (750 g) mixed mushrooms (such as cremini, oyster, shitake and button), sliced
1 tablespoon (5 mL) dried Italian herb seasoning
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) each salt and pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) red or white wine
3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste

Thinly slice eggplants lengthwise into eight slices each; sprinkle all over with salt.

Place in colander, pressing with plates and let stand for 30 minutes; pat dry.

Brush both sides of eggplant with oil; place on two large parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake in top and bottom thirds of 400°F (200°C) oven, switching and rotating sheets halfway through and turning eggplant once, until golden and softened, about 20 minutes.

Tofu stuffing: Meanwhile, place tofu in large cheesecloth-lined strainer and let stand for one hour, pressing to release as much water as possible.

Transfer tofu to bowl; discard water. Add tomatoes, basil and nutritional yeast.

Place eggplant on work surface. Place about one tablespoon (15 mL) tofu stuffing at end of each slice; roll up eggplant to enclose stuffing. Place rolls in 13x9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish. (Make ahead: cover and refrigerate for up to four hours.)

Mushroom ragout: In large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat; saute onion and garlic until softened, about three minutes.

Add mushrooms, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper; saute until mushrooms are softened, adding more oil if necessary, about eight minutes.

Add wine; cook, stirring, until evaporated. Add tomato paste and 1 1 /2 cups (375 mL) water and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about five minutes. Remove from heat. Spread over eggplant rolls.

Bake, covered, in 375°F (190°C) oven until heated through, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand for five minutes.

Tip: To reconstitute the dehydrated tomatoes for this recipe, place about 10 in heatproof bowl. Add about one cup (250 mL) boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid to add to ragout instead of the water.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Animals Farmed For Meat Are The No. 1 Source Of Food Poisoning Bug, Study Shows

ScienceDaily - September 26, 2008

A study by researchers from Lancashire, England, and Chicago, IL, found that 97 percent of campylobacteriosis cases sampled in Lancashire were caused by bacteria typically found in chicken and livestock. The work is based on DNA-sequence comparison of thousands of bacteria collected from human patients and animal carriers.

Campylobacter jejuni causes more cases of gastroenteritis in the developed world than any other bacterial pathogen, including E. coli, Salmonella, Clostridium and Listeria combined. Wild and domestic animals act as natural reservoirs for the disease, which can also survive in water and soil. However, the relative importance of these sources is unclear, and recent work has suggested that livestock are not the main reservoir for human disease.

Researchers led by Daniel Wilson, of the University of Chicago, and formerly Lancaster University, United Kingdom, sequenced the DNA of bacteria collected from 1,231 patients and compared it to Campylobacter jejuni DNA sequences collected from wild and domestic animals, and the environment. They used evolutionary modeling to trace the ancestry of human C. jejuni back to one of seven source populations.

In 57 percent of cases, the bacteria could be traced to chicken, and in 35 percent to cattle. Wild animal and environmental sources were accountable for just three percent of disease.

"The dual observations that livestock are a frequent source of human disease isolates and that wild animals and the environment are not, strongly support the notion that preparation or consumption of infected meat and poultry is the dominant transmission route," Wilson said.

Further studies are underway in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand to determine the generality of the result. But the authors say they hope the current study will add impetus to initiatives aimed at controlling food-borne pathogens.

This research appears September 26 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Chicago Medical Center, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Free Range" is Still Factory Farming

Published 01/15/06 Source: Animal Issues, Volume 32 Number 4, Winter 2001

Every year billions of animals are raised and killed for human consumption. On today’s high-production farms, animals are crammed into tiny cages or crowded pens, unable to express natural behaviors, see sunlight, or even breathe fresh air.

Farm animals undergo painful mutilations and surgical procedures performed without anesthetic that would be illegal if performed on cats or dogs. In fact, 30 U.S. states have enacted laws that specifically exempt farm animals from certain parts of their anti-cruelty statutes. Thereby certain acts, no matter how cruel, are outside the realm of legal protection as long as the acts are deemed accepted, common, customary, or normal farming practices.

Happy Farm Animals

Responding to growing concerns over farm animal treatment, some meat, egg, and milk producers have introduced products that claim their animals are treated humanely. However, consumers purchasing such products may not be getting what they think they are paying for. While terms such as humanely raised, free range, or cage free conjure up images of happy farm animals frolicking in open pastures and sunshine, gleefully offering their bodies for human use, the reality is less than idyllic.

“Free-range” cows and sheep must be “grass fed and live on a range,” and birds must have some form of access to the outdoors, but no other criteria - such as the size of the “range,” the amount of space individual animals must have, or animal care and handling - are required. The Washington Post Magazine reported that, especially in the case of birds, the term free-range “doesn’t really tell you anything about the [animal’s] quality of life, nor does it even assure that the animal actually goes outdoors.” Moreover, the accuracy of these claims is rarely if ever verified because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which defines free-range and free-roaming for labeling purposes, relies “upon producer testimonials to support the accuracy of these claims.”

Karen Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns, visited Happy Hen Organic Fertile Brown Eggs, a “free-range” egg farm in Pennsylvania. According to flyers for Happy Hen eggs, the hens run free “in a natural setting” and are “humanely housed in healthy, open-sided housing, for daily sunning - something Happy Hens really enjoy.” Davis’s observations stood in stark contrast to the farm’s claims. “Inside, the birds were wall to wall. They were severely debeaked and their feathers were in bad condition - straggly, drab, and worn off.” More than 7,000 birds were housed in each Happy Hen barn, and individual hens had no more than 1½ square feet of space, not room enough even to spread their wings. Happy Hens were also occasionally force-molted (denied food for several days to shock the hens into losing their feathers and prematurely starting a new laying cycle).

Recently, the American Humane Association (AHA) introduced its own “Free Farmed” labeling program. Unlike other labels that rely solely on producer’s claims, the “Free Farmed” label uses an independent third party verification system to ensure that producers, processors, and haulers meet the Animal Welfare Standards set forth by the AHA. AHA standards require that livestock have access to clean and “sufficient” food and water, protection from weather elements, space, and other features to ensure the safety, health, and comfort of the animal. In addition, the standards require that managers and stock keepers be thoroughly trained, skilled, and competent in animal husbandry and welfare.

Inherent Cruelties

Animals raised to produce “free-farmed” and other such labeled products may be given a little more space, spared certain cruel procedures, and afforded a bit more consideration than their factory-farmed counterparts, yet meat, milk, and eggs can never be considered truly humane products.

Even the best labeling programs fail to address some cruelties inherent in animal agriculture. For example, like other chickens, “free-range” meat-type chickens have been genetically altered to grow abnormally large and as a result their bones are often unable to support the weight of their muscle tissue, causing them to hobble in pain or become totally crippled prior to slaughter.

The parents of these birds suffer as well. According to Ian J. H. Duncan, Ph.D. and Professor of Poultry Ethology at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, meat-type chickens used for breeding are “obviously suffering,” as a result of only being allowed 40-50% of food they would normally eat to satisfy their hunger. This state of constant starvation is considered necessary to keep the birds’ weight down and avoid the crippling that plagues their offspring. Turkeys are so genetically altered that they can not even breed naturally, so all turkeys are forcefully inseminated by artificial means.

Producers who allow their cows to graze in pasture and claim to treat animals humanely offer no explanation for the fate of the calves produced on their dairies. To continue to produce milk a cow must have a calf each year. Calves normally stay with their mothers for a year or more.

However, on the dairy farm, calves are immediately removed from their mothers so that the milk can be sold for human consumption. The female calves are usually used to replace worn-out dairy cows. Many of the male calves are confined and chained in small wooden crates to produce “white” veal.

Like their feedlot and factory farmed counterparts, “free-range” cattle, sheep, and pigs are castrated without anesthesia, and, when large enough, they too are crammed into metal trucks and taken to slaughter. On the way to the slaughterhouse livestock may travel for hours in freezing or sweltering temperatures with no access to food or water. Worn-out “free-range” dairy cows are often literally dragged to slaughter; 91% of “downers” (animals to sick or injured to walk) at slaughterhouses and auctions are dairy cows.

Slaughterhouse Cruelty

Another aspect of meat production that “free-farmed” and other labeling schemes are incapable of addressing is the actual slaughter of the animals. Through the Freedom of Information Act, The Washington Post obtained enforcement documents from 28 slaughter plants and exposed horrific acts of cruelty that occur on a daily basis in slaughterhouses throughout the United States. The Post also interviewed dozens of current and former federal meat inspectors and slaughterhouse workers who admitted to routinely witnessing the strangling, beating, scalding, skinning, and butchering of live, fully conscious animals. According to The Washington Post, “Enforcement records, interviews, videos and worker affidavits describe repeated violations of the Humane Slaughter Act at dozens of slaughterhouses ranging from the smallest, custom butcheries to modern, automated establishments.”

While the Humane Slaughter Act regulates the transport, handling, stunning, and slaughter of farm animals at federally inspected slaughterhouses and is supposed to be enforced by USDA inspectors stationed inside the slaughter facilities, abuse is commonplace. In recent years, the large number of animals produced on factory farms has greatly increased the number of animals slaughtered and processed. In the biggest operations, one animal is killed every three seconds.

This mass killing of farm animals for profit makes federal inspectors hesitant to stop the production line when they see a violation. “In plants all over the United States, this happens on a daily basis,” says Lester Friedlander, a veterinarian and formerly chief government inspector at a Pennsylvania hamburger plant. “I’ve seen it happen. And I’ve talked to other veterinarians. They feel it’s out of control.”

Even if labeling schemes could eliminate all cruelties associated with the rearing, transport, and slaughter of farm animals, for many there is an obvious conflict between caring for animals and supporting their deliberate and unnecessary killing. Those who cannot reconcile this conflict attempt to avoid animal products altogether. But even for the most adamant animal lovers, dietary habits can be hard to break. For some, “humane” meat, milk, and eggs offer a way to reduce animal suffering while working toward eliminating animal products from their lives.

Moreover, helping farm animals does not have to be an all or nothing proposition. Animal advocates can support “improved” conditions for farmed animals even if the larger goal is to eliminate their exploitation entirely. Working to improve conditions for farm animals may not match our ideals but it does make a difference to the animals who as a result of incremental changes may be spared some suffering in their short lives.


While “free range” suggests that the animals live in conditions close to their “natural” state, the reality is probably closer to “confinement” or “factory” farming. The extremes of natural and confined conditions are contrasted below.


Natural: Pigs are intelligent, sensitive, and clean animals. When provided with ample space they establish a well-defined social order and allot separate areas for resting and defecating. Pigs are very active: they enjoy running, digging in the dirt (rooting) and splashing in puddles, and playing with other pigs. At term a pregnant sow will isolate herself from the herd and build a nest out of leaves, branches, grass, or straw in which to give birth to her piglets. She will then wait several days after birth before leading her piglets out to meet the herd. Before nursing her piglets, the careful mother sweeps the nest or the ground with her snout, pushing piglets out of the way, then drops to her front knees and slowly lies down to allow her piglets suck.

Confinement: More than 80% of all pigs raised in the U.S. are raised on farms which keep more than 1,000 animals. The pigs are crammed into indoor, near-dark, windowless confinement sheds, where the air is filled with eye- and lung-burning ammonia created from the waste that collects below the floors. Young pigs destined for slaughter are raised in crowded pens while their mothers spend most their lives in metal crates so small that they cannot even turn around. Some farms also use a “tether system” in which sows are tied by a neck collar and chain or girth strap inside an open backed crate — such crates are sometimes referred to as “rape racks” because sows can not escape the advances of the breeding boar. Denied adequate space and freedom of movement, crated sows often develop stereotypic behavior. Stereotypic behavior consists of repetitive movements that serve no practical purpose, such as head bobbing, jaw smacking, and rail biting. While farmers claim that such crates are necessary to prevent sows from crushing their piglets and to make breeding easier, pigs have survived in the wild and on farms for centuries without the “benefit” of confinement crates.


Natural: Chickens are highly social animals with a hierarchy commonly known as a “pecking order.” Chickens can maintain a stable pecking order in a flock up to 90 birds with each bird knowing every other bird’'s individual place in the flock. Chickens spend most of their day foraging for food, grooming, nesting, dust bathing, and sunning. Mother hens spend most of their time nurturing their chicks by diligently searching for and offering various food items, covering chicks for naps, and fiercely defending them even against terrible odds and predators much larger than themselves.

Confinement: More than 99% of egg-laying hens in the U.S. are kept in “battery cages” in which the average space for each hen is 48-54 square inches - little bigger than a half-sheet of notebook paper. Studies of chicken behavior have determined that the absolute minimum area required for a hen to stand comfortably is 72 square inches. Battery cages do not allow hens to express any normal behaviors such as dust bathing, nesting, or foraging (60% of an unconfined hen’s day consists of foraging). Without the outlets for these instinctive behaviors hens become stressed, lose much of their feathers, and begin to peck each other excessively. Rather than provide more space for the hens to prevent pecking, farmers cut off the sensitive upper portion of the beak with a hot blade.

Dairy Calves

Natural: A calf is nurtured and nursed by its mother for up to eight months. He or she receives all the necessary immunities and nutrients from milk, and strength and coordination by romping with other calves in an open pasture. So strong is the bond between cow and calf that if separated they may bellow and pace for hours in an attempt to find one another.

Confinement: On the dairy farm calves are taken away at 24-48 hours after birth, so humans can drink the milk. A calf separated from his or her mother at an early age does not receive all the necessary immunities through the milk, and is therefore vulnerable to disease. A 10% mortality rate is common.Calves destined for veal production are often confined to small crates typically no larger than 22" wide and 58" long, making it difficult for them achieve normal posture for comfort. They are fed an all-liquid diet of milk powder mixed with water, which lacks adequate iron. This diet deliberately causes anemia to keep the flesh pale. The absence of fiber in the diet also leads to chronic indigestion and diarrhea. So deprived are these calves that they will constantly lick at the crates and their own hair in an effort to obtain the roughage they need. This isolation, confinement, and nutritional deprivation lasts four to six months. Scientific research indicates that calves confined in crates experience “chronic stress” and exhibit abnormal coping behaviors associated with frustration, and suffer from leg and joint disorders.

What's in a Name?

Free Range or Cage Free: No government laws or standards regulate the use of terms such as “free-range” and “free-roaming” on egg cartons. For eggs, these or similar labels generally mean that hens are uncaged yet confined indoors in crowded sheds. For animals raised for meat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture stipulates that free-range chickens must have “access to the outdoors” and free-range cows and sheep must be “grass fed and live on a range.” No other criteria - such as the size of the “range,” the amount of space individual animals must have, or animal care and handling - are required.

Natural: “Natural” foods "contain no artificial ingredients and are only minimally processed.” Animals raised for natural meats are given no hormones or antibiotics, although they may be fed corn and other grain grown with pesticides. No animal care, treatment, or housing standards are required.

Organic: For dairy or meat products to be certified organic, farmland must be free of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides for at least three years. After this transition period, the farmland may be used to grow organic crops that are used for pasture or feed for farm animals. Animals are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones and must be fed only 100% certified organic feed. All organically raised animals must have “access to the outdoors”; this includes access to pasture for cows, sheep, and goats. Some organic certification agencies require that laying hens be provided food and water during their molting period. Confinement, mutilation, transportation, and other animal welfare issues are not addressed.

Kosher or Ritual Slaughter: Ritual slaughter is performed according to the religious requirements of the Jewish or Muslim religious faiths. The animal is slaughtered without being stunned, with a sharp knife. The animal is fully conscious as its throat is slit and the blood drains out of its body. A major concern with kosher/ritual slaughter is the stressful and cruel methods of restraint that are used by some plants in which the animals are shackled by one or both hind legs and are hung upside down prior to slaughter. This method can result in torn flesh and ligaments, ruptured joints, and bone fractures. Some plants have installed modern restraining equipment that holds animals in a more comfortable upright position. Pre-slaughter animal husbandry issues such as confinement, mutilation, and transport are not addressed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I think I smell a stunt

Toronto Sun - Friday, September 12, 2008

News Toronto & GTA

PETA wedding at KFC vegan to the cake


Queen West Village at hot, high noon. We're feeling extra crispy. At Augusta Ave. hunkers a KFC, an atoll of fast food in a sea of java, jazz, tattoos and purple hair. Nice day for a white wedding.

A man in a milky tux and bowtie paces before a Family Fun Bucket poster in the window. Colonel Sanders," someone exclaims. No, he's dead. And don't say "milky." Think of those cruelly squeezed teats. No. That's Vegan Outreach leader Jack Norris, 41, of California. He's the groom.

The bride is Alaskan Alex Bury, 38, fundraiser for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). She fusses with her gown in the parking lot.

PETA has done some wacko things. I once met a lovely lass who dressed in lettuce and threw fake blood at the fur crowd.

But a wedding of animal activists on the sidewalk outside a KFC? I think I smell a stunt.

The KFC staff look jumpy, like they're expecting a bucket of chicken blood. Fear not. Now PETA likes KFC, or at least its Canadian wing, which has agreed to kill chickens nicely and to serve a mock-chicken wrap. So, it's a friendly stunt.

"We hope that when people visit KFC, they'll choose the Delicious Vegetarian Sandwich," says PETA rep Nicole Matthews, up from headquarters in Virginia.

Sheesh, now PETA is promoting KFC.

Yesterday's wedding may be gimmicky, but it's legal. And (sigh) beautiful. Alex is stunning. And guilt-free. No silkworms died for that dress. I had no idea they boiled those worms alive. I don't know how they kill polyesters, but apparently it is painless.

Makeup artist Sherry Vanstone, 34, tells me the bride's face is free of products tested on animals. Jack's tux has no wool (shearing hurts?), his shoes no leather. The wedding cake is sans eggs or milk.

Alex walks down the aisle - alley I should say. The Alexander Ensemble strikes up The Wedding March. It occurs to me violin strings are catgut, but I don't want to make a scene.

Presiding, is Unitarian lay chaplain Margaret Rao. The usual I dos, but meat-free. Each vows to take the other "to be my partner in work to make this world a kinder place for animals."

A passing firetruck gives the couple a toot. So does one of those goofy amphibious Hippo tour buses. Now, there's a critter I wouldn't mind sending to the meat-packers.

As for chickens, the PETA/KFC treaty ends the Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign. The chain's suppliers must handle their birds tenderly and gas them rather than zap them, slit their throats or other ghastly things. Slicing off their beaks so they can't peck each other is still okay.

"We're not compromising," insists the bride. "I'd love to see the whole world go vegan tomorrow, but I realize it won't happen. "Before we get everyone to go from A to Z, we have to get them from A to B."

So, back to the wedding. Julia Rufo, 26, watches from across the street at the Java House. "I hate to criticize a wedding, but that's the last place I'd want to get married. Better at a McDonald's."

Oh, Julia, don't get me started on what happens to cows.

Alex fell for Jack at a meeting of activists. Both are veterans of the vegan wars. Alex's first skirmish was one snowy day in Anchorage. She took off her clothes to protest furs. Jack's younger brother also had a vegan wedding last week in Cincinnati. In a lovely park.

So, Alex, your big day's at a KFC. Where's the romance, the spice, the 11 different herbs? "I thought this was so romantic," she says. "We met through fighting for animals. It's one of our most important bonds."

I'm a meat-eater of long standing, but I was once wed to a Toronto Vegetarian Association organizer. So I've had my share of tofu.

KFC's new faux chicken wrap ain't half bad. And no bones. They serve it at the reception inside.

I wait for Alex to toss the bouquet, but it never happens.

I guess they're afraid it will land on a squirrel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The U.N.'s meatless drive

Our appetite for steaks and burgers is a huge contributor to global warming.

Los Angeles Times - Tuesday, September 9, 2008

EDITORIAL - So it turns out that meatless Fridays, which for generations inflicted fish sticks and tuna casseroles on millions of school-age children, Catholic and otherwise, were actually saving the planet. The United Nations is now urging wealthy nations to make a dramatic shift in eating habits, saying the best way to curb climate change is for people to go at least one day a week without meat.

And Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - which shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year - isn't just asking diners to bypass a burger now and then. After achieving a weekly day without meat, he said, they should embark on a progressive reduction of their meat intake.

The problem isn't so much with hamburger patties as it is with cow patties. Meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations. Cows and other ruminants, such as sheep and goats, release methane and nitrous oxide in amounts that put to shame the carbon dioxide belched out by cars. In fact, a red-meat-eater in a Prius is probably hurting the environment more than a vegan in a Hummer.

The U.N. also is calling for governments to launch campaigns to reduce meat eating. If they do, such efforts will probably start in Europe, then sweep through every city, town, village and hamlet in Asia, Africa, Australia and Antarctica before the U.S. Department of Agriculture stops propagandizing on behalf of meat without any regard for human or environmental health.

Which brings us back to individual abstinence. We're not calling for a vegan revolution, but this page has noted that a sincere personal effort to fight global warming must include a reduction in eating red meat. Were fish sticks on Fridays really that bad?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Vegetarians get all the nutrients they need

Windsor Star - Thursday August 28, 2008

Re: No Meat? No Problem, Aug. 21.

I have been a vegetarian for 18 years and when people hear I don't eat animal products, they are often concerned about where I get enough calcium or protein.

Though times are changing, I still notice vegetarian diets are often criticized as extreme or unhealthy, when, in fact, a growing number of studies indicate animal products can increase the risk of obesity, stroke, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Plant-based diets protect against these conditions and diseases. Calcium can be absorbed from vegetables as well, if not better, than from milk products and without the harmful cholesterol and fat that come with dairy.

Although protein is certainly an essential nutrient, we do not need huge quantities as most people believe. It is easy for a well-balanced vegetarian diet to meet recommendations for protein. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often much, protein.

What your article didn't include was that many people turn to vegetarianism after becoming aware of the enormous suffering farm animals endure to produce meat, milk and eggs.

Often when people learn about the ways in which animals are raised for food, they are appalled by the cruelty these beings endure. Thanks again for such an educational article.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Maple Leaf Foods plant linked to Listeria outbreak - Saturday August, 23 2008 News Staff

Test results indicate a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto is the source of a Listeria outbreak that has killed four people, public health officials confirmed late Saturday.

The company plans to recall all products produced at the facility as a precaution.

"Results of genetic testing from three samples of the products recalled by Maple Leaf Foods show that two tested positive for the outbreak strain of listeria," the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement.

The third sample was a close match to the outbreak strain and is undergoing another test.

There have been 21 confirmed cases of listeriosis across the country. Three people have died in Ontario and one in British Columbia.

Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, gave his "deepest and sincere condolences" on Saturday to the families of those who died.

"This week, our best efforts failed and for that we are deeply sorry," McCain told reporters. "This is the toughest situation we've faced in the 100 years of this company's history."

Although the company plans to recall all products made at the Toronto plant on Sunday morning, he said it was a precautionary measure and no trace of listeriosis had been found on any products not already pulled from the shelves.

The plant has been temporarily shut down. Company spokesperson Linda Smith said all of its previously recalled meat products had been taken off store shelves by Thursday. However, finding out where products ended up after being purchased by distributors had proven to be more difficult.

"There is a very active effort to work with all the food distribution customers. But it is not as direct, because there are customers, and then those customers have customers," she said.

"We are very confident, but I can not give you a percentage, but virtually all of it has been removed."

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Saturday he is confident that health officials will quickly get the outbreak under control.

"I mean we always have these types of situations," Ritz told CTV News on Saturday.

"There have been outbreaks like this before. We are getting better at what we do."

Meanwhile, consumers in Toronto are being warned not to eat Shopsy's deli-fresh Classic Reuben sandwiches over contamination fears.

The sandwiches are sold in 180-gram packages. They have best-before dates of up to and including Aug. 22 and 24. The UPC code is 7-76393017001-8.

CFIA initiated the recall because the sandwich contains sliced corned beef -- one of the deli meat products recalled by Maple Leaf Foods earlier this month.

The sandwiches were sold at a number of locations in Toronto. The CFIA and Royal Touch Foods list the following locations:

Shoppers Drug Mart 390 Queens Quay
Shoppers Drug Mart, 388 King Street West
Shoppers Drug Mart 10 Dundas Street
Shoppers Drug Mart, 465 Yonge Street
Shoppers Drug Mart, 4990 Yonge Street
Shoppers Drug Mart 5776 Yonge Street
Bloor Superfresh Mart, 186 Bloor Street

"My understanding is there were 96 sandwiches produced and 23 sandwiches are outstanding, which I think speaks to the level of detail that everybody is going to to get the product back," Maple Leaf spokesperson Linda Smith told CTV Toronto on Saturday.

There have been no illnesses reported yet in association with consumption of the sandwiches. Generally speaking, eating Listeria-tainted food can lead to high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea.

In some rare cases, people can die, but those most at risk are the elderly and those with health problems.

A recall of Maple Leaf products began last weekend. The company recalled 23 packaged meat products, including sliced cooked turkey breast, roast beef and salami. All were processed at a plant in Toronto - specifically, two production lines.

The products that are part of the recall have been distributed to nursing homes, delis and restaurants across Canada, including McDonald's and Mr. Sub.

Maple Leaf had closed its plant earlier this week. Decontamination efforts continued at the plant Saturday.

With a report from CTV's Graham Richardson and CTV Toronto's Chris Eby

Here is the current list of affected products, including individual product codes and best-before dates:

26365, Sliced Cooked Turkey Breast, 470 grams, Sept. 30;
02106, Schneiders Bavarian Smokies, 1 kilogram, Oct. 28;
02126, Schneiders Cheddar Smokies, 1 kilogram, Oct. 28;
21333, Sure Slice Roast Beef, 1 kilogram, Sept. 30;
21388, Sure Slice Combo Pack, 1 kilogram, Sept. 30;
60243, Deli Gourmet Roast Beef slices, 1 kilogram, Sept. 30;
02356, Seasoned Cooked Roast Beef, 500 grams, Oct. 7;
42706, Roast Beef, Seasoned and Cooked, 500 grams, Oct. 7;
21334, Sure Slice Turkey Breast Roast, 1 kilogram, Oct. 14;
21444, Sure Slice Corned Beef, 1 kilogram, Oct. 14;
44938, Montreal Style Corned Beef, 500 grams, Oct. 14;
21440, Sure Slice Black Forest Style Ham, 1 kilogram, Oct. 21;
21447, Sure Slice Salami, 1 kilogram, Oct. 21;
21331, Sure Slice Smoked Ham, 1 kilogram, Oct. 21;
48019, Schneiders Deli Shaved Corned Beef, 200 grams, Oct. 21;
48020, Schneiders Deli Shaved Smoked Meat, 200 grams, Oct. 21;
48016, Schneiders Deli Shaved Smoked Ham , 200 grams, Oct. 21;
48018, Schneiders Deli Shaved Smoked Turkey Breast, 150 grams, Oct. 21;
48017, Schneiders Deli Shaved Fully Cooked Smoked Honey Ham, 200 grams, Oct. 21;
21360, Burns Bites Pepperoni, 500 grams, Jan. 21, 2009;
99158, Turkey Breast Roast, 1 kilogram, Sept. 30;
71330, Roast Beef Cooked, Seasoned, 2.5 kilograms, Sept. 30;
71331 Corned Beef, Smoked Meat, 2.5 kilograms, Sept. 30.

What You Can Do

Instead of asking the Ontario government why it took them so long to inform the public about the outbreak (it was first made aware of the bacteria problem on July 25th), and instead of asking Maple Leaf Foods to improve their inspection standards, the best thing you can do to reduce the risk of disease from contaminated meat (and save countless animals from unnecessary suffering and death) is to go vegan!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Effective Advocacy

From A Meaningful Life by Matt Ball, Vegan Outreach

All advocates are faced with two main challenges. The first, and arguably more important of the two, is how to open people’s hearts and minds, so that they may deliberately and conscientiously consider new ideas.

Effective advocates - those who are truly successful in fostering change - are thoughtful psychologists. They understand that each of us is born with a certain intrinsic nature. We are then raised to follow certain beliefs, and taught to hold specific prejudices. Over time, we discover new “truths” and abandon others; we mix and match, supplement and refine, continually altering our collection of attitudes, principles, and values.

Even though we can recognize that our belief system changes over time, at any given point, most of us are likely to believe that our current set of positions and opinions are “right” - that our convictions are well founded, our actions justified, and that we are each, at heart, a good person. Even when, years later, we find ourselves reflecting on previously held beliefs with a sense of bemusement, it does not occur to us that we may someday feel the same way toward the attitudes we now hold.

Similarly, effective advocates understand that they don’t change anyone else’s mind. No matter how elegant an argument is, ultimately, real and lasting change comes only from opening a person’s heart and mind, allowing them the freedom to explore new ideas and new ways of viewing the world. Of course, there is no magic way of doing this. The simplest way to encourage other people to open their hearts and minds is for our own hearts and minds to be open - and not just for the sake of advocacy or argument. Rather, we must be truly open, able to sincerely consider anything and everything that is said during interactions with others. I believe an open heart and mind is imperative for a sincere advocate, because no one person has all the answers.

So, in the interest of moving forward, let me suggest we set aside everything we believe we “know,” and try to find the core of our concern, what is fundamentally important.

After many years of struggling to distill my advocacy to its purest form, I have come to believe that virtually all of our actions can be traced to a desire for fulfillment and happiness and a need to avoid or alleviate suffering. That is to say, something is “good” if it leads to more happiness, and something is “bad” if it leads to more suffering. This is a simplistic view, of course, but does cut through confusion, leaving us with a simple measure by which to judge the consequences of our actions and evaluate our advocacy.

Given that pain - be it physical, emotional, or psychological - is generally the single greatest barrier to contentment, I believe suffering must be our first priority, especially since there is so very much suffering in the world. In essence, then, my advocacy philosophy can be best described as a desire to decrease the amount of suffering in the world.

Principles of Advocacy

If you are reading this, I would guess that you are concerned about more than just the pursuit of your own happiness. The question then is: How can we make a difference in a world where suffering is so widespread?

In addition to starting with open hearts and minds, a basic understanding of human nature shows that people have an affinity for the known and the immediate. This is true not only of the population as a whole, but for advocates as well. In general, most people working for a better world concentrate on those closest to them, geographically and/or biologically. Even those who look beyond species focus on either the familiar or the fantastic, with a disproportionate amount of resources and effort spent on cats and dogs, endangered species, or individual animals in high-profile situations.

This is not surprising, given our basic human desire to have a visible impact on the world. We all want to feel like we are accomplishing something, that we’ve been victorious. It often doesn’t matter how significant the accomplishment or victory is – or even if the world is truly better off - but rather that something tangible has been achieved. This need for visible results is what leads some people to say they are unable or unwilling to support Vegan Outreach, because what we do is too slow or too abstract, and there is no way to see the animals saved.

Understanding human nature and recognizing the primacy of suffering has led Vegan Outreach to formulate two guiding principles for advocacy:

We should, as much as possible, strive to identify and set aside our personal biases and needs. Vegan Outreach’s approach to advocacy tries to orient itself through a straightforward analysis of the world as it is, motivated solely by the suffering of others.

When we choose to do one thing, we are choosing not to do others. The people who want to create a better world, including those who make up Vegan Outreach, have extremely limited resources and time. So instead of choosing to “do something, do anything,” we pursue actions that we believe will lead to the greatest reduction in suffering. Once again, this may sound simplistic, but given the endless demands on advocates, we believe it is an important principle to follow.

Why Vegan?

Based on these two principles, we choose to focus on exposing the cruelties of factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses, while providing honest information about how to pursue a cruelty-free lifestyle. Let me repeat - our emphasis on ethical eating is derived from our principles of advocacy, not vice versa. No specific diet - conscientious carnivorism, veganism, etc. - has any value in and of itself. Rather, the importance of promoting cruelty-free eating is that it allows us to have the maximum impact on the amount of suffering in the world.

How to Promote Veganism

The rationale outlined above seems logical, but we didn’t arrive at these conclusions overnight. Before founding Vegan Outreach, Jack Norris and I sought to end many different forms of animal exploitation and pursued various methods of advocacy - from letter writing campaigns to scores of protests and everything in between, including civil disobedience.

Even within the realm of promoting vegetarianism, there are many different opinions and options. For example, the Christian Vegetarian Association works within the context of the most commonly practiced religion in the United States. The CVA’s booklet Honoring God’s Creation reaches out to people through their existing ethical framework. This approach allows the CVA to advocate - quite successfully - to a vast audience for whom other approaches would be less effective.

Other advocacy organizations focus on harnessing the power of video footage, such as Meet Your Meat. Some groups take out free spots on public access stations, and sometimes can afford to purchase commercial airtime. A different approach is to go right to the public via “FaunaVision” vans (equipped with large TV monitors, speakers, and portable power units) and “Faunettes” (small mobile units that can be wheeled on sidewalks and inside buildings), which act like magnets, attracting people who may otherwise ignore someone leafleting. Many regional groups provide important resources and support, from publishing local shopping and dining guides to organizing social gatherings.

Maximum Change

At Vegan Outreach, we work for maximum change, seeking to achieve the greatest reduction in suffering per dollar donated and hour worked. We believe the way to accomplish this is to present the optimal message to our target audience. This leads to two basic questions: Who is our audience, and what is the message that will elicit the greatest change?

Of course, with infinite resources, we could reach out to everyone. Given our very limited resources, though, the goal of maximum change leads Vegan Outreach to focus on students (especially college-age), for three main reasons:

1. The Relative Willingness and Ability to Change

Of course, not every student is willing to stop eating meat. But relative to the population as a whole, college students tend to be more open-minded - even rebellious against the status quo - and in a position where they aren’t as restricted by parents, tradition, habits, etc.

2. The Full Impact of Change

Even if students and senior citizens were equally open to change, over the course of their lives, students can save more animals. Young people not only have more meals ahead of them, but also have more opportunities to influence others.

3. The Ability to Reach Large Numbers

College students are typically easier to reach in large numbers. For a relatively small investment of time, an activist can hand a copy of Even If You Like Meat or Why Vegan? to hundreds of students who otherwise might never have viewed a full and compelling case for compassion.

Our message for this audience is the suffering on factory farms and in industrial slaughterhouses. We have found that this simple and straightforward message has many benefits, including the following:

1. Honesty

In general, people can sense insincerity. They don’t respect the tactic of bait and switch, and few people believe that vegetarian advocates are truly concerned about everyone else’s health. Nearly every new vegetarian, though, goes through the phase of, “Even though I care about animals, other people won’t. People are selfish - I’ll appeal to their self-interest!” But look around - is the health argument working? For years we’ve known that being obese is the single greatest threat to good health; yet every year, more and more people in the United States become more and more overweight! Is this really the message with the best chance to create the real change that will save animals?

2. Impact

Many animal advocates buy the “trickle up” theory of change: “If they oppose wearing fur coats, they might eventually stop eating meat!” Does anyone really believe that an hour spent holding a sign outside a furrier does more to help animals than spending that hour handing out Even If You Like Meat brochures? Even if a person doesn’t become vegetarian right after reading Even If You Like Meat, they are far more likely to be sympathetic to other cases of animal abuse than they would be after seeing an antifur poster - the “trickle down” approach to animal liberation!

3. Motivation

We don’t want to get people to just consider changing their diet. We want them to change and maintain that change. If someone gives up meat to improve their health, the next time they hear someone praise the Atkins diet, that same person might switch and end up eating even more animals than before! So we should try to get them to consider boycotting factory farms for reasons that are sustainable.

I’m not fooling myself - I know that exposing what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses isn’t going to reach everyone. But feel-good arguments that avoid the horrors of meat production are easily dismissed, and thus simply not compelling enough. We don’t want people to nod in agreement and continue on as before. It is far better if 95% of people turn away revolted and 5% open their minds to change, than if everyone smiles politely and continues on to McDonald’s (for a chicken sandwich).

Let me repeat: Trying to appeal to everyone hasn’t worked, and it won’t work. It is well past time to give up the fantasy that there is some perfect self-centered argument that will magically compel everyone to change.

Conversely, showing people what goes on behind the walls of factory farms and slaughterhouses does work! We have found cruelty to animals to be the most compelling reason to change one’s diet - and maintain that change - in the face of peer pressure, tradition, the latest fad, etc. During the two years that Jack devoted to leafleting colleges around the country, he found a tremendous willingness among students to take and consider information about the realities of modern animal agriculture and the compassionate alternative. Other activists have found the same.

We constantly receive feedback like, “I had no idea what went on! Thank you so much for opening my eyes!”

And yet, there are many, many more willing people to reach. Obviously friends and family, but we can’t spend all our time and emotional resources on the immediate. The simplest way to get information to interested people is to stock displays in your area: libraries, music and bookstores, co-ops and natural food stores, coffeehouses, and sympathetic restaurants.

Youth, though, is where the animals get the biggest bang for the buck. Vegan Outreach’s Adopt a College program, where activists leaflet at local campuses, serves to reach out methodically to our prime audience. This is the first systematic plan for bringing about animal liberation by targeting our most receptive audience.

The animals can’t afford our continued, reactionary, try-everything-and-anything campaigns. We know what works. We just need the dedication to do it! You can join up at our web site -


Anyone who has been vegetarian for more than a few minutes knows the many roadblocks - habit, tradition, convenience, taste, familiarity, peer pressure, etc. - that keep people from opening their hearts and minds to consider the animals’ plight. Our message must overcome all of these!

When it comes to advocating for the animals, people are looking for a reason to ignore us - no one sits around thinking, “Wow, I really want to give up all my favorite foods and isolate myself from my friends and family!” Knowing this, we can’t give anyone any reasons to ignore the terrible and unnecessary suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses.

If we want to be as effective as we possibly can be for the animals, it is absolutely essential that we recognize and avoid common traps. Remember: Our message is simple. We shouldn’t distract people from it by trying to present every piece of information that sounds vaguely pro-vegetarian. Nor should we try to answer every tangential argument - advocacy isn’t about how much we know. We can’t, for instance, let the discussion degrade into an argument over sterility and impotence, third-world starvation, Jesus’ loaves and fishes, impending dust bowls, abortion, chickens being smarter than human toddlers, the President, bone char, or Grandpa’s cholesterol level. Whatever is said cannot counter the fact that eating animals causes unnecessary suffering.

Similarly, we can’t afford to build our case from questionable sources. Factory farms and slaughterhouses are hidden from view, and the industry’s PR machine (“Animals are treated well, slaughterhouses are well regulated”) denies standard animal agriculture practices. The public won’t believe otherwise just because we say so.

However, there is no need to cite “biased” sources; the cruelties of factory farms and industrial slaughterhouses are well documented by nonpartisan third-party sources and the industry itself. Just as our case is perfectly strong without the most extreme claims, it is also complete when based on sources most people will regard as indisputable.

We should always stay focused on the animals, not ourselves or our particular diet. Ethical eating is not an end in itself. It is not a dogma or religion, nor a list of forbidden ingredients or immutable laws - it is only a tool for opposing cruelty and reducing suffering.


We don’t want to attack anything or anyone.
We don’t want to express our rage at how animals are raised and killed.
We don’t want to show how smart and enlightened we are.
We don’t want to “win an argument with a meat eater.”
We don’t want to gross out someone so they don’t eat meat at their next meal.
We want people to open their hearts and minds to change. It all simplifies to this:
Buying meat, eggs, and dairy causes unnecessary suffering.
We can each choose not to cause this suffering.

Staying Healthy

For many, maintaining a change in diet is a far more significant undertaking than most advocates admit - or even realize. While leafleting colleges across the country, Jack was often told, “I was veg for a while, but I didn’t feel healthy.…” He heard this so frequently that he sometimes felt he met more failed vegetarians than current vegetarians!

Contrast this with the messages many activists like to present, such as “Meat is a deadly poison!” Just consider a meat eater hearing a friend’s story of feeling unhealthy on a vegetarian diet, and then being faced with the nearly desperate-sounding activist chant of “Meat causes heart disease! Colon cancer! Breast cancer! Diabetes!”

As we know, even a moderate health argument doesn’t hold much sway over most people - especially young people. But the health argument is not only an inefficient use of our limited resources: when we regurgitate extremist-sounding, black-and-white propaganda, we hurt animals. Everyone who tries a vegetarian diet because of its “magical properties” will quit if they don’t immediately lose weight and increase their energy. They will then tell everyone how awful they felt as a vegetarian, and how much better they feel now as a meat eater. Just one failed vegetarian can counter the efforts of many well-spoken advocates.

It is well past time that we accompany the case for ethical eating with an honest and thorough plan for staying healthy. The nutritional case historically presented by advocates is so bad - and has led to so many failed vegetarians - that Jack went back to school to become a registered dietitian, so he could evaluate nutrition research and provide sound recommendations.

If we want to do our best to prevent suffering, we must learn and present a complete, unbiased summary of the nutritional aspects of a cruelty-free diet, including uncertainties and potential concerns. Doing so not only leads people to trust that we are not just partisan propagandists, but also creates healthy spokespeople for the animals!

Countering the Stereotype

Perhaps the biggest problem for advocates is society’s stereotype of vegans. No longer does “vegan” need to be explained when referenced on TV or in movies, but unfortunately, the word is often used as shorthand for someone young, angry, deprived, fanatical, and isolated. In short, “vegan” = “unhappy.” Just like one failed vegetarian counters the efforts of many honest advocates, this caricature of vegans guarantees that veganism won’t be considered - let alone adopted - on a wide scale.

Regrettably, the “angry vegan” image is based in reality, and fighting this stereotype just reinforces it. Not only have I known many fanatical vegans, I was one. Like every error I have tried to point out in this essay - inefficient tactics, obsessing over ingredients, arguing minutiae, etc. - this is another I’ve been guilty of. My self-righteous indignation gave many people a lifetime excuse to ignore the hidden realities of factory farms and the compassionate alternative.

It is not enough to be a vegan, or even a dedicated vegan advocate. If we want to maximize the amount of suffering we can prevent, we must actively be the opposite of the vegan stereotype. The animals can’t wait until we get over our despair. We must learn “how to win friends and influence people.” We must - regardless of the sorrow and outrage we rightly feel - leave everyone we meet with the impression of a joyful person leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Summary & Questions

This isn’t a particularly exciting or inspiring prescription:

Focus on preventing animals from being bred for factory farms.
Accept that, at this time, only a minority will listen, and many others will react with disdain.
Avoid extreme claims, absolutism, and self-righteousness.
Accept and admit to uncertainty.
Be a happy, respectful, and mainstream “people person.”

It is understandable to want something more immediate, more rewarding. Nearly every time I give a talk, at least one person says something like, “We have to do it all, now!” “We have to save them all!”

Of course, I can’t dismiss the possibility that there is a better way, but history is not encouraging. Millions of people before us have been outraged and furious with the state of the world; yet today, there is more suffering than ever before. Obviously, anger and dedication aren’t enough.

Look at this country’s animal advocacy movement. In just the past few decades, hundreds of thousands of people have donated hundreds of millions of dollars and worked hundreds of millions of hours on behalf of the animals. What is there to show for it?

Most who became active during this time have burned out and quit.
Average per-person animal consumption has gone up, not down.
The amount of animal suffering in the United States has exploded!

Still, many activists insist, “Animal liberation by any means necessary! I’m willing to do anything!” If this is the case, we need to ask ourselves these questions:

Are we willing to give up - i.e., refocus - our anger?
Are we willing to direct our passion, rather than have it rule us?
Are we willing to put the needs of unseen animals before our own desires?
Are we willing to accept slow change over no change?

The Final Challenge

I’d be lying if I said this was easy. Often, the logical response seems to be, Why bother? I’m doing enough by being vegan. Changing the world is hopeless.

This brings us to the second of the two challenges mentioned at the beginning: Why care?

It is relatively easy to look at horrible pictures or watch footage of brutality to animals and be angry and motivated in the short term. But what about a week down the road? A month? A year - after being rejected by relatives, ignored by coworkers, mocked while leafleting?

In many ways, remaining dedicated and motivated is a harder challenge than opening other people’s hearts and minds.

Is the situation hopeless? If you look at the big picture, I do believe that there is reason for optimism. Indeed, anyone interested in creating a fundamental change for the future is advised to take the long view - at least longer than the next year, or even the next decade. Although it is frustrating how slow the pace of progress can seem to us, the rate of change has been unprecedented in the past few centuries. As Bruce Friedrich points out:

Socrates, considered the father of philosophical thought, was teaching more than twenty-five hundred years ago. It was thousands of years later that we saw the beginnings of our democratic system. Not until the 19th century was slavery abolished in the developed world. Only in the last century was child labor ended, child abuse criminalized, women allowed to vote, and minorities granted wider rights.

When viewed in this context, it seems clear that today we have the great and singular opportunity to make The Economist’s prediction come true:

Historically, man has expanded the reach of his ethical calculations, as ignorance and want have receded, first beyond family and tribe, later beyond religion, race, and nation. To bring other species more fully into the range of these decisions may seem unthinkable to moderate opinion now. One day, decades or centuries hence, it may seem no more than “civilized” behavior requires.

Is this enough to keep an activist going, day in and day out, when trying to do the hard work of promoting ethical eating - especially while not surrounded by other activists to provide support? We aren’t robots. We each want to be happy.

Yet our desire for happiness, I believe, is the answer to the final challenge.

Ultimately, happiness isn’t to be found in “stuff.” While the United States is the richest country on earth, Americans aren’t the happiest people on earth. The phrase isn’t “the pursuit of happiness” for nothing! Over the millennia, those creatures who were satisfied found themselves erased from the gene pool by our unfulfilled ancestors. Those that passed on their genes always desired more, leaving us with a basic nature that pursues happiness but isn’t able to acquire it.

Where does this leave us? The best answer I’ve found is that happiness is the result of a meaningful life, and meaning comes not from things, but from accomplishment.
I believe that meaningful accomplishment comes from living life beyond ourselves, viewing our existence beyond the immediate. Doing my thoughtful best to make the world a better place is as meaningful a life as I can imagine.

To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr.:

The arc of history is long
And ragged
And often unclear
But ultimately
It progresses towards justice.

I want to be a part of that progress.

Further Reading

The Health Argument
Staying a Healthy Vegan
Activism and Veganism
Feedback On "Activism and Veganism" and earlier versions of "A Meaningful Life"
How Are We to Live?
Anger, Humor, and Advocacy
Veganism a Religion?
Choosing Information for Advocacy
Effective Advocacy: Stealing From the Corporate Playbook
The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology

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