Thursday, December 31, 2009

2012: The Year to go Vegan

I love the new year. It comes with so much promise; so many wonderful possibilities. And it’s always my hope that the new year will be even more wonderful than the last.

I’m also a huge fan of making New Year’s resolutions and I believe everyone should make at least one resolution and try to stick to it.

Of course, my dream would be that everyone reading this blog makes it his or her New Year’s resolution to go vegan - to end the unnecessary suffering and death of other animals (and by doing so improve your health, help the planet and end world hunger).

And you can start to do all this by simply changing your diet. How cool is that?

Veganism is a journey; an adventure. Whether it’s a joyous and exciting one is entirely up to you (to learn why vegetarianism doesn’t go far enough to end animal suffering, please go to: http://veganpartyofcanada.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-is-veganism.html).

All that’s required to begin the journey is a positive attitude and the proper motivation. And here's the motivation:

If you care about animals or feel that there’s too much violence in the world AND WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, this is the way to start. As Kafka said, “Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore.”

So make it your New Year’s resolution to go vegan. If you feel you can’t go totally vegan right away then do it in steps. Try eating vegan once a week and then twice a week and so on and so forth. If you fall off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up BUT DON’T QUIT! Just get back on and try again.

If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll try to steer you in the right direction regarding recipes, resources or moral support. And, if you’re so inclined, send me the occasional progress reports to let me know how you’re doing (travel advisory: don’t embark on this journey alone; let others help you along the way and share in your adventure).

Good Luck & Happy New Year!

Daniel

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Want peace on earth? Go vegan.

I hate the holidays. There, I said it. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I was born two days before Christmas and that I always got ripped off by friends and family when it came to gift-giving. “Hey Dan, here is your birthday/Christmas present,” or “Sorry Dan, with Christmas so close, all I could get you was this crummy…” But I digress.

The reason I don’t like this time of year is because it really hits home just how different I am from all my friends, coworkers, and even family members. When you tell people you don’t celebrate Christmas, they often look at you as if you have three heads or something.

“Are you Jewish? Jehovah’s Witness? Seventh Day Adventist? Well then what the hell’s wrong with you? What have you got against peace on earth, goodwill to mankind and all that other crap? You’re not a Commie, are you?”

No, I’m not Jewish, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Seventh Day Adventist or a Communist. I’m agnostic (meaning I don’t know and I don’t care), but more importantly I’m vegan. To be vegan is to choose peace over oppression, compassion over cruelty and life over death (ironically, the same things that Christians claim to espouse).

That’s why I don’t celebrate Christmas. I think it’s a sham. And I don’t think most people who celebrate it really believe in it either, or at least what it’s supposed to be about. If they did, there’d be a lot less violence in the world. And if they do, then I suspect it’s only a seasonal thing, like the flu, and as soon as the Christmas tree is thrown to the curb, so too are those warm and fuzzy feelings; the ones we should have every day of the year.

To quote Abigail Adams, “We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.” Sure, we like to think of ourselves as kind, compassionate and peace-loving, but our actions don’t really reflect that, do they? We don’t really practice what we preach.

The only thing we do practice religiously is the law of instant gratification; the fine art of pleasing ourselves. And the only thing that seems to matter is what’s on sale. Instead of volunteering at soup kitchens and homeless shelters, people are trampling each other (in some cases to death) at retail outlets to save a few bucks on their favourite video game or dolly. The Big Box stores are our new gods and we spend more time inside them than we do in our churches.

We continue to wage war on our brothers and sisters to control and possess their natural resources. We support the exploitation of men, women and children for cheap labour so we can have our stuff. We pollute the land, sea and air knowing full well that we’re doing it and how harmful it is to our health. And we enslave, kill and eat other animals because God apparently told us to and because we’re at the top of the food chain, we’re special and we deserve it.

Then on December 25th we get together with loved ones to exchange presents, feast on the remains of tortured animals (with all the trimmings) and bask in our own arrogance and false sense of benevolence, never questioning our beliefs and traditions or the consequences of how we live and how our lifestyles affects others. And so I'll continue to boycott Christmas until we begin to live up to our high-sounding words.

But there is a light at the end of this dark Xmas tunnel: the year is almost at an end. That means a new year is just around the corner and with a new year comes the opportunity to start over; a chance to be the best YOU that you can be and improve the lives of others.

If you care about the suffering of others, the exploitation of the weak and the growing violence both here and around the world, then do something about it. Make it your New Year’s resolution to go vegan. It’s cheap, it’s easy and it’s guaranteed to reduce a lot of unnecessary suffering in the world.

Let there be peace on earth

And let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth

The peace that was meant to be.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Eating animals alive

How low can we go? That was the question on my mind after viewing a number of You Tube videos that show various people cooking and eating dissected, disemboweled and fully conscious animals. Of course there are a lot of people outraged by this morbid and sadistic practice, but remarkably, a lot of people are defending it too.

I resisted watching them for quite a while, and they ARE sick, but if you want to see one for yourself, you can go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fGOjZjM0xQ&feature=related

This particularly gruesome method of serving sashimi (raw fish) is called ikizukuri, which apparently means “prepared alive” in Japanese. According to Wikipedia:

“Ikizukuri usually begins with the customer selecting, from a tank in the restaurant, the animal (shrimp, octopus, lobster, assorted fish) they wish to eat. The chef, almost always a sashimi chef who has undergone years of training and apprenticeship, takes the animal out of the tank and filets and guts it, but without killing the animal, which is served on a plate, sliced, with the heart still beating.”

Quite often the animal is “reassembled” after he or she has been cooked alive: the meat, once removed, is thinly sliced and put back on the animal in a decorative fashion. Vital organs are left intact and the animal, still gasping for breath or twitching on the plate lies helpless as diners pick and pull pieces of flesh off the body. The challenge for some people is to finish all the meat before the animal dies.

This tradition, art form or whatever you want to call it is either 2000 years old or a post World War II invention to boost local tourism for coastal resort villages, depending on which website you read. And though the practice is banned in Australia and Germany because of the obvious cruelty involved - and yes, fish, crustaceans and cephalopods feel pain - it is gaining popularity in North American (mostly Japanese) restaurants.

When I first found out about ikizukuri - icky is an understatement - it only strengthened my belief that we are one fucked up species; utterly insensitive to the suffering of others, and willing to subject other animals to such excruciating pain and terror for a laugh, for entertainment and to do something shocking and risqué.

Although many people consider it inhumane, fans of the “delicacy” justify it because of the flavour, quality and freshness. Others claim that even though it may not be their cup of tea, people should still show respect for other cultures and not criticize their ways.

I guess you'd have to be pretty “fresh obsessed” to want to eat a wriggling and writhing little animal and not care if that animal is suffering or not. Still, why is almost every act of animal exploitation considered a proud tradition or cultural activity, and why are all traditions and cultural activities involving animals - bullfights, whale slaughters, pigeon tosses, circuses, rodeos, hunting, fishing and ikizukuri - beyond reproach?

Why did you poke your sister in the eye with that stick?
Tradition.

Why did you run that red light?
Tradition, officer.

And the fish you gutted, fried and carved up even though it was still alive?
Ummm, ... because I’m an asshole?

That’s right. If you get your kicks by torturing and killing other animals, then you’re an asshole. And if your personal choice, religion, tradition or culture results in the pain, suffering or death of another, then that choice, religion, tradition or culture is cruel and wrong.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Being vegan is more than just a personal choice

As far as some people are concerned, us “holier-than-thou” vegans can take our self-righteous and condescending views and stick them where the sun don’t shine (and while I’m tempted to say this attitude only comes from meat-eaters, I know a number of vegetarians who feel the same way).

What we put in our mouths is a personal choice, they argue, and if we don’t want to eat animal products then fine, but we have no business telling others what to do and are often accused of “ramming” our beliefs down other people’s throats.

Aside from the fact that we still live in a part of the world where we can freely offer our opinions without fear of persecution, and that stating an opinion isn’t the same as forcing someone to do something, most people really don’t “choose” to eat animal products at all.

Instead we’ve been conditioned to eat what we do, just as we’ve been conditioned to believe in one religion or another. In most cases it was our parents who trained us to eat animal products, literally shoving their own beliefs down our throats when we were young, which in turn had been shoved down their throats by their parents, and so on, just as religion has been passed on from one generation to the next. We teach what we know; it’s human nature to nurture.

Still, a lot of people defend their eating habits on the grounds of personal freedom, saying it’s their “right” to eat whatever they want. And while the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, expression, the press, peaceful assembly and association, it doesn’t guarantee the freedom to "eat whatever you feel like". Neither does the United States Constitution nor the Bill of Rights (I checked).

But in the end it doesn’t really matter. Let’s say meat-eating is a personal choice. So what? Rape and murder are personal choices too. Does that mean it's okay? So instead of defending one's choice to eat animal products, we need to ask ourselves, is it the right choice? Does it justify our claims of being a peace-loving and moralistic society? Is it a true reflection of our concepts of mercy and compassion?

We concluded long ago that the murder of other humans is morally unacceptable so laws were created to reinforce that position. Slavery, child labour and racial and sexual discrimination have also been outlawed (for the most part anyways). We don’t condone or encourage these activities even though they too are “personal choices”.

Killing animals for food (among other things) is still legal, but since there are other ways to maintain good health and nutrition, it's wrong because it causes unnecessary suffering and death and deprives other animals of their freedom and their desire to live.

Being vegan is more than just a personal choice. It’s a commitment to non-violence and a reverence for all sentient life. No one has the "right" or "freedom" to eat or do whatever they want if it causes injury, suffering and death to others.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cheap & Easy! Creative vegan education that is...

A lot has been written about how we can reach out and educate people about veganism so I’m going to try not to repeat what I’ve already read. It’s out there and it’s easy to find online.

What I would like to do is share a few things that my friends and I have done (and do) to speak up for animal justice. Activism doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. And the great thing about it is that we’re only limited by our imaginations!

Bumper stickers are great, especially the magnetic kind, but a friend of mine has gone one step further and spray-painted GO VEGAN on the hood of his car. All it took was a can of spray paint and some masking tape and viola! A mobile billboard.

T-shirts with messages on the back are also effective, if you consider how much time we spend in lines (at the bank, the grocery store, the movies, concerts, coffee shops, and the DMV) and because it’s on the back, you aren’t confronting someone directly. Instead, they’re able to read your shirt without getting all defensive.

Buttons are also useful. I have a number of buttons on my backpack that I wear when I go hiking with my outdoors club. Which brings me to another great way to raise awareness: join a club!

As a member of a club, you’ll be able to interact with people and influence the way the club operates. I joined a hiking club last year and I manage to work veganism into the conversation on almost every hike. In the spring I was able to steer a conversation about the smell of wildflowers to veganism and sure enough, people started questioning me on what I eat. The club now serves veggie burgers and veggie dogs at their barbecues and vegan pizza at their fundraisers.

You can also turn the conversation to veganism in restaurants, on the bus, at the coffeemaker at work (discussing news, entertainment or about what you did on the weekend) or even at the dentist’s office, which I was able to do by talking about my vegan toothpaste.

The health food section of the grocery store is also a good place to strike up a conversation with other shoppers, or you can ask the manager to carry more vegan products and why.

If you’re adventurous, you can also attend environmental events and hand out leaflets about veganism, explaining that a plant-based diet is not only good for the animals, it’s good for your health and the planet too. Last summer I “crashed” a Green Party meet-and-greet where they were cooking up animals on the grill, and since then they’ve invited me to table at two of their events by promoting veganism, with the last one featuring a vegetarian potluck (it’s a start).

Library displays are another good way to educate the public about veganism. Most libraries will provide you with a table and let you set up for a week or even a month, depending on the branch. This is where you can let your creative juices flow, or if you choose, you can rely on literature and posters from some of the bigger animal rights organizations.

Hosting a vegan potluck (whether on your own at your house or through your animal rights group) is another fantastic way to really impress upon people that going vegan isn’t difficult and that vegan food CAN taste great! Potlucks are also useful for networking with others, sharing recipes and providing support for people either making the transition or those who feel alienated from family and friends because of their beliefs.

Writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper is a free and easy way to reach a lot of people about veganism (and a lot of newspapers now offer an online comments section too). Whether it’s in response to a story, an ad promoting animal exploitation (a circus, rodeo, fish fry or even a sale on turkeys), or about someone else's letter to the editor, you can let people know how you feel on the issues.

Finally, keeping brochures in your backpack, in your car or in your desk at work is a great idea too. You never know when the opportunity will arise and it’s always good to be prepared.

Two great places to download and print your own vegan brochures are Gary Francione’s Abolitionist Approach website:

http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/media/pdf/ARAA_Pamphlet.pdf

and Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary:

http://www.peacefulprairie.org/prairiePress.html

The Boston Vegan Association also has a wonderful, free, full colour brochure for qualifying activists:

http://bostonvegan.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=354&Itemid=126

Good Luck and Happy Educating!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Homo sapiens or Homo psychopathiens?

By Daniel K. Wilson

psychopath, n. a person having a character disorder distinguished by amoral or antisocial behaviour without feelings of remorse

amoral, adj. 1. without moral quality; neither moral or immoral. 2. lacking or indifferent to moral standards, criteria, or principles

moral, adj. 1. of, or pertaining to, or concerned with the principles of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical

I watched Earthlings for the first time last week with a group of university students that were also seeing it for the first time. Now I’ve been fighting and speaking up for the rights of animals for almost 10 years and I’ve seen a lot of sickening, twisted and horrible animal cruelty caught on tape. I thought I was immune!

But what I saw on the screen was so vile and so overwhelming that it truly disgusted me to be associated with the rest of humanity. I wasn’t myself for days. I won’t go into the graphic details of the film, as I’m sure most of you reading this have already seen it. But if you haven’t, I recommend you do, animal activist or not (albeit armed with a good supply of tissues).

As I facilitated the post-film discussion, I asked the teary-eyed kids in attendance if they thought the people committing the incomprehensible acts of violence in the film were psychopaths or if our entire society was psychopathic to allow, promote and participate in the institutionalized cruelty we so easily and without provocation inflict upon the animals.

I believe our society, hell, our whole damn species, is psychopathic. I can’t think of any sane reason for what we do to the animals. We know they feel pain. We know they suffer and bleed and fear death. We know that when they’re beaten they cry out in agony.

We know they can sense when they’re about to be slaughtered and we know they try to avoid it with every fiber of their being. We know they experience terror and we know that their screams are screams of terror and not of indifference. We know it but that knowledge doesn’t stop most of us from doing it.

And what do we make of people like ourselves; part of this violent and sadistic culture yet dedicated to peace and compassion? What makes us different? Not everyone who sees Earthlings, or sees the inside of a slaughterhouse for that matter, will go vegan (although I’m certain many will). Why do some people change while others do not?

Is it perhaps that we are the next link in the evolution of humankind; homo sapiens pathiens (from the Greek pathos meaning to evoke pity or compassion): the wise and compassionate human? I don’t know. I don't have all the answers.

But I do know that sooner or later some of us will ask ourselves: how do we go on? How do we keep on fighting when 99% of humanity - our friends, family, co-workers and community leaders - have such utter contempt and disregard for the feelings and suffering of animals? How do we go on when it seems like we’re powerless to protect the animals from the evils of the human race?

The answer is we just do.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

There's always enough time to help the animals

Talking to some people, I get the impression that if they only had more time, they’d be a lot nicer to animals. People generally think it’s great that I speak out against animal exploitation, and when they ask me what they can do to help the animals, I usually start off by saying, "Don’t eat them."

A brief pause (oh, he’s that kind of animal person) is usually followed by, "Yeah, but isn’t it hard giving up meat?" Once I explain that it isn’t, and that there are plenty of delicious and nutritious vegan foods available practically everywhere, some will infer that eating vegan must be so time-consuming.

Learning what to eat, looking for vegan food, preparing vegan meals, finding vegan recipes to their liking and cooking two different meals (for those family members who won’t give up their animal products), all require more time than most people have, considering their hectic lifestyles. There just aren’t enough hours in a day, right?

But I think people have more time than they realize. Just look at what we do have time for: shopping, watching television, eating out, getting in a round of golf, going to the movies, playing video games, talking on the phone, losing money at the casino, checking out yard sales, sitting around the coffee shop, surfing the web and going for a Sunday drive.

So for those of you who are serious about helping the animals but just can’t seem to find the time, consider this…

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was arguably the most diversely talented person that ever walked the face of the earth. Not only was he a great artist (painting the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and drawing the Vitruvian Man), he was also a scientist, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, botanist, musician, writer, sculptor and inventor.

He invented or conceptualized numerous flying machines, including the helicopter and hang glider, an armoured car, the submarine, concentrated solar power, the calculator, the compass, contact lenses, scissors, a giant crossbow, rapid fire guns, ball bearings and the centrifugal pump, for draining wet areas such as marshes, as well as designing canals, bridges, cathedrals, and other buildings.

Da Vinci was also a hardcore animal rights activist, publicly criticizing the killing of animals for food and promoting a plant-based diet in its place. He also regularly purchased birds at the marketplaces only to open their cages and allow them to fly away.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was an essayist, dramatist, educational reformer and social anarchist. He is also considered one of the greatest writers of all time and in 2007, two of his novels made Time magazine’s ten greatest novels of all time (Anna Karenina was #1 and War and Peace was #3). Tolstoy's collected works consist of some 90 volumes.

Although born into nobility, Tolstoy preferred to lavish his wealth on transients, beggars and the working poor. His pacifism was influenced by the horrors he witnessed during the Crimean War and his Christian beliefs, particularly Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, which inspired him to give up meat, tobacco and alcohol.

After the war, Tolstoy opened several schools for peasant children, believing that education was the secret to changing the world, and published many magazines and textbooks on the subject. His ideas on non-violent resistance had a profound impact on Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Tolstoy was also very critical about the way animals are treated, and longed for the day when we no longer ate them. "That movement has during the last ten years advanced more and more rapidly. More and more books and periodicals on this subject appear every year; one meets more and more people who have given up meat; and abroad, especially Germany, England, and America, the number of vegetarian hotels and restaurants increases year by year. One cannot fail to rejoice at this."

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) is revered as the "father of the nation" in India and considered the embodiment of peace and non-violent political resistance worldwide.

After studying law in England, Gandhi spent 20 years defending the rights of immigrants in South Africa. He returned to India in 1914 and became the leader of the Indian National Congress. With India under British control, Gandhi used non-violence and civil disobedience to gain his country’s freedom, which quite often landed him in jail.

When public demonstrations and protests turned violent, Gandhi staged hunger strikes until the rioting stopped. In 1947, he participated in negotiations that led to Indian independence the following year.

An advocate of simple, peaceful living, Gandhi had few possessions, made his own clothes and refused to eat animals. According to Gandhi, "You can judge a nation, and its moral progress, by the way it treats its animals."

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was an Irish playwright, critic and political activist. He wrote more than 60 plays including The Devil’s Disciple, Man and Superman, Major Barbara, Pygmalion, Candida, Doctor’s Dilemma, and Caesar and Cleopatra.

A passionate socialist, he also used his writing skills to criticize the exploitation of the working class, and spoke out in favour of equal rights for men and women, as well as promoting healthy lifestyles.

Shaw gave up meat-eating, what he called cannibalism, when he was 25 years old and often wrote about the immorality of eating animals in his plays and prefaces. He also despised the killing of animals for sport and vivisection. He is best known however, among vegetarians and vegans anyways, for his simple maxim: "Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends."

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) was a German-French pastor, theologian, writer, musicologist, physician, philosopher and acclaimed organist. He based his personal philosophy on a "reverence for life" and a deep commitment to serve others, so in 1913, after receiving his medical degree, he moved to Lambarene in French Equatorial Africa and founded The Albert Schweitzer Hospital.

In 1917, Schweitzer and his wife were sent to a French internment camp as prisoners of war. After their release, he spent 6 years in Europe preaching, giving lectures and concerts and increasing his medical knowledge. He also wrote numerous books, including Civilization and Ethics, and Christianity and the Religions of the World.

Schweitzer returned to Lambarene in 1924 where he served as doctor, surgeon, pastor, village administrator and superintendent. Except for brief periods of time, he spent the remainder of his life there. For his many years of humanitarian efforts, Schweitzer received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

With the prize money, along with donations and funds received from royalties and personal appearances, he expanded the hospital to 70 buildings (which could take care of over 500 patients at any given time) and started a leprosarium. Schweitzer also spoke out against atmospheric nuclear test explosions and the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Because his reverence for life included the animals, he would not eat them, and reminded people to, "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight."

So what’s my point? It’s that these people, who had the same hours in a day as the rest of us, were able to accomplish incredible feats, speak out on behalf of the oppressed, tend to the sick and injured, advocate against violence, even liberate an entire nation and still help the animals (mostly by not eating them).

If they could find the time, can’t you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The very first vegan newsletter

Gary Francione published this over at http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/ and I thought that I'd publish it too. It's the very first vegan newsletter ever printed, back in 1944 by Donald Watson of the then newly-formed Vegan Society.

The points Watson makes are witty, eloquent, and as relevant today as when he wrote them over 60 years ago! It's just an awesome piece of writing. I believe it also reinforces what many of us believe to be one of the core concepts of veganism - abolition with no apologies or excuses. Enjoy!

THE VEGAN NEWS

(QUARTERLY MAGAZINE OF THE NON-DAIRY VEGETARIANS.)

Price 2d. (Post free 3d.) Yearly Subscription 1/-

NO. 1. NOVEMBER 1944.

The recent articles and letters in "The Vegetarian Messenger" on the question of the use of dairy produce have revealed very strong evidence to show that the production of these foods involves much cruel exploitation and slaughter of highly sentient life. The excuse that it is not necessary to kill in order to obtain dairy produce is untenable for those with a knowledge of livestock farming methods and of the competition which even humanitarian farmers must face if they are to remain in business.

For years many of us accepted, as lacto-vegetarians, that the flesh-food industry and the dairy produce industry were related, and that in some ways they subsidised one another. We accepted, therefore, that the case on ethical grounds for the disuse of these foods was exceptionally strong, and we hoped that sooner or later a crisis in our conscience would set us free.

That freedom has now come to us. Having followed a diet free from all animal food for periods varying from a few weeks in some cases, to many years in others, we believe our ideas and experiences are sufficiently mature to be recorded. The unquestionable cruelty associated with the production of dairy produce has made it clear that lacto-vegetarianism is but a half-way house between flesh-eating and a truly humane, civilised diet, and we think, therefore, that during our life on earth we should try to evolve sufficiently to make the 'full journey'.

We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals' bodies. Even though the scientific evidence may be lacking, we shrewdly suspect that the great impediment to man's moral development may be that he is a parasite of lower forms of animal life. Investigation into the non-material (vibrational) properties of foods has yet barely begun, and it is not likely that the usual materialistic methods of research will be able to help much with it. But is it not possible that as a result of eliminating all animal vibrations from our diet we may discover the way not only to really healthy cell construction but also to a degree of intuition and psychic awareness unknown at present?

A common criticism is that the time is not yet ripe for our reform. Can time ever be ripe for any reform unless it is ripened by human determination? Did Wilberforce wait for the 'ripening' of time before he commenced his fight against slavery? Did Edwin Chadwick, Lord Shaftesbury, and Charles Kingsley wait for such a non-existent moment before trying to convince the great dead weight of public opinion that clean water and bathrooms would be an improvement? If they had declared their intention to poison everybody the opposition they met could hardly have been greater. There is an obvious danger in leaving the fulfilment of our ideals to posterity, for posterity may not have our ideals. Evolution can be retrogressive as well as progressive, indeed there seems always to be a strong gravitation the wrong way unless existing standards are guarded and new visions honoured. For this reason we have formed our Group, the first of its kind, we believe, in this or any other country.

ORGANISATION OF THE GROUP

Our 25 Members are scattered far and wide, therefore a Committee is not possible. In the absence of other volunteers I have undertaken the duties of Hon. Secretary, Hon. Treasurer, and Hon. Auditor, and if this undemocratic Constitution offends, I am open to receive suggestions of any scheme that would enable me, either intentionally or accidentally,to embezzle the Group's funds from subscriptions of a shilling a year!

The work of the Group at first will be confined to the propaganda contained in the bulletin. Very great interest has recently been aroused by our arguments, and it seems certain that the bulletin will be widely read. Many orders for the first four quarterly issues have already been received, and more will come when we advertise. Mr J.W. Robertson Scott, Editor of "The Countryman", has written to us - "I should be glad to hear what success you have in collecting non-dairy produce consumers. I have always felt that from the agricultural point of view the vegetarian occupies an illogical position, for just as eggs cannot be produced without killing cockerels, dairy produce cannot be economically got without the co-operation of the butcher." The clarity by which vegetarians generally are seeing this issue is well represented by the result of a recent debate arranged by the Croydon Vegetarian Society, when the motion was carried almost unanimously 'That vegetarians should aim at eliminating all dairy produce'. If we remember rightly the voting was 30 to 2.

Our Members are pronounced individualists, not easily scared by criticism, and filled with the spirit of pioneers, and one feels they will never allow their magazine to degenerate into a purely secretarial production. All are invited to subscribe something periodically to make the magazine interesting, useful, and thought provoking. Could we have a series of articles (of about 600 words) on "My Spiritual Philosophy"? Articles, letters, recipes, diet charts, health records, press cuttings, gardening hints, advice on baby culture, advertisements (free toMembers), all will be welcome. Letters of criticism from those who disagree with us will also be published. This is real pioneer work, and if we cooperate fully we shall certainly see an advancement in humanitarian practice, and perhaps we shall reveal some otherwise inaccessible dietetic truths. Let us remember how very much of modern dietetic research is fostered by vested interests and performed in vivisection laboratories, and that incidentally we are still without much data concerning the merits of diets free from animal food. We know that domesticated animals today are almost universally diseased, therefore so long as 99.9999% of the population consume the products of these diseased bodies, how are we to measure the mischief such foods maybe doing? A hundred people living strictly on a 'live' non-animal diet for a few years would furnish data of inestimable value. Government grants have been made for much less useful social work!

WANTED - A NAME

We should all consider carefully what our Group, and our magazine, and ourselves, shall be called. 'Non-dairy' has become established as a generally understood colloquialism, but like 'non-lacto' it is too negative. Moreover it does not imply that we are opposed to the use of eggs as food. We need a name that suggests what we do eat, and if possible one that conveys the idea that even with all animal foods taboo, Nature still offers us a bewildering assortment from which to choose. 'Vegetarian' and 'Fruitarian' are already associated with societies that allow the 'fruits'(!) of cows and fowls, therefore it seems we must make a new and appropriate word. As this first issue of our periodical had to be named, I have used the title "The Vegan News". Should we adopt this, our diet will soon become known as a VEGAN diet, and we should aspire to the rank of VEGANS. Members' suggestions will be welcomed. The virtue of having a short title is best known to those of us who, as secretaries of vegetarian societies have to type or write the word vegetarian thousands of times a year!

OUR RELATIONS WITH THE LACTO-VEGETARIANS

The object of our Group is to state a case for a reform that we think is moral, safe and logical. In doing so we shall, of course, say strongly why we condemn the use of dairy produce and eggs. In return we shall expect to be criticised. It will be no concern of ours if we fail to convert others, but we do think it should concern them if, deep in their hearts, they know we are right. In any case, there need be no animosity between ourselves and the 'lactos'. We all accept that lactovegetarianism has a well appointed place in dietary evolution, and for this reason several of us spend a great deal of our time working for the lacto-vegetarian Cause. During recent years the two national vegetarian societies have devoted much space in their magazines to this question of the use of dairy product, and we have every reason to believe they will attach importance to our work and occasionally report on it. (Before forming the Group, the suggestion was made to The Vegetarian Society that such a Section be formed as part of the Society. The suggestion was considered sympathetically by the Committee, who decided that the full energies of the Society must continue to be applied to the task of abolishing flesh-eating, and that any such Group would, therefore, be freer to act as an independent body.) The need to prove that it is possible to thrive without dairy produce is, of course, far too important for any lacto-vegetarian to ignore. To resign oneself to lactovegetarianism as a satisfactory solution to the diet problem is to accept a sequence of horrible farmyard and slaughter-house incidents as part of an inevitable Divine Plan. Need it be added that it would imply too accepting the spectacle of a grown man attached to the udder of a cow as a dignified and rational intention on the part of Nature!

Without making any claims to self-righteousness, we feel in a strong position to criticise lacto-vegetarianism, because the worst we can say will be but a repetition of criticism we have already levelled against ourselves. Therefore we shall express the Truth as we see it and feel it,and though our friends the lacto-vegetarians may reject our ideas if they wish, we hope they will not reject us for stating them.

CONCERNING OURSELVES

So far as we are aware, every Member of our Group has discarded the use of dairy produce for humanitarian reasons. We are not by any means ignorant of orthodox dietetic theories, and in exercising our moral conviction we find we must refute some of these theories. We do so without fear because we feel that a moral philosophy combined with a dash of common sense is a more rational guide than theories hatched in vivisection laboratories. We will not accept that adequate nutrition need violate conscience. We question very strongly whether those dieticians who laud the praises of animal proteins have ever tried living on a sensible diet free from such proteins, and if they have not, we fail to see how they can pass useful judgment. We know that man's anatomy is unquestionably frugivorous. We know that milk drinking by adults is an absurdity never intended by Nature. We know that we are at least as well without dairy produce as we were with it. We know that 40% at least of cows are now tubercular. We know that pasteurisation enables the milk retailers to sell milk several days old. We know what happens to those who feed on the 'nourishing first-class proteins' recommended by orthodox dieticians - they nearly all die of malignant and filthy diseases. Heaven help us if our diet fails us to anything like the same degree!

Apart from saying that we are 'Quite well, thanks', we consider the time perhaps premature to make any great claims for the physiological superiority of our diet. Humbly, your Secretary is able to state that he can now cycle 230 miles in a day, whereas years ago when he stoked himself with milk and eggs he was ready for Bed and Breakfast after doing half that distance. He can also dig his allotments for ten hours a day without feeling any different next morning, but we must be careful in making claims lest the world hears of us and expects to meet eight foot rosy cheeked muscular monsters who are immune to all ills of the flesh. We may be sure that should anything so much as a pimple ever appear to marr the beauty of our physical form, it will be entirely due in the eyes of the world to our own silly fault for not eating 'proper food'. Against such a pimple the great plagues of diseases now ravaging nearly all members of civilised society (who live on 'proper food') will pass unnoticed. It is as well that we gird ourselves to meet our critics! In our more reflective moments we cannot help thinking that there are greater risks in life than living on clean salads, fruits, nuts, and whole cereals. We can hardly wish to be classed as moral giants because we choose to live on a diet so obviously favouring self preservation.

Believing that some Members may wish to correspond with each other,we propose to publish in our next issue their names and addresses. Any Member preferring not to be included in the list should let me know.

We hear that a pamphlet opposing the use of milk was written 40 years ago by a Harley Street specialist. Does any Member happen to know anything of this publication?

CONCERNING THOSE NOT YET WITH US

We agree that to eliminate all dairy produce creates personal difficulties which vary in magnitude from one individual to another. We agree also that the present is not the easiest time to make such a change, but we think that in laying the foundations of our Movement now, many will soon join us as one of their 'Peace Aims'. We know that there is particular unrest in the minds of vegetarians generally concerning the use of rennet in cheese making, and as this appears to be the most glaring inconsistency of lacto-vegetarianism, we suggest that others do as we did and eliminate cheese first. Our friend and fellow member Dugald Semple tells us he has never tasted cheese, therefore it cannot be considered as an essential 'binding agent' for body and soul! The following passages from the editorial of the current issue of "The Vegetarian News" does not, we think, allow of much argument: "Most vegetarians are doubtless aware that the use of calve's rennet in the production of cheese has always presented a problem to anyone of humane principles, necessitating as it does the killing of calves to obtain the rennet. In the supposed absence of any purely vegetarian substitute for rennet some vegetarians abstain altogether from the use of cheese, except for the simple cottage varieties, while probably the majority of vegetarians take their ration of ordinary cheese and try to forget the incidence of the calve's rennet in its making." Should moralists dissipate their energies trying to forget such things?

During the war eggs have all but vanished, and they can readily be dispensed with for good without any sense of loss if one dwells on the fact that they are for the most part nothing more than reconstituted grubs and beetles! The elimination of milk undoubtedly presents the greatest difficulty. Nut milk is a good substitute, but it does not go well in tea (therefore cut out the tea and add yet another ten years to your life!)

Those of us who have lived for long periods without dairy produce are able to give the assurance that we remain well and strong; that we enjoy our food as much as ever, and that once the new diet has been arranged the sight and smell of dairy produce is soon forgotten.

"The incidence of disease of one kind and another continues to be a great limiting factor in milk production, besides involving loss to the farmer. Tuberculosis is one of the most intractable sources of trouble, so much so that a speaker at the Farmers' Club recently said we had made no progress in the last 40 years." - The Agricultural Correspondent,"The Yorkshire Post",18.11.44.

"Give me a drink of whisky, I'm thirsty."
"You should drink milk - milk makes blood."
"But I'm not blood-thirsty."

67 Evesham Road, Leicester. Donald Watson.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Big Meat's Scare Tactics

This is so cool! The meat industry is squirming and scaremongering over the Baltimore public school board's decision to introduce "Meatless Mondays" to their school cafeterias Meat lobby sinks teeth into local issue.

They're warning folks that students already aren't getting enough protein in their diets, and that if this insanity - one vegetarian meal a week - doesn't stop it'll turn America's youth into pasty-skinned, hardcore vegan animal rights terrorists (or something like that).

Sound ridiculous? Well my friends, it gets better. According to an earlier story http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/55355 the president of the American Meat Institute sent a letter to Andres A. Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Schools, urging him to abandon "Meatless Mondays", as if mandating vegetarian chili and grilled cheese sandwiches were a violation of the First Amendment and infringing upon American's freedom to choose:

"Now you are removing a meat or poultry entrée on Mondays and depriving children and their parents of the ability to determine what is appropriate for their diets and their own personal circumstances." - J. Patrick Boyle, American Meat Institute

This from an industry that has successfully brainwashed people into believing that they can't survive without eating meat, and has infiltrated the school system with their dangerous and self-serving propaganda.

But I think the best part is this. In an attempt to convince Big Meat that he isn't some kind of new-age, tofu-eating health fanatic, Triple A has assured them that, "I have the world's worst eating habits. If the meat industry folks sat at my family dinners, we would be their poster family."

Okay, so is it just me or did Mr. Alonso, chief of Baltimore schools, just say that meat-eating is a bad habit? That's what it sounded like to me. Oh yes it did! Which leads me to my next question. Who you gonna believe, a greedy corporation that peddles in the death and dismemberment of innocent, defenceless animals, or the head of Baltimore's education system?

I love it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What about plants?

By Daniel K. Wilson

There are some people, in an attempt to discredit vegetarians and vegans, who argue that plants have feelings too and it’s just as cruel to eat them as it is to eat animals. Of course, these people don’t abstain from eating plants themselves; quite the opposite. They raise the issue to justify eating animals. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you eat because something had to die, so why worry about any of it?

It may sound ridiculous (or like something from a sci-fi movie) to say that plants are intelligent and cringe at the thought of being eaten but it’s worth remembering that not so long ago people scoffed at the idea of animal sentience, likening the screams of tortured dogs to a clock striking twelve. And while I’ve never heard of anyone protesting the mistreatment and slaughter of carrots (vegetable rights activists?), I’d still like to give them the benefit of a doubt.

The idea of plant sentience was first recorded in 1848 by Dr. Gustav Fechner, who believed plants were capable of emotions just like humans and animals, and would grow big and strong if only they were spoken to with love and affection. Even early Buddhists and some present-day Jains consider plants to be at least borderline beings, meaning they are partly sentient, and apply the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence, to them.

Perhaps the most famous advocate of plant sentience is Cleve Backster, a polygraph expert and founder of the FBI’s polygraph unit. In 1966, Backster decided to hook up a lie detector to his Dracaena Massangeana and measure the electrical impulses of the leaves. He thought to himself, “I am going to burn that plant leaf, that very leaf that's attached to the polygraph,” and immediately the machine “went into a wild agitation.” Backster was convinced that the plant was reading his mind and reacting to his intent to burn it.

His partner at the polygraph school was able to get the same results, so long as he intended to burn the plant leaf. If his partner only pretended to intend to burn the leaf, it wouldn't react, leading Backster to the conclusion that the plant could distinguish between real intentions and made-up ones.

Backster’s findings were published in the International Journal of Parapsychology in 1968 and he wrote a book on the subject called Primary Perception. He also believes the bacteria in yogurt are conscious and that plants can communicate with humans and other life forms.

Supporters claim that his experiments have been reproduced thousands of times with exactly the same results, thus “proving” that plants are sentient. Backster’s work was also the inspiration for the best-selling book, The Secret Life of Plants, which promotes the idea that plants are telepathic and experience emotions such as fear and love.

But Backster’s experiments were heavily criticized by the scientific community because he had not used proper controls during his research. When a group of scientists in the late 70’s conducted their own tests under controlled laboratory conditions, the plants did not react to thoughts or threats of violence and it was concluded that the readings Backster had recorded could have been the result of a number of factors including static electricity, movement in the room, changes in humidity, etc.

More recently, the idea of primary perception was put to the test on an episode of Mythbusters (to prove if plants are telepathic). A polygraph machine was connected to a number of plants, and then the “busters” inflicted both physical and imaginary harm to the plants, and other plants nearby. The polygraph recorded some kind of reaction, but it wasn’t consistent, occurring only about a third of the time. The researchers concluded that “if it’s not repeatable, it’s not science,” and plants are NOT telepathic.

As far as we know, all living beings need to have a brain to experience emotions and a central nervous system to feel pain. Plants have neither. A plant can react and respond to stimuli, such as light, gravity and touch, but whether they feel pain, are conscious and have interests is doubtful.

Some believers however, argue that just because plants don’t have brains, they may still be sentient, and note that animals need hearts to live but plants do not. They say that plants may be alive through different principles that we currently don’t know about and therefore could have senses that don’t rely on the same systems that animals do, including a brain. Plants may be conscious through different principles as well.

But if plants are sentient, their existence would be the cruelest joke of nature or God; beings capable of suffering yet possessing no means whatsoever of escaping that suffering. Animals have adapted to feel pain and fear to avoid dangerous situations, something plants are unable to do. It simply wouldn’t benefit plants to possess these characteristics.

So is it possible that plants are sentient? Sure, anything’s possible. Is it likely? No, I don’t believe it is. But if it turns out that vegetables are sentient, I guess I will have to become a fruitarian (someone who eats only raw fruits and seeds). I went vegan when I found out that animals, even dairy cows and egg-laying chickens, suffer and die simply because we like the taste of their flesh. If vegetables also suffer, then as a pacifist, I would have to stop eating them as well. Right now, there’s no convincing evidence that they do.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Are helper animals exploited animals?

I was shopping at Whole Foods the other day when the cashier at the checkout, a very friendly and cheerful young girl, asked if I’d be willing to donate to the Dog Guides, a program created by the Lion’s Club to train dogs and dog handlers, to help physically challenged Canadians “in the areas of mobility, safety, and independence.”

According to their website, http://www.dogguides.com/, the lives of over 1200 men, women and children across Canada have been enriched by the program, including people who are blind or visually impaired, and those with hearing and other medically and physically limiting disabilities, at absolutely no charge.

“Dedicated trainers spend six to eight rigorous months training the dog for its ultimate role as a working companion.”

Sounds like a noble cause, right? But is it animal exploitation?

A lot of veganism is focused on what we eat, and not what we do. But can vegans, who oppose animal exploitation of any kind, in good conscience support such programs?

Or is it going a bit too far to call the employment of dogs to assist the disabled (or helper monkeys, horse-assisted therapy, and the like) exploitation?

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vegans against veganism

Rant by Daniel K. Wilson

I recently attended a vegan potluck hosted by a local animal rights group who had a person from a national animal welfare organization speak about factory farming.

According to the speaker (a vegan), this national charity (consisting of a mostly vegan board of directors) is working to improve the conditions of farm animals by trying to eliminate battery cages, reduce transport times for animals on their way to slaughter, provide sick and injured animals with proper veterinary care, and generally make the lives of “food” animals better during their exploitation and as they’re killed.

Did I mention they also promote “certified organic, humane certified, free range or free-run” animal products? I thought I was dreaming, and pinched myself to make sure. Then I asked how a group of vegans can, in good conscience, promote the killing and consuming of animals in any way, shape or form, and suggested that it might be a better use of their time, energy and money to actually promote veganism instead.

That didn’t go over too well with a number of vegans in the room, who accused me of being too extreme. They also told me that vegan education and legislative reforms are not mutually exclusive and since everybody reacts differently to different approaches based on their life experiences, all forms of awareness need to be utilized, including happy meat campaigns, instead of just vegan outreach.

Someone said that people can’t just go vegan overnight because it’s too hard, so baby steps are necessary (baby steps in this case meaning animal welfare reforms and humane meat campaigns) to help the animals. Another said it would be counterproductive if all animal rights groups were only promoting veganism, because most people aren’t ready to embrace it yet.

I had to think about that one for a minute - all the animal rights organizations in the world only promoting veganism. Yeah, that would be horrible. And for the record, I’m so tired of animal rights people and vegans saying veganism is hard. It’s not, especially with all the meat and dairy alternatives available today.

One of the many problems, as I see it, with animal rights groups promoting animal welfare is that it’s dishonest. These groups don’t really want people to eat certified organic or humanely-raised animals at all but they’re afraid to say so out of fear of alienating people. So they lobby governments for more humane methods of confining, transporting and killing animals, hoping the public will jump on that bandwagon and pressure the government for reforms.

And if the government listens to them and passes legislation five or ten years down the road, then they can claim victory: the animals are now a little bit more comfortable and killed a little bit more humanely (whatever that means) and that’s great because it’s what these animal rights groups wanted all along, right? Wrong. What they really wanted was for people to stop killing and eating animals.

Still unsatisfied (even though it’s what they said they wanted), they’ll start a new campaign for even more humane treatment of animals being exploited and killed for their flesh, fluids and eggs, and if they get that, they’ll ask for even more reforms! This song and dance will go on and on until one day, perhaps a million years from now, they might actually get around to encouraging people to give up animal products altogether.

What a monumental waste of time, energy and animal lives! It’s also deceitful. If you want people to stop eating animal products, say so. If veganism is your end goal, then have the conviction to state it up front. If you don’t, the public will feel that they’ve been lied to and you’ll lose all credibility, with those you’re trying to educate, and with those fighting for animal liberation. Have a little bit of faith in the people you’re trying to educate. Not everyone is going to become vegan but a lot will. And we’re only going to find out how many are willing to embrace veganism when we start promoting it.

The other problem with these kinds of campaigns is that it confuses people. Upon hearing about the horrors of factory farms, a person at the potluck asked, “So you’re saying free-range is good, right?” And that’s when the “ums”, “wells” and “actuallys” started. The speaker said that um, well, she wasn’t actually personally endorsing free-range (but the group’s literature and website does) and um, well, they would actually prefer that people eat less, or no meat. These are mixed messages. People concerned about animal suffering are looking for leadership and direction. And young people are the next wave of vegan activists so we have to be clear about what we’re trying to do and teach them the right way from the start.

If you think that negotiating with the exploiters or petitioning the government to do the right thing is the way to go, you’re sadly mistaken. And tricking the public into believing you’re for one thing when you’re really for another is false advertising. The answer is vegan education, at the grass-roots level, one person at a time, one day at a time. As the number of vegans increase, the demand for animal products will decrease. It’s as simple as that.

But if vegans aren’t going to promote veganism, who will?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leo Tolstoy, why I went vegan and why we can NEVER stop spreading the word

“If it were not so blindly accepted as part of our customs and traditions, how could any sensitive person accept the thought that in order to feed ourselves we should kill such a large number of animals, in spite of the fact that our earth gives us so many different treasures from plants?” - Leo Tolstoy

When I was 25, my sister announced to the family that she had “gone vegetarian.” Curious, I asked her why, and she said it was because she wouldn’t eat anything that had a face, whatever THAT meant. My response, as I recall, went something like this: “Well we’re omnivores, just like bears, so when you convince a bear to stopping eating meat, then I’ll stop eating meat.”

That was almost 20 years ago and I’ve been vegan for nearly 10. It just goes to show you that anyone can change, even a numbskull like me. My “epiphany” came about 12 years ago, after reading a book called A Calendar of Wisdom, by Leo Tolstoy; a collection of quotes from such thinkers as Lao Tzu, Socrates, Mohammed and Henry David Thoreau, as well as bits of wisdom by Leo himself.

Reading this particular quote (above) was the turning point for me. It just made good sense. Why would I cause the unnecessary suffering of other animals if I didn’t have to? If I could survive by eating vegetables, fruits, grains and other plant foods (foods my mother always said were good for me), then to have animals killed merely for my eating enjoyment would just be cruel.

This was at a time when I didn’t know any other vegetarians (my sister eventually went back to eating animal products) and as far as I knew, PeTA was a type of bread from the Middle East, but within a few weeks, I had given up all animal flesh, and I didn’t die! Not only that, but it was easy to make the switch to a vegetarian diet because I just replaced the hotdogs, hamburgers and burritos - all I was really eating at the time - with veggie dogs, veggie burgers and veggie burritos.

I felt pretty good about myself, knowing that I wasn’t causing the suffering and death of all these animals, and then in 2000, a friend of mine invited me to go listen to a guy who was giving a talk at the local university. It was during Professor Francione’s lecture that I learned what happened to dairy cows and egg-laying chickens, and so I vowed that night to go vegan, and have been ever since.

So when people say that promoting veganism is hopeless, I remind them that I used to be just like the people we’re trying to educate today, and look at me now! There is always hope.

I know it might seem like we’re not getting anywhere but we are. We have to remember that this is a new movement and it’s going to take some time to undo thousands of years of anthropocentrism and animal oppression. But more and more people ARE going vegan, and while it might not be popular right now, at least people know about it, which wasn’t the case 20 years ago when hardly anyone even knew what it meant.

And I know it’s frustrating and heart-wrenching to know that millions of animals are being killed each and every day which is why we need to get out there and spread the word and NEVER LOSE HOPE. The animals are depending on us.

But I thought you said Brock already WAS vegetarian friendly???

Rant by Daniel K. Wilson

According to peta2, if you're a university student in Canada these days, it's easy to find top-notch vegetarian and vegan foods - unless you attend Brock University in St. Catharines (near Niagara Falls). For the complete news release, click here: http://www.peta.org/mc/NewsItem.asp?id=13580

Okay, so this kinda ticks me off. Not that I'm against a campaign to increase the number of vegetarian and vegan options on college and university campuses; in fact I think it's a great idea (greater if they were pushing for all VEGAN options). I just don't like the way this one was done.

Last November, peta2 put out a press release praising Brock University for their meatless options. "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 spokesperson. Check out the complete story here: http://veganpartyofcanada.blogspot.com/2008/11/brock-recognized-for-meat-less-options.html

And now, 10 months later, Brock is the scourge of North America for "consistently" failing to provide students with healthy, humane meat alternatives. It would've been nice if they'd actually interviewed some of the students or members of BARC (Brock Animal Rights Club) instead of using Ryan Huling, peta2's college campaign coordinator, who last year was commending the university, and is now flunking it.

It just feels like a lie.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Leaving the Bees Be: Why Vegans Won't Eat Honey

Pacific Free Press - Saturday, September 19, 2009

By Mickey Z.

There are many valid reasons, including Colony Collapse Disorder.

Most non-vegans seem to get why some people won't eat meat. It gets a little less clear when the topics are eggs and dairy products...but the reasons can be provided and debated. When things turn to bees and honey, however, the reactions range from incredulity to sheer mockery.

In other words, a good explanation of why vegans eschew honey is needed. It starts with a core understanding of what it means for most people to be a vegan.

"Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life," writes Jo Stepaniak.

[For complete article links, please see source at Planet Green here.]

As detailed by PETA, "Like other factory-farmed animals, honeybees are victims of unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation ... Profiting from honey requires the manipulation and exploitation of the insects' desire to live and protect their hive."

To which, Stepaniak adds: "Even the most careful keeper cannot help but squash or otherwise kill many of the bees in the process. During unproductive months, some beekeepers may starve their bees to death or burn the hive to avoid complex maintenance."

It should not be a surprise that many of those seeking to exclude "all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom," would avoid the conscious manipulation of bees. The goal is not purity, of course. Instead, veganism often comes down to an issue of intent.

I know what some of you are thinking: They're just bees. Lighten up. It just so happens that bees are extremely intelligent and studies have demonstrated that they feel pain. Plus, the standard retort of "they're only insects" the above description of why some people would adopt a compassionate vegan lifestyle in the first place.

Recent events have provided the most powerful - and very, very green - reason why the earth-friendly crowd might refrain from honey consumption: Colony Collapse Disorder. Like many things about nature, we humans take honeybees for granted. But, as we're learning, a major portion of our food relies on bees at the critical early stages of its development. This is why the sudden disappearance of honeybees, a.k.a. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is all the more alarming. "The bee losses are especially distressing in light of a study last year that concluded that pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35% of the world's crop production, increasing the output of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide," writes Jasmin Malik Chua.

The cause (or causes) of CCD are not yet understood. Some of the proposed causes include "environmental change-related stresses malnutrition, pathogens (i.e., disease including Israel acute paralysis virus), mites, pesticides such as neonicotinoids or imidacloprid, genetically modified (GM) crops with pest control characteristics such as transgenic maize, and migratory beekeeping."

What does drizzling some honey on your morning granola have to do with all this? Here's PETA again: "BeeCulture magazine reports that beekeepers are notorious for contributing to the spread of disease: 'Beekeepers move infected combs from diseased colonies to healthy colonies, fail to recognize or treat disease, purchase old infected equipment, keep colonies too close together, [and] leave dead colonies in apiaries.' Artificial diets, provided because farmers take the honey that bees would normally eat, leave bees susceptible to sickness and attack from other insects. When diseases are detected, beekeepers are advised to 'destroy the colony and burn the equipment,' which can mean burning or gassing the bees to death."

All this for something not necessary for human nutritional needs. "Humans can live quite well without sugar or honey," says Stepaniak. "As a rule, extensive use of sweeteners is found only in affluent societies." In other words, honey is a novelty food that has not only spawned a massive global industry, it's also helped put one of nature's critical species in danger. *If the demand for honey were to lessen and ultimately vanish, the bees might be saved along with much of the human food supply.

Let's bring it down to basics: After a bee swallows floral nectar, it is partially digested in its primary stomach where the bee adds its own digestive secretion. It is then regurgitated. This bee vomit is called honey and is considered to be food by the people who take it from the hives. However, whether honey is produced locally or on an industrial scale, two realities remain:

1. Bees will inevitably be killed in the process

2. There is no nutritional reason for humans to consume honey

Four Ways Vegans (and non-Vegans) Can Potentially Help the Bees and the Planet:

1. Stop buying and eating honey (along with beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, and other products that come from bees).

2. If you have a serious honey habit and need to transition slowly, choose locally produced honey for now.

3. Learn more about CCD and what you can do.

4. Switch to delicious, non-exploitative green sweeteners.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Show Your Support - Buy a Shirt!

We still have a few "Priceless" shirts available for anyone who couldn't make it to the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair.

The front has our logo and the back has our rant. They come in small, medium and large (extra large sold out) sizes and in both unisex and ladies styles.

They're $20.00 each (no tax) plus shipping. Email me at dkw1@sympatico.ca for yours!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Calcium in the vegan diet

Examiner.com, Friday, August 28, 2009

By Devon Bruce, Tampa Vegetarian Examiner

Vegans are vegetarians who do not eat diary or eggs. Since vegans do not eat diary, it is common to believe that they are at risk for being calcium deficient. Calcium is an essential nutrient that aids in making stronger teeth and bones. While most of the calcium in our bodies is stored in these two places, it is also important in assisting with proper nerve and muscle functions.

Calcium prevents dangerous health conditions like osteoporosis, kidney stones, high blood pressure and colon cancer. Symptoms of a calcium deficiency include tingling in your hands and feet, bone fractures, and muscle pain. Most people get their recommended amount of calcium through milk and cheese. However, there are many ways to get calcium into a vegan diet:

Dark, Leafy Vegetables

Vegetables like spinach, turnip greens, and collard greens are packed with calcium. These kinds of vegetables are very versatile in a vegan diet because they can be a main course or a side dish. Options for serving these vegetables include adding to salads and soups. Also, make a wrap with other vegetables like avocado, onions and tomatoes.

Tofu

Tofu is an excellent way to get calcium since there are two different ways it is eaten. The first is soft or silken tofu, which is used for smoothies, sauces, dressings, and desserts. The other type is regular or firm tofu, which is used for stir fries, sandwiches, and mixed with pasta.

Broccoli

Even though broccoli is a common vegetable, most people do not know that it has a good amount of calcium. Add it to stir fries, vegan omelets, soups, salads, casseroles, sauces, or as a side dish.

Fortified Rice, Almond, or Soy Milk

The best part about this example is that all of these fortified drinks are available at your local supermarket. This is an easy way to get more calcium into a diet because there are so many uses for it. Examples include smoothies, cereal, tea, coffee, sauces and vegan ice cream. In addition to these drinks, orange juice that is fortified with calcium is another option.

Calcium Supplements

Since most people do not get the recommended daily amount of calcium, supplements are available in most supermarkets and pharmacies. There are two main types of supplements: one with just calcium or calcium with vitamin D added. The recommended supplement is the latter because vitamin D helps absorb calcium in the stomach.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Vegan 101: Can plant foods provide enough iron?

Examiner.com - Friday, August 28, 2009

By Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, Seattle Vegan Examiner

It's a myth that vegan diets are low in iron. Studies show that vegans consume at least as much iron as omnivores and sometimes more. Vegans definitely have an advantage over lacto-ovo vegetarians when it comes to iron since dairy foods don’t contain this mineral. It’s true, however, that iron from plant foods isn't absorbed as well as from animal foods.

Most iron is found in hemoglobin, the blood component responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Much of the rest of it is stored in the liver, spleen and bone marrow as a form of iron called ferritin.

Vegans tend to have lower iron stores than omnivores, but there is actually no known advantage to having higher stores of iron. In fact, there is some evidence that the lower iron stores seen in those eating plant-based diets is associated with better glucose tolerance which could reduce risk for diabetes.If stores drop below what is normal, however, hemoglobin production is affected. Low hemoglobin values indicate iron deficiency.

Iron is lost through normal shedding of intestinal cells, perspiration and urine, and also via blood loss. Premenopausal women have higher iron needs than men because they have significant losses through menstruation.

Getting enough iron on a vegan diet

The type of iron in plant foods is sensitive to a number of factors that can either decrease absorption or boost it. For those eating a plant based diet, managing those factors is every bit as important as getting adequate iron.

Here are some ways to maximize iron absorption:

Avoid coffee and tea with meals since they contain compounds called tannins that inhibit iron absorption. (Some Indian spices - turmeric, coriander and tamarind - also contain tannins.)

If you use calcium supplements, take them between meals since high doses of calcium also interfere with iron absorption.

Eat more bread than crackers; leavening (by yeast) makes iron more absorbable.

Eat a good source of vitamin C with every meal and snack. Vitamin C is one of the best ways to increase iron absorption but it must be consumed at the same time as the iron-rich food.

Do vegans and vegetarians have higher iron requirements?

Because of lower bioavailability of iron from plant foods, the Food and Nutrition Board established separate iron RDAs for vegetarians and vegans. For pre-menopausal women, they suggested getting 33 milligrams per day compared to 18 for omnivore women - nearly twice as much. They recommended 14 milligrams for vegetarian men.

Their recommendations weren’t based on studies of actual vegetarian populations, though. Rather they used a test diet that was designed to reduced iron absorption; it was high in factors that inhibit iron absorption and low in vitamin C. In essence, it was kind of a worst case scenario. And it is not at all the way most vegans eat.

There is no reason to think that vegans who pay attention to maximizing iron absorption actually need those very high iron intakes. In addition, there is evidence that vegetarians adapt to lower iron intakes over time. Most vegan and vegetarian women don’t consume 33 milligrams of iron per day and are not iron deficient as a result.

Those who eat a variety of plant foods and include good sources of vitamin C with meals can be assured that their iron needs will be met. Good sources of vitamin C include melons, citrus fruits, pineapple, strawberries, kiwifruit, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. Include some of these foods at every meal!

Here are some of the best sources of iron (measured in milligrams of iron):

1/2 cup firm tofu - 6.6
1/2 cup soybeans - 4.4
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses - 3.5
1/2 cup lentils - 3.3
1/2 cup spinach - 3.2
2 tbsp tahini - 2.7
1/2 cup kidney beans - 2.6
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds - 2.5
1/2 cup chickpeas - 2.4
1/2 cup Swiss chard - 2.0
1/4 cup dried apricots - 1.5

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Where do vegans and vegetarians get their protein?

Examiner.com - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

By Lindsay Nixon, Manhattan Vegan Examiner

The most common question any vegan or vegetarian receives is "but where do you get your protein?" The terms "protein" and "carbohydrate" became buzz words roughly a decade ago when Atkins, a popular fad diet centered around eating an abundance of protein and few carbohydrates, became popular. Prior to the popularity of Atkins, most dieters or individuals did not pay much attention to their protein or carbohydrate consumption. Now, dietary protein and carbohydrates are the forethought on every mind, particularly when it comes to vegetarian diets.

What is protein?

Protein is an essential nutrient needed by the body in order to function properly. Protein's primary function is to build and repair muscles but it also keeps the immune system functioning properly and is involved with the synthesis of hormones and enzymes. Protein may also be used as an energy source when there has been insufficient carbohydrate consumption. This occurs during the Atkins diet. Since the Atkins diet is deficient in carbohydrates, the body is forced to use protein for energy.

Protein is made up of 20 building blocks, known as amino acids. Amino acids are classified as essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are not created in the body and therefore must be consumed through dietary protein.

How much protein do we need?

There are two ways to calculate total protein needs. The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.4g of protein for every pound of healthy weight (or approximately 0.8g per every kilogram of weight). For example, a man who weighs 150 pounds needs approximately 60g of protein per day (150 x. 0.4 = 60).

Alternatively, protein can be calculated based on total caloric intake. Generally, 15 percent of total caloric consumption must come from protein. For example, on a 2,000 calorie diet, 300 calories must come from protein. To determine the number of grams needed, divide the resulting number of calories by 4. Thus, on a 2,000 calorie diet, 75 grams of protein must be consumed.

As seen from these figures, the body actually needs very little protein to function properly.

What are protein sources?

Protein is commonly associated with meat, eggs and dairy products but these foods are not the only sources of protein nor are they necessarily the best sources for protein. Protein is found in every food. Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes all contain protein. It is impossible to become protein deficient eating a well-balanced vegan diet, largely due to the fact the body needs very little protein to perform. For example, one cup of black beans contains 15.2 grams of protein (roughly 30.5% of the daily value for protein), plus approximately 74.8% of the daily value for fiber. The total calories for a cup of black beans is only 227 calories and there is virtually no fat. Similarly, 100 calories of spinach contains more protein than 100 calories of steak. Like black beans, spinach also delivers a boost of fiber, anti-cancerous properties and iron for only a small amount of calories and no fat. Steak on the other hand, which not only provides less protein and no fiber, it also contains fat and harmful cholesterol.

Another powerhouse protein food is quinoa, a grain. Quinoa is not only high in protein, but it is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Vegans and vegetarians concerned with protein intake should incorporate this healthy grain into their meals. Quinoa is also a good source of magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorous and is well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair.

Cooked soybeans also rank 10th on the World's Healthiest Foods Containing Protein List beating out eggs including egg whites, all dairy and most meats. In the nutritional community, soybeans are regarded as equal in protein quality to animal foods. One cup of soybean provides approximately 57.2% of the daily value for protein for less than 300 calories and with only 2.2 grams of saturated fats. Studies have also shown that soy helps reduce cholesterol levels while consumption of animal proteins makes cholesterol levels rise. Soy is also rich in iron, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. Soy can also be found in a variety of forms such as soy milk, soy yogurt, soy cheese, soy ice cream, tempeh, meat substitutes, miso, soy protein powder and tofu. Mustard greens, artichokes, corn, lentils, nuts, seeds, meat substitutes, hot cereals and other beans are also excellent sources of dietary protein.

Can athletes be vegan?

Another myth is that athletes and body builders cannot be vegan. This is simply untrue. Consider the following current professional vegan and vegetarian athletes: Prince Fielder (MLB), Tony Gonzalez (NFL), Mac Danzig (Martial Arts), Pat Neshek (MLB), Scott Jurek (Ultra marathoner), Brendan Brazier (Iron man), Kenneth Williams (Body Builder), Christine Vardaros (Cyclist). Other vegan and vegetarian athletes include: Peter Brock, Carl Lewis, Salim Stoudamire, Ricky Williams, Ed Templeton, Bill Pearl (former Mr. Universe) and many more Olympians, world record holders and top athletes.

Brendan Brazier also developed Vega, a fitness and supplement line committed to sustainability and wellness through a vegan diet. Vegan athletes can also supplement with soy, brown rice and hemp protein powders.

Is too much protein harmful?

According to U.S. RDA calculations, the average person in America consumes 100 to 120 grams of protein per day with the majority of it coming from animal sources. Considering an individual on a 2,000 calorie diet only needs 75 grams of protein, the average American is consuming an excess of 25 to 45 grams of protein per day.

An excess of protein, particularly animal protein, is exceptionally harmful to the body. The China Study examined the relationship between the consumption of animal products and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, obesity and other degenerative diseases. The authors of the study concluded that based on long-term scientific studies, diets high in animal proteins from both meat and dairy are strongly linked to heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. The authors recommended a whole food, vegan diet as a means to minimize and/or reverse the development of chronic diseases.

Excess protein, especially coupled with America's sedentary lifestyle, is also taxing on the kidneys. Animal proteins are inherently stressful on the kidney's, but overages will cause kidney's to underperfom. When the kidney's are not operating optimally, the risk for premature aging or developing kidney stones sharply increases. Bone health is also effected by excessive protein consumption. Excess protein consumption causes calcium to be leached from the bones which may cause osteoporosis, acid reflux, obesity, plaque build-up in the arteries, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, arthritis and/or bad breath.

Get it Local: Elm Health has a wide assortment of dry grains, beans and lentils including hard-to-find varieties such as raw groats, buckwheat and millet.

For more info: visit happyherbivore.com for healthy and delicious protein-packed vegan recipes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"... a little tired of ribs, but..."

The Rotarians were at it again last weekend, serving up body parts of tortured little animals as part of Ribfest in St. Catharines (see complete story below).

http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1684442

What kills me, aside from people killing animals for fun, are comments from individuals like the lady quoted at Ribfest, who say they are bored or tired of eating this or that animal. How many times have you heard someone say after Thanksgiving or Christmas, "Awh, turkey again!" They just want a little variety when it comes to eating somebody else's flesh.

What they haven't considered - or don't care about - is that the boring food they are getting sick of used to be a living, breathing animal, forced to live in misery and filth before he or she was hauled off to the abbatoir to be butchered and dismembered so other people could get tired of eating him or her.

I'm also reminded of all the animals that are discarded by grocery stores: animals that are slaughtered, carved and cut up and then put on display at the deli counter, just to be "DISCOUNTED FOR QUICK SALE" and, if not sold by the end of the day, thrown out with all the other garbage. What a waste of life!

Anyways, I think I'm going to send the Rotarians a letter, along with a Compassionate Choices booklet, with the hope that they will at least think about the suffering they are causing, and let them know that there are many other ways to raise money that do not involve the taking of another's life, no matter how tasty those others may be.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vegan 101: tips for spreading the message

examiner.com - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

By Ed Coffin, Philadelphia Vegan Examiner

Veganism is finally receiving the attention it deserves. Whether or not people agree with it, veganism is quickly becoming one of the most pressing social justice issues of our time. Veganism is appearing everywhere from local restaurant menus to mainstream media coverage.

For those of us who already subscribe to the idea that animals should exist for their own reasons and not be subject to exploitation or interference by humans, we need to begin questioning the productiveness and effectiveness of our efforts.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Am I taking action to influence others?

Do I stay calm when people don't agree?

Is my message clear and consistent?

Do I know what I'm talking about?

Does my message reflect my ethics?

Is my message easy to understand?

Do people generally agree with me?

Do people return to me with additional questions?

Do I know the common rebuttals to my ideas?

Am I friendly and approachable?

If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, you may want to consider how changing your behavior could have a direct impact on the amount of people that adopt your ideas.

People are more willing to follow the ideas of those that they like and trust. Think back to a time when you were in an academic setting. Were you more receptive to professors that you liked or those that you hated? When people don't like you, they're generally not going to like your ideas whether they agree with them or not.

Don't be discouraged if you haven't had successful conversations with others in the past. Everyone has made irrational decisions in the heat of a debate that they regret. Take it as a learning experience. Think about how you can change your tactics in the future to get people to agree with you.

Tips for improving effectiveness of communications with others:

Agree and relate often with the other person.

Become informed in the subject you're discussing.

Use a tone of voice that is not aggressive or condescending.

Try to steer away from abstract, hypothetical questions.

Make sure your appearance does not discredit your opinion.

Recognize when the other person is no longer receptive.

Attempt to incorporate as many personal experiences as possible.

Let the other person express their opinion and listen sincerely.

Try not to use an abundance of unfamiliar terms that they don't understand.

Don't lie or exaggerate if you don't know the answer.

Remember, you can't force someone to understand and agree with you on the first try. Most of the time planting the seed is more important than winning the debate.

If people think about what you have to say and have questions in the future, it's likely that they'll ask you more about it if they feel comfortable approaching you about it.

Unfortunately, despite the media attention and exposure, a vegan world is only going to occur through a grassroots effort. We need to change the way society thinks about animals. The more effective we are at convincing people to reconsider their habits, the sooner we will have a compassionate world.