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:

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!


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:

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?

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.