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Posts Tagged ‘Vegan’

On issues of “health maintenance” and Veganism, I have come to adopt the following approach:

The correlations between animal (and animal product) consumption and disease or ill health have pretty much been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. And although no one has ever suggested eating a Vegan diet is a *guarantee* of freedom from disease, there is already copious factual evidence that tells us being Vegan can certainly lessen the risks! This, in itself, is more than sufficient reason to eat Vegan.

However, there is a much more meaningful and non-diet related consideration. I suspect most people, when asked if they generally liked animals, could instantly recall images of animals they’d met or seen or known and respond, “Yes”. Like humans, all nonhuman animals are *sentient* and as such at the very least, they deserve inclusion in the moral community. *Any* animal exploitation—animals used for food, clothing, entertainment, household products, etc.—is extremely violent and, as such, participation in animal exploitation, be it direct or indirect, is a very morally conflicted state. And those who are not Vegan seriously need to confront and examine that conflict within themselves before questioning the merits of Veganism.

I refer you to http://vegankit.com/ a hugely interesting and valuable ‘why and how’ Vegan resource, and Gary Francione’s books and website the source of Abolitionist theory and why Veganism is the only path that helps animals instantly and permanently.

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Just a brief note to share, this was actually my response to an email from a friend who expressed some pride at how his congeniality resulted in a positive relation with a young stranger. Just one problem. Part of what enamoured him to the other man was an innocent and jovial imitation of another race… something of a racial “joke” if you will. I attempted to convey the enormous implications of making such a thing *commonplace* in our day to day lives:

“One of the reasons your remarks resonate with young(er) people is because racism, like sexism and all other forms of discrimination, are pervasive among many young people. They get passed on as easily as from one generational slip of the tongue to the next.
I hate to rain on your parade, because I absolutely know you don’t *mean* these impressions with hate, but just hear me out. For the victim, it’s always there whether overt or buried in the background. The vast majority of us are guilty of slurs, no matter how innocently they are intended. Since I awoke to Abolitionism, I’ve found myself trying to make the connection for people in comments and posts on threads on Twitter and Facebook because it relates directly to the speciesist discrimination we inflict on nonhuman animals. It’s this speciesist discrimination that enables and perpetuates their violent exploitation and consumption. And so it is with human on human violence as well.
If you ever start to read up on Abolitionist animal rights (Professor Francione’s books and website I’ve referred you to) you will find the message relating to nonviolence and justice and respect. It applies to all sentient beings—nonhumans and humans alike. I have now become very aware of the many ways we are taught to discriminate and thus exploit and I’m much more conscious of it today. Even a saying like, “I killed two birds with one stone” as an example, that we use to innocently describe the efficient execution of chores, carries with it an extremely violent history. Violence is pervasive in our lives. And so I encourage others to rid themselves of the same conditioning and behaviour in their own lives.
The more you think about justice and respect and nonviolence in your daily life, the more likely you will be to understand why Veganism is not just a diet. It’s a rejection of violence (including “violent speak”) and exploitation in how we think and act, in everything we do.
I hope you read this in the constructive spirit in which it is meant, instead of being offended and getting needlessly defensive.”
For those who are currently not Vegan, I hope this note sheds a positive perspective on the subject. Always consider the victim’s point of view. It is always horrific. Being Vegan is easy.

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***** No graphic content *****

I can’t help getting irritated when I see the term Vegetarian, especially used to describe a person, business, menu item, recipe, etc. because there is always the implied suggestion that being “meatless” is all that is required to “be healthier” or to “help animals”… as if that is somehow morally acceptable.

I don’t mean to sound accusing by any means because it’s a misunderstanding most Vegetarians make and live with by what they eat, wear, and use in their lives. But sadly, these actions very negatively impact billions of innocent nonhuman animals, including fish, every year. I too, at one time, was just as ignorant of the injustice and horrific misery involved in using animals for their secretions. And I wasted ten long years in that condition. When I finally awoke to Veganism, and through Professor Gary L. Francione to Abolitionist Veganism, my entire world view changed completely and forever. I encourage you to read Professor Francione’s work, which may be found in his books, searchable essays, audio, and video content at http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/

And if by chance you’ve been of the understanding there is a “humane” way to produce food and other products from animals or their secretions, I can assure you after much research, there is not! I strongly encourage you to read the related post (and its associated links) from Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, entitled “The Faces of ‘Free Range’ Farming.” They are, so far as I am aware, the *only* farm animal sanctuary who also serves effectively as a preeminent source of Vegan education.

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I dreamt a most vivid and sad dream. A light overcast sky. A vast, clear, open, green grassland and on the far side, a hill running the width of the horizon. Sitting quietly, confidently in the middle of the distant hill, a gigantic obscure figure, an animal resembling a bull or a bear possibly, I could not tell. And sitting beside this mysterious being, way down near the ground, a fraction of the size, I am zoomed in like tunnel vision on my little Michael peacefully washing his face, stopping briefly to look around his immediate space. I am filled with an overwhelming sadness for he does not see me and I cannot speak to him. And then I am zoomed away. And he is left in the far distance. And I cry.

I had this dream a few weeks after little Michael passed away last January. I have relived it numerous times in my waking hours since, including today. Coincidentally, I just realized at this writing, today is the first anniversary of his diagnosis of Lymphoma. He was a dear loving little heart and I miss him terribly.

This is the first post in my “Pets as Refugees” Category. Over time there will be others illustrating the connection between the Institution of Pets, an apt term borrowed from Professor Gary L. Francione, and animal exploitation. Briefly, due to our manipulation of animals we refer to as “Pets”, we have caused to come into existence totally unnatural, completely dependent beings that are bought and sold like slaves. Millions of these innocent creatures end up on the streets of urban centres around the world where they are subject to disease, abuse, uncontrolled reproduction and live short, difficult, incredibly sad lives. Many more millions are dumped in shelters where they are routinely killed for lack of adoptive guardians or institutional monetary means of support. A relatively small number are lucky to find loving homes to live out there lives in “peace”. Michael’s tragic demise was the culmination of almost fourteen years of relative peace after approximately two years of life as a “stray”. We humans owe all existing “companion animals” our diligent care while at the same time not encouraging any more. They do not deserve such a tenuous path.

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I was raised an omnivore. When I went Vegetarian I, like most other Vegetarians I observe today, thought I was “doing my part” to help animals – lots more than anyone else I knew. I figured I don’t eat meat anymore, I’m making a real statement! But without a second thought I continued to eat eggs, not too often though. They’re very high in cholesterol – not very healthy, right?. And I loved pizza with cheese. I knew it was loaded with saturated fat but hey, it tasted so good. Once in a while can’t be all that bad eh? I went happily about my life wearing leather shoes and using products made with and routinely tested on animals in horrific ways. I was raised ignorant and I continued to be blissfully ignorant. But my conscience was clear. Now, I was helping animals because I didn’t eat them. I was saving animal lives! It made me feel kinda good.

Well during that whole period I knew no other Vegetarians. I was not an animal rights activist by any stretch of the imagination. My initial motivations after all, probably had more to do with reducing saturated fat in my diet than any real awareness of the ethical issues. And without the internet, I had no familiarity with the horrors associated with eggs or dairy or the products made with them and so “understandably” I really didn’t give morality a second thought.

But then I came into contact with someone who said they were Vegan. I’d never heard the term before. A decent seeming person, though their grilling of waiters or waitresses over whether their meals had eggs or dairy in them appeared a little excessive at the time. And I remember their non-leather shoes were not particularly fashionable and though they didn’t have a problem with foot odour, I always imagined their shoes were hot and sweaty because only leather could “breathe”, right? (Of course today, there are all kinds of fashionable, breathable, non-leather products available to consumers.) But my most vivid recollection of this person’s Veganism was that to me and others, they were very subdued about it. Maybe they just didn’t want to “push too hard” or come off as “preachy”. But there was never any discussion about animal exploitation or cruelty or whether animals can feel pain, or shifting paradigms… nothing. They probably had never heard the term “Abolition”. Coincidentally, I do recall they made donations to a group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I thought that was probably good of them to support an organization that was looking out for animals’ welfare because surely no one should be going around hurting cats or dogs, right? I mean they’re so cute! [Of course I now suspect this person was probably lulled into that false sense of security that Peta and other Welfarist orgs are so good at dishing up to their supporters in their almost endless stream of direct mailed, funding raising literature – “Send us money – for this or that cause of the month – and we’ll make sure animals aren’t abused”.]

And so went my (Vegetarian) ignorance… for another 10 years! No one helped me to understand that much like my Omnivore lifestyle, my Vegetarianism was still responsible for phenomenal pain and suffering. Or that in fact egg and dairy production involves even more prolonged suffering than that associated with the eating of meat alone! It would be another 10 long years until my light bulb moment and the flood of personal research that followed quickly, the details of which are irrelevant to my point here. That point being, if someone… anyone!… had the courage of conviction to speak to me more illustratively, more passionately about Veganism and especially about its relative Abolitionist theory I feel sure, knowing what I have learned up to today, that I would have embraced Veganism and Abolitionism much, much sooner! And the double benefit is I would probably have passed on that knowledge and influence to many others in the interim.

And so, I see it somewhat differently than some “quiet” Vegans. I don’t think flattery, forgiving, or tolerance has anything to do with a Vegan message. I do feel Vegetarians, like anyone else including nonhuman animals by the way, deserve respect! But since I have lived the life of an uninformed, disconnected Vegetarian, I feel the most urgent and important duty of a Vegan is to inform… politely, yes, but clearly and consistently inform. We do ALL animals a grave injustice when, given any reasonable opportunity, we do not at least make sure a Vegetarian is fully informed about how much more they could be doing to eliminate animal suffering… and how easy it is. We are not here to force anyone to walk in our foot steps. We should be here to beat down the path whenever and wherever we can.

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The term Vegetarian by its popular & commonly accepted meaning is one who does not eat meat, but who also does not avoid dairy & eggs.

People who become Vegetarian do so for their own reasons, which may include health and/or ethical reasons. Each of these reasons are severely problematic for one who is Vegetarian. One would be hard pressed to find anyone in modern medicine or the alternative health community who does not agree eggs and dairy consumption are related to a whole host of disease. And since it is a fact that billions of nonhuman animals continue to suffer producing eggs and dairy, there is no ethical justification to be Vegetarian. A lack of clear understanding, therefore, still exists for Vegetarians.

It is my strongly held opinion now, since embracing the Vegan ethic, that if one truly feels animal exploitation is wrong (and unhealthy), they should NOT EVER suggest that being Vegetarian is a morally acceptable behaviour nor “a good step”.

Bottom line: It is up to the individual to make the decisions that affect their behaviour. The best I, or anyone else, can do as a Vegan is present the facts and encourage Veganism as the right behaviour. It would go against my entire belief system (which is basically the Vegan ethic), to do anything otherwise.

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I recently commented on yet another story depicting gruesome animal suffering. I won’t go into the details now. You can read about them here if you wish. Many comments suggested going Vegetarian to avoid participating in such terrible animal cruelty. I pointed out though, that many people get stuck in the Vegetarian “dairy and egg rut” without realizing the equal, and indeed, greater extents of animal suffering associated with dairy and egg production. Animals used for these products are made to suffer even longer misery than the relatively short sad lives of animals used for meat. In any case, one of the commenters wrote to me in reference to one of my comments. She asked for advice on how someone could go Vegan “in Stages” which I’d suggested as a more useful and effective alternative to the Vegetarian “step”.

Herein is my reply to the woman’s query:
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Dear…

I think it was this part of my comments you were referring to:

“Try Vegan for breakfast for a few weeks to see how much healthy and tasty variety is possible. Then add Vegan lunches for a few weeks to get more of a feel for these meals. And so on with dinners. That way people would get a gradual taste for how easy and varied and nutritious and satisfying completely compassionate Vegan eating can be.”

Since you didn’t specify any particular areas of concern, I would say just follow my above suggestion… armed with Google at your fingertips. I mean it! It’s that easy. I can’t tell you how many really good Vegan recipe blogs there are out there! I even found one recently on “Southern style” Vegan cooking. Say you like broccoli or you have some asparagus in the fridge, just search vegan broccoli or asparagus recipes. Say you want to start off with Vegan breakfasts, just search Vegan breakfasts! You’ll be amazed at what you come across. I just did a search for “Vegan Bacon and Eggs” and got a whole batch of interesting links.

Of course you will make adaptations as well. For example, I happen to love Tofu Scramble. You’ll see lots of variations on this popular “anytime” dish. I fry some small-diced potato with chopped sweet onion so the onion’s still crunchy. When the potato’s almost done, I mash a package of firm tofu to the consistency of “scrambled” eggs and mix it in. While it’s heating up, I’ll throw in a little diced tomato. While the tomato’s warming, mix in a little curry powder and a small dash of water. Serve as is, with some Vegan-buttered whole grain rye toast. If you like it spiced up, shake some Hot Sauce on the scramble. Heat up some Vegan Bacon slices and serve the tomatoes on the side instead, if you wish. Delicious!

As you begin to add Vegan lunch and then dinner offerings, you’ll see there’s so much variety you’ll have choices of easy or more involved recipes. As I think of things I want to try, I add ingredients to my shopping list. And that way I can see what kind of variety I’m maintaining in my fridge and pantry. And at the same time, I get ideas for meals I’d like to prepare the following week. I used to cook 2 or 3 things on the weekend so I could freeze meals for the whole week. Now that I’m (newly) retired, I can cook more often. Whatever suits you.

There are also some great Vegan podcasts to listen to. And they’re all free! Search the iTunes Store -podcast section- for Vegan podcasts. If you don’t have iTunes, get it! It’s also free, for Mac or Windows. I love listening to the “Vegan Freak Radio” podcast (Click “Radio” link) and “Compassionate Cooks” (Click “Food for Thought” podcast in the “Writings” menu).

If you haven’t heard of Professor Gary L. Francione, you should definitely start reading his blog. He’s recently started doing spoken word commentaries in a podcast as well. He is regarded as the originator of the Abolitionist movement, which seeks to end all forms of animal exploitation by abolishing the commonly held perception of animals as “property”. And, as I have said, Veganism forms the moral baseline of this society-changing philosophy.

Another valuable resource is the website for Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, together with their blog, this site is full of useful information and wonderfully down to earth yet inspirational writing to remind us about the some of the sentient beings we go Vegan for.

Finally, as you begin eating compassionately, you can also begin to assess your personal and household products and your wardrobe. Virtually everything we use and wear that is the result of animal use and suffering — be they animal ingredients in things like lipstick or toothpaste, actual animal products like leather shoes or purses or wool suits or socks, or products tested on animals like deodorant or floor polish or air freshener — can now easily be replaced by quality, cruelty-free, non-animal items… at almost the same cost!

I find it infinitely easy to rationalize spending a few dollars more or buying a little less each week, knowing I don’t participate in or facilitate cruelty to the greatest possible extent any more.

I hope this gives you something of a useful starting point.

Good luck. Take care. And feel free to let me know how you progress.

Jeffrey

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