Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Veg*n Challenge

"If every vegetarian nets one more vegetarian in the next five years (and most of us can do a lot better than that), we should have a vegetarian country by then (there are about 10 million now, so in five years there will be 20, and then 40, 80, 160, everyone)."
 ~ Bruce Friedrich, PETA VP and co-author of The Animal Activists' Handbook

I was catching up on my reading of old VegNews magazines several weeks back when I came across a short interview with Bruce Friedrich. about the future of veganism.  The above quote comes from his responses to the ten quick questions he answered.  And, were the words that mulled about in my head for a week or two before I came up with a fabulous challenge for myself.

I've mentioned the challenge to a few people already, but I feel as if i should share it more openly with every one.  Perhaps, by sharing my life with you, I can inspire you ... which is the premise of this challenge.

For most of the seven years of my journey in vegetarianism, I have been the token "vegetarian/vegan" (veg*n) in most groups I socialize in.  In the last three months, as I've become more involved with the Vegetarian Organization in my community, this has changed.  And, it's not just because I spend more time with the vegans, raw vegans and vegetarians I have met through my work with VVOA.  I feel like the more veg*nism I fill my life with, the more veg*ns are drawn to me.  Or (in a more hopeful tone), veg*nism is just becoming more mainstream.

Regardless of why I keep meeting more veg*ns, I have realized that I want to inspire more veg*n trends in the lives of people that I have met in the past, or meet from now on.  So, inspired by Friedrich's quote, I challenge myself to inspire a veg*n change in the lives of 12 people every year.

Of course, as per usual, I will remain open to all walks of life and not pressure anybody into doing something that they haven't chosen on their own.  But, I want to inspire people to live a better life.  In my opinion, veg*nism is a better life, and I support any steps taken towards living more compassionately.  The person does not have to become a hard-core, card-carrying vegan overnight. It took me five years to go from "no factory farm" vegetarianism to "the occasional omnivorous baked good" vegan.  As such, I feel like I will have made a difference in the world if I can at least get people started on their own veg*n journey. 

It does have to be more than just going meatless once a week, though.  I think that's a great step that every omnivore should do, for their health AND finances.  But, being a vegetarian at home is a great first step.  Becoming a pescatarian is also great. (i existed there for eighteen months after my year as an anti-factory-farm vegetarian.  Even an ova-lacto vegetarian is great.  )If you manage to "give up" cheese, though, your colon and I will love you!) I have a friend who is currently a vegetarian, and she's going to try veganism for a month this summer.  That definitely counts.

One person in five years just seems too, I've challenged myself to twelve people a year.  I feel like inspiring a small change in a person's life every month is completely reasonable!  However, I don't want to feel the pressure every month.  Some month, I may convince a couple of people to reduce the amount of animal products in their life, and some months I just might not. 

The goal for this year - 2011 - is twelve.  We'll see how successful I am.  So far, this is my list:
  • This January, a long-time best friend of mine began a blog about an omnivore trying to be a vegetarian.  This made my month!  She's been friends with me since before my first month of "trying" veganism.  Last fall, we had a few great conversations about the politics behind meat as well as her family's obsession with the social meanings behind the amount of meat they consume.  (Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but in Chinese.) The fact that she is still managing to eat vegetarian at home, living in the same building as her family, makes me very proud of her.
  • One friend texted me on a Saturday morning in early March with a, "So, I've decided to become a vegetarian!"  We met up the next weekend to find her first vegetarian cookbook and talk about the logistics of being a vegetarian.  I lent her a few copies of my old VegNews for further inspiration and have answered a few "dining out" questions for her since then.
  • more to come!
If you've been inspired by me, please comment!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Giving Up Cheese

I tend to hear a lot of excuses about why people could never possibly go vegetarian, let alone vegan.  It's okay, you don't have go full-hearted at it...especially at first.  Those people who can go cold tofurkey are people I have a lot of respect for, but I also understand how difficult it is to change your life suddenly.  So, I advocate for any baby steps taken towards the greater cause of eradicating all animal by-products from one's life...

When it comes to cheese, giving it up altogether is the BEST way to deal with ending the addiction, in my opinion, of course.  Vegan Soapbox has a few more helpful hints, in case you're struggling with ending the addition...

Check out their tips:

Vegan Soapbox's helpful hints

As for me, I went cold cheezy sauce on the dairy cheese.  My first month of veganism - January 2009 - I focussed on ridding my diet of cheese and chocolate.  Chocolate remains my weakness...but I NEVER miss just happens to be in a lot of vegetarian dishes that become my "only" option sometimes. (I'm getting better at politely telling people that cheese is not okay in my salad/entree/etc. ... more on Dining Out later...)  Of course, the more I make my nooch cheeze sauce for people, the less deprived they think I am for no longer indulging in such an addictive food.  That's right...once you give up an addiction, you realize how little you crave it...

Mmmmmm...gonna go make me some nooch sauce yummy...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Helping or Hoarding? and a Tangent on Slumpets

A few weeks ago, I began to scour the immense amount of information on PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)'s website.  Among the many treasures, I found this article commenting on the animal cruelty involved with hoarding:

Helping or Hoarding?: "Many of us have had a peek into the bizarre world of hoarding courtesy of reality television. Accumulating piles and piles of household junk is…"

If you live in Edmonton, perhaps you remember hearing about that house in Terwillegar that had over 300 rabbits in it.  I believe that was last winter when the SPCA (or some other organization) confiscated the animals. 

I think the house was even condemned because of the remaining condition of it after having way too many living beings in it.  It was the slum of the rabbits. Which is even worse than the slums of humans.  Don't get me wrong, I know that people who live in slums have little opportunity to get out of the slums, whether through financial burdens, health problems or their own fear to leave the only home they've ever been it (that's the worst fear of all: the fear of the unknown).  But, in our society, those people living in slums are given much more respect than the animals forced to live in slums.  And, in our society, those people have the freedom to leave their situation.  There are numerous social programs to help them out.  Education, I will always believe, is the path to their freedom - and there are libraries in every major city in the world. Fear can be overcome. Health problems is a difficult one, which always makes me thankful for living in Canada, where you can receive free (or at least discounted) crucial health care needs.  For those animals, though, there is nothing.  They are forced into these domestic cages, unable to live the life they feel such a strong desire to live - a life of freedom.  Who speaks for the beings without a human voice?  Who will give them the respect any living individual deserves?

This is why I'm vegan.  This is why my cat is my best friend, not "my" pet.  This is why I am filled with so much joy when I come across a rabbit in the river valley.  This post is only the tip of the iceberg on my thoughts about this topic.

I know I've hit a few different points, but I want to hear your reactions to it.  Argue with me! Tell me I'm wrong...if you actually think I am.  I want this blog to be a doorway to a dialogue I have been meaning to have for the last seven years.  Please, share your opinion with me! Oh, and read the article on PETA's site.  It's an interesting topic that spawned a lot of ideas inside my head.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Ethical" Meat

"I don't have a problem with eating meat, just the ethics behind it."

The above statement was said to me during a "foodie" talk about curry.  I full-heartedly agreed with the individual and support her decisions 100%.  And, for that reason, many vegans are going to disagree with me... Many vegans disagree with me frequently, I just need to get used to it.  I'm already used to the fact that I make many people still eating meat uncomfortable...

Will I ever meat again? No.  Like the true-blue animal-rights vegetarians mentioned in the article below, I have developed an ethical opposition to the consumption of another animal.  I believe in speciesism, and hope for it to one day be as politically incorrect as racism, sexism, and all other prejudices in this world.  In the meantime, though, I want to support any baby steps away from the horrible and disgusting abuse that happens in every single factory farm, where speciesism is at its worst.  Like the feminist movement that has gone before it, the animal rights movement needs to focus on making violent rape/and torturous mercy killings illegal before we elect a cat for leader of the free world.  It's all about the baby steps...

As such, I support Meatless Mondays.  If everybody gave up eating meat for a day at least once a week, just imagine how many lives could be saved!  As long as you don't go on about it to me, I'll even be okay with you eating a steak the next day.  I'd prefer if you didn't...but if you know the producer, and you choose that over a factory-farmed chicken (who, by the way, I think need more protection than cattle in this country), I'll appreciate you're baby step.

I'm a farmer's daughter, and always will be.  Giving up meat was my single act of rebellion as a teenager, and I've always maintained a level of respect from where I've come from.  But I also have an idea for where we're heading...especially if we don't do anything to stop not only the abuse of animals for our mere pleasure (not nutritional benefit), but also the obesity epidemic and environmental consequences of over-production.  These are all points that I'll cover in the future...

After the "foodie" conversation, I made my way home and found this article on a Vegan Mainstream's facebook page.  Like many vegans I know, this article upset Vegan Mainstream.  It didn't paint rainbows of happiness across my heart either, but I can appreciate parts of it - especially the honesty.  Having profitted from the life of a farmer as a child, I do support "seeking out and paying a high premium for meat."  It should be a luxury - not a daily occurence!  In the same respect, fresh vegetables should be a daily occurence and not a luxury...and so I support local vegetable farmers.

Today I had a separate discussion with somebody whose sister had been a vegan for two years.  The reason for her to stop identifying as a vegan was because it was "too hard." She found herself deprived when going out with friends (to KFC...I'll hold back my comments on friends like that...) and following a strict diet too difficult.  This is exactly why I advocate for "cheating." I'm human.  I make mistakes.  And I'm not going to lose sight of the greater good just because there is milk ingredients in the bread I bought this week because I ran out of time to make my own.  As a fellow vegan pointed out, "an environmentalist doesn't stop calling themselves an environmentalist if they throw a pop can in a garbage can rather than the recycling bin."  So, to make the die-hard vegan police (who-don't-actually-exist) happy, I'll acknowledge that I'm a "Cheatin' Vegan."  For those who find life as a vegan or vegetarian too difficult for them, I'll be here to guide you in the right direction.  I won't, though, like the ex-vegetarian in this article, ever slide back into eating meat...and I mean that.

All that being said, I'm sure you're thoroughly confused about my point by now.  So, now's the perfect time to read somebody else's point of view.  There are some interesting points here, which inspired the above tangents, etc.  Check it out: "Why Vegetarians Are Eating Meat" in Food and Wine Online magazine.

Okay, so I am slightly sad that the ex-vegetarian started eating animals again, but everybody is entitled to their own choices.  Just as vegetarians and vegans concerned about the "questions being raised about meat replacements derived from soy and wheat gluten" have the choice of a HUGE variety of other vegetable protein sources out there.  And that's my favourite part about being a vegan right now - they just keep multiplying!  After seven years of not eating meat, I can honestly say that the times I have gotten my protein from ONLY soy or "omnisub" fake meats has been rare.  Maybe, if you add it all up it would be two servings a day for two months.  Out of 84 months, I'd say that's pretty rare.   Just think about the rise in popularity of the nine protein sources currently in my cupboard: quinoa, lentils, millet, white navy beans, brown rice, almonds, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), barley, kidney beans.  It definitely makes the choice of beef, pork, chicken or fish boring in comparison. And that's just what's in my cupboards right now.

So, if you're currently on an omnivore diet, I hope you at least try to chose more "ethical" meat.  Better than that, I'd be thrilled if you committed to giving up meat completely, but once a week is still good.  Otherwise, well, there's always more room over here in the veg*n room!

(I often joke around about my problem of food hoarding.  When there are also talks of disasters striking, though, I take comfort in - and comfort my cat with - the knowledge that he'll eat me before I eat him...which won't likely happen for six months after being trapped in my overstocked apartment.  Even in the worst disaster, I'm sure we'll be able to sneak out into the river valley for some vegetation by that time...)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meatless Monday in the Workplace

Meatless Monday in the Workplace: "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals"

My Meatless Mondays in My Home have been so successful that I'm struggling to find the time to write about them!  I should have a few more posts up this week, now that VVOA's Gluten-Free Cook-Off has wrapped up.  In the meantime, check out PETA's article on Meatless Mondays in the Workplace.  Could you start something like this where you work?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Alicia Silverstone Not 'Clueless' About Vegan Health

This video is a bit older, but still fairly interesting. I know Alicia Silverstone and her book, The Kind Diet, have not been in the news as much lately, but she's still very relevant! In fact, among all of the information I picked up at VVOA's presentation on "Becoming A Vegan" on the 1st of March, the mention of Alicia Silverstone was almost a highlight for me. I ran into the girl who mentioned The Kind Diet again tonight. She's been vegan for nine days now, and feeling great! ("I've lost five pounds," she told me, with a surprised grin on her face.) Silverstone's book is the only vegan cookbook she has, but I think she got a lot of ideas from the potluck we were at!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Vegan Song

So, this music video is a little out-dated, but it's still pretty nifty. I'd say circa 90s rap scene...but I think it may be more from the early 00's.

Now, I don't advocate the eating of potato chips and such, just 'cause they're vegan, but a lot of their other points are good. You know, things like being more compassionate to pick up chicks...and thus the rise of "he-gans" out there... :-D