New Year’s Revolution 2015! Veganuary (Yes, it’s what it sounds like)!

try vegan this jan

I think there are some mixed reviews about the Veganuary campaign, whose goal is to get people to go vegan for the month of January. There are some, like Bite Size Vegan on YouTube who makes a good point against going vegan for the new year, and others, like Kerry McCarpet who argues that it’s a good idea. Click their names to be linked to their videos! Both are extremely intelligent vegans and I highly recommend their channels, which only works if you think I am at least moderately intelligent…I overflowed my oatmeal this morning (for the trillionth time), so I might not be as smart as I (try) to sound….

I will proceed to address three points: what the heck Veganuary¬†is, arguments for and against it, and my own POV (with a little freebie for one lucky-ish person ūüôā ). Prepare yourself fellow vegans and vegans-to-be!

What is Veganuary? 

“Try Vegan this January” is a month long pledge to avoid consuming animal products and go vegan. Of course, avoiding eating animals is not the entirety of what veganism is, but it is the biggest leap into veganism that one can take. You can sign up and pledge to go vegan on their website: www.veganuary.com. You can still pledge even if you are already vegan, and I urge you to do so! Movements are much more successful when they are supported by the masses, so if you are already vegan and think this doesn’t apply, think again! We need your voice! You don’t have to change a thing (if you don’t want to), just pledge.

veganuary pig

Their website provides a plethora of helpful resources for vegans-to-be and I’ve found it pretty interesting myself! I tried to put my self back into the head-space that I was in when I first went vegan, and I appreciate all the work that went into the site even more. Even 4 years ago (when I first attempted veganism, I failed the first time) compendiums of helpful resources like this did not exist on one website.

The¬†why¬†of veganism is addressed from multiple perspectives: health, environment, animals, and nutrition. You can search for recipes easily, either by cuisine, ingredients, or type of food like ‘pizza’ or ‘cookies’ to easily find lots of recipes in one place. I really love the¬†eating out¬†tab. It links you to handy ‘cuisine guides’ for Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, etc. For each cuisine there is information about what you can order as a vegan and certain things to look out for that you may not have ¬†known about. For example, new vegans might not think to ask about fish or oyster sauce in Chinese dishes because it is not as apparent as say, a hunk of meat or an egg in their dish. A word of caution, reading the cuisine guides will leave you salivating and craving the yummy vegan dishes they describe!

They also have a¬†products¬†tab under which they have everything from books, DVDs, clothes, food (tons of food), household products, pet products, cosmetics, medicine, etc. All neatly categorized for the new vegan to find anything they wish! For each product there is information about what it can be used for or how it’s beneficial, nutrition facts or ingredients (if applicable), and links to websites where you can purchase the item (like Amazon). It’s not all superfoods and junk either, it’s pretty good stuff!

There is a¬†vegan myths¬†tab, under which there are tons of helpful Q&A’s. One of which was what my brother desperately clung to as he was grasping for straws, and reasons to eat meat: #30 “What about all the problems facing humans in the world? Shouldn’t we worry about those first before we worry about animals?” The answer was more than thoughtful, a new vegan might not realize how eating vegan will indirectly help feed starving children.

Lastly, there is a¬†vegan people¬†and¬†news & blog¬†tab. Under the people tab, you can find examples of actors, athletes, activists, and regular ol’ people…YOU ARE NOT ALONE! The news tab keeps you entertained with interesting updates, articles, tips/guides and infographics. The website is interesting, helpful, and trust me you will learn something new, even if you think you are a ‘seasoned’ vegan. (Pun intended, can you tell I’m getting hungry?)

So, why might it be a bad idea? (But ultimately, it is a GOOD idea!)

vegan new year

The argument against it is that January is a time of New Year’s Resolutions, most of which fail…so why would this resolution be any different? Unfortunately, this is a time of fad diets and quick-fix weight-loss tricks, and some are worried that going vegan for January might get mixed up in that trend. I agree, it definitely could.

I am ambivalent about resolutions, like many I believe that waiting until the new year to make a change is silly, but that doesn’t mean that January is a bad time to make a change either! There is no good or bad time, everyday is a good day to set a goal, resolve yourself to make a change, or take a pledge! Don’t let the connotation of “New Year’s Resolution” scare you away from trying something new¬†at the beginning of a new year.

Ultimately, Veganuary is a good idea. Unlike other “awareness-raising” months which do only that, raise awareness, Veganuary provides individuals a call to action. It doesn’t make people feel powerless in the face of statistics, it emboldens them to¬†do¬†something! In the process of becoming vegan, the individual will learn information concerning animal cruelty and nutrition and will be better able to navigate ethical eating. (As it pertains to animals…farm worker justice is a whole different can of worms!) The website ensures that the individual has every opportunity for success by providing as many resources as possible.

Lastly, Veganuary is a good idea because even if some people decide to do it for weight-loss or as a cleanse, many more individuals will discover the health benefits of veganism and stick with it past the conclusion of January. I think that a lot of people in society have forgotten what it feels like to actually feel¬†good.¬†Even if the individual doesn’t embark upon the healthiest vegan diet and relies on processed vegan foods, eschewing animal products is often enough to reap dramatic health benefits if the individual was on the standard American diet beforehand.

My personal opinion….and a surprise for you!

veganuary 2015 resolutionI believe there are two hooks to veganism: some go vegan because they love animals a.k.a the ethical hook; others go “plant-based” for their health, athletic performance, or aesthetics a.k.a. the individual/health hook. In my opinion those who go plant-based for health fall into two camps. Some will stay plant-based and their abstention of animal products will not extend past their diet, these are also the people who partake in “cheat-meals” that contain animal products…they haven’t educated themselves beyond deciphering the nutrition label and haven’t peeled back the curtain of cruelty. They are merely concerned with how they look. I think there are very few who stay this way, these people usually fall off the vegan wagon because they always feel deprived.

The rest of the people who begin as plant-based will continue to educate themselves, watch documentaries and realize the ethics behind the vegan lifestyle. They may start off only concerned with how they look or feel, but they will stay vegan because they have seen the suffering of the animals raised for food or clothes, and they empathize. These people can feel the pain of the animals and can see how the effects of eating meat ripple outward in violence, poverty, environmental destruction and starvation. These people stay vegan not only because they feel good, but because they don’t feel deprived…they feel satiated both by the food and the knowledge that they are doing good for the planet.

All it takes is for the individual to simply give veganism a try. So in that sense, the more people who “try vegan this January”, the better!

2015-01-05 16.31.45And now…..Before you think my brother is all bad, he did get me a gigantic vegan cookbook for Christmas. So at least he tried to find a vegan thing for me, and I appreciate the thought! But I don’t cook, like ever. So I am pretty confident I will¬†never¬†use it, I haven’t even cracked it open yet. So I am giving it away, I will mail it to whomever I feel leaves the most detailed reason in the comments below, or emails me at sushitomismith@gmail.com with the reason why they would like this book! Whoever I feel wants/needs it the most based on their comment or email will receive it ūüôā

I just want to find it a good home ‚̧

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My Family and #1 Vegan Rule, Part II

funny santa

My #1 vegan rule: In-apartment veganism imposed on all guests in my apartment, including family! This means all food and meals bought to be brought back to my apartment must be free from animal products!

So, how have my brother and mom fared? Are they still alive and do they hate me yet?

Yes! They are still alive, but haven’t exactly embraced the vegan lifestyle outside of my 900 sq. feet animal cruelty-free zone (aka my apartment). They’ve been here for almost a week now and while I am grateful they have honored my rule, they’ve made up for it every time we’ve dined out which is often because they are on vacation…and of course they need to sample the delicious Portland cuisine! I definitely can’t and don’t try to sway their food choices when we dine out and I always make vegan work for me, it’s possible no matter where you go! But, without being pushy and annoying, I don’t think they will change ūüė¶

vegan_christmas_wish_greeting_cardI was pretty much defeated after the last conversation I had with my brother when he saw the video narrated by Steve-O (read more about our conversation and see the video in Part 1). Maybe I am just too far gone on the vegan bandwagon, but I was floored by his assertion that animals are just food. In his eyes, when he sees a pig I think he truly just sees bacon.

In my mom’s case, sometimes I feel like I am on the brink of success…but for every two steps forward I feel like we take one step back. She agrees with me about how wrong the factory farming practices are and how unhealthy people are in America because of the broken food system. I believe that the compassionate animal-lover in her empathizes with the animals that are eaten and exploited, she loves her dogs and as vegans often say, “Why love one and eat the other?” But even though she doesn’t eat a lot of meat (she actually just doesn’t eat a lot¬†period,¬†I’ve often envied her natural ability to portion-control) she still doesn’t have faith that the vegan diet alone is enough to sustain a healthy lifestyle, even though her daughter (me) tries to be a living, breathing, successfully athletic example. It’s a combination of too much health misinformation and a traditional upbringing that makes her ask, “But where will I get my protein?” It’s the ubiquitous go-vegan-live-longeradvertisements paid for by the dairy industry that induces her to think it is a¬†fact¬†that dairy creates strong bones and is the prime source for calcium. It’s the “magic bullet” phenomenon of certain superfoods that are touted by popular news media that provides the surplus of confusing information and always the overarching message that veganism is unhealthy, restrictive, unsustainable and extremist. It’s the pervasive slogan from figures of authority that “everything is okay in moderation”….(like smoking, right?) All those things, key components in keeping the current American food industry in place, also serves to keep well-intentioned, health-minded individuals like my mom, from being able to change. *I had my mom read over my perception of her, and she okay-ed it ‚̧

If you hear something repeated often enough, you start to believe it as fact.

VEGAN (1)As I write this post, they are leaving to go eat something for dinner ūüė¶ I’m gonna stay home, I need a little break from the constant family presence, and I am missing my vegetables! Honestly, I was starting to feel vegetable deficient after eating out most meals yesterday. For lunch we went to a rotary sushi, I ate my weight in veggie, cucumber, avocado, and seaweed salad rolls and for dinner we went to a Thai restaurant where I ate a vegan Papaya salad and 3 sides of sticky rice (the third time I ordered another sticky rice, the server looked at me like I was crazy). Anyway, I am happy to stay home today to eat my veggie-heavy (ab)normal vegan food. At least we’ve all been vegan for breakfast! We’ve been eating oatmeal jazzed up with different fruit, cinnamon and ginger (except my brother, who has a bad habit of skipping breakfast entirely).

But, with all this discussion surrounding veganism…I am starting to doubt myself. Have I become obsessive? Is it really just food, should I stop caring so much?

I’ve addressed this before in this post¬†(Sorry, I’m NOT sorry for being a picky eater). ¬†I don’t like to make people uncomfortable, I don’t set out to insult anyone or make them feel guilty about their lifestyle. But where is the line between me telling it like it is and the point when I start to step on other’s toes? I know it is impossible to please everyone, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. This goes back to when I was posting images like this one (below) on my Facebook page and a friend asked me to stop because he didn’t ‘subscribe’ to that. Or a week ago, when another close friend asked me if I thought non-vegans (like himself) were murderers! I was aghast, and hurt. I NEVER ever paint my non-vegan friends or family in that light! My perception of them is too colored by the wonderful character and spirits that I know they have. They are good, kind, caring people, that’s why they are my friends! So it really makes me feel terrible that they might think or feel that I am judging them harshly.¬†vegan extremistI’ll never be in-your-face, that’s not my style…but on my blog and my social media I should be able to tell it (or show it and share it) like it is. Animal cruelty for the sake of our current eating habits is the truth. So why do I doubt myself? Is it all really just food? Or as someone else in my life just told me, “there are just too many terrible things happening.” Or my brother, “there are more important things to worry about.”

vegansidekick head in sand

Does all this mean that I should give up? Throw in the towel? Sometimes I just feel like a pest, annoying everyone else. To reiterate, I am not in the habit of spouting veganism 24/7 to everyone I meet or hang out with. When it comes up, I talk about it because my vegan lifestyle means a lot to me and I want other people to know about it. I desperately want the people I know to wake up and realize how wrong eating animals is! But even when I don’t say anything, I feel like my mere existence in living my life the way I do is a burden to others…my parent’s cross to bear: their crazy vegan daughter…so sad, sigh. It gets to me, it makes me feel like I need to apologize (even though I am not supposed to!), it makes me want to quit trying. I don’t feel like I am helping, mostly I feel like an annoyance at best.

KH_ROSIE-009-magDon’t worry though, I am not going to give up the fight! I’ll never stop being vegan and I’ll keep on blogging the truth. The information has¬†to be available to inspire people to change. I never know who might stumble across my blog and become motivated…so I’ll keep going. In my daily life I’ll keep living my truth. When I find the balance between being in-your-face or acquiescing and unprotesting, believe me I’ll blog about it! Vegans everywhere will rejoice!

Holiday Spirits, Family Visits and My #1 Vegan Rule

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Below¬†is a festive ¬†picture of my family from 2006 at one of my favorite holiday¬†events on Guam, the Jingle Bell run which I just discovered from my mom has been discontinued…sad face. Those were¬†the good ol’ days when my whole family ran together, now it’s just my mom and I¬†who get up and log regular miles each morning. Also, eight years have passed, and none of us (except my mom, she’s got good genes and seems not to have aged at all!) look like that anymore (see us from last year, above).

Speaking of, my mom just finished the Honolulu Marathon a few days ago when my brother and she were en route from Guam to come visit me in Portland for Christmas!

Jingle Bell 5k 2006That’s how I literally¬†just¬†discovered the Jingle Bell run is no longer in existence….she corrected my out-loud musings as I am typing this post. The real reason for this blog post though, is to discuss my imposed in-apartment veganism on my brother and mom. So, how do they feel about that? What’s my reasoning? And, is it working?

So first, what are the parameters? Basically, I keep my apartment a sacred space free from animal products and it is going to stay¬†that way! Personally, the smell of meat cooking in my kitchen, or seeing milk and eggs in my fridge might physically make me sick. I know enough about how those products make it to the supermarket to¬†never¬†want to be a cause of the process. I also know that meat, milk and eggs can¬†never¬†be a part of a healthy diet, and I care about my mom and brother. I could not in good conscious watch them eat those things and not say something about it. My rule is that all food brought into my apartment needs to be vegan and that all meals eaten in my apartment needs to be vegan as well. But when we go out to eat as I am sure we will often in the next ten days they are here, they can consume what they wish. I can’t control that, but a tiny part of me hopes that they feel good enough eating vegan that they won’t want to go back to eating animals!

vegan kitchenSo far, they’ve agreed to this rule and they’ve been animal product free for their first day here ūüôā small victories! Unfortunately, I had a discussion about eating animals and factory farming practices with my brother this morning…which did not go well. His quote, “Animals are there for us to eat,” really blew my mind, especially because this was¬†after he watched¬†a short video narrated by Steve-O (I thought that Steve-O might peak my brother’s interest) which depicted some of the cruelties condoned by the industry. I was kind and showed him a less graphic version of the cruel practices of factory farming, I’ve inserted the same video below if you are curious. It’s only 12 minutes long and I highly recommend it! Even if you are already vegan, it’s always a good idea to check in with yourself to make sure that your values and lifestyle are continuing to align.

But back to my brother’s statement. Animals are NOT put here on earth for us to eat. I sometimes forget how misinformed the general public can be. I was in the same boat until I decided to change my diet. With that decision came a lot of personal research. I had to seek out the knowledge myself, and find support in others online to succeed in going vegan. It’s not easy to change years of deeply ingrained habits and beliefs (even if they aren’t correct). I definitely have some work to do! My hopes are that his interest in building muscles and having a strong physique will at least compel him to eat plant based in the meantime and that the compassion for animals will follow. For men, it is especially important to show examples of ripped, strong and healthy male vegans to those who are considering changing their diet. I know I am generalizing here, but it’s been my experience that guys are usually scared of looking like a stereotypical, weakling vegan. I am not exactly reassuring myself because of my skinniness, but that is probably a product of my runninveganproblems 2g and my diet, not an inevitable consequence of being vegan. There are many resources for vegan athletes, and I hope to (slowly) educate my brother and show him how much stronger and healthier he can be. How can he argue with Rip Esselstyn of the Engine 2 Diet? Or Rich Roll author of¬†Finding Ultra, Scott Jurek author of¬†Eat & Run,¬†or¬†Brendan Brazier of¬†Thrive?¬†Those are just the guys I can name off the top of my head! There are also so many plant-based athletes and fit guys on YouTube as well. Some of my favorites include Jay of PlantbasedAthlete, Chris of ChrisGoneRaw, and Ben of WholeFuture. Some are athletes, some are not. But all are well-informed, healthy and inspiring examples of how to succeed as a plant-based male.

To be continued….how have the days been treating them? What’s my mom’s take on all this? And why am I doubting my rule?

Part 2 is on it’s way!

 

What do vanity and veganism have in common?

chicky cartoons

Vanity and veganism, what do they have in common? Well, besides¬†cartoons depicting baby chicks, a lot…

Let’s start with society. Which cartoon above, the body acceptance cartoon or the animal cruelty cartoon, do you think is condoned by our society? This is a great illustration of f**ked up priorities…believe it or not, our Western society would rather have you¬†hate¬†your body, and¬†not care¬†about killing baby chickens! We know this, but how often do we contemplate how wrong these subliminal messages are?

Just a note, I am going to writing and defending my point from a female perspective, but I acknowledge that men are also under pressure to look a certain way and receive messaging from media that can also lead to body dysmorphia and eating disorders. However, women still bear the brunt of these unrealistic societal beauty ideals.

MMOTWMy inspiration for this post came from my latest literary read¬†Mirror, Mirror off the Wall¬†by Kjertin Gruys, a feminist scholar and teacher with a Ph.D. in sociology. She explores¬†the relationship between physical appearance, markets, and social inequality. My reasons for reading this had more to do with my own history of¬†low self-esteem and trouble with physical appearance than with veganism (obviously) until I came upon this quote in Chapter 5 (I’m reading this on a Kindle, so I am unsure of the page number):

“Indeed, our ability to suppress instincts in favor of ethics is perhaps the most defining characteristic that separates human beings from other animals.”¬†

This literally stopped me in my tracks. I could not believe how succinctly she had just argued for veganism, yet she could not connect the dots between her argument and the juicy cheesesteak (barf) burger she writes about eating in a later chapter.

How have we become so blind? It is my argument that as long as you allow corporations and industries to tell you how to look, what to strive for, and what to eat, you are incapable of thinking for yourself and caring about others (people, animals and planet) on a deeper level. If this seems harsh, let me explain…

cruelty not beautyI first want to start with the fact that Gruys is so focused on one ‘acceptable’ societal issue, that she failed to recognize that social inequality and business based on physical appearance in the west is only a symptom of a deeper rooted problem: enslaving and exploiting animals for our own desires.

Think about it, if our society thinks it is acceptable to use another being as a means to an end (unethical according to Kant’s¬†theory of morality which¬†states that it is immoral to use another person merely as a means to an end, and that people must, under all circumstances, be treated as ends in themselves) and if our society condones commodifying life, and supports systems of inequality (speciesism), how can that same society truly care about how women are treated?

“Women are not just pieces of meat for men to ogle at!” or “Women are not put on this earth just for men’s pleasure!” These are all sayings that unfortunately are all too common in society. Is it any coincidence that women are compared to meat (dehumanized in a similar way that meat at the grocery store is stripped of it’s animal identity)? Is it coincidence that men (and women) think it is okay to use the other sex for well, sex? When we have a consumer culture that depends upon using and abusing other creatures without respect or even a second thought, when it becomes normalized, we cannot then lie to ourselves and think we can behave morally to our fellow human beings.

If we cannot extend our compassion to animals, the cuddliest, cutest, easiest to love creatures on the planet, how can we think we can care about other people (who have flaws, can mess up our lives, and suffer from foot-in-mouth disease)?

racism-is-speciesism-is-sexismHuman beings have an unfortunate history of always needing to subordinate a portion of the population. The early history of the U.S. only awarded rights to white males. African Americans and females were not considered equal. Today of course, it is unacceptable in society to treat someone unjustly based upon their gender or skin color. Of course, just because it is frowned upon doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still happen. It is my personal opinion that as long as we can still rationalize and justify cruelty to animals, then we will always have unequal mistreatment of others who we don’t view as equal to ourselves. We cannot fully empathize with the plight of our fellow humans if we need to numb our feelings in order to ignore that the meat on our plate was once a living animal. We have been so conditioned to turn away when we see pictures of factory farms or videos of animal abuse, that it has become a habit. In the same way, we have developed a habit of turning away from injustice by instinct in our society.

Lastly, I want to talk about how our consumer culture has turned us into ego-centric beings.

me me meMarketing media for beauty products has ingrained in us an unhealthy focus on looks. It’s the aim of the industry to have a consumer population who all possess a poor body image because then more opportunities to push products exist. It’s supply and demand, and the smartest companies know that if there is no demand, you create one…and then of course you create the solution! I’m not even a business major and I am aware of how industries operate! Our culture has normalized pursuit of our own happiness above all else. It is in favor of free market society to have us believe that we are entitled to be happy¬†and there is a product or service out there that will give us happiness.

When we go around all day focused on how we look, on our perceived flaws and imperfections, searching for something to make us thinner, wealthier, prettier,¬†happier…We lose sight of the fact that there is more to life than just how we look. Actually, there is more to life than just ourselves, period. We all need to take a step back and realize the bigger picture and problems of the world. My existence actually matters very little in the context of the planet.

Our focus on ourselves as the most important thing in life has also led to the pleasure trap…and I am not just talking about Douglas Lisle’s book (The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness). But the rational that our own desires and taste buds are more important than an animal’s life…or the belief that life is short, so I should eat this burger because I am going to die anyway. Yes, you want to be happy…but when you believe that, you put the focus on yourself and your pleasure. Are you really more important than other creatures?

If human beings suddenly went extinct tomorrow, all other creatures on the planet would benefit. If bees (or any other species really) went extinct, human life as we know it would be radically different or even impossible. For example, if bees continue their disappearance, the produce section of the grocery store would be practically empty. We’d all have to live on Twinkies until we died! (Hyperbole??? Maybe not…)

vegan sidekick I wantI urge you to take the blinders off! There is a reason some stereotypes about vegans are actually true! Going vegan for ethical reasons (and I argue that most long-term vegans are ethical vegans) forces you to focus on something other than yourself. Going vegan opens your eyes to the bigger picture. You uncover the cruelty of the meat and dairy industry and you can feel the pain of the animals. You can understand how environmental destruction, water waste, world hunger, climate change, pollution, corporate greed, violence, disease, are all related to the consumption of animals. When you realize this, you become a passionate champion of veganism. Yes, you want to speak up and let everyone else know what is happening! When you stop eating animals, you also stop being a drone to society. Suddenly, you are not blind anymore. You are no longer happy to continue buying into societal norms. You have the energy and mental clarity to think about more than just yourself. You are awake!

In conclusion, the beauty industry and western consumer culture in general, has normalized egocentric behavior. We see this in people’s pursuit of good looks, success, and happiness at all costs. Everyone has become so focused on themselves, that they don’t ever step back to wonder if our perceived problems, such as the objectification of women, or unrealistic body ideals, are actually the problem or if there is a deeper, more sinister evil that we should be fighting. Equality, and respect for every creature’s right to life on this planet.

I am not the most important thing.

Debate a Vegan: But you kill plants, bugs, and bacteria!

one acre of veggies

As a vegan I do my best to represent the best of the lifestyle. That means being healthy, active, compassionate and understanding to others who haven’t yet come into the fold of veganism. That also means answering (sometimes ridiculous) questions, getting into heated debates and ranting about the evils of factory farming and it’s contribution to the demise of the planet and all living beings. But see, now I’m getting all fired up…

I do my best to live a 100% vegan lifestyle, and that means not eating, purchasing, or otherwise promoting products made with or by animals or their byproducts. Living a vegan lifestyle means abstaining, to the best of my knowledge and ability, from cruelty and exploitation of animals. It also means not living in ignorance (real or self-inflicted) so that I can avoid changing¬†my ways (that’s what meat-eaters do). I consciously try to keep an open-mind and evolve when challenged with new information. It is because of this that I love it when people challenge my veganism. Here are a few popular (but senseless) arguments against veganism and the ill-logic behind why they don’t make sense!

Illogical argument #1: Plants are living things…

plants_have_feelings_too_by_lerms

This argument can be debunked with a little cartoon from VeganSideKick (on Instagram!) below! Basically, agricultural animals eat way more plants than humans and feed less people, therefore meat eaters actually cause more plant matter destruction than vegans. So if you are worried about the ethical treatment of plants, you should go vegan!

  • 2 acres of rainforest are cleared each minute to raise cattle or crops to feed them* 136 million acres cleared, according to¬†Cowspiracy.¬†
  • Dr. Garth Davis: Animals use over 600 million acres of grazing land, of which 20-30% has been overgrazed and ruined. 75% of the soy, corn, and wheat crops grown are used to feed the animals we eat.

In the U.S., most viable land is planted to mono crops like corn and soy, which are fed to fatten animals up fast (though it is not their natural diets). Mono-crop planting destroys the viability of the soil because there is a loss of biodiversity as well as increased amounts of pesticides and herbicides sprayed on the crops destroys the soil.

The leading cause of deforestation is animal agriculture. Deforestation as well as overgrazing of land by animals also leads to desertification over time, rendering the soil useless. By consuming animal products, many more plants are harmed and the resources that could have grown and watered more plants are instead being used to feed and fatten animals for consumption.

 plants tho

Illogical argument #2: So you never kill insects then, huh? What about ants…?

save-and-protect-fliesSometimes non-vegans like to ask about the value of insects. They will either point out that vegans accidentally kill insects like ants when they walk, or purposefully swat mosquitoes. Another popular argument is that many insects are killed when plants are harvested (again with the plants thing). Besides the fact that the people who ask these questions very rarely care about insects themselves, the main point is just an attempt to catch the vegan in a moral contradiction. Isn’t that kind of immature?

I can’t speak for all vegans, but I am confident that ethical vegans so their best to protect and respect ALL living things. I can’t lie and say I love insects like I love pigs and chicks and cows, but I respect their value to the planet. For instance, I don’t kill spiders because they catch flies, and I definitely don’t like flies! When you recognize the worth of a life (and all life has worth) it becomes easier to protect that life. The longer someone is a vegan, and the more they educate themselves, it becomes just as instinctual to save a spider rather than step on it (or an other insect).

As for indirectly harming insects by eating plant foods, see my reply to Illogical Argument #1 (above) concerning plant consumption. And as for stepping on insects or inadvertently harming them in other ways….seriously? Just because it is futile to avoid killing all insects does not mean that I should chuck it all and go back to killing animals too! Do the least amount of harm whenever possible!

Illogial argument #3: Bacteria are living things too! Vegans kill bacteria!

antibiotic-resistance4-featured

Really?¬†Really?¬†People for the ethical treatment of bacteria can come at me because you’ve certainly got me there! Yes, I wash my hands and look after my hygiene. The last thing I need to happen is to get sick and have people blame it on my vegan diet!

I could also point out that every human possesses an immune system, whose sole purpose is to kill invading bad bacteria to prevent illness.

And, I could point out that the rise of antibiotic resistant “superbugs” is due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics….and 80% of the antibiotics dispensed in the U.S. are given to farm animals in an attempt to mitigate the infections and sickness caused by the terrible conditions of factory farming. It’s a coin-toss, but meat eaters may actually win on this one. By using antibiotics to kill all the weaker bacteria of the species, the meat eaters are forcing the survival of super-strength bacteria species as they adapt to withstand our puny human medications!

Sources: 

*¬†Robinson Simon, David.¬†MindBodyGreen,¬†“10 Things I Wish All Americans Knew About the Meat & Dairy Industries” Sept. 3, 2013.

Snapshot: How I Ate and Exercised Today Oct. 22 (Wed.)

WIAW 7 morning stretch

Good Morning! Today was¬†literally¬† a run, eat, sleep, repeat type of day. I woke up at 5:30 am to the seemingly ceaseless sound of rain falling. It was still pitch black outside, which didn’t make waking up any more inviting! But I rolled out of bed anyway and went for an easy 4 mile run at an 8 min./mi. pace. I nixed showering (I didn’t sweat, but I got rained on, and I had no time) and changed into whatever was warm and comfortable. I spent the next 45 minutes stretching, eating peaches and watching YouTube videos in the semi-darkness until I had to catch the bus at 7:45 am for my 8:15 am Epidemiology class. I have a break between classes from 10 am- 10:15 am when I also ate 1 large Honeycrisp apple and 1 tiny sweet Tango apple.

WIAW 8 peachesBreakfast: FRUIT!

  • 3 peaches (610g) = 238 calories
  • 1 large + 1 small apple (322g) = 167 calories

Total: 405 cal.

I also brewed myself plenty of coffee to take with me! One thing I have learned as a student is to never buy coffee or fruit (or really any food) on campus! Before, I could easily have spent $5 on coffee and an apple or banana (of which the quality is always suspect) and that adds up over the week. It’s not hard to slice apples at home to take with you, and bring your own coffee in a thermos. It saves me money and I help the environment!

I’m done with classes by 11:30 am, so I caught the bus home and made it back by noon, just in time for lunch! My greedy glucose- glugging brain uses up a lot of my fuel (20% of the average person’s calories are burned by the brain) and I was pretty hungry. I was also really tired. I haven’t been able to sleep well lately, I’ve been going to bed by 10 pm at the latest but I’ve been tossing until midnight or later ūüė¶ So I felt like a nap after lunch would be necessary.

WIAW 8 lunch

Lunch: VEGGIES! POTATOES & SOUP!

  • Baby carrots (not pictured) (200g) = 70 calories
  • Snap peas (85g) = 40 cal.
  • 1 medium zucchini = 33 cal.
  • 1 cup vegan butternut squash soup = 90 calories
  • Freeze dried corn (24g) = 85 cal.
  • Steamed Japanese sweet potatoes (322g) = ¬†290 calories

Total: 608 calories

And I was right! After a warming and filling lunch I attempted to do some homework for an hour, but I was ready to sleep. I had to run at least another 5 miles later that evening, and I would never make it the way I was feeling. My eyes were itchy and my brain was tingly and foggy. My high carb potato- coma and the gloomy rain all convinced me to go to bed. I napped from 2:30pm to 5pm and woke up feeling much better. It was still drizzling rain and getting dark so I donned my brightest rain jacket and laced up my running shoes again.

WIAW and exercise 8I ended up running 1.3 miles to my coach’s running store, then ran 4.3 miles at an easy easy pace with my coach, and then ran 1.3 miles back home for a total of 10.9 miles for the day…but they were all easy miles. Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am my track buddy, Em and I have the first of many early morning hard tempo workouts and so I was happy taking it easy.

By the time I got home, it was dark, I was cold and definitely hungry! I foam rolled and stretched again, and bundled up for the night. I steamed some more potatoes and ate them with 2 large heads of fresh Romaine lettuce!

Dinner: POTATOES!

  • Steamed Japanese sweet potatoes (764g) = 687 cal.
  • 2.5 large heads Romaine lettuce = 266 cal.

Total: 953 calories

Macro nutrient Breakdown:  

Total calories: 1968

Fat: 12.1g (5.2% total calories)

Protein: 57.5g (8% total cal.) Where do vegans get their protein ūüôā

Carbohydrates: 446g (86.8% total calories)

That was my day! Lots of running and sleeping, school and food. I was not exaggerating about the amount of rainfall!

record-rain-2

Source: KOIN 6 blog, “Rainfall breaks records in Portland, Vancouver” Oct. 22, 2014.

Cowspiracy Pt. 2: People and Planet, or Profits?

cowspiracy pt 2

Here’s the truth: Consumption of animal products is unsustainable.

But, but, but…grass fed, free range, small family-owned farms…

Nope. None of it. The addition of sustainable, by any term, to a package of meat or dairy is simply a marketing ploy. People want to feel good about themselves, they don’t want to feel guilty. Especially if they, like most people, consider themselves to be ‘conscious’ or ‘ethical’ consumers. The industry knows this and so with the use of clever packaging and romantic farm animal pictures, they continue to sell you cruelty and line their pockets with your dollars (the only part of the process that’s green).

Factory farming is the worst of the worst in terms of sustainability and animal cruelty. 98% of the meat, milk, and eggs sold in America comes from animals raised on factory farms (CAFOs).**** CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations) are animal hell. Cows are packed by the thousands into small caged lots, they are not allowed to move around (so as not to burn calories and get fat as fast as possible), they spend their days eating corn and defecating and urinating where they stand. Cows are the worst producers of methane via belches and farts. Methane is a greenhouse gas 21x more powerful than carbon dioxide* and stays in the ozone longer than CO2.

“Trying to regulate climate change without touching the meat industry is like trying to curb the obesity crisis without confronting, well, the meat industry.” -Neal Barnard, M.D.*

Cows are forced to eat corn, which is not their natural diet of grass. This results in e.Coli (see¬†Food, Inc.). Cows are kept alive on a cocktail of antibiotics to keep infections and disease at bay, resulting in antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”, they are also injected with hormones to grow bigger, faster. A single bite of beef¬† contains: hormones, antibiotics, bacteria, and feces. There are only 60 major meat packing corporations in the ¬†U.S. who slaughter and produce 26 billion pounds of beef annually so every hamburger you eat contains parts from hundreds of different cows (many of them sick and diseased) all ground together.

For dairy cows, the suffering might be considered worse because they have to endure it longer as well as have baby after baby ripped away from them during their lifetime. First, consuming cow’s milk is highly unnatural. Cow’s milk is a fatty, hormonal secretion designed to grow a 65lb. calf to a 700lb. cow in a year. Cow’s milk contains huge quantities of the hormone estrogen because the mama cow was pregnant resulting in¬†yet another danger of consuming milk (Hello early puberty). People need to realize that dairy cows don’t naturally keep producing milk. Like humans, they lactate after pregnancy to feed their babies! In order to keep the cash cows pumping, the dairy industry artificially inseminates and manipulates cows to be continually pregnant and produce thousands of extra gallons of milk more than she regularly would! Over time, this increased strain results in the cows’ udders becoming painfully enlarged. Their udders drag on the ground and become infected (mastitis) due to fecal matter and bacteria contamination.*** When their udders are hooked to the machines that pump milk, the feces and blood from her sores also gets into the liquid. (Not to mention the hormones and antibiotics!)

When the dairy cow no longer produces milk, she is sent to be slaughtered for meat. All the babies she had in her lifetime were ripped from her within a day or two. If they were males, they were sold and slaughtered for veal, or raised and slaughtered for beef. If they were female, they met the same fate as their mothers.

Naturally cows live into their late teens or about 20 years. On a “sustainable” family farm, cows are slaughtered at 23 months. Dairy cows are killed after 4 years.

Pigs and poultry aren’t treated any better. Chickens are squashed together in tiny cages. Their beaks are often cut (very painfully) which can result in infections. Their feet get cut from standing on the wire caging and they might even smother to death because of overcrowding. They are forced to grow so large so fast that their legs aren’t strong enough to hold them up when they near their peak weight. Meet-breed chickens are slaughtered at 42 days old. Egg-breed chickens are slaughtered at 18-20 months. We’ve all seen the footage of male baby chicks being ground up alive…they are useless to egg producers and get turned into chicken nuggets.

vegansidekick free range chickens

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The pigs…we can’t even do it the justice of¬†calling¬†the meat “pig” we have to call it pork, ham, bacon…they are fattened and slaughtered at just 7 months. Naturally, a pig can live over a decade. Pigs are intelligent, playful, and many people keep them as companion animals (pets)…I want to rescue one myself as soon as I am able to. When a female pig gives birth, her babies aren’t even allowed to suckle next to her….she’s in a cage and they reach her through the wire.

Globally, about 56 billion animals are slaughtered for food every year not including seafood (UN Food and Agriculture Org.). Every second, 1776 animals are killed.**

  • 15lbs. of grain= 1lb. of beef**
  • 3lbs. of grain= 1lb. of pork*

15 lbs. of grain could feed 10+ people for a day. 1 lb. of beef feeds four for dinner! Which sounds more economical and sustainable to you? There are 1 billion people who go hungry everyday on this planet. If we stopped planting 2/3 of our available agricultural land to crops that feed farm animals and instead redirected our resources to plant food for humans, we could feed 12-13 billion people.

82% of the world’s starving children live in countries where grain is grown to feed animals consumed by wealthier people.

As well, globally the meat and dairy industries use 1/3 of all the fresh water available in the world today! 1 in 6 people (1.1 billion) currently go without access to fresh drinking water.

“Ethical” Meat:

Does such a thing even exist? First, intentional slaughter of animals is an¬†example of¬†speciesism when we value some members of a species¬†above others. There is nothing ethical about slaughtering and eating cows, pigs, and chickens without batting an eye…”humane” death is still death. ‘Grass-fed’, ‘Family-owned’, ‘free-range’, ‘ethical’, are even¬†more¬†unsustainable than the cruel practices of factory farming.

All alternative methods of raising farm animals are more time intensive and resource intensive. All the environmental problems and health ills caused by conventional animal agriculture still occurs with alternative methods of meat production: waste of land, waste of water, production of greenhouse gases, and animal suffering (they are still slaughtered). “Beef per pound still has an extremely unsustainable carbon footprint and uses an inordinate amount of water. No ethical meat will be good for the environment.”*****

Breeding and raising animals only to kill them and end their life prematurely is still morally wrong.

For the final nail in the coffin: ethical meat is¬†expensive.¬†If the govt. stopped subsidizing the grain we feed to the animals then conventional meat and dairy prices would skyrocket. Suddenly, the argument that a vegan diet is expensive doesn’t seem to hold water.

Conclusion:

  • Factory farmed animal products are the result of suffering and only persist due to consumer demand (misinformed or uneducated) and profitability.
  • Meat is artificially cheap. Where has our moral code gone if we have forgotten that all life is priceless?
  • Ethical meat is an unsustainable ideal that is still environmentally destructive and morally wrong.
  • Go vegan. You’ll be happier living in alignment with your values.

Sources:

*¬†Barnard, Neal, M.D.¬†Huffington Post Green Blog, “Cows–Not Coal–Are the Real Climate Change Culprits”, updated August 25, 2014.

**Moby.¬†Huffington Post The World Post, “Save the Humans“, updated Sept. 30, 2014.

***Pierre, John.¬†Mind Body Green,¬†The Sour Facts About Milk: What Every Parent Needs to Know“, Sept. 19, 2013.

****Doane, Beth.¬†Living Green Magazine,¬†How Cows Kill Rainforests: The Flip-Side of An All-Beef Patty“, Feb. 07, 2013.

*****Chituc, Vlad.¬†TIME blog, “The Case Against Eating Ethically-Raised Meat“, Oct. 2, 2014.