Category Archives: Community

Vegan heroes

I would like to congratulate The Guardian. I don’t know who wrote this article because I couldn’t find the name of the author, but congrats to her/him as well.

A story about an Italian baby who was malnourished by his parents has been the source of so much negative press from big media, and even independent media is struggling to cover it from an unbiased, fact-driven perspective, because the parents happen to be vegan.

The Young Turks kind of tried, but fell way short. (Cenk Uygur seems close to getting it, but he’s obviously blocking himself from having to make this massive shift. I know he could make the connection if he wanted to because I was once exactly where he is right now.)

The reason I’m impressed with this writer for The Guardian is that it’s so much easier, at this point in time, to go with a sensationalist headline  – something about vegan parents = child abuse – than to write a positive piece about the health and nutritional benefits of raising children vegan.

And major kudos to the mothers who were willing to share their stories with the press at  a time when they might legitimately fear negative backlash. They are today’s heroes!

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Is veganism unnatural? What we can learn from children.

goat-1137852_640Sometimes unlearning is as important as learning. It is for this reason adults can benefit so much from listening to children, and from keeping in touch with our own childhood instincts.

How many children have the experience of realizing where “meat” comes from, and feeling horrified? (I know I did!) How many parents have had that conversation with your own kids? What did you tell them? What was said to you when you had that experience as a child?

We teach our children that what they’re feeling is unjustified, and we tell them what was told to us, which is that it’s natural & necessary for us to kill animals for food. How natural can it possibly be if we have to convince kids of it? What, then, does ‘natural’ mean? We tell them they have to grow up & toughen up, obstructing their natural instinct to be compassionate. I initially ended that sentence with “…compassionate toward all animals” but then I realized that might give you the impression that it only impedes compassion toward all animals, when, in fact, it impedes compassion, period. Many adults no longer have the emotional connection that would allow them to feel pain on behalf of animals – to care about their suffering. This emotional connection is called empathy, and it must be lost in order to be seen as a “mature” person. (This is probably part of why vegans are so commonly ridiculed.) Often, the first place that children are taught not to practice empathy is in their food choices.

Do you not find it incredibly bizarre that one of the first signs of psychopathy in children and the possibility of future violence toward other humans is cruelty toward animals, but at the same time we actively and passively teach children that killing and dismembering animals is okay, as long as it’s only certain animals, and only for food – oh, no, wait – for sport, too. What’s the difference between the “psychopathic” child’s and the “normal” adult’s behavior? Tell me again, I forgot.

Have you ever had to convince a (mentally stable) child that they should care about animals? Of course not! Even the vast majority of adults care about animals in general. The difference is that young children still see all animals as they are – equal, while adults have been socially conditioned to accept the disconnect between caring about and eating animals. See, humans are really good at categorizing. We learn to categorize animals into emotional/intelligent/pet and senseless/stupid/beast, allowing us to treat the 2 categories differently. longhorn-cattle-754741_640What we need to unlearn is this categorization, and what we need to learn from the instincts of children is that the ability to experience pain and suffering and loss is the same for a cow and a dog and a pig and an elephant and a human. Bovine mothers scream and cry and try to chase down the culprit when their babies are stolen from them, just like human mothers. That is what I mean by loss: the pain suffered when a loved one is gone.

And for those of you who are wondering why we should care, why it matters whether we feel empathy for animals, perhaps needing a slightly more anthropocentric reason, consider this:

Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.           ~ Thomas Edison

and this:

For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.                  ~ Pythagoras

We hide the reality of our treatment of animals behind a facade of pretty packaging because, well, better out of sight out of mind just in case some of us have some empathy left. But if we showed that truth to our children – all our children – the world would turn vegan practically overnight.

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For more information, read this published study: Stewart & Cole 2009 – The conceptual separation of food and animals in childhood.

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Eat like every bite counts

My vegan journey has inspired me to start a new blog, in addition to making a fresh start in this one.

food-1283181_640A very important part of this journey has been watching any & every video on nutritionfacts.org (among many others, of course), and reading Dr. Greger’s book How Not to Die, (link in the sidebar). The purpose of my new blog is to help you Eat Like Every Bite Counts. I make daily meal plans that help you ensure that you’re getting all the nutrition you need to be healthy by checking off every box of Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen. It’s a list of 12 things, and the number of servings for each, that we should all get daily. There are 10 different food categories, plus drinks, plus exercise. In my new blog, Eat like every bite counts, I focus on the food, and leave you to manage your own drinks and exercise.

When I first started trying to incorporate all the different categories of food in the appropriate number of servings into my diet daily, I found it to be challenging, time-consuming, and a bit overwhelming in general. Trying to find 3 recipes per day that fit snugly into the Daily Dozen while incorporating a healthy variety of grains, fruits & vegetables is a bit like solving a Rubik’s cubecube-457549_640. At times, I would have strange pairings left over by the end of the day, like one serving of beans and one serving of nuts – not exactly what you’d normally want for a dessert, unless you have some vegan red bean (adzuki) ice cream lying around, in which case you’re right on track! My goals with Eat like every bite counts are to help you through the transition process with, hopefully, far less trouble than I had, and to make it easier, for those of you with little spare time, to manage the change for the benefit of your, and your family’s, health & well-being.

The blog is in its infancy, and there’s a lot of improvements I plan to make, but it will all take a little bit of time. I’ll be happy to receive suggestions and requests, as well!

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click image to visit Eat like every bite counts

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Every bite counts: Parts 3 & 4.

Part 3. The People.

staples-2752_640Feeding the world is easy, and we don’t need Monsanto to do it. Did you know that there’s enough crop land in the United States alone to feed 10 billion people? One country could potentially feed the entire global population. So, why aren’t we? Because that only works if we’re not wasting our resources on animal agriculture in all its caloric inefficiency.

One acre of land can produce 40,000 lbs of potatoes, but only 250 lbs of meat.

One acre of legumes produces 10 times more protein than an acre devoted to animals raised for their meat.

70% of the grains produced in the U.S. go to feeding animals raised for food, instead of being grown for people. 80% of the world’s hungry children live in countries with food surpluses, but that food is exported to wealthier countries in order to feed animals that will be used for food. It doesn’t get more unjust than that. “Growing grain for feed instead of food may be humanity’s greatest evil yet.”

Artist: Lovis CorinthThose are all issues that you’ll hear every vegan raise. There is, I feel, a missed opportunity in the vegan movement – people that almost never get mentioned in the discussion on the human victims of this system: slaughterhouse employees. I start out with the assumption that most people who work in slaughterhouses do so because it’s the only, or one of the only, options open to them. This will be the topic of another post in the future. For the moment, suffice it to say that one of the first signs of psychopathy in children is harming animals, so why is it considered normal for someone to kill (certain) animals as an adult? Only because we don’t think about it. Society sweeps that bit under the carpet. Many slaughterhouse workers develop serious mental disorders, including PTSD, from the work that they do, and U.S. communities with slaughterhouses have 166% increase in arrests for rape compared to those without them. It is NOT normal.

The next time you buy a piece of meat, just take a moment to wonder who you paid to kill it for you and what kind of effect your demand for that piece of meat might be having on someone else’s mental health.

Part 4. The Animals.

sheep-451981_640To be honest, this is a much more important issue for me now than it was when I first decided to change to a vegan lifestyle. The environmental and health factors were enough. But, since I’m no longer emotionally invested in the ramifications of being a meat, dairy, & egg consumer, I’ve been able to mentally shine a light on those aspects of consuming animal products that were just too disturbing and painful for me to really evaluate while I was still participating in them. For anyone who has shut off that portion of your ability to deal rationally with the consequences of your actions – I get it!

Empathy is a difficult skill to develop and use because it requires that we open ourselves up to feeling pain and sorrow on behalf of others, and most of us have enough trouble dealing with our own suffering without adding to the burden. In this particular case, it also opens us up to feeling guilt, which is an unpleasant but necessary step on this path. Just remember, pain, physical or emotional, exists in order to help us avoid unhealthy behaviors.

It just doesn’t make sense that we love our dogs and cats like members of our own families, and recognize their individual personalities and their rights as living beings, while treating others as products. There’s some massive cognitive dissonance there, and it takes time to be able to confront that. If you haven’t yet watched anything like the documentary Earthlings, then whatever you imagine the treatment of these animals to be like, you can start by multiplying the horror by 10 to even get close. More than 2000 years ago, Pythagoras said,”For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap the joy of love.”

In the end, I realized that living as a vegan is the only way for me to align my actions with my ethics.

Save yourself. Save the planet. Save the human race. Save the animals. Go vegan.

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Energy Consumption Update

Slightly more than half of the world’s population is under the age of 30. That means most of the people alive on this planet right now will live to see the end of oil. ETA: 42 years if consumed at current rates. I’m 34. If I’m lucky (or unlucky) enough to live to 75, I could spend the last years of my life in the midst of an apocalypse. Not a cheering thought, I know. But I’d be one of the lucky ones. Anyone younger than me will just have more devastating years to look forward to, unless we take serious steps to minimize our dependence on oil. The image below contains global figures.

Image from Oct 1, 2013, – for real-time info, go to http://www.worldometers.info/

The U.S. is one of the worst offenders, partly because of our size, and partly because of our policies and politics. The latter are inexcusable, but they are also changeable. Given the past decade of discussions, denials, progress, regress, posturing and palm-greasing, you’ll forgive me if I’m not overly optimistic.  Our sustained lack of ability, as a people, as a culture, to make real progress on this life-threatening issue is disturbing in the extreme.

Energy consumed in the US

So why do I care? Because nothing I do matters…nothing anyone does or ever has done matters, not Plato, not Shakespeare, not Madame Curie, not Stephen Hawking, not Bob Dylan, not Noam Chomsky, not Neil deGrasse Tyson, not Salman Rushdie, not you, if we don’t fix THIS problem.

If there was ever a time to act, it’s now. You may have to make some sacrifices, but they will be worthwhile.

The Trouble with Antibiotics

The World Health Organization published an admonishment in 2012, called ‘The evolving threat of antimicrobial resistance – Options for action.’ It’s been largely ignored by policy-makers in the United States, but it’s time we start paying attention, because our behavior is contributing in a big way to this threat, and it will affect people all over the world, including ourselves.

A recent study by the CDC (who is also being ignored by the policy-makers, by the way) found that there is a link between use of antibiotics in livestock and antimicrobial resistance in human infections. The study also put a number on them for the first time – more than 23,000 deaths and well over 2 million antibiotic-resistant infections in one year. You can read an article on the report here.

You may have heard people talking, perhaps on the news, about how we need to scale back on our use of antibiotics for our own ailments – true, they are over-prescribed, but that tactic completely misses 70% of the antibiotics used the U.S., which go to livestock. The way animals are raised in feedlots is bad bad bad for a number of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with animal rights. It’s bad for us, too.

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So how did E. coli, which grows in the guts of some animals, like cows, get on your spinach? I’ll give you a hint…

Animals raised in crowded conditions are far more likely to get sick, so they’re fed a constant low-level stream of antibiotics, some of which are also used to treat human infections. That constitutes the perfect condition for bacteria and other microbes to rapidly (in evolutionary terms) develop resistance to the antibiotics. The reason they can develop resistance so quickly is partly because they can pass on resistant genes within a generation via plasmid exchange (i.e. direct cell-to-cell contact). This is a quote from the article linked to above:

“The link between overuse of antibiotics in livestock and microbial resistance has been suspected since the 1960s, but Congress, at the behest of the pharmaceutical and livestock industries, has blocked efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to scale back their use.”

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I’d say that’s far too long a time to allow this dangerous behavior to continue, and we’re now reaching a moment in history that could have devastating effects for future generations, and even during our own lifetimes.  Here are a few of the recommendations that the WHO makes in their document:

4. USE OF ANTIMICROBIALS IN FOOD-PRODUCING ANIMALS
4.1 Require obligatory prescriptions for all antimicrobials used for disease control in food animals.
4.2 In the absence of a public health safety evaluation, terminate or rapidly phase out the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion if they are also used for treatment of humans.
4.3 Create national systems to monitor antimicrobial usage in food animals.
4.4 Introduce pre-licensing safety evaluation of antimicrobials with consideration of potential resistance to human drugs.
4.5 Monitor resistance to identify emerging health problems and take timely corrective actions to protect human health.
4.6 Develop guidelines for veterinarians to reduce overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in food animals.
5. NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS AND HEALTH SYSTEMS
5.1 Make the containment of antimicrobial resistance a national priority.

(The evolving threat of antimicrobial resistance – full text pdf of the WHO document)

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If we look at the big picture, we can easily see how devastating it will be if bacteria and other microbes that infect humans and animals develop resistance to multiple antibiotics (what we call ‘superbugs’). It would set medicine back significantly – the risk of infection would be far too high, making routine surgeries and other invasive procedures, down to the simple catheter, fraught with danger.

That is not the world I want to live in. One more reason to support local, organic, and rethink our entire food system. One more reason to be vegan. One more reason to be active in voicing opposition to a corrupt Congress.

The Monsanto Protection Act

We’re Not Done Fighting.

The Farmer Assurance Provision, as it’s titled in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, was passed by the Senate in March 2013, and remains in effect for 6 months. That means it’s set to expire this month (September 2013). Do you think Monsanto is going to let it expire? Do you think they want another public outcry against their provision? I’m guessing no, and no. It’s rational to expect that they’ll try to sneak in another provision somewhere without too many people finding out about it.

Guess what: they already have!

Good thing we have the Center for Food Safety to inform us, but even they only found out after the fact. On September 10th, the House passed a 3-month appropriations bill which included an extension of the Monsanto Protection Act. Shame on the Senate Appropriations Committee. The good news is, it’s only for 3 months, and we can continue to voice dissent and try to ensure that this doesn’t continue.

As the CFS website puts it, “the rider represents an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review, which is an essential element of U.S. law and provides a critical check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods.” This provision essentially grants immunity to Monsanto, regardless of decisions by the judicial system that would otherwise impair the company’s ‘right to profit.’

You can read about the 5 Terrifying Things to Know about the Monsanto Protection Act, and get involved. Join the March Against Monsanto that will be taking place on October 12th, call your state representatives, and inform others about this vitally important issue! Click on the image below to learn more.

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