Saturday, December 22, 2007

The 100 mile mistletoe

My Christmas message is over on the cycling blog if anyone wants to see the snowman I made today!

I bought my brother-in-law a book by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon called The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. I was leafing through it this morning, and came across a few interesting things:

One thing I learned was that the University of British Columbia, in downtown Vancouver, operates a community farm!
The Farm is a student-driven initiative where students, faculty, staff, and the local community have been working together to create a place where anyone can come to learn, live and value the connection between land, food and community.

The UBC Farm is a 24 hectare teaching, research, and community farm located on the University of British Columbia's Campus in Vancouver, Canada. As the only working farmland within the city of Vancouver, the UBC Farm is an urban agrarian gem, featuring a landscape of unique beauty.

That is so cool. I'm going to push for my university's new campus to have a community farm!!!

I also found a couple interesting facts about food industrialization: although it is ironic enough that industrial agriculture sprang out of World War Two military innovations, and while we know that, on many fronts, industrial agriculture is ruinous for the planet (especially the meat industry), did you more specifically know the following?
a) due to the industrial farm movement, and the "which crop will make me the most money?" thought-process, of the 463 varieties of radish indexed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the early 20th century, 436 of them are now extinct?!!?
b) Twenty species of plant account for 90% of the food consumed in the world!! (If you read this book though, and learn what we've done with soy and corn, this isn't actually that surprising).

Aside from those neat facts, there are some thoughts about being vegetarian while trying to eat locally, and what you do for protein when you can not find a supply of chick peas, lentils and tofu within a 100 mile radius. I won't tell you what answers they found to this problem, but I am going to repeat some of their reasons for being vegetarian - familiar enough to anyone reading this blog, but well enough written to bear repeating:

"The decision (to go veggie) was not rooted in any unusual squeamishness about killing animals. What we chose to reject was our species' capacity to disregard life... We never will accept the idea that animals can be treated like machines that produce meat, milk, and eggs. We are equally troubled by the fact that meat production monopolizes the world's scarce agricultural land. It takes fourteen pounds of corn for a cow to gain one pound of edible meat - a fattening technique developed by industrial feedlots that goes against cows' biology; they evolved to eat only grasses. Meanwhile, cows and other livestock hog half the corn grown in America, while 800 million people go hungry worldwide."

To everyone eating tofu and chick peas this holiday season, have a great Christmas!!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sexual politics of meat substitutes

I was playing around in a phd database today, and found one called The Sexual Politics of Meat Substitutes by Gregory James Flail, who was at Georgia State University, and finishing his phd in 2006.

Gregory, I'm sorry if I mess this up, but I think this is how his work can be summarized:

Following Carol Adam's The Sexual Politics of Meat, Gregory decided to analyze veggie "meat" packaging, and advertisements, to see how the mass media portrays vegans, to see if "veggie" meat advertising was really any different from regular meat advertising, and to see if mass media representations of veggie meat did anything to fight the masculine "meat is power" stereotype common in society.

Here is the first sentence of his dissertation, which I think is the best start to a phd ever:
Lately, while cruising through Sevananda, my local health food store, I find myself thinking about sex toys, not for the usual reasons, but rather as cultural artifacts, because every few weeks I see ever-greater varieties of fake flesh adorning the shelves of the refrigerated aisle – much more imitation flesh than one would likely encounter at any of the local sex shops.

And here are some other good thoughts:

But, perhaps, vegetarians will be the eventual losers in the battle of image politics, as market ploys convince ever-increasing numbers of consumers that meat analogs are what you’re supposed to eat when becoming vegetarian. When accompanied by the familiar imagery of the meat-centered western meal, the terms “vegetarian” and “vegan” seem less radical, much less likely to call to mind the imagery of the slaughterhouse that makes them threatening to tradition in the first place. For the carnivorous shopper who happens upon products like Now & Zen’s UnSteak, whose mascot is a smiling cartoon cow, or The Wide World of Soy’s Tofurky, which boasts new features like imitation wish-sticks and pseudo giblet gravy, the meat analog seems designed specifically to override the negative connotation of vegetarian fare as that which wantonly lacks meat; and yet these products tend to suggest very little about why it might be beneficial to stop thinking of animals as tasty objects and start thinking of them as sentient beings with whom we share the planet. Meaty imagery serves to reassure carnivorous shoppers that their tastes are indeed correct and that all people, even those who avoid animal-based foods, are somehow biologically predisposed to preferring them. This carnivore-friendly conception of vegetarianism, which we might call veggie-lite, fails to address the issues that have inspired so many people to embrace diets that are not only delectable and delicious on their own terms, but also animalfriendly, environmentally-friendly, and nutritionally-complete.

Despite cranky vegetarian critiques like this one, manufacturers of meat analogs make huge profits from their depoliticized versions of vegetarianism, even as their companies get bought up by huge food conglomerates whose other product lines are anything but vegetarian-friendly. The increasing effectiveness of their advertising and the success of their meat analog products serves first to emphasize just how much our culture fetishizes animal-based foods, second how much consumers are beginning to realize that their continued health depends on finding alternatives to dominant dietary paradigms, and third how enduring our powers of denial can be when faced with the fact that our taste for meat analogs is derived almost entirely from our nostalgia for the belief that killing, dismembering, and eating animals is the healthiest, tastiest, and most natural course for all concerned. If meat analogs could somehow manage to displace animal-based foods as the focal point of the western diet, they just might end up doing as much for vegetarianism as the dildo does for lesbianism.

The fact is... some men are willing to try meatless meals. Furthermore, when they are represented as heterosexual, monogamous, and “family-oriented” men, the
suggestion is that carno-phallogocentrism can be revised at an infrastructural level. If fathers and husbands can be vegetarian or, gasp, even vegan, then the potential for entire families to follow such a diet is more easily realized. Such ads have some
serious implications for the sexual politics of meat because they not only suggest that men can go meatless, but also that vegetarian and vegan men are not necessarily gay, queer, or effeminate, and that, for all appearances, they have normative sexual relation with women. I’m not suggesting that male vegetarians and vegans should breed themselves into predominance, but, more simply, that the marketplace in trying to capitalize on a strange “new” foodway has inadvertently created a new stereotype: the vegetarian patriarch.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Lentils, stirred, not shaken

Jen very kindly asked me to be a contributor to Sporty Vegans, and I did my first post over there a little while ago. If the bunch of us ever met up and did a ride together I think I'd be the slowpoke of the bunch, but hopefully I'll be able to contribute some good posts over there.


My superstar partner flipped through How it all Vegan! and whipped off Auntie Bonnie's Lively Lentil Stew today. It's going down as a "Anna Really Likes" and "Chris Likes" in our grading system.


So we ate the lentil stew, and then played guitar a little bit, and then both wanted dessert, so Anna grabbed Joy of Vegan Baking: Compassionate cooks' traditional treats and sinful sweets. And we made Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes.


Joy of Vegan Baking also has some nice veggie jabs in it... i.e. the discussion of the calcium which is in milk. Calcium is a mineral which comes from the ground, and which cows get because they eat grass.
"Ah ha!" a veggie animal activist thinks - "how many cows eat grass anymore??" Good question, almost none of them do, instead they get that slurry of liquefied fat that the factory farms feed them, and the factory farms have to add artificial calcium to the feed to actually make the cow's milk have any calcium when it eventually gets sold to us.

Lesson? Eat the dark greens (broccoli etc) to get calcium yourself!


Ciao for now!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Wacky Belgian Psychologists

Life in Orillia has been pretty busy so far, and I haven't had much time to poke around looking for neat veggie studies in the journal databases I have access to - coming up with material like this.

I did find a slightly strange article in the International Journal of Psychology today though. (If you want the citation, it's 2007 42(3), pgs 158-165). The article is titled Implicit attitudes towards meat and vegetables in vegetarians and nonvegetarians and it was written by Jan De Houwer and Els De Bruycker from Ghent University in Belgium.

I'm going to VASTLY simplify the study which they conducted using 47 vegetarians and 49 nonvegetarians - a) because I don't really understand their full methods, and b) the more I try to explain what they did, the less amusing the study becomes, and so, rather than describe their research as an Implicit Association Test (IAT) run alongside an Extrinsic Affective Simon Task (EAST), I'll call their work the "YUCK!! GET THAT HAMBURGER AWAY FROM ME!!!!" study.

Basically, the participants were shown a bunch of pictures - happy babies, crying babies, sunsets, homeless life, vegetables and meat products etc - and were asked to press either a "negative" or a "positive" button depending on what sort of connotations the picture had for them. The two researchers were trying to provoke implicit attitudes towards meat - "Implicit attitudes can be defined as attitudes that are activated automatically, that is, when little time or process resources are available, when participants are unaware of the stimuli that activate the attitude."
So - although many vegetarians have logical reasons for their lifestyle... "Why don't you eat meat?" "Oh, you know, the animal cruelty thing is important to me, but it has also been well proven that meat farming is disastrous for the environment, and that vegetarians are much healthier than omnivores" - these guys were trying to zone in on instantaneous gut reactions towards pictures of meat.

Guess what the researchers found! "We demonstrated for the first time that vegetarians and nonvegetarians differ not only in their self-reported attitudes towards meat and vegetables, but also in their implicit attitudes towards these objects, that is, in the spontaneous, automatic affective reactions that these objects evoke.... the EAST results suggest that, compared to nonvegetarians, vegetarians have both a more negative implicit attitude towards meat and a more positive implicit attitude towards vegetables."

I just find this all amusing because I picture a bunch of vegetarians sitting at computers, seeing pictures of hamburgers and automatically associating the picture with a slaughtered cow, and hammering the negative "Dead Cow!! Dead Cow!!" button.

And actually, this study reminds me of the Joaquin Phoenix Veggie video on You Tube, where he stops dead in his tracks at the supermarket when he comes to the meat aisle.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

the meat (and wheat!) free bookclub

When I was in library school (full disclosure - I'm a librarian), a group of us organized a book club, which I used to blog about on this site. I gradually stopped updating that blog, and am now thinking I'll just post some "book club" thoughts on this blog.

And the reason that it fits with this blog is because we're a vegan, and mostly wheat free, group of bookworms.

Way back when we began, only three of us (Mark, Danielle and I) were vegetarian, and on book club nights we just ordered pizza. Then Annalise and I went vegan, and the group of us decided that we would turn book club into a pot-luck affair, and a vegan pot-luck to boot.

When Cindy gradually came to realize that she and wheat didn't get along very well, we took the "wheat-free" challenge upon ourselves (which isn't really that hard, as long as you have spelt in the house), and lo and behold we became a vegan and wheat free group of readers and cooks.

We had a meeting yesterday afternoon at Laura's place to discuss "A Spot of Bother" by Mark Hadden (general verdict - decent, but light, read). As the host, Laura made the main course, a vegan Sheppards pie (spelling?). I changed my plans at the last minute, and found myself surfing the net yesterday afternoon for a new dessert to make. I was initially very happy to find this meat free / wheat free blog, but the author uses lots of eggs and even fish so it wasn't going to work for me.
I eventually settled on these banana oat bundles, and with lots of help from Annalise, they turned out pretty good!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

beans and salad dressing

So when you read some of the veggie blogs, most notably Megan the Vegan, (and sometimes, when she writes about things like pumpkin bread, my girlfriends' blog), you cannot BELIEVE how delicious the meals they describe are, and when you're a guy like me, you cannot really comprehend how the meals are prepared.

I'm on my own up in Orillia at the moment. Annalise is still at our place in Toronto until early December, when she'll be moving up here. So that means I'm also preparing my own meals. I'm neither a good or a bad cook, I just don't have much patience for it. I tend to make an effort to learn one dish, and then just keep making it for weeks until finally I think I should try something different.

So - the point of this post is that even dumb males can be vegans if you're willing to pour salad dressing over canned beans and call it a meal. I googled "easy vegan bean salad" and the recipe pictured above was one of the first ones I found. It basically is beans covered in salad dressing. Incidentally I don't own a can-opener at the moment, ergo the Swiss Army knife in the above picture. I made a few alterations in the above recipe - I don't know what navy beans are so I just bought chick peas, and I really dislike celery so I used a red pepper instead, and I threw in some almonds and lemon juice as well.

And this is what I've been eating all week!! Fibre, protein and iron. Next time maybe I'll throw in some spinach as well for some of the health benefits of dark greens. So to bona fide cooks like Megan and our Veggie Triathlete (p.s. - the Rockies have a Canadian so I'm cheering for them) - this post isn't meant for you, but for all those clueless in the kitchen guys like me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Luck of the veg-head

It was really nice in Orillia today.


Orillia, my new hometown, is a smallish city of about 35 000 people, and Annalise and I were a little bit worried about what sort of vegetarian/vegan dining we were going to be able to find in our new town.


We decide to go to the town's main pub (there are several pubs here, but Brewery Bay is the "Cheers" of Orillia - the iconic one on the scenic main street), and when we opened up the menu we couldn't believe how many veggie options there were.


After gushing to our waitress about all the veggie alternatives, and the ability to substitute veggie "chicken" for regular meat, we learn that the owner and his entire family are all vegetarian, and therefore all the VegHead stuff.


Orillia otherwise doesn't seem to have much vegetarian cuisine on offer, though the supermarkets are well stocked with soy icecream etc etc. but thank god we at least have one place that we can go to and eat.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Canadian Thanksgiving

I apologize for the lack of blogging recently. I've taken a new job and am in the process of moving cities, so finding veggie and factory farming stories to write about hasn't been possible.

This weekend is thanksgiving in Canada, and for the first time in ages I commuted INTO Toronto, rather than out of it, on a long holiday weekend. So instead of being with my parents and siblings up north, or with Annalise's parents in Waterdown, we spent the weekend on our own in the city.

Thanksgiving dinner came out of Vegan Planet - Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas. Hopefully you can get the gist of the recipe from this photo (clicking to enlarge).

I'm not the biggest fan of sweet potatos, though I should mention that I'm not a very discerning eater and can eat the same meal for about a month without getting bored of it (which I'll probably be doing a lot of when I'm cooking all by myself up in Orillia until Annalise moves up in December).
But, these enchiladas were pretty yummy - we used mild salsa though, and I think I would have enjoyed them more if we'd had medium or hot salsa.

These are the enchiladas being prepared for the oven, and this is Annalise hiding behind the finished product.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair




Anna and I spent some time at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair today. I took some quick photos of random things as we walked around. I remember it being a lot busier last year, but maybe we just picked a good time to go.



Friday, August 31, 2007

Sound of Music

For those few of you who only visit this blog and don't check my "everything else" blog (which is supposed to be about cycling but wanders far off topic most of the time), you're missing some good (I think!) music to download.

Check the last two posts on Story of a bike and a stubborn cyclist for the links to the zipped music files.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Captain Caveman

While Krista is playing with sprouts and our triathlete continues to make delicious sounding meals like lemon blueberry waffles and tuscan bean polenta, I've been on my own for a week (girlfriend has been canoeing in Algonquin Park) and I've basically regressed into a single male's diet (although a vegan one). I started off well, eating the leftovers in the fridge, such as spinach salads with walnuts etc. But last night I was down to two veggie burgers and thank God Anna is back today because it might have come down to me eating all the sunflower seeds in the house, along with some raisins.

Thankfully I haven't fallen this far. I found an article in the Independent newspaper about the "caveman's diet." Basing his diet on some stuff he read by Arthur DeVaney, this Independent writer spent a month eating a Stone Age diet:
Rule of thumb: If you can't gather it from a bush or tree, or spear it, it's probably best not to eat it. What you can eat: Lean meat and fish. Fresh fruit and vegetables. Eggs. Dried fruit (without added sugar or vegetable oil). Nuts and seeds. What you can't eat: Sugars, grains (no oats, wheat, barley or rye, etc.), beans, peanuts (a bean, not a nut) and starchy vegetables (such as potatoes). Dairy products.

To the writer's credit, he quotes a few people like Dean Ornish who state that the emphasis on meat in this diet will lead to heart-disease, and he also mentions some interesting stuff about how all the refining that has happened to food over the last hundred or so years is what has actually caused such a massive drop in the quality of our food (and therefore an increase in illness).

I don't know - it sounds like a fairly good diet to me. I'd obviously switch the meat for the beans (and some B12 pills), but I can see it being healthy for you (though still terrible for the animals - I wonder if he tries to get free range/organic eggs & chicken etc).

At least it isn't like like Owsley Stanley's diet. Apparently this guy ONLY eats meat.
Stanley recently posted his seven rules for healthy eating on the Internet. They are:
* Eat only food from animals
* No vegetables
* Limit liver intake
* Avoid milk (except for butter and cheese)
* Eat as much fat as you like
* Don't cook your food much
* Avoid salt
Stanley had a heart attack in recent years, but he blames it on the broccoli and other"poisonous" vegetables his mother used to feed him as a boy.


P.S. - I noticed that the Independent has an entire section of their site (and maybe their print newspaper?) devoted to the environment. Well done dudes!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Book reviews

This is a pretty good review of several health/diet/food books that I found in the New York Times. The books aren't necessarily vegan/vegetarian, but are health-conscious, and even where they disagree with the "vegan is best" philosophy, at least it makes you think and (maybe) re-evaluate.

I've bolded the book titles and my favourite bits of the review.

The New Puritans By Holly Brubach
7 May 2006
The New York Times

We were already beating ourselves up about the damage we've done to our arteries. Now along comes The Ethical Gourmet: How to Enjoy Great Food That Is Humanely Raised, Sustainable, Nonendangered, and That Replenishes the Earth (Broadway Books), by Jay Weinstein, which would seem to offer all the fun of a guilt trip with a tour guide. Happily, Weinstein, a chef and an avid environmentalist, holds fire where the reader is concerned and reserves his scorn for the Bush administration, linking its cavalier disregard for our natural resources with its conviction that the rapture will occur any day now.

Weinstein is one of several agents for change publishing books this spring, and despite occasional differences of opinion, all are comrades in arms, on a mission to overhaul the way we think about food. Their message is not new, but it furthers a cause propounded most conspicuously by Alice Waters and the Slow Food movement, lately advanced by Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me, and dating all the way back to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry speak directly to our conscience in Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin), addressing the tired misconception that organic food is a luxury the human race can't afford. In What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating (North Point Press), Marion Nestle deconstructs the typical American supermarket from a nutritionist's point of view, elucidating the maddeningly convoluted means by which our options are determined. And Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Bloomsbury), by Nina Planck, poses a convincing alternative to the prevailing dietary guidelines, even those treated as gospel.

The righteous indignation is contagious. As a group, these authors document various aspects of the behind-the-scenes role that politics and big business have played in shaping our food supply. It's infuriating to read Nestle's account of the roadblocks that legislators and lobbyists erected to prevent Country of Origin Labeling (C.O.O.L.), a seemingly straightforward initiative that would allow consumers to know where the food they are buying was grown. And two years after C.O.O.L. went into effect, its implementation is still spotty. As evidence of secrecy and corruption on a scale that brings to mind the Mafia, Nestle cites the 1999 Congressional hearings convened to investigate "slotting fees," introduced in the 1980's "as a way for stores to cover the added costs of dealing with new products: shelving, tracking, inventory and removing products that do not sell." According to Nestle, the industry people who testified "were so afraid of retribution that they wore hoods and used gadgets to prevent voice recognition."

There is no shortage of appalling information here, and the authors all seem to acknowledge that change will come about only by hitting corporate America where it hurts, i.e., the bottom line. Lappe and Terry seem particularly ingenious in this regard. They report that the 10 extra pounds gained by the average American in the 1990's now require the airline industry to use 350 million more gallons of fuel per year, costing an additional $275 million. Their chart comparing food corporations to nations ranks the revenues of Nestle (Nestea, Lean Cuisine, Stouffer's, Butterfinger, KitKat, PowerBar) and Altria (Nabisco, Kraft, Maxwell House, Post, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Oscar Mayer) somewhere between the gross domestic products of the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria.

In the course of educating readers, the authors' personalities emerge. There is Nestle, the no-nonsense reporter, at pains to take into account all sides of the story; Weinstein, the evangelist whose zeal sets the tone for his relations with the reader; and Lappe and Terry, earnest New Age hippie types offering menus accompanied by playlists and poems by their friends. (Readers accustomed to a more literary diet should proceed directly to recipes.)

Of the group, it is Planck who is the most companionable. Her capacity for humor and self-deprecation makes for good company, and her intelligence and skepticism inspire confidence. To those who proscribe dairy products on the premise that milk was designed for newborn calves, not humans (a popular, if somewhat bizarre, argument), she retorts that a tomato was designed to make more tomato plants, not pasta sauce. Cataloging her own history, which spans a series of draconian regimens, including vegan, vegetarian, low fat, low saturated fat and low cholesterol, she labels one category "New Foods I Tried to Love" and lists "Various imitation foods made with soy and rice." Planck now eats and, even more outrageously, advocates grass-fed meat and whole dairy products.

Tracking changes in the American diet over the course of a hundred years, she notes that the three most common fats in 1990 -- soybean oil, canola oil and cottonseed oil -- were unknown in 1890. They are modern inventions. Whereas, she argues, "we've been eating animal fat for three million years." She avoids egg-white omelets and skim milk ("low-quality, incomplete foods") and contends that, where milk is concerned, butterfat facilitates protein digestion and contains the vitamins A and D required for calcium absorption. She recommends "traditional" milk -- raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized -- from grass-fed cows, as opposed to those fattened on grain.

Fat, cholesterol, carbs, red meat -- none of these, Planck contends, is the problem. Instead, she lays the blame on chemicals and industrial food, including "new" fats, many of which are often hydrogenated. Industrial food, she says, is to blame for the steep rise in rates of disease, especially heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Planck arrives at this incendiary conclusion via Darwin and research into Stone Age eating habits, which flies in the face of widespread myths and confirms that, contrary to popular assumptions, humans used to be more carnivorous, not less. "I doubt that foods we've eaten for millions of years cause cancer," she writes.

Though all these experts challenge the existing order, their advice is often contradictory. Nestle, for instance, questions the premise that a diet high in calcium is best for building bone density, but ratifies current advice to curtail fats and cholesterol. Weinstein suggests albacore tuna as an environmentally responsible choice, but Nestle cautions specifically against it for its high content of methylmercury. Planck suggests soaking dried beans before cooking them; Weinstein insists that this is unnecessary in most cases. And Lappe and Terry endorse cooking with canola oil, one of the very fats that Planck abhors.

Never mind. The zeal that animated sit-ins and antiwar protests in the 1960's hasn't died; it's gone underground, fostering small-scale, sustainable agriculture that undermines industrial food's hegemony. The "Think globally, eat locally" message comes across loud and clear, and these books provide invaluable online resources for information and hard-to-find "real food." Even the most cynical readers will come away from these books determined to change some aspect of their diets, and many people -- I, for one -- may resolve to revamp their eating habits completely. Radical as Planck's ideas may be, the case she makes for them strikes me as eminently sensible. I consider myself an enlightened eater, but when I finished her book, I threw out half the contents of my refrigerator, including the soy-based fake bacon bits, the tofu hot dogs and the nonfat sour cream. That was a few weeks ago. It is, I guess, a measure of the extent to which I've bought into all these years of nonfat propaganda that I'm still working up the nerve to eat the skin on my chicken.

Friday, August 3, 2007

all creatures great and small

It is the August long weekend here in Canada, and my girlfriend and I, and our friend Cindy, are off to my parents' place in Bancroft to hang with them and my younger brother and my sister and her husband.

I love going home, but I have to be increasingly careful about shooting my mouth off around the non-vegetarians (my brother is mostly vegetarian, my sister and her husband are David Suzuki fans and try to go meatless a couple days of the week for environmental reasons, but my parents are still the same as they ever were).

Basically I'm trying not to be one of those loud and vocal vegan/vegetarians who can't let a moment go by without saying something insulting about the practice of eating meat.

For example, my sister recently posted some photos on facebook of her vacation in Cuba, and she had a few photos where she was swimming with dolphins.
So in a subsequent email I said "Hey Leeyann, did you know that 100 000 dolphins a year get killed by the fishing industry, and in fact that 1/3 of all the fish hauled out of the ocean are promptly thrown back in - dead - because they weren't the type of fish the trawler was going for?"

So I don't need to be doing that all the time, but in my own defense, when you've read all the stuff I (and probably we) have, it's sometimes hard for your brain not to make a connection between one inocuous thing (i.e. songbirds) and factory farming, and to then shoot your mouth off about it. I came across a book today about how all the songbirds are dying away, and since my mom loves birds and has two birdfeeders in the front yard, I'll probably mention it to her, and then try to stop from saying something like "by the way, eating meat is killing the planet and killing the songbirds."

I wonder why it is so easy for some of us to read the literature, understand what is happening, and decide to make a life change, and so hard for others to even contemplate doing this?

P.S. I'm curious about reading this book sometime. Apparently Kingsolver and family, while remaining anti-factory farm, do give up the vegetarianism. I suppose the argument will be on the "happy life / quick and humane death" side, and I'd like to see how she describes coming to this decision.

Have a good weekend everyone. Enjoy the quinoa and the beans and the soy/frozen fruit shakes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Recipe from Krista

Krista over at Veggin Out put a recipe up on her blog for kind of a salad using beets and apples. I don't know why, but the idea of a beet/apple salady thing really appealed to me, so my girlfriend and I made it this weekend.
It is totally simple to make (basically you shred some vegetables and mix them together), but the only problem with it is that beets are prone to stain everything they touch.

Check Krista's page for the recipe. We followed her lead and used the optional Bulgar as well. And though I'm the kind of guy who does NOT consider a salady thing to be a meal (more something that you eat AFTER the meal) this salad totally filled me up.

And this below is just a random shot of me eating a strawberry / brown sugar sherbert thing that Annalise made for dessert. : )

Friday, July 20, 2007

Life with the soy bean

So most of you probably didn't know that in my professional life (i.e. when I'm not biking, reading, writing, blogging, or watching LOST and the OFFICE) I'm an academic librarian.

This means that I'm pretty happy doing research and scanning lists of journal articles and trying to see if they're any good or not for the research I'm doing. But - I really really hate science lingo. I mean for God's sake - what do these things mean?

23. Characterization of flax fiber reinforced soy protein resin based green composites modified with nano-clay particles in Composites Science and Technology (August 2007)

24. Protective Effect of Soy Isoflavones and Activity Levels of Plasma Paraoxonase and Arylesterase in the Experimental Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Model in Digestive Diseases and Sciences 52.8 (August 2007)

25. Analysis of ethyl carbamate in Korean soy sauce using high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection or tandem mass spectrometry and gas chromatography with mass spectrometry. in Food Control (August 2007)

Stupid scienticians.

Anyway, I've seen some fairly weird stories about soy recently and have been trying to do what a good librarian does - i.e. find out what the experts are saying about soy (through academic journals) rather than what any idiot with a blog is saying about soy on the internet.

So far I can't find anything all that conclusive about soy being good or bad, though I think that the needle points a bit more to the good side than the bad side. There's no proof, for example, that soy estrogens negatively effect testosterone in men, and there is some proof that soy reduces prostate cancer in men.

Some more readable things I found in the news databases are the following:

The scoop on soy: Breathe easy. Tofu and other products made from the humble soybean are far from harmful 21 March 2007 The Calgary Herald

Soy has been touted as a miracle food. But it's also been dragged through the nutritional mud as an over-hyped product that does more harm than good.

"There's so much confusion about soy," says Mark Messina, who holds a PhD in nutrition and is president of Port Townsend, Wash.-based Nutrition Matters, a consulting company.

He has studied the health effects of soy for almost 20 years and says there is so much information floating around that it's no wonder confusion reigns. As far as he's concerned, soy is just fine.

"For the most part, the evidence shows that soy is totally safe."

"Soy foods are low in saturated fat, they contain a lot of dietary fibre and they're an excellent source of protein," says Carole Dobson, a registered dietitian with Calgary-based Health Stand Nutrition Consulting.

So what's the worry? The controversy stems from a bioactive compound found in soybeans, called isoflavones. Some people are concerned about isoflavones because they're a hormone-like compound.

"They have some estrogen-like effects," says Messina. "But they are much different than the hormone estrogen and probably are very selective on what tissues they affect."

"There's just absolutely no effect of soy on testosterone levels," he says. "The few studies that have looked at semen quality in men have not found any adverse effects, as well."
[Concerning soy causing] accelerated puberty in girls, reproductive problems and increased difficulty getting pregnant - there has been no conclusive scientific research to prove this.

"There's no actual study that links soy intake in men or women with specific negative health results," says Dobson.

If anything, eating soy may help slow the onset of puberty because it is low in saturated fat.

Are Canadians Jumping For Soy? 1 May 2007 Canada NewsWire
New Study Shows Most Canadians in the Dark on Soy Health Benefits

Experts have been buzzing about super-foods and the array of health benefits they offer, but are consumers listening? A recent survey showed 62 per cent of Canadians had never consumed a soy beverage. Of those respondents, over half (57 per cent) are in the dark when it comes to the health and nutritional benefits of soy - one of the most hotly touted super-foods. Additionally, 16 per cent of respondents indicated they think soy tastes bad.

Yet, of the one-third of Canadian households that have tried soy beverages and the 15 per cent that drink it on a regular basis, 27 per cent drink soy beverages because they enjoy the taste, while more than half (52 per cent) indicated they consume soy beverages for their health benefits.

"The latest edition of Canada's Food Guide recommends soy beverages as part of a healthy diet. Not only does soy help lower cholesterol, but it could also aid in the prevention of heart disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers," said Diana Steele, a registered dietitian who recommends soy beverages as a healthy and nutritious option. "But it's obvious from this survey many Canadians don't know exactly why soy is so good for them or why it would be on the list of super-foods."

Despite experts touting soy's health and nutrition benefits there are also a number of myths currently in circulation that might be adding to consumer confusion. "Once they can get accurate information on soy, such as from a registered dietitian, and myths are dispelled, Canadians will be able to make informed decisions about soy beverages," added Steele.

The Myths

1. Soy has no effect on cancer. Actually, several recent scientific
studies have shown regular intake of soy foods and beverages could
help prevent breast, prostate, and colon cancer(1). The cancer
protective effects from soy are due to the group of natural plant
elements known as isoflavones.

2. Soy is not an adequate source of protein. Only one per cent of non-soy
beverage drinkers surveyed know soy is a good source of protein. In
fact, compared to other legumes, soy offers the best quality of
protein. Soy protein contains enough of all the essential amino acids,
such as methionine, to meet a person's nutritional needs when consumed
at recommended levels.

3. Soy has no impact on heart health. Soy protein plays an important role
in a heart healthy diet. Rich in polyunsaturated fats and low in
saturated fats, some soy beverages also include dietary fibre and key
vitamins and minerals, such as calcium (if enriched) and potassium.
The consumption of 25 grams of soy protein a day, in conjunction with
an otherwise healthy diet, lowers plasma cholesterol, which has been
shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease(2).

4. Soy is high in Estrogen and can reduce fertility in men. Some people
have speculated that phytoestrogens - naturally found in soy foods -
can reduce fertility in men. However, there is no evidence that
fertility is affected when men eat or drink soy as part of their
regular diet.

Anyway - it looks like soy is fine, despite the weird stories your friends might email to you. And even if it turns out that we can't eat soy, at least we can wear soy underwear.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Just ask this scientician

"Don't you realize you've just been brainwashed by corporate propaganda!?"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

J.M. Coetzee (and a little on KFC)

I just finished The Lives of Animals by J.M. Coetzee - winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and a two time winner of the Booker Prize.

Lives of Animals is interesting. Coetzee was asked in 1997 to give the Tanner Lectures at Princeton. He agreed, but instead of talking about literature, he wanted to talk about animal rights. But, he didn't want to get up at the podium and do the vegan "I accuse you of...!" shame on everyone else routine. So instead, he created a fictional character named Elizabeth Costello and wrote two short stories about how Elizabeth was invited to a certain university to give talks, and how she chose to talk about animal rights, and what sort of difficulties she had in sympathetically getting her points across while minimizing how many people she pissed off. Then Coetzee - for his Tanner Lectures - read his two stories about Elizabeth and because they're fiction you can't even really get a grasp on what Coetzee thinks, because it is actually his fictional character Elizabeth stating all the animal rights issues etc.

Anyway - here are three passages from the book that I like.

Pg 28
I just find this one funny. Costello is talking about experiments a psychologist named Wolfgang Kohler did around WWI with apes. Kohler does a few experiments with the smartest ape, named Sultan, to see if he can problem solve etc. For example, for the first while Kohler just puts Sultan's bananas on the floor of the pen. But then for the first test he strings them on a wire across the pen which is too high for Sultan to reach, but Kohler also gives him some crates that he can maybe use to climb on. But far more than just problem solving, Costello (or Coetzee) gives Sultan much more credit for what thoughts he's having regarding this test.
Sultan knows - the bananas are there to make me think. But what must one think? One thinks: Why is he starving me? One thinks: What have I done? Why has he stopped liking me? One thinks: Why does he not want these crates any more? But none of these is the right thought. Even a more complicated thought - for instance: What is wrong with him, what misconception does he have of me, that leads him to believe it is easier for me to reach a banana hanging from a wire than to pick up a banana from the floor? - is wrong. The right thought to think is: How does one use the crates to reach the bananas?

Pg. 38
At a dinner, Elizabeth Costello's son is dreading the moment when someone will ask "What made you become vegetarian, Ms. Costello?"
The son knows what his mother's response will be, for it comes from Plutarch.
His mother has [the response] by heart; he can reproduce it only imperfectly. "You ask me why I refuse to eat flesh. I, for my part, am astonished that you can put in your mouth the corpse of a dead animal, astonished that you do not find it nasty to chew hacked flesh and swallow the juices of death wounds." Plutarch is a real conversation-stopper: it is the word 'juices' that does it. Producing Plutarch is like throwing down a gauntlet; after that, there is no knowing what will happen.

Pg. 44
After another person has belittled the concept of animal rights, because animals don't have consciousness and can't even appreciate the fact that they are being spared (if they're being spared), Elizabeth responds this way:
That is a good point you raise. No consciousness that we would recognize as consciousness. No awareness, as far as we can make out, of a self with a history. What I mind is what tends to come next. They have no consciousness -therefore-. Therefore what? Therefore we are free to use them for our own ends? Therefore we are free to kill them? Why? What is so special about the form of consciousness we recognize that makes killing a bearer of it a crime while killing an animal goes unpunished?

Anyway, Lives of Animals is very philosophical and a lot of it went over my head, but it was still interesting to read. I'd still go with Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" though if you were looking for a book about your food.

On another topic - KFC, in California only, will soon have health warnings on their posters etc about carcinogens in their french fries.

It has something to do with a substance called acrylamide which I guess is in a lot of foods, but especially potatoes, and when it is cooked at certain temperatures it can become carcinogenic.

When I first saw this story my eyes lit up thinking it was going to be a warning about their god awful chicken practices, but instead it's potatoes. Oh well.

The warning, in part, says: "Cooked potatoes that have been browned, such as French fries, baked potatoes and potato chips, contain acrylamide, a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer…. It is created in fried and baked potatoes made by all restaurants, by other companies, and even when you bake or fry potatoes at home."

When asked whether the company would add similar warnings at restaurants around the country, Preston said that he was unaware of any other states requiring health warnings for acrylamide and that it naturally occurs in a wide variety of cooked foods.

Snack food and fast-food companies had contended that the suit, filed by former Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, would unnecessarily alarm the public and that it unfairly singled out their industry because many non-potato products also contain acrylamide, including coffee, toasted cereals and breads.

But the attorney general's office said a serving of French fries or potato chips has about 82 times more of the substance than is allowed under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for drinking water.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

another pro-animal Singer

Here's a good quote from the No-Nonsense Guide to Animal Rights from the novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer:

To be a vegetarian is to disagree - to disagree with the course of things today. Starvation, world hunger, cruelty, waste, wars - we must make a statement against these things. Vegetarianism is my statement. And I think it's a strong one.

I also found this quote by Singer elsewhere:
People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.

So I finished the No-Nonsense Guide. I knew a lot of the issues they talk about, but lots of the examples were new to me. For example I knew that a big criticism of the fishing industry is that somewhere around 1/3 of all the fish caught in those big trawling nets are returned - dead - to the ocean because they weren't the type of fish that that trawler was going for. I didn't know however that roughly 100 000 dolphins are killed this way each year.

I also learned something about animal testing, which I'd never really read about before. Isn't the Draize Test a wonderful thing? Because rabbits' eyes have no tear ducts to wash away irritants, and their eyes are large enough for any inflammation to be clearly visible, researchers will drip various fluids that they're testing into the rabbits' eyes to see what effects they will have - i.e. ulcerating the rabbits' eyes or burning the eyes out completely.

This is especially wonderful when the scientific community doesn't even agree that the draize test works.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Sausages in Calgary

As I was puttering around the apartment this morning, the guy on the radio casually mentioned a few food facts about the upcoming Calgary Stampede.
A few of the things he mentioned are the following: During the traditional pancake breakfast, the Calgary Stampede uses over two tons of bacon and sausage, and 5,000 bottles of pancake syrup.

That makes me shudder - it's been so long since I've eaten meat that contemplating it at all makes me woozy, but wow, two tons of pig! Yikes - that really freaks a veggie out, especially when you've read stuff like this.

Coincidentally, I am currently reading the No Nonsense Guide to Animal Rights, and I read through the brief part on rodeos while on the Go Train this morning. According to this book...
In modern day rodeos, tame horses and bulls are sometimes given electric shocks to get them 'bucking' or have straps squeezed around their lower abdomens to put pressure on their groin areas. Apart from this kind of discomfort, animals are sometimes seriously injured and even killed at the rodeo. A USDA meat inspector said that the rodeo horses and cows that come to slaughterhouses are so terribly bruised that there are few places where the skin is actually attached to the muscle. Animals also commonly have broken ribs and punctured lungs.

Yep. I'm sure this calf is going to look back on today and go "Yeah - good times, he jumped off a horse onto my head, plowed me into the dirt and then wrapped a rope around my feet - beats a lazy day eating grass every time."

Here's something else that I read this morning which I wasn't aware of - the horse racing industry actually funnels thousands of horses to slaughter each year. A successful racehorse has a career of about 3 years, but a lifespan of about 30 years. To save money (why feed and house a retired racing horse?) several thousand former racing horses are slaughtered each year for human and petfood consumption.
As well, less than half the foals born in the racing industry actually do any racing, because they aren't fast enough. Once again, to care for them would be a waste of money, and so around 17000 foals, in the U.S. alone, are slaughtered for the petfood industry.

The more I read, the more astounded I am not only by the way we treat animals, but how all this crap is hidden in plain sight. The radio will tell you that the Calgary Stampede is on, and that several tons of pig will be served at the rodeo, but to find out how those pigs lived their lives, and what happens to the horses and calves at the rodeo, you have to seek the information out yourself.

My little brother was done in by Alberta actually. He went veggie years ago, way before I'd thought anything about it (I think because he'd been listening to Propagandhi). Then he moved to Alberta and got tired of explaining to everyone what a vegetarian was and having Alberta Beef waved in front of his face all the time. He started eating meat again out there, but lately he's been cutting back again, I think with the intention of giving up completely.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Matthew Scully

Here's something I mentioned a while back on my (mostly) cycling blog: Every issue, Newsweek gives it's back page to either the conservative George Will, or the liberal Anna Quindlen, to discuss whatever is on their minds. Despite the fact that I myself am pretty darn liberal, I find Quindlen boring as heck and Will quite interesting.

Last summer Will did a piece on the conservative Matthew Scully's book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.

As Will writes, Scully's argument runs along these lines:
Why is cruelty to a puppy appalling and cruelty to livestock by the billions a matter of social indifference? There cannot be any intrinsic difference of worth between a puppy and a pig.

Animal suffering on a vast scale should, Scully says, be a serious issue of public policy. He does not want to take away your BLT; he does not propose to end livestock farming. He does propose a Humane Farming Act to apply to corporate farmers the elementary standards of animal husbandry and veterinary ethics: "We cannot just take from these creatures, we must give them something in return. We owe them a merciful death, and we owe them a merciful life."

The book is from 2002. If you want to take a look at his 2005 essay (which I think led Will to the book) titled - Fear Factories: The Case for Compassionate Conservatism - for Animals, it is available here.

And I cannot BELIEVE this website he mentions in the above essay:

As for the rights of animals, rights in general are best viewed in tangible terms, with a view to actual events and consequences. Take the case of a hunter in Texas named John Lockwood, who has just pioneered the online safari. At his canned-hunting ranch outside San Antonio, he's got a rifle attached to a camera and the camera wired up to the Internet, so that sportsmen going to will actually be able to fire at baited animals by remote control from their computers. "If the customer were to wound the animal," explains the San Antonio Express-News, "a staff person on site could finish it off." The "trophy mounts" taken in these heroics will then be prepared and shipped to the client's door, and if it catches on Lockwood will be a rich man.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tyson will create fuel from animal fat?

Here are your sexiest vegetarians according to the PETA poll.

I really don't know what to make of Tyson's announcement that they're going to work with a synthetic fuel company named Syntroleum to make synthetic fuel from animal fat.

I guess the reason my spider sense starts tingling here is a) because it's Tyson and b) because it's fuel.

I suppose there might be some (relatively) innocent part of their (generally horrendous) production process where they get ample animal fat that they can easily sell off to Syntroleum, but my initial reaction is that they're just going to start squishing cows and pigs in giant orange juicers to get the fat.

And yikes! If this new company actually takes off, and Tyson (of all companies!!!) becomes a major energy supplier? Becomes the Saudi Arabia of the second half of the 21st century??

That makes me worried.

In a statement, the companies said they formed a joint venture, Dynamic Fuels LLC, to construct and operate more such facilities. Tyson will supply feedstock, mainly derived from animal fats, greases, and vegetable oils, to the plants.

Syntroleum, which converts natural gas to synthetic liquid fuels, said it expects the first facility to be located in south central United Sates.

The company expects the plant to produce about 78 million gallons per year of renewable synthetic fuel from 74 million gallons per year of feedstock beginning in 2010. Construction of the facility is expected to start in 2008.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Michael Moore & Peter Singer

I was doing a little random blog surfing and found this post on Vegan Heart Doc about a letter that PETA wrote to Michael Moore. It looks like PETA's Ingrid Newkirk was trying to sneak in a little vegetarian awareness by congratulating Moore on SICKO while telling him that he doesn't look very healthy and should probably give up meat. (the full letter can be found here).

I kind of agree with the Heart Doc that PETA's letter wasn't the best way to approach Michael Moore. "Hey Mike, you're fat, go veggie!" Hmmm. Great.

This has got me thinking though of how many people Michael Moore could turn vegetarian if he focused his camera on the U.S. factory farming system. Although people still read Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, in today's society a Michael Moore documentary would reach far more people than Singer's book would.

I wish Ms. Newkirk had approached Moore a bit more carefully, slowly pushing the factory farming system his way, hoping he'd grab hold himself. A Michael Moore documentary on factory farming would probably have an effect similar to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and if it didn't change laws, at the very least it would force people to think about what they were eating.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tyson and antibiotics

A big story from yesterday is that Tyson Foods is going to start selling antibiotic free chicken.


I basically think that Tyson is evil, but this is a very promising development - assuming I've put two and two together correctly here.

Aren't chickens (and cows and pigs etc) given antibiotics in order to help them survive the unbelievably wretched living conditions which are forced upon them by Tyson? So if Tyson is saying they're giving up antibiotics, doesn't that mean also that they're going to raise/house the chickens in a healthy environment which the chickens will be able to survive on their own?

I used the Google News Search to check a few different stories about Tyson, but nothing seems to mention that they're going to raise the chickens in better conditions.

Here's some industry spin for you as well, from CNN's version of the story:

(Tyson chief executive) Bond said that while the company uses antibiotics at the farm level "for therapeutic reasons" only, it believes the move to drug-free poultry is part of its strategy to "offer meaningful benefits to the masses."
Therapeutic Reasons - that's a laugh, i.e. so that they can survive the ammonia used to negate the stench of the chickencrap laced (up till now anyway) with drugs? And survive the close quarters, and the debeaking etc etc?

The National Chicken Council, a trade group, responded to Tyson's announcement by contending that all chicken marketed today is "antibiotic-free in the sense that no antibiotic residues are present in the meat, due to the withdrawal periods (following usage and before slaughter) and other precautions required by the government and observed" by poultry producers.

Hey, you can trust the National Chicken Council that nothing like this is happening.
And this guy is just a liar:
A USDA Inspector named Ronnie Sarratt was quoted in one report saying, "I've had birds that had yellow pus visibly coming out of their insides, and I was told to save the breast meat off them and even save the second joint of the wing. You might get those breasts today at a store in a package of breast fillets. And you might get the other in a pack of buffalo wings."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

the willingness to avert your eyes

This shall be the last time I mention Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I've finally finished it - speed reading through the last chapter where he hunts his own meal - and the last thing I want to talk about is his take on the ethics of eating animals.

Pollan isn't a vegetarian, although he did go veggie while he was in the process of trying to justify to himself whether or not he could eat meat. Although he never actually states his position, it's fairly clear that Pollan is an omnivore who finds it defensible to eat animals raised on organic / natural farms who lived a good life and had a quick clean death. What he does not find defensible is eating animals - like the billions going through the factory farms - that did nothing but suffer for their entire existence before they reached our plates.

Pollan emphasizes several times the fact that it is incumbent upon the eater to truly look at, and make a conscious moral decision, about what he/she is eating. On page 312 he writes about the choice you have to make after you accept the evidence that an animal was tortured to get to your dinner table You look away - or you stop eating animals.

On page 317 after briefly mentioning CAFO's and how they treat animals as "production units" which can't feel pain, he writes Since no thinking person can possibly believe this anymore, industrial animal agriculture depends on a suspension of disbelief on the part of the people who operate it and a willingness to avert one's eyes on the part of everyone else.

On page 332:
Sometimes I think that all it would take to clarify our feelings about eating meat, and in the process begin to redeem animal agriculture, would be to simply pass a law requiring all the sheet-metal walls of all the CAFO's, and even the concrete walls of the slaughterhouses, to be replaced with glass. If there's any new right we need to establish, maybe this is the one: the right, I mean, to look...
... Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do. Tail docking and sow crates and beak clipping would disappear overnight, and the days of slaughtering four hundred head of cattle an hour would promptly come to an end - for who could stand the sight? Yes, meat would get more expensive. We'd probably eat a lot less of it, too, but maybe when we did eat animals we'd eat them with the consciousness, ceremony, and respect they deserve.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Canada's Food Guide

The new Canada Food Guide has been out for a little while now. When I first looked through it I was really impressed with their MEAT section, because they simply cannot tell people fast enough that they should be switching from meat to meat alternatives. Heck, the section might as well just be called "Protein."

What I've copied below is the very first page from the Educator's Guide to the Food Guide. As you can see, they say Have meat alternatives often.. three times. It's almost the only thing your eyes see on this page.

I think this is great, especially when you remember this story about American farm lobby groups going nuts in the 70's/80's when the U.S. government made a feeble attempt to recommend that people stop eating red meat.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Veggies are sexy

The June 7 Calgary Herald reprinted a story from Newsday titled Sexy greens growing about GoVeg's 2007 Sexiest Vegetarian Poll.

It was fairly interesting - in a quick hollywood gossip kind of way. Apparently Natalie Portman had fake leather shoes made for her role in V for Vendetta, and Joaquin Phoenix had fake leather cowboy boots made for Walk the Line.

But what is really interesting is this passage about an unknown (to me anyway) Democratic presidential hopeful:

Yet California isn't the only bastion for non-carnivores. If Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich were to win the 2008 U.S. presidential election, he'd break the meat barrier -- as opposed to the more hyped race and gender barriers -- as the first vegetarian in the White House.

So I went on to Kucinich's website and poked around a little bit. He's just launched his first television ad titled No More Blood for Oil, and I think it's quite good. One of the numbers flashed is Oil Company Profit from Stealing Iraq's Oil.

That's pretty funny - despite the fact that Kucinich doesn't really stand a chance, the Democrats are offering the United States the potential for their first black, female, or vegetarian president.

And the Republicans are offering very few ideas for how to get Beyond Bush:

The presidential campaign could have provided the opportunity for a national discussion of the new world we live in. So far, on the Republican side, it has turned into an exercise in chest-thumping. Whipping up hysteria requires magnifying the foe. The enemy is vast, global and relentless. Giuliani casually lumps together Iran and Al Qaeda. Mitt Romney goes further, banding together all the supposed bad guys. "This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hizbullah and Hamas and Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood," he recently declared.