Monday, December 22, 2008

swimming in your ocean

There's no end to the sheer idiocy of the factory farm system.
After an article back in April about how C02 intensive the meat rich diet is, Discovery News now has one about the nitrogen runoff from Factory Farms destroying oxygen levels in the Gulf of Mexico.


Now new research shows how the leftover fertilizer is contributing to an oxygen-starved dead zone where the Mississippi River drains into the Gulf of Mexico. Last summer, the zone was nearly the size of Massachusetts.

Gidon Eshel of Bard College at Simon's Rock in Massachusetts and Pamela Martin of the University of Chicago calculate that if Americans kicked their meat habit, it would prevent seven million tons of nitrogen from spilling into the gulf -- a reduction of nearly 90 percent.

"When we did the calculations, it was astonishing," Eshel said. "The main reason is we're feeding so much corn to livestock. It takes 4.5 times more cropland to do that than if you feed people a plant diet, and corn is so nitrogen-intensive."

Cutting down on nitrogen run-off is a big deal, because if it continues unchecked it could threaten shrimp and fishing industries in the gulf, said William Battaglin of the United States Geological Survey.

"Conditions have not been catastrophic to fisheries yet," he said. "The concern is that if this keeps up, you could turn the whole place into the Black Sea, with everything dead."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fight the power (with lentils!)

Anybody watched all of Earthlings?

EARTHLINGS is a feature length documentary about humanity's absolute dependence on animals (for pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research) but also illustrates our complete disrespect for these so-called "non-human providers." The film is narrated by Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix (GLADIATOR) and features music by the critically acclaimed platinum artist Moby .

I watched the trailer and the 7 minute opening sequence, and I apologize to Joaquin, but it seems misguided to me. With the disturbing "disaster is looming" music in the background, the broad jump all the way into Peter Singer derived "speciesism" (which is a lot to confront someone with right off the bat), the references to rapists and child molesters and images of Hitler and the KKK, the focus seems to be on the perverted nature of humanity, rather than the life-affirming qualities of vegetarianism, which I think is a much more compelling way to reach people. However, everyone who commented on this You Tube video would say I'm wrong.

I prefer more playful stuff Vegetarian diet could help bail out the Big Three.

Detroit automakers - and all American manufacturers - are spending a fortune on health care because the workforce is so out of shape. Two-thirds of American adults are now overweight or obese. And as the Big Three employees get bigger, so do their health-care bills. Unfortunately, if current trends continue unchecked, almost 90 percent of American adults will be overweight or obese by 2030, according to a recent study in the journal Obesity. As a nurse practitioner specializing in the care of people with diabetes, I know that Americans' expanding waistlines bring unprecedented epidemics of diabetes and other chronic diseases.

The point being that the veggie diet, with all its various health benefits (among these, consistently well-proven diabetes prevention) would make workers much healther and cut down on all these health-care costs that employers have to pay.

Can you imagine walking up to a picket line and telling UAW workers "you can save your jobs if you go vegetarian?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Veggie-ism taking some potshots

It's been a bit of a bad week in the veggie world. Despite what I - and lots of people - thought, Clint Eastwood is not actually a vegan or vegetarian. A NY Times reporter was interviewing him, and brought up the supposedly well-known "Clint as Vegan" topic - In 1986 he bought [the restaurant, which has] a piano bar, heart-stopping views of the ocean spray on Point Lobos and plenty of meat on the menu. Despite what you might have read on Wikipedia, Mr. Eastwood is not a vegan, and he looked slightly aghast when told exactly what a vegan is. “I never look at the Internet for just that reason,” he said.

And today there's a brief story about Paul McCartney and the Dalai Lama on the news websites. Turns out the Dalai Lama is NOT a vegetarian (who'd a thunk it!) and McCartney once tried, unsuccessfully, to convert him.

AND THEN, an actress named Bijou Phillips is interviewed in the LA Times and quite happily talks about veganism being crap and returning to "real" food again:
So you feel all right?
I feel good! I'm sick and I've been sick four times since I've been vegan and I hadn't been sick for five years before that. I need to eat food because this isn't working. Every vegan I know gets sick all the time.

AND FINALLY Canada's national newsmagazine, Macleans, has a lengthy story titled Will Soy Make My Son Gay. I looked into soy a while back and as far as I could see, it was fine for you. This article doesn't come down on either side of the argument, but OF COURSE they had to title it as provocatively as they do. Reminds me of this story from a while back... Rise of the Vegan Fairyboys. This writer got really hammered in the Global Vegan group on Facebook.

The only beneficial story I've seen the last few days comes (surprisingly!) from The Economist magazine's The World in 2009 special issue. In a piece called A Water Warning the President of Nestle mentions how resource intensive the meat-rich diet is compared to a veggie diet:
Diets are another variable. Europeans and Americans have for years had high proportions of meat in their diets, but now this trend is catching on in emerging markets as incomes rise. Meat requires ten times the water withdrawn per calorie by plants. So the average daily diet in California requires some 6,000 litres of water in agriculture, compared with 3,000 litres in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.
If you've never read about the water issue before, try these:

As a Canadian, a shortage of water is the furthest thing from your mind, but this is really a massive problem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

PETA and the cons

I often feel that PETA shoots their mouth off too often, taking any current event story that happens and recommending that that celebrity or football team go veggie for some reason.
I mean, basically I agree, but doing it all the time becomes annoying.

So today I read this story about PETA recommending that prisons implement a veggie diet so that prisoners will be more healthy when they leave. My first thought was "Holy cow, PETA... give it a rest." But then I read through the rest of the story, and it turns out that the PETA comment was inspired by the fact that one prison in Quebec let a 450 pound drug dealer out of prison several months early simply because none of their furniture or doors etc could accommodate this guy... so he was getting early release because he was obese.

Bet the Republicans and conservatives never saw this benefit of going veggie - a vegetarian diet helps you keep your prisoners in jail and your drug dealers off the streets!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A very vegan wedding

Wow - I haven't posted over here since early August. I guess that's what happens when you buy a house, work at a university and have a new school year begin, organize the first ever bicycle rally in your new town, and get married... blogging gets pushed onto the back burner a fair bit.

So the big news for today is that Annalise and I got married a few weeks ago. There was never any real doubt that we were going to have a vegan wedding, but there was discussion about how militant we were going to be... i.e. would we provide a meat dish to people who really really wanted one?

The dinner was at a local restaurant that has been featured before on the Restaurant Makeover television show. They agreed, and were pretty delighted, to do a vegan dinner for us, and started us off with a carrot / ginger soup that I don't have a picture of, and which was followed by a Thai salad that was pretty darn filling all by itself.
The Main Course was served as a trio with a Tomato Basil sauce:
-Cabbage roll (stuffed with sundried tomato and garlic infused rice pilaf)
-Vegetable wellington (spinach, tomato, leeks, mushrooms, carrots wrapped with a crisp filo pastry)
-Stuffed sweet pepper (filled with a wild mushroom couscous with peas and asparagus)

And the dessert was a vegan German chocolate cake.


To answer the militant question from up above - we were pretty militant. We didn't serve any meat etc, and the only concession we made was to offer milk/cream for people who might want dairy with their coffee or tea. The "butter" we used was a vegan Earth Balance spread.

Almost no one at our wedding really cared about the lack of a meat option for dinner. In the end, I think our dithering about the menu was just part of the pre-wedding paranoia that all weddings cause the bride and groom.

Even for the most hard-core meat and potatoes people, I think they just needed time to come around to the conclusion that it wasn't their wedding, and that one vegan meal wasn't going to kill them.

Especially a meal that was delicious anyway.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hmmm.... I'll need some energy tomorrow

As mentioned over on my cycling blog, my brother and girlfriend and I are doing a team triathlon tomorrow morning. I'm doing the cycling portion, and even though it's short, I was thinking this afternoon that I really should try to eat some sort of a power-packed dinner tonight.
Traditionally you're supposed to eat pasta two nights before your race (that's how long it takes the carbs to turn themselves into energy that you can use). But, last night I totally forgot about eating properly, and in fact we were out drinking anyway.

So, for some energy, I decided to go with an old favourite tonight - curry. The recipe is pretty simple (leave some frying time between each of these steps):
a) cut and start frying an onion (one full onion)
b) add whatever veggies you want (peppers, cauliflower, mushrooms etc) Our recipe says about two cups worth, but it totally depends on how many people you're going to feed.
c) add in about four small spoonfulls of curry paste and fry for a while
d) drain and add a can of chickpeas
e) add a can of diced tomatoes, plus about 1 cup of water
f) add another four small spoonfulls of curry paste
g) let this big goopy mess heat slowly for 15 or 20 minutes. When a good amount of the water has evaporated, you're ready to go.

Usually we eat this on rice, but I decided to put it over some pasta. We sometimes buy this Farfalle stuff, which, very refreshingly, only has one ingredient - 100% durum wheat semolina.

Not really being able to cook, I'm not the type of veggie blogger who does the awesome posts full of gorgeous photos of recipes in process. So enjoy this meager attempt, these kinds of posts don't happen often around here. : )

thanking the monkey

I just came across a review of a book called Thanking the Monkey by Karen Dawn. From the review and the interview with the author, it sounds like an interesting (and even kind of "fun"?) survey of animal treatment issues.

I like her take on the logic behind the vegetarian diet:
We're going to have a choice. As there are more and more and more of us, it takes an awful lot more land and resources to feed people with meat than it does [with] grain. The Earth could feed about 2.5 billion people if everyone ate the standard American diet, or it could feed 10 billion vegetarians. The fact that China is starting to eat our diet -- the more meat people eat, the more impossible it will be to eat at all.
Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder if she just finished reading Lester Brown's Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a planet under stress and a civilization in trouble. In Chapter 9 Brown writes that at a North American level of food consumption (ie heavy on meat), the planet can support 2.5 billion people, while at the other extreme, on the more veggie Indian diet, the earth could support 10 billion people.

The author also has a fairly open view of people being "mostly" veggie (and sometimes letting down their guard and cheating):

So let's say I'm an omnivore who simply cannot go without eating meat or eggs now and then. Is there anything I can do to still be as animal-conscious as possible, even though I'm eating them?

Every single time you sit down at a restaurant, you make a choice. If there's a veggie burger on the menu, don't order the turkey burger. My vegetarianism didn't happen overnight. . . . I'm still a cheating vegan: If I'm dying for Doritos -- and I know they have a bit of whey in them -- I still eat them. But I think if I wasn't a cheating vegan, I might not even be engaging in this lifestyle at all. It's not an all-or-nothing thing.

But what if I want to order or buy meat?

Some things are better than others. . . . At least if you're buying meat that has met some sort of welfare standards, you're not contributing to heinous torture. And it's better to eat an occasional piece of steak than an omelet every day, both health-wise and also because of the amount of cruelty involved. Six eggs -- what those six hens went through!

The article is here on the Washington Post website. You'd better hurry though, because I think the post quickly hides away its online articles for subscriber viewing only.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cheney's crowd as your dieticians

Here's a story for you.
The American Institute for Cancer Research has released a report titled Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. In the report they make a direct tie between meat and various forms of cancer, highlighting that processed meats in particular create a cancer risk no matter how minimal your intake of these meats might be.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has latched onto the report, and is using it to support their quest to get processed meats out of school cafeterias. But, this has ruffled the feathers of the Center for Consumer Freedom and the American Meat Institute, which, like the tobacco companies, don't care if their products cause cancer, and will fight to the death for their right to keep selling you carcinogen rich meat because that is how they make their money.

Caught in the middle of this feud between the PCRM and the two meat lobby groups, the AICR published this news release. The release highlights the scientific credibility of all researchers involved in the Food, Nutrition... report, and reiterates this point - The evidence on processed meat is even more clear-cut than that on red meat, and the data do not show any level of intake that can confidently be shown not to be associated with risk, and concludes with this passage:

We at AICR wish the multi-billion-dollar meat industry would take the money it uses to attack the objective conclusions of independent experts and devote it to researching why diets high in processed meats are so consistently associated with troubling increases in colorectal cancer risk. With such efforts, it may prove possible to isolate the particular cause or causes and make processed meats safer.

In the meantime, no amount of meat industry spin can change the fact that the exhaustive AICR report has been embraced by the international scientific and medical community and represents overwhelming scientific consensus.

Any time you read that cars idling in drive-throughs is good for your five year old, or that there is no connection between meat and cancer, just picture Dick Cheney pointing his finger in your face and telling you these "truths". Hopefully that will scare you silly and inspire you to read a little more until you figure out who to really trust.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

all the news that is fit to print

I've been holding onto some news stories in order to do a "vegetarianism in the news" post, and I think I have enough now to provide you all with some interesting links to check out.

In the Huffington Post, Kathy Freston discusses why a vegan diet is much healthier for you than the infamous Atkins diet. I love this passage:
Basically, every reputable health agency knows that a mountain of evidence indicates that the saturated fat and cholesterol in animal flesh, eggs and milk clogs your arteries and increases your risk of heart disease, among an array of other problems.

Heart disease is of course just one meat-related health problem; eating animals also raises one's risk of cancer. For example, a massive Harvard study in 2006 found that people who frequently eat skinless chicken (often touted as the "healthy" way to cook chicken) had a whopping 52% higher rate of bladder cancer. The evidence that animal protein is carcinogenic is strong, and people who eat lots of it are raising their risk.

There's been a lot of coverage of the vegan "chicken" burger at KFC in Canada. I have to admit that I've found this story amusing since it first developed. Sure, it's great that KFC agreed to offer a veggie option at its restaurants, but am I not right in thinking that 99% of vegans wouldn't set foot in a KFC in the first place? I mean thanks for the veggie burger, but since I'm health conscious I don't really eat fast food, and since you still support the factory farming of chickens, I'm not giving you my money anyway.

Good for Johanna McCloy! But holy crap...
[Her efforts have] encountered pockets of hostile resistance.

Last month, after an article about McCloy appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle magazine, reader Marc Kimberly of Concord wrote: "For goodness' sakes, is there no limit to which annoying vegetarians won't go in their efforts to try to convert people from enjoying meat in favor of the bland mishmash of unappetizing and virtually tasteless 'food' these elitist snobs choke down their gullets?"

McCloy says she was equally dumbfounded when, during an appearance on a Denver radio station, her efforts were labeled un-American. Her only objective, she says, is to give fans a choice.

This one is a little boggling: A vegetarian named Jesse Simons won a hot dog eating contest in New York State. He gives up vegetarianism for contests like this one, and his prize was a gym membership and a voucher for 50 free hot dogs.

I can't be bothered to comment, but this article sympathizes with male vegetarians for being the absolute lowest forms of life. P.S. I haven't checked out the Harvard study that the writer mentions, but my own research on soy makes me think that everything will be okay.

Finally, from the U.S. News and World Report - Making meat without killing animals could fix a host of problems. This article mainly covers the scary prospect of creating "meat" in labs, instead of in factory farms, in order to solve the health and environmental problems of a meat based diet, without actually requiring people to go vegetarian. It's nice that the writer can quite happily make this statement:
It would make sense, of course, for the whole world to become vegetarian: A plant-based diet is more healthful, more economical, and more environmentally benign. (Cows are major contributors to global warming because they generate methane.)
But to otherwise imply that laboratory created meat is a better way to get away from the environmental and health consequences of factory farmed meat seems silly and scary to me. Not to mention unappetizing:
They used tissue engineering to grow two quarter-size disks of muscle on a polymer scaffold, then sautéed the steaks in a honey-garlic sauce, quartered them, and served dinner for eight. It was not a gourmet experience. The scaffold didn't degrade enough, Catts says, and the unexercised muscle had a texture reminiscent of snot. "It was fabric with jelly," he says. "Four people spit out the bits." That was five years ago, and he hasn't eaten meat since.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Veggies according to marketing groups

A while back on my cycling blog, I did a post about a market research report I'd found which discussed cyclists as a target market.

Lo and behold, similar stuff exists for vegetarians!

I came across a news story about an international market research group which had recently published a slew of reports on different veggie groups. Along with some miscellaneous reports, they have written on the following groups:

Their work shows the following dietary preferences in the United States:
- Avid meat consumers (14%) – consume meat with “every” meal
- Regular meat consumers (47%) – consume meat with “most” meals
- Moderate meat consumers (25%) – consume meat with “about half” of meals
- Semi-vegetarians (13%) – consume meat with “fewer than half” of meals
- Vegetarians and vegans (1%) – “never” consume meat
- Vegetarians are those who never eat meat, while vegans do not consume animal products of any kind. Combined, these groups make up a small, but dedicated portion of the population, comprising 2 million individuals, or about 1% of the total U.S. adult population.

This is the summary of the vegetarian and vegan consumers report:

The vegetarian and vegan segment has the potential to grow to nearly six times its current size, which would bring the total number of such consumers to almost 18 million adults.

Vegetarians and vegans are the most frequent purchasers of meat and dairy alternatives. As a consumer segment, they are extremely receptive to trying new grocery products and they self-report as being the first among their friends to do so. Most are willing to pay premiums for items that embody their ideals, including “humane” products.

The vegetarian and vegan group tends to skew female and toward the younger end of the age spectrum when compared with the base adult population. The group is nearly two-thirds women, and more than half are under the age of 35. This skew toward younger people may account for this segment’s greater interest in humane and environmental issues, as opposed to health, which is more important to older age groups.

Vegetarians and vegans are more issue-driven than any other consumer group. They are first and foremost motivated by animal welfare issues and to a lesser extent environmental issues. Because these issues are a priority for vegetarians and vegans, they are more likely than the typical U.S. adult to contribute time or money to related causes and they integrate these issues into their dietary decisions on a daily basis.

Vegetarians and vegans are motivated by a number of different concerns, but as a group they cite animal welfare as the biggest primary motivator in choosing a vegetarian diet. This is in contrast to non-vegetarians, who clearly indicate that health is the primary (and in some cases only) motivator for meat-reducing behavior.

Vegetarians and vegans have shown a willingness to make social sacrifices in support of their philosophies; many seek out support networks of friends who share similar convictions to help them remain steadfast in their lifestyles and dietary choices.

To engage this consumer segment, food producers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors, and others involved in selling vegetarian food products should adopt sales and marketing strategies that appeal to vegetarians based on their primary motivations.

Vegetarian food industry players should also utilize established vegetarian patrons as word of mouth advocates for their products to reach other vegetarian and non-vegetarian customers through the patrons’ social networks.

The Beef Industry will be the beef cops?

I don't remember what the food safety department is called in the United States, but several years ago they decided to stop doing safety inspections of slaughterhouses - to make sure that various safety procedures were in place - and decided to let the slaughterhouses self police themselves, i.e.
If you see a sick cow heading onto the disassembly line, we trust that you'll pull him off the line, instead of just prodding him on to get the couple hundred bucks his meat is worth!

Even when federal U.S. safety inspectors were on the job, you got horrendous practices like this. When the feds gave over safety inspection responsibility to the slaughterhouses themselves, the problem of downers got worse, and terrible stories like this popped up more.

As a Canadian, why do I care? Well, we're now following the American example. Health Canada is about to stop doing safety inspections at slaughterhouses, in favour of the slaughterhouses doing it themselves. "Now they have to do the inspections and record those inspections. We verify by doing checks. It puts the accountability on the industry."
The accountability is on the industry itself. I think that's great. I completely and fully trust the cattle industry to do a good job with this. To my meat-eating friends, have no worries, your hamburgers are just getting safer and safer.

Another cute thing from this news story is this - the federal government is going to pull the only incentive (besides honesty) that slaughterhouses have to destroy cattle that might have mad cow disease:
Freeman Libby of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Thursday the federal government may change a program brought in during the mad cow crisis in 2003 that pays producers $75 to identify every head of cattle suspected of having bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Now, I realize that it's of no interest to the cattle industry to have their consumers dying off due to mad cow disease, but wouldn't you rather have an iffy call on whether or not a steer has mad cow being made by an food safety official with no conflict of interest in the matter? Rather than the slaughterhouse that just bought a herd of cattle and will get a greater profit for the more cattle they process?

And, let's not forget this other beauty from Health Canada, as described in the CBC Passionate Eye documentary Frankensteer: after sifting through all the research that the European Union had looked at in deciding to ban all North American beef from their market, several Health Canada scientists said "Yes, we agree, there are far too many carcinogens in Canadian beef for it to be considered safe to eat."

What did Health Canada do? They fired the scientists.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Science to the rescue

I haven't been blogging very much recently, and if you're curious, my list of excuses is about three posts down on my cycling blog (you're looking for the post titled Mariposa Folk Festival).

To get back into the groove, I thought I'd check to see if any new research on vegetarianism or meat-rich diets has been appearing in the article databases, and I found a few things to help you prove to your parents and friends that a veggie diet is really the way to go.

In Australia, they studied 215 kids aged 14 and 15, and found that "Adolescents consuming predominantly vegetarian foods showed significantly better scores on markers of cardiovascular health, including, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, Cholesterol/High density lipoprotein ratio and low density lipoprotein... Surprisingly, exercise on its own was not statistically associated with any of the risk factors tested suggesting that diet may be the most significant factor in promoting health in this age group."
The relative impact of a vegetable-rich diet on key markers of health in a cohort of Australian adolescents

Picture One here depicts the effect on scientists of doing research on drug laced North American beef without proper safety clothing & gear.

There seems to be no doubt anymore that meat causes diabetes. A study following nearly 8500 people over a 17 year period found a 29 to 38% greater risk of diabetes when eating various types of meats, compared to a vegetarian diet. Over the long-term span of the study however it's even worse: "Long-term adherence (over a 17-year interval) to a diet that included at least weekly meat intake was associated with a 74% increase in odds of diabetes relative to long-term adherence to a vegetarian diet (zero meat intake)."
Conclusions: Our findings raise the possibility that meat intake, particularly processed meats, is a dietary risk factor for diabetes.
Meats, processed meats, obesity, weight gain and occurrence of diabetes among adults: Findings from Adventist Health Studies

This picture is a depiction of proper meat handling precautions for North American scientists.

And, going back to the tie between cancer and meat, a Canadian study of nearly 20 000 participants found that "Total meat and processed meat were directly related to the risk of stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung, breast (mainly postmenopausal), prostate, testis, kidney, bladder, and leukemia. Red meat was significantly associated with colon, lung (mainly in men), and bladder cancer... these findings add further evidence that meat, specifically red and processed meat, plays an unfavorable role in the risk of several cancers.
Meat and fish consumption and cancer in Canada

Monday, June 2, 2008

KFC Canada

It would seem that this is only in Canada, but it looks like KFC has succumbed to some PETA-Pressure and is going to start improving their poultry purchasing policies.
Aside from some new humane treatment requirements, KFC is going to start offering a vegan chicken substitute.

This is the one that makes you go hmmmm.... - is any vegan really going to step into a KFC and order a bucket of vegan "chicken"? Especially when well-read vegans know that in California, KFC has to tell customers that their french fries are carcinogenic?

This Canadian Press story lays out most of the details, but the story is also told in a few other places if you do a google news search.

P.S. - I don't really want to talk about it, but due to a restaurant misunderstanding last night, I put meat into my belly. My belly started doing backflips just at the end of dinner, and the meat didn't stay around very long. I'm still kind of trying to convince myself that my tummy went nuts due to hot sauce or something, but no... I think it was meat. My girlfriend asked if it had tasted like meat, and I had no idea. It's been so long that I have no idea what meat tastes like anymore.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hulk get angry

AlterNet has a couple interesting articles online right now - one, by Richard Heinberg, asks whether or not we've finally hit Peak Oil.

The one of interest to this blog, is the Top 10 Reasons to go Veggie article.
Now, the article itself isn't anything to write home about - vegetarianism is healthier for you, it is a great solution to the global food crisis, prevents cruelty to animals etc. But, what really makes this article interesting are the reader comments which you'll see below the story. They'll make you want to catch some Gamma Rays and bash some heads together:

Fun comment #1: Every vegan I know is physically weak, unattractive, with sallow skin and apparent mental slowness. Whenever people mention veganism in conversation, the topic almost immediately turns to how unhealthy and unattractive the vegans are. The vegans, for their part, claim that all their ill health is due to their "de-toxing" from meat.

Fun comment #2: So let me get this straight. Everybody should just stop eating meat. Nevermind the loss of millions and millions of jobs from workers in that industry (not to mention the restaurant industry, trucking industry, and grocery store industry). Nevermind the sudden explosion of demand that would be put on grain farmers. Nevermind that we would still have to do something with all those animals. If you're a vegetarian, then you should adopt a cow or two to give them a home in a post meat-eating world. This article is a joke. And I'm sorry but I'm not going to be made to feel guilty about the environment just because I like to eat meat

Okay, so you've gone all Hulk and screamed at your computer monitor, and then you start to realize that they are just confrontational idiots in their basement somewhere, and you try to get your Zen on... like lego IronMan here, doing a bit of meditating...

Fun comment #3: If I was still in college I would probably go vegan... if it meant I'd get laid! It worked when I campaigned diligently to free Tibet for like, 2 weeks. Boo Ya!

Yeah - these guys are morons. Light some incense, get your yoga mat out, chill...

Actually, one of the few comments I like is one where the writer says that most of our fellow North Americans can't really process the intellectual argument that vegetarians make (go veggie due to social justice etc), and therefore it is incumbent upon us to concentrate on a more visceral level - taste.
If you want to truly sell vegetarianism to the American public, stop wasting your time with lists of reasons that appeal to the intellectual side of the American brain and concentrate on selling the taste. My girlfriend is an AMAZING vegetarian chef and because of her creations I literally do not miss meat when we sit down to dinner. Americans don't like to be preached to, but they LOVE to eat. So remember: sell the sizzle, not the steak!

Zen IronMan from Kung Fu Rodeo.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vegans & light bulbs

CBC Radio's Sunday Edition had a feature today (May 11) on Vegan Humour. It was actually pretty good, and pretty soon you'll be able to listen to it on this page (again, you'll be downloading the May 11 show, and the vegan episode is in the first hour).

They talked about Let's Get Baked with Mat and Dave (their more often updated My Space page is here).

They played this song, which I guess was a hit in lefty & green Seattle a little time back (it sounded funnier on radio than it reads). They also played some stuff from Steven the Vegan, and told a pretty funny "How many... light bulb" joke:

How many vegans does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Two - one to twist the bulb, and one to read the list of ingredients.


In the world of right-thinking, high-minded environmentalists, chowing down on your sizzling bacon is the culinary equivalent of driving an SUV. A United Nations report says livestock farming is responsible for 40 percent more global warming than all planes, cars, trucks, and other forms of transportation in the world combined. This is no laughing matter. Meat-guzzling North Americans have a lot to feel guilty about. Even most vegetarians are on the hook - since almost all eggs, cheese, come from livestock.

But vegans? Well, they can feel pretty righteous. Vegans are the most veggie of all vegetarians. They eat no animal products whatsoever - no meat, no fish, no dairy products, not even honey. Bees, after all, are living, buzzing, feeling creatures. And by and large, vegans are a healthy lot. They eat lots of beans and fruits and grains and vegetables. They don't feel threatened by bird flu or mad cow disease.

But funny? There are those who say that the very term "vegan humour" is an oxymoron. And, for sure its, it's hard to imagine how quinoa pudding, baked bean souffle or lentil muffins produce much joie de vivre, let alone hilarity. But some in the vegan world are trying to introduce a lighter touch into a community sometimes mocked for its self-importance and grimness. Heather Barrett went looking for them. Her documentary is called Why Did the Vegan Cross the Road?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The dude abides

It's biking season and I've been thinking more about bikes than veggieism recently. But, I did see a few good stories today I thought I'd mention:
Everyone knows about Paul McCartney being vegetarian and a strong veggie advocate, but hey - even Chinese politicans are getting into the act right now, at least for Earth Day.
If you had any doubt that your veggie diet was healthier than that of your omnivore friends, here is another research study to back up your "it's healthier!" argument - vegan diet helps prevent prostate cancer.

And here, from Wired Magazine, is a great piece titled Food Riots Begin: Will You Go Vegetarian?

The writer, an omnivore, kind of explores how various things had made him more and more sympathetic and receptive to vegetarianism, and now, with the worldwide food shortages, he finally feels ready to accept, without reservation, the logic of the veggie argument:

As I grew older and my palate more sophisticated, I learned to appreciate the joys of vegetables and grains and fruits. I ate more of these, and after reading Michael Pollan's This Steer's Life tried to make sure that the animals I consumed lived and died as decently as possible. But going non-meat was a non-starter. Even when environmentalists pointed to the extraordinary greenhouse gas burden of global livestock, I put it out of mind.

I'm not sure if I can sustain that willful blindness anymore.

It's a really good piece, at least for us veggies. Here's hoping more and more people learn about veggie secrets like Quinoa and serve their friends salads like this more often.

P.S. - My partner and I are getting married this autumn, and are planning to have a vegan wedding. Wish us luck!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

My protest against the conduct of the world

Here's another passage I like from that New York Times article that I mentioned below:

Talking about how the rise in oil prices creates a corresponding rise in food prices, and the effect this will have on the level of meat consumption, the author writes "If price spikes don't change eating habits, perhaps the combination of deforestation, pollution, climate change, starvation, heart disease and animal cruelty will gradually encourage the simple daily act of eating more plants and fewer animals."

In a way, that quote makes me want to scream. You know how we all go through our daily lives saying to our meat-eating friends "Hey, I'm not judging you, this is just right for me" - well, a sentence like the one above that so plainly and simply makes the vegetarian argument kind of makes me want to explode and say to people "What the f$%^&*K would it take to convince you that eating meat is messed up!!!???"

Grrr.... okay... calm down...

Anyway, that quote made me think of my post about trying NOT to explain to some old friends why Annalise and I went vegan, and it makes me think of this Isaac Singer quote, which I have on my Facebook account:

"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."

And it also made me think about The Omnivore's Dilemma, that Michael Pollan book that I went on about so much last summer.

In that book, Pollan talks about how powerful the vegetarian argument is, and since he spent a lot of time on factory farms in writing the book, Pollan speaks of how it is quite simply impossible to argue that millions of animals do nothing but suffer en route to our dinner plate. When faced with this terrible fact, what do North Americans do? We either look away - or we stop eating meat.

Most people just look away. They know how terrible the situation is, and refuse to make the connection between the 20 million animals going through the factory farms, and the fact that this requires them to make a life decision.

As much as I usually try to ignore what other people do, the looking away just blows my mind.

Monday, March 31, 2008

NY Times and Meat Guzzling

Wow... what the hell have I been so busy with the last two months that I missed this amazing New York Times article titled Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler? Has this already been posted on all the other veggie blogs??

I can't improve upon this article, and am extremely impressed that it appeared in the New York Times. Well done dudes.

Here are some of the passages that made me raise my fist and say "Right f#$&*'ing On!" But, hell, this article is so good... don't read what I've excerpted, just read the article!!! : )

Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests.

Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius.

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.

The environmental impact of growing so much grain for animal feed is profound. Agriculture in the United States — much of which now serves the demand for meat — contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Because the stomachs of cattle are meant to digest grass, not grain, cattle raised industrially thrive only in the sense that they gain weight quickly. This diet made it possible to remove cattle from their natural environment and encourage the efficiency of mass confinement and slaughter. But it causes enough health problems that administration of antibiotics is routine, so much so that it can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten the usefulness of medicines that treat people.

Those grain-fed animals, in turn, are contributing to health problems among the world’s wealthier citizens — heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes. The argument that meat provides useful protein makes sense, if the quantities are small. But the “you gotta eat meat” claim collapses at American levels. Even if the amount of meat we eat weren’t harmful, it’s way more than enough.

Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago. We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.) It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Let the good times roll, except for dairy cows

Today has been quite the day for "go vegetarian" news stories:

  • Greenpeace has released a report titled Cool Farming: Climate impacts of agriculture and mitigation potential. Basically it's a summary of how agriculture causes climate change; notably, how energy intensive the meat industry is, and, ultimately, how wasteful.

  • You know how some city councils are banning bottled water as a gesture towards combating climate change? Camden Town in London, U.K. is recommending that city employees give up meat to fight climate change. Alexis Rowell said the idea of taking meat off the menu was based on United Nations data showing that the livestock industry is responsible for 18 per cent of the world's carbon emissions.

  • Vegan diets ease arthritis. At the same time, the vegans [in the study] developed a lower body mass index, had lower levels of bad cholesterol and higher levels of immune system factors that potentially inhibit the inflammatory reaction. The research was reported in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.

And I have to admit that I've reached the point where I find it completely offensive that the Dairy Board of Ontario supplies school boards in this province with educational materials. I'd actually prefer it if Coca Cola and Pepsi were filling our schools with "nutritious beverages" flyers - as least those guys aren't torturing animals (as far as I know). Plus, the Dairy lobby has caused enough trouble by using lobby groups to completely pervert the food pyramid. Bastards.

Milk: From Farm to Fridge, one of the publications that the Dairy Board of Ontario gets into classrooms, covers the following:

  • Milk and Machines

  • Dairy Goodness

  • Cow to Carton

  • Careers in the Dairy Industry

  • Animal Care and the Environment

If the dairy board gets to supply schools with educational materials, shouldn't we ask elementary principles to make sure that classrooms are stocked up with information from humane treatment organizations as well?

I.E., the dairy industry uses pharmaceuticals and reimpregnation techniques (i.e., these cows are constantly kept pregnant), to make the cows produce ten times more milk than their bodies are meant to produce. This causes them to suffer from a whole smorgasboard (sp?) of diseases, such as Mastitis, Bovine Leukemia Virus, Bovine Immunodeficiency Virus, Johne's disease, Ketosis (which can be fatal), and Laminitis, which causes lameness. And, ironically, another dairy industry disease caused by intensive milk production is "Milk Fever." This ailment is caused by calcium deficiency, and it occurs when milk secretion depletes calcium faster than it can be replenished in the blood.

Being treated as a machine in a factory farm reduces a dairy cow's lifespan from 25 years to approximately 4 years, at which time they are forced up a ramp, with prods and electric shocks, limping because they've gone lame standing in one spot all their lives, into the slaughterhouse to become your hamburger (oh yeah, and one hamburger has the meat from around 40 cows by the way).

Yeah, let's invite these guys to send their "Dairy Goodness" picture books to our schools. That seems right. Maybe Bush and Cheney can come by and tell our third graders about how good government works.

Be fruitful and multiply

You'll have to click on this image to enlarge it and be able to read it, but for a vegetarian this is a pretty good chuckle. Thanks Sue!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You're much sweeter than me, by far

Annalise, despite her recent mishap, got busy last night and whipped up two salads for us. One is Walnut Cranberry Squash "Rice" from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen. We're both hoping to introduce raw meals into our diet, and this was our (or Anna's) first recipe from this book. I didn't like it so much. Basically you run a Butternut Squash through a food processor, and then add walnuts, cranberries, cilantro, onion, cumin and coriander, but the taste of the squash was still too strong for me.

The other salad though is one of my favourites - Quinoa (scroll down the page a little) with cranberries, walnuts, sweetened with Maple Syrup, and some other seasonings that I forget at the moment.

This story about the recent meat recall is why I am so happy that none of my money is going into the pockets of meat industry executives.
I love it when the below mentioned executive says that he was shocked by the actions of his employees, when the meat industry fought for years, and, up until mad cow mania in about 2004, fought successfully, for the right to sell meat from "downers" to North American consumers.

The executive, Steve Mendell of the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company of Chino, Calif., said, “I was shocked. I was horrified. I was sickened,” by video that showed employees kicking or using electric prods on “downer” cattle that were too sick to walk, jabbing one in the eye with a baton and using forklifts to push animals around.

The video was taken by an undercover investigator from the Humane Society of the United States. One tape showed a worker using a garden hose to try to squirt water up the nose of a downed cow, a technique that Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who conducted the hearing where Mr. Mendell testified, referred to as waterboarding.

Testifying before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Mendell, who appeared only after being subpoenaed, assured lawmakers that despite his lack of knowledge about conditions at the plant, sick animals were not slaughtered for food, so no safety issue existed.

But Mr. Mendell retracted the statement when shown a second video in which a “downer” cow was shocked and abused by workers trying to move it to the “kill box,” then finally shot with a bolt gun and dragged by a chain to the processing area.

When Mr. Mendell told the committee he was unaware of the abuses, Mr. Stupak asked him, “What’s your curiosity, as president and C.E.O. of the company you’re responsible for?”

Mr. Mendell replied that after he had seen the first video, he concluded that “it was a regulatory violation, for sure, it was inhumane treatment, for sure,” but that he did not believe it was a food safety issue until he saw the second video on Wednesday.

Mr. Stupak asked if one could conclude from the video that the cow dragged into the killing area had gone into the food supply.

“That would be logical, sir,” Mr. Mendell replied.

Actually, I wonder if these people eat meat that comes from their own factories?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

naked chicks + media = vegans!

Wow, Macleans magazine definitely got more interesting a few years back when the management changed. I used to find it boring as hell, but now I quite often find myself impressed with the stories and topics they present.

The most recent issue has a story called Go Veg! Get Girls! which critiques the increasing use of sex as an advertising tool to get people (or mainly men) to go vegetarian. For a number of examples of this type of advertising, and for some good commentary on this topic, check out this post on another Ontario veggie's blog.

Basically, you have the Vegan Vixens, who go on the Howard Stern show to flash their breasts and get a couple seconds of "go vegan" airtime, and you have stars like Alicia Silverstone and Eva Mendes and Pamela Anderson who perform in "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" type of ads, and you even have a Vegan Strip Club in Portland which lures men in to the club with girls, and tries to surprise the men with the realization, halfway through the evening, that they'd been eating vegan food for a couple of hours and that it was actually good!

Now, whether or not all this advertising works, whether or not it swells the ranks of vegetarians, is beside the point to feminists like Carol J Adams, who wrote The Sexual Politics of Meat. The above mentioned Social Cripple blog argues this point much better than I ever could, but as far as I understand it, you are doing vegetarianism no favours when you dangle naked women in front of men, like the carrot at the end of a stick, to get them to go veggie. In exchange for a few converts to the cause, you demean women. This, Adams would say, is not worth it.

Now, I don't disagree, but I would like to expand on this PETA argument: "unlike our opposition, the wealthy meat industry, PETA has to rely on getting free advertising through media coverage of our campaigns and demonstrations. Experience has taught us that provocative and controversial campaigns make all the difference."

Have you ever seen an ad for vegan issues on your local public transit? Ever seen an ad saying "Buy meat from a factory farm - support the torture of animals!" in your local newspaper? Were you surprised when they wouldn't even play this advertisement at the superbowl? The mainstream media will NOT take money from animal rights groups and run their advertising, because they're too afraid of pissing off most of their viewers/readers. And so, PETA will say that they have to be sensational in order to get any media coverage at all.

And so, in response to the "you're objectifying women" argument, PETA will say "more men bought a veggie dog today, and therefore less money went to the torture industry."

Now, another article in Macleans this week kind of demonstrates the above point. Local Schmocal by Pamela Cutherbert discusses how ethical the much touted local food movement really is, when the 100 mile apples you're eating are bathed seven or eight times with chemicals, and your pork came from a local factory farm.

Cutherbert mentions the group Homegrown Ontario, which is an an alliance of Ontario Pork, the Ontario Veal Association and the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency. These guys, obviously, are trying to convince people in Ontario to buy meat raised in the same province. In a paragraph which kind of asks the reader "do you really want to support these guys?", Cuthbert writes that the 3000 pig farms in Ontario work as follows:
the typical pig farm in Ontario has roughly 6000 sows each year, where each animal is fed on a ration of genetically modified soybean and corn that is enhanced with antibiotics and growth horomones, to a mature weight of about 250 pounds in six months. They are raised entirely indoors with an allowance in group pens of eight square feet per animal.

My point in quoting this is that the incredibly tame, neutral language of the above paragraph is the most that a writer can get away with in a mainstream news publication (for American readers who don't know what Macleans is, it is Canada's version of Time magazine).
If you read that paragraph with no background in animal rights issues, you'd probably glaze right over it without realizing what it is actually saying. You don't realize that getting a pig to 250 pounds in six months means force feeding it a diet that it's body can't actually handle, and therefore, to enable the pig to survive, you also have to force feed it antibiotics, which is promoting the rise of anti-biotic resistant viruses like the avian flus and mad cows that have been in the news. The paragraph also doesn't mention the severe problems of manure lagoons and tail docking etc.

So, I guess, the question is this, if your hands are tied, and a group can't advertise in, or voice it's opinion in the mainstream media, is okay to get coverage by being sensationalistic?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Your valleys and your farms

A recent issue of Macleans magazine has a cover story about why peak oil, and the use of corn etc for bio-fuels, is going to cause a massive spike in food prices very soon (in fact, this spike has already occurred in many parts of the world).

In listing a few of the causes, one passage ends with what vegetarians know is one of the answers to this problem - stop wasting 7 tons of soy and grain by feeding it to cattle, who only return about 1 ton worth of consumable meat.
Is the recent price bump due, as some argue, to passing or localized phenomena, like Australian droughts or the biofuel fad? Or is it rooted in longer-term forces that augur sustained and potentially distastrous shortages? After all, many of the conditions necessary to make the food armageddonists' predictions come true are now upon us. Water is scarce, fossil fuels are prohibitively expensive, fish stocks are near collapse and the world adds 80 million people every year. To that, you can now add global warming, which agronomists say is drying up vulnerable countries where farmlands depend on rain.

And then there's China. With ever greater purchasing power, Asian consumers are moving toward the higher-protein, better-tasting, meat-laden diet westerners have enjoyed for decades. Producing all that beef, pork and eggs requires vast quantities of grain that might otherwise be used to feed people. "On the amount of grain fed each year to cattle in the United States, you could feed 850 million people as vegetarians," says David Pimentel, a Cornell University agricultural scientist who studies the global food economy. "That's not a value judgment. It's a fact."
It's just boggling sometimes. There are so many reasons to be vegetarian (see previous post). Why don't more people get it?

And I came across this a little while ago, and couldn't believe it. The way that the U.S. has a strategic oil reserve to be used for emergencies, China has a strategic pork reserve.

And because I need to fantasize a little bit, here's the kind of farm I hope to be living on when peak oil hits and we all make for the hills.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

you don't eat meat OR dairy?!

Yesterday Annalise and I spent a day with some people that we hadn't been in touch with for a while, and who didn't know about our vegan thing.

Surprisingly, I don't actually get the "why are you vegan" question very often. It came up several times yesterday though, and I realized that it has become such a hard question to answer because vegans know that there are several extremely good reasons to give up animal products, and really, there aren't any good reasons to eat animal products. So, when we hear "why don't you eat meat" our internal and unspoken reaction is something like "Holy S%*T! Why the F&*K would I?!!?"

I find it hard to think of why people do eat meat, beyond the fact that they grew up doing it, have never in their lives given it a moment's thought, and just continue to do what they've always done.

I mean, imagine this scenario - we are able to wipe the slate clean, and sit every person in North America down at a decision making table, and say "Here is a list of reasons to eat meat, and this page here is a list of reasons to go vegan. Think it over a little while and see which you'd rather do."

Here is what the two lists would look like:

To eat meat

  • You might eventually start to like the taste of it

To go vegan

  • It's healthier for you - especially reducing risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer.

  • It's better for the environment - limiting both pollution and climate change (the rule of thumb being that you can reduce your carbon footprint more by giving up meat than by giving up your car)

  • You reduce the amount of your hard-earned money that goes into the pockets of some seriously corrupt corporations

  • You contribute far less to world starvation

  • You stop funding an industry that is both a) increasing the risk of diseases like avian flu and mad cow while also b) decreasing the ability of our anti-biotics to fight these diseases

  • Looming large behind the issue of whether or not it's ethical to eat animals, you fall on the right side of the debate about whether or not it's ethical to torture animals

Hmm, maybe I'll start refusing to answer the "why don't you eat meat?" question in social situations, and just have business cards made up with a link to this post. Then I could hand people the card and say "Let's not talk about this now, but if you're really interested, read this post, and look through my blog sometime."

If you want a good overall summary of this stuff, click here, or watch this.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Protecting corporate power against democracy

I've been reading Christopher Cook's Diet for a Dead Planet, and it has got me thinking about why I'm a vegan.

The big three reasons for being vegetarian or vegan are to protect the environment, for personal health, and for animal rights. The big reason I'm increasingly proud to be veggie is a little different. The more you read, the more evident it is that "big agriculture" is as corrupt and immoral as big oil, and I simply refuse to give these people any more of my money than I have to.

The ties behind big agriculture and government go back into the distant past, but for my purposes let's start with Michael Pollan's story about how U.S. legislators in the 1970's tried to recommend eating less red meat after getting good data that this would reduce heart disease. The agricultural lobby went ballistic, and told all these legislators that they would be actively campaigned against in their next election if they put forward their new dietary guidelines. What happened? Agri-business won, the government caved, and Americans kept getting heart attacks at higher rates than they needed to.
Picture from Choose Veg's dairy page.

According to Cook (pg 40/41), the beef lobby all by itself donated $28 million to U.S. politicans between 1990 and 2003. Republicans get most of this money, receiving 83% of the $500 000 that was given to congressional candidates in 2002. What does the beef industry get in return? Well, they get members of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association hired as aides within the U.S. Agricultural department. They get politicians to quash, time and time again, laws prohibiting the sale of meat from "downers" - cattle that die en route to the slaughter house. AND THEN, when mad cow finally scares legislators enough that they do ban the use of downers, it turns out that in practice, slaughterhouse employees shove lame and dying cattle onto the kill floor anyway, and therefore you have stories like the recent recall of beef in the U.S., where a slaughterhouse is shut down for using downers.

And then you have the damned hog producers, like Wendell Murphy, who give campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for tax breaks and subsidies to their factory farms - despite said factory farms being the worst polluters in these politicians electoral districts. And who is Wendell Murphy? Well he's a hog producer and also formerly the North Carolina senator who was the chair of the Senate's agricultural committee. He helped exempt factory farms from zoning laws that would have restricted the size of the confinement houses and effluent lagoons, even those along sensitive floodplains. In exchange for contributions to senators, the hog industry in North Carolina was able to treat the eastern part of the State as one big sewer (Cook, pg. 179).

In Canada, where we like to think our politics is a little cleaner, we need to remember stories like Frankensteer from the CBC's Fifth Estate. Among other stories, these journalists talk to Health Canada scientists who were removed from their positions when they stood up to Health Canada and said they refused to approve antibiotics for cattle which good research showed were carcinogenic.

Hmm... we know that we're feeding these animals carcinogenic drugs, but when members of our national Health agency say "we have to stop this!", they get fired?

Anyway, if I had the time I could flesh out a few more things, like how the dietary food pyramid is basically designed by the dairy industry, how North American laws regarding animal cruelty and the transport of animals are archaic because the agricultural lobby prevents them from being changed, and how, if you were a good politician who thought you might have a go at the agricultural lobby, you better be ready to take on the pharmaceutical industry as well - in 1997 they sold 985 millions pounds of pesticides to U.S. farmers, and in 2001 they sold 25 million pounds of antibiotics to U.S. farmers (Cook, pages 164 and 64).

So, why am I a vegan? Because the people behind the meat industry care more about corporate profits than they do about the health of their customers, the health of the planet, and the amount of suffering they cause the animals who are their product.

And what galls me even more? All of this is made possible, at least in part, because of bribery, collusion, and knowing smiles at power lunches.

If all I can do is keep these people from pocketing my money, that's what I'm going to do.

Alex Carey:
The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Vegans discuss Bourdain

Our bookclub met this weekend to discuss Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, and we had a fairly good talk about it. As mentioned below, Bourdain has very strong anti-vegetarian views, and the irony is that our book club consists of four near-vegans, one wheat free vegetarian, and one omnivore nutritionist who is careful about what she eats.

The first thing that you should know, is that I actually enjoyed the book. In fact, I'd give it about a 7.5 out of 10. I thought that Bourdain was a pretty good writer, and that he provided a really interesting look at a world - that of cooking & restaurants - that I'd never thought of before, and otherwise knew nothing about.

BUT - I obviously have issues with Bourdain's feelings about vegetarians and vegans.

Here is what I believe the situation is:
a) Bourdain hates the extremist voices in the vegan movement, and in attacking them attacks all vegetarians with one big brushstroke.

b) Unable to find a truly good argument with which to fight the main reasons for being veggie (personal health, animal rights, environmental concerns), he has made up two very weak and actually irrelevant arguments which he uses to dismiss our lifestyles.

The first of these arguments, which he writes about in his book (and as i quote in the previous post), has to do with vegetarians being more prone to illness than omnivores because we handle fresh produce more often and are therefore more likely to be infected with amoebas.

Together, let's all make that "Hruuh??" sound that Scooby Doo makes when he's confused.

So the amoebas from fresh produce are worse than the carcinogens in North American factory farmed meat, which is so bad that it's not even allowed on the European market? And the amoebas are worse than all the saturated fat in red meats responsible for the obesity and diabetes epidemics in North America? And worse than the salmonella which is rampant in factory farmed chicken?
Whatever, Anthony. Nice try.

Secondly, as you can hear in this You Tube video, he's come up with a "vegetarians deny themselves life experience, and do so in a very rude way" argument. This argument is that you shouldn't travel to Mexico or Cambodia and turn your nose up at the meat filled taco, or the roasted pig, because you're denying your hosts' entire lifestyle by doing so... as he says - I'm not rejecting just your food, I'm ignoring your weird foreign lifestyle and your history and everything else.

Anthony, this is fine and dandy, and sure food is a major part of the culture of a nation, but this argument has NOTHING TO DO with why most of us are vegetarians. Would I be missing out on something, and possibly be acting rudely, by going to Japan and refusing to eat sushi with fish? Yeah, maybe. But that's an amazingly small price to pay for choosing a lifestyle which day in day out makes me healthier, is better for the planet, and keeps my money from supporting an industry in which waste and suffering are the norm. And anyway, how often am I in Cambodia for Pete's sake?!

Come on Anthony, admit it - we know from the comments in your book about how chickens are kept in terrible conditions, and that foie gras is made by force-feeding ducks and geese until they basically explode, that you know that the meat industry is actually the "torture animals" industry, and because you simply enjoy eating meat, you don't really care how it gets to your plate. Be man enough to come out and say "I support the torture of animals for my own gastronomic pleasure."
Don't make up pitiful attacks on vegetarians to move the focus from your food choices to ours.

And having just found a new Bourdain comment about animals, let me make one more point.
Bourdain, on a TV show called Chef's Story in Oct. 2007, said the following: I don't like to see animals in pain. That was very uncomfortable to me. I don't like factory farming. I'm not an advocate for the meat industry.

Okay, so if you're willing to say all this, can you at least make that nod towards vegetarians that Wolfgang Puck has, and say "I can't deny that I like meat, but at the very least, when I'm in North America and have the choice, I will not buy any meat that came from a factory farm."

Is that too much to ask? You can't be globetrotting and experiencing exotic cultures through their food all the time - aren't you in the U.S. sometimes and willing to pay the few extra bucks for naturally raised meat, or forgo the meat entirely?

Anyway, we had a fun night. Ate some great vegan food (lentil stew, beet coleslaw, spicy potatoes, zucchini soup), discussed Bourdain's book, played a bit of music, and then some board games, and didn't put any of our money into the pockets of guys sending cows through a dismembering line at the rate of 400 to 500 an hour in one single facility.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

how the kitchen staff views vegetarians

I'm reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential right now. This book first came out in 2000, and was a best seller back then. If you haven't heard of it, it was Bourdain's tell-all about life as a professional chef "laying out more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex and haute cuisine."

Bourdain is something of an egotistical ass, but he seems quite happy about it, and gives the impression that all chefs are similar. Anyway, I thought I'd share his feelings, and presumably the feelings of most professional chefs (except for Mr. Puck!) on vegetarians.

From page 70 of the 2007 First Harper Perennial Edition:

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. Oh, I'll accommodate them, I'll rummage around for something to feed them, for a "vegetarian plate", if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.

So that's his general view of veggies. He then goes on to tell an anecdote, the logic of which I don't really get, that vegetarians are prone to sickness and are germ carriers. "Amoebas are transferred most easily through the handling of raw, uncooked vegetables, particularly during the washing of salad greens and leafy produce. So think about that next time you want to exchange deep tongue kisses with a vegetarian."

Sorry Anthony, but vegetarians are pretty hot, you'll have to try harder than that to put me off exchanging "deep tongue kisses" with them.

Actually, the more I reflect on some of Bourdain's comments, the more I dislike him.

Here he is on chickens, without a moment's thought about, you know... if they are loaded with salmonella because they're treated so badly, maybe we should treat them better!?

Page 71
Pigs are filthy animals, say some, when explaining why they deny themselves the delights of pork. Maybe they should visit a chicken ranch. America's favourite menu item is also the most likely to make you ill. Commercially available chickens, for the most part (we're not talking about kosher and expensive free-range birds), are loaded with salmonella. Chickens are dirty. They eat their own feces, are kept packed close together like in a rush-hour subway, and when handled in a restaurant situation are most likely to infect other foods or cross-contaminate them. And chicken is boring. Chefs see it as a menu item for people who don't know what they want to eat.

Jerk. Chickens aren't dirty. They just get that way when they're confined in such small spaces that they have to crap all over themselves.

And finally, on page 73, here he is on foie gras (the production of which has been banned in England and California and many other areas because it is just so grotesquely immoral):
I don't know who figured out that if you crammed rich food into a goose long enough for its liver to balloon up to more than its normal body weight you'd get something as good as foie gras - I believe it was those kooky Romans - but I'm very grateful for their efforts.

Right. Well Anthony, here's hoping you're reincarnated as a goose.