Dairy: thoughts on motherhood, cultural conditioning and hope

This excellent post from https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/dairy-thoughts-on-motherhood-cultural-conditioning-and-hope coincides with my thinking about how to address the ‘why lacto- vegetarianism isn’t enough’ issue on 57billion. Not only is this an excellent article, but it also offers me a lead-in for a brief piece to begin to address these issues on this blog. With thanks to the author of the original Elephant in the Room blog.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality A new mother warily watches the humans while defensively standing over her newborn.

When we are not vegan and we hear the word ‘dairy’, what do we think of?  We think of milk and cream, of yogurt and crème frais, of butter and cheeses, and of ice cream and chocolate. We think of ingredients and commodities, divorced from their source, vaguely but cosily wrapped in feel-good ideas like ‘harmless’ and ‘humane’, ‘free range’, ‘grass fed’ and ‘organic’.

We are encouraged to think of dairy as a harmless substance and millions of pounds, millions of dollars are spent by a heavily subsidised industry every year on the most skilled marketers money can buy, who use high-profile advertising to keep us thinking that way. Once we become sensitised to the prevalence of the advertising promoting and normalising dairy use, it is truly breathtaking to note how widespread it is.  The advertising is…

View original post 2,406 more words

spring & wild garlic (recipe)

The courtyard’s thick with birdsong. Over across the brook, hillsides blaze with gorse. Here in Devon, the lanes now are almost at their cusp of fullness. We’ve the deep mauve of dog violet, periwinkle and early purple orchid; the ultraviolet of bluebells; dark pink and pale pink campion; white wild strawberry flowers, the stitchworts, Queen Anne’s lace, jack-by-the-hedge and wild garlic in abundance; and of course the gold embroiderers: dandelion and buttercup, against the buttermilk of primroses.

Since February wild garlic has loomed large in our cooking, accompanying the last of our leeks in various dishes, added to salads with our rocket, chopped into leek, potato and nettle soup.

So here’s a vegan sort-of pesto sauce for you:

Take: 
1 large handful of wild garlic leaves, washed well
Half that amount of rocket
1 handful of nettle tips, picked young, stripped from the stalk and wilted for 1-2 minutes in boiling water
Whizz up together with a generous gloop of olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of pine nuts.
I added the juice from one lemon; or to taste
Season
If you can find it, 3 tbsps of Coyo – vegan yoghurt made from coconuts – completely transforms this.

Pour onto hot or cold vegetables, or stir into pasta; dip fresh warm bread into it.

open minds and playing mock the vegan

Here’s another good post from There’s an Elephant in the Room, with thanks for permission to reblog it:

Open minds and playing mock the vegan


Every day I read comment after comment from those who dismiss science in favour of support for industry advertising campaigns that play to and reinforce our confirmation bias. It dismays me to witness how many will willingly ridicule the recognition of the sentience of our victims and the fact that not only we do not require to use them for nutritional purposes, but that we are in fact harmed by doing so.

How naïve have we become, to delight in playing ‘mock the vegan’, while lapping up the multi-million media advertising campaigns by the massive industries that market sentient animals, their corpses, eggs and lactation, as commodities and resources, filling their coffers as they laugh all the way to the slaughterhouse?

Since when have we become so trusting as to seriously entertain the idea that those who make their living from harming animals for us to consume as a completely unnecessary ‘food’, are going to be honest with us about the sentience of our victims, the injustice of what we are paying them to do and the very real risks they pose to our health?

Apart from the obvious truth that every one of us claims to care about animals so it clearly makes no sense for us to continue to harm them when it is unnecessary, I have nothing to gain except the hope that sharing my own experiences may help prevent others from taking massive risks with their own health and that of their children.

There are many studies that will tell us that animal products are good for us. There are also those who will tell us that the world is flat and that evolution is a lie. No idea is too preposterous not to have someone who believes and promotes it.

All I can ask is that you apply common sense and follow the money. If a report or a recommendation tells us that consuming animal substances is ‘healthy’ for us and ‘humane’ for them – check out the sponsors, the source and ask yourself who has much to gain from such an assertion. And keep an open mind, corporate sponsors have a surprisingly long reach.

It’s definitely a matter of life and death for our victims and most likely for ourselves as well.

Be vegan.

when they ask…

I know that, for many, the fact that one is vegan is challenging. I don’t like to criticise people, nor make them feel bad or guilty, so I don’t speak of it often. The truth is, when the subject of what one does or doesn’t eat comes up, many people – meat-eaters, that is – immediately become defensive, and then go on the offensive.

I can proselytise on animal welfare and environmental issues for Great Britain if I need to. I can put the case for animal rights ad nauseam to anyone who will listen.

But it’s more difficult to include and push forward my own personal commitments and ethics. Why? Because as a vegan it is so easy to come across as self-righteous and holier-than-thou, and there is nothing like an animal-lover who is following through on their ethics to a logical (vegan) conclusion to make people who consider themselves to be animal-lovers feel attacked and blamed if they’re not following through.

This is what Jungians would call shadow-projection: inside every meat-eating so-called animal lover is a probably-unconscious or partly-conscious nagging voice that says they could do better, and imagines that you’re about to tell them that.

These closet vegetarians or vegans are actually harder to deal with than those who’ve never thought about what they eat, or don’t even understand the concept of veganism, who will often listen with some interest. (Though indeed the former category might eventually be more open to going veggie or vegan; it’s obvious that they have some guilt about their diet, or they wouldn’t be so defensive.)

So mostly I don’t speak of my diet unless it comes up naturally in a conversation, or is relevant to e.g. eating at someone’s house.

But still, the large number of unsolicited attacks I’ve had from meat-eaters over the years when the topic has come up – very rarely raised by me – have ranged from awkward to painful to out-and-out aggressive.

These are the commonest reactions; you might recognise them:

Trick question #1 ‘But what about plants then?’
One (now ex-) friend as part of a wider conversation asked my reasons for being lacto-veggie (this was several years ago, before I became vegan), as she was catering for me.

I told her that my reasons were based on animal welfare: we know animals suffer physical pain as they have a central nervous system; and we know animals suffer fear and emotional pain too – you’d have to be mindlessly stupid and disconnected not to read an animal’s eyes, face and body language when it’s suffering (I didn’t tell her that she was mindlessly stupid and disconnected, however!).

I added that I’d made a commitment decades ago not to cause more harm than I could avoid.

(There is also, of course, deforestation to grow crops to feed animals, the inefficient use of land to produce meat, the issues of starvation elsewhere partly as a result of our industrial-scale farming practices, and the environmental issues associated with these things, all of which are relevant.)

A few days later, I noticed my exact words quoted by said ex-friend on a public internet forum as a dismissal of such an argument: ‘I find [this ‘animals suffer’ argument against eating meat] bizarre. What about plants?’

I was both hurt and speechless; it was worse because she had been a neuroscientist so should surely know what a central nervous system means in terms of the experience of suffering (but then again she’d worked for the tobacco industry too, which of course involves laboratory animals. I guess you can only live with that through denial.)

And I’ve met that argument over and over: ‘But what about plants? Don’t you think they suffer too?’

Well, as it happens, I do think that every sentient being does experience some kind of suffering – in their own way. But that’s a digression and can lead to a very flaky conversation.

More centrally, I also think it’s a mind-game: a displacement of guilt designed to trip me up, trap me, catch me out. Critically, it’s a diversion from the big topic of animal wellbeing.

It’s also a stupid argument. We have to eat something; we have to draw the line somewhere.

These days, my response would be something along the lines of ‘Well, I’ve been trying to live on air alone, but I felt a little faint; so it was me or the cabbage.’

Trick question #2: ‘Well, do you think that carnivorous animals are evil, then?’
No. I believe evil is a human construct. As it happens, I don’t believe it exists, though I think that ignorance and greed both exist in the human to the extent that we think everything here on this planet – and this planet itself – has been created as a resource for us. We are also the only species capable of destroying the environment on which we depend, too. Blame patriarchal institutions like the Judeo-Christian tradition, although I suspect this attitude predates that too.

An animal is historically adapted to eat biologically, anatomically, environmentally, what it needs to eat. Not only have we developed biologically as omnivores, but crucially we also have the consciousness to make choices, in a way that animals simply haven’t. (Those of us who live in the privileged Western world, anyway.)

Trick question #3: ‘What about e.g. the Inuit?’
I’m not saying the whole world has to be vegan. I’d love it, and a few billion animals would do a whole lot better, but I know it’s an impossibility. In the Arctic circle you don’t have a great deal of choice of vegetables.

Trick question #4: ‘But we need meat for health.’
Not true. Simply not true. There’s so much info available on the web I barely know where to start with this one. Generally, I keep calm and – if they’re genuinely interested – point them to one of the websites or the books I mention under RESOURCES.

Trick question #5: ‘But animals were put here for our use.’
Gaaaarrrgggh. Gaaaarrrgggh. Gaaaarrrgggh. Hard to keep calm on this one. See #2 above.

There are more. I’d love to hear of any ‘trick questions’ that have been levelled at you, and your responses.

Meantime, the first two books on my list here are very good resources, and one of them – I think it’s the Cheeseburger one but don’t have them here to check – has a list of common questions and excellent and informed responses.

As usual, btw, the latest post from this blog is well worth reading (it’s more hard-hitting than my post above):

https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/taking-our-time-taking-their-lives
*

Response to a ‘welfare’ survey about hens used for eggs

Here’s an excellent argument, calm and reasonable, about why ‘animal welfare’ is not the issue; using animals at all as a resource is. I highly recommend this site: https://theresanelephantintheroomblog.wordpress.com

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

Joy at Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary Joy, rescued from an ‘Enriched’ Cage

Missy, rescued from a 'Free Range' facility Missy, rescued from a ‘Free Range’ facility

There’s an Elephant in the Room was recently contacted by a veterinary student with a request to complete a survey on the ‘welfare’ of hens in the egg industry. I did not complete it and have declined to promote it. Sharing my response.

‘Thank you for contacting me. I have viewed your survey and felt that my reason for not completing or promoting it warranted an explanation.

As a vegan activist, I got full marks in all categories. This emphasises that I am all too well aware of the facts surrounding the conditions in which humanity’s victims are exploited but these are not the reason why I am vegan and neither are they the reason why I promote veganism.

‘Welfare’ is a word that is much-overused by the exploitation industries and by those who promote and support them…

View original post 549 more words

a rant against speciesism

This is a guest blog, in fact a reblog, from my vegan cyber-friend David Ashton, who on his ‘Snowbranches‘ Buddhist blog writes mostly about living with compassion.

~~~

Mindful Blindness: A Rant Against Speciesism

Every time,
A twinge of sadness:
The meat department

Warning! This is a rant.

As you may have noticed, I love you all dearly. The last thing I want to do is cause you pain. Because this is a rant, I’m not taking aim at anyone in particular, but if you stand too close, you may get thwacked, I may hit a nerve, or even step on your beliefs. No hard feelings if you bail out at any time.

You could think of this as an address to the jury on behalf of a group of sentient beings facing the death penalty that can’t speak for themselves.

I’ve been a vegetarian for the past six years, and in total, about 15 of my 62 years, but have only been phasing eggs and dairy out of my diet for the past six months or so [as at 2011].

I am grateful to Peter Singer’s classic book Animal Liberation for helping to crystallize my thoughts on the subject. I have drawn freely from his ideas.

Speciesism, like cannibalism, slavery, religious persecution, racism and sexism, is the imposing of the will of a powerful group upon a weaker group – in this case, by humans upon other sentient species. We take it so much for granted that it often goes unnoticed. But it’s everywhere – not just on our dinner plates and covering our feet, but also at the rodeos, circuses, bullfights, hunting and fishing trips, the fur trade and clothing stores. Last but not least, the worst atrocities are hidden behind the walls of the factory farms and slaughterhouses.

The idea of animal liberation isn’t new. Plato and Pythagoras were vegetarians for ethical reasons. So was Leonardo Da Vinci. He would buy caged birds sold at the marketplace for food and then set them free. Edison and Einstein were another couple of smart guys that decided they didn’t need meat and stopped eating it.

The amount of suffering we inflict on animals is staggering. Of course, physical pain causes suffering – branding, de-horning, castrating, tail docking, de-beaking – all without anaesthetic.

But so does the psychological pain caused by frustrating the natural instincts to run, to root around, snuggle with a mother or an offspring, socialize normally, exercise and play. It’s not uncommon for pigs in factory farms to literally go insane, making endless repetitive movements and biting their own tails and their cage bars. Pigs are as intelligent and affectionate as dogs, but the idea of subjecting puppies to the same cruelty we bestow on pigs, and then killing and eating them, is unthinkable.

So why do we eat animals? What benefit can we possibly get that outweighs the suffering and killing?

I like the taste. You can make some really delicious veggie meals – avocados, ginger, oranges, roasted nuts, garlic – the combinations are endless. My dad used to say “hunger makes the best sauce”. I think eating with a glad heart makes things taste pretty good too.

They are dead already or I didn’t kill them. Every time you take a chicken home from the store, another chicken has to be killed to take its place on the shelf.  By eating them, we are causing their deaths. Like the starfish story posted over at Jomon’s lovely blog nothing to attain, every little bit of meat not eaten makes a difference.

I need my protein. True, but you can get it from plants.  Beans and grains provide all the essential amino acids our bodies require. End of story. If you don’t believe me (I’ve got a degree in nutritional biochemistry), ask the vegetarian Olympic athletes. If vegan Carl Lewis can win nine gold medals, surely I can drag my sorry ass to work and back without eating meat. The omega unsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil are abundant in flax seeds. The only thing lacking in a vegan diet is vitamin B12, which you can take as a supplement.

Our bodies are designed to eat meat – we have canine teeth.  True, but we are also designed to eat plants – we have molars.  Unlike other animals, we have the ability to choose our foods.  We tell our bodies what to eat, not the other way around. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

You are killing plants. As far as we know, plants don’t experience pain.  As Alan Watts said, “cows scream louder than carrots.” Besides, it takes about ten pounds of plants to produce one pound of beef.  So if you eat a pound of beef, ten pounds of plants are killed as well. Maybe in a perfect world, we will live on fruit and nuts and grains and no plants will be killed.

You may want to skip over the next paragraph. It’s a little unkind.

I eat meat mindfully. This one really gets me, and I’m sorry if I’m talking about you. Nothing personal, but I don’t care how many prayers you say, how many candles or sticks of incense you light, or how “in the moment” you are; and I don’t care what the Buddhist sutras say, or what the Buddha said – the animal on your plate was still killed, and another will be killed to take its place. Maybe the smells and bells and chanting will make you feel better or change your karma, but that’s not the point. If it is the point, then I’ve missed it. The same reasoning would justify the death penalty, killing in battle and all manner of atrocities. How can you be mindful and in the moment, and not hear the screams from the abbatoir?

I only eat meat from animals raised and killed compassionately. Good for you. I mean it. But if you go to all that trouble to eat something you don’t need, why not just stop?

What about eggs and dairy?  I’m finally 100% vegan – no eggs or dairy or honey, leather, wool or silk – but it took quite a while.

[This post originally read: Ouch. This is where I get hit by my own flailing. There is plenty of suffering associated with the milk and egg industry, but my diet is still only 95% vegan, for interpersonal reasons. You know the old saying, “take my advice – I’m not using it.” Besides, if they only allowed perfect people to rant, it would be awfully quiet.]

What can I do? Lots. Here are a few suggestions. Start by cutting dead critters out of your diet.  If you eat eggs, make sure they are free range. If you eat dairy, make sure the cheese doesn’t contain rennet and the yogurt doesn’t contain gelatin. Consider giving up leather and silk. Consider only using detergents, shampoos and cosmetics that are labelled ‘not tested on animals’. Learn about this stuff. Check out blogs like vegan.com and organizations like PETA. And of course, spread the word. If you’re looking for company, I posted a list of some famous veggies here.

Here’s something to consider: If all the land in North America now used to raise and feed animals were used to grow crops, it would produce enough food to eliminate hunger on the entire planet.
If you managed to read this to the end, my heart gives you a big hug! Thank you.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

If you’re up for it, watch the trailer for the award-winning documentary Earthlings, but be prepared to weep (seriously!).  You can watch the trailer and the entire movie here.

I also recommend seeing the documentary Forks over Knives about the health benefits of a plant-based diet and unrefined foods.

Spirituality & Veganism

Guest blog by Piers Warren

foraging-sheep-on-tideline

Veganism (as defined by The Vegan Society) is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

But is there any connection between veganism and spirituality? At the start of this magazine, amongst the aims of GreenSpirit, you will see that GreenSpirit challenges us to ‘replace the anthropocentric worldview with an ecocentric one’ and to ‘walk ever more lightly on the Earth’. These challenges in particular tie in very clearly with vegan ideals.

To explore the advantages of veganism let me give you a run through of my own journey. As a young child I was drawn to animals and being outside in Nature. My earliest memories include the joy of finding slow worms under logs and building little ponds for tadpoles. From around the age of seven, I began growing my own veg (just radishes and lettuce to start with), which has grown into a passion that will stay with me my whole life.

Early on I also realised there was a lot of cruelty and exploitation in the world – elephants being massacred for their ivory, for example – and this realisation led to my later work in conservation. However, like most people in the UK, I was brought up eating meat and drinking milk and didn’t really make the connection between this and cruelty; it was just the way things were. Plus of course we were victims of marketing hype telling us how healthy milk was, for example, despite the incongruity that no other animal drinks another species’ milk, and none beyond weaning.

As my interest in animal welfare grew I became vegetarian as a young adult, and this decision was reinforced by a period living just down the lane from a large modern abattoir (the day-long screaming from the pigs stays with me to this day). I was also interested in self-sufficiency, yet my attempts at running a smallholding met the dilemmas of what to do with surplus male chicks, and the distress of removing young goat kids from their mother so that she could be milked for our own consumption.

The idea that veganism was the way to go to relieve my troubled conscience came to me, but it was years until I made the effort to embrace it fully. Like many vegetarians I struggled with doing without milk, cheese and eggs and managed to keep putting it to the back of my mind despite knowing that I would take the plunge one day.

Four things pushed me closer to the inevitable. Firstly, through organisations like VIVA! (see resources below), I learnt more about the cruelty involved in the dairy and egg industries: young calves torn away from their mothers at birth to be shot or sent to veal crates overseas; millions of day-old male chicks (useless for egg production) tossed live into a grinder, not to mention the awful conditions most laying birds are kept in, free-range or not, and so on. It is said that there is more cruelty in a glass of milk than a pound of steak. The animals we eat, from cattle to chickens to fish, are sentient beings with complex relationships with each other. Above all they want to avoid pain and not die. Research shows that even lobsters and crabs feel pain – being out of water for many hours before being boiled alive is not a good way to go.

Secondly, I learnt more about the personal health benefits of a cruelty-free diet. Vegans are less likely to suffer from all the major diseases: cancer, heart problems, diabetes, obesity etc. Increasingly the major health and dietetic organisations worldwide are encouraging people to eat less meat and more fruit and veg.

Thirdly, it became clear that the meat and dairy industries were major contributors to climate change (more than all the world’s transport systems put together). With my work in conservation, my horror at the dire projections as CO2 emissions continue to increase and my own desire to reduce my carbon footprint, it seemed hypocritical to put off turning vegan myself. It may feel easier to switch to a green energy supplier or use public transport more, but the greatest thing you can personally do to reduce climate change is to become vegan. The effects of the meat and dairy industries on the climate, and why they are covered up, are explored in the excellent film Cowspiracy* (see resources). There are many other ecological disasters associated with the drive for animal protein: for example, current projections are that by 2050 there will be no viable stocks of fish left in the oceans – worldwide.

And finally, as my own explorations into spirituality developed I kept coming back to the three words ‘respect for life’. I’ve never been anthropocentric, have never considered man above all other animals – we’ve just evolved differently. I’ve always loved all animals, been fascinated by them and the wonder of evolution, found great peace in Nature, and been awe-inspired by the beauty of wild places and creatures. I could not be a part of the wheel of destruction and cruelty purely through a liking for the taste of meat or cheese or milk. We are all connected. How can we feel spiritually at peace when we are causing so much death and cruelty every day (more than a billion animals are slaughtered for food every year in the UK alone)? There is nothing humane or ethical about slaughterhouses, no matter how modern they are. If you’re not sure what goes on then I urge you to watch the documentary Earthlings (see resources). It’s a harrowing experience, but then if just watching a film is traumatising, imagine what the reality is like. Not caring about the lives of sentient beings does not fit in with my idea of spirituality at all. There is nothing less valuable about the lives of pigs (which are more intelligent than dogs) than the pets we love and care for. I want to continue to explore and embrace compassion, empathy and reverence for all living beings.

It’s been interesting to meet other vegans who had never previously thought of spiritual aspects of their life, but since becoming vegan have explored and embraced spirituality, taken up other activities such as meditation and yoga and gained deeper personal peace.

Respect for life extends to other humans too, of course. A billion people worldwide do not have enough to eat, yet the amount of grain fed to cattle to provide the rich west with burgers could alleviate all hunger in the world. The plant food needed to produce just one pound of meat could feed 10 people for an entire day. It is unjust in the extreme.

There are already millions of vegans in the world, living healthy, cruelty-free lives, and more people are joining them all the time as the horrors of the meat and dairy industries are more exposed. It’s easier than ever to eat out as a vegan, and more alternatives (such as plant-based milks and cheeses) make it easy to cook at home without feeling like you’re missing out on anything. Veganism has boosted my enjoyment of food and cooking, and with the right variety of plant-based wholefoods it’s easy to get enough of the right nutrition, protein, vitamins and minerals in a more healthy form than you would get from animal products. Increasingly top athletes are turning to a vegan diet as its benefits for health and fitness are discovered.

Our digestive systems and metabolism have evolved to thrive on plant-based diets as increasing amounts of scientific research prove – such as The China Study (see resources). The reason people eat so much meat and dairy worldwide is simply because they like the taste – a shallow reason to fund cruelty and climate change at the expense of your own health.

The more I’ve learnt about veganism, and the longer I’ve practised it, the happier I’ve been with the decision to exclude cruelty to animals, as far as possible, from my life, reduce my carbon footprint and improve my health. Like many other vegans I have spoken to I only wish I’d started many years ago, and I know I will never turn back.

Here are some resources I’ve found really useful and supportive:

Organisations: The Vegan Society (www.vegansociety.com).

VIVA! (www.viva.org.uk) very active in campaigning against cruelty, plus excellent nutritional advice.

Magazine: Vegan Life (veganlifemag.com) lots of interesting articles and news items about vegan topics plus yummy recipes.

Books: World Peace Diet by Dr Will Tuttle (www.worldpeacediet.com) a best-selling, in-depth study of our food and culture with a spiritual thread throughout.

The China Study by Dr T. Colin Campbell which details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The report also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities and opportunistic scientists.

Films: Earthlings (www.nationearth.com/earthlings) a documentary about humankind’s total dependence on animals for economic purposes.

Cowspiracy (www.cowspiracy.com) a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organisations are too afraid to talk about it. *NB We have since heard that this film has had accusations of miscalculation levelled at it. I don’t think it undermines the subject matter, however.

Piers Warren is a conservationist, wildlife film-maker and author living in Norfolk. Website: www.wildeye.co.uk/piers-warren Email: piers@wildeye.co.uk

This article first appeared in Green Spirit magazine winter 2016. Thanks to Piers Warren and Ian Mowll, GS editor, for permission to reproduce it here.