Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Great Disconnect

It's the title of the blog. It's kind of important. It's time we talked about it.

To shamelessly borrow and slightly modify an example from Gary Francione, imagine you discover there is someone on your street who enjoys beating puppies with crowbars and then slicing their necks open to watch them bleed to death. Sick, right? Maybe he buys them from breeders, adopts them from shelters or steals them from around the neighbourhood. Maybe he tempts desperate strays to his door with the promise of meaty treats. Whatever methods he uses, he gets hold of these innocent creatures and then beats and bleeds them for fun. It's the kind of thing you see in messed up horror movies or when news readers recount the past exploits of serial killers. It's the kind of thing that makes you want to find the nearest dog and hug them, just to reassure them and yourself that it's going to be OK.

Imagine you, driven by the desire for justice for these poor beings, tell the police and the guy is arrested. His story is all over the news, the internet forums are buzzing as animal lovers rush to condemn this deeply disturbed man, veterinarians tell magazine interviewers of the excruciating suffering these animals must have endured. How could anyone do something like this, let alone for fun.

You tell friends and family about this story, wondering between you how someone could become so broken that he would do this to defenceless animals. One person you tell looks at you quizzically, and gently asks why you’re so upset. Isn’t it obvious why you’re upset!? No, your friend replies. You eat meat, don’t you? You wear leather, don’t you? You consume dairy, don’t you? You don’t need to do these things, you do them because you enjoy it. So why are you so upset?

At first, this seems like a tasteless joke. Eating meat is different. Humans have always eaten meat, it’s natural for humans to eat meat, humans are designed to eat meat, humans need to eat meat. And leather is just a by-product, right? As for dairy, cows don’t die to produce milk! But you’d be wrong. Humans don’t need to eat meat. Maybe we once did many centuries ago, when food was scarce and lacked essential nutritional variety, but not anymore. And leather is rarely a by-product and even if it was, even if animals didn’t suffer and die specifically to produce shoes, furnishings and jackets, would you really use something from a murdered human even if it was ‘just a by-product’? As for dairy, millions of cows spend a few terrifying, exhausting years giving birth to calves only to have their babies torn away in the first 48 hours of life so that the mother can be hooked up to machines for cheese platters, milkshakes and your morning coffee. The calves are then sold at auction when days old, the vast majority destined to live in tiny cramped stalls for a few tortuous weeks until they are slaughtered for veal. Some are not deemed worth even this hellish fate and are killed soon after birth, the unwanted waste of the industry.

This is not necessary. This is not even remotely necessary. This is abuse on the scale of tens of billions of animals every year to fund human tastes and greedy pockets. This one of the largest, most powerful industries on Earth and it’s hell-bent on keeping you believing that its products are essential to your lifestyle and health. And as long as you believe that, you’re paying someone else to torture and kill animals on your behalf. And in the end, whether you want to accept it or not, this is all done for pleasure, for desire, for lifestyle. For fun.

This is our great disconnect. We're so used to seeing cows, sheep, chickens and pigs (not to mention goats, ducks, deer . . .) as commodities that we fail to see that they're living, breathing beings with as much right as you or I to live undisturbed and unharmed by humans. We're so used to seeing these minds as mindless, so used to seeing these beating hearts as currency, that we don't really notice what our lifestyles mean to these animals. And when we do notice, we push those thoughts back down and try to find easy justifications to lift the guilt we might feel, if only we dared to feel anything. We're so used to seeing some animals as pets and companions, worthy of our love and respect that we fail to notice that the animals we're abusing every single day of our lives are just as worthy of love and respect. We're so busy looking for the differences, the reasons not to change our behaviour that we miss the similarities, the reasons to change.

This is our disconnect. If you see it, please - go vegan.

QFT

"The cow is a poem of compassion." Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Dietary Classifications

Today I saw someone claim to be a "vegetarian who eats some fish". Really? What tree do fish grow on? Or maybe they come out of the ground, kinda like potatoes?

Bullshit. Might as well claim to be celibate because you only get laid once a month.

So we thought we'd follow in the footsteps of vegans who are far older and wiser, and give you a list of dietary classifications:

Vegan - avoids anything made with animals, tested on animals or that otherwise exploits animals. It goes beyond a diet and impacts upon all sorts of lifestyle and consumer decisions. And you know what? It's awesome.

Raw foodist - eats a very high percentage of uncooked food. It is believed to preserve the nutritional value of the food. Usually vegan.
Fruitarian - only eats raw fruits, seeds and nuts that can be gathered without killing the plant. Some only eat foods that have already fallen from the parent plant and that must be gathered from the ground. Some only eat fruits, omitting nuts and seeds. 
 
Strict vegetarian - does not eat any animal flesh or foods made with other animal products, but may still use non-vegan household products or cosmetics, as well as wear animal skins, silk or wool. Essentially, the diet side of veganism without the animal rights side.
Vegetarian - does not eat animal flesh but consume products that come from animals such as dairy and eggs. Should probably read this and this.
Ovo-lacto-vegetarian - a vegetarian who does consume eggs and dairy. See above.
Ovo-vegetarian - a vegetarian who does not consume dairy but does consume eggs. See above.
Lacto-vegetarian - a vegetarian who does not consume eggs but does consume dairy. See above.

Pescetarian - someone who avoids eating animals except for fish. Sometimes wrongly referred to as a kind of vegetarian diet, which is rather mysterious as being vegetarian entails not eating animal flesh.
Pollotarian - someone who avoids eating animals except for birds (usually chicken). See above.
Pesce-pollotarian - someone who eats fish and birds, but no mammalian flesh. See above.
Flexitarian - someone who sticks to a largely plant based diet but who occassionaly 'indulges' on flesh. See above.

Inspired by VegBlog

Audio: Abolition vs. Regulation

Gary Francione and Robert Garner discuss abolition vs regulation on Animals Today Radio

Azrayel's Journey to Veganism - Part One

I used to love meat. Dead animal on my plate? Nothing better. I even referred to myself as a carnivore because I really disliked vegetables. They were an annoyance, a chore. A box I had to tick. Roasts, steak, burgers, fish 'n' chips. That was where my heart lied. A meal wasn't complete without some tasty, tasty flesh.

I didn't really think about my food, at least not for a long time. Meat was food, meat came from animals, animals were food. That's just how it was. It was so common, so unremarkable, so obviously natural that I did not question it. I felt no guilt, no doubt. By the time I was in a position to really consider my actions and establish my own preferences, I was so firmly conditioned to view animals as food that the very concept of not eating animals was just bizzare and incomprehensible.


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Newts


One of the five fire-bellied newts that we rescued. They came to us emaciated and each missing at least one limb. Now they are fat, healthy and have a full compliment of body parts! Yay for regenerative abilities.

Dear Humans

One of the reasons that shit people exist is because you insist on procreating with them. Please, don't moan about how your significant other is a jerk who doesn't understand you and then make babies with them. Don't like it? Don't breed more of it.

Definition: Carnism

So, Avalanchian mentioned carnism in our last post. It's not a very common term, so we thought we'd talk a bit more about it.

Carnism is the opposite of veganism. It is a modern term that is used in the place of 'omnivore' to refer to meat eating humans as it more accurately describes the human relationship to the animals they eat. Phrases like 'omnivore', 'herbivore' and 'carnivore' signify a biological need or predisposition whereas 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' denote a choice based around beliefs. Using 'carnist' instead of 'omnivore' to talk about people who eat animals highlights the fact that eating animals is a choice based on the belief that it is acceptable to use animals for human purposes, and not an irrepressible biological need.

However, eating animals is rarely seen in terms of a choice. It is "the done thing" and considered not only normal in many societies, but as an utterly uncontroversial default behaviour. It is an invisible belief, a kind of conditioning - very few people actually stop to seriously consider the beliefs they have about the human use of animals, or about animal ethics. They eat animals because that is how they have been brought up and how their ancestors have been brought up. They eat animals because there are major financial and political interests in perpetuating the use of animals, and these interests are expressed constantly in advertising, professional advice and healthcare. Eating animals is just what normal people do. On the other hand, those that defy that status quo are seen as having a philosophical position and this sets their diet and lifestyle aside from the norm.

Carnism is a better, more accurate description of the prevalent cultural paradigm. As vegans, we want to highlight that most humans are carnists, not true omnivores, and by showing that the default diet of many humans (especially in developed nations) stems from choices and beliefs rather than needs, we hope to challenge the philosophy behind it.

For more information, check out the CAAN website.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Hell is Other People: How to breed a carnist

The other day I was sitting in the middle of a conversation (with my mouth firmly shut I might add, I learned early on to pick my battles) where the participants were discussing the Easter period. Specifically, they were discussing what to do with the newest family member, a two year old girl, on Easter sunday. The general consenus was to take her to a petting zoo style farm to see the cute little new lambs. Then they were to go home and eat.... you guessed it... roast lamb! Yum!

Now, I am used to people just not connecting the lump of muscle on their plate with the bleating fluff balls they fawn over. I was, in fact, expecting the conversation to end there, but I was surprised by the continuation. Amazingly they continued by saying, "I'm not sure if she'd like the idea of seeing the lambs and then eating them." Okay, straight away a few things strike me. First of all, they are accepting that this kid would find this upsetting. Does this not any ring any alarm bells? That they can agree that there is something intrinsically upsetting about this for a child? Secondly, I see people talking about cute animals and then tucking into one in the next breath every day. The extent of this is so large that it is no longer shocking. What did amaze me was that they SAW this disconnect! I should have been happy but what followed was pretty demoralising.

"Well just lie to her about what it is! Just say that it's meat! She doesn't have to know!" Was the proudly agreed solution to this inconvenient problem. This was the jaw dropping part. Not being a parent I find it very difficult to argue for or against telling white lies to your kids. Santa and the Tooth Fairy (sorry to any kids reading this but... well.... are your parent's really letting you read this blog?) are slightly odd lies to tell, but they do create a sort of magic. When a pet dies and "is sent to a farm" is a bit meaner as it seems to side-step around actually teaching a child about life and death for the sake of avoiding tears. But lying to a child about whether an animal was sacrificed for their plate? For the sake of, what I assume is, convenience? That seems like a whole different board game to me (I don't play ball games much).

This had me thinking a lot about Carnism. As a vegan you hear a lot about the ethics of raising a child vegan and how doing so would be forcing your beliefs on your child. Vegans have a ready response to this which is usually along the lines of "All parents force beliefs on their child. We all happily teach our children not to steal, not to be violent and not to throw food across the room. I am also teaching my child not to kill and exploit animals for pleasure." I had never really thought about the flip side: that carnists actively teach their children TO kill and exploit animals for pleasure. Not only that, but they have to do it in such a subversive manner in order to program this behaviour into the child.

The final bizare thought I had was: "they are discussing this infront of me. A known vegan!" They didn't even blink when discussing this. I was stunned that this was even happening. I'm not sure if they even knew the implications of what they were saying. It felt like advocating the subjugation of women infront of a known feminist. Either it was done without any thought, done to bait a reaction, or simply because veganism isn't taken seriously.

I didn't comment, so I guess we shall never know...



Avalanchian

QFT

 "Animals can communicate quite well. And they do. And generally speaking, they are ignored." Alice Walker
 

Monday, 18 April 2011

We are the ones we've been waiting for

You must be the change you wish to see in the world
-Gandhi
  
Well, it's true. This isn't some do-gooder bullshit. This isn't some "believe in yourself and you can achieve anything" sentiment that we might tell to disillusioned children. He's not asking us to cure cancer or relocate to some nation torn apart by civil war in order to help with peacekeeping efforts. 

What he is saying is very simple - it is absurd to believe one thing and do the opposite. How many people have you heard state that it's awful that animals are killed for their fur, and then wear leather? How many people have you heard say that it's a shame that the rainforests are being chopped down, only to take a bite out of a [insert name of fast food chain here] beefburger? How many people have your heard cry out about the immorality of testing cosmetics on animals, only to buy make-up without checking the testing record of the company? Or perhaps you've heard someone bemoan the use of fossil fuels, due to their social and environmental impact, while they make little or no effort to move onto sustainable and environmentaly stable fuel sources in their own life?

Our everyday choices matter, and not just to us. Our choices are not just about personal taste, quality of life or convinience. They have wide ranging impacts beyond our lives and our homes, and say a lot about our beliefs. If you think the tar sands pollution is shocking, or think that pumping industrial waste into water sources is inethical, or want to see our seas brimming with life, then start making the consumer choices that back-up those beliefs. Stop waiting around for someone to make the decison for you, by banning or outlawing whatever practice you object to so that you don't have to conciously make the decison to give up something you enjoy or find useful. Stop waiting for other people, and start making meaningful decisions. Put your money where your mouth is because that is the only vote that these companies acknowledge.


Stumpy

Sapph and Sin



We rehomed these two when a good friend of ours found them, newborn, in his shed. They currently have their "evening crazies" so we hope that by posting a photo of them sleeping, they might get the idea!

Plus, they're super cute and photo worthy.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Recipe: Creamy Tomato Pasta

This is something we've been eating a lot of recently. It's great for a scrummy quick-fix as it only has a handful of ingredients and is very quick to cook!

Tomato passata (or equivalent in fresh, blended tomatoes)
Vegan 'cream cheese' (we like Tofutti)
Pasta of choice (best with spaghetti!)
Tomato ketchup (a squirt for sweetness)
Fresh/dried basil (to taste)
Fresh/dried rosemary (" ")
Fresh/dried thyme (" ")
Sea salt
Black pepper
Olive oil

Measure out enough pasta to cure any hunger pangs, and place into a saucepan of boiling water. Lower heat to a simmer and add sea salt, a bit of basil (and/or any other favourite herbs) and some oil. Mix well and leave to cook.

Place appropriate quantities of passata into another saucepan and bring to a medium heat. Quantities really depend on you and how saucy you like your pasta! We'd use about a cup between the two of us - I think. Get it warm and keep it moving. Stir in 2-3 good sized dollops of Tofutti (or similar) - more makes for a thicker sauce, less makes for a thinner sauce (duh). You might have noticed by now that we don't really deal in measurements! I'll remedy that for next time . . . anyway!

Stir in the Tofutti until the sauce is smooth and a lovely pinky-orange. Add salt, pepper and basil to taste, as well as a splash of tomato ketchup for some sweetness. Keep it moving until the pasta is cooked, then drain the pasta and dump it in with the sauce to get it well coated! Serve straight away.

Om nom nom nom.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

What is 'vegan' and why are we blogging about it?

The Vegan Society defines veganism as "a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose".

Veganism is many things to many people. It is often expressed as a 'personal choice' or 'lifestyle', but for many vegans these phrases completely fail to capture the significance of their decision. It is also described as a "living protest" against the use and abuse of non-human animals, but this seems to misplace the essence of veganism.

Veganism is as obvious to a vegan as not eating humans is to (most) humans. It isn't a choice, it isn't a lifestyle, it isn't a protest. It isn't about 'doing the right thing' or 'expressing an opinion' or even being 'consistent with our beliefs'. Vegans see their life as as much of a choice as regular folk see theft or murder. Most of us don't go through our day seriously considering the relative merits of killing someone and then conclude that it is probably not a good idea, or that it would hurt our career prospects or that it might make for awkwardness at dinner. We don't kill people because you just don't do that shit. Veganism is simply the way that people behave when they realise what animal exploitation actually means. It isn't a choice or a lifestyle, it just is.

So if it isn't a personal choice (at least no more than not murdering children is a personal choice), why do we need to blog about it? Surely, if it is so self evident, and not a political or cultural expression, we don't need to talk about it? Well, the fact is, most people just don't see it that way. It's not that they like torturing water fowl or think that tearing a few day old calf from it's mother is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. They just don't really think about it. Eating and using animals is not just very common. Its not just that some (most) people actually believe it is acceptable when all the facts are considered. It's just that a lot of people (intelligent, perceptive, compassionate people) don't think about it. Not really. They might say things like "I could never be vegan, I like bacon too much" or "I don't think animals are as important as humans" or "it's natural". They might even know about some of the horrors that occur when humans view animals as property, and they might even consider themselves as believing in animal rights (usually translated as "kicking puppies is bad"), but their knowledge and beliefs don't translate into action.

And honestly, when lives are on the line, we think this shit is pretty important. We want to talk about being vegan - be excited about it, tell other people about it, make others think about it. We also want to get some of our own thoughts down 'on paper' and figured that The Internet was just the bottomless cesspit of self-absorbed rambling that we needed. Plus, vegan baking is ALL KINDS OF WIN.

(This was only supposed to be 'a couple of paragraphs')