Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dairy's Waste Products

I'm really not sure what kind of a world we live in where this kind of behaviour is standard operating practice.

Remember that these are babies - some with their umbilical cords still attached.

Remember too that these babies will end up in hot dogs and other junk foods that do nothing but cause cancer and heart disease in the humans who consume them.

Remember also that these babies are the 'waste products' of the dairy industry.

Without the dairy industry there would be no veal industry.

Without our demand for cows' milk, there would be no 'waste product' to shock, kick, skin alive and 'bleed out'.

Think about it.


Then go vegan.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Vegan MoFo: Tradition versus Values.... doesn't have to be one or the other.

Yesterday I went to my friend and co-worker's wedding. The day started out overcast with a brisk wind but lightened to a beautiful autumnal New England day - all bright blue skies and red-orange-lemon foliage. And it finished with a spectacularly dazzling sunset which took our breath away.

The post-ceremony celebrations were held at a local country club and, in classic British guest fashion, My Beloved and I got hopelessly lost on the road between the church and the reception.



In a city where we were too intimidated to stop and ask for directions, fearing a 'Bonfire of the Vanities' type of scenario. GPS? Nah, we don't have that! A map book?? Nope!! Not even!!! So we drove around endlessly before coming upon a garden center that was probably safe enough to stop and ask for help. Thank heavens. We were set on the right road and finally made it to the reception, a fraction late, more than a tad stressed and desperately in need of a glass of wine and some good food.

Now, this is where - in vegan terms - it gets interesting because wedding receptions do not tend to be associated with great vegan food. Normally, the occasion demands the offering of some kind of roasted animal and, unless the couple themselves are vegan, you are usually out of luck if you don't happen to partake of the traditional feast. Now, I can say with some degree of confidence that I was probably the only vegan guest there. The familes are of Irish and Hawaiian heritage and I don't think of either culture as being particularly averse to eating animals. On the other hand, I knew that my friend, the bride, was concerned about the menu but, honestly, I was more worried that she had more significant things to be juggle than my dinner!

So, to avoid disappointment, I had prepared myself for the inevitable salad. Don't get me wrong - I love a good salad but after the journey into hell and back through the ghettoes of S'field I was ready for something just a bit more substantial! Anyways, for the meat-eating majority, the customary carvery of turkey and beef was available. However, it was a wonderful surprise for me to see that the wedding couple had opted to have a stations arrangement, whereby you'd just select things from different food stations and so could tailor your meal to exactly what you wanted.

It was terrific!

I enjoyed a couple of warm-up salads - opting for the balsamic vinaigrette over the creamy caesar was a no-brainer and hardly a deprivation! Then I moved on to the pasta station, enjoying an individually created dish of rigatoni with mushrooms, artichokes, peppers and olives in a tomato-based sauce. Hold the parmesan - it was a snap! The dessert - the wedding cake - was a chocolate cake with a rich chocolate ganache which I steathily donated to My Beloved so that no-one was offended.

I had a wonderful time, did not go hungry and did not have to compromise my values for the sake of conforming to the 'norm'. My friends had a wonderful day and are now honeymooning in Hawaii: they are two of the nicest people I know and richly deserve all the happiness in the world.

Congratulations Lana and Kevin!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vegan Mofo: The Highlight of the Year!

OK, so this is not strictly about food but it is about a food festival - the 14th Annual Boston Veg Food Festival, to be specific!

It's coming up at the end of this month and this year it's extended to 2 days! Saturday Oct 31st and Sunday November 1st will see me - and My Beloved - in Boston living the life. The vegan life! Because, although the organizers plump for the term 'vegetarian', the festival is vegan to the core. Dr Michael Greger will be there, as will Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Lauren Ulm along with Zoe Weil, Emilie Hardman, stand-up comedians Myq Kaplan and Zach Sherwin, Stella Zhou and Dr Paulette Chandler.

Past favorites of mine have included Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Sarah Kramer, T. Colin Campbell and Hannah Kaminsky, so you see it is a star-studded event!

Betweeen the munching and the sampling and the learning and the meeting of new folks...oh and the munching - did I mention that????? is going to be an awesome weekend so, if you are near Boston, why not drop in and say 'Hi!'? For the New England area, it is the vegan highlight of the year!

Stay well and stay vegan friends! :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vegan MoFo: Whimsical food always tastes better....

There are all kinds of vegan cheeses on the market these days - from Vegan-Rella to Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet to Sheese, Teese, to Dr Cow and and Daiya Cheese, the sheer range is often bewildering. We really do seem to have gotten beyond the necessity of stealing the milk from baby cows to make our mozzarella!

And so with that in mind, there is no longer any reason to omit cheese from that one dish that seems to demand the gooey stuff: pizza! Unless, of course, you are eating a pie like this one:

This beautiful pie was just loaded with mushrooms, baby spinach, fire-roasted red peppers, zucchini, and tofu riccota and was good beyond words. My savvy little sister managed to snag this baby off the menu when My Beloved and I visited her in London earlier this year to celebrate our mother's birthday. The pizza was her choice from the menu of the Root-Master - a retired London double decker bus which now serves as a fantastic vegan restaurant.

Healthy, delicious, cruelty-free and whimsical...what more could you ask for?

Stay vegan, friends!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vegan MoFo: Autumn-scented fun with pears

Great vegan food doesn't necessarily have to be complicated or time-consuming to prepare. It can be as elegant and sophisticated or as down-home and comforting as you like. Witness a dessert I made a few weeks ago during an unseasonably cold snap - a very simple but satisfying pears poached in white wine with cinnamon and nutmeg, served with a scoop of Tofutti vanilla ice cream.

Warm pears, autumn-scented, with the fresh creaminess of vanilla....easy, delicious, vegan.

Need I say more?

Eat well and stay vegan, friends! :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vegan Mo-Fo: When an angel expires in ecstacy....

When I first went vegan, I resigned myself to no longer having access to fancy-schmancy, hand-made chocolates. You know, the kind you get from Godiva or Thorntons - the ones that cost an absolute king's ransom but taste like an angel expired in ecstacy on your tongue. Yeah, those ones.

However, a few months ago I discovered a (to me relatively local) chocolatier who specializes in vegan chocolates - Divine Treasures. My Beloved and I made a special trip to visit with the proprietor, Diane Blanchette-Wagemann, and to sample a few of her totally luscious wares.

Suffice to say, we were in no way disappointed.

Entering the little store is like taking a break from mallifed America: it is small, soothing, quiet and personable. Her staff made us immediately welcome and were extremely happy to talk in detail about each and every chocolate confection they offer. From the Rocky Ray to the Mello Bar to the Peanut Butter Melts, every last ingredient could be scrutinised and explained. Now the bars and bites are one thing, but the truffles and fancy chocolates are another. Each one is indescribably delicious - formed as they are with high-grade, Belgian chocolate - and a real work of art in miniature. We managed to leave the store with a box containing, pretty much, two (one for each of us) of each of her signature chocolates and, as we were leaving, she insisted on giving us samples - beautifully boxed and gift-wrapped - of a couple of chocolate-enrobed jellies she was working on.

They were sumptuous beyond belief.

OK, so the moral of the story is that very often the thing you believe you're having to sacrifice, the thing that makes you think 'Yeah, I'd go vegan if it wasn't for...[fill in the blank]', it exists out there. You just have to look. And when you find it....well, it's even more delicious than you could ever imagine!

Stay vegan, friends! :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Vegan Mo-Fo: What do they mean 'restrictive'?????

So here's Day #2 of Vegan MoFo - the month-long celebration of all things vegan and foodish! Despite having a fragrant and delightfully spiced Thai red curry (eggplant and potato with mushroom) simmering on the stove tonight, I have no cool photos to go with it so instead I'm going to set the stage for the coming food-fest with a photo to warm the heart of any commited herbivore. Just take a look at the bounty I brought home from a recent grocery shopping trip!

Before I became vegan, I didn't know the names of some of these fine specimens! Now they are all good friends....And to think that they say a vegan diet is 'restrictive'!!!!! Pah!

Eat well and stay vegan, friends! :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vegan Mo-Fo!

Today marks the start of Vegan MoFo - a month-long tour around the world of great vegan food! We've had to wait eleven long months for this but *finally* it's here!!! So what does it mean? Well, it's an effort to flood the interwebs with images and recipes for yummy cruelty-free food and raise awareness of what we all know to be true: Compassion tastes delicious!

Cookies, cakes, pies, stews, bakes, salads, sandwiches, wraps, drinks, snacks, soups, candies, casseroles...the list goes on and on! So put your diet on hold and stay tuned - all of this, and more, is coming your way!

Happy MoFo-ing and stay vegan, friends!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Who will be there for the new vegans?

Apologies for not posting recently. An unhealthy dose of the flu - albeit not swine flu, I hope - made the prospect of sitting in front of a computer somewhat unappealing but did give me time to plug into my iPod and catch up on some podcasts I had missed. And during this enforced convalescence I came upon the virtual firestorm in the debate around the use/non-use of violence by the movement, so here's my 2 cents...for what they are worth.

I am still a relatively new vegan and continue to struggle hard not to allow the anger, guilt, and distress of my new-found knowledge to overwhelm me. And, at times, it is easy for me to see how some of the pro-violence phalanxes within the movement can be attractive to folks who, like me, have just woken up, as they offer a means to purge those turbulent feelings in a very visceral way. Going to war against the producers, setting the individual exploiters within your sights, taking down the researchers, the slaughterers, the profiteers...yes, I can totally understand how direct action against those who stand to gain the most from our socially-accepted abuse and torture of non-human animals is an attractive prospect indeed.

However.....yes, you must have known there would be a 'however' in all of much as trashing a research facility or throwing paint on a fur-wearer may seem like a very reasonable response, I keep coming back to the question that Elizabeth Collins raises in a recent podcast, 'In support of Non Violence': how does it benefit the movement?

And - of course - it does not. In fact, it is inherently antithetical to the guiding principle of ethical veganism which sees ahimsa and compassion for all life as its basis. Violence is part of the problem and as such it cannot be part of the solution.

Elizabeth also raises another significant question: who will be there for the new vegans? If we are all, as a movement, running around sabotaging this and smashing that, who will be there to guide, comfort, educate, mentor and befriend the new vegan who is falling into a vertiginous pit of horror and despair at their new understanding and at their complicity? If we are ever to build a cohesive movement, if we are to create a vegan future, we must focus on that which is effective, which adheres to our principles, which does most service to the animals and which supports and assists our newest members.

And that is creative vegan education.

With every campaign of violence, we alienate legions of moderates who we might otherwise reach with positive and creative argument and the truth of animal exploitation. And, quite honestly, I just do not believe that we can permit ourselves the time or the latitude to allow our actions to turn anyone away from our message: at this point in our evolution, any act of violence is a self-indulgence which, while going some way to assuaging individual anger, in no way helps shape a more compassionate, more peaceful social future.

Your thoughts, vegan friends?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Need I say more....?

Stay vegan, friends! :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The most marvelous two years.....

Today I am celebrating is my 2-year vegan-niversary! No, I'll not blow my own trumpet, but it's hard not to have a frisson of pleasure at reaching this milestone. I'm sure as the years roll by it will become less of a source of pride, but right now I am dang pleased!

It's been a great 2 years, the best of my life so far. My eyes have been opened to reality and it's been an education, a source of intense sadness and grief at learning of our egregious and unconscionable treatment of non-human animals and of our profit from their suffering. My world view has changed completely, irreversably, and permanently: I no longer look at people through the same lens, but struggle to see past the inherent selfishness and greed that underpins our willingness to contribute to and look away from animal abuse and exploitation. Each day, a hundred jagged reminders, a thousand reproaches and still no change in sight.

But is has also been a source of tremendous joy and pleasure. I have feasted with the animals, not upon them.

I have met new people along the way, teachers who have guided me and mentors whose patience and friendship has helped me through the trauma of awakening.

I'm now part of a community so much more vibrant, creative and compassionate than I ever dreamed of. It is almost a full-time job keeping up with volunteer activities and online activism - and I love it! It's been my privilege to witness dramatic changes close to home: my mother has adopted a vegan diet; my husband's proved himself more willing to adapt, open-minded, accepting, and loving than I had any right to expect. Thank you, Geoff.

Always a 'foodie', I am no longer conflicted about my choices of ingredients and, through a renewed interest in cooking and nutrition, enjoy every single meal, every last bite. My skills have grown (as has my waistline, or - at least - it has not shrunk!) as I've rediscovered an almost childlike joy at the alchemy which is baking. From co-workers to friends to family, I try to ensure that everyone around me feels the benefits directly, and I suspect they are quite happy!

And of my non-human companions, I have reached a depth of closeness with them that is born of no longer feeling guilt at the arbitrary distinction of 'pet' vs 'food'. In recognising the moral personhood of all animals, I can now look at 'my' dogs and see them for who they truly are - extraordinary souls with their own agendas, interests, joys and pleasures. And I am able to love them just that little bit more too!

I don't yet know how this next year will unfold. More reading, talking, thinking, grieving and more activism. More understanding, more anguish and more joy - this is certain. And I am profoundly grateful for it all.

Stay Vegan, Friends!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On the Challenges of Building a Compassion-Based Business...

It is not often that I get to promote an all-vegan company - selling all-vegan products and run by all-vegan staff - nor is it often that I can claim an exclusive. But, on this one occasion, I'm going to do just that, as I was recently given the opportunity to look behind the scenes of a real-life online vegan store with a turtle-y cool 'spokesperson'!

Welcome to the face of Shop Vegan!

UK-based Shop Vegan, together with its sister store Vegan Health and Beauty, are co-owned and run by Rob Massey and his partner, Stacey, who have successfully transitioned their business from the traditional bricks and mortar model to a purely virtual venture. Enjoying a cozy long-distance 'chat' with Rob was an extremely pleasant way to while away an afternoon, and this is his story...

Cackleberry: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Rob! So, to kick off, could you tell me a bit about the history of the stores?

Shop Vegan: We have been in business since 1999 (so around 10 years now!). The main company is called Green Valley Trading Co. and it began as a local health food shop in the Midlands 1999 with the original website a very small part of the business. Although the shop was well supported locally it became apparent after a couple of years that there were many more people outside the local area who actually wanted to order products online. As overheads were getting pretty high on the shop it was decided that we should close this and concentrate all of our efforts on the online market.

Cackleberry: And in what ways do you see your business as different from your competition?

Shop Vegan: There are a couple of vegan-run online companies in the UK that sell some of the same range of products, but as far as we're concerned this is great and the more choice that there is for vegan shoppers the better. We don't specifically try to differentiate ourselves from these companies as we're all swimming in the same direction really. We meet a few of the people behind these companies at various events and get on really well with them. I think the fact that we are a 100% vegan company selling vegan-only products probably distinguishes both us and them from the vast majority of other companies out there who may sell some of the same things but don't really share the same ethical beliefs.

Cackleberry: Could you tell me a little more about your target market, how you source your products and the kind of focus that is important to you?

Shop Vegan: Well, we had a good idea about what products it was difficult for us to buy locally [...] and we have always just tried to think of ourselves as potential customers. We have thought along the lines of "we're vegan...what would we like to see made available?" We're always guided by what people ask us for too. Obviously there are some limits on what we can easily send to people through the postal system but we always listen to suggestions that customers give us about what they would like to see on the sites. [Although we] visit the large natural health exhibitions which is good to get a feel for new products that are on the horizon, [...] most of the time we find companies through the internet and articles in magazines etc. and think that their products would fit in well with what we offer. Sometimes they approach us and we're always happy to talk to them. We are currently trying to shift the emphasis in our range a little bit away from the "health" type products... broadening it out a little more. I can envisage us having a range of mineral make-up included at some point as well as many other types of products that we don't stock at all at present.

Cackleberry: So, apart from your adorable spokes-turtle, is there someone who is 'the face' of Shop Vegan/Vegan Health and Beauty?

Shop Vegan: Well, we are essentially a family-run business so I'd have to say that the "face" of Shop Vegan/Vegan Health and Beauty would either have to be myself or Stacey, my partner. We don't really promote ourselves as such though and really prefer the products and the service to be what people associate with the company rather than any individual.

Cackleberry: In the decade you've been in business, in one form or another, what are the challenges you've had to overcome to build a compassionate business?

Shop Vegan: In all honesty I can't say that we've had any challenges that wouldn't apply to any other business really. Just like any other company there are always bits of bureaucracy that have to be dealt with, but I can't say that these have been any different because of the nature of the products or the business itself. The most difficult thing is probably having to accept that there will always be some people who won't ever understand or appreciate the reasons why being vegan is beneficial and that whatever the rest of us do the damage being done by the still massive meat and livestock industries will continue.

Cackleberry: In referring to 'damage' can we assume that was it environmental or ethical reasons that brought you to veganism?

Shop Vegan: As a youngster I never enjoyed eating meat. I'd often push it to the side of the plate and avoiding eating it. The realisation that what I was eating was once a living breathing creature that was just like me was certainly at the back of my mind somewhere but, like most people, I found it more convenient to keep it there and not really think about it too deeply. I went along with what others told me was "normal" at that point.

My journey towards becoming vegan really began when I saw television news reports about the protests against the live export of calves for the veal trade. This was going on quite near to where I lived and, although I was bordering on vegetarianism by that time anyway, I hadn't really given much thought to where dairy products actually came from and the suffering that was inherent in the system that produces them. I picked up some leaflets about the meat and dairy industry from a local stall and I went along to a meeting of a local animal rights campaign group. This really opened my eyes to the horrors that I had been ignorant of previously and I went veggie straight away. The learning process continued and after finding out more about the production of dairy products and a visit to a battery-egg producer where the smell of the place (as well as the conditions that the hens were kept in) brought tears to my eyes I made the step to being vegan. After this, staying vegan was easy. I felt healthier and happier not just from the weight that was lifted from my conscience, but from the wider range of foods that I tried that I wouldn't have considered trying previously. Everything I have learned since that time from the environmental damage that our reliance upon animal-based products is causing to the links between some major diseases and eating meat/dairy has only served to strengthen my belief that being vegan is the right thing to do. Not to mention the wonderful, inspirational people that I have met have along the way too.

Cackleberry: Speaking of which, how strong is the vegan community in the UK?

Shop Vegan: I'd say that it's as strong as it's ever been and growing. At least I hope so and I don't think that this is just wishful thinking. Previously most vegans that you speak to have become vegan for ethical reasons and have primarily been concerned with animal welfare etc. I don't think that this has decreased at all as a reason, but I do think that there are also an increasing number of people who are becoming aware of the wider environmental arguments for becoming vegan. The UK government is constantly pushing for people to eat more fruit and vegetables, but is still quite guarded about giving out the message to eat less meat. However, I think that the combination of these messages and the greater knowledge about the impact on the planet is starting to make even more people think about giving up animal products for good.

Cackleberry: Finally, do you have any stories of vegan outreach/education to share?

Shop Vegan: We encounter many little things on a daily basis. Because not all of our customers are vegan they do sometimes ask us for products that we don't supply, that are not vegan. It's surprising how many people don't realise what is in some of the products they consume or use, whether it's the glucosamine that they take being made from shellfish or lanolin in the lipbalm that they use many people are quite unaware.

Cackleberry: Rob, Stacey, thank you for taking the time to talk to me and for offering a unique insider's perspective into your journey to veganism, building a compassion-based business, and the state of veganism in the UK today.

Stay 'turtle-y cool' and stay vegan, friends!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eat your leafy greens, for pete's sake!

I've been having a few headaches lately - of the literal and figurative kind - so, in a step to overcoming at least the literal ones, I went to see my eye doctor last weekend. He ran all the usual tests - digital retinal photography (imaging the retina), Zeiss GDx (risk for glaucoma), QuantifEye (screens for macular degeneration), and Corneal Topography (maps the cornea). All very interesting and not at all painful...except on the wallet, of course. However, it's been three years since I had an eye exam so it really was time I stepped up and got it all done.

To cut a long story (3 hours of testing and waiting, in fact) short, I need glasses for reading. Well, I am approaching that fearful age that begins with a '4' and ends with an '0' and I work on a computer all day (as a programmer) so guess eyes are getting older and more tired. I am not vain and I don't mind having glasses, in fact I hear they can be quite attractive these days. I will simply have to avoid the 'Ugly Betty' type, I guess.

However, the really interesting part of the whole experience (aside from the proffered hope that I may yet be able to beat these headaches by fastening a simple occular device to my face) was the result of the QuantifEye test for Macular Degeneration. Apparently, a measure from 0 to 1 is taken of the macular pigment in the eye and baseline score is assessed: 0 is blind and 1 is perfect eye health, I assume. The lower your score, the less macular pigment you have and the more likely you are to develop Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). So in this case, we shuld be shooting for 0.50 or higher.

I scored 0.24 and was horrified.

The risk factors are being female, light-skinned, overweight and a smoker. I strike out on three out of four of these factors (I do not smoke, in case you were wondering...) so I guess it should come as no surprise that I score low.

Except for the fact that the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy level of macular pigment are lutein and zeaxanthin - both of which are carotenoids and therefore found in green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens etc) and fruit/veg along the yellow-orange spectrum - orange peppers, carrots, corn etc. And, being vegan, these tend to form the basis of a healthy, wholefoods diet. You see the irony here?

So, in order to ward off eventual blindness in old age, the good doctor suggested I take a supplement called EyePromise Restore which contains Vit C, Vit E, Omega-3, Zinc, Mixed Tocopherols, ALA, Lutein and Zeaxanthin.

'Fine' I said, 'except that the Omega-3s are derived from fish oils and I do not eat fish oils.'

'Allergy to fish?' he asked innocently.

'Vegan', I replied, still peering myopically through those Harry Potter-esque lens-fitter machines.

'Oh, but fish oils are really good for the eyes', he continued.

'But not so great for the fish', I countered firmly.

And that was that.

So as long as my eyesight holds up - and I figure I have at least another 40 years or so - I am looking for a vegan equivalent of the EyePromise Restore. I imagine it must be out there somewhere and - having only recently opened my eyes to the reality of the world and how we treat our fellow earthlings - I do not intend to allow my vision to be clouded ever again.

So while I search for this vegan supplement, I am making one other commitment: to stop being a hypocrite and start eating a ton more of those leafy greens that we vegans are always so happy to tell others they need to nibble!

Stay vegan and eat your green leafies, friends! :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The power of a word....

I have never really understood why more people don't see the shape of words. I don't mean just the shapes of the letters that comprise the words, but the emotional shapes and essences of words. Take, for instance, the word 'terror'...I have always thought that - at least in its lower case format - the right-slanted rs give it a decidedly menacing aspect. Likewise 'horror', to me, is a word that looks like an expression of that which it is describing - a face with eyes wide open, frozen in a mime of pure fright.

Am I alone in reading such images into words?

Perhaps not. There are, as even a brief gander around the blogosphere will show you, plenty of folks who attach images and emotions to the word 'vegan'. This otherwise unassuming little five-letter term seems to be inextricably bound up in negative connotations in the minds of non-vegans of all flavours and is often accused of ugliness or crudeness or is associated with '-isms', such as militantism, dogma, extremism and radicalism. All of this is, to my mind, bound up in the fact that veganism turns the spotlight on the social acceptance of animal abuse and exploitation. And this makes non-vegans naturally uncomfortable.

To me, however, the word vegan is a perfect expression of compassion in action, of simple and elegant truth, of the philosophy of intentional and active non-harm. It encapsulates the values I choose to live by, that form who I am and who I strive to become. It is an everyday manifestation of my principles and the ethical baseline for every action I take, every thought I think and every interaction I have with others. Distinct and separate from 'vegetarian', it is so much more than just a diet: it is a whole way of being in the world and of looking both inward and outward. Spiritually, it is peace; physically, it is beauty; emotionally, it is empathy, kindness and love.

So.....that is why I am joining the ranks of those who love and celebrate this word, who embrace and wear it proudly.

I am getting my first tattoo: vegan.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grandma - we can no longer afford to keep you!


Tel: 1.888.689.3698

Write: Positive Options - c/o ASRI
PO Box 1815
Westfield, MA 01085-1815

It is thought of as a sign of the times: the dire state of the economy is taking a toll on families across the nation and across the world. Jobs are being lost, incomes are sharply reduced and homes are being foreclosed upon. Almost everyone, to some degree or another, is feeling the effects.

And the animals are feeling it too.

In my own town, a new initiative - Positive Options - has sprung up with the mission of helping families keep their pets through times of financial hardship. A small flyer arrived for me yesterday (courtesy of a utility bill) through which contributions are being solicited. The aim of the initiative is as follows:

"[to] supplement the pet food donations that are collected regularly throughout the City of Westfield and other local communities. The donations are used to help keep a pets [sic] with its' [sic] family by supplying food and necessities that a family may not be able to afford at this time. Our goal is to help people keep their pets."

This is a completely laudable objective and I intend to make a donation but one point struck me when reading through the flyer - the underlying acceptance of the disposability paradigm. It goes like this.....

1) Times are hard and we need to make cutbacks.
2) Certain things are not negotiable - rent, mortgage payments, food - therefore we have to cut back on non-essentials.
3) Our pets - those beloved 'members of the family' in good times - are non-essential.
4) Cutbacks can be made on the expenses associated with them.

In short, the animals go.

I know there's a lot of hand-wringing, tearful discussions and heart-wrenching decisions made along the way to this conclusion. And equally, I imagine that it's not the first option most reasonable, normal people accept as a way through these tough times. However, my point really is that it IS an option on the table, in a way that would never be applicable to human members of the same family. Try as I might, I cannot imagine the scenario wherein a couple decides that their income simply cannot sustain the family and therefore the youngest child must go. Nor yet the case where Grandma is just such a drain on resources that it might really be time to have her put to sleep.....

But it is an acceptable scenario in any case where the family member is a non-human. A cat, dog, bird, rabbit, whatever.....And this acceptance is rooted purely and simply in our perception of animals as property to do with as we wish. They are considered disposable and replaceable; their status that of object, the same as a table or chair. More lovable, perhaps, certainly cuter, but an object - no more, no less.

Recently, I have become increasingly interested in the framing of the abolitionist perspective within the animal rights debate and it seems to me that this current situation is a perfect example of how the welfarist position might indeed be inadequate. Inherent within the framing of this Positive Options initiative is the supposition that it is fundamentally understandable and acceptable to abandon a non-human family member in times of crisis. For the sake of the animal, this organization seeks out a foster home in the hope that the abandoned pet does not end their days prematurely - confused, terrified and alone - in a kill-shelter. However, I think that the abolitionist argument that such short-termism does not truly benefit the animals is valid. What we really need is education, a sea change of social thought wherein the idea of surrendering a pet in times of economic distress is as far from our minds as that of abandoning of our children. Until people no longer perceive companion animals as disposible and replacable, until we all take our life-long responsibilities to them as seriously as we do the human members of our families, the future for the animals will not change.

And, just we judge a society by how it treats its poorest members, it is a measure of our values - of us as individuals - how we treat our non-human dependents in challenging times. And I believe, I can only suspect that we are in grave danger of failing ourselves, of not stepping up and rising to the challenge, in this regard. I hope I am wrong.

And, in case I am, I will be mailing a check to the address above. Perhaps you might too?

Stay together and stay vegan, friends.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Maple Syrup and Garlic....where's the link????

.....The Farmers' Market, of course!

This summer has been uncharacteristically miserable - weather-wise, at least. Many days it has poured with rain continually and I'd begin to believe that a) I'd been magically spirited back to England, that (in)famously drizzly isle, and b) that I'd better evolve some webbed feet. PDQ....!!!

Yesterday, however, the day started out beautiful and doggedly remained that way and so, to celebrate, My Beloved and I hot-footed it up to the Farmers' Market in Northampton. It's a pretty low-key affair, with only a handful of stalls, and a preponderence of plantable plants....bedding plants, annuals, that kind of thing.

However, there are also at least two or three extremely well provisioned vegetable stalls with a truly impressive array of greens - kale of every kind, mustard greens, collard greens, you name it, they have it - root vegetables, enormous bunches of fresh herbs, and some fruits. Since we are still experimenting with growing our own kale, I restricted myself to getting some fingerling potatoes (delicious simply boiled and tossed with thinly-sliced garlic sauteed in olive oil), heirloom tomatoes, baby eggplants (just 2 inches in length - perfect for grilling lightly and popping into your mouth!), white eggplants, corn, a bunch of radishes the size of small plums, and some summer squash. It's all somewhat cheaper than the grocery store and I love that the money is going direct to the grower, the farmer. One of the stalls was offering only shallots and different types of fresh garlic:

Show me the grocery store where you'd find this kind of choice of garlic bulb!!!! We bought a handful of different kinds and I'm planning to roast them with a little olive oil and then use in soups, breads, or as pizza toppings.

The other specialty stall belonged to the maple syrup guy. We've bought from him before and the syrup is wonderful, ranging from a very light amber to a deep golden color. I love to use the former on crepes and french toast and the latter in baking - especially as I want to use more of these natural sweeteners and (ultimately) leave refined white sugar behind.

The whole market is basically just one small side street of the town that they close off to traffic for the morning, but it was heaving with shoppers. Perhaps the sun brought them out or perhaps it's just the nature of Northampton. There were folks with strollers, young tattooed couples, one young woman proudly sporting a Vegan Radio t-shirt, spry seniors, bicyclists, people with their dogs. It's very much a mixed bag. One couple, I noticed, had a very unusual dog - an American Hairless Terrier. I didn't manage to get a picture - to be honest I was kind of embarassed to ask - but, while talking with the man, I learned that they had bought her on the internet. From a breeder. I could barely stop myself from rolling my eyes and sighing - it's not like we don't have dogs galore here in shelters and pounds who need a home!!!!!! But no, these guys had the dog driven up from heaven knows where. And it struck me that this hairless dog is really going to enjoy the New England winters, oh yes indeedy! Hmmmmm.....

One of the few stalls that I avoid - for obvious reasons - is the farm-raised, free-range, happy-beef stall. Usually, I try to walk directly past it and just not look. I find it altogether too sad. And it struck me yesterday how different the vibe was coming from that particular stall...see what I mean?

The canopy seemed a ridiculous contrast to the butchered bodies in the altogether pathetic coolers. And the owner was not exactly doing a brisk trade, I am glad to say. I clung tightly to my Vegan Outreach bag as I walked by and tried not to think too much about it all. 

As we were leaving - the 'happy beef' stall having totally killed my earlier good mood - the fates intervened and presented me with the following sight:

It's hard not to feel better when you look at them isn't it!

Do you have a farmer's market where you are? And if so, what do you like best about it?

Stay Vegan Friends!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Simple pleasures

Sometimes when the world is just too crazy and complex, you really need to reconnect with what's good and beautiful and worthwhile in life. To that end, My Beloved brought me these as a reminder.

And Humphrey, my smallest pup, brought me the one thing he could.....

...his own trusting self

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Oh, to be on 'island time'.....

One of the real indulgences I have come to enjoy in the past couple of years is the annual pilgrimage My Beloved and I have made to commune with the fishes. We're both keen SCUBA divers and - being Brits through and through - love the warm waters of the Caribbean. In past years, we've made aquatic acquaintances, fishy friends and marine mates with turtles, sharks, squid, rays, one now famous and beloved octopus, and sundry other reef dwellers in the waters off Tortola and Cayman Brac.

This year, however, with the state of the economy as it is, we felt it financially 'prudent' to remain home and not commit to such an unnecessary expense.

However, it seems that I may be missing the trip even more than I thought I would. And perhaps this would explain my sudden and overpowering urge to create the perfect vegan Caribbean Ginger Cake. The recipe I had from years ago makes liberal use of animal products in the form of butter and eggs so I decided to do away with all of that and this is the result:

It is super moist and sticky with a dense and chewy crumb that'll have you reaching for a second slice before you know what's hit you. Studded with chopped candied ginger, it packs a little heat and an element of surprise.....

Here's the recipe, if you'd like to give it a try. You will need:

(wet things)
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup non-dairy butter (I like the Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
1/2 cup ginger beer (note: not ginger ale - good powerful ginger beer!)
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped coarsely
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 whole over-ripe banana, mashed
2 tbsp dark rum

(dry things)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Here's what you do:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and grease/line a 9"x 9" baking pan
2. In a large saucepan (actually, I use a saute pan, but who cares?!?!) gently melt the non-dairy butter with the molasses, brown sugar, candied ginger, fresh ginger and the ginger beer. While this is melting, mash your banana and stir the rum into it. Turn off the heat under the saute pan and then add the banana-rum-goo and stir well to combine. (In the original recipe, the molasses mix had to be left to cool as the next stage was to add in some beaten egss...see, veganizing it makes the recipe not only more compassionate but quicker too!)
3) Next onto the dry ingredients: into a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and powdered ginger. Stir with a clean spoon to mix.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mix well and pour the batter into your prepared pan.
5. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

You could leave it to cool and frost the top thickly with a basic vegan lemon cream cheese frosting or just serve it with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Which is my preference.

OK, so it's not the same as swimming with the fishes but an afternoon in a sun-splattered garden with a fruity little cocktail in one hand and a slab of this in the other...well, I can always pretend I'm on 'island time', right?

Eat well and stay vegan, friends!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Little by little, hope grows

Sometimes, as a vegan, it's hard to resist the strong sense of isolation, of being enveloped and insulated within an alien, meat-eating, animal-profiteering culture. It's hard, in the face of the billion jagged reminders every day of the egregious ways animals are used and abused, to remain hopeful about the broader picture.

The web is an invaluable tool in this regard, of course. By reaching out to others in the blogosphere, joining online groups and creating our own community - with all its fissures and patched imperfections - we remind ourselves daily that we are not alone. We are not crazy. And, most of all, we are not wrong.

This is an emotional sanctuary to which I return when I'm overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. But it is so much the sweeter when you find someone in real life who is also doing the work, living the life and promoting compassionate values. So, as I was noodling around the web earlier, I came across a post on Animals Not Ingredients called 'Today I Met My First Vegan' and it piqued my curiosity. The writer expresses her appreciation of meeting another vegan randomly in a health food shop, and of being able to make a connection. And I was struck by how uncommon that is, or at least how uncommon it used to be. And then I started to think about the ways in which I've noticed that veganism is becoming more mainstream. And I realized that I do not necessarily believe that it's just a matter of me noticing it more now. Here's why....

I grew up - in the 80s - in a small market town in south-west England. It's right smack-bang in the middle of farming country, where the local population has lived off the land and raised animals since before Noah was a young lad. The ways were old-fashioned, the values even more so: there was a respect for the land and a scepticism and distrust of new-fangled ideas and concepts.

Veganism - nor yet even vegetarianism - was a concept that would not have been well received.

Fast forward to today. My mother, who still lives in this area, IMed me today to report on her visit to a new little eaterie that has sprung up in the town: The Owl Cafe. It is vegan. Pure. Vegan. Food. With a healthy dose of AR on the side, by the sound of it. Indeed, from the website you can get a taste of their philosophy as the chef says

My food you can cry for - die for. You will eat like you won’t believe. Yes I’m a chef, so therefore arrogant; I’m good, but I have an advantage - I simplify my cooking by not using bits of dead animal.

You have to love that!

Furthermore, on a noodling trip around the web a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a B&B in a neighbouring town which explicitly tries to attract the veg*n crowd: The Limetree Nursery. I was so excited that I actually contacted the owner to say how pleased I was - from 4000 miles away on the other side of 'The Pond' - to know that they existed. Such a B&B would never have survived back when I was growing up.

So perhaps this is all evidence, in a very concrete way, that times are changing. That it is no longer such a radical, ultra-far-left, fringe position to actually want to be consciously respectful of the needs and rights of the other creatures with whom we share this experience called life.

Perhaps, little by little, hope grows.

What's happening in your area to give you hope?

Let me know and stay vegan, friends! :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tofu Omelettes: Part Two

This has to be a first. I don't believe I have ever blogged about the same subject twice. At least not in two consecutive posts anyhow! But I cannot help myself - I am still just totally bowled over by the whole tofu omelette thing and I now have pictures to prove it...erm, I mean 'to share.'

This morning, My Beloved and I made a second attempt at the brunch omelettes, this time stuffing them with leftovers from last night's dinner.

[Sidebar: Since it had been such a wonderful summery day yesterday, we made plans to grill and assembled a motley crew of vegetable victims - a couple of squash (one zucchini, one yellow squash), a gigantic green pepper, a more modest pepper of the orange variety, two portobella mushrooms the size of small dinner plates, cauliflower and broccoli florets and some thick slices of red onion. Having tossed them in a little olive oil, garlic salt and a dash of chipotle pepper, we stepped outside to throw them on the grill only to find that the heavens had opened and it was now pouring with rain.

Undaunted, in that peculiarly British fashion, we grilled in the rain. Well, My Beloved did, and I leant support from the relative safety of the kitchen. Finally, when he considered them done to perfection, My Beloved appeared at the screen-door, bedraggled and dripping wet but proudly bearing a platter of the most intensely delicious-smelling vegetables ever. End sidebar and fast-forward back to this morning's brunch.....]

OK, so the batter looks a little scary, but perservere and you will be rewarded....

Starting to look like the omelettes we all used to know and love...

Drape over a selection of your favourite grilled vegetables....

...fold and we're in business!

And they were 'the business'. Terrific. Tremendous. Delicious and fantastically more-ish. My Beloved, who - to my eternal annoyance - is of a preternatural slenderness, decided that we absolutely had to make the recipe stretch to TWO EACH.



I quietly thanked the tofu gods that the batter did not go that far - I would have ended up looking like the Pilsbury Doughboy....Or at least even more so than usual. LOL

Anyways, I have to say - this recipe is no one-hit wonder. It was just as good the second time as the first and got us both thinking about other ways we could use it for weekday dinners. OK, omelettes are great but what about the spanish omelette/tortillas we used to make back in our egg-eating days? I imagine that we could cook up some veg, make a few fried potatoes (homefries-style), fold them all into the batter and pour the whole thing into a somewhat shallow dish to bake until firm. I am poised to experiment. Served with a fresh green salad and a hunk of crusty bread, I can see this going down really rather well as a mid-week dinner treat.

However for now, I thought you might like to see the 'proof positive' of the true magnificence of this recipe from Isa's Vegan Brunch. And, if you are teetering on the verge of trying once again to satisfy your post-egg omelette cravings, to nudge you over the edge into trying out this dish. Believe's well worth it!

Let me know how it goes and stay vegan, friends!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Whether for breakfast, dinner or brunch...

Last night, I experienced a true breakthrough moment. You know how there are always things that you miss from the pre-vegan days? Milk cheddar cheese...BLTs??? Fill in your own non-vegan favourite here...

Well, one of mine is the humble omelette. Which, as the saying goes, you can't make without breaking eggs. Right?


Last night My Beloved and I attempted Isa's Tofu Omelette from the Vegan Brunch. And I have only one thing to say:


OK, I have no picture for you as My Beloved and I fell upon and devoured them as if we'd not eaten in years. Which, I suppose in terms specifically of omelettes, we had not. However, this is the official image, courtesy of the PPK:

I'm usually skeptical of official foodie photos as I'm sure they are all styled and doctored - at least that's what I tell myself when my own attempts turn out to be less than perfect. However, this image truly does the omelette justice - mine turned out an equally delightful eggy-yellow shade with a nice browning on the underside. Stuffed with a mix of onions, peppers, mushrooms and great northern beans with a little fennel seed and garlic and served with a simple green salad, it made for a really great dinner on a busy week-night.

Yes, I have to admit that the process is a bit more complex than cracking a few eggs into a bowl but I think the extra - perhaps - 5 minutes it took me to make the batter is insignificant against the 30 tortured hours it takes a battery hen to produce one egg. And the result was fabulously fluffy, light, moist in the center and delightfully cheesy, due to the chickpea flour and the nutritional yeast.

Never ever again will I be intimidated by the thought of omelettes...and I simply cannot wait now for the weekend when we'll be making them again as Isa intended...for brunch!

Buy this book, try this recipe and stay vegan, friends! :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Jumping on The Table

Please forgive me if this is a case of jumping on the bandwagon but I can refrain no longer from saying a few words about the newest addition to my cookbook arsenal - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's 'The Vegan Table'.

I am lucky enough to own a copy and it has opened my eyes to all manner of new taste sensations. With the emphasis firmly on sensations!

Divided into occasion- and season-themed chapters, The Vegan Table gives menu and recipe guidance for every occasion - from a romantic night-in for two to catering a formal dinner for ten. Now it is true that I personally will never be in the position of having to cater such a large gathering - the anxiety would just about kill me! - but, with a mite of common sense, each recipe can easily be scaled to your specific requirements.

And, for me, what elevates this above the myriad other cookbooks 'out there' are the supplemental sidebars - the mini discussions of common issues for vegans such as turkeys and Thanksgiving, embracing our ethics, and consciousness-raising. It is so much more than a recipe book: it's a survival guide....and a mighty elegant one at that!

Check it out and stay vegan, friends!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vegans only eat lettuce and tree bark, right?

It's really hard being vegan, isn't it?

I mean...


There's just soooooo much to give up.
To feel *totally* deprived about.
Oh, but I can't - just CAN'T - give up my ______ [fill in the blank here].

Yes, indeed, it is a salad-and-tree-bark-munching life of ascetic deprivation.

Yeah right!!!!!

I bought a crepe pan last weekend and tested out Isa's recipe from 'Vegan Brunch'. And - boy oh boy - was it good! Look...

This tender little crepe made of a mix of chickpea, tapioca and all-purpose flours, non-dairy milk and some maple syrup is stuffed full of a sauce of fresh strawberries scented with rosewater. The recipe made 9 of these babies - 4 each for My Beloved and I, with the remaining one split between two very hopeful puppies who declared them possibly the best breakfast crepes THEY'D ever had. Here's Darwin pleading his case for a taste:

Who could resist that look?? Or those crepes!! Try them for yourselves and then tell me all about how extreme and deprived the vegan life is!!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Drinking the Ursine Kool-aid

A wise person (you know who you are!) suggested a tonic for the blue funk I've been in recently: 'Seek out good people doing good things'. And, in the spirit of this advice, I went out last night to see The Bears.

Living in New England, we all know there are bears. And deer, skunks, raccoons, moose and possoms. However, we rarely see them - unless you count roadkill as 'seeing them', which clearly I do not. Occasionally I am thrilled to catch a glimpse of a deer, often at this time of year with a fawn, grazing along the side of the interstate as I trundle wearily home in the evening. It's a sight that always gives me a boost!

But the bears, for the most part, continue to elude me. I have had two sightings in the ten years I've lived here: one in someone's front yard as I drove past and the other - amazingly - was a mother bear with two cubs, nonchalently crossing a road in a nearby town. Right in the middle of a school zone in broad daylight. It was a real heart-in-the-mouth moment as I watched the trio saunter along and the other onlookers getting out of their cars to follow. Yes, you did read that correctly .....getting out of their vehicles to follow a mama bear and her babies!!!!


Anyways, that aside, last night I too drank the ursine kool-aid (er-hum, well, you know what I mean!) and ventured out to our neighbouring town to see The Bears.

On foot.

Without the aid of a safety net.

Am I crazy?? No, not yet! The BearFest has begun in Easthampton and here are some of the little guys I met there....

Spirit Bear, outside the town hall

Me with my favourite - Global Bear

...and a bear behind!

My Beloved with his favourite - 'The Red Bearon'

This is a sweet little chap we discovered hiding out away from the 'main drag'. His name is Wire Hair Bear.

My Beloved again, this time with his new friend Aloha Bear.

And then - horror of horrors - we learned of the 'Ursine Alert: Chrome Bear Missing, Feared Kidnapped!'

The text reads as follows:

WANTED: The Safe Return of "Chrome Bear".


Chrome Bear, a.k.a. "Bearly There Bear" was removed sometime during the night of June 13th. Torn from his bolts in front of Eastworks on Pleasant Street!

If you have any information, please call 413-527-8278.

We hope for our bear's safe return! No charges or penalties for his anonymous return, and no questions asked!

Reward: your karmic balance restored and the immense happiness of all the bear lovers of Easthampton!

Oh, and I couldn't resist including this:

A nice shot to end the evening.

OK, it's all very silly and it's really not especially vegan-related, but I wanted to post some pictures of the lighter side of life. Going back to the sage advice offered to me after my last post, here are some fun people doing some (animal-related) fun things. And I thought you too might like to share....

What do you like to do when you need an emotional pick-me-up????

Thanks for reading and Stay Vegan, Friends!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Today I am deeply ashamed of my species.




Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just another reason to avoid ALL animal 'foods'

Not that it bothers me as a vegan but, for millions of folks who adhere to a specific diet for religious reasons, a new and shocking practice has been unearthed in the UK. The Foods Standards Agency has discovered that food manufacturers have taken to increasng their profits by injecting beef and pork proteins into chicken meat. These 'hydrolysed animal proteins' allow the chicken flesh to retain extra water (which is also injected into it) which in turn adds extra weight thereby making it more profitable.

Food manufacturers behaving in a deceitful and scurrilous manner? Who'd have thought?!?!?!?

I came across the article - somewhat buried, I might add - in The Telegraph today and am cross posting it here. My comments are below.....


Beef and pork proteins being injected into restaurant chicken meals
By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Editor
Published: 7:00AM BST 05 Jun 2009

"The proteins have been used by food manufacturers as a method of bulking up chicken meat with water. The bovine and porcine protein powders allow the chicken to hold far more water, and gives unscrupulous manufacturers the opportunity to sell their meat at a higher price to wholesalers.

The practice was only detected by the FSA's new scientific techniques and restaurants and takeaway outlets would not have known that their meals contained traces of pork and beef.
The FSA report said: "Use of these proteins does not make chicken products unsafe, but it is important that people are given accurate information about their food."

Britain's two million Muslims, Jews and Hindus, who are forbidden from eating either pork or beef, could have unwittingly eaten the products.

Bharti Tailor, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain said: "The findings in this report are shocking and potentially very distressing for the Hindu community."

Manufacturers can legally add water to chicken, but must declare it as an ingredient if it goes above five per cent of the content. Water pumped into chicken above that level will usually leak out unless it is kept in with the help of so-called hydrolysed proteins.

The FSA has issued a new warning: "If you choose not to eat pork or beef you may wish to avoid chicken that contains hydrolysed proteins.

"If you are eating food from a restaurant or takeaway, you should ask if the chicken contains hydrolysed animal proteins.

"Restaurants and catering establishments will have this information available to them as it will be on the ingredients list of the products they buy."

The pork and beef proteins are only used in miniscule amounts and were discovered when the FSA tested a small sample of products using a new DNA technique.

It tested five protein powders from three companies. All five contained a material identified as bovine collagen and tests uncovered the presence of porcine material in two of the powders.

Tests also found traces of beef were found to be in one of three chicken breasts."


The part I love most is this:

If you are eating food from a restaurant or takeaway, you should ask if the chicken contains hydrolysed animal proteins.

Yes, I can absolutely see customers asking the 17-year old server in McDonalds if the chicken sandwich contains pork!

Oh and....

"If you choose not to eat pork or beef you may wish to avoid chicken that contains hydrolysed proteins.

Or maybe it would just be so much easier to choose to avoid ALL dead animals at dinnertime??

Call me crazy.....

Stay vegan, friends!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cold Comfort Farm

As a vegan, I am often asked about my diet and although most people can grasp the idea of not eating the bodies of animals - aka 'meat' - many have a harder time conceptualising a diet free of eggs and milk...oh, and especially cheese. Thanks to extremely successful marketing, eggs and milk are seen as healthful, desirable, 'perfect' foods despite the fact that the exact opposite is, in fact, true.

Similarly, most people do not want to know where their milk and eggs come from, the process which brings them from an animal's body to their plate. The perceived innocuousness of the humble egg is an especially tough one to crack, as it were. The ubiquity of eggs in even apparently unrelated products, combined with the erroneous perception that the 'cage free' label on a carton actually means something in respect of the conditions of production, combined with intrinsic self-centeredness, add up to a situation wherein people succeed in brushing aside the misery and suffering inherent and inevitable in mass egg production. And it is comforting to those fortunate enough to live in rural areas to argue the 'small, family farms, humane conditions' angle, so beloved of my New England neighbours.

However it is a false comfort. A cold comfort. Because it seeks to deny the common-sensical truth that these local farms, family farms, simply cannot provide eggs, cost effectively, on the scale currently demanded. It is logically impossible.

And this is why the majority - the vast majority - of eggs come from massive industrialised battery operations, where tens of thousands of hens are packed into sheds and each one lives out her miserable, foreshortened life in a barren wire cage along with perhaps 7 or 8 cage mates.

That's eight or nine souls in a cage roughly the size of a file cabinet drawer. Eight or nine pairs of eyes looking out into the ammonia-sodden darkness. In fear and panic. Eight or nine bodies with skin rubbed raw from the wire, beaks seared off, sharing space with the dead or dying around them. Until their time for release comes and each cage is finally opened and each spent, broken hen is shipped to slaughter, since her egg production has declined.

Until now, it's been possible to imagine this only from our human perspective. From watching brutal and devastating video of these confined feed operations. Always looking in with the freedom of an external position. But, thanks to web developer and activist Mark Middleton, new perspective is available which puts the viewer squarely in the center of the action - in the place of the hen.

I came across this project - The Virtual Battery Cage - via Animal Voices and recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest in knowing where the eggs for their weekend brunch omelette come from. It's a powerful tool in helping us to see life from the perspective of the others. Those who are unfortunate enough to call a battery cage their home. Whose lives and cries are unheeded and whose deaths are mandated by pure economics.

Please check out The Virtual Battery Cage and then decide if that omelette truly is worth it to you.

Stay Vegan, Friends.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Vegan Wishes

Noodling around at lunchtime today, I found a lovely post called And the winner is... over at Vegan Hope. I am crossposting here and adding a few wishes of my own....
(comments in italics are mine too)

My vegan wishes…

That I could present the facts and information to skeptics in a clear concise way.
(- a major wish of mine too)

That my friends and family would see truth before it is too late.

That the general population would come to grips that they are being lied to every single day by the food industry.

That diabetics (type 1 & 2) could know there is an answer, and it is not a hard one.
(- and that those who DO know this would actually stick to their vegan choices - you know who you are!)

That going vegan to people was something that sounded easy and enjoyable (because it actually is)

That people would understand the cruelty of what is done in order for them to consume the food they eat.

That people would understand the harsh addictions that are in things like dairy and meat.

That people would not associate political motives for things like living healthy, refusing to accept cruelty and destroying the earth.
(- when did kindness and compassion become politically subversive concepts?)

That people in all religions and non religion would be able to incorporate a compassionate life, and would want to treat their body with respect and honor by living as healthy as they could.

That people would realize they are strong enough to break their addictions and from what they think they could never change.

That people could understand why we have the diseases that we do.
(- not to mention the ones we're saving up for the future)

That people would see truth as something that is beautiful, and be thankful for it.

That people would WANT to live and thrive.

That people could understand what it is to feel life, to be healthy, and to be contributing to saving life.

That people would come together to help one another, not to rip each other apart.

That people would see past what the media shoves down their throats.

That factory farms would be made with glass walls, so that we could see what is happening.

That I could give people an ounce of what it feels like to be so sick that you are afraid you won’t make it another day, and let them know that if they continue to do what they are doing, they will most likely end up in the same place.

That I could give people an ounce of what it feels like to actually be healthy, full of energy.

That I could give people the strength they need to make it through a couple of weeks of detox.

That everyone could see themselves on the other end of giving up what they feel they could never give up, and see that it wasn’t that hard after all.
(- absolutely!)

And I have a few of my own to add:

That people would accept once and for all that fish and chickens and other non-red-meat-types are not vegetables. They are animals. And as such they have no part of a vegetarian diet.

That slaughterhouses had glass walls and that a visit was compulsory for every meat eater to see the reality for themselves.

That people could break through the arbitrary distinctions they make between the animals we cuddle and the animals we eat. Dogs, cats, pigs, sheep...they all just want to live.

That the concept of being vegan was not immediately dismissed as radical and extreme even by those who should know better.

That there was a will to understand and that empathy was a norm in our society.

That no-one would seriously believe that the satisfaction of a fleeting moment's taste of meat could ever justify the unconscionable abuse and torture of fellow beings.

That we could all - for one moment - experience life as a farmed food animal. (In Anna Sewell's novel 'Black Beauty', the equine narrator says something along the lines of 'I used to think seeing was believing. Now I know it is not: feeling is believing'. That is an elegant distinction.

What are your vegan wishes?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I feel sheepish...

I guess irony doesn't play well in blogland. I am so sorry to the folks who believed I'd won something.

I have not.

The point of the previous post was that I'd received all of this spam at work congratulating me on winning a small fortune, provided I relay my bank account details etc. You all know that kind of scheme, right? So I kind of tied this 'win' in with the desire to actually win a copy of Ricki's new book over at and hence the confusion.

I feel very sheepish and not a little silly.

I will curb my ironic tone in future posts.

Sorry - especially to Ricki herself and to Maria-Rose. :(

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sweet Freedom!

Yesterday I won big.

And when I say big I mean BIG!


This much in fact: 'a prize of Three hundred thousand Euros only (Ђ300,000.00) and a laptop.'

Did you see that? 'and a laptop'....well, that just blows me away!

And today, my luck continued when I received the following by email:


We are pleased to inform you of the result of the just clouded annual final draws of YAHOO FAIR LONDON international programs. You are therefore been approve to claim the sum of £850,000.00Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand POUNDS.

Erm, that equates to around $399,637.74 + $1,285,592.32 = $1, 685, 230.06c according to my pencil and paper calculation.

Oh and let's not forget the laptop of course!!!!

However I have not yet won what I **really** want to win: Sweet Freedom!

And no, I don't necessarily mean from my day job (although of course were the above notifications genuine, I would already be sunning it up on a Caribbean beach with My Beloved, swinging in a hammock under a palm tree, sipping on a fruity little rum concoction, drowsily watching the hibiscus come in and out of focus while deciding what useful vegan thing I could do with the rest of my life...), nooooo....I mean 'Sweet Freedom', the new cookbook by Ricki Heller of

OK, OK, I'll wait until it's published on May 15th - the day after my birthday, it should be noted! - to purchase a copy of what promises to be a fantastic set of recipes for delectables utterly free of eggs, dairy, wheat and refined sugars.

But it would be awesome if I could win a copy....just to cap off an extremely lucky week!

Stay vegan, friends!

Oh, and go buy a copy for yourselves!!!!!