Monday, 1 November 2010

Happy World Vegan Day!

Poor innocent little creatures, if you were reasoning beings and could speak, you would curse us. For we are the cause of your death and what have you done to deserve it? 
                                      Isaac of Syria (late seventh century)

I began this journey in 2002 when I started eliminating suffering from my diet. It began with meat and eventually went to dairy and eggs. I often laugh when people say they feel sorry for me and think because I do not have 3 things--meat, dairy or eggs --that there is nothing left to eat. There is so much to eat out there that is real, healthy wholesome food. Food made from fruit and vegetables. Food made from whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, couscous, millet, bulgur and barley. Food made with lentils and beans like chickpeas, black eyed peas, kidney beans, black beans, aduki beans, pinto beans, haricot beans and cowboy beans--just to name a few. Even soy foods like tofu and tempeh in moderation can be delicious. Anything you eat I can guarantee I can make an equivalent product that is delicious. And it wont contain cholesterol, hormones, antibiotics, pus, salmonella or e-coli--all things you can find in meat and dairy and eggs.

Once upon a time there were small family farms and people had a real connection to the food they ate. If you wanted meat you had to kill it yourself--my mother remembers having to help her grandmother ring the chickens neck and then pluck the feathers, singe the little feathers and pull out the gizzards before cooking. Meat was seen as an occasional luxury and having to kill it yourself meant you really understand where meat came from. Then along came factory farming. This horrible system developed to meet the demands of the burgeoning fast food industry who was calling out for meat and dairy and eggs in record volumes at low prices. These farms packed as many animals into one space as they could and fed them hormones to make them grow faster, shot them up with antibiotics to counteract the infections they were getting from standing shin deep in their own shite with open sores on their bodies. These animals live TERRIBLE lives. They live crowded, frightened miserable lives and are often made ill being forced to eat many foods that are far from their natural diet. Foods like corn that farmers have grown by the tonnes to meet the demands that livestock make--corn that could be going to feed people, but is not.  Then they are taken to be slaughtered--many are not rendered unconscious--and they experience painful deaths full of fear and panic. Diseased meat and faeces that was clinging to animal fur is often mixed right into the meat and end up on your plate. Lastly they are wrapped in plastic and sold to shops where people buy it and marvel at how cheap it is and decide to buy a few more packs at that price so they can eat meat at every meal.  And they have no idea what goes on and how it got there. I always marvel at how people who know this can still bring themselves to eat it. Sometimes I think they must have no soul.  There are some people I have told who stop me and say they genuinely dont want to know--because if they knew they would have to stop and they dont want to.

I gave up meat first but still ate dairy and eggs for many years. When I learned the horrors of the both these industries I felt morally compelled to stop consuming those as well. Cows are bred to produce something like 30 times more milk than they naturally would. Their udders are huge and stretched and swollen and cracked. They get infected and pus gets in the milk. They get pumped full of antibiotics to counteract the infections which also goes in the milk. Did you know that it is perfectly allowed to have levels of pus in milk? Oh yes. There are government regulations that say how much pus is allowable per gallon. See here for more information:  Lastly, in order to produce milk a cow must have a calf. If the calf is male it is turned into veal, if it is female she follows in her mothers footsteps and is worn out in a few years and used for cheap cuts of meat.

I think the egg industry is even worse. Battery farmed chickens live in a cage the size of a sheet of paper and because many cages are stacked on top of each other, they spend most of their lives covered in faeces dropped on them from the bird above. Many of these animals are debeaked with a hot wire to prevent them from savaging themselves or others if they are lucky enough to be free range. Free range can cover a multitude of sins. You could have 3000 chickens wall to wall on the floor of a dark barn and at the far end there is a little door that they could go out of if they wanted. But they are on the far end from the door and there are so many others they cant even move to try to walk there. That counts as free range. And chickens are bred to grow up to maturity twice as fast which means their breasts are big but their bones are weak. Many cannot even walk--their legs just cannot support their own weight. And think about fertilized eggs. What happens to them? There is no need at all for male chicks. You might need a few here and there to fertilize another batch of eggs but you sure dont need every one that is produced. So what do you do with half your hatchlings that have no value to the farmer? If theyre lucky they are smothered or gassed. If they are unlucky they are thrown live into a woodchipper and ground up for animal feed. Feed for animals like cows that are herbivores and dont eat animals.

I often get asked, But what about fish? Well fish are animals too. They feel pain like you do. Would you want to have a big hook in your lip, be ripped from your home and gasp for breath as you slowly suffocate? I thought not. Besides, fish are often contaminated with mercury. We should be trying to clean our oceans for their sake. And with over fishing there may be none left soon anyway. And don’t get me started on seafood/shellfish. Any animal that has to boiled ALIVE in order to be eaten—their suffering doesn’t bear thinking about.

I strongly urge everyone to watch this film. It is called Earthlings and it may change your mind about  the animal industry.
My feelings are that we have gotten away from Gods original plans about the relationship between people, animals and the land. In no way did God envision factory farms when he said Fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the seas and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. I think that being a vegan is morally, ethically and spiritually the correct thing to do. When you know--how can you go on being a part of the chain of suffering? How can you continue to use your buying power to say This is acceptable ?

My mother always says a vegan diet is so extreme. Why extreme? Weve cut out 3 things--meat, dairy and eggs from our food and we eschew leather and silk and fur. Thats a total of 6 things. There are literally thousands of foods to eat/plenty to wear that do not involve suffering and death. How is that extreme???

If you MUST eat meat then refuse to buy cheap factory farmed meat. Use your buying power to support small farms where you can visit and know these animals had a healthy, happy life. It will still end in their slaughter and death--but it is a start.

So since this month is the start of World Vegan Month I will be posting more recipes and food ideas. We do not just live on leaves and sticks. We eat a wonderfully balanced diet low in fat but high in taste. The food we eat is amazingly delicious and karma free. People often ask do I feel like Im missing out on anything? Yeah, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes. You get the idea.

Think about whats on your plate. Think about how you feel. Think about how your food feels and make a better choice--for your health, for the animals health, for the planets health.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Heather, since I made the switch, my cholesterol and blood pressure have been excellent! I am not a true veggie as I do eat some fish, but haven't had the land critters since Iraq!
    You are an inspiration!