Meet Florence, the vegetarian shark!  »

TreeHugger reports on Florence, a nurse shark living at the Birmingham National Sea Life Centre in England, who has been trying to follow a vegetarian diet. Florence here swallowed a rusty fish hook three years ago, and vets performed out-of-water surgery to remove it, and since then, she’s refused all fish.

Unfortunately, sharks cannot live on vegetables alone, even delicious, nutritious algae, so Sea Life Centre workers have to pull a Marge Simpson and hide the fish in lettuce to supplement Florence’s diet. Apparently if she even gets a whiff of fish, Florence will refuse the food and wait for the animal-free option.

Aw, Florence! We know how hard it is to feed a carnivore an animal-free diet. Maybe scientists will figure out a way to meet your nutritional needs without compromising your morals. A lady-shark can dream!

[photo from the Birmingham National Sea Life Centre via TreeHugger]


Ask a Vegansaur: Vol. 04  »

This is how I’ve felt for the past week. I pretty much had the plague, yo, but today I finally left the house after about a week in seclusion and had no excuse not to write another edition of Ask a Vegansaur.

Lenore asks: My vet told me that unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores and cannot survive or be healthy on a vegan diet. Do you know if this is true? Do most vegans who have cats feed them a vegan diet? Thank you.

Thank YOU, Lenore, for being so polite! This is a controversial subject. For my part, I feed my cat a very fishy diet because that’s precisely what our veterinarian said. Every vegan I know who provides for a cat does the same. According to some sources, a vegetarian or vegan diet fails to provide the nutrients cats need while the makers of vegan cat foods tend to disagree. Interests on the food companies’ side are obvious, and only anecdotal evidence supports the hypothesis that cats can be healthy on veg diets. I suggest following your vet’s instructions to keep your kitty healthy. Although the process of making carnivorous cat food is no better than that of harvesting meat for human consumption, once you sign on to take care of another animal, he or she should be your priority above the other animals in the world. Not to say that anyone should ignore them, but I think you get the point. On the other hand, dogs can be vegetarian, and rabbits, guinea pigs, and the like are veg by nature. If you’re considering adopting a furbaby but don’t want to feed him or her meat, consider these choices.

Nicole asks: I recently transitioned from vegetarian to vegan. I am having trouble finding products other than food that are vegan (i.e., makeup, chapstick, body/face washes) and was wondering if you could lend me a hand? Thanks!

Sure thing, Nicole! Here’s a list of companies that don’t test on animals, and here’s a list of companies that do. Looking for a specific company? Use this tool to search for it. If you’re not sure, take a gander at the list of ingredients on your current products. Watch out for these ingredients. Does that seem overwhelming? Take a deep breath! You’ll be fine! You’re just starting, so you’ll get more practice in identifying vegan and non-vegan items as time goes on. Beauty tip: Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One soap works for my shower, cleaning, and even (in a pinch) toothbrushing needs, and Tom’s of Maine makes good toothpaste and deodorant. Finally, How It All Vegan! contains a variety of recipes for homemade cruelty-free beauty products.

Amanda asks: I think I accidentally ate meat at a restaurant outside of the U.S. Am I still a vegetarian?

Only if you want to be! Seriously, people should not be punished for true accidents — that is, incidents that result from no fault of their own. You’re away from home, and you’re starving. You do your best to ask what’s in your food, but the local language might not be your native one. You take a bite, you’re not sure, you eat it anyway because it’s food and it’s there. I can’t hate on you for that. Even the purest, most perfect vegans make mistakes. How you recover from them is most important.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur a question? Email me, and try not to be a jerk!

[Photo credit: Rex Features]


Awesome vegans: 1; defensive omnivores: 0  »

If you’re vegan, you’ve heard it.  And if you’re an omnivore, (admit it) you’ve said it.  It’s usually one of the first “lines of defense” against a vegan diet: “If we weren’t meant to eat meat, why do I have these canine teeth?”

But do the meatheads have any ground to stand on? Lucky for us (and the animals), Milton R. Mills' comprehensive article "The Comparative Anatomy of Eating" breaks down, in no uncertain terms, the differences between mammalian carnivores, omnivores and herbivores once and for all. “Culture, custom and training are confounding variables when looking at human dietary practices. Thus, ‘observation’ is not the best technique to use when trying to identify the most ‘natural’ diet for humans,” says Mills. “While most humans are ‘behavioral’ omnivores, the question still remains as to whether humans are anatomically suited for a diet that includes animal as well as plant foods.”

He then goes on to compare in great detail the difference between the three classifications. Exhibiting anatomical and physiological features associated with each kind of diet, Mills covers oral cavities and dental structure, stomach and small intestine distinctions, and colon and digestive tracts.

Breaking the scientific mumbo-jumbo down in layman’s terms, we learn some pretty powerful facts:

  • Herbivores’ saliva contains carbohydrate-digesting enzymes which begin breaking down food molecules while the food is still in the mouth; carnivores’ saliva does not contain this enzyme as they do not chew their food.
  • In herbivores, the jaw joint is positioned above the plane of the teeth, allowing complex jaw motions needed to chew plant foods; carnivores have a simple hinge joint lying on the same plane of the teeth, almost eliminating side-to-side motion.
  • Carnivores have a single-chambered stomach and short small intestines; herbivores have significantly longer, more elaborate guts so as to properly digest fibrous diets.
  • Carnivores’ colons are simple and very short, as its only purposes are to absorb salt and water; in herbivores, it is a highly specialized organ involved in water and electrolyte absorption, vitamin production and absorption, and fermentation of fibrous plant materials.

Yeah yeah, all of this is well and good, I guess…but what’s the big conclusion? Are humans built to be vegans, or soulless, arrogant flesh-eaters?

SORRY, CARNIES! Here’s the key, my fellow veggies—memorize this for future ammunition needs:

In conclusion, we see that human beings have the gastrointestinal tract structure of a “committed” herbivore. Humankind does not show the mixed structural features one expects and finds in anatomical omnivores such as bears and raccoons. Thus, from comparing the gastrointestinal tract of humans to that of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores we must conclude that humankind’s GI tract is designed for a purely plant-food diet

Honestly, though—is anyone really surprised? Didn’t think so! Find Dr. Milton. R. Mills’ compare/contrast chart at the bottom of the page here for further info.

[Cow pic from via; kitty from skyanchor on flickr]


Opinionator vs. opinionated: swing and a miss, Jeff McMahan  »

The New York Times Opinionator blog asks: Why should we have carnivorous animals? Your Vegansaurus considered the question, and, of course, had something to say about it.

Certainly we shouldn’t have carnivorous people; our big evolved brains learned ethics, and we’re past thinking of animals of commodity or property. We want to do as little harm to animals as possible, including preserving their lives and their land. But how how can we say that and then say that we want to genetically modify carnivores to evolve into herbivores? A strong argument against eating animals is that it takes away the animals’ choice to live or die—genetic modification of carnivores would deny them a choice as well.

I understand the concept of wanting to protect herbivorous animals, to create a peaceful world, to eliminate violence. But it makes me uncomfortable to meddle with animals’ genetic makeup. You can give your dog exclusively vegan food, but your dog will still want to eat basically everything, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s much more disgusting to feed chickens grain and cow brains. It’s much more offensive to pump cows full of rBST. Even simpler, it’s fucking disgusting to have bred eating-animals to obscenely large sizes, sometimes, like turkeys, so big that they can’t even walk. That’s genetic meddling, and it’s gross.

Favoring one species over another is another one of our pro-vegan arguments—specifically, up with humans, down with every other animal. It’s still speciesism to actively work to create herbivores out of carnivores. We’re not “better” than other animals; we’re better able to reason, and act against our instincts, so we choose to live cruelty-free. We have to maintain perspective, though. We’re oughtn’t go all Margaret Sanger on the animals. No, nature isn’t fair or kind, but hasn’t humanity already done enough to mess with the Earth?

We appreciate Jeff McMahan’s messages of anti-violence and veganism. That’s about it, though.

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