Is veganism your religion? »
First, a customer service rep at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center was fired in 2010 for refusing to have an mandatory flu shot, because flu shots are “derived from eggs” (ugh) and she’s vegan. CCHMC didn’t want this lady, Sakile Chenzira, getting sick and passing on that illness to the patients. Ms. Chenzira sued, asserting that her veganism was essentially her religion, and it is illegal to fire people for their religious beliefs. CCHMC filed a motion to dismiss the suit, because veganism is a lifestyle, not a religion.
But! Late last month, a district court judge refused to dismiss, stating that
The court finds that in the context of a motion to dismiss, it merely needs to determine whether plaintiff has alleged a plausible claim. … The court finds it plausible that Plaintiff could subscribe to veganism with a sincerity equating that of traditional religious views.
Of course this doesn’t address the whole “we didn’t want her getting the flu and germing up the hospital” issue, but we are less concerned with that as with the idea of veganism as a sort of religion (obviously). Does this mean that when the office has a pizza party and doesn’t even get a meatless pizza, let alone like one half of one pizza without cheese, I can make a discrimination complaint to HR? Not that I would (scared of HR) (have a small martyr complex), but who knows what ramifications Sakile S. Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center will have!
For more information, read Senior District Court Judge Arthur Spiegel’s opinion [pdf]. The trial date is set for July 9.
[Photo by Chiva Congelado via Flickr]
Gary Francione on Philosophy Bites: Animal abolitionism is the only way »
Humane treatment is a fantasy, it’s on an epistemological par with Santa Claus, bunny rabbits, Easter rabbits and things of that nature—silly. Humane treatment is impossible.
Philosophy Bites is a podcast series of short discussions of philosophical topics (duh). On Saturday, they had Gary Francione come discuss animal abilitionism.
If we take seriously the notion that we ought not to inflict unnecessary suffering on animals, the first thing we ought to do is all go vegan. … There’s something peculiar about discussing the moral status of animals when we’re killing and eating them for no reason whatsoever.
I strongly recommend you listen to the entire podcast—it is just under 17 minutes and it is pretty invigorating. They touch on the delightful (read: obnoxious) mollusk question, how disgusting Francione finds the concept of “happy meat,” and the effectiveness of abolitionism versus humane treatment.
So, let’s get into it: Where do you align yourself? Are you more of an abolitionist, or a welfarist?
One more quote to stoke the fire:
The most humanely treated animals are subjected to treatment which would be torture, which we would call literally torture if humans were involved.
There’s much more! Go listen, and let’s argue about the philosophy behind our vegan lifestyles.
[Photo by Keven Law via Flickr]
Vegansaurus June challenge: Try a new vegan food! »
Lots of blogs have regular reader challenges, but Vegansaurus rarely (NEVER) does, because we’re incredibly busy/lazy/busy being lazy and don’t have time for things like fancy cooking or travel or whatever. We have IRL jobs! And books to read in the sunshine!
Still, we know lots of you are go-getting action types, and most vegans are into self-betterment as a concept—what is a vegan lifestyle if not an attempt to be a better person—and we like it when you tell us about your vegan lives. We thought, why not try a reader challenge? We didn’t want it to be too expensive, or time-consuming, or super-annoying and impossible to start, because Vegansaurus rolls slowly and easily. Obviously it had to be food-related.
We all get into food ruts, especially during these lean years of low paychecks and high costs of living. I eat the same meals five, maybe six days a week. I must have gone through five pounds of quinoa and black beans in April, and I’ve been eating Dr. McDougall’s oatmeal packets nearly every morning since December. It’s cheap and convenient! But being vegan means inhabiting a world full of culinary possibilities, and although budget and time constrain our food choices, they don’t prevent us from being brave or creative.
What do you think? Should we all try a new food this month? It doesn’t matter what food group, how bizarre or mundane, as long as it’s never been in your mouth before June 2012, it counts. Record your results in the comments, or send me some proof. We’ll feature some of your more interesting foods in future posts, including some of our new foods. What if it turns out one of you has never tried waffles? Or edamame? Or sauerkraut? Once upon a time I had never had churchkhela!
Maybe it’s not a challenge, maybe it’s a dare! We dare you to try a new food. Something that grosses you out? I taught myself to enjoy raw tomatoes! Are you afraid of really spicy food? Or are you food-crazy and need to know it’s OK to eat mashed potatoes with tons of salt and Earth Balance? Whatever it is, you can do it! Just don’t forget to let us know, so we can praise you. Try a new food in June!
[Dragonfruit photo by Alice via Flickr]
Vegetarians, today is the day you go vegan! »
Lots of vegans were vegetarians before they went vegan. I was. I was vegetarian because I was pretty ignorant—I didn’t even know (or think) about factory farms, I just didn’t like the thought of eating animals. It’s gross, right? We all know one or two animals who we love or at least recognize as sentient beings. The thought of putting dead animals into your body kinda skeeves you out, and so you don’t do it.
Veganism, however, seems a bit extreme, and a little difficult. It’s for obnoxious activists and people who hate food, you’re not about to bomb a lab or eat a twig casserole! But here’s the thing: That’s not what veganism is about! It’s for you! It’s totally for you! You already love animals so that’s the first step, now it’s time to access that place of compassion and go vegan.
When you buy cow’s milk, or cheese, or chicken’s eggs, you are directly contributing to the slaughterhouse, and even worse, the constant suffering of billions of animals. Just because you’re not eating the actual carcass doesn’t mean that you didn’t directly contribute to that death. Female dairy cows live an unnatural life of horrendous pain to create milk and cheese—their babies are taken away and either suffer the same life, or are sold for veal. Purchasing dairy is basically like buying veal. It’s true. Even those organic, natural, happy dairy farms sell their male calves for veal, we’ve checked. And what happens to dairy cows when they can’t produce any longer? It’s straight to the slaughterhouse, and that’s true of ALL cows, no matter where they’re from.
Egg-laying hens have it probably worst of all: Their lives are nightmares and then bam, it’s off to the slaughterhouse when they can’t produce any more. That’s true for those organic, free-range hens, too. And male chicks? Most likely destroyed in the easiest way possible. The only exception is maybe backyard hens, but those come with a whole other set of issues, and I wonder how many people are well equipped to keep them safely for their entire lives.
Vegetarians should think about why they’re vegetarian, and today should be that day. You know, ‘cause sometimes you need a push! I know I did! If it’s for ethical reasons, you should go vegan right now. Or at least start working toward it, maybe with an end date in sight. You’ll most likely find that it’s so much easier than you imagine, especially if you live in an area where vegetarianism is possible. I know that’s not everywhere but I bet it’s the majority of the people reading this. Go vegan, be vegan! Check out our handy list of 11 tips for new vegans! Have a question? Ask a Vegansaur!
But really, go vegan. Make a real stand for animals by withholding your hard earned ca$hola from ALL of the evil industries that abuse animals because, in the words of Megan Rascal, “Being vegetarian isn’t very vegetarian.” From one former vegetarian to some others, today is the motherflipping day you go LEGIT. See you on the other side, friends! I’ve got a batch of vegan cookies in the oven for you, let’s EAT.
You all saw the Time cover story, right? It was basically the front page of the internet yesterday. Um, I don’t think my terrible Google Drawing fully demonstrates what I’m trying to say here but it’s basically: COWS! They love their babies, too! SOMETIMES A LITTLE TOO MUCH.
“Is Veganism for Everyone?” A New York Times debate! »
You guys, the NYT is all over veganism lately. We’ve made it! Or is this a rehash of every other “fad diet debate” the media have ever had? Let’s decide together.
Today, Room for Debate asked some people* to discuss veganism and YOU. (Not “you,” of course, everyone else who isn’t vegan.) Repping for the vegans are Rip Esselstyn, hot-stuff author of The Engine 2 Diet; and Brian Patton, author of The Sexy Vegan Cookbook. Other debaters include scare-mongering vegan-parent-hater Nina Planck; scare-mongering author of The Happiness Diet Drew Ramsey; ex-vegan and known jerkbag Rhys Southan; and author of A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss blog Erika Nicole Kendall.
What are their conclusions? Esselstyn is proud to have helped convert Lance Armstrong to a part-time vegan diet, and Patton notes that transitioning to vegan eating can pose more cultural than dietary challenges. Ramsey warns that “vegans are often vitamin-deficient!” (which, what are the stats on omnivores and vitamin deficiency, buddy?) and Planck begs vegan parents to THINK OF THE CHILDREN before forcing their poor helpless offspring to eat vegan food. Kendall points out that meat and dairy are vectors for disease, and Southan is very concerned about the guilt that vegan diets can induce. Fully half of the debaters focus on weight loss aspects, which is fine, I guess, considering they’re discussing a vegan diet, rather than a vegan lifestyle.
Look, we welcome all vegans! Even deliberately eating vegan part-time is better than doing it never. Still, it’d be nice if the national coverage of veganism included any of the other aspects of veganism besides “quick and easy weight loss” and “not being such fat fatties.” It’s not just a way of eating. We don’t change what we put on our bodies or how we stock our bathrooms out of concern for our cholesterol levels. It’s great that eating vegan makes us healthier, but there’s more to it than what we eat, and I worry that focusing so hard on the “vegan diet = perfect body” argument trivializes the work we all do to live a cruelty-free life. Besides, it’s not true!
This Room for Debate really should’ve been called “Is a Vegan Diet for Everyone?” which would’ve allowed all the participants to make the same arguments without glossing over all the non-food issues a vegan lifestyle addresses. What do you guys think?
*Our feelings are a little bruised that we weren’t asked to participate, but seeing as how your Vegansaurus is staunchly anti-diet, we understand why.
[photo by Charles Roffey via Flickr]
Kayla sent in this chart of all the things made from dead cows with the note, “Overwhelmed!” and I get it, because this shit is crazy overwhelming. Yeah, if something isn’t explicitly marked vegan (and even if it is), you might be consuming or using a food or product that isn’t vegan. It sucks but that’s life. Vegans just try to avoid as much of the shitty stuff as possible.
It’s pretty easy to not consume dairy, eggs, gelatin, and meat, and it’s equally easy to check a package to see if it has whey or casein in it. It’s easy to look for the vitamins that don’t use gelcaps and lotions that aren’t filled with lanolin (having stuff marked as vegan is really helpful for that stuff). It’s harder to not use rubber, walk on cement, and whatever else institutionalized use of animals products exist. Just use your brain. Plus, if you cut off the money to the main evil industries, the smaller benefactors of animal part leftovers—think, wallpaper, linoleum and shiz like that— will eventually have to figure out some alternatives. It’s about hitting animal-exploiting industries in the hardest way possible.
The whole point is, don’t let the fact that there are animal products in rubber make it okay for you to eat a rack of lamb, you know? These are things you can avoid, and things you can’t. Control what you can, and let go of the rest. You’re doing great! You’re the best! Around! And if you get confused and have any questions, ask Sarah! Also, for the record, I assume everything I eat at restaurants is covered with rat feces, and I’m cool with it! Living in the world is messy, and that shit just strengthens your immune system, right? Maybe?
[note: we were unable to learn who created this image]
It’s our SXSW panel today! You’re coming, right? »
Here are the details! It’s on internet activism and veganism and being rad. Plus, it’s with the hilarious, rad, and amazing Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life (she made that rad graphic of our dino chasing after her smurf’s cupcake. That sounded sexual? Or maybe I’m just that fucked up in the head?)!
Plus PLUS: a chance to win free shit from Coconut Bliss and discount cards from Twig & Leaf Botanicals (20 percent off! even for you folks at home!), our amazing sponsors. It’ll be amazing! See your ass(es?) THERE!
This Tuesday: Oprah goes vegan + SF viewing party! Be there! »
So, you’ve probably already heard but Oprah (WE LOVE OPRAH) and her staff are going vegan for a week and the show on Tuesday, February 1st at 4 p.m. (that’s TOMORROW!) is all about it. Rich, beautiful vegan Kathy Freston (check out her excellent interview in Vanity Fair!) is gonna be on the show talking up veganism and her new book, Veganist. Woo! In crappier news, Michael Pollan is also going to be there. He’s telling his fans to watch the show because he’s gonna talk about meat. Like, a lot. BECAUSE HE DOESN’T ALREADY DO THAT. Ugh, I really hope Freston can hold her own against Pollan and it’s not just 44 minutes of him mansplaining “humane meat and its environmental benefits.” Because, MURDER.
ANYHOO, that joyful vegan genius, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, is hosting a viewing party at Harvey’s in the castro. Harvey’s has a crazy amount of vegan options on the menu based on CPG’s recipes and they’re offering 10% off the vegan dishes for the viewing party! Oh, snap! Their onion rings are vegan! That’s all I needed to know.
From the invite:
We’re asking folks to get there by 3:30 latest to settle in (we’re expecting a packed house) and prepare to watch the show at 4:00. You can order food during the show, but you’re also invited to stick around for dinner, FREE cookies (thanks to Eat Pastry), and a brief discussion afterward.
RSVP on Facebook and we’ll see you there!
[Image from Petfinder! Adopt!]
Dear world: vegan ≠ eating disorder »
Hello friends, parents, strangers, graduates of the Columbia School of Journalism, etc.:
Thank you for caring about our well-being! Generally speaking, the thought that others concern themselves with our health is, if not thrilling, at least vaguely comforting. However, it’s time that you back off. Because frankly, accusing us of being secret anorexics, bulimics, binge-eaters, “orthorexics,” or some combination thereof, is really fucking insulting, and we’re sick of it.
Articles like this one by Danielle Friedman in the Daily Beast, which includes one figure and links to exactly one study in ScienceDirect, only make it more difficult for anyone to take a vegan diet seriously. When Friedman describes it or quotes others describing it as “restrictive,” “in the service of an eating disorder,” “a ruse,” “a cover for something darker,” “really an effort to avoid food in general,” and “system of eating that’s restrictive and passes judgment on food that’s not founded on health principles,” that does a disservice to all of us. Further, in the 12th paragraph Friedman contradicts her entire article (this is also the part where she commits to a figure): “for most of the country’s roughly 3 million vegans, who don’t consume or wear any animal products, their eating habits never veer into mental illness.” Thanks for the benefit of the doubt, Danielle! Unfortunately, we’re not the ones she’s interested in.
No, Friedman doesn’t care about “most of” us; she wants to terrify parents whose children have chosen to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. THEY MAY HAVE AN EATING DISORDER, YOUR CHILDREN! Even though “most” vegans are totally fine and happy and eat foods both full of vegetables and full of donuts, that ScienceDirect study revealed that “young adults ages 15 to 23 who reported being vegetarian were, at some point, more likely to have also engaged in unhealthy weight-loss behaviors.” How much more likely? Friedman doesn’t say! And Vegansaurus doesn’t have $30 to pay to view the entire study, so we can’t tell you, either. We can quote from the results in the abstract, though:
Participants were identified as current (4.3%), former (10.8%), and never (84.9%) vegetarians. Current vegetarians in the younger and older cohorts had healthier dietary intakes than nonvegetarians with regard to fruits, vegetables, and fat. Among young adults, current vegetarians were less likely than never vegetarians to be overweight or obese. Adolescent and young adult current vegetarians were more likely to report binge eating with loss of control when compared to nonvegetarians. Among adolescents, former vegetarians were more likely than never vegetarians to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors. Among young adults, former vegetarians were more likely than current and never vegetarians to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors.
There you go. But is the answer really “not to let their kids be vegetarian until they go to college,” as one dietician suggests, because “[m]ost families don’t have the time to prepare vegetarian entrées”? How about taking vegetarian and vegan children seriously, and preparing vegetarian entrées? How about educating yourself about veg nutrition, so you can do your job as a parent and get your kids the nutrition they need, while respecting their individual rights? How many times do you have to be told EAT LESS MEAT BEFORE THE PLANET BURNS UP before you start eating less meat?
Here is a personal anecdote, even: I had an eating disorder, for a long, long time. More than anything else, what has helped me keep eating normally is my vegan diet. I saw a dietician when I could afford it, and she helped me through the “it’s OK to eat things” and “if you don’t eat normally you will die” bits, but keeping vegan keeps me feeling sane even through really terrible times. When I was sickest, I was omnivorous. Maybe I’m a statistical anomaly, but I think that if everyone were all better nutritionally educated—by proper dieticians, not “nutritionists” with “certificates” from “The Learning Annex” or whatever Holistic Institute of Cleansing Auras”—we’d be much better off.
Is veganism really a battle between good and evil? »
Presenting an op-ed by Brianna, one of our writers! Her views do not necessarily represent those of Vegansaurus as a whole, but as one of our regular contributors, we’re happy to give her the space to express her opinions.
There are a lot of very outspoken activists in the vegan community. While I admire anyone willing to fight/argue/do anything/etc. for their beliefs, I do feel that certain types of arguments detract from the discussion (read: turn it into a shouting match). This includes: making gagging noises when people eat non-vegan food in your presence, ridiculing or belittling anyone for their lifestyle choices, and adopting an argumentum ad hominem debate strategy. PETA often incorporates a lot of these “shock tactics” in efforts to “raise awareness” and promote veganism; but at best, it completely devalues any real discussion going on about veganism. In my opinion, veganism is a very personal lifestyle choice, not a crusade against evil.
Let’s be real here: we’re all hypocrites. If we have access to a computer and we wear clothing, we are supporting the same capitalist measures that we oppose in other areas. Are some of the clothes I wear made in sweatshops? Yes. But it’s not that I support sweatshops, it’s just that I’m a poor college student with little agency. And I try not to buy clothing that often.
My point is, it is impossible to be 100 percent good, to fully adopt the ideal lifestyle we present to the world. It is impossible to be 100 percent vegan. ANY crop will be harvested at the expense of animals’ well being (think about the destruction of their habitats, or the actual machinery that is used to collect the produce that will inevitably swallow them up as well, or the amount of insects/lizards/birds harmed by transport vehicles in getting your food to you—never mind the myriad environmental effects that ultimately bring many creatures to their demise). The farm industry has permanently damaged entire ecosystems, yet we rely heavily on it for our produce and specialty goods. Further, any medicine you take was probably tested at the animals’ expense—yet it is fundamental to your physical well being.
I think that the black-and-white view of the world (vegan: good; anything else: bad) is what makes a lot of people view veganism as a crock. My switch to veganism some three-plus years ago was one of the most incredible life changes I have ever undertaken. It is a beautiful thing to approach all of my meals with a critical eye, with a concern for what is going into my mouth and how it got on my plate. But I am imperfect, and I implore you to admit the same. We all slip up; we are all at the end of the day human. Veganism is a personal choice, a challenge to the body and the mind that takes great concentration and great care. It isn’t something that you should be bullied or guilted into; it is a decision that you should make with a lot of thought and great personal struggle.
I challenge you to challenge those who have differing views—I aspire to do much of that in my life. I am often asked “why?” and I always take great care to give a logical, unbiased answer. I tell whoever asks me about the great harms of factory farming to both animal welfare and to the environment. If they ask further, I tell them of the health implications of eating antibiotic-riddled meat or PCB- and mercury-laden fish. If someone ridicules me for my lifestyle choice, I smile and nod and I understand that there is nothing I can say to change their mind. But there is something I can DO: I can live as exemplary a lifestyle as possible, and hope that they see the positive aspects of veganism. I implore you in your life and in your discussions with others to refrain from attacking them as people, from removing their humanity and mistaking ignorance (as in, an ignorance of your views and why you have them) with evil.
I don’t believe that there is a single “right” or “wrong” way to live for everyone. There is, however, a “right” way for yourself, and you should do everything in your power to find out what it is. But you must also recognize that what is right for you may not be right for someone else, and respect their choice to live omnivorously, just as you expect them to respect your choice to live herbivorously.