31 Dec 2014

Is It Vegan to Kill Insects?

If you're vegan or vegetarian, chances are you've been deemed 'hypocritical' at some point in your life. It's usually non-vegans who are the hypocritical ones - so why would we ever be labelled as such? Well, perhaps we've swatted a blood-sucking mosquito. Perhaps we've bug-sprayed a large spider infestation (yeah, they're technically not insects, but we'll consider them for argument's sake). Perhaps we've stepped on an ant while trotting down the side-walk.

All of these scenarios are probable. It's likely they've happened to you. I know for sure that I've dealt with all of these scenarios, and I've been vegan all the while. Some non-vegans (some vegans as well, probably) may look upon these acts as cruel and therefore not vegan. I, however, disagree.

"As vegans, perhaps we've swatted a blood-sucking mosquito. Perhaps we've bug-sprayed a large spider infestation. Perhaps we've stepped on an ant while trotting down the side-walk."

Let's start with the blood-sucking mosquito scenario. In most cases, I would consider the murder of any sentient being completely unacceptable, but there are some exceptions to this rule. Baseless, senseless and unnecessary killing, in my opinion, is always wrong. Occasionally, however, you must kill for self-defence. You may feel remorseful for doing so, but sometimes, it's your only option.

In most cases, it's best to shoo the bothersome insect away before resorting to killing it. That's usually my choice of action. If you live in an area where mosquitoes are renowned for carrying infectious diseases, however, it's better to rid of them as swiftly as possible. To reiterate - this is an act of self-defence rather than callous greed, so it is not cruel. It is not anti-vegan.

Taking care of a spider infestation is a similar act of self-defence. If these potentially venomous creatures have invaded your home, ridding of the danger as soon as possible is the safest option. In the case of a very large infestation, poison is the simplest, safest and quickest way to remove the danger. Protecting yourself and your family is, again, not anti-vegan.

"Always and only choose the 'kill-method' as a last resort. If any other viable option exists, choose it."

Always and only choose the 'kill-method' as a last resort. If any other viable option exists, choose it. Unfortunately, we don't always have this luxury, so we must choose another course of action. If there are a manageable amount of spiders in your home, and you're certain they pose no threat to your health, safely and carefully move them outside. Use humane spider traps, catchers and repellents if possible. You can purchase an innovative 'no-kill' spider catcher here.

If any larger animal posed an immediate threat to us, our homes, or our families, we would take care of the imminent danger as soon as possible through any means necessary. I believe we should use the same approach when dealing with the smallest of critters. After all, we can make a much larger impact on the world while we're alive than while we're ill or deceased!

Regarding stepping on ants: this is something I'd call an accident. An often regrettable and dispiriting accident, but an accident nonetheless. I would never, ever go out of my way to kill an ant. I'm saddened when I watch people purposely step on them, especially children. I see it as a sign of a complete lack of respect for life.

Compassionate people go out of their way to avoid injuring all creatures, ants included. Sometimes, however, we make mistakes. Sometimes we don't see the tiny critters. Sometimes we misstep. Completely unintentional harm is not comparable to the intentional harm of paying for animals to be killed and eating their dead bodies - as such, it is not 'unvegan'. 

What about termites? Again, this is a case of home-invasion. If a rogue creature has entered your habitat with the intent of destroying it, you must do whatever's plausible to rid of the problem - as any animal would do. Sometimes, sadly, the only plausible option is to kill.

"Completely unintentional harm is not comparable to the intentional harm of paying for animals to be killed and eating their dead bodies - as such, it is not 'unvegan'."

All of this is only my opinion, and vegans have differing views on the matter. I don't speak for all vegans and vegetarians. Some don't agree with killing in any way, shape or form; and believe it is better to sacrifice our own lives than those of other sentient beings. I respect this opinion, but to me, it's unrealistic. No matter how heart-wrenching taking another life may be, it's unfair to beat yourself up. Our lives are important too, and - as aforementioned - we can't make a real impact while we're dead. Respect your own life and do whatever you can to preserve it, so long as you're trying your very best to avoid harming others. That's called being vegan.

24 Dec 2014

7 Inspiring Vegans Over Sixty

Remaining completely healthy, energetic and youthful past the age of sixty seems like an unachievable dream for many people. I don't blame them - many people who reach this older age generally do suffer from health problems, reduced energy and declining cognitive ability. Not all, though. It doesn't have to be that way. If you want to feel energetic, happy, healthy and youthful well past the age of sixty, veganism is the way to go.

Despite what meat-enthusiasts tend to say, most vegans know for sure that there's nothing unhealthy or damaging about the vegan lifestyle. In fact, many see it as the healthiest possible way to live. I mean, it makes sense, doesn't it? Living compassionately, caring for others and helping the environment as much as possible is bound to have a positive outcome for all involved.
In this post, I've compiled some fantastic examples of wonderful, compassionate people who have lived the vegan lifestyle for a great number of years and reaped the benefits. Please enjoy their stories. If these seven people don't inspire you, I don't know who will.

Dr. Ellsworth Wareham 

If anyone can convince you that living a vegan lifestyle is incredibly beneficial for your health, it's Dr. Ellsworth Wareham. He's been vegan for nearly forty years. At 99 years old, he barely looks a day over 70, and is wonderfully articulate and witty for his age. He spent the majority of his life working as cardiothoracic surgeon, stopping just four years ago, at age 95 - now, that's what I call inspiring! If anyone ever tells you that vegans don't get all the nutrients they need to live a full and healthy life, tell them about Dr. Ellsworth Wareham. There's no way they could rebut you. He's a heart doctor after all, and knows what's good and right for our bodies.

Dr. Warehouse credits his good health and longevity partially to his vegan lifestyle, as well as his dedication to maintaining a stress and worry-free state of mind. Many of us, including myself, could learn a great deal from this inspiring man.

Watch an interview with him here.

Jim Morris 

Jim Morris is 70 years old and his well-built physique is more impressive than that of your average 20-something. He has been vegetarian since 1985, at age 50, and vegan since 2000, at age 65. He has a 30-year competitive body-building career under his belt and owns his own gym. He has maintained his muscular, sculpted physique since very early in life, and his health has only improved since becoming vegan.

Before adopting his new lifestyle, Morris suffered from debilitating arthritic pain every night. Since become vegan, his pain has completely diminished. He also attributes an improvement in eyesight to his plant-based diet and compassionate lifestyle.

You can visit his website here.

Mimi Kirk

Mimi Kirk, once voted America's Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50 (and you can see why), is 71 years old. She has been a raw vegan since age 69 and a vegetarian since her early 30s. Interestingly, she was influenced to stop eating meat when she accidentally bit the back of her hand while eating a roast beef sandwich! This encouraged the sudden realisation that roast beef is animal flesh, and she vowed never to eat meat again. And what a great vow to take. It's clearly paid off wonderfully for her, and for the animals as well.

Kirk demonstrates an excellent attitude towards life and older age. Despite being 71, she claims to feel as fresh, free and energetic as she did at 20. Kirk's story is a wonderful example of how living compassionately can improve every aspect of your existence.

Check out Mimi's website here.

Annette Larkins

Annette Larkins looks fresh, healthy and stunningly beautiful at 72 years old. She lives a highly dedicated, raw vegan lifestyle and eats directly from her own home-grown garden. She became vegetarian in the 60s, and has been eating a completely raw diet for over 27 years. She refers to her garden as her 'fountain of youth', and it's easy to see why.

Her husband, who is an omni (and looks 30 years older than Annette), now wishes that he had decided to make the same lifestyle change as his wife. He is bombarded with questions about his partner when out in public - people often ask if Annette is his granddaughter!

Her mind is as functional as ever - Annette spends her free time building computers, sewing her own clothes and gardening. She can also speak three languages!

Larkins's website is available here.

Janette Murray-Wakelin and Alan Murray

I saw Janette Murray-Wakelin and Alan Murray at the Vegan Festival in Adelaide this year. They both looked fantastic and their wonderful speech was very inspiring - they have set the bar incredibly high for people their age. At age 64 and 68 respectively, Janette and her husband ran 365 marathons in 2013. That's a marathon every day for a year without a single break - an achievement most people half their age could only dream of.

Janette and Alan are both raw vegans. They love their fruit and often consume over 30 bananas per day, along with fruit-and-veg-laden green smoothies. They promote kindness to all life - including animals, of course - and attribute their astonishing fitness levels to their compassionate lifestyle.

Check out their website here.

Storm Talifero 

Storm Talifero is a 64-year-old raw vegan (I'm starting to see a pattern here...) He has followed his healthy, cholesterol-free lifestyle since 1972 - and looks just like he was born then! Like the other raw vegans in this post, Talifero credits his youthful appearance, energy and happiness to his fresh, delicious and completely unprocessed diet. He has written his own book, "The Garden Diet" (doesn't that sound much more appealing than "The Dead Bodies Diet"?) and produced "Breakthrough", a documentary about raw veganism.

Storm believes that following a raw vegan lifestyle is the best way to slow down the ageing process, living by the motto "fresh is best". He's a living manifestation of this belief.

His website can be found here.

21 Dec 2014

Should Vegans Date Non-Vegans?

I'm a member of several vegan-related groups on Facebook, so I come across a huge variety of differing opinions regarding what vegans should and shouldn't do. I was browsing through some posts the other day, and one particular comment struck me in particular. Apparently, some vegans are committed solely to dating other vegans, and refuse to give anybody who isn't the time of day. I'm not saying this is wrong - it's their choice who they date - but it is extremely restricting. It's difficult enough to come across vegan friends, let alone partners!

Some may say that if you date a non-vegan, you're compromising your morals. You're bringing somebody with an (assumed) completely different moral compass into your world. You might have to let them bring the bodies of dead animals into your own home. You'd have to watch them contribute to animal suffering. Would all of this make you "a lesser vegan"?

To answer this question purely based on personal opinion, I'd say it's perfectly fine for vegans to date non-vegans - just as it's acceptable for us to be friends with people who eat animal products. We can't restrict our relationships so strongly - if we did, many of us would be left all alone. A lot of people live in areas where they know no other vegans, so they don't have much choice in who they build relationships with.

"It can be very difficult to more-or-less dedicate your life to somebody whose core moral values are so out of line with your own."

I can, however, understand why vegans would want to avoid dating (and especially living with) non-vegans. It can be very difficult to more-or-less dedicate your life to somebody whose core moral values are so out of line with your own. I'm currently in a relationship with an omni, so I know how it is. On the occasions where my partner eats animal products I often look at him and wonder - how can you eat animals? Why don't you care?

When we are so dedicated to our own moral values, it can be extremely difficult to understand how otherwise loving and compassionate people could not be vegan. To us, it's the absolute moral baseline - but others don't see it that way. Unfortunately, since we're currently living in a world where vegans are relatively few and far between, we have to learn to live with this confusion. We must accept that some people simply haven't found the right path yet, and hope they eventually will. 

To balance out these downsides, at least in my opinion, partnering up with a non-vegan has just as many benefits. Perhaps the most obvious is the ability to introduce your partner to the vegan way of life. Since my partner and I have been together, he has learned a great deal about the vegan lifestyle. He's been exposed to delicious food and information that he would've otherwise known nothing about. Thanks to me, he now knows all about the cruelty in animal agriculture and often defends veganism when his friends try to discount the lifestyle. I definitely see vegan potential in him.

"We can't restrict our relationships so strongly - if we did, many of us would be left all alone."

Another excellent benefit of partnering up with a non-vegan is, if you live with them and prepare their meals, you can make sure everything they eat is vegan (or at least vegetarian). This is the case with my partner and I. He eats all vegan and vegetarian meals at home. If we go out to eat or get takeaway, he will occasionally have meat, but that's relatively rare. So, the more time he spends with me, the less animal products he consumes. That means less animals suffer overall.

For those who will only consider other vegans, I respect and understand your choice - but please don't try and shame people who choose to date omnis. Remember how restrictive it is. Remember that some people really don't have an option one way or another, especially if they live in a small town. Also remember that vegan plus non-vegan relationships are not all bad, and can result in something very positive - brand new members of the vegan family!

"Another excellent benefit of partnering up with a non-vegan is, if you live with them and prepare their meals, you can make sure everything they eat is vegan."

Don't feel guilty for being in a relationship with a non-vegan - it does not mean that you have compromised your morals. It's incredibly difficult simply to meet other people who are vegan in your daily life, especially vegans that you're totally compatible with! Just think of the positives - through associating yourself with non-vegans, you open yourself up to the opportunity to bring new people into our world - and you can stuff them full of delicious vegan food, which is always fun to watch!

18 Dec 2014

You Love Animals AND You Eat Meat? Impossible...

I've come across many strange people in my life, but few as mindbogglingly peculiar as self-proclaimed "animal lovers" who eat meat. In my experience, I've found this is a common thing. Many people claim to be animal lovers and go out of their way to promote animal rights to some degree (i.e. boycotting palm oil and adopting pets rather than shopping for them). What confuses me, however, is the fact that they partake in all of this animal activism while willingly and regularly consuming animal products. They say they love animals, and yet they eat them. As a vegan, I honestly can't get my head around the concept of claiming to love somebody, paying for them to die and then eating their corpse. To the people who do this: our definitions of love must be very different.

For the purpose of this article, I'll go with the most commonly accepted and largely universal definition of love:


1. a strong feeling of affection.

2. a great interest and pleasure in something.

If this is the definition of love we're all comfortable with, then loving animals while eating meat simply doesn't add up. It's practically impossible. If a meat-eating "animal lover" told me they love me, I'd be seriously afraid, and with good reason. I'm not at all interested in being imprisoned and slaughtered in order to end up on the plate of somebody who "loves" me.

Most people love their parents, friends and partners - their pets, too - but would they pay for them to be slaughtered and then eat their dead bodies? Never! True animal lovers respect all animals in the same way they would a family member. They would never, ever do anything to harm them. 

""Animal lovers" who eat meat are really just some-animal-lovers. They love the "cute" animals, the "pretty" animals... the animals society deems deserving of love, i.e. dogs, cats, and bunnies."

I do understand that there are some people out there who genuinely love animals and still eat meat. These people are different in the sense that they haven't yet made the connection (between meat and animal suffering), but eventually will. After all, most vegans have eaten meat at some stage in their life. I'm one of them - I didn't make the connection between meat and animal suffering until I was six years old. As a true animal lover, I immediately cut out meat for good after my "big realisation". The amount of time it takes for somebody to break free of the meat-eating mould is often largely dependent on their upbringing. Some people have been brought up to believe that meat-eating is completely necessary for good health, so I can understand why it may take them a little longer to break free.

"To truly be an animal lover, you must acknowledge that all animals are deserving of love, respect and freedom, regardless of how cute and cuddly they are."

If, on the other hand, a person knows exactly where meat comes from and also knows that we don't need to eat it, they simply cannot call themselves an animal lover. You can't love somebody and willingly eat them too. "Animal lovers" who eat meat are really just "some-animal-lovers". They love the "cute" animals, the "pretty" animals... the animals society deems deserving of love. You're not an animal lover if you care solely about dogs, cats, and bunnies.

To truly be an animal lover, you must acknowledge that all animals are deserving of love, respect and freedom, regardless of how cute and cuddly they are. To only love animals that make you feel good (through their pure adorableness), in my opinion at least, is quite selfish. All animals - from cows to horses to goats to fish - experience love and pain just as dogs and cats do (some even more so). When compared to each other, for example, cows and dogs are not all that different - they look very similar, experience pain in the same way, and are both able to form deep emotional bonds with their human companions. Why love one and eat the other?

The same is true for many other animals we have been programmed to see as food. Pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, ducks - they are all capable of complex thought and emotion. Even more importantly, they can feel pain. They have families. They can suffer. If you truly loved animals, you would do anything you could to avoid inflicting pain upon them. You certainly wouldn't pay for them to be slaughtered and eat their remains! In fact, that's the complete opposite of what you would do.

The best way to show your love for somebody is to dedicate your heart and soul to granting them freedom and happiness. Veganism is a great way to do this - in fact, it's the best way. Through veganism, we advocate against the commodification of innocent and sentient beings, we promote equal love and respect, and most importantly - we save lives.

If you genuinely consider yourself an animal lover, go vegan. It'll be the best change you ever make.

12 Dec 2014

Why Do so Many Vegans and Vegetarians Go Back to Eating Meat?

If you're a vegan or vegetarian that uses Facebook, chances are you've noticed the latest 'anti-vegan' article currently doing the rounds. This article, from the Huffington Post, claims that vegetarian (and vegan) diets are just phases. Here's the opening line from the article:

"Proving your meat-pushing relatives right, most Americans who eat an all-plant diet really are just going through a phase."

I have a few questions to explore. Is it true that vegans and vegetarians will almost always go back to eating meat? Is it really just a phase? If it is true that so many vegans and vegetarians return to a mainstream diet - why is this?

The simplest answer to the latter question is as follows: I don't know. At least, I can't be certain. I was vegetarian for twelve years (I made the switch at age six) and have been vegan for almost three, so I can't speak from personal experience - I've never gone back to eating meat. I can, however, offer a hypothesis for those who may be interested.

To answer this question, I'll begin by offering you the simplest, most accurate description of veganism I've found to date. This one comes from The Vegan Society:

"Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals."

The second part of this description is just as important as the first. Vegans reject the commodity status of sentient animals. Consequently, we don't use animal products, since doing so would promote the commodification of sentient beings. So, in reality, veganism is much more than a diet. It's not simply plant-based eating, it's a moral and ethical philosophy (or, as some call it, a lifestyle).

People who eat plant-based diets for the right reasons (i.e. to prevent animal suffering or to help the environment rather than purely for their own health) very rarely return to eating animal products. A strongly ingrained moral philosophy is difficult to rid of, and the majority of people would see no reason to rid of their ethical beliefs in the first place.

"Veganism isn't just a phase. It's a lifelong moral commitment."

Let's say you're opposed to murder (as most people are), and have felt this way for your whole life. You hold a strong and deeply ingrained moral belief that it's completely unacceptable to maliciously take another person's life. It'd be very unlikely for you to suddenly pull a one-eighty and decide that murder is A-okay, right? The same goes for vegans. We strongly oppose the abuse and commodification of animals. Most of us have felt this way our whole lives - for some, it just takes a while to make the connection between animal products and animal suffering. Once we make the connection, however, we're not going to go back. The only way you could go back would be if you gave up your moral beliefs - something that, as I mentioned, rarely happens. That's why veganism isn't just a phase. It's a lifelong moral commitment.

But what about vegetarians?

Well - that's a little different. A large proportion of vegetarians do avoid meat for ethical reasons, but others only do it for their health... and they fit the definition of vegetarianism just as well as the ethical vegheads. There are several reasons why health-based vegetarians could go back to eating meat. Perhaps their vegetarianism was only a trial or a short 'health kick'. Perhaps they didn't want to deal with criticism from family members, friends and strangers alike. Perhaps they didn't give their bodies enough time to adjust to the new diet (so they felt sick and thought they needed meat), or perhaps they just sucked hard at making vegetarian food and went back to what they were used to. Ethical vegetarians, on the other hand, usually stick to their guns or move on to veganism. I'm an example of one such individual - as mentioned, I was vegetarian for twelve years before becoming vegan.

I haven't eaten meat in over fourteen years now, and I made the initial decision when I was six years old. So, at least in my case, I can be certain that my abstinence from the use of animal products is not a phase. There are many others in the same boat as me - if you take a look through the comments of the original article, many people have been vegan or vegetarian for ten, twenty, thirty, forty years.

I haven't yet mentioned the sample size of the survey 'proving' that vegetarianism/veganism is just a phase - 11,000. That's quite a meager sum when considering the existence of the 16 million vegetarians and vegans in the USA alone. Similarly, the survey was confined solely to the United States, a country where meat consumption levels are massive, advertising of animal products is rampant, and various companies push the notion that animal products are necessary for good health (which is of course untrue). The 399+ million vegetarians (40% of the population) in India, for example, were ignored.

"There are enough vegetarians and vegans out there who are dedicated to their morals and would never give up on their beliefs to prove that it's the furthest thing from 'just a phase'."

Based on everything I've just mentioned, I think it's fair to conclude that the mentioned article is far from the truth. It's a perfect example of what some would call "anti-veg propaganda". There are enough vegetarians and vegans out there who are dedicated to their morals and would never give up on their beliefs to prove that it's the furthest thing from "just a phase". Meat, cheese and eggs don't even look or smell like food anymore. I can't look at a hot chicken at the supermarket without feeling sick and mournful. It's more than just about the food, though - veganism is an expression of my soul. I, for one, know damn well that's never going to change.