28 Dec 2015

Could you slit an animal's throat?


It's a harsh question. A horrible question. And while I apologise to anybody who is upset by this question, it needs to be asked.

To get meat, we must kill. It's a concept most people understand - but unfortunately, it's a concept very few people will acknowledge. For many people, it is easier to ignore the truth about meat than to make an effort to change. Many people will eat meat, several times a day, without a second thought. But what if they had to slaughter the animal? What if they had to choose their victim? Would that make any difference at all?

I know, personally, that I could never intentionally slaughter or harm another living creature. And, to be consistent in my morals, I choose not to pay for other people to kill animals for me. That, plain and simply, is why I'm vegan.

"I know there are many people out there who aren't vegan, and yet they too would never harm an animal. Most people have kind, compassionate hearts. Most people don't want to hurt anyone."

But I know there are many people out there who aren't vegan, and yet they too would never harm an animal. Most people have kind, compassionate hearts. Most people don't want to hurt anyone. Morals and ethics are deeply ingrained in our culture, and one of our strongest morals is the idea that killing is wrong. So for many people, given the task of slitting a living animal's throat, they would turn away in horror and disgust. They couldn't go through with it. Many people refuse to even watch videos of this kind of behaviour.

So that's why I ask this question.

Could you take a knife, slice an animal's neck, watch he or she bleed out and die, slice his or her body to pieces, cook these pieces and eat them?

Could you?

Just reading these words sickens me. And I know many other people would feel the same. These words are uncomfortable and unsettling.

So why do we allow it to happen, on a huge scale - a scale of billions, every single day? Why do we pay money to keep this horrific industry afloat?

I believe that moral consistency is very important. I believe that if we think killing is wrong, we should not pay for it to happen.

I believe that moral consistency is very important. I believe that if we think killing is wrong, we should not pay for it to happen. It is a very simple concept, and it is why I have never wanted to eat meat.

Of course, I should address one thing. There are people out there who would happily slit an animal's throat and eat its body. Those people are not the target of this article. I am not going to waste time with somebody who simply doesn't care. But many people are kind and compassionate towards animals. Many people care a lot. All they need is a guiding hand. That's what I am offering with this article.

The reality of slaughterhouses 

If you're doubting whether or not these animals are killed by such gruesome means, I invite you to read this page. It contains accounts of actual slaughterhouse activities written by actual slaughterhouse workers.

Bill Haw, CEO of Kansas City's National Farms writes this:
Well, the slaughterhouse is not a pretty thing. I mean, it's a necessary process. It's a highly efficient process. But it's not now, nor never will be, a very pretty thing. Animals come there to die, to be eviscerated, to be decapitated, to be de-hided -- and all of those are violent, bloody and difficult things to watch. So your first and foremost impression of at least the initial stages of the packing house are a very violent, very dehumanizing sort of thing.
But the fact is, we are meat eaters, most of us. And it's a highly efficient way and a reasonably humane way. The animals are rendered unconscious before any of this happens. I think there's a concern for humane treatment of the animals. But the process itself is a violent and unpleasant sort of thing. ...

What he says is both true and false. The violence he describes, however shocking, is accurate. In saying this, he also justifies his actions through claiming that slaughtering animals is necessary and humane. The first is a matter of fact, and the second of opinion. It is a fact that humans do not need to eat animals to thrive and survive. There are millions of healthy vegans and vegetarians proving that every day. Secondly, if we describe humane as "having or showing compassion or benevolence", then Bill Haw must be wrong, because there is nothing compassionate or benevolent about killing without good reason.
And what's more, Bill Haw describes the dehumanisation of slaughterhouse workers. This is a horrible thing to subject a person to - the loss of their sense of self, of humanity. Slaughterhouses are bad not only for the animals, but for all involved in the horrible process, humans included.

Moral consistency is important

Is it natural for humans to eat meat? Some say yes, some say no. It's arguable. Some say we should make logical rather than emotional decisions, but our entire human lives are based around emotion. What's not arguable is that human society is a society based on morals. Nearly every day, we make decisions based on their ethicality. We live by a system of what's right and wrong, and if we choose to disobey this system, we end up in jail, or are shunned by our fellow humans.

There are two major issues to which humans are strongly opposed: killing and abuse. Needless killing and abuse both go against society's morals - so much so that committing these acts could land you on death row (another issue that is subject to moral debate). We are intelligent creatures able to understand when killing is okay and when it's not. In self-defence, killing is usually justified. If a bear is attempting to rip you limb-from-limb, it's okay to fight back. If a human is trying to kidnap you, it's okay to fight back. But if a human is casually walking by, minding their own business, not harming anybody, it's not okay to kill them. And if a bear is prowling through the forest, seeking shelter or food, it's not okay to kill it. And it's not okay to harm or abuse the beast. What are you doing in the bear's territory, anyway?

"I am morally opposed to necessary killing, and so I will not pay for necessary killing to happen. I will not give my money to an industry that needlessly kills, regardless of how "humanely" the killing is done."

These are the morals we live by. So why should things change when cows, pigs, sheep, and other commodified animals enter the picture? To reiterate what I said earlier: I am morally opposed to necessary killing, and so I will not pay for necessary killing to happen. I will not give my money to an industry that needlessly kills, regardless of how "humanely" the killing is done.

Death is death, life is life, and morals are morals. I shouldn't ignore my morals and push them to the back of my mind, out of sight and out of thought, to justify doing something that's convenient or traditional. I hope you, or whoever you share this article with, take this idea into consideration the next time you or they give money to a slaughterhouse.

If you are interested in veganism, I have many useful resources on my blog: here, here, here and here. You could also check out Veganuary, a project encouraging people to try veganism in the new year. Thanks for reading.

23 Dec 2015

Would you eat lab-grown meat?


Lab-grown or in-vitro meat is, according to Wikipedia, an animal-flesh product that has never come from a living animal.

Here is some further information on the topic, from Wikipedia:
"In vitro meat, also called cultured meat, is an animal-flesh product that has never been part of a living animal. In the 21st century, several research projects have worked on in vitro meat in the laboratory.[1] The first in vitro beef burger, created by a Dutch team, was eaten at a demonstration for the press in London in August 2013.[2] There remain difficulties to be overcome before in vitro meat becomes commercially available.[3] Cultured meat is prohibitively expensive, but it is expected that the cost could be reduced to compete with that of conventionally obtained meat as technology improves.[4][5] In vitro meat is also a cultural issue. Some argue that it is less objectionable than traditionally obtained meat because it doesn't involve killing and reduces the risk of animal cruelty, while others disagree with eating meat that has not developed naturally.[6]"
Given this information, and knowing that animals will not be used to produce in-vitro meat, please answer the poll below.


I look forward to seeing the results.

21 Dec 2015

How to have an amazing vegan Christmas


How does your family act at the annual Christmas lunch?

Do they accept your choice to be vegan with loving arms, and happily prepare vegan options for you? Do they let you bring a few meals of your own? Or do they shun your lifestyle choice, make fun of you and try to get you to eat some Christmas ham?

I'm fortunate enough to not have experienced the latter problem - but from what I've heard, a lot of vegans have. And it's not okay. Nobody should have to suffer through ridicule and rejection because of an important lifestyle choice they've made. Now, many families are accepting and accommodating, which is totally awesome. It's great when families are willing to learn about how delicious vegan food is and how easy it is to prepare. But some people just aren't so lucky!

And so, to help you have the very best vegan Christmas you can, or whichever holiday you celebrate, and to help you avoid feeling completely out of place and unaccepted, here are some tips.

Educate your family and friends about what veganism actually is 

This seems so simple, but it's super important. If you're a part of a family of gift-givers, you won't want your family members spending money on presents for you that aren't vegan. A lot of people just don't understand what veganism actually is. They get the vegetarian part - no meat - but some people aren't aware of the problems with milk, eggs, wool, silk, leather, etc. A good idea would be to bring up a discussion about Christmas presents and politely ask the family member if they're having any trouble finding vegan gifts. Be helpful, and let them know that you'd appreciate a gift that doesn't contain any animal products, and explain what this includes. It's important to be as friendly and polite as possible if you don't want to stir up trouble, because some people feel uncomfortable when talking about veganism. It's a guilt thing, I think.



Bring some plates of vegan food

Again, this is a simple tip, but one of the most important. If you want your family members to experience the awesomeness of vegan food and realise how delicious it can be - the best way is to show them! Cook up the tastiest vegan Christmas food you can muster, and offer it to your family and friends. Try not to make a big deal about it being vegan at first, because this can turn people off. Wait until they've tried it, then shock them with the news!

"If you're not a fantastic chef, consider ordering some vegan catering to bring along, or buy something from the store."

If you're not a fantastic chef, consider ordering some vegan catering to bring along, or buy something from the store. Otherwise, there are plenty of delicious, simple vegan recipes that you can try instead, so even beginner cooks will have a good chance of success.

Eat what your family is eating

Of course, this doesn't mean you have to eat real Christmas ham, or turkey, or whatever else your non-vegan family is eating - just have a vegan version! For most people, Christmas is about bringing everyone together. Eating a meal together is a huge part of this. So if your meal is totally different to what everyone else is having, you might feel a bit out of place, and your family might think that vegan food is really weird and different. If you make a vegan version of what they're having, they'll realise that vegan food can be just as good as what they eat, and you won't feel like an outcast. If your family's having Christmas turkey with gravy and roast veggies, bring some tofurkey and vegan gravy along - or, if you're not interested in mock meat, a big plate of roast veggies can be just as good.


If all else fails, celebrate Christmas elsewhere 

Christmas is usually a family affair, and spending time with your family is important. But when your family is unaccepting of your lifestyle, ridicules you, and often makes you feel uncomfortable, you don't owe them Christmas day. You shouldn't feel guilty for not wanting to spend time with people who are rude to you. Go out and enjoy Christmas by yourself, or with some friends, or with your pets - choose people who are accepting and loving, people who want everyone to enjoy Christmas, regardless of their lifestyle choices. If there's no one else to spend Christmas with - why not cuddle up at home with some blankets, a big bowl of roast vegetables, and watch Christmas movies? Or head our for dinner with your friends, or cook for your pets, or chat with other vegans online who may be in the same situation as you. You, like everyone else, have the right to an enjoyable and stress-free holiday season!

If you're wondering about how your veganism will affect your Christmas or other holiday celebrations, I hope these tips have helped you. I hope you all have a fantastic holiday and a wonderful new year!

12 Nov 2015

5 of the best travel destinations for lovers of vegan food


So many of us long for the joy of travel - the excitement of experiencing a new culture, trying new food, meeting new people, and relaxing far, far away from the daily grind. It's wonderful to have the privilege to enjoy cuisine from half-way around the world, taking in the refreshing atmosphere and enjoying the new sights, smells and flavours.

Unfortunately, not all parts of the world will cater for vegans. For some, the vegan movement is completely unheard of, and meals will generally be filled with a wide variety of animal products. That's why it's important for vegans to do a little research before travelling to avoid any problems when dining abroad.

This list is in no particular order.

1. The USA

At first, this may seem like a ridiculous suggestion - why would the fast-food capital of the world be a great place to vegans to visit? Well, the reason is kind of related. The USA has such a huge variety of places to eat that you're bound to find many vegan cafes and restaurants. It also depends where you go. States such as New York, California and Washington are great places to go for vegan eating - although, as far as I know, all of the other states have options too. Of all the states, if I had to pick one, it seems that California is the place to be. With 103 vegan/vegetarian restaurant and cafe options listed on HappyCow in a small section of Los Angeles alone, you'd be kicking yourself if you didn't visit! New York city has 163 listings, Washington D.C. has 93 - even Austin, Texas (a state known for its love of steakhouses) has 66 listings! With all of this taken into consideration, its clear that the USA is heaven for lovers of vegan food.

2. India

With a population made up of approximately 40% vegetarians and vegans, India is an obvious choice for lovers of vegan food. Because of the large population of vegetarians in India, many restaurants offer exclusively vegetarian meals, and the majority of vegetarian food is clearly labelled.

"With a population made up of approximately 40% vegetarians and vegans, India is an obvious choice for lovers of vegan food."

When eating vegetarian meals in India, you should watch out for ghee, which is a popular ingredient in Indian cooking. It it a type of 'clarified' butter, and it is not vegan. Egg is not commonly used in Indian dishes, but keep your eye out for it anyway. Common vegan Indian dishes include dal, vegetable korma, alu gobhi and mushroom masala.
Many Indian dishes are traditionally vegetarian

3. Israel


Israel has one of the largest vegan populations in the world, and the prevalence of the movement is growing rapidly. The Israeli army even offers vegan meal options for soldiers. Israel is also home to the Vegan Fest, where over 15,000 guests gather annually to celebrate the vegan lifestyle. Domino's Pizza in Israel offers dairy-free, vegan cheese. There are over 400 certified 'vegan-friendly' food establishments. This country-wide vegan trend has come only recently, with the percentage of Israeli vegetarians and vegans jumping from 2.5% in 2010 to over 8% in 2015. When surveyed, a further 13% of Israelis said they were considering vegetarianism or veganism. Most vegan action in Israel is centralised in Tel Aviv, so definitely consider making the beautiful, ancient city your next travel destination.

4. The UK

Long before 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' food labelling was mainstream in Australia, I saw it used in the UK. On my first visit to England as a vegetarian (in 2004, when I was 10), I had no trouble finding food to eat because everything in the local supermarket was clearly labelled with a green 'V'. This kind of thing is widely seen in Australia now, but England is definitely a forerunner.

"The Vegan Society, the oldest registered vegan organisation in the world, is based in the UK."

Under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, food manufacturers in the UK are not permitted to falsely label their products as 'vegetarian' or 'vegan'. The Vegan Society, the oldest registered vegan organisation in the world, is based in the UK. The society's founder, Donald Watson, is credited with coining the term 'vegan.' The Vegan Society offers their own vegan certification for food products through an easily recognisable sunflower symbol. So, if you're not a fan of reading twenty-ingredient-long lists when doing your weekly grocery shopping, why not try the UK on for size?

5. Italy

According to Wikipedia, Italy boasts the largest percentage of vegetarians and vegans in the European Union, at 10% (or over six million vegetarians). Italian food is a staple in the diets of many vegetarians - personally, I don't think I've gone a week in my life without eating at least one pasta dish. I live for pasta. HappyCow.net lists over 137 results for vegan and vegetarian health food stores, restaurants and cafes in Rome alone. And options, of course, stem far beyond Italian cuisine - with Western and Indian dishes being popular alternatives. Italians are known around the world for their skills in making hearty and flavoursome food, so definitely don't pass it up if given the chance to visit.

I'm hungry just looking at it!

As you probably know, this list isn't exhaustive - there are many, many other countries around the world that offer a wide variety of vegan foods to eat. I just don't have the time to list them all here! I have heard, for example, great things about vegan Thai food - which doesn't surprise me, as Thai cuisine is one of my favourites to eat at home. So, if you're lucky enough to have a chance to travel outside of your home country, consider giving the above places a try, as well as anywhere else you'd love to go. Just make sure you do some research first - it'll make things so much easier. And don't forget to explore your own country's options if travelling abroad isn't in the cards for you.

Enjoy!

3 Nov 2015

The real reason why vegans don't support horse racing

Warning: This article contains distressing and mildly graphic images of abused horses.


Lots of people have different reasons why they think horse racing is wrong. They may disagree with the horses' welfare standards - maybe they want to get rid of whips, or jumps racing, or harnesses. Others may squirm at the thought of a dead horse, like the two horses who were killed last year while racing in the Melbourne Cup. Others want horses to roam freely in soft paddocks at the end of their careers - they don't want horses to be killed and made into pet-food, as many are. These are all valid reasons to oppose horse racing, but they all distract us from the real issue here. The bottom line. The underlying reason why most vegans are so against horse racing.

Exploitation is the key word. In fact, this could be simplified even further: use. Veganism, in its simplest form, is about rejecting animal commodification. We don't use them for food, we don't use them to make clothing or furniture, and, to keep in line with this philosophy, we don't use them for entertainment. That's the basics, and that's the real reason why horse racing isn't vegan.

"Veganism, in its simplest form, is about rejecting animal commodification. We don't use them for food, we don't use them to make clothing or furniture, and, to keep in line with this philosophy, we don't use them for entertainment."

Many proponents of horse racing will talk about how well the animals are treated, how much they are worth, how much their trainers love them, and how they will live out their post-racing lives in peace. In some cases, this may well be true. I am sure there are many racehorses who are cared for. I'm sure there are many jockeys who feel love for the horses they race. But, even if the horses are treated like royalty, they are still being used for human entertainment. They are made to race, and have no choice in the matter. Humans use and exploit these animals for their own enjoyment, a concept that completely goes against the vegan philosophy. Horses do not exist for humans to ride.

One horrifying consequence of using animals as commodities (image from www.horseracingkills.com)

This information is especially relevant now, on the day of the Melbourne Cup. It's a day of celebration and gambling, as many Australians take a day off from work to dress up, spend money, and hope to win something back. Many see Melbourne Cup day as an important aspect of Australian culture. But it's time to shift our thinking. Most of us don't think about why we use horses. We just accept it as 'normal'. Some of us may worry if a horse falls and hurts themselves, or if a horse dies in the race. We may start to think about race safety standards. Of course, issues like this are important. But, the way I see it, we desperately need to focus on the underlying problem. Why do we think we should have the right to use animals in this way? Why do we think we should have the right to own and use animals, to ride them, and to profit from the whole affair?

"Why do we think we should have the right to own and use animals, to ride them, and to profit from the whole affair?"

We would never use humans in this way. Of course, humans race, and many enjoy it - but it would be considered abuse to force a human to race against their will. It is sickening to think of an event in which 'lesser' humans are forced to race while the more privileged humans bet on the outcome. This kind of behaviour would never be accepted in today's world. So why do we impose this fate upon non-human animals? Why is it any different?

Horses cannot express their desire to race. They cannot tell us if they feel tired, or if they don't feel like running, or if they never want to race again. They are voiceless. This is why animal activists must speak out for the animals, encouraging all horse-racers, gamblers and fans to think about whether or not the party is really worth it.

If we treated horses with the respect they deserve, this tragedy could have been avoided (image from www.horseracingkills.com)

If you'd like to show your support for horses, please donate to the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses or any other horse-protection charity of your choice. Many ex-Melbourne Cup attendees have chosen to donate the money they would have once used to bet on a horse. With our support, we can hope that, one day very soon, horses will live lives free from human exploitation. My point is not to downplay the importance of ensuring that horses don't suffer or die - I want only to highlight the underlying issue, the cause of it all: the idea that animals are commodities. If we care about animals, and want them to live full lives, we must accept that they do not belong to us. We must give them the freedom they deserve.

4 Oct 2015

The Dilemma of Raising Vegan Children


Adults following vegan lifestyles is largely accepted nowadays. While there are still people who think vegans are crazy, most vegans can go about their daily lives without being ridiculed. But, as I've noticed, the situation often changes when parents make the decision to raise their children vegan. That's when the judgement and concern begins. Even I find talking about this topic difficult because of its controversial nature. I'll begin by saying that I am not a parent, and don't plan to be a parent for a long time. On top of that, I'm not an expert on this topic and won't ever claim to be, but I have done a lot of research and will present my findings in this article. My goal is to show, with scientific evidence and my own observations, that a vegan diet is adequate for people in all stages of life. Of course, most people reading this blog will already know this, but I'm hoping this post can be used to educate others about how healthy vegan children can be.

Vegan parents may face a dilemma. They can choose to feed their children a standard diet, igniting feelings of moral conflict, or they can choose to raise their children vegan and deal with the resulting judgment. Both options have negatives and positives, but my guess is that most vegan parents will risk judgment and will raise their children vegan - for the animals, for the environment, and often for their kid's health.

"Vegan children eat more varied, colourful and exciting foods than many of non-vegan children I know."

Vegan children are not deprived. They can still eat all the food their friends eat, only veganised. They won't be missing out on anything. I grew up as a vegetarian child, and while I was made fun of every now and then, I felt proud of my choice to not eat meat. It was part of my identity. I didn't feel ashamed or left out. I knew I was doing what, at the time, I thought was best for the animals, and this was comforting for me.

There's a fantastic group on Facebook called What Vegan Children Eat. It's full of posts of wonderful vegan food enjoyed by vegan children, and it shows that they're really not missing out at all. In fact, from what I've seen, vegan children eat more varied, colourful and exciting foods than many of non-vegan children I know.

"According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, and Dietitians of Canada, a vegan diet is suitable and appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle"

Now, let's get to the facts. According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, and Dietitians of Canada, a vegan diet is suitable and appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle - including, of course, infancy. These are some very well-known, reliable organisations with loads of knowledge and decades of research under their belts, and they insist that well-planned vegan diets are suitable for children. Of course, with improper planning, health problems can arise - but the same can be said for any kind of lifestyle.

Milk-feeding is an important topic to address here. It's pretty much general knowledge that the best food for an infant is their mother's milk. That's nature's way. Now, I'm not going to fire up a debate about whether parents should breast feed or bottle feed. I think that choice should be left up to the mother or carer.

The way you choose to raise your child may change the world

And now I will reiterate on that exact point. I said the choice to breast feed or bottle feed a baby should be left up to the baby's mother or carer. A lot of people would agree with me on this. Many people believe that parents know what's best for their own child - so why does this often change when parents choose to raise their children vegan? As far as I see it, parents should be allowed to make choices that are best for their kids, so long as they aren't harming them. Vegan parents often make the healthiest choices for their children, as they are notoriously passionate about food and cooking - so they're likely to make more home cooked meals - and they're also accustomed to checking the ingredients in packaged food, so they always know exactly what's going into their child's mouth.

"Most vegan children will grow up with compassion for all life, respectful of all creatures great and small."

And so, to address the dilemma I mentioned before, I think it's best for vegan parents to raise their children vegan, if doing so is what's best for the child (and, in the majority of cases, it is). Most vegan children will grow up with compassion for all life, respectful of all creatures great and small. In my eyes, this is an admirable trait to instil in a human being. We can never have enough respectful and compassionate humans. Vegan children can also expect to grow up with a better understanding of where their food comes from, which will encourage healthier and more ethical purchases later in life. Although vegan parents will likely face criticism and ridicule, the benefits greatly outweigh these negatives. Raise a child vegan, and you'll have done your part in creating a better future for us all.

26 Sep 2015

Interest in Veganism is Booming in 2015


Interest in veganism has grown HUGELY over the last few years, and I don't even have to look at the official stats to tell you that. I know from experience. Three years ago, when I was vegetarian, I knew very little about veganism, knew zero vegans, and, admittedly, thought vegans were probably a little crazy. I was just so uneducated about veganism and there wasn't much information out there.

And then suddenly, around 2012, vegans started popping up all over the place. I couldn't hide from it. I tried to, for a little while, but eventually I had to face the facts, do some research, and become vegan myself. And in the almost three years that I've been vegan, I've watched the movement grow at an amazing speed. There are loads of vegan restaurants in my small city now, and even mainstream restaurants and supermarket chains are now offering several vegan options. Now, all of this tells me that veganism is definitely on the rise - but I also have some 'real' statistics to back it up!

"The past five years have shown interest in veganism grow in leaps and bounds."

The Wikipedia article about veganism, linked here, is a great source of information about veganism in general, with all sources well-cited. I tend to check up on it every now and then to see if any new information has been added. The other day, I noticed this (if you can't read it, drag the image to your address bar to see the full sized version):


Isn't it absolutely wonderful to see the word "mainstream" used in an article about veganism? Prior to 2010, veganism had little to no representation in mainstream media. Now, as this article tells us, the past five years have shown interest in veganism grow in leaps and bounds. The following graph details how interest in veganism has changed since 2009, based on visits to Wikipedia's articles about vegetarianism and veganism.


This graph tells us some amazing things. It details, by the thousands, August's monthly click rates for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 on Wikipedia's pages about vegetarianism and veganism. Vegetarianism is represented by a green bar, and veganism is represented by a purple bar. As you can see, interest in veganism and vegetarianism grew substantially in 2013 for English-speaking Wikipedia users. For Spanish-speaking users, interest grew hugely between 2011 and 2013, with veganism being a much more sought-after topic than vegetarianism. And 2014 and 2015, if represented on the graph, would likely show growth even higher.

"The recent growth of interest in veganism is largely because of new media."

The recent growth of interest in veganism, as I see it, is largely because of new media. The internet is a wonderful thing: while it's undoubtedly full of unreliable information, it's also a great source of uncensored truth. Before the rise of the internet, you'd be hard pressed to find any uncensored information about the dairy, egg and meat industries without visiting these places yourself. Back then, these horrors were well-hidden from the mainstream population. But now, the internet has opened up a wealth of information that almost all people can easily find and share. Social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and Reddit have played huge roles, each with their own vegan communities. These communities can share information about animal agriculture, which, thanks to the vastness of social media, will quickly and easily spread across the globe.

Google Trends has also recorded the same rise in interest in veganism over the past few years. Compassion Over Killing has written an article all about it, teamed with a very interesting animation showcasing the increase of searches related to veganism between 2008 and 2013. Below is a graph of Google Trends data representing the increase of interest in veganism between 2004 and 2015. As you can see, between 2004 and 2010, interest in the topic was fairly steady, but rapidly began to increase around 2011. As you can also see, interest is continuing to increase, and Google Trends predicts a further increase in 2016 and beyond. This data is in line with my own observations about the growth of veganism in recent years.


What does all this information tell us? Well, the way I see it, it tells us vegans that we're making a real difference. As interest in veganism spreads around the globe, and as more and more people make the switch, interest will only continue to rise. This information tells us that it's all worth it. We don't have any hard data telling us exactly how many vegans there are in the world - but at least we know that interest is growing and will continue to grow. The more people know about veganism, the more people will make the change. Here's to more vegans and less suffering in 2016 and beyond!

13 Sep 2015

How to Help Family & Friends Become Vegan


Once you've been vegan for a while, and you've cooked a lot of delicious vegan meals, your family and friends might start to feel a little curious. At first, they might think you're crazy for avoiding meat, eggs and cheese - but eventually, they might start wanting to try some of your cooking. They might comment on how delicious it is, and how they can't believe it's vegan. They might, even, mention that they would be vegan too, if only they didn't love meat and cheese so much!

And that's the catch. A lot of people are 'potential vegans'. They care about animals, they care about their health, and they like to eat delicious food, just like vegans do. But there's a few issues that get in the way. Addiction and tradition are two examples I've come across often.

"For many people, eating meat is normal. It's something they've grown up doing, and something they never thought much about before."

Let's start with tradition. For many people, eating meat is normal. It's something they've grown up doing, and something they never thought much about before. When meat-eaters talk to vegans, however, they're forced to think about it. These thoughts affect different people in different ways. Sometimes, they'll get defensive. Sometimes, they'll be curious. And sometimes, even, this initial defensiveness will lead to curiosity. This gives vegans the opportunity to show their curious family and friends just how awesome it is to be vegan.

The concept of not eating meat seems (from what I've seen and heard) to be really difficult to comprehend for a lot of people - especially older people. People who grew up in a time when food was scarce can be confused or even offended by the idea of being 'picky' about food. I can understand that, but in actuality, it's not about being picky. Veganism, to me, is about wanting to cause as little harm to animals, people and the environment as possible. So it's a super positive thing, and we can hope that these people will eventually catch on to that. Make sure to let them know.

Help your family learn that all families matter

So, next, let's move on to addiction (a word I'm only using for lack of a better one. If you can think of a better term let me know! I know this isn't really comparable to other, more serious forms of addiction). Cheese has addictive qualities. I've written at length about this in another post, so if you're interested in the addictive nature of cheese, head on over here to find out more. In summary, it can be difficult to give up cheese, but there are lots of alternatives to try, and after being vegan for a while you likely won't ever want to eat cheese again. My post about transitioning from vegetarianism to veganism, found here, has lots of information about cheese alternatives.

Today, I watched a really interesting and informative video by Unnatural Vegan on this topic that I encourage you all to watch. Here it is:

Some vegans probably won't agree with the message in this video, but I think it's totally true, and it's something we should all consider when introducing veganism to non-vegan family members and friends. Unnatural Vegan's message works super well in conjunction with the points I've made in this post.

To summarise Unnatural Vegan's points, most people who eat meat aren't evil. They just don't think the way vegans do. But that can change. I imagine most vegans - including myself - find it impossible to fathom the idea of eating or using animals ever again. We don't understand how anyone could ever want to. And, as someone who hasn't eaten meat since I was six years old, I find the idea of seeing animals as food even more difficult to comprehend. But most vegans ate meat at some point in their life, and most vegans took a while to fully transition into an animal product-free lifestyle. What I'm saying is: the majority of people care about animals and have the potential to be vegan. In most cases all they need is some education, friendly encouragement, and time to reconsider everything they've been taught about animal agriculture. Then, the path to veganism will be the obvious choice to take.

"Veganism isn't hard. It takes getting used to, sure, but it's not hard at all, and if you do it properly you'll never want to go back. Make sure your friends and family members know this."

So the best way to help your family and friends become vegan is to be friendly, helpful and encouraging. Appeal to their best interests. Understand that they probably do care about animals and probably don't really want to eat them. They just need to be made aware of all of the delicious, healthy, fulfilling and nutritionally sound alternatives. Cook for them and show them how awesome vegan food can be, or take them to your favourite vegan restaurant. Perhaps more importantly, make sure they know that the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, and Dietitians of Canada have all certified veganism as appropriate for all stages of the human life-cycle (including during pregnancy, infancy and old age). [source 1, 2, 3]

Veganism isn't hard. It takes getting used to, sure, but it's not hard at all, and if you do it properly you'll never want to go back. Make sure your friends and family members know this. I know it can be difficult sometimes, but try to be understanding. Support and actively encourage any tinge of interest your family members and friends may show. Take any opportunity to educate. Help them realise how amazing veganism actually is. It's getting easier by the day - more and more vegan options are popping up in restaurants and supermarket chains around the world. Now is a great time to act. Make a difference in the world, and help someone you love become vegan today!

15 Aug 2015

Should Vegans Use Animal Tested Products?


The basic definition of veganism is pretty straight forward. We avoid eating or using animal products because we don't want them to suffer. We don't agree with their exploitation. But there are some caveats - some issues that don't quite fit within this basic definition. What about palm oil, for example? It's not an animal product, so technically it's vegan, but its production can cause animal suffering. Or, for the purpose of this article, what about animal tested products? If they don't contain animal-based ingredients, animal tested products are technically vegan, but they're definitely not ethical. And there are many different types of animal products to consider: cosmetics, medicine, household cleaners, soaps and toothpastes... where should vegans draw the line?

Let's start with cosmetics. From what I've heard, seen, and read, it's obvious that many people are against animal testing for cosmetic purposes. The PETA campaigns featuring tortured bunnies, cats and monkeys are shared far and wide. Most cosmetics brands will clearly label their packaging to illustrate their "against animal testing" status. Even the most popular makeup brands, such as Maybelline (once notorious for using animal testing) now advertise themselves as adamantly against this cruel practice. But there's more to it than this - things you wouldn't immediately notice - things that are hidden pretty deep.

When questioned about their stance on animal testing, Maybelline's representatives will state that they're totally against it unless there is a legal requirement set in place. The exact phrasing is as follows: exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes. We can't know exactly what this means, but it does sound suspicious. Some have suggested that Maybelline may outsource its product testing to countries where regulatory authorities demand animal testing. Caveats like this must be taken into consideration when discussing this complex ethical issue.

"Essentially, avoiding animal tested cosmetics isn't too difficult, and it's something vegans should definitely strive to do."

Essentially, avoiding animal tested cosmetics isn't too difficult, and it's something vegans should definitely strive to do. Veganism is about avoiding animal exploitation, and testing on animals purely to create cosmetic products is a really horrible form of exploitation. So, let's avoid supporting this practice by only purchasing products clearly labelled as "cruelty-free".

Animal tested household cleaners, soaps and toothpastes are also fairly easy to avoid. Finding these items in a cruelty-free form isn't as easy as finding cruelty-free cosmetics, since they're usually not clearly labelled as such, but it isn't difficult. There are plenty of expansive lists of cruelty-free cleaners, soaps and toothpastes listed online. This list from PETA may be useful.

It's terrible that these innocent creatures are forced to suffer - but what if there are no alternatives?

Even with lists like PETA's available, there are still come caveats. I did some research and found that some people have challenged the authenticity of PETA's cruelty-free list. Apparently, the only requirement for a company to appear on the list is to sign an agreement with PETA stating that they don't test. But, according to this article by Cruelty Free Kitty, these companies may have suppliers that do test on animals. Make sure to read the article to find out more, and check out the rest of the site for more info on how to find genuinely cruelty-free products. Vegans should take this information into consideration when making purchases.

Now let's move on to animal tested medicine - one of the most controversial subjects surrounding veganism. As it stands, animal testing is mandatory for medication. The general consensus is that it's a "necessary evil" because no suitable alternatives are currently available. To make matters worse, medicine isn't something vegans can choose to avoid - sometimes we need it. Sometimes we'll die without it.

I could go into detail about animal testing for medicinal purposes, but I'm not a chemist or a scientist. I don't know enough about the subject. If you want to read more about why medicinal animal testing is so widespread, you can read about it here.

"According to the FDA, 'There are still many areas where animal testing is necessary and non-animal testing is not yet a scientifically valid and available option.'"

In essence, medicine must be tested before it can be used on humans, or all sorts of legal troubles could arise. People could be killed. Testing has to happen, and unfortunately, animals are the innocent victims. According to the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration), "There are still many areas where animal testing is necessary and non-animal testing is not yet a scientifically valid and available option." This is very unfortunate, but as far as I know, there isn't much vegans can do about it right now. We just have to wait until the right scientific advancements are made.

Some medicines also contain animal products (i.e. lactose in contraceptive pills), and this falls into the same category. Until there are better options available, there's not much we can do. We can try our best to stay healthy and use natural medicine as much as possible, but some people have health issues that require medication, and in my opinion, they shouldn't be made to feel guilty for using animal tested medication. If they really need to take it, they're still vegan. Veganism isn't about being perfect, it's about doing the best you can.

To sum up, I think vegans should do their best to avoid using animal tested products, especially with non-necessary items like cosmetics, dyes, and other beauty products. There are lots of cruelty-free cosmetic products available on the market, which makes things easy for the us. The same goes for household cleaning products and toothpaste - there are a lot of cruelty-free varieties available. If you have access to these products, definitely choose them over animal-tested options. If you're not lucky enough to have access, don't feel guilty, just keep doing the best you can.

In terms of medicine, I don't think you should have your vegan club membership revoked for using medication that keeps you alive and healthy, regardless of whether or not it's tested. Your life is important. Trust me, you can do a lot more for the animals when you're alive and healthy than when you're sick or dead! So keep taking that medication, and don't feel guilty. In the meantime, let's hope for better alternatives, spread awareness, and help fund scientific research to abolish animal testing for good.

28 Jul 2015

Awesome Vegan Smoothie-Making, Travelling & Gardening Tips - A Busy Vegan Musician Tells All


When you spend a lot of time on the road or in the sky, travelling from city to city, you're going to need to eat a lot of filling, nutritious food to keep your energy levels up. Unfortunately, if your travels are full of adventures, you won't have much time to slave in front of an oven all day. If you're travelling on a budget, you also probably won't have much money to spend on eating out. Thankfully, Emaline Delapaix - a vegan musician who spends a lot of time on the road - has graciously offered some super useful tips on how to eat vegan cheaply and easily while travelling, along with a wealth of other info on life as a vegan musician - including smoothie-making and gardening tips!

Read ahead to find out more.

1. How long have you been vegan? What inspired you to make the decision?

I've been properly vegan since 2011. I was vegetarian for many years, close to vegan but it took me a while to educate myself that being vegetarian didn't really help animals and I needed to go vegan to make a real change. I had this feeling inside me for many years before becoming vegan that using animals for food/products was really wrong and when I left Australia I started to find out the truth and knew veganism would be my path.

2. I see that you spend a lot of time travelling - is it difficult to find good vegan food while on the road? What food do you eat while travelling?

Depends where. North America is pretty good, as is most of Germany but of course in the smaller places it's tough so I try to carry a lot of fresh fruit, veg and nuts with me as back up.

3. Has being vegan inspired any of the songs you write?

Veganism has opened my eyes to the world and made me more emotional so sure it has inspired some of my writing, in particular Seal Song about the slaughter of baby seals in Canada.

4. You mentioned that you're an avid gardener. I love gardening too, and so do many of my readers. Do you have any vegan gardening tips or suggestions?

I am still learning and making some mistakes as I can only grow in pots where I am but it's really good to do a lot of reading and try different ways of doing things when you're just starting so you have some back up plants if some die. I've been growing a lot from kitchen scraps in glass jars and little pots and grew my first potatoes from scraps a month ago which were delicious. I've also been enjoying raspberries and Swiss chard recently. Watering is important, sometimes when on tour it's been hard to keep up with that.

5. What are three of your favourite raw vegan smoothie recipes? 




6. What are your favourite vegan dinner recipes?

I make pretty simple things and prefer to make salad when I am home to counteract a lot of cooked or more processed foods I usually have when on tour. One of my favourite salads:

Chickpeas, mint, baby Swiss chard, peach, tomatoes, cucumber, cayenne pepper, salt, walnut oil with white balsamic and a squeeze of lime.

7. Where can we find out more about your music?

Official website: www.emalinedelapaix.com
Official store: www.emalinedelapaix.bandcamp.com
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/emalinedelapaixmusic 

22 Jul 2015

How to Easily Transition from Vegetarian to Vegan


The idea of transitioning from vegetarianism to veganism can seem daunting, especially if you have only recently switched to vegetarianism. In reality, it's easy. If you do it the right way, it can be one of the simplest and yet most rewarding changes you ever make. There are so many vegan alternatives for animal products available these days, all helping to make your transition much easier.

I became vegetarian at six years old and became vegan at age eighteen. For most of my life, I couldn't imagine being vegan. I didn't know much about it, and it seemed so difficult. No ice-cream? No chocolate? No cake? No cookies? No cheese? What a horrible life that must be! 

How naive I was! I had no idea about the abundance of vegan ice-creams, chocolates, cakes, cheese and cookies available. I couldn't fathom how these foods could taste delicious without milk or eggs.

What's awesome is that since becoming vegan - which wasn't that long ago, only three years - the amount of vegan food available at the supermarket has grown exponentially. I can walk five minutes to my local supermarket and find all sorts of animal product alternatives - vegan cheese, cake mix, biscuits, meats (everything from herb sausages to pepperoni), cookies, chocolate, yoghurt, ice-cream... the list goes on. Five years ago, this wouldn't have been possible. Awareness of veganism certainly has grown in leaps and bounds over recent years, bringing an abundance of cruelty-free food along with it. It's fantastic.

So I was wrong about vegan food. It isn't boring. It isn't lacking in nutrition. For most people, it isn't difficult to find. For the majority of vegetarians, the transition from vegetarianism to veganism should be a smooth and delicious one. It certainly was for me!

Why vegetarians should switch to veganism

At first, vegetarianism can seem like enough. I mean, it's fairly obvious that eating meat causes animal suffering. Most people know about the horrors of slaughterhouses. Many people, however, don't know about the extra suffering hidden under the surface, the suffering that isn't so obvious - all caused by the dairy and egg industries.

As a young vegetarian, I didn't really understand why vegans existed. I figured it was a health fad. I couldn't see how taking milk from cows and eggs from chickens could possibly harm them - you don't have to kill a chicken to take her eggs, I thought, so what's wrong with eating them?

There is a great deal wrong with eating eggs, and drinking milk is just as bad. The level of suffering caused by the egg and dairy industries is just about on par with the meat industry. I won't go into too much detail here - there are plenty of sites that offer this information already (here, here) - but, in essence, the dairy and egg industries kill cows and chickens by the millions (after letting them suffer for their entire short lives).

If you want to stop animal suffering and promote animal rights, going vegan is the best way to do it. Vegetarianism is definitely a good step forward, but there is always more we can do to help. We should be striving to do our very best. And veganism is simple and easy, so why not make the switch?

Replacing cheese, milk and eggs in a vegan diet

One thing always seems to get in the way when people try to switch to a vegan diet: cheese. A lot of people crave it and end up switching back to vegetarianism. There's a reason for this: cheese is addictive! There's an ingredient in cheese called casein. When casein is digested, a protein fragment known as casomorphin is produced. Casomorphin has properties similar to opioids, which can be highly addictive and cause withdrawals. That's why withdrawal symptoms are experienced by people trying to cut out cheese! (Source, source)

I don't recall suffering any cheese withdrawals after switching to veganism, but I did miss the flavour. I no longer do. I eat cheese substitutes from time to time, sprinkled on pasta or other hot meats, but I certainly don't garnish every meal with cheese like I used to. I can quite happily go without it. In fact, the smell of cheese is very off-putting to me now, along with the smell of milk and eggs (well, I've always hated the smell of eggs). Cheese substitutes are nice to have around, but I don't feel like I need them.

You can make delicious vegan cheese from nuts and spices

I also used to be a big milk-drinker - especially flavoured milk. Banana milk was almost a daily staple in my vegetarian diet, despite how bloated and nauseous it often made me feel. Since dropping dairy, I rarely feel those effects.

If you're looking to drop cheese, milk, eggs, and other animal products from your diet, here's a table that can help you find alternatives:

Product

Faux/Processed Vegan Alternative


Natural/Homemade Vegan Alternative
Cheese

Vegan Cheese – Chao, Daiya, Sheeze, Notzarella, etc.

Homemade vegan cheese using nuts – cashew cheese, almond parmesan
Egg
Egg replacer powder – Orgran, Ener-G, etc.

To replace one egg:

1 TBSP ground flax seed + 2 ½ TBSP water

1 TBSP chia seed + 1/3 cup water

½ banana, mashed

¼ cup of applesauce


Milk

Almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk, etc.

Easy-to-make homemade plant-based milks such as almond, oat
Honey

Vegan honey – “Bee Free Honee”, etc.

Agave nectar, maple syrup
Yoghurt

Vegan yoghurt – So Delicious, Trader Joe’s, Alpro, Kingland, Co Yo, etc.

Homemade yoghurt
Ice-Cream

Vegan ice-cream – So Delicious, So Good, Almond Dream, etc.

Frozen bananas, blended

With all these alternatives readily available, making the switch from vegetarian to vegan shouldn't be difficult at all. Once your body has moved past the brief "withdrawal" stage that you may experience, you will feel wonderful; and eventually, the mere thought of eating animal products will make you sick. You won't crave it anymore, and you'll feel better for it.

If you're looking for specific recipes, search online! You'll find an abundance of information all over the internet. I'm not a great cook myself, so I can't provide you with any awesome recipes, but there are many vegan food blogs out there that will help. Here's a few popular sites to get you started: link, link.

Of course, you don't have to replace any of these products if you don't feel like it. You could just go without, as many vegans do. Plain fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds are more than enough for many people.

Make the switch today

If you're a vegetarian looking to become vegan, hopefully this post has helped you. If you're vegan already, and have vegetarian friends (I know many of us do) this post may help them out - why not share it with them?

I definitely haven't regretted making the change from vegetarian to vegan. Honestly, it's the best decision I've ever made in my life. It opened my eyes to so many new foods, new people, and the blogging community. It really has changed my life for the better. If you love animals and don't want them to suffer, and if you love to eat delicious, healthy food, I encourage you to make the switch to veganism. If you do it right, you'll never look back.

13 Jul 2015

Growing Up, I Thought Dairy Was the Only Source of Calcium


As a child, I thought dairy was the only reliable source of calcium available for humans past infancy.

I've now realised just how sad that is.

The dairy industry is an absolute giant in the world of advertising. I can name several dairy campaigns just off the top of my head - "Got Milk?", A2 Milk (lactose-free milk that isn't meant to cause "tummy problems" in children - I'll elaborate more on this campaign later on), Fairlife's "more calcium, more protein" campaign... the list goes on. Many dairy campaigns label dairy as a necessary food for strong bones and teeth. Many dairy campaigns also come labelled with pictures of smiling, happy cows surrounded by luscious green fields. Unfortunately, this isn't reality. It's far from it.

As all vegans probably know, milk production causes immense suffering for dairy cows and their offspring. If you didn't know, the male children of dairy cows are almost always stolen from their mothers and disposed of soon after birth. In most cases, they will be killed or sent away to be made into veal or beef. This is because male calves are useless in the dairy industry, and spending money to keep them alive would result in a loss of profits. Female calves will generally end up in the same horrific situation as their mothers - forcefully impregnated and made to give birth again and again in order to keep producing milk. After three or four years, when they have passed their "use-by-date", these dairy cows will also be slaughtered. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

"As all vegans probably know, milk production causes immense suffering for dairy cows and their offspring."

I've seen many dairy advertisements over the years. In school, we were encouraged to drink cow's milk. It's commonly offered in school canteens. A lot of dairy advertisements target young children and parents, highlighting how calcium is needed to maintain strong bones and teeth. This, of course, is true; but these ads play out as if cow's milk is the only reliable source of calcium. Other, similar advertisements target older people, insisting that increased dairy consumption will prevent osteoporosis.

It's upsetting that so much misinformation is spread around, especially when it's aimed at children. As a child, I firmly believed that I needed to drink milk, and I certainly wasn't the only one who felt that way. Many people believe that dairy is a necessary part of a balanced diet - a belief set in stone by an abundance of misinformation.

The health benefits of dairy are debatable. Some say it's great for you, others say it should be avoided at all costs. Some say it prevents osteoporosis, some say it causes osteoporosis. It's hard to know who to believe. We can, at the very least, infer that cow's milk isn't actually meant for human consumption - it's cow's milk after all, and human babies are supposed to be weaned off milk soon after infancy. Mammals produce milk to feed their young - cows do it, goats do it, and humans do it. Human milk is intended for human babies, just as cow milk is intended for cow babies. It's a simple concept to grasp, but for some reason, cow's milk has made its way into the average human diet.

The dairy industry is hell for cows. I won't go into too much detail about dairy production here, but the succinct reality here - dairy production nearly always results in death. I didn't realise this when I was a vegetarian (most news sources won't reveal this information) but now, after a lot of research, I know. I know I don't need to drink milk anymore. I know I don't need it for calcium. There are so many options out there - drinking a mother cow's milk (or any other animal product, for that matter) is completely unnecessary.


There are many calcium-rich alternatives to cow's milk that are healthy and tasty. Best of all - plant milk production doesn't require stealing from a mother who needs it to feed her babies! The list is extensive: soy, almond, rice, oat, coconut and hemp milk are some popular plant-based varieties. Soy milk, for example, contains 25mg of calcium per 100 grams. 

"There are many calcium-rich alternatives to cow's milk that are healthy and tasty. Best of all - plant milk production doesn't require stealing from a mother who needs it to feed her babies!"

If you're not interested in milk alternatives, there are many other ways to get calcium from plants. Dark leafy vegetables are a very popular and reliable source of calcium. Spinach, for example, contains 99mg of calcium per 100 grams; while kale contains 150mg per 100 grams (25mg more than cow's milk). Broccoli contains 43mg per 100 grams and sun-dried tomatoes contain 110mg. With a recommended daily calcium intake of 1000mg/day (for the average adult), it's easy to get everything you need from a few servings of vegetables.

It's a shame that dairy is seen as necessary part of our diets by so many people. At least now we have access to the right information. While dairy is a great source of calcium, it's definitely not the only option out there, and it's also not the best option out there. If you care about the well-being of cows, it's best to ditch dairy and fill your diet with some delicious, calcium-filled veggies!