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Sanctuary Spotlight: Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary

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Our second sanctuary spotlight is Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary, Colombia’s first ever farmed sanctuary. We had the most inspiring opportunity to interview Juliana herself.

Hi, Juliana. Thank you so much for taking time out for LettuceLove.com. So, my first question would be on how the idea for an animal sanctuary came about, and then how did you manage to make it a reality? 
 
Hello, thank you for this opportunity to be on Lettuce Love. Well, determination, that is how dreams come true. From an early age, I was 100% sure what I wanted to do with my life — what my service to the world would be, so at age 11 I started saving money by selling chocolates and vegetarian burgers at my school. Then once I graduated I started to work and continued saving all the money I could. By 2009, with my savings and the help of a friend, Ekala, we each took out a small business loan to buy a small farm and start Colombia’s first ever farmed animal sanctuary — my dream.
 
Living in Colombia, I imagine it to be a little difficult for a project like this, or was that not the case for you?
 
It is very difficult.  The first thing to understand is that Colombia is not a rich country, and most people here are obsessed with their own personal struggles and not the needs of stray of farmed animals. Our culture is also not too charitable with donations or volunteering, so for many years, Ekala and I struggled to keep the project running. Only recently, with the help of my husband, Paul (the director of Food For Life Global) are we now receiving support from overseas, and I am hopeful that the project will be successful.
 
Rabbit
 
Where do you get your inspiration from, if anywhere at all, to carry on with this wonderful project?
 
Actually, the first time I dreamed about having my own sanctuary, I never realised there were others around the world. All the inspiration I need is in the happiness of the animals we rescue. Their happiness, their desire to survive, and seeing them live healthy lives is all I need to stay motivated.
 
Do the animals usually come to you, or do you have like a team of some sort where you rescue animals from streets?
 
Some animals come to me, literally, like I open the door and they are there asking for help! That is how the bull, Balarama came to me. (You can read the full story here: https://www.thedodo.com/mother-cow-saves-calf-1350759329.html)
 
The sad part is that many of the animals were abandoned here at the sanctuary by people claiming to be “animal lovers.” However, sometimes people call me asking if I can take in an animal they found abandoned. One such case was Perla the piglet who was found by my friend in a garbage can. Perla is now very healthy and happy at our sanctuary.
  Balaram
 
How many animals do you have at the farm, and which ones?
 
We currently have 63 animals: 1 cow, 1 ox, 1 horse, 2 pigs, 5 chickens, 4 roosters, 27 dogs, 13 cats, 2 turtles, 2 pigeons, and 5 rabbits with more on the way.
 
I saw a great video of Pola the Pig. Who’s the newest member of the family?
 
We have many new rescues since we saved Pola. There is Perla the piglet, Lucy the rabbit, and Claudio the rooster who all have their sad stories.
  
Peril the Pig
 
What do you love the most about your job? 
 
Everything! It’s not easy caring for so many “children.” I cry a lot when I have bad days here. Some days I go without sleep. I have days without money and wonder how I am going to feed the animals. I have sad days when an animal passes away, but if I have to be born again here, I would want to have exactly the same service, because through caring for animals, I can help people to become more compassionate and aware, which can lead us to a better world. I love everything about “my job.”
 
If someone wanted to help or volunteer and gets hands on at the farm, how can they do this?
 
There are many ways to help. People can come here to volunteer and we even have a nice volunteer room. Or people can volunteer virtually by helping us with raising awareness and support for our sanctuary over social media, or other technical support.  You can check the opportunities here — >http://www.julianasfarm.org/volunteer/
 
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
 
I want to encourage everybody to try a plant-based diet. Not just for the sake of the animals, but also for the health of their own body; the health of the planet and for world peace. Through the example of the sanctuary, we want to teach equality for all beings — animals, humans and all other species. We all deserve love and respect, and by making one simple adjustment to our diet, we can stop abusing others and change the world. I am 100% certain about this. Animals are our family too. We all part of the Earth family and we have to protect and serve each other like family.
 
Thank you so much for  your time and inspiring us, and the readers to hopefully contribute to the world like you have.
 
*****************
 
If you would like to help Juliana’s wonderful offering to the world and it’s animals, you can do so in the following ways.
 
Instagram: @julianasfarm
 
Dog
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On Gratefulness

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Happy (belated) New Year, everybody! I hope that the holidays were filled with love and yummy vegetables for each and every one of you. I ended up going out to eat for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner, at two different fancy restaurant with very limited yet nonetheless delicious vegan grub. Vegetable curry was involved. Anyways, the holidays got me thinking about my family, my life, my upbringing, and how lucky I am. If you don’t mind, I’d love to share.

I grew up privileged, there’s no way to deny it. It always strikes me at random moments, as well as some not-so-random moments, like when I see people begging for food or when I hear another story about violence fueled by racism. The holidays are another time when I get to thinking about how extremely fortunate of a life I was born into. I was never once faced with concerns about whether I would be able to eat dinner, whether I would be too cold to sleep, or whether I would be unsafe in my neighborhood. I always lived in nice areas and my parents were loving.

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I was nineteen when I watched the documentary Earthlings which exposed everything I never wanted to know, but needed to know, about the meat, dairy, egg, circus, and breeding industries, among others. It should be classified as a horror film. It made the decision very, very easy.

My parents, who I lived with at the time, were skeptical of my new decision, but supportive. They paid for the groceries I asked for and even tried bites of my meals here and there. I see now that I may not have fully appreciated that, because lately I’ve heard more and more stories about adolescents and young adults attempting to be vegetarian or vegan but being thwarted by familial or cultural barriers. I’ve heard of parents saying, “If you want to be vegetarian, you can buy your own groceries,” or, “If you live under my roof, you’ll eat what I eat,” or simply, “We eat meat in this family.”

There are also those who are “thwarted” by financial issues. The quotation marks do not in any way demean those with financial struggles, but rather are there because the idea of a vegetarian or vegan diet being expensive is a massive misconception. With the internet allowing such accessible information, it only takes the press of a button to find hundreds of filling, delicious vegan meals that only cost a few dollars. Think: rice/beans/spinach/salsa, pasta/marinara/broccoli, chili/toast, vegetable soup, etc. You get the idea. It’s do-able. But while that’s a vital point to address, it’s a bit beside the one I’m really trying to make.

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My point is that lately I’ve been feeling a lot of gratitude for the fact that I was able to make the transition to a cruelty-lifestyle so smoothly, because I know that it’s not so easy for others. I had the support of my family and I lived in an area where fresh produce and vegan staples and treats were widely available. I still do, and for that I’m immeasurably grateful. I want to send love to everybody out there who is attempting, but struggling for whatever reason, to make the transition. I sincerely hope it works out for you, because nobody deserves to be hindered or punished for trying to do the right thing for themselves, for the animals, and for the world. Good luck with 2016, everybody!

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Sanctuary Spotlight: Hugletts Wood Farm

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To start off the new years we have a motive to promote animal sanctuaries around the globe, and to get an insight into their lives. We start off with Hugletts Wood Farm.

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In the depths of East Sussex, United Kingdom, lies an astounding animal farm sanctuary, Hugletts Wood Farm, home of many wonderful animals. We had the special chance to catch up with Wenda, who took her time out of her busy busy schedule for us.

Hi, Wenda. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy day to do this. I guess, firstly tell us a little about how the idea for an animal sanctuary first came about, and how it came to fruition?

Having been vegetarian from about three years old, upon discovering my parents were feeding me the flesh of animals, I was horrified. Also at the age of seven, to find out calves at my late Uncles dairy farm in Derbyshire were to be taken from their mothers and sent to market. I devised a plan to save them and with a bucket of milk in the dark of night, led the seven of them to a copse up behind the farm. I thought we would lay low until I had decided what to do. Sadly, before breakfast time our absence was discovered and we were found and led down to the livestock truck that would take them away. My punishment was being made to watch the calves being loaded, hearing their pitiful moos and seeing their frightened eyes peering out from the truck. I vowed to myself that one day I would create a place where no one was taken away and mothers and babies wouldn’t be separated and no one would be killed.

When I was 35 having lived a relatively normal life to placate everyone around me, I set up the sanctuary with the proceeds from the sale of my home, having already been renting land for two years before to maintain 19 cows, some sheep, three pigs and a myriad of birds all rescued from the slaughterhouse.
 
What’s the most difficult thing about maintaining the place and animals?
 
Funding a sanctuary is probably one of the trickiest aspects – we have always believed that its wrong for anyone running a sanctuary to expect people to fund their way of life and to this end we work the land and woodland, making a whole range of products that we sell to bring in just enough money to cover basic running costs – feed, bedding, some veterinary care so that donations can be used to provide tangible items or go towards building – all of which increase the comfort and well-being of the residents here. We think its nice for people to see what their kindness have provided. There is something else, which is all too common these days and that is the number of people who having raised a lamb or a pig as a “pet” suddenly dont want them as they mature and demonstrate their natural behaviour. Its quite shocking that they think they can simply unload them on to places like Hugletts Wood, when in reality Farm Animal Sanctuaries are there to take animals and birds whose lives are at risk; those who face imminent slaughter or on-going abuse.
 
Hugletts Wood Farm
  
Did you take any inspirations from anyone or anything?
 
Jainism is our one inspiration – the whole concept of living without harm; the principle of Ahimsa in its truest form; of respecting all life as equal; of living simply with the basics in life. Naturally as an initiated Hare Krsna devotee I am have to admit that I see protecting cows as serving Krsna, but if I am absolutely truthful it is the tenets of Jainism on which we base our lives, caring for not only farm animals rescued from slaughter but the wildlife around us who need us to help maintain their habitat and the environment. We don’t use fossil fuels for power, but rely on solar energy together with wind power in the winter months.
 
What’s the most unique thing about Hugletts Wood Farm compared to lets say other animal sanctuaries?
 
We actually don’t kill! By killing I mean we dont euthanise when someone’s care becomes too costly or time consuming. I guess it brings us back to the spiritual belief in that we dont have the right to take life. We counteract any possible suffering with the use of pain relief and 24 hour a day care. We nurse round the clock, giving water, food and treatments; we massage them, bathe them, keep them warm or cool as need be and are always with whoever is preparing to leave their body at the moment of transition. I can say, quite truthfully, that in 21 years, no one has left here with the slightest discomfort. Suffering is not a word we recognise and all too often you’ll find its used to mask the “human” fears and discomfort at the thought of physical death. Even death these days has to be clinical and pre-booked, so it’s convenient. To us it’s the time when our care is most needed, and everyone leaves here at the time that is right for them, not for us.
 
How do you usually go about saving animals such as cows and chickens whose destinies seem to be a burger?
 
We don’t actually go out and about looking for animals who need rescuing – we don’t have to as there are just too many who face slaughter – millions every day of the year. They come to us by one means or another. After twenty one years of being here, people know how to contact us – the right people who know how awful the meat and dairy industry are and who like us, are vegan. That said even farmers bring animals to us to save the cost of a bullet from the local Hunt Kennels or of calling out the knacker man. Many of the calves we take are rejects from the dairy industry and they come here in the most terrible state – a week old and separated from their mothers; they endure the fear and terror of the market to not sell and be destined for slaughter. When they arrive some are almost delirious with fear or illness; their legs give way from exhaustion and the battle begins to help them hold on to life. I don’t understand anyone drinking animals milk, especially cows milk, when it can never be produced kindly – there is always a cost!
 
Thelma and Vic.
Thelma and Vic.
 
How many animals do you have and which ones? 
 
269 animals and birds; cows, sheep, turkeys, geese, ducks, cockerels, chickens, cats and two dogs. That’s not including the wildlife we care for, the numbers would then run into thousands, but who’s counting. Here at Hugletts Wood our aim is to provide the highest quality of life we are able; free from stress and fear, with adequate land for everyone to live freely. No one is caged; Everyone has the means to develop their own character and make their own friends. This is what life is about! Freedom of expression and the right to it. In our book, that isn’t just for humans!
 
Who’s the latest addition to the Hugletts Wood Farm family?
 
Shackleton, a tiny little Ronaldsay lamb who was born in a Petting Zoo/Farm and who at the end of the summer visiting season was due to go off for slaughter. Some tiny woodland voles were flooded out of their hole at Christmas so we have made a new home for them while the rains are flooding the land – as soon as we dry out they will go back to the woods and find themselves another place to live safely. There is always someone, domesticated or wild who needs a helping hand either permanently or for a short time.
 
Who’s your favourite? And who should the readers keep an eye out for when visiting?
 
In my humble opinion, that is like asking the parents of a large family which is their favourite child. How could we love one more than another? Each soul here has different needs. Each makes demands of us that is unlike any one else. Naturally the rescued animals grow close to us because they learn to trust and we interact with them all day long, every day of the year. The handicapped cows we work with to encourage them to develop confidence to live as perfect a life as their damaged bodies and minds allow, so it’s inevitable that we bond, but no…. no favourites in this place. We just love them all from the bald battery hen to the majestic bull!
I don’t think its a case for keeping an eye out for anyone when you visit. Here, it’s the animals who choose who they wish to associate with. You may be lucky enough to impress one of the bullocks to the point they will let you hug them and hug you back; Dino the gander may allow you to pick him up so he can wrap his long feathery neck round yours; the lambs may permit you to enter the lamb house and sit on their bed while they gather round to inspect you all over.
 
Peanut and Dotty
Peanut and Dotty
 
If someone wanted to volunteer and help, how could they go about doing this?
 
We don’t have volunteers here, nor paid help. In the early days we went down that route and were shocked to find that not many people share our work ethic, in that the work is finished before it’s time to play. So the two of us do all the work; we fund 90% of the running costs; give the care; nurse the sick and dying and for the last 21 years it has worked. I guess if it works we won’t change it.
 
Anything else you’d like to say to the readers?
 
Your life is worth nothing if you live it at the cost of others.
 
Malcolm and Howard
Malcolm and Howard
 
Hugletts Wood Farm host an open day for a visit. This year it’s on the 29th May, 2016. You will be able to meet the cows, and the other residents. A beautiful vegan cafe is run throughout the day, as well as a raffle stall selling merchandise, and an information stall for people wanting to know more on how they can help the sanctuary. The open day is ticketed so please keep an eye out on their Facebook page, they can be ordered from the second week of March. Open Barn Sunday dates will be released soon for the year. You can email them on info@huglettswoodfarm.org for more information.
 
If you would like to donate to their wonderful cause then you can do so via paypal at wenda@huglettswoodfarm.org,
OR
you can set up a standing order at:
A/c Name: Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary
Sort Code: 08-71-99
A/c: 06104374
Please include a name as reference, and if any one would like a receipt, they will gladly send it. Email your address to: wenda@huglettswoodfarm.org.
 
Their new website featuring all the latest arrivals as well as those who have been with them for up to 21 years should be back up again by February. www.huglettswoodfarm.org. Until then you can keep up to date with all that is happening on Facebook: Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary.
 
Howard and Veggies.
Howard and Veggies.
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The Disconnect Between Animals as Pets and Animals as Meat

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In the U.S., where I sit here and write, the proportion of households with pets is higher than those with children. Who knew?! That number (63%) is much higher than the U.K., and more than triple Japanese households, but the fact can’t be disputed: humans love pets. And how could we not? If your lifestyle and funds allow for it, it’s pretty dang sweet to come home to your very own adorably innocent and perpetually pleased four-legged furry creature who thinks of only two things when its owner is away: food, and its owner (I am of course referring to dogs here, because from my experience cats never jumped for joy whenever I arrived home).

Let’s dig a little deeper. I might be alone in this, but I’ve always loosely equated the term ‘domesticated animal’ with ‘pets’- dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, goldfish. As it turns out, the list of domestic animals is much longer. Sheep, pigs, goats, cattle, chicken, donkeys, horses, geese, koi, and hedgehogs all make an appearance. According to Wikipedia, these animals have all undergone significant genetic changes from their wild ancestors, which is why they are now deemed ‘domesticated’. There are actually three classifications of domesticated animals, which include 1) animals which have adapted to a human environment (dogs, cats, guinea pigs, etc.) 2) prey animals which are kept for food (cows, sheep, pigs, goats) and 3) animals kept for working/nonfood purposes (camels, horses, donkeys).

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My question is: how are we as humans so easily able to separate the first classification from the second, or even the third? In other words, why would most of us be horrified at the idea of eating cat meat, yet chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep, cattle, and turkeys are all fair game (no pun intended)? I’m not an expert on animal meat, but I’m willing to bet the flavor of dog and cat meat isn’t too different from at least one of the aforementioned meats. So, why don’t we eat them? Why do we, instead, give them cute names and buy them toys and beds?

The reasons why cats and dogs are the most common types of pet make sense. Obviously, keeping a horse or pig in the house and taking them on walks isn’t quite feasible. The size, trainability, and behavior of cats and dogs makes them very suitable to keep as pets. But the broader idea here concerns the disconnect between pets and animals we eat. Though ethically it seems more appropriate to keep all of these animals on the same plane and think of them all the same way we think of our cats and dogs–as innocent creatures that deserve happiness and safety. Unfortunately, our minds have been trained to separate some types of animals from other types, so we now value the life of a pig, cow, or chicken, much less than a cat or dog.

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But is that fair? We don’t need meat to survive, and the methods by which this meat is produced is beyond inhumane. So doesn’t it seem like high time to destroy the disconnect?

It’s actually a broader topic than I originally thought, due to the crossover that sometimes occurs. Some people have pet snakes, but eating rattlesnake meat isn’t entirely uncommon. And another example: I have a friend whose parents own a small ranch where they keep goats and hens. His parents absolutely adore the goats; they bottle-feed them, pet them, hang out with them. The goats are not used for any other purpose rather than being pets. However, the hens, while also adored and never killed for meat, provide the parents with a tasty egg breakfast each morning. In a strange way (and I know this may be a “non-vegan” thing to say) this almost seems like the healthier, more ethical practice, because it destroys the disconnect between animals as food and animals as pets.

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We simply don’t think of meat as being what was once a live animal. And that’s not anybody’s fault, really–I think it’s largely in part to the secrecy of the meat industry (along with the dairy/egg industries). And I wrote about it in another post but I’ll mention it again: there’s good reason for the secrecy, because their practices are repulsive. So, that along with the fact that most of us grew up eating animal products from a young age and likely did not realize that we were eating live animals contribute to the disconnect. Because by the time we were old enough to understand that we had been eating breeds that we know and love, animals we visit at the zoo or pet at the fair, it was too late. It’s tough to reverse something that was true in your mind for years, and for years we just thought, “this is meat, it comes from the store, I would never actually want to eat a cow, or a chicken, or my dog, for that matter!”

So it seems the least we can do is be honest with our kids about what they are eating and where that food is coming from. Obviously, we don’t need to give our three-year-old the graphic details of how bacon is created, but I think that being forthright about the origin of meat with our children is one solution to breaking the harmful barrier between the way we think of pets and the way we think of meat. 

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How to get responses on a Dating App.

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We’ve all been there. Downloaded a dating app, sent our brains quota of messages, and then we wait….for five minutes. Immediately our thoughts turn from optimism to downright frustration. We blame the people for not responding, and then blame the dating app for the sake of blaming. Here are a few pointers on how to successfully get responses on a dating app. 

1. Fill in your profile.

There are two reasons to fully fill in your profile. The first one mainly applies to niche dating apps like Lettuce Love. Number 1: A user searches depending on their criteria of match. So a Vegan may only want to search for another vegan. A gay vegan will want to search for another gay vegan. If you don’t fill in every detail in your profile then you won’t be found, it’s as simple as that. Number 2: Give the person a reason to message you, a reason for a good opener by telling them a little bit about yourself. That one thing in common could be the prompt for him or her to reply.

2. The perfect opener:

  • Keeping it simple. No this doesn’t just mean a “Hi, how are you?”. This ones mainly for guys, but girls may also tune in. Think about the amount repetitive “Hi, how are you?” messages a girl gets. It’s the last thing she wants to see unless you’re a Liam Hemsworth (fellow Vegan). After your “Hi, how are you?” add in something unique you did that day that may catch her interest. For example, “Hey, how are you on this windy day? I took up the courage to step out, and went bowling with a few friends, whens the last time you went? Any good?”. This way you’ve even set up a potential first date of bowling 😉
  • Be cocky. This doesn’t mean an arrogant jock. There’s real flirty and subtle ways of being cocky and witty, which shows you’re not that average boring person. For example, you can turn the bowling example into, “I don’t like to brag, but I won, obviously, again not bragging, but we had a second game and I also won that, not bragging, I promise”.
  • Pay attention to their profile. If he/she have their profile filled in then comment on something they’ve mentioned. Comment on their picture, without being so creepy. Don’t say, “Nice eyes, bedroom eyes if I may say so, hehehehehehehehehe” – okay maybe that was a tad over the top.
  • Do not copy and paste. A girl especially can sense a copy and paste message and will not respond, again, unless you’re a Liam Hemsworth. Girls, you may copy and paste, guys will respond to anything.

3. Do not delete the app.

As silly as this sounds, in order for the app to work, it needs the help of single people all over the world, especially with niche apps like Lettuce Love. More people WILL join up. It’s a numbers game. If there aren’t many people on the app, and you’re an active member, then you have the best shot of landing a date. The bigger apps, like Tinder, gives the other person more of a reason to ignore your message.

Happy dating.

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Factory Farming: Beef

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How much do citizens of the world love beef? All we need to do is look for the nearest Golden Arches, which surely aren’t far, to answer this. That glowing yellow beacon can be found almost everywhere one turns, an ever-present symbol of instant gratification and grease, a fluorescent ‘M’ that hums deep into the night and which eerily seems to be whispering, “I will be here long after you will be.”

Sinister talking signs aside, the point is that beef is everywhere around us, whether it be in fast-food chains, upscale restaurants, grocery stores, farmers markets, the list goes on. The McDonald’s chain is present in 119 countries. In-N-Out is commonly referred to as God in the form of a food product. We love burgers. And steak. And jerky. Etc.

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Similar to our relationship with other animal products nowadays, humans tend to push aside thoughts regarding the origin of the slab of meat they are inhaling. After all, how could some delicately charred, juicy patty, so innocently resting alongside a slice of tomato and some withered lettuce, once have been a living, breathing creature just like you or I?

By now, the men and women behind the scenes of factory farms must have realized that most people would likely lose their appetite faster than one can eat a french fry if they realized exactly how the burger they know and love dearly was actually produced. As a result, these industries are less than transparent. Hence the disconnect. But, these farms are not completely secretive. Thanks to the internet, we do for the most part understand how they operate.

Essentially, herds of cattle are reared on grassy ranches, where they graze away happily, until reaching the hearty weight of about 650 pounds. They are then transferred to a feedlot, where they are kept in some type of pen and fed a special mixture which is any combination of roughage, grains, and supplements. They hang out at the feedlot for a couple hundred days until they are fattened up another 400 pounds or so. From here, they are transferred yet again to a slaughterhouse.

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Often, the transfers can be the most stressful part of a cow’s life. They are crammed into trucks where they must stand with limited air flow for hours upon hours. They are legally allowed to go for days without food or water.

Upon arrival, many cows are too terrified to leave the truck which has been their home for the past any number of hours, and so they may be prodded with electric rods in order to make them move. Once in the slaughterhouse, the scared, confused, and likely injured cows are forced into a chute where they are stunned and then shot.

It’s a tough image to conjure up. It begs the questions: is this necessary? Is this right? Any vegan or vegetarian will probably answer ‘no’ to both of those without hesitation, but I’m willing to bet that a decent handful of meat-eaters may have trouble answering ‘yes’ to them as well. Because deep down, I think we all know that this isn’t right.

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It’s also not necessary. Often, people attempt to argue against my dietary preferences, citing evolutionary evidence by claiming that “we’re natural meat-eaters! Just look at our teeth! Look at our ancestors!” And I see where they’re coming from. For those who believe in evolution, then you know that around 2.5 million years ago, our ancestors were indeed eating meat (raw, since fire didn’t come around until about 800,000 years ago). Eating raw meat required stronger jaws and bigger teeth. Stone tools were also involved. This style of meat-eating seems to be in a different league than our current style, don’t you think? Of course, there are many differing beliefs and theories about the history of meat consumption, and it’s probably true that practices differed by region and culture.

Regardless, I don’t think it can be disputed that these days, eating meat is simply an exploitative, unnecessary, torturous practice which mostly serves the companies on top. It’s my wish that one day we can stop thinking with our taste buds and our wallets and start examining things using our brains and our hearts.

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Religious Vegetarianism

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This may be an odd choice for a first post, but I feel it is a good introduction to my vegetarianism.veganandreligion

Yes, because a vegan (and a vegetarian for several years prior) is a key part of who I am. For most of the people in my life (save my parents and sisters, of course), I have held a restricted diet of some description since they have known me. And still, on a weekly basis, I am asked why I am vegan/vegetarian.

My answer is usually the same (although shortened depending on my audience and, frankly, my mood): health reasons, ethical reasons, and religious reasons.

The usually disillusioned audience suddenly becomes captive – religious reasons? They look me up and down, and correctly assume with my fair-but-olive-skin tones that I am not from an Indian religion where vegetarianism is promoted and lauded. Some will probe further, while still others will just nod, assume I’m a ‘religious fanatic’, and move on.

I prefer those who ask.

Vegetarianism has been strongly linked with the ancient Indian religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, which promote the conscious understanding of suffering for all, from fellow humans to the smallest of bugs. Many who have heard of religious vegetarianism may think of the Hindu’s sacred cow, the Jain’s sifting through their rice to ensure no small insects fell into their meal.

The Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), as well as Sikhism and the Baha’i Faith, are not traditionally assumed to be vegetarian. Each of their religious have laws and principles regarding the animals they are permitted to consume and in which fashion; however, there is a vocal minority advocate within each that feel that keeping to a vegetarian way of life is based on the religious values of that tradition.

In my following posts, I will explore vegetarianism and ethical eating practices in a range of religious groups – and will share some of my personal religious beliefs regarding vegetarianism.

Looking forward until next time!

Hello there!
Where to begin? I am a Canadian health teacher living in London. I have been a vegan for the last seven years and a vegetarian since the age of 12. I am absolutely geek-passionate about public health, religious beliefs and practices, and equality within education.
I enjoy getting to know a bit more about you!

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The Struggles of a Vegetarian

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Giving up smoking? Congratulations! Giving up alcohol? Good for you! Giving up meat? Animals can’t feel pain, stop being such a hippy, cows will rise up and revolt if we stop eating them! Being a vegetarian is not without it’s hardships.

When I first became a vegetarian, my parents labeled it as a “phase, because seriously Lauren, you love chicken nuggets.” Ironically, when I came out as bi they nodded their heads and said they supported my lifestyle. I mostly chalk up that conversation as a win.

My friends on the other hand were excited because they’d never met a real vegetarian before. At first I thought they were accepting; they asked the usual questions of “isn’t killing plants the same as killing animals?” and “wait, you eat eggs? Isn’t that basically the same as eating a chicken?” Erm, no. I cannot fault them though, the teachers were always telling us there was no such thing as a ‘stupid question’. I beg to differ.

That was just the storm before the calm.

A month later, one of my closest friends decide that she too would become a vegetarian. I was excited because I was finally spreading the Vegetarian Agenda and when you introduce a friend, you get money off your next salad or something. However, she was weak willed and not a week later, she was scoffing down the school made chicken burgers, but it was okay because “it’s not real meat, Lauren.” Yeah okay, Brutus.

This incident, more commonly known as The Great Betrayal, seemed to spark something in the rest of my friends. They were impressed that thus far I had stuck true to my word and had been living off toast and grass, so they concocted a scheme to bring me back from the dark side. They decided to test my resolve.

That evening, my friends, I witnessed hell. I was taken to a den of sin, filled with debauchery and gluttony. I was taken to Nando’s.

It has definitely been the worst decision they’ve ever made. I didn’t even like Nando’s before I turned to vegetarianism. It most certainly was not going to break my resolve now. Idiots. When my friends then decided that dragging me here wasn’t enough, their next plan of action was to show me how much meat could be enjoyed. Every time one of them forked a bit of flesh into their mouth, they moaned. If a blind person had walked into the joint, they would have sworn they had stumbled into an orgy. Staff and patrons alike did not care for our antics, so we were given an ultimatum: shut up or leave. I was tempted to start moaning myself, if only to accelerate my escape. That night I dined on garlic bread and discomfort.

After that disaster, my friends finally accepted that I am who I am; a vegetarian.

Classmates, however, were not quite as understanding. One of my teachers started a debate of the pros and cons of becoming a vegetarian/vegan during class and naturally I told them the pros: healthier eating, a cleaner conscious and when you sweat you don’t smell like hamburgers. Of course the majority of the responses were “that’s stupid. The bible says we’re better than animals. You’re stupid.” The bible also says that you’re not allowed round haircuts. Your bowl cut is a sin.

As an ‘adult’ (and I use the term loosely), I’ve had less confrontations. We’re no longer those bratty kids who think we know better. The people around me have accepted my dietary habits and have fully embraced the whole ‘live and let live’ thing. However, my mother still has a penchant to introduce me to people by saying “this is Lauren, she’s a vegetarian,” as if it defines me, but I suppose it’s better than the previous “this is Lauren, she is destructive.”

As vegetarians/vegans, we give up a lot; nuggets, bacon, the list goes on. But the one thing we’ll never have to give up? Wine. Hallelujah.

Wine