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Factory Farming: Dairy Cows

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Cows- we love them! Those hefty, docile creatures who seem to be perpetually nose-deep in grass. I’ve probably seen thousands of cows in my life, and yet still every time I drive past a field and see a herd of those cute black and white ungulates I reflexively squeal, “Oh my god, COWS!!!” When calves are involved, imagine the squeal as more like a screech, or maybe an awed whisper. I mean, they’re baby cows.

As tender and empathetic humans, we don’t like to imagine cute things in pain. Which is what makes it so difficult and heart-wrenching to tread into this realm, and also why many people consciously turn a blind eye or refuse to hear about what happens behind the scene. I know they say ignorance is bliss, but when the lives of other living creatures are involved, the importance of being informed can’t be stressed enough.

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While there are various methods of dairy farming, I want to focus on large-scale factory farms, which are common in the EU, India, China, Brazil, and right here in the states. In these farms, the goal is to produce as much milk as possible. In order to get milk, the cow must be lactating, which means she must have given birth to a calf. It’s really quite the same process as it is for humans. However, upon further investigation we can see the many disturbing differences between the two.

First, in order to ensure pregnancy, cows are artificially inseminated (AI) using a rod which contains semen. When I first learned this, I just couldn’t get over the seeming violation against nature which is inherent to AI. I’m not about to make this an issue of consent, but rather I want us to think about this in regards to mutual respect for all living things. What gives us the right to sexually violate a harmless animal without regard to their physical and emotional comfort?

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Once the mother has given birth, either naturally or from the farmer inducing it, her calf is often separated from her within 24 hours of birth. Then, the process of retrieving her milk begins. Cows have on average a 305 day lactation period, and over 2,000 gallons of milk can be produced during that time. Once she is “dry,” and once her udder tissue is regenerated, the entire process is repeated. Typically, dairy cows are kept alive until they are seven years old, and then they are sent to slaughter.

So, what happens to her calf? Well, male calves (‘bobby calves’) are usually raised for beef, another massive industry. A small amount are kept for breeding, and the rest are sent to slaughter. Female calves are raised to take the place of the older dairy cows- essentially taking the place of their mothers.

(Check out this article for a scientific look at the consequences of separating dairy cows and their calves: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150428081801.htm)

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We could delve into conditions and overcrowding within dairy farms, as well as the recent outpour of undercover videos that have surfaced which show abuse inside of the farms, but I think we’ve covered the basics, which are enough of a bummer. However, I think it would be good to briefly discuss hormones in milk; estrogen, the female sex hormone, naturally occurs in the milk that cows produce. But bovine somatrotropin (also known as bovine growth hormone, BGH or BST) is a synthetic hormone which was developed by Monsanto. It is injected into dairy cows and as a result, more milk is produced at her peak production time. Interestingly, it is banned from the market in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Argentina, and the EU, but not the US. There is currently no statistically significant data that rules that BGH is unsafe for humans, but there are overwhelming reports that the drug is unsafe for the cows themselves. Even Monsanto-sponsored trials found that to be true! Health issues include mastitis (inflammation of the breast tissue), reduction in fertility, foot problems, and lameness. But hey, since it’s probably not harmful to humans, and since it increases milk output, BGH should stick around, right?

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Let’s move on and take a moment to appreciate all of the marvelous cruelty-free substitutes that are at our green little fingertips (well, I’d like to point out that those of us with access to all of these great substitutes are lucky, seeing as some people aren’t afforded that luxury due to location or economic issues, but that’s a conversation for another time): almond, soy, rice, hemp, coconut, cashew, oat and even quinoa milk are on the market. Most brands offer original, vanilla, and sometimes chocolate flavor variations. And as if those aren’t options, there are usually both sweetened and unsweetened versions of each. Lately, I’ve been going for unsweetened vanilla coconut milk for my smoothies and cereal.

Oh, and don’t forget that the nondairy kingdom doesn’t stop at milk. No, no. Think broader; think ice cream, yogurt, and cheeses (I feel #blessed that I didn’t have to say goodbye to java chip ice cream and quesadillas). We are really quite fortunate to live during such an innovative time where there is such a plethora of delicious options that did not cause harm to any sentient beings. It’s my hope that we can spread the word and come together as compassionate humans and make the slow transition to dairy-free products in order to decrease the demand for cow’s milk and thereby save many, many cows from a painful, controlled, and short life. So, spread the word to your dairy-guzzling friends! Sneak them a sip of chocolate soy milk or vanilla coconut milk yogurt so they can see that hormone-free, cruelty-free dairy subs can also be delicious.

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Love: Is it worth it?

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Rocky Mountain National Park, August 2015
The annoying couple in the middle… that’s us, Rocky Mountain National Park, USA, August 2015 Photo: Gustavo Moser Instagram: @gasphoton

Should you change everything for love? Is love worth it? Why do we change everything for love? These are the questions I have recently asked myself… a lot. I do not think I will claim to be a “master” of this topic until I am old and gray and have my little one’s running circles around me and even then, who knows what I will know? I do know these things; I was that 17 year old who lost her virginity to an exchange student and he still left at the end; I was that 18 year old who moved 2000 miles to be with a boy and then got broken up with a month later; I was the typical 19-21 year old who flirted and teased endlessly but never committed; I was that 21 year old who dated her manager at the restaurant where she was employed… briefly; I was that 23 year old who convinced her 35 year old boyfriend to follow her to Colorado only to then break up with him a few months later; I am that 25 year old, madly in love with a man, a man who makes me truly consider what a future together means, but also makes me question life and love.

So there comes the ultimate question, “Why?”. Why did one of my best friends tell me the other day in an email, “Liz, you DO have a tendency to fall head over heels for a guy.”? Why am I so intent on being in a committed relationship? Why am I so willing to change everything for love? To mess with other people’s lives? To get my own life screwed with? To mangle my own life? So many questions and one simple answer, it’s worth it. Worth it to change your life, worth it to make a few errors in the process, worth it to learn all of the lessons, and worth it because in the process, if you learned the lessons and allow yourself to continue as a student, you will find someone who is good for you in this moment. Who knows how long that moment will last? I don’t, but I do know that feeling loved and loving someone back is the most intoxicating, wonderful feelings in the world and the pain that can come from that moment ending has taught me some of my most vivid, memorable and applicable life lessons. Pain itself might be life’s greatest lesson, it makes it very clear what you do not want and what you need to find or do to prevent it.

The love I have now, well, he loves me for all of the lessons I have learned with him and before him. He loves the process that got me to where I am, he loves what I want with the future and he is more than happy to indulge me with copious amounts of time spent cuddling. I have already demonstrated in my life that I will bend over backwards and bend others over backwards to find this feeling. It’s contentedness. It’s comfort to be you. 100% you.

My plan: put it all out there, crush on a good heart, get crushed on, get your heart crushed, crush a heart or simply just love. Love this moment. Love being you. Find that love. Search for it. You’ll probably get it terribly wrong a few times and make a lot of mistakes, but love the PROCESS, don’t worry about the end because maybe it won’t come. You are unique and your loves will also be unique. The thing I have taken from each relationship is the unique feeling of love I experienced from each man. It’s captivating and different each time. It makes you want to do silly things just to prolong the feeling. It makes your head swim in the most glorious of ways. It pervades your every thought and every whim. It makes you a better person, it makes you WANT to be a better person. It’s so so so so so worth it. Yes, you will feel pain before, during and after a great love, it’s not a bad thing, just lessons learned. If it fails, take the lessons, find yourself again, carry them to the next love and share. Take a dive into the deep end and let yourself float.

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Factory Farming: Chickens

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Welcome to the first post within a short series analyzing the practices and ethics of factory farming. This is a dense subject, so please bear with my attempt to sum up the extensive information and keep in mind that I am by no means an expert on the topic. It is my hope that the reader will keep an open heart and mind.

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Domesticated chickens have been around for a very, very long time- dating back to 8000 BCE in China. Ancient civilizations called fowl ‘the bird that gives birth every day.’ Chickens began to be commodified when it was realized that they possess two very valuable goods: meat and eggs. Egg-laying chickens, or hens, are farmed for their eggs, while broiler chickens are farmed for their meat. Combined, more than 50 billion chickens are farmed each year, with the vast majority reared in factory farms (74% of poultry meat, 68% of eggs) (Poultry Farming, 2015).

Broilers

Let’s first discuss the meat side of the chicken industry. ‘Broiler chickens,’ or just ‘broilers’ are raised specifically with the intention of being slaughtered for their meat. These chickens are actually a special hybrid of chicken which was bred for quick growth and development. This allows farms to have a faster chicken turnover rate, thereby increasing profit and decreasing prices for the consumer. According to Wikipedia, most commercial broilers reach their ‘slaughter weight’ after only five to seven weeks of age, though a chicken’s natural lifespan is six or more years (Poultry Farming, 2015).

Indoor broilers are raised in large, open structures that have heat, cooling, and food/water systems. This doesn’t sound too terrible thus far, right? The problem is, about 20,000 chickens are typically reared in these 500 by 50 (or sometimes 400 by 40) foot grow out houses. This leaves about eight-tenths of a square foot per bird. I also want to mention what they are given to eat- corn and soybean meal. For some of us, alarm bells go off in our heads when we hear corn and soy, since they are the two most genetically modified food products. [Note: While the safety of GM foods is not yet definitive, I still think it’s important to think about the connection between GM farm animal feed and the secondhand exposure humans receive by then consuming farm animals.]

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There are additional problems that result from rearing so many chickens in such a small space. First, ammonia from their droppings produces highly polluted air within the structure. If there isn’t enough air flow, the eyes, respiratory systems, legs and feet of the chickens can be damaged or burned. Also, the overcrowding combined with their abnormally large breast muscles (remember, broiler chickens are bred for fast growth, causing their muscles to be much larger than a typical chicken of the same age) puts a strain on their hearts and lungs. In the U.K., up to 19 million broilers die in their sheds from heart failure each year (Poultry Farming, 2015).

It should be noted that there are “higher welfare indoor farms,” where the chickens have slightly more space and richer environments, and live up to two weeks longer than conventional indoor broilers do.

Egg-Laying Hens

Meanwhile, egg-laying hens are being raised in similar space-deficient farms. Battery cages, which house anywhere from three to eight hens, are small metal or mesh cages with a floor of sloped mesh for feces or eggs to drop through. Food is provided via a trough, and water is dispensed through a nipple system. Cages are stacked back-to-back and arranged in rows, often housing a total of tens of thousands of hens. Similarly to broiler chickens, egg-laying hens are packed tightly so as to increase production. On average, hens receive about 67 square inches of cage space, which is smaller than a piece of letter sized paper (Cage-Free vs. Battery-Cage Eggs, 2015). With this amount of space, hens are unable to stretch their wings, perch, make a nest for their eggs, or even stand up. Discomfort aside, can you imagine how boring it would be to spend your whole life in a cage pressed up against five other hens?

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In the wild, hens spend hours and sometimes days with her eggs, protecting them until they hatch. But within mass-production methods, she is not allowed to spent more than a few moments with her egg.

Free-Range/Cage-Free

Most of us are aware of the free-range phenomenon which has caught wind in the past few years as more documentaries about animal welfare were released. More people grew concerned about the welfare of factory farmed animals (which is great). The result? Free-range! Cage-free! Let the chickens run around outdoors on a lush, green farm and live a life comparable to animals in the wild! Many consumers rested easier with the knowledge that they were no longer contributing to the cruel methods of factory farming chickens and eggs.

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Sadly, free-range farms aren’t always  the paradise we would ideally like our meat and eggs to come from. While it is true that free-range farms allow the animals to be outside for a period of the day, there is no minimum amount of time that they actually are outside (at least in the U.S.), and they are still confined to cages at night. [Note: In the U.K., free-range hens have constant access to the outdoors, and broilers must receive at least eight hours outdoors each day. Good job U.K.!] Another major issue with free-range farms is, again, overcrowding. At many farms, cannibalism and feather pecking are issues, which sometimes prompts farmers to resort to beak-trimming. However, there are a variety of different types of farms, some providing even greater levels of comfort. On the other hand, there are also eggs labeled ‘cage-free’ which means that the hens were not raised in battery cages, but they also stepped foot (or talon) outside.

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It would seem that the terms ‘cage-free’ and ‘free-range’ are not exactly synonymous with ‘cruelty-free.’ However, it can be agreed upon that free-range and cage-free breeding is a step in the right direction.

Slaughter

I mentioned earlier that broiler chickens reach their slaughter weight at around five to seven weeks. The chickens are then transported to a slaughterhouse in crates, where they must wait without food in the hours before their death. Many chickens die in the midst of this process, due to stress or injuries acquired during transport. Actual slaughter method might be electrical stunning followed by an automatic knife slitting their throat. Sadly, “according to the USDA, millions miss the blade and drown in tanks of scalding water while conscious and able to feel pain” (Cruel Poultry Slaughter, 2010). In the gas methods, they are stunned with gas before conveyed to a killing machine. A variation of gas stunning slowly releases gases until the chickens become unconscious.

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I know it’s difficult to read this information and imagine the trauma that factory farmed chickens go through, regardless of whether you are a meat-eater or not. Yet I firmly believe that we all have a compassionate side and the ability to be part of a change in our methods. I also recognize that for many of us, it can be easy to shrug off this information and file it away into a deep pocket of the mind- I believe this goes along with the fact that we are extraordinarily desensitized to violence. Still, I don’t think that’s a proper excuse to stand by and let the gruesomely unethical mass murders continue. We must make the farm to plate connection, and we must help those around us see it as well. As humans, it’s our duty to be a voice for those who can’t. At the very least, we can spread the word and help to decrease the demand for these products which will in turn save some innocent lives and restore a bit of lost love into the world.

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Citations:

‘Cage-Free vs. Battery-Cages.’ 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/confinement_farm/facts/cage-free_vs_battery-cage.html

‘Cruel Poultry Slaughter.’ 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/slaughter/facts/cak_slaughter.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

‘Poultry Farming.’ 2015. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poultry_farming

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The Vegan Dilemma

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I’m not ashamed of my vegan diet in the slightest. That being said, I tend not to flaunt it or even mention it unless I’m going out to eat with a group and they suggest going to a steakhouse or a Red Lobster (nobody I know ever actually suggests those places, but for the sake of the restaurants’ conveniently obvious non-veg names I’m going to pretend they do). In my experience, no one has ever been annoyed by my “restriction”- more commonly, they’re interested and ask me questions.

However, there are times when I don’t want to go through the potential hassle of mentioning it at all. For example, recently I was at a small party in West Oakland where everybody was fairly drunk off of PBR’s. Someone yelled, “PIZZA?” and the crowd went wild. “PIZZA! PIZZA! PIZZA!” everybody chanted.

“What kind do you want?” the guy who invited me, Greg, asked.

“You know what, I’m not too hungry,” I replied. I know that I could have told him, but I wasn’t quite in the mood for all the drunk kids in my vicinity to start asking questions about how it’s possible to give up cheese. “I mean, it’s CHEESE,” they would say, exasperated.

So, when the pizza arrived, and sloppy, stumbling party-goers burst into tears and bowed down to the delivery guy as if he was a messiah, and then as slices began to disappear at speeds comparable to Usain Bolt at the 2008 Summer Olympics, I sat back with my beer and observed the frenzy. “Amazing,” I said softly. As I watched my glassy-eyed peers crouch down to vacuum up with their mouths any crumbs that may have been lost in the depths of the carpet fibers, I felt rather like a scientist observing a pack of ravenous chimps. I was practically Jane Goodall at Gombe Stream. My thoughts were interrupted by Greg waving a slice in my face.

“Sure you don’t want a bite?” he asked.

“Gimme some of your crust,” I replied, leaning forward and biting off a corner.

Some may read this and think, “Wow, poor soul, it must be terrible to never be included in all the delicious, cheesy fun.” Strangely, I don’t feel excluded when I’m in situations like the one above. That’s probably due to the fact that in the four years or so that I’ve cut out animal products from my diet, my body and mind have developed a mild aversion to all things covered in coagulated udder juice. But I will say that there are times when I’m walking down the frozen section of the grocery store and hear the pizzas whispering, “We know you want us.”

“You’re right,” I say to them with a sigh. “I kind of do.”

Luckily, I live in California where nearly every grocery store now carries vegan pizza. They may be $10 for a personal size but it’s nice to know that I could get one if I really wanted one.
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Ultimately, it can be difficult to juggle the delicate balance of pronouncing your dietary habits or to keep them quiet so as not to a) isolate yourself by being known as the pesky vegan, and/or b) ignite a flurry of questions about where I get my protein or whether I care about the exploited workers who pick my vegetables.

Before I get criticized for “not standing up for my beliefs,” I want to mention that years ago, when I was a freshly budded vegan, I was the type to crinkle my nose up at my friends when they moaned with delight into their chicken sandwiches, or to lecture my parents on the inhumane methods of slaughter that were used to procure the bacon they were frying. Don’t even get me started on the ruckus I would make when I saw foie gras on the menu at a restaurant. It took time for me to realize that while I strongly believe that humans don’t have the right to cruelly massacre animals the way that we do, and while I do feel twinges of irritation when people say, “I can’t even watch a second of those factory farming documentaries, they’re so sad,” then proceed to slurp up their Spaghetti Bolognese, I also do not have the right to thrust my beliefs onto anyone. I know a handful of other vegans disagree with this idea, claiming that change will not come unless we speak up, but I’ve found that the vegan lifestyle is more positively responded to when it’s not aggressively marketed.

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A Veggie in the UK

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I moved from India to the UK in 2002 with my family. I had just finished high school and was anxious and eager to start university in a new country. In India as a vegetarian you don’t think twice about being able to find good veggie food. In the UK, at that time, it was something that needed to be planned when going out. We had to find restaurants that catered to vegetarians or just pack our own lunches.

When I started university and part time work, friends would be surprised to find out that I didn’t eat meat. Sometimes I would get the, ‘oh gosh, how do you survive on grass?’ question. I was always nice with my replies. ‘Well, that is how it is back home’. It wasn’t that Indians back in India didn’t eat meat. They did, we chose not to.

Friends and acquaintances tried to fathom the thought of not eating meat. ‘Is it because you are a Hindu?’, ‘is it family pressure?’, and ‘Is it because you are a Muslim, oh wait they can’t eat pork?’. It was hilarious. They would get worried that I wouldn’t like it if they ate meat in front of me. I couldn’t care less. If that is what keeps your energized then be my guest. Things have changed a lot over the years though. There are many all veggie restaurants and people don’t seem so shocked when you tell them you don’t eat meat because many are converting to vegetarianism and more themselves.

My reason for not eating meat is simple, I just don’t want to eat an animal/fish. I am happy with my vegetables, pulses, fruits, eggs and dairy. Each to their own.

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Vegg Heads in China

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A few summers ago I was in China for the very stereotypical gig of teaching English. I spent three months on Hainan (island at the base of China), in the city of Haikou. It was there that I discovered just how easy it is living as a vegetarian in the United States compared to outside of the country. So, without further ado, here are some basic questions you might ask as a vegetarian or vegan before you head off to Orient.

Note to the Vegans: cheese, and other dairy products are not really in their food vocabulary – unless of course you hit up the ever-increasing number of American joints.         

So what can I eat there? “Well there’s rice…”

china1 When you cross national borders and enter China, you’re exchanging the irritating answer to “What can I eat here?” from “They have pasta / salad” to, “They have rice and vegetables!” But don’t be fooled here, your average stint to the local Mandarin House does not speak any volume as to what kind of food you’ll be able to consume in China. While it may seem doable to consume varying dishes of rice, noodles, and vegetables while abroad, it’s actually not safe to assume the rice is always going to be in line with “vegetarian”. Why? Because it’s incredibly common for them to substitute your version of typical cooking oils for alternatives such as lard (aka pig fat), especially when it’s from street vendors who, you should note, will on rare occasions recycle said oils (think recycled pig fat and meat juices/bits – yum). Though, as a vegetarian or vegan you can rest assured your stomach will alert you to these travesties if your eyes have not.

All in all, though it’s nothing like what you might’ve experienced on your home turf, I did return from China still loving and craving good Chinese food. Unfortunately, I developed a bias for truer Chinese food, and thus Panda Express is a no-go.

Chinese people are so skinny, I’ll lose weight there, right?

china12 Not so fast, buddy. While China boasts a slimmer population compared to let’s say, your home country (God bless America – no really, someone bless our fat Twinkie-consuming souls), the grandeur of American consumerism, specifically on the literal side, has wormed its way into China’s borders and began plumping up the otherwise slender people. And oh boy do they do it right. I’d recommend trying out their version of Pizza Hut – their crust is something I still salivate over in my dreams.

This doesn’t mean you can’t maintain or lose weight there, but just like you do at home, you have to watch your portion control and keep a keen eye on what’s being placed in front of you. Like, a very keen eye. Depending on what you’re doing there you might end up like I did and gain ten pounds out of nowhere – but don’t worry I joined a gym and lost that real fast before coming back home with a mixture of running and weight lifting. However, I wouldn’t recommend this particular path to women who share my joy in weight lifting as China has yet to see muscular women, and being stared at like I’m crazy was not part of my exercise-highs.

Do they understand what I mean by “no meat”?

china4 Unfortunately, just like the rest of the world they don’t include seafood in the category of meat, so not only will you need to inform them no meat, but mention no seafood either depending on the dish. They just might look at you like you’re crazy, but know that the harm stops there and they will do as you requested.

Easy, right? Not quite. While you might assume that simple (like my hedgehog dumpling over here) or vegetable dishes would be void of meat, sometimes they’ll find ways to sneak some meaty chunks into it without mentioning it in the brief descriptions you might find on menus or in the pictures displayed on walls that you can point at. While on a trip across the island, I encountered an eggplant dish (my favorite vegetable there – amazing considering I hate the vegetable the moment I’m home again), which had small pea sized chunks of fish. When I first bit into it I was very confused and wasn’t sure what I was eating as it was slightly hard (and I’ve never had fish ever). Thankfully my companions were able to identify it as fish, and thus save me from eating any more of it – not that I wanted to.

Is it dangerous to eat food or drinks from street vendors?

china10 This is a gamble that I found well worth the risk, and I don’t mean in tainting the purity of my status as a vegetarian through consuming questionable oils, I’m talking food poisoning. While I personally did not experience the dark side of the gamble, one of my companions did, and had an unfortunate bout of projectile vomiting and other miseries for a few days – but we deduced that it had been from some meat she had consumed, so you as a vegetarian or vegan just might be safe after all.

china2 Depending on the time of day you will experience different sorts of foods available to you from the street vendors. In the mornings you’ll find fresh fruits and fruit drinks including boba, and also fresh breads that appear as donuts but are way less sweetened than done in other countries (to your downfall if you’re not careful and have a sweet tooth, it hits just enough of it to make you want more, and more and…). Later on in the day more drink stands will pop up and different sorts of noodle and rice togo options that offer up spicy and peanut mixed delights, dumplings that do have vegetarian options often filled with corn and peas, and other cooked things such as “thousand layer bread” which really is a flat bread seasoned with savory spices that is to die for.

 

china11 One thing you absolutely must submit yourself to is street barbeque. Often pulled out in the evenings when it was much more tolerable to work with, barbeques would line up a street corner with plastic chairs and tables popping up from nowhere. Select your own assortment of tofu and vegetables and have it served up to you when they’re done. Wonderful and a tasty experience.

In general I don’t think I can emphasize enough how obsessed over their food I was, but if you ever go and you have a general liking for Chinese food, then you’ll probably feel the same.

 

What is the fruit and vegetable options there?

china7 Here is where you will fall in love with the glory of local markets if you haven’t experienced it in another country already. Though similar to a farmer’s market, the local markets in China have a more pure and raw feel to them that you just can’t help but love. Ever heard of rambutan? Well, you better, because you won’t regret it. Though daunting on the approach in getting to the core, these delectable fruits contain a soft grape-like core with a large seed to work around, but so worth the effort. To give you an idea I could consume a whole two pound bag of them in one sitting and regret nothing. But that’s not China’s only crowning glory of fruits and vegetables. My roommates and I enjoyed weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, fresh whole pineapples and watermelon – sweeter than you’ve ever tasted. And don’t forget about the vegetables! Rows and rows of fresh vegetables, recognizable and unrecognizable but all incredibly fresh and worth the experimentation.

Will restaurants have pictures with their food on menus?

china6 Oh, yes they most certainly will, but being able to match those pictures, or even translate the ingredients of those pictures, will be your eternal struggle. This of course doesn’t mean you can’t point to pictures while your server is taking your order, but depending on the restaurant they may have to ask you questions, which can become simultaneously embarrassing and frustrating, so don’t be that obvious tourist for the rest of the restaurant and either come prepared or with a guide.

What sort of prices should I expect?

china9 In my experience, if you’re somehow in China to begin with, then you’ll have plenty of money to spend on food – and really, forget the souvenirs, get the food. Just do it! Currency rates fluctuate and I’m sure it’s a little different than when I was there in the summer of 2013, but then 700 kuai (the spoken word for the paper currency) was roughly equivalent to 200USD. And the average meal that will more than adequately feed you is about 15kuai if you’re out and about among street vendors – 30 if your desire for their food is insatiable, like me!

 

 

So, where’s the safe haven for vegetarians in China?

china8 Well… Buddhists. More specifically, a Buddhist restaurant. Why? Because these folk represent your only hope of unquestioned vegetarianism while abroad. They have imitation meat perfected down to your t’s crossed and your i’s dotted. They have strong command of flavor and variety with their vegetable and tofu fake meat imitations, and I can honestly say I’ve not tasted anything better since.

 

 

 

All in all, my best word of advice would be don’t go anywhere for food without bringing a translator the first time, or knowing the language well enough yourself to convey what you’re asking for, because trust me, it’s all worth it if the experience isn’t ruined by accidentally consuming meat.

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Why I Don’t Preach Veganism

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By Paul Payabyab-Cruz

You’ve likely seen someone holding up anti-meat signs with pictures of factory farmed pigs, or received booklets from strangers documenting the horrible conditions that cows and chickens endure. While this information is eye-opening, it is not what convinced me to go vegan.

Growing up, I tried being a vegetarian multiple times. I always gave up. It wasn’t until I started learning from documentaries and other vegans/vegetarians that I began easing into the animal-free diet I follow today.

I witnessed all the different people who were able to sustain this lifestyle. From athletes to people with chronic health problems to people who just wanted to change their diet. They helped me understand the dietary lifestyle beyond gruesome photos of tortured animals. Instead of making me feel bad, they showed me the benefits of veganism without pressuring me to change.

This is why I don’t preach veganism. However, I do still talk about it.

I wouldn’t go up to a friend who’s eating a ham sandwich and ask, “Do you know what they do to those animals?” More times than not, this attitude would illicit a defensive response and close them off to what I have to say. Admittedly, I think this is warranted. I’m reprimanding instead of informing.

Rather, I talk about my veganism if someone asks me about it. A friend will offer me an animal product and I’ll say, “No thank you; I don’t eat animal products,” coupled with a smile and gratitude for their gesture. With this comes a curiosity that sparks up conversation and opens the floor to honest dialogue. I find that people are more receptive to this approach because they are inquiring on their own. I’m not forcing information into their brains they didn’t ask for.

Choosing positive communication instead of being combative creates a free flow of information that is impossible when one has to defend themselves. I don’t believe I’m better than anyone else because of my diet, which is why I would never want anyone to feel bad about theirs. As compassion for life is the basis of many peoples’ choice to abstain from meat, so should it be in our relationships.

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My Lovely Vegan

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It was the winter of 2007, and it was another cold, damp day in March. I had been separated from my husband for over a year now, and I began to fall into the same pattern. My pattern was one that occurred every Friday evening. Thinking back to the monotony, it actually excited me….a trip to Hollywood Video, a bowl of popcorn (heavily salted, of course), and my Boxer, Bandit, on my lap would perfectly complete my cozy evening.

An old friend dared to try and disrupt my comfort zone. She phoned me to speak of nonsense, which involved me going on a blind date with her attorney friend on this Friday night. I was not interested, but annoyed with all her feeble attempts, so I proposed I would have one drink, if she joined us. I know I sound vain, when I say, I felt as if I was doing her a favor. I sat back down in the recliner, and tried to ease my frazzled nerves. “I am not ready to date anyone,” I whispered to myself, “I am calling her back and telling her I do not feel well.” The conversation did not go well, and I was just glad my rejection call was over.

My precious son and daughter overheard the conversation and asked, “What was that about?” I told them the truth, as every mother should, “It was nothing,” I said. We all know, as parents, it never ends at nothing or never mind, so I quickly diverted their attention to movie night. “What movie should we get tonight?” I asked. My diversion was so quick and smooth, they didn’t know what hit them. Breanna requested Disturbia and Larry agreed, as he always requested red vines to make his evening complete. I put my long, warm, wool coat on and headed for the car. “Be right back,” I said, as I headed for the video store.

I pulled into my usual parking place and headed for the New Release Section, as always. The movies were arranged in alphabetical order. I scanned past movies that started with A, then through D and located Disturbia. As I approached the “H” movies, my eyes fell upon a dashingly handsome man with sparkling hazel eyes. I quickly looked away, when I noticed he was looking at me, too. I was puzzled with my attraction to this man. I did not know him, nor was I interested in dating. I had a pattern in my life, and I liked my boring life. I just turned down a blind date this evening. “What is happening?” I thought to myself. I tested my theory again. I told myself I would walk past him again, and see if he looks my way a second time. “Here goes nothing,” I whispered. I added a swagger to my step this time, and I pretended not to notice him. I felt quite foolish inside, actually.

Just then, “There are so many movies to choose from,” a voice commented out loud. I was embarrassed to look in the stranger’s direction, but I couldn’t help myself. “Yeah , I come here every Friday night. My daughter is hooked on the House TV Series,” I replied.  I hesitated, but then, decided to walk near him. “I didn’t know they rented TV series episodes, too,” he said. I showed him the movie aisle, where all the TV series were located, and we continued our sparkling conversation for another two hours.

He shared with me his news, that was rather exciting to him, but these words were foreign to me. He told me he was a Vegan. “Oh, is that like being vegetarian?” I responded in a curious tone. It was silent for a second, which seemed more like an eternity. My ignorant comment continued to echo in my carnivore brain. “Well, not exactly,” he said, “Vegans do not eat anything dairy, as well.” I should have shut my mouth when I had the chance, but the Leo in me kept spitting out these ignorant words, as quickly as they popped into my head. “You mean, no eggs, or milk or cheese? How do you eat pizza or a cheesy mushroom omelette?” I asked. I should have walked away when I had the chance. He responded, “I don’t, but there are substitutes out there that are much better for you.” Being curious by nature, I asked him, “Where do you buy your substitutes?” By this time, I was probably making him feel like he was from another planet, but my questions kept coming. We exchanged phone numbers and met the following evening at the coffee house.

Our first few dates consisted of my Vegan Love, sharing his video documentaries with me of Salmonella poisoning, while I ate a Chicken Caesar Salad. Needless to say, I poked around the chicken, as he peeked over my shoulder. I had been a carnivore since I was a little girl. My brother used to cut the fat from his roast, give it to me for human consumption, and it actually seemed normal to me at the time. So, we officially became an item, and I pretended I was Vegan for a few years, but my luck soon ran out. I would drive through the local fast food restaurant, eat in my car and leave the evidence inside my car, until late at night, when he was asleep. Of course, sometimes I would forget, he would drive my car, and I felt like a foolish, sneaky little girl, being scolded all over again.

A few years had passed, and it took more than a few Vegan documentaries to change my carnivore ways. He even supplied me with books, filled with the positive effects of a Vegan diet, and I agreed with the multiple positive reasons. My Vegan Love wanted me to convert to Veganism badly, and I knew I needed to make a better effort. It was not as if, I was being dragged to the gates of hell and forced to eat the rubbish from the garbage. Becoming a Vegan, or even a Vegetarian, just made sense.

I would like to share with you some of the key reasons people become Vegan or Vegetarian. These reasons may help another stubborn carnivore convert to a Vegan or Vegetarian diet.

1.  You will ward off disease.

2. You will manage your weight.

3. Your bones will be stronger.

4. You will have more energy.

5. You will spare animals from an early death.

Next week I will follow up on the details of why the above five reasons are proven to work.

I am now a believer and more passionate about my Lettuce Love.

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Blood Lions Trailer

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We just found this great trailer on YouTube raising the awareness for the barbaric hunting of lions. It shows how this organisation of hunters in South Africa breed lions just for the purpose of then killing them for a sport. It’s a very cruel and selfish excuse to live life that ends life. Only cowards are hunters, and that is shown by the way they all hide and shoot the majestic beast. You’ll hear one of the hunters say “I am an animal lover, therefore I am a hunter”; Hypocrisy at it’s best? These people will find any excuse to feed their enjoyment. Hopefully soon we see South Africa making this abominable act illegal. They are better than this.

Ban Hunting and Lettuce Love.

 

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Vegg Heads vs. The Carni’s Part 1 – Fighting the Protein Myth

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dear vegetarians What is it to be a vegetarian (or vegan)? If the common but often misguided populace had it right, vegetarians would be grass consuming hippies screaming “cows have feelings too!” while simultaneously starving said cows because we happen to need so much grass, that the cows (and other “delicious” beasts of the minimized number of grassy hills and fields) can no longer sustain themselves. What horrible people – someone should really do something about those nut job Vegg Heads.

In reality, vegetarians come in no specific definition as to what their lifestyles consist of and what lead them to that dietary choice; some were born into families who lived that lifestyle, some simply didn’t enjoy meat as much as the general population and decided to write it off their diet (cue meat lover gasps), some don’t like the idea of eating animals or the cruelty often behind the meat industry (Food Inc. – watch it, and yes Netflix has it), others did their own research and decided that it was the healthiest lifestyle choice they could make for themselves, and still there are others who simply cannot consume a typical carnivore diet due to intolerance or allergies. We even come in different dietary restrictions such as lacto/ovo vegetarians, semi (flexitarian) vegetarians, pescetarians, vegans, and other variations that are probably less suitable to boasting the perfectly balanced diet (fruitarians, anyone?). But for the ever confusable Carni populace, there’s usually just vegetarian and vegan.

So one might ask, if their diets are so balanced, where do they find protein to make up for not eating meat? This is perhaps the biggest problem I’ve had as a vegetarian – but no, I don’t mean in the sense of getting protein. I’m constantly asked how I get enough protein. Hate to break it to all the Carni’s out there, but while cutting meat out of our lives may appear to limit our protein sources, it doesn’t eliminate them entirely or their versatility (thank you Morning Star and Loma Linda product).

 

Finding the Source – So What Options for Protein Exist outside of Animal Products?

For the Current Generation that’s AKA, “How do Vegg Heads get them gains?!”

Story time! Once upon an awkward afternoon I went on a first and last date with a well-dressed guy (he wore a suit – to Olive Garden). As typical before all dates I’ve had, my biggest apprehension was having the “talk” – the one and only – hey, I’m a vegetarian, so most likely anything with the name “Steak” or “Grill” in it will probably have little to no options for me. And then we have the annoying conversation of them asking, well, where can I eat, then? I always resist strangling them as the mere idea of taking the extra step to figure out for themselves is just beyond their Carni IQ (must be all the hormones in their daily steak fix). Needless to say we ended up at one of the two typical choices (Italian or Asian).

Once my date and I had gotten the general awkward start-up conversation out of the way, he began asking about my fitness, when the following question came out of his mouth,

“How are you so muscular when you’re vegetarian?!”

veg memeOf course. Now, dear readers, I’m no body builder, and I certainly am not the most toned person out there, but I do workout and I do love lifting weights. Naturally, my first reaction is to aggressively shut him down in his ignorance about my apparently not-so-common-as-I-thought diet. Instead, I calmly explained to him that the vegetarian diet, if done right, can easily acquire proper and sufficient amounts of protein. I also mentioned I have my father’s genetics and thus have it easier in regards to muscle gain, but that’s not my point.

This sort of question, in my mind at least, should be far less common than it is when I, or any other vegetarian or vegan, go out to eat. How do people not know that there are other ways to obtain protein without consuming animal product? Yes, product not meat, because the vegans are the truest heroes in the protein battle as they don’t even consume protein through dairy products.

vegSo where do we get it from? How is it possible that a diet void of meat could possibly get enough protein? Well let’s see, there’s any sort of nut, seed, bean, pea, or soy that will do, and don’t forget eggs and dairy for the lacto-vegetarians. Oh wait, then there’s also a number of vegetables and grains that offer up protein too. But shoot, that doesn’t seem like enough sources, and definitely not tasty enough, so maybe vegetarians really should go back to chomping on steak with the rest of them. Kidding. With the wonderful human trait called creativity, non-meat ingredients can be combined well enough not only to satiate even the pickiest eaters palate, but to trick even the heartiest meat lover into thinking they’re consuming a beloved bacon strip or sausage patty – because we’re just nice enough that we shape our food to appear as meat, making it easier on the Carni populace to deal with the still “unnatural” transition of the non-meat diet.

veg1What this all comes down to is anyone who cares enough about their diet in a sense of acquiring proper amounts of nutrients for their body can discover for themselves just exactly where they can get what they need with very little effort, but most people just stick to the word of mouth and the myth of a good “meat and potatoes” diet. Of course, plenty of vegetarians and vegans out there may not actually eat a well-balanced diet, but it’s not in any way due to their dietary restrictions, but rather how they calibrate their body’s personal needs and failing to acquire the proper nourishment, same as anyone else.

…But that doesn’t mean much to the meat lovers out there, so stay strong fellow Vegg Head’s, the continued ignorant questions of Carni’s are coming.