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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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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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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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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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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.

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5 Tips for Dating a Non-Vegan or Vegetarian (Tips for reducing meat consumption in partner)

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By: Briana M.

Some vegetarians and vegans may not be open to dating on non-veg at all. This can be difficult and limit your pool of options, though. If you are considering dating a non-veg, here are some tips for reducing their meat consumption and some things to keep in mind.

1. Realize that most likely they will not become a vegan or vegetarian just because they are dating you. Make sure you are okay with this situation. You will not be changing your diet by suddenly eating meat to accommodate theirs and likewise you cannot expect them to do the same, even if it is the more ethical choice.  If you date for a long time, there is a good chance they will at least reduce their intake of meat and/or dairy products.

2. Suggest you favorite vegan and vegetarian restaurants for dates. This is a good way for them to see that the food can be good! 

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3. Cook with them and expose them to new foods, especially foods that can be good replacements for meat. This is another way to let them see how doable a veg diet can be. A couple of my favorite veggie burgers include black bean sweet potato burgers and chickpea butternut squash burgers. Falafel, eggplant, mushrooms, and tofu are all also good filling non-meat foods. If they don’t like something at first, try cooking it in a different way. My husband thought he didn’t like avocado until I had fed it to him several times and now he loves it! So don’t give up. 

4. Let them see certain advantages of not eating meat. If they grocery shop with you they may see how much cheaper it can be to not buy meat. If they begin a conversation about the environment, let them know about how reducing meat consumption positively affects it, etc.food_receipt_shutterstock_39006397

5. At the same time, don’t be too in-their-face or pushy, especially at first. This might push them away in the relationship and also might give them a bad feeling about being a veg as well. I think the best choice is, over time, occasionally suggesting a documentary or book to them to help them understand where you are coming from. If they ask questions, answer them.

Be Kind and Lettuce Love

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The Veggie and the Omnivore: Dietary Dating Compromise

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By Paul Payabyab-Cruz

In a world where Omnivorism is the norm, it is likely that as a Vegan or Vegetarian you will be interested in someone who eats meat. Depending on how stringent you are about your lifestyle, this can be a difficult obstacle to overcome, and can cause conflict even between a Vegan and Vegetarian.

For the Veggies out there who feel love is worth compromise, here are some you can expect:

Settling for an Omnivore restaurant

I love going to veggie restaurants. I can order without feeling demanding by asking to make a dish Vegan, I don’t have to double check to make sure what I ordered had the right graphic next to it, and I can avoid feeling paranoid that a piece of undetectable meat slipped its way in from another dish cooked on the same grill.

If you are dating an Omnivore, you won’t have this comfort every time you go out to eat. Assuming they’re open to checking out some of your favorite Veggie spots, it’s important to allow them to take you to their favorite spots. As normal as Veggie menus might look for us, it can be intimidating to someone recently introduced to your lifestyle. If they are willing to come into your world, they just might be worth the compromise.

Cooking Meat in your Home

Most of my friends are Omnivores, so I am around people eating meat all the time. However, I’m still uncomfortable watching it.

If you’re the same way, home can be a safe haven where your lifestyle and beliefs are uninterrupted. But unless you never plan to have your romantic partner over for dinner, you may have to allow meat to be consumed in your home. You might say “Why? Meat isn’t necessary; they should eat it on their own time!” I understand this, but if you plan on getting serious with this person there is a chance you will move in together. In this case, having an all veggie house can cause tension avoidable with compromise.

I have set boundaries by asking my partner to cook their own meat, and with separate cookware. This allows me to comfortably separate myself from the consumption of meat. This may be one of the harder compromises, but to some eating meat is as important as your favorite veggie is to you. Imagine if you were asked to refrain from eating leafy greens by your Omnivorous partner.

Picking Up Animal Products at the Market

Being a Vegan/Vegetarian, it is nearly impossible to imagine buying a dozen eggs or a steak when grocery shopping. This next tip may be a challenge, but sometimes you and your partner may not be able to go the grocery store together.

If certain animal products are a staple for your partner, it’s worthwhile to compromise and pick up what they need, as you may need them to do the same for you next time you run out of tempeh and can’t make it to the market. You can set a boundary by making sure you aren’t personally buying the products, such as by establishing separate funds for each other’s dietary needs.

Love can come unexpectedly. The person you want to spend your time or your life with might not be a Vegan or Vegetarian. If this is the case, compromise and understanding are necessary on both sides. At first this might be uncomfortable, but if you are compassionate and communicative with one another, a rhythm can be established to nurture a loving relationship between the Veggie and the Omnivore.

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7 Things Meat Eaters Say To Vegetarians/ Vegans

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Being either vegetarian or vegan, you are probably no stranger to the following statements and questions that some meat eaters simply can’t help but say to vegetarians, having most likely heard them countless times.   So without further ado, here are those 7 famous remarks..

7. “You eat fish, right?”

Usually followed by, “fish aren’t animals..”.  Politely informing them that people who include fish in their diet are not vegetarians, but rather pescatarians, seems to have no prevail, sigh. Fish are friends, not food!

6. “Animals don’t have brains, they’re stupid”

Animals feel pain as real as you or I, and do indeed have brains of course. Various studies have shown that pigs can outperform 3 year old children on cognition tasks and many animal experts consider them more trainable than cats or dogs.

5. “You can’t love animals that much, you’re eating all their food”

Humans eating plant-based foods has never and will never cause animals to starve, it’s the exact opposite. Humans breed billions of animals a year to eat them, in fact, the only reason 80 million+ humans are starving to death is because we feed 50% of our crops to the animals we breed for the meat industry. Besides, I know I’d rather share some of my carrots than have someone chew on my leg!

4. “Plants have feelings too!!”

Most of us veggies have been called a ‘plant murderer’ by non-veggies trying (and failing) to be funny, but the fact is plants are not sentient and do not feel any pain; this has been proven scientifically. Even if this was true, it does not minimize the reality than animals feel every bit of pain that we out upon them.

3. “Mmmmm bacon..”

This seems to be the height of humour for some meat-eaters!

2. “If animals weren’t meant to be eaten why do they taste so good!”

Human flesh most likely tastes similar to the flesh of other animals, some have said it is very similar to pork, does that make it OK to devote your entire life to satisfying someone’s tastebuds to then slaughter and serve you with some roast potatoes?

And my personal favourite…

1. “Where do you get your protein?!”

We’ve all heard it, and  it’s probably the most common thing that meat eaters say to vegans; as soon as you mention that you don’t consume animal flesh everyone around you suddenly becomes an expert on protein sources. While  animal’s bodies do contain the protein that they need to survive (of which they have acquired from plants), they also contain heaps of cholesterol and fat, so why filter your nutrients through the body of another animal? Foods in the legume family are excellent sources of veggie protein just one cup of green peas contains 7.9 grams of protein, the same as a cup of milk. Quinoa not only contains more than 8 grams of protein per cup, it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair, while nearing 0% fat. Just two cups of kidney beans contains 26 grams of protein, which is more than a big mac! These are only 3 of the many sources of cruelty-free and cholesterol-free protein a vegan has to choose from.

By Grace Murray Rowley