Monday, 29 March 2010

Ethics 101

I'm sure every vegetarian could come up with several different, ethical reasons for being a vegetarian. Please feel free to post your own reasons below, but the following reasons are my own fundamental ethical reasons for turning my nose up at meat. These reasons are not meant to hit anyone over the head with my personal philosophy, but to give those who questioning their own practise of eating meat, some food for thought.

1. Meat is for pleasure, not survival

The meat industry has worked really really hard to instill the idea into all of us that we need meat to survive and be healthy. And judging by the amount of comments I get about how I have to be "so, so careful" about my diet, they've suceeded. There are plenty of arguments out there for why vegetarianism is healthier than eating meat, but for right now lets just settle on the fact that vegetarianism is certainly as healthy as diets including meat. Don't believe me? Check any national health website, no matter what country you are in. We do not need meat to be healthy. That means the only reasons we kill animals for food is pleasure and habit. Consider that fact while you read through the other points.

2. What's the difference?

To me, there is no moral difference between eating an animal and eating a human. I don't feel that we are superior to animals, so to me there is no difference. And since I'm not keen to eat a human, I can't justify eating an animal. Simple as that!

3. Unnatural breeds of animals

In our quest to make the meat industry as financially lucrative as possible, we have created some frankenstein animals, bred specifically to yield unnatural amounts of meat. Chickens are bred to have unnaturally large breastsand pigs are bred to be so fat they are unable to support their own weight. These animals are unable function as they normally should, and live lives of pain purely for the financial advancement of another species. The more people who convert to vegetarianism, the more chance that these breeds will be allowed to die out, ending their painful and unnatural existences.

4. We have an instintive love of our fuzzy, furry, or feathered friends

Children are born with a natural love of animals. Parents encourage this love with family pets, plush animal toys, viewings of Bambi and The Lion King, and trips to petting zoos. But as we grow up, the idea is instilled in us that animals exist as tools for human pleasre, and we begin to view those interested in animal rights as nuts, loonies, and fantasists. Remember the affection you felt for animals as a child. There is nothing nutty about compassion and consideration.

5. Cows don't live in grassy meadows

Even if you don't think there is an inherent problem with humans eating other animals, I'm willing to bet you don't want these animals to be raised in horrible conditions wherein they suffer their entire lives, and are killed inhumanely purely for money and your pleasure. But animals DO live in horrible conditions and ARE killed inhumanely. Many people are vaguely aware of the conditions of factory farming, but I think if we are going to include meat in our diets we are obligated to understand exactly how this meat is raised. There are plenty of books and videos on the situation: check out Meet your Meat, Food Ink, Earthlings, Fast Food Nation, or The Food Revolution.

6. Eating less is still too much

Some people look at the above resources and think that if they reduce the amount of meat consumed, or make efforts to improve the conditions the animals are raised in, the problem of factory farming will be solved. Reducing consumption and improving conditions are good first steps, but they are only first steps. The meat industry is necessarily a business, and as a business, the animals involved will always be treated as a product. Business sense will always win out over compassion. When we commercialise another life, we've already thrown a level of compassion out the door.

7. Owning another life is morally impossible to me

Can anyone really own another's life for financial purposes? Don't we call that slavery, and don't we condemn slavery? And yet we condone it in the meat industry. Why do we think that because cows, pigs, and chickens can't talk, their lives are ours for financial purposes? Can I sell a mute for money? Do we think we own animals because we perceive them as being less intelligent? Can I sell a mentally disabled person for money? There is something so disturbing to me about the idea that we think we own these animals and have the right to do whatever we want with their lives.

8. Why some animals and not others?

This is a familiar argument to both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Why do we fawn over some animals, turn them into our pets, and even take them to pet hairdressers, and look the other way while other animals suffer painful lives and slaughter? While some cultures eat dog, western countries generally view this habit with revulsion, mockery, and contempt. Yet, cows, pigs, chickens, and lambs are no less adorable, sweet, inquisitive, amusing, and capable of returning love than dogs and cats. If you couldn't eat your dog (and I suspect most of you couldn't), does it really make sense to condone eating adorable pigs, sweet-eyed cows, curious chickens, or playful lambs?

9. I have the power to control my actions

Some people do think that people are superior to animals. That our power of reason and morality put us on pedestal over the animals we eat. I don't personally agree that humans are superior to animals, but if we do have these wonderful superior abilities to behave reasonably and morally, why can't we bestow this on our animal friends? What is a better use of reason than to produce food in a sustainable, healthy way? What is more moral than compassion? If we have been given the power to control our actions beyond nature, what better way to exercise this control than to stop inflicting cruelty on the earth and all its inhabitants?


These muffins are vegan, and as far as sweet muffins go, pretty healthy! If you've never had zucchini in muffins or cakes, prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

Zucchini and Molasses Muffins

Makes 12

1/2 cup canola, safflower, or coconut oil
3/4-1 cup Billington's molasses sugar (you can use any brand, but this is the only one I know)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp white vinegar
2-3 tbsp water
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups all-purpose flour*
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350/180 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, and vanilla. The sugar may be a bit lumpy; you can mix it in totally, or leave the lumps for delicious little pockets of sugar in the final product. Combine baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl, and whisk with a fork until bubbly. Mix in with the rest of wet ingredients. In a seperate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Mix together wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in water on tablespoon at a time, until you have a batter.  You made need a little mor, but add it cautiously.  Don't overmix. Stir in the zucchini.

Spoon the batter into muffin tins (either grease the tins, or use paper liners), and bake for 15-20 minutes. It may take longer, depending on your oven. The muffins should be puffed and golden brown, and an inserted knife should come out clean.

*You can also use a mixture of 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup whole-wheat. If you decide to do this, you will likely need to add some more water to create a more batter-like texture, and then bake it a little longer.

I like to freeze these muffins, and pop one into my lunch bag for an afternoon snack.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Healthy, Wealthy, and Kind

I love being a vegetarian. I love the word, I love the food, and I love the ethos. I think there are many reasons to become vegetarian, including the benefit to your health, your wallet, or the environment. However, I would like to say at the start that the real reason I am a vegetarian is the animals. I love them and I think that eating them is about as necessary and as morally defensible as frying up your neighbour. When confronted with someone who doesn't want to kill animals for a snack, some meat-eaters react with thinly-veiled anger and resentment. As a result, vegetarians often avoid discussion the ethical considerations of a plant-based diet. I would like to think that I can speak my mind about my true reasons for not eating meat without slapping meat-eaters in the face with my choice.

But as I said, there are many other great reasons for marrying a carrot. The first of these reasons is health. Over the course of this blog, I hope to dispell the ridiculous and outdated health myths about vegetarianism still running rampant in our collective minds.

People don't like it when you nag them about their bad eating habits. I know this, because I nag people about their bad eating habits all the time. And they usually aren't very pleased with me. And you know what? I don't really care. Because if I don't lecture them, I have to hear them constantly complain about being fat, having no energy, and getting ill every other week. Do you think maybe, just maybe, a possible solution could be that you haven't eaten a vegetable in two weeks, you just downed a pound of chips and an entire fried fish for lunch? Is it possible?

So much energy in the media gets devoted to trying to convince us that being slim and healthy is really difficult and really complicated. We are bombarded with conflicting messages about carbs, protein, and fat. Magazine articles try to highlight certain super-duper fruits and vegetables that we need to eat obsessively for a fast-track approach to nutrition. I believe in a varied and seasonally-based whole food diet. Such a diet is simple, delicious, and wonderfully healthy. Once you are well-informed about eating a whole foods diet, you will never have to obsess over getting single nutrients again.

If there is anything I know that I am good at, it's saving money. Sometimes this ability of mine can be a problem; for instance, I think I might be physically incapable of throwing out old clothes, no matter how many holes they have in indiscreet places. Yet 5-6 nights of the week, I provide my boyfriend and I with a different, delicious, healthy meal for mere pocket change. You know that Sainsbury's ad with Jamie Oliver instructing some slack-jawed yokel how to produce enough spaghetti to feed four people, for (shock!) under £5? I laugh in the face of that ad. Anyone, no matter how bad in the kitchen, or clueless in the grocery store, can make a meal for several people for £5. I'm here to show you that there is culinary life under five pounds, that need not even involve spaghetti! Or Jamie Oliver. Who, bless his plump-faced little soul, probably hasn't had to feed anyone for under five pounds for 15 years.

Having been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for 11 years, I have recently been thinking about becoming vegan. In fact, having learned some truly horrible things about the egg and dairy industries, I feel that I have no real choice. But I love cheese! And I love sour cream! And I love to travel, and for me half the point of travel is trying local food. And by half, I mean 90%. Local food is rarely vegan. Therefore, during the course of this blog I will be recording my challenges and discoveries about transitioning to veganism.


Every week I hope to publish a vegetarian recipe. This first week I'm giving you the first vegetarian thing I ever learned to make! A delicious, cheap, and easy hummus recipe.

Delicious and Easy Hummus
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 gloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 generous tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
scant 1/4 tahini*

Blend chickpeas in the food processor. Add garlic, water, lemon juice, ground cumin, and salt, and blend. Blend in or stir in tahini. Serve with grilled pita bread, raw veggies, plain rice cakes, as a sandwich spread, or whatever you like! This recipe will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

*For those of you concerned about the cost of tahini, the recipe is still good without it, but the tahini really makes it delicious! Middle Eastern grocery stores often carry cheaper brands of tahini than standard supermarkets.