Monday, 23 September 2013

5 Online Resources Every Vegan Should Know

So, you've recently turned vegan, and you're walking around, happily slurping green smoothies and snuggling every stray cat you see.  And then suddenly you realize your favourite wine has fish bits in it, you have no idea how to make chickpea salad, and everyone you know is acting like a t*** about your new food choices.  Your cries are being heard, and rest assured you are not alone.  Here are a few online resources that have helped me on my vegany way, and I hope they help you too.

5.  Barnivore

Fish bladders, pig fat, and chicken's eggs.  Some of the delights which may lurk in your merry glass of wine. As weird and gross as it sounds, your alcohol may not be vegan.  The subject of vegan alcohol is perhaps not that commonly discussed, but those who are concerned about avoiding animal additives and processing methods can head on over to Barnivore, where countless beers, wines, and liquors and listed as vegan friendly or not.  And I do mean countless.  The site is very reader-supported, meaning that most of the information comes from devoted vegans who have taken it upon themselves to email various alcohol companies to clarify their ingredients and practices.  The owners of the site are also working on an app!

4.  Happy Cow

Is Happy Cow sick of people lavishing praise on them? Anyway, they deserve it.  Happy Cow is a magical place where you can enter pretty much any city in the world into their search engine, and they will tell you where you can eat as a vegan/vegetarian.  I've found results for Buenos Aires, Lagos, Sofia, Suva, and Little Rock.  London alone has 308 results.  Happy Cow organizes their establishments into four different categories: vegan, vegetarian, veg-friendly, and health food stores.  They have all the location and contact information you need, and they even include reviews from other visitors.  The site also has a ton of other veggie information, including tips and recipes, but I've mostly used the travel information.  I don't really know how I used to travel before I met this site.  I must have just wandered around aimlessly trying to beg food from strangers in the streets.

3.  Post Punk Kitchen

The ultimate vegan food blog.  If you want culinary inspiration, you need look no further than chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz's playground of creative vegan recipes.  Chocolate pumpkin loaf? Ranch salad with buffalo tempeh? Dilly stew with rosemary dumplings? All such delights can be found here. Post Punk Kitchen also has a very active forum, with vegans from all over the world coming together to gripe about their grandmothers trying to feed them chicken stock and brag about how much kale and oreos they ate today.

2.  Vegan Health

Registered dietitian Jack Norris has put a lot of effort into obtaining and dispersing reliable, hocus pocus free medical advice for vegans.  If you have a question about single nutrients, supplementation, or common myths and confusions regarding vegan health, his site should be the first place you look.  Very specific recommendations and plenty of resources abound.  He's also posted things like possible meal plans if you can't imagine what a vegan day would even look like.  If you want to find out about B12, Veganism and cancer, raising healthy vegan children, and protein, this resource is the place for you!

1.  Vegetarian Food for Thought Podcast

So, we've covered your health, your stomach, your next trip, and your next pint.  Now it's time for your soul's education.  Does that sound a little crazy and over-the-top?  You obviously haven't been listening to Colleen Patrick Goudreau's earthshaking podcast.  But now you will, and now your life will change. Everything you need is here: education about animal issues, education about animals themselves (every thought about whether you want to cuddle a loving turkey, or nuzzle a calming donkey?  You will now.), health issues, how to respond to your co-worker, family member, or anyone else who might challenge you. My explanation isn't doing it justice.  Just go over there right now and listen to: How to Talk to Hunters, Animal Advocacy and Emotional Stress, Conversations with Strangers, or Life Without Cheese.  You're welcome.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Documentary Review: Blackfish

The poster for Blackfish is undeniably creepy.  I'm a big wimp when it comes to anything gory or spooky, so
I was quite frankly a little nervous.  Especially because I was going to watch it right before bedtime.  Eek.

But I sucked it up and watched it, and shall be forever thankful that I did.  Or thankful for awhile, anyway. Blackfish is indeed chilling and haunting, but it's also fascinating, heartbreaking, and beautifully constructed.

The documentary tells the story of Tillikum, an orca whale who made headlines a few years ago when he killed one of his trainers, Dawn Brancheau.  The documentary covers the lives of orcas in captivity comprehensively, illustrating the disturbing and illegal practises of the marine park industry in capturing whales from the wild, sometimes resulting in the death of whales before they reach the sea parks.  Soft-hearted?  You won't enjoy hearing about the training methods these parks use and the conditions the whales are kept in.  The inferior health and quality of life of whales in captivity are shown in sad, frustrating detail.

And Tillikum.  The story of a whale taken from his family when he was two, kept in essentially a large swimming pool in Victoria, BC, and bullied by his fellow whales.  We see injuries that he suffered at the hands of the other whales, who have turned aggressive due to frustration and unnatural socialization.  We see his dorsal fin collapse, a condition symptomatic of poor health that occurs in almost all male orcas in captivity, and less than 1% of male orcas in the wild.  Eager to please and loving towards his trainers, Tillikum seems to have lived in frustration, resulting in what some believe to be a psychosis, and ultimately causing him to turn fatally aggressive towards humans.  This aggression is mirrored in many other whales in captivity, and Dawn Brancheau is not the other trainer to lose her life, or suffer from injury at the hand of a captive orca.

On the other hand, the film portrays the incredible intelligence of these beautiful whales.  From one of the interviewees, we learn that orcas have a part of their brains that humans don't have.  Most fascinating to me was the research that found that orcas not only communicate with a complex system of sounds, these sounds differ between difference families of whales.  Meaning that orcas speak different languages. The pain of the subjects of the film is interspersed with absolutely beautiful, peaceful images of orcas in the wild, swimming with their families, free to live as they please.  My god, what beautiful animals they are.

At the end of the film I was left with one thought.  Mom and Dad, in retrospect, I'm really, really glad you never took me to Marineland.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Vegan Heroes: Dr. Melanie Joy

At the end of my last post about lentils I promised that recipes were soon to follow.  That was in May and it's the end of August now, so clearly I lied.  And it was kind of a big lie, because this post is not comprised of lentil recipes.  Oh no, my friends.  This post is so much bigger than lentil recipes/nothingisbiggerthan lentilrecipes.

Earlier in the year, I wrote about meeting the amazing Dr. Melanie Joy at Brighton VegFest, and I'd like to use this post to tell you more about Melanie's interesting and important work.  She a professor of psychology and sociology at the University of Massachusetts, a Harvard graduate, a talented speaker, the author of Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows, and the founder of CAAN, the Carnism Awareness and Action Network.  Um, I feel inadequate.

What the heck is carnism?  Melanie coined the term to describe the philosophy of eating animals and their products.  Essentially, it's the opposing belief system of veganism.  Whereas vegans believe that humans have no right to consume the flesh and secretions of animals, carnists believe they are entitled to the bodies of animals.

Why do we need a word for this philosophy?  Melanie argues that without naming the ideology that allows us to use animals for our own pleasure, it remains hidden in our culture, naturalising and normalising the practice. Meaning that because the mindset that allows us to eat animals doesn't have a name, we can't see it, talk about it, or even really think about, allowing us to continue without questioning, or seriously questioning, why we all accept that animals are there for our consumption.

I'm not going to say much more.  Melanie explains the idea better than I could ever hope to.  Instead I'll strongly encourage you to all watch her incredibly moving, inspiring speech on carnism.

Watch it, watch it, watch it now!!  You will feel so inspired and motivated afterwards.  Note: there are about five minutes of upsetting footage starting at about 28:30 in the video.  It's difficult to watch, although not the worst footage available.  Melanie resumes her talk at 33:12, if you feel that you need to skip this part.

Aside from watching the speech, I highly recommend Melanie's book: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. 

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism

The book explores the same themes as the speech, looking at the ways in which animal exploitation is both normalised by animal industries, and kept out of our sight.  If you've never read an animal rights book before, I think this is a great book to start with, as it's engagingly written and not too heavy on theory.  And I've got a signed copy.  Jealous?

This post has not been sponsored by Dr. Joy and her people in any way.  I just think she's that freaking cool.