Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

ANIMAL CRUELTY ABOLITIONISTS

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

In the Philosophy of Civilization, Albert Schweitzer wrote:

“We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.”

If that’s true, we’ve got trouble ahead, my dear friends. Heck, we have got trouble ahead. But hope too. And intelligence. And forced adaptation.

As for me, I eat vegan at home and vegetarian not in the home (and moving towards veganism outside the home). At the same time, I humbly understand that my vegetarianism is to a degree a privilege of financial advantage and living in the West (India or Hawaii or multi-crop places make full local vegetarianism easily possible), and my body responds easily and well to the diet. Some bodies, it seems, don’t, including the Dalai Lama’s, evidently.

Let me explain what I meant by privileged: if I lived on a local diet in the Pacific Northwest, it would be difficult to not at least eat fish in winter (assuming there are fish left). Dairy would likely provide some good things, with a well-treated cow in the backyard. In the meantime, and Copenhagen notwithstanding, bringing out-of-season vegetables and fruit (and almond milk) into Vancouver all year round is no meat-eating Hummer driver, but still less than perfect fossil-fuel wise.

That said, I unequivocally abhor the cruelty inducing aspects of factory farming and much of subsidized/state socialistic agribusiness in general. Most any air-breathing being capable of exploring the situation would surely have some problem with the relentless mistreatment of these unfortunate animals (yearly, some 49,000,000,000 [49 billion] chickens alone are pushed through this clinical meat grinder), and their lack of anything reflecting a decent or normal existence, even prior to becoming a fast food crap burger.

Some humans, of course, will be indifferent to this process, and will simply think it’s a dog-eat-dog, or rather a human-eat-livestock world, regardless of how brutally the animals are mistreated, and some will violently defend their right to be cruel to animals if they damn well feel like it.

But for one who sees the pet dog and the about-to-be butchered pig in the same light, the same spectrum of feeling and emotion, what is there to do? For one who is against the endless mistreatment of animals, what is there to do? What should their stance be? How should or could they begin? I can’t say, but personally, I think it’s personal. And within our person we develop or degrade integrity and character by the things we stand (up) for, whatever they may be. In the meantime, here’s a thought provoking piece from the Georgia Straight. An excerpt:

In a phone interview from Newark, New Jersey, [Gary] Francione pointed out that the whole raison d’être of the animal-rights movement, like all social-justice movements, is to extend compassion and respect—without discrimination based on factors like race, sex, ability, or species—to all beings.

“It doesn’t make sense to go around yelling and condemning people.…There is a very misanthropic pulse that runs through the animal-rights movement,” he said. “If I was a seal hunter, I would be highly offended and I would be saying, ‘Why are they coming after me?’ Well, it’s because I’m an easy target.

I even felt this way about Michael Vick, the quarterback who was involved and charged for his ring-leading role in dog-fighting. As wretched as that ‘sport’ is, the reflexive, blind attack on Vick’s undeniable ignorance and cruelty, even sickness, was, for me, a profound explosion of unconscious hypocrisy in the extreme. “Let’s go bitch about that bastard Michael Vick over a double bacon cheeseburger at McDonald’s.” Great.

Francione, who is a massive proponent for the rights of animals, continues.

Similarly, I will have nothing to do with anti-fur campaigns. Should women wearing fur? No. But am I interested in [targeting] women who wear fur? Not really. I’m much more interested in leather, wool—the sorts of things that are worn ubiquitously. The fur issue is so small…it just gives people another reason to go up to women on the street and give them a hard time.

“Listen, I don’t like what they [hunters and fur farmers] are doing to animals, but I don’t like what any of us are doing to animals, and so I don’t see why they should be treated differently from anybody else. We all share in this mess. We’re all responsible, and we all have to do something about it.”

He said that although these groups give us many reasons to be alienated by the animal-rights movement, they’re not giving us any reason to change the way we view animals in any meaningful way.

“Their focus on media [stunts], fundraising, and welfare reform is backwards. Welfare reform serves only to make people more comfortable with the perpetuation of animal use. What is the causal relationship between animal-welfare reform and abolition of animal use? I have been asking myself this very question now for 23 years and I’ve never found an answer. There is no empirical proof that it has worked.”

Love to hear any intelligent thoughts. Here’s to hoping all sentient beings may be treated better, even our very selves, day by day by day, be a little kinder, a little softer, a little stronger in defending the innocent, everywhere…

Pete

“[A]ll breathing, existing, living sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.”
— Acharanga Sutra (Jain) at 4.1.1.

Something like 56 billion animals are killed every year by the meat, dairy and egg industries, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (stats for 2007).

FOOD and HEALTH CARE: The Avoided Curse

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.”
—Hippocrates

These days, truly eating nutritiously and consciously is not only good for you, it’s a political act. If we are what we eat, then we’re highly processed and a lot of vacuous calories. We are junk food. If it’s not real food, are we then not real people? Or mostly corn syrup?

I still think, like a red light district, we should have a fast-food district. Vacuous, environmentally-hateful food need not be prohibited, just put in its place, a sort of decriminalized zone where johns and food producers who despise nutritional food and don’t care what our children eat can hang out. Instead of this, the food owners—from Philip Morris to Kraft to Nestle to Pepsi—perversely rule massive chunks of our politics, our (un) consciousness and our (ill) health.

If they didn’t, wouldn’t bad food (fast food, processed food) be brought up—like it should be—as perhaps the biggest cause of spiraling health care costs? We need harm reduction on the Downtown Eastside to be sure, but how about with ourselves?

Our food habits are so bad, that even our staples have gone to hell: brown rice to white rice, whole wheat bread to white bread, tons of sugar, endless corn and corn syrup and most everything processed.

Our basic food choices, and even the foods doled out as charity (let alone at public schools—now that’s criminal) I think teach us a lot about the hatefulness and control over our lives that we ignorantly surrender to bad-food makers—the fast food/agribusiness ignorance/addiction to short term profit.

Anyway, this report from the Tyee reminds me of at least a portion of what is at the bottom (of the barrel) of our unpreventive medicine, our health care problems, and the simultaneously perverse combination of being obese and suffering from malnutrition—not to mention being artificially sweetened.

Poor nutritional health is one of the major contributors to sickness in low-income neighbourhoods like the Downtown Eastside, and socio-economic status is among the most important factors associated with health disparities in Canada. For Stephanie, an unhealthy diet will soon take its toll. The Hepatitis C, which limits her liver’s ability to absorb nutrients, will further rundown her immune system and reduce her body’s ability to respond to HIV-related infections. This means increased hospital visits and additional strain on the public purse.

The financial cost is borne by every Canadian who pays taxes. Health-care spending in Canada is roughly $120 billion a year [I have read—but can't verify, politics being politics—diabetes in the States costs $176 billion].

According to a 2004 study by the Health Disparities Task Group, the poorest 20 per cent of the general public (people like Stephanie) accounts for 31 per cent of health spending on people who aren’t institutionalized. That’s double the average spent on the richest 20 per cent.

Because a fifth of health-care spending can be attributed to income disparities alone, the study maintains that big savings could be had by raising the health status of low-income Canadians to middle income levels.

How about to all of us?

The full article is here.

Eat well and try to be happy,

Pete xox

MICHAEL VICK, BLIND HYPOCRISY and the SYSTEMIC CRUELTY of FACTORY-FARMING

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

“Just like a red-light district, I would also push all fast-food restaurants and slaughterhouses to a fast-food district, maybe call it an animal-cruelty district, and people can go there if they really can’t stop themselves.”

Every time I hear about professional football player Michael Vick, I feel both sadness and disgust at the dog-fighting racket he was a part of. Most people would. And then I feel sadness, disgust and hopelessness at the hypocrisy and blind stupidity of most of the articles written about him—that by their blindness promote mass animal cruelty.

For the record, how much of Vick’s rehabilitation was about decreasing his consumption of cruelty-produced meat? The first thing he probably did upon release was take his contrition and go to a McDonald’s drive-thru. Ah, yes, free again.

This is an article from the Boston Herald summarizing his interview on 60 Minutes.

[60 Minutes interviewer James] Brown asked, “You cried a number of nights? About?”

Vick replied, “About what I did. Being away from my family. Letting so many people down. Letting myself down. Not being out on the football field. Being in a prison bed, in a prison bunk, writing letters home … All because of the so-called culture I thought was right, I thought it was cool, I thought it was fun and exciting. It all led to me lying in a prison bunk by myself — with nobody to talk to but myself.”

Why else do we eat fast food other than “because of the so-called culture I thought was right, I thought it was cool, I thought it was fun and exciting”? It surely isn’t remotely good for us, and it runs the inherently brutal and cruel factory-farm food producing culture. Perhaps, like the undeniably sick things that were done to those poor dogs, both processes are, in different ways, addicting. We are blindly addicted.

Brown asked Vick whom he blamed for what happened.

Vick said, “I blame me.”

Yes, first and foremost, blame Vick, by all means, for the torture of those poor dogs, and then perhaps mention a culture whose biggest businesses are things like weapons that are too foul to describe what they do, drugs whose illegality support incarceration and massive wealth and privilege for suppliers, and utterly cruel animal slaughtering factories that produce the raw materials for disease-producing fast food. All this in a rich (okay, bankrupted) culture where millions of children have no health care whatsoever.

Similarly for the cruelty of fast food production, I blame first and foremost the fast food giants and their advertisements for addictive, disease-inducing food—food served in schools, no less.

And how about a political (and parental) culture that can actually continue this endless, vital, yet possibly hopeless debate about health care reform, and not mention such white elephant-in-the-room-reasons the costs are so out of control? Three main reasons: fast food (and processed food), alcohol and cigarettes.

I blame the consumer, of course, too. It ain’t easy being human.

The “60 Minutes” piece recounted the downfall of Vick, who bankrolled and participated in an interstate dogfighting operation called Bad Newz Kennels on a farm he owned in rural Virginia. Police removed 66 injured dogs and exhumed the bodies of eight more. Vick pleaded guilty to being part of an operation that engaged in a litany of cruel acts upon animals that included beating, shooting, electrocuting and drowning them.

Is this not an accurate description of at least a proportion of a massive (and thus the proportion is massive) factory farm industry that does this to multi-millions of animals everyday? Animals systemically abused for food that often is anything but healthy. Is that not, by some definition in a sane world, criminal?

Brown said pointedly [good job, James], “Horrific things, Michael.”

Yes James, they were horrific things. Please do a truly in-depth expose on factory farming, and the fast food market that is a monstrous and important reason health care reformation can never really work in America (and is difficult everywhere else)—people just do not take care of their own health. Politicians will barely, if at all, speak out against eating food that is a nutritional wasteland—indeed, supports countless ugly diseases, from heart disease to diabetes to obesity.

Imagine the outrage if a craze for putting shit into gas tanks actually swept the nation. But these aren’t gas tanks, these are consumers—I mean kids.

Vick said, “It was wrong, man. I don’t know how many times I got to say it. I mean, it was wrong. I feel tremendous hurt (by) what happened. I should have (taken) the initiation to stop it all. And I didn’t. And I feel so bad about that now. I didn’t step up. I wasn’t a leader.”

Will 60 Minutes, or any major media conglomerate or newspaper, be a leader?

Brown asked if he agreed or disagreed that it showed “a lack of moral character” that he did not stop it.

Vick said, “I agree.”

I agree too. For both parties. One, evidently a damn good athlete of not that great intelligence. The other party? Well, you decide what they are, if not hypocritical, unrepentant and ignorant…

I am a freedom guy. A vice is seldom a crime. I would not criminalize hard drugs, cigarettes, alcohol or fast food. However, fast food production in a sane society actually may be a crime for what it systematically does to other sentient beings, who have no choice in the matter (this includes not only the animals, but the kids who eat them ad nauseum).

Crime or not, if I had a bigger voice, I would make fast-food cost its true cost, which would be exorbitant. Why? Just take out all tax-payer subsidies to agribusiness—which are anti-free market after all—and charge companies (and the consumer) for environmental externalities.

And just like a red-light district, I would also push all fast-food restaurants and slaughterhouses to a fast-food district, maybe call it an animal-cruelty district, and people can go there if they really can’t stop themselves.

It wouldn’t be pretty, but at least it would be more honest. Both Jim Brown of 60 Minutes and Michael Vick could do the interview there, over the factory-farm carcasses I am sure they enjoy.

Here’s to trying to support as many beings at being as happy and free as possible, in a demanding world,

Pete

AN ORGANIC FARM IN INDIA: Bio-Fuel, Solar Power, Vegetarian, Cow Dung…

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

What more could you ask for? That must be a pretty sweet vibration, overall, huh? Here’s a little video from a visit we were privileged to have just outside of Mysore. I didn’t know a dung thing about bio-fuel. In fact, my knowledge was in a slurry state.

I left out the fact that they also used cow urine as a natural fertilizer. Here’s to the stupendous, incredible, bountiful Mother Earth.

And may we learn to walk a little softer, and think of the whole thing as family, and I do not mean that at all sentimentally. Sister, brother, somehow, we are on this walk together…

Lots of love to you,

Pete xoxo

TOO CHICKEN TO SAY IT

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

I really don’t know how Al Gore could not mention animal husbandry and factory farming in an Inconvenient Truth, except perhaps that his family made part of their fortune in cattle (and perhaps still do). I know tobacco was mentioned, and another big crop on his family’s farm.

Anyway, our factory farms are not only serving up cruel and unusual punishment in the name of greater profits, but are literally an utterly effective and dangerous breeding ground for disease.

I believe this video is from the Humane Society of the United States, and worth a glance in case you’re considering fried chicken tonight over a vegetable stir-fry.

It’s just not environmentally intelligent, even if profits beg to argue. And even if this isn’t the cause of possible pandemics, it still can’t be right. It’s just not right.

Here’s to not being chicken, and not being too chicken to really love,

Pete xo

Two New Wonderful Vancouver Vegetarian Restaurants

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
—Pythagoras (500 BC)

Some might say Pythagoras was coming at things from an odd angle (ha ha ha—make him stop!), and this might sound a bit strange to some non-vegetarians, and even to some vegetarians, but as a vegetarian, eating at full vegetarian restaurants is a wonderful thing.

I just love the thought of animals not being hurt—brutally and unnecessarily. Having said that, I do admit that even most organically-raised dairy cows in the modern system have a much shortened life span (down from 15 to 5 years due in part to forced pregnancies), they eventually end up at slaughter and their male births—little bulls—become veal.

But the vegetarian restaurant thing was easy in a recent trip to south India, where the restaurants that are vegetarian are called pure veg. I can’t say eating at pure veg restaurants 90% of the time helped both my beloved and me to not have even a moment of trouble—if you know what I mean—in five weeks, but we indeed did not have a bad bowel moment. In India!

Moving right along, as it were, there are two relatively new ‘pure veg’ restaurants in Vancouver that have given me and my privileged life a lot of pleasure lately, that I had to celebrate them via the blog.

BANDIDAS TAQUERIA

On the East Side, 2781 Commercial Drive (Commercial and 12th), is that remarkably rare thing, the Mexican vegetarian restaurant. I love it. The Ronny Russell yam tacos (with the vegan option) are so good—the soft tacos are fantastic—the tortilla soup is wonderful, nourishing and spiced in that wonderful way that reminds you it’s great to be alive, the chocolate brownies are delectable, a dollar and vegan and, well, that right there is enough to have me. Geezuz, I sound like the Galloping Gourmet or a defiantly gay critic. Probably was in a past life. Or next life. Actually, I’m still hoping for another forty years in this life, so who knows?

I love this from their website:

We have built our business with sustainability in mind and have a bike and cargo trailer as our company vehicle. We are reusing equipment, building materials, and furniture. We believe in leaving a small footprint and will use sustainable packaging and try to buy locally when feasible. To take a beverage to go, you need your own cup or we can fill up your water bottle.

God that makes me happy. My 40th birthday party was dry—no alcohol—and vegetarian, and I felt like a bit of freak, and possibly a bore. I think my mum snuck a bottle in, and so did my friend Paul, but they were shunned and thrown out. Okay, I let it pass. But my point—my statement, my mission!—was to say, garl darn it, that being with my friends intoxicates me and I hate to conform to certain social expectations, like wearing pants or bringing alcohol just because the gathering is social. In short, Bandidas Taqueria’s utter dearth of take-away cups speak volumes to my little heart.

Moving West…

SARAVANAA BHAVAN

Just east of Oak on Broadway (955 Broadway) is a south Indian ‘pure veg’ restaurant called the Saravanaa Bhavan. After five weeks of eating very traditional south Indian veg all over South India, with my hands, Saravanaa Bhavan is utterly authentic and fantastic. Needless to say, Indian is my favourite food, and this food is great. The dosas. The idlis. The curries. The chutneys. The chai. The naan. Even the buffet is fresh and wonderful. Mmmmm.

And more than this, this restaurant is a chain all over the world! Anyone who knows me knows how I despair of fast-food restaurants, what I think they do to the environment and our health, our discernment, our kids, the nutritional garbage they serve and the torturing of animals they propagate and often the degradation of workers etc, all to serve something as vile as a Big Mac. Whew, I’m glad I got that off my plate! Anybody sensing attitude?

At any rate, a vegetarian restaurant chain? That’s just, well, again, done. Sold. Heaven. Brilliant. Wondrous. I’m in. Where do I sign?

Both restaurants are also definitely on the cheap side.

Eat well, your temple deserves it, so do the animals, the environment, your kids, and so on, and so on, seven generations down the line. Lots of love to you,

Pete

HITLER’S SAUSAGES

Friday, April 10th, 2009

It is often said that Hitler was a vegetarian. This has never bothered me, because life is and should be constantly humbling, with ideas of cure-alls abandoned. Proselytizing should almost always be avoided. I’d choose—god willing—tenderness and kindness any day.

And if Hitler did have periods of abstaining, it was mostly about flatulence-inducing-food and blood purity issues. It was not about love or kindness—which should come as no surprise.

Nonetheless, someone wrote into John Robbins (Diet for a New America) and asked about Hitler’s vegetarianism. His response is useful. Actually, so is the statement and question asked.

I must add, reading Diet For America in my mid-twenties was a big influence on my desire to quickly limit my contribution to the suffering of animals and the degradation of the environment by choosing to eat vegetarian (which is quite different than eating vegetarians).

Anyway:

QUESTION: You people who say that we would all be more peaceful if we ate a vegetarian diet always seem to forget that Adolph Hitler was a vegetarian. That pretty well destroys your belief system, doesn’t it?

JOHN ROBBINS: The belief that Adolph Hitler was a vegetarian is widespread, and you are certainly not the only one who carries it. But that doesn’t make it true.

Robert Payne is widely considered to be Hitler’s definitive biographer. In his book, Hitler: The Life and Death of Adolph Hitler, Payne says that Hitler’s “vegetarianism” was a “legend” and a “fiction” invented by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda.

Joseph Goebbels was very effective at inventing great, torturous, ugly lies. The Nazi propaganda machine believed in the short slogan, a precursor, perhaps, for selling points today that say actually nothing, like “Just do it”, “Yes we can” and “You deserve a break today.”

Do what (hire sweatshop labour and make billions?) and what can we do (tax-payer bailouts in the trillions?), and who will be broken (natural cycles, health, arteries, billions of livestock lives, environmental health) etc?

According to Payne:

“Hitler’s asceticism played an important part in the image he projected over Germany. According to the widely believed legend, he neither smoked nor drank, nor did he eat meat or have anything to do with women. Only the first was true. He drank beer and diluted wine frequently, had a special fondness for Bavarian sausages and kept a mistress, Eva Braun… His asceticism was fiction invented by Goebbels to emphasize his total dedication, his self-control, the distance that separated him from other men. By this outward show of asceticism, he could claim that he was dedicated to the service of his people. In fact he was remarkably self-indulgent and possessed none of the instincts of the ascetic.”

Rynn Berry is historical advisor to the North American Vegetarian Society and is on the Advisory Board of EarthSave. Publisher’s Weekly wrote of his thoughtful essay, “Why Hitler Was Not a Vegetarian,” that it “lays to rest the myth that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian.” In the essay, Berry writes of the famous chef Dione Lucas:

“Dione Lucas was a sort of precursor of the popular television ‘French’ chef, Julia Childe. One of the first to open a successful cooking school in the United States, Lucas was also one of the first chefs to popularize French cuisine on television in the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1930s, prior to her coming to the United States, she had worked as a chef at a hotel in Hamburg, where Adolph Hitler was one of her regular customers.”

Indeed, Dione Lucas often cooked for Hitler. In her book, The Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook, she makes it clear that this despot was by no means the vegetarian Goebbel’s myth would have us believe. Writing of her recipe for stuffed squab, for example, she says:

“I learned this [stuff squab—a young domestic pigeon] recipe when I worked as a chef before World War II, in one of the large hotels in Hamburg, Germany. I do not mean to spoil your appetite for stuffed squab, but you might be interested to know that it was a great favorite of Mr. Hitler, who dined at the hotel often. Let us not hold that against a fine recipe, though.”

Not only did Hitler eat meat, he went so far as to outlaw organizations that advocated vegetarianism [what else can a dictator do but increase the State], and harshly rebuked all proposals to ease Germany’s food shortages that involved reductions in meat consumption.

Much love to you and all sentient beings, and may all squabs fly free, or at least be well-treated,

Pete xox

CORNY, MAN: Swimming Against the Current (Ideology)

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Michael Phelps, of course, has been dropped by Kellogg’s for smoking dope. Fair enough. A clause is a clause, I guess.

Now first off, the fact that Phelps could have drank 28 beers and passed out in his own vomit and kept the sponsorship is mildly instructive.

But the big hypocrisy is this: the fact that, because they offer money, Kellogg’s can actually hint that their breakfast cereals—corn flakes and frosted flakes!—might do anything other than promote virtually empty calories and type II diabetes is the real crime. And I know Michael Phelps eats a ton of junk food, but still…

Here are the ingredients:

MILLED CORN, SUGAR, MALT FLAVORING, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SALT, SODIUM ASCORBATE AND ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), NIACINAMIDE, IRON, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, FOLIC ACID, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), VITAMIN B12, AND VITAMIN D.

Okay, so there are a few vitamins, and evidently it’s kosher (on the Kellogg’s website), which I think means the cow didn’t bleed all over itself at the moment of slaughter. Great, it just suffered for the months prior to the slaughter.

See, this shite food is yet another corn product. And high fructose corn syrup is just the worst for type II diabetes and general ill-health.

This corn craze is crazy. Corn fed to cows pathologically ravages their stomach lining. There was a time when cows were actually grass fed. And corn is subsidized intensely in the so-called free market world, meaning cows are communist. Heck, Phelps’ bong was probably made out of some corn product. And Phelps, given his diet, is probably three-quarters corn.

Corn flakes. Frosted flakes. Marijuana? If anything, marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to junk food. That’s why I don’t smoke—it might lead to Cheezies. Why isn’t really crappy food illegal?

And it’s not as though elsewhere, outside of arresting 20 million people for marijuana, we humans stress excessive love and/or nutrition for our fellow citizen: in hockey you can punch somebody in the face repeatedly, with a bare fist and get only a five minute penalty; you can take steroids up the yin-yang in baseball (okay, that’s supposedly illegal, now); you can take enough hits to the head in football to be a bumbling mess in your forties, but you can’t, well, you know…

But man that guy can swim. Imagine if he ate well and wasn’t constantly stoned. He’d probably be a basketball player.

Take care of your beautiful, beautiful body,

Pete xoxo