I've written a number of posts over the years (257 to be exact), but there's one I wrote over three years ago that still receives the most views (next in line to the not-kept-up-to-date Vegan Slogans page), and the occasional snarky comment.
Any idea which one it is? I'll give you a clue: It has the word carnist in its title.
Yep, it's the top ten carnist phrases/excuses that drive me crazy post, and apparently it drives some readers bonkers as well. Which surprises me a bit as it's not a long post and I don't go into detail other than listing my top ten most annoying excuses, but I guess it's enough to rankle those among its ranks. I mean, I'm assuming that those offended by the post are also the ones using phrases 1-10.
And while I'm not exactly proud of how I responded to at least two of the last three comments, I also don't believe in editing my first reactions. I don't moderate my blog, which means that any viewer can say whatever they want before I'll notice their comment, but I also reserve the right to be pissed off and respond accordingly. That said, as vegans we do have more of a responsibility to react reasonably and politely to any venom spewed our way.
I must say that I find the reaction of meat-eaters to that post most interesting. Seems like it hit a nerve more than anything else I've written, and that's fine too, but let's hope at least one offended reader actually thinks about what they're doing (and why) after they've gotten some of the anger off their chest.
Now, to round off this not-quite-Thursday-yet-so-can't-really-call-it-a-TBT-post, here's the one that followed the "who knew 10 phrases would get such a reaction?" post and still one of my faves to date: top ten reasons to go vegan. Hell yeah!
p.s. please don't feel you need to respond to any of the jerky comments left on the carnist phrases post as hopefully I've got it covered... ;)
And if the answer is yes, then why are we working so hard to achieve exactly that?
The graphic in a previous post shows how different species will gradually disappear (or not so gradually given that nearly 1000 species have gone extinct in the past 500 years already) if we don't change our ways soon. Because while past mass extinctions occurred primarily due to natural causes, one species in large part is causing the current ecosystem crisis. Poaching, habitat destruction, global warming and excessive use of water (even if you're not ethically opposed to eating other animals, from a water use point of view alone animal agriculture needs to be scraped off our plates already) all contribute to the demise of fellow species.
Now let's say you actually don't care about other species dying off and are only concerned with human survival. Then wouldn't it be ironic if the species thought to be the most intelligent became extinct due to its own stupidity? Because that's exactly the driving force (that, and greed) threatening to drive us off this planet.
What's fascinating though is that while other species could function just fine or even better without Homo sapiens, our species is fragile enough that our very existence depends on the beings we consider vastly inferior to ourselves. Like bees. And bats. Imagine that! We need bees and bats (among others) to survive, so perhaps it's time to put aside our smug superiority complex and realize we're not only risking the extinction of other species, but of ourselves as well. Let's be clear: humans need this earth if they want to survive, Earth does not need us.
Going back to the title question, I have to admit there are times when I feel human extinction would be an overall gain for the rest of the species co-habiting our lovely planet. That sentiment could certainly be construed as misanthropic, but our species is so anthropocentric that overall we don't seem to give a damn about how much cruelty and death we inflict on others, and on darker days I feel it would serve us exactly right to get a taste of our own bitter medicine. So, let's get our collective act together and behave in ways that would make human extinction a true tragedy for all species. Agreed?
Note: Watched the 2007 documentary The 11th Hour after drafting this post, and even though the many experts offered excellent ideas, it was striking that none of them mentioned animal consumption. To be fair there were two images of factory farming in the film, but no one actually said, let's stop eating animals. Disappointing, but not surprising. Guess I'll have to watch Cowspiracy for that!
You see, last summer I devoured Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, only to reluctantly return it to the library after renewing it twice. I knew I would have to get my own copy someday (in itself telling as I rarely reread books), so was delighted when I won a signed copy from the ALDF book club a few weeks ago. Since I don't enjoy writing book reviews (and would prefer not to give away the storyline) I won't do one here, but if you MUST read a review first, you can read the excellent one (beware of spoiler!) posted at Our Hen House.
What I will say though is that reading this book left me severely conflicted -- race through it as quickly as I can because I can't wait to find out what happens next, or savour it slowly and delay finishing so that the pleasure lasts as long as possible? Usually what happens in this case is that I'll race along for three-quarters of the book, and then slow down to a crawl that can last for weeks on end.
What I will also say is that I found this book gripping, riveting, and suspenseful. And while this book made me angry at times (as it will anyone who cares about animals), what I wasn't as prepared for was feeling so bereft, drained, and utterly sad. Like many readers I cried at the end, although wept might be a better word, which surprised me a little as I'm generally not much of a crier or weeper. (If anything, frustration is more likely to get my tear-ducts going.) I also enjoyed the real-life case histories thrown in, and the scientific details woven throughout.
This book is also good for anyone who hasn't given much thought to animal use, but who might be scared off by books more overtly vegan. The author herself, sadly, isn't vegan, but don't let that stop you from reading or recommending this compelling tale. After all, it isn't other vegans we have to convince.
About Washoe [cross-fostered chimp 1965-2007], Roger Fouts has said, she taught him that in the phrase human being, the word being is much more important than the word human. p158
Confession: found this half-started post in my drafts folder dated 09/13, so if that ain't proof of laziness...
We all know that kale is good for us, right? But the stuff can taste a tad bitter, and worse, take a bit of work to prepare from scratch. And who wants to work just to eat? Well, many people don't seem to mind, but not this lazy vegan. So I thought I'd share the two ways yours truly gets her kale. And no, chips are not involved. ;)
The first tip is illustrated in the photo above, but before I start I want to tell you about a recent realization I find quite amusing: apparently I've been eating kale my whole life without even knowing it! You see, kale has been a staple of Dutch cuisine for, well, almost forever, but I never connected the Dutch name boerenkool (literally translated as "farmer's cabbage") to the English word kale until I started buying the canned version.
The dish in the photo is a variation of the traditional Dutch boerenkool stamppot recipe, without of course, cruelty to animals, and the easy lazy part is the canned kale. Yep, available in any Dutch store (oodles of them in Ontario, Canada), all you have to do is heat. No chopping, no washing, no rinsing, no resentment of the time involved, just heat and go. For the dish itself I just boil a whole bunch of potatoes, mash them using a bit of vegan Becel, mash in the warmed up can of kale, and vegan beef crumbles if I have them. Oh, add a bit of Bragg liquid soy seasoning for more flavour, and you're good to go. The nutrient label on the can indicates that per 1/2 cup you get 100% daily value of vitamin A, 45% daily value of vitamin C, 20% calcium and 8% iron. That's a lot of value methinks. Another way to add value is to make enough in one go so that you don't have to cook again for a few days. :)
The other easy lazy way I eat more kale is by adding it to a smoothie. Now I can hear you protesting already that you do that as well, but I bet you're not as lazy about it as I am. Remember those Dutch stores I mentioned? Well, the one I go to sells kale in dry form, so there's no muss and fuss in chopping your own. Sprinkle in as many flakes as you want, and presto, you're kaling yourself to better health.
Update #1: am reading a book right now called "Xenophobe's Guide to the Dutch: a frank and funny look at what makes the Dutch DUTCH" and have to admit that the author hit the nail on the head when he observed that:
The Belgians fry, the Germans pickle, the English boil, and the Dutch mash -- cabbages and potatoes especially, but also endives and peas all end up pounded together in a stolid stamppot. Usually greyish-white in hue, with green flecks and the consistency of partially set concrete.... Not even salads escape the masher. A Dutch salad is 90% potato and mayonnaise, and 10% something else that gives it a name rather than a flavour. pp. 56-7
Ha ha, guilty as charged! We Dutchies DO like to mash (but think how ready we'll be if all we can eat as incapacitated seniors is purees) and I myself have mashed in spinach, broccoli, endives, red cabbage, kale, and sauerkraut with pineapple. The latter this very week in fact.
Update #2: just found an even more sneering (but funny) take on the Dutch love affair with mashing, but all scoffing aside, it's a hearty and not too unhealthy way to get your veggies I say, so mash away!
p.s. I've noticed in the past year that many food stores now sell kale pre-chopped, so there's no excuse anymore for anyone to be kale-shy :)
Can't believe it's been nearly a year already since my dad passed away, and that he won't be around this Father's Day. Although, to be honest, he wasn't around much period while his five kids were growing up, and made no secret of the fact that he had zero interest in parenting. (In case you think I'm exaggerating, each one of my siblings grew up being told that he would leave as soon as they turned 16, and he finally made good on his promise when my turn as the youngest came around.) In spite of this, three of my siblings and I had made some sort of peace with him before he died, and accepted his lack of involvement in our lives as something that wasn't to be taken too personally. A good role model for being a father he wasn't, but it could have been worse.
So with Father's Day around the corner (tomorrow!), and my post on mothering just behind me, I thought I'd take some time and continue talking about parenting. If, as I argued in my previous post, mothering is a role we don't really value, then fathering is a role valued even less. Sure, we pay lip service to the idea of celebrating the role of fatherhood, but even the holiday itself isn't emphasized as much as its counterpart.
Understandable, as regrettably, raising the next generation is still often thought of as women's work. Consider again that most men won't have to figure out how they'll combine work with child rearing, won't get asked how they'll accomplish that feat, and won't have to deal with the consequences of taking time out of the labour force to raise their kids if that's their choice. But that career comes first for men is still a given for most.
As I also stated in the mothering post, the qualities of being a good parent -- nurturing, protecting, guiding, etc., are not, in my opinion, gender specific, and I think it's a shame that we've allowed outdated stereotypes to determine parenting roles. I've long felt that a mature and healthy adult is, for example, strong and sensitive, caring and assertive, rational and warm, empathetic and independent, and to label any of those traits as either masculine or feminine is both silly and limiting.
In that sense, I don't think a child needs both a mother and a father as claimed by those who champion traditional family values, as much as they need an adult in their lives who has the full range of qualities that every grown-up should have. Where it's helpful to have two adults involved in child-rearing is that it lessens the load, and hopefully provides a role model of what a positive relationship can look like. But whether those two adults are of the same gender or not is irrelevant, and I can tell you from personal experience that my own particular family would have been much better off if it had been "broken" far sooner.
And if mothering and fathering doesn't get the status it deserves among humans, then the industrial agricultural complex pretty much strips any status for other species. No respect is given to the natural bonds of motherhood and fatherhood, and parenthood is only valued if it benefits humans. Think puppy mills, zoos, aquariums, and of course all the victims considered food animals. A depressing thought indeed.
So once again I want to end with a reference to two of my favourite human dads, who daily give me hope, and who beautifully illustrate what fatherhood could and should be all about. :)
I miss you. I miss you terribly (it's been more than a month), and can't believe I haven't written in so long. You're my creative outlet, a place to collect my thoughts and discover how I really feel, a way to retain (and sometimes reclaim) my sanity, and perhaps in a tiny way a small contribution to vegan consciousness.
So why have I neglected you?
Time is part of the answer. My paid job, online shop, declining in physical health kitty, declining in physical and mental health mom, and those pesky never-ending chores of running a household all are guilty of stealing precious time. And sometimes I'm just too tired, or stressed, or too downbeat to let my fingers do the talking, and it becomes easier to flip on the TV or DVD player instead.
Another part of the answer is that writing sometimes feels frivolous, especially when almost all of your readers are part of the vegan choir. Because while I certainly identify as vegan, the term activist doesn't always seem to apply given the little action I actually do (which is why I try to donate financially when I can to those more worthy of the title), and you know what they say about action beating the crap out of words. Or something to that effect, snort.
Also, writing is more play than work for me, and the Calvinist work-before-play ethic drummed into me as a kid still rears its ugly head even when not applicable. Besides, why have such narrow definitions? Reading, for example, could also be considered play, but I've successfully convinced myself that reading is about on par with breathing, and that 30-60+ minutes of reading is an essential daily task. So, with the help of Leo Babauta's Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change, I'm going to try and implement blog writing (though not necessarily posting) as a daily habit.
In short, I hope to be back here (and visiting your blogs) much more often soon! :)
By age twelve I had already decided that motherhood wasn't for me, in part because I didn't want to risk subjecting a child to the same kind of screwed-up childhood I was experiencing myself. Imagine my surprise then when decades later I've ended up doing a form of mothering anyway, in a classic case of role reversal with my aging mom. And while there are challenges to taking care of a parent who didn't particularly take good care of you, there are rewards as well. These include closure, working through unresolved issues, grieving a relationship that never was, and providing the kind of nurturing and caring that my younger self craved but didn't receive enough of. And as odd as it may sound, providing this kind of care for someone else is self-nurturing too. I can even see how having had my own kids may have speeded up this healing process, although biologically it's too late for that now. Which isn't to glamorize or minimize any of the hard work involved in taking care of a living being, whether they're eight months old, or eighty-eight years.
But while today celebrates the role of mothering, I would argue that it's a role we don't really value. We don't define it particularly well, or even give much thought as to whether we should take it on. Folk who opt out of parenthood are often characterized as being selfish and shallow, whereas those who don't give it a second thought, who automatically assume that that's what people do, are lauded as being unselfish and giving. Never mind overpopulation and the various environmental implications. This isn't to say that no one should have kids, but that anyone contemplating having them ought to give serious thought as to the consequences, because not doing so is the actual selfish and shallow act. Parenting, in my view, should be thought of as a privilege rather than a right, and with rights come responsibilities.
Because what other enterprise in our society is as unregulated, unlicensed and unreviewed? Do anything else -- drive a car, buy a gun (in itself an insane act, in my opinion), or enter any number of professions -- and you'll likely need a licence or at least some form of training. But become a parent, and hey, no demonstration of skills or aptitude required. Parenting has to be one of the least paperless activities around, even though it's purported to be the most difficult task there is. Hmmm.
And as for value, what do we pay people to be parents? To prepare the next generation to become responsible and model citizens? What is this most important work worth? Then compare that to what we pay hockey players, basketball stars, actors, CEO's, and whatever redeeming title you can manage to come up with for anyone whose last name is Kardashian, and it boggles the mind.
What about all the shelters, programs and services set up for domestic abuse victims? Women and children mainly, although men fall prey as well at times. Take Back The Night has been around forever it seems, and the stats on sexual assault don't appear to be dropping either. So if we value the labour of women when it comes to raising kids so much, why don't we take the man out of the home and off of the street when violence occurs rather than forcing the woman to flee?
And what of this role called mothering? What does it mean to be a mother? We don't spell it out clearly enough methinks, but to my mind mothering involves nurturing, raising, protecting, teaching, guiding, caring, playing, helping, mentoring, setting a good example and being an effective role model.
What about fathering? Not a term we hear as often as mothering, but surely it also means protecting, raising, caring, guiding, nurturing, helping, setting a good example, teaching, playing and being an effective mentor and role model. Notice that all of these attributes are shared by both male and female parents, although unfortunately the onus is still on mothers to do the lion's share of raising kids. Because when are men ever asked, for example, how they'll combine childcare and work?
Notice too that all the qualities of being a good (or good enough) parent are not species-specific. If we really value mothering, shouldn't we recognize and respect the mother-child bond wherever it occurs? Take a look at any undercover footage of factory farming, and you'll see just how much we actually value mothering. Sadly, as with human mothering, not that much.
But veganism can change that. Does change that. And to end this post on a positive note, here's a video of a fabulous new mother, and a nod to two human dads who prove that nurturing, protecting and providing is everyone's job, although these two do it particularly well.
Hard to believe that Earth Day has been commemorated for 45 years now, and I have to admit that the more cynical part of me wonders how much we've really achieved in that time. Given the ongoing problems with global warming, pollution, oil spills, other environmental degradation, overpopulation, misuse of natural resources, species exploitation and extinction, the colossal disrespect human animals show towards this earth is overwhelming. Arrogance, greed, and an unwarranted superiority complex seem to trump common sense, decency and compassion when it comes to how humans interact with other species and Earth herself. So let's just hope we do better in the next 15 years, because 45 years from now it may well be too little, too late.
p.s. apparently, this is my 250th post :)
image credit: Patrick McDonnell's Mutts comic strip
Ha, spoke too soon. The paper published my letter after all! And apart from editing the first paragraph (they broke it up into three, and deleted the last sentence), they kept the rest intact and even put it in the featured letter spot thus improving its chances of being read. Have to admit I was pleasantly surprised, and even more so when I received a call the next day from a reader who had taken the time to look up my name in the phone book in order to thank me for writing it. No negative replies in the following edition either (which I half expected), although maybe that's still coming. All in all, a positive experience.
But reading Striking at the Root's chapter on letter writing before doing this again still stands, and I agree with Anne's comment on my post: I would not respond to his diatribe, nor defend us against his allegations about activists, but rather present clearly the facts surrounding beings captured for the sole purpose of our entertainment. It'sa good point, and something I didn't do, although hopefully would do next time.
It's a suggestion (using clear facts) SatR* made too, so I thought I'd take the opportunity here to outline a few of their other suggestions as well:
be concise and focus on the most important issue
be polite and professional
include information on how an issue will affect readers personally
respond to positive stories as well as negative ones
direct letters to readers and not the author of the piece you're responding to
don't assume readers already know about the issue you're referring to
tell them something they may not know
write in the affirmative and include positive suggestions for change
show how other animals have a wide range of emotions
be friendly and a good role model for animal activists
Oops, I clearly didn't read this chapter before writing my own letter, and the above suggestions would certainly have been good to follow, but I can't honestly say I regret my first attempt. And if one reader felt compelled enough to reach out to me, who knows how many others took some of the letter to heart? :)
* Mark Hawthorne, Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism pp. 35-37
p.s. I'm afraid I'll be MIA for a little while longer -- hope everyone's keeping well!