Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pledge to Go Vegetarian in 2012 - Mercy For Animals

Pledge to Go Vegetarian in 2012 - Mercy For Animals

It's not too late to pledge to change your diet. Mercy for Animals will send you their vegetarian starter kit, send you tips, recipes and words of encouragement. A vegan meal, or recipe, doesn't always have something "weird" or "strange" in it. Usually, it's just replacing a couple of items with common substitutes such as, using canola oil instead of eggs, or almond/soy milk instead of dairy milk. I have always loved to cook, and the food I have prepared has tasted even better since I went vegan. All of the baking is so moist, the recipes can be very easy, and you can experiment with all kind of fruits, spices, and combinations of ingredients. I also like to experiment with my cooking, changing up soups, stir fry, chili, pizza and incorporating as many raw vegetables as I possibly can. There are some good substitutes for meat and dairy products and while I use them on occasion, I, personally, like to make things that aren't trying to imitate dishes I was used to when I was an omnivore. There are several great cookbooks that can help you along the way. I started with "Veganomicon." Yes, you will have to look at ingredients which most of us are too lazy to do; however, once you get the hang of it you can usually do your shopping just as quickly as before because you know what types of food are vegan. Just make sure you check any new items you haven't purchased before. If you take the pledge at the link above, you will be entered into monthly drawings for prizes such as cookbooks (including "Veganomicon"), among many other gifts. The best part about going vegan is knowing that you are doing what you can so that innocent animals don't have to suffer, that you are helping the environment by not wasting so many resources or contributing to the greenhouse gases and waste that runs into our waters, and that you are helping your health.

If anyone is interested, has questions, or needs advice, just ask! I would be glad to offer suggestions to help you on your path to a new meat-free you.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dog for Dinner?

Recently, Thai authorities have rescued 750 dogs that were going to be smuggled over to Vietnam to end up on someone's dinner plate.  In certain parts of Vietnam, dog meat is considered to be a delicacy.  Are you appalled and disgusted?  Many Americans have dogs as pets, and those pet owners know just how loving and loyal dogs can be.  Even small children develop strong bonds with their pet dogs, and they can also describe their dog's emotions.  We know when our dog is happy to see us or when he/she gets upset with us and tears something up.  Can you imagine eating your dog for dinner?

In the United States, this practice is taboo.  Now, imagine continually breeding dogs, sorting through the puppies to see which ones will grow properly and which ones we should dispose of.  The ones we don't want, we gas, suffocate, burn, bury alive, or grind.  The ones we keep, we put into a large warehouse that is overcrowded, and the ammonia in the air makes it hard to breathe.  We put them into pens where they can't move around at all.  We feed them some mixture of corn with antibiotics and hormones...something that they are not truly meant to consume, but will fatten them up, make them grow faster and larger, and keep them healthy enough because there is so much disease.  We castrate, brand, and mutilate them with no painkillers whatsoever, as long as it's convenient and cheap.  They live their entire, shortened, life this way.  They get sores and broken bones from growing too fast and rubbing on their pen because they can't expend any energy.  They receive no veterinary care because it's too expensive.  If they are females used for breeding, they can't bond with their puppies and their puppies are taken away from them.  These animals are abused by the workers, whether it's killing the lame dogs inhumanely, injuring the dogs for sport, or trying to transport so many at one time.  When it comes time to go to the slaughterhouse, they're shoved onto semi-trailers.  They're crammed, denied food and water for days, they could be suffering from heat exhaustion if it's summer or freeze to the trailer if it's winter.  They arrive at the slaughterhouse and are taken through an assembly line, being electrocuted or having a bar shot through their head either to, hopefully, make them unconscious or just paralyze them.  Then, they will have their necks cut open and the rest of their bodies dismantled...several conscious when their necks are cut and some, even still, when they have the rest of their bodies cut off.  All of this occurring so they can, ultimately, end up on your plate for a few dollars.

I would hope you would not allow something so horrible to happen to your dog...that you would be moved to speak up and fight against such barbarity.  If you feel this way, then try to expand your mind and broaden this to the rest of the animals.  What I described is not an extreme and it's not the exception.  It IS the RULE and it's called factory farming.  Factory farming is what gives you your 99 cent eggs at the grocery store, your $3 cheeseburger at the local fast food joint, and your barbecued pork at the restaurant down the street.  It happens to all of the animals we mass-produce.  Where is your empathy when it comes to the cows, chickens, turkeys and pigs?  Don't let the disconnect fool you.  Bacon comes from an animal who is quite intelligent.  Pigs have the mental capacity of a 3-year-old, they play games and they even snuggle up to one another when they sleep.  Know that you can feel great about yourself every time you choose not to buy an animal product...that you are not supporting this cruel enslavement. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reasons to go Vegan

When you tell someone you're vegan, the inevitable question in response is "why?"  Most people assume it's for one specific reason:  for health reasons or standing up for animals.  However, I have multiple reasons.  I used to be (in the not so distant past) an omnivore who enjoyed my glass of skim milk, eggs, and bacon in the morning, and a steak for dinner.  I ate cheese on a regular basis and loved my hamburger, chicken wings, and ribs as much as the next American.  I have to thank my lovely friend, Jennifer, who went vegan and sparked my interest.  She let me borrow a book called "Skinny Bitch."  That's where it all started.

I wasn't looking to lose weight, but the book opened my eyes to the world of industrial animal farms.  Ever since then, I've been hooked to watching documentaries, keeping up with current articles, and reading all sorts of literature related to how we treat animals, industrial animal farming, health and nutrition, and the environment.  My reasons for not eating animals are: the treatment of animals in industrial farming, health reasons, the effects on the environment, and even the conditions of the workers in the slaughterhouses.  There is so much to learn about all of these, and it is so important to seek the truth so we can know what kind of a system we are supporting when we buy animal products.  This post is dedicated to the environment.  Take a look at this article from Scientific American: 

We can look at several damaging effects on the environment when it comes to industrial animal farming.  The greenhouse gasses that are emitted into the air, the manure that gets into our water systems, the pesticides and toxic chemicals, the amount of fuel used for transporting the animals all the way to shipping out packaged meat, antibiotics that created antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the amount of water it takes to raise this many animals, the amount of food we use to feed the animals, and deforestation due to creating new cattle ranches.  The use of pesticides on crops and on the animals, along with the manure that gets into our waterways are responsible for the "dead zones" in the Gulf and in the East.  When someone asks, "How are we supposed to feed everyone if we don't have the current system?," let them know the number of people you would actually be able to feed if it weren't for our current animal factory.  It would be about 800 million. 

When it comes to your health, well, animals aren't good for you.  Forget the old protein fad because you don't really need that much protein.  Not to mention, you can get plenty of protein form several different types of plants, nuts, seeds, etc.  Dairy?  Not good for you either.  If you want to listen to the American Dietetic Association, who is sponsored by the National Dairy Council, then that's up to you.  You really like those milk mustaches?  Really?  We aren't meant to drink cows' milk.  We are the only ones to drink another animal's milk.  You can get calcium from soy milk, rice milk, almond milk (my favorite), and so many plants.  You will even absorb more calcium by consuming it from a plant, like kale.  We have increased our animal intake so much that it is no wonder you see the jumps in obesity, heart disease and cancer.  If you look at studies of several other countries who are on a plant-based diet, their health is much better than the U.S.

By going vegan, you can help in so many different ways, including your own health. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Companies like Monsanto

It looks like Monsanto has managed to increase its profits...a 5% increase per share.  Lucky them, but I'd say not so lucky for everyone else.  Monsanto has a history, and not one I would be proud of.  It looks like they are increasing sales by infiltrating Latin America with its GM corn.  That's right, genetically modified.  Now, I'm sure several people hear about this corn and about how farmers can produce more because it has built-in chemicals to ward off and kill insects, but this also has devastating effects.  Not only does Monsanto keep very tight control of their seed ( they don't allow farmers to "save seed" and if their seed is cross-pollinated to a neighboring farm then they go after that farmer), but they are also killing insects that are harmless and creating new bugs that are resistant to their corn.  Any time we use pesticides and herbicides, there is runoff that can contaminate our water, aid in creating the dead zones, and the degradation of the land.  Also, many of our factory farms use corn to feed the animals, even though corn is not what they are meant to consume. For example, the cows we raise for beef who are meant to eat grass, hay, etc. and can't really digest corn, and geese that are force-fed to fatten up their liver.  For those of you who enjoy your organic products like I do, GM corn and other foods can threaten organic farms through cross-pollination.  It's another huge corporation in the food/ag business that's taking control. 

A little side note:  Ever heard of Bovine Growth Hormone, BGH, or rBGH?  This is a hormone, created by Monsanto, that is injected into our milk-producing cows to make them produce more milk than is natural.  Since the cows are producing more milk than normal, they release more pus into the milk, more antibiotics, and even a cancer-accelerating hormone.  The European Union has banned the use of BGH because of the health risks to humans and animals.  Amazing how the U.S. seems to lag in areas when it comes to animal welfare and the health of its people.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The FDA: Do you really think they are protecting us?

There are too many discussions to be had about the Food and Drug Administration, and how, or if, it is actually doing its job.  In order to give you an idea of what a great job this organization is doing, take a look at the following blog.

If you didn't know we were pumping the animals we consume with antibiotics, hate to break it to you, but we are.  The conditions of factory farms include: overpopulation, close quarters, animals not being able to behave naturally, filth, disease, and the list goes on.  These conditions require us to give the animals antibiotics on a regular basis, in order for them to survive.  Also, it's actually much cheaper to give them antibiotics, as opposed to giving them proper veterinary care.  If you're at all aware of the society in which we live, you know that things are only good if they are cheap and fast.  It's a sad world we live in, if we let money be the arbiter of what's important and what holds value.

On top of this, we also give the animals we consume antibiotics to make them grow faster.  Again, it's cheaper and faster and we can put even more animals through the same cruel life.  Many animals suffer even more because they are growing so quickly.  They suffer broken bones because their legs cannot support them, their bones are also weaker due to lack of nutrition, they cannot fly since they are too heavy, and many even suffer from heart attacks.  So, have you noticed the trend?  Whatever is cheap, fast, and ultimately, brings in the most money.

If you believed the FDA had your health and well-being in mind every time it made a decision, think again.  It has several lobbyists in its pocket, as well as people, with other interests in mind, working in the organization.  There are many pharmaceutical companies and big ag/factory farm companies that don't want the FDA to regulate them because then it would increase their cost and they would not be able to make as much.  So, if you get sick from a new strand of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics, you can thank the FDA most likely.  For several years, we have known that the overuse of antibiotics has created these "superbugs."  Unfortunately, scientists have not been able to keep up with the emergence of these new bacteria.  We've had bird flu and H1N1 fairly recently, if you don't remember what a scare that created.  Just another reason to really take a close look at the cost of our "cheap, fast food."  

Monday, January 2, 2012

McDonald's Cruelty: The Rotten Truth About Egg McMuffins

McDonald's Cruelty: The Rotten Truth About Egg McMuffins

If you haven't watched this undercover footage, you should. Have you ever eaten breakfast at a McDonald's? If you're an American, then your answer is most likely a resounding yes. This is just one small example of what animals suffer through, in order to end up on our plate. Don't let the huge fast food chain fool you by their "action" to drop this egg supplier. Do you really think McDonald's is concerned about the welfare of animals? They slaughter thousands of cattle per day to give you your Big Macs and your Double Cheeseburgers. McDonald's sole concern was the bad PR they would receive from this investigation. They have switched egg suppliers, but I guarantee their new egg producer is cruel to the animals as well. They have to be, in order to meet the demands of the big food corporations. This is the wonderful gift of industrial food production...factory farms. If you know nothing about them, it's time to start researching. We have a responsibility to the animals of the world to protect them and be their voice when they are defenseless and voiceless.

Life at an egg hatchery in the U.S. begins with the sorting of baby chicks. "Sorting" means the chicks are sorted by sex. Obviously, they keep the females and the males are, well, discarded. You may (or may not, if you enjoy your ignorance) ask how they are discarded. Well, there are different ways to get rid of the male chicks. They are usually gassed, suffocated, crushed or ground alive. The female chicks are then taken to have their beaks seared off. Workers either put the chicks' beaks up to a hot blade or the chicks are held by a machine that sears their beaks off with a laser. Don't kid yourself if you think the chicks can't feel anything. Their beaks are actually very sensitive and this procedure can even cause chronic pain in the birds. This brings me to the question, why are their beaks seared off? They have to, in order to prevent the birds from pecking at each other because they will be in very tight quarters together. Their new home is their battery cage.

A battery cage usually houses between 3 to 10 hens, and a U.S. egg farm usually holds thousands of cages. If you want to picture how much room each hen has in one of these cages, then pull out a piece of 8.5 x 11 copy paper AND fold it in half. They have about 59 square inches of space to "move" around in. I put the word "move" in quotes because they actually don't get to move around. A hen generally needs about 72 square inches just to stand up, let alone turn around, spread their wings, dust bathe, or anything else that is natural for them. Many European countries have banned battery cages because of how cruel they are, but here in the U.S. we're working to increase the space ever so slightly. Many hens in battery cages also suffer from open wounds from rubbing against the cages, getting caught in the cages, foot disorders from standing in the cages, as well as bone weakness and breakage.

When a hen is done laying, "forced molting" begins. This is when they are starved for about 10 to 14 days in order to initiate a second cycle of laying. Many of the birds die during this time, while those who survive just suffer. After the second cycle of laying, the birds are sent to be slaughtered. When they are at the slaughterhouse, they are grabbed and hung upside down (several have their bones broken during this process), they are submerged in a tub of electrified water which is intended to render them unconscious; however, most are still conscious after this, and then their throats are slit by a machine. Not only are most of the birds fully conscious while their throats are slit, but the machine isn't always accurate and can severely injure the birds so they die an even longer, excruciating death.

So, what does that Egg McMuffin really mean to you? Is the inexpensive breakfast sandwich worth it? We have to understand that the price we pay to have a piece of meat is much higher than what it seems. Animals aren't meant to be mass produced. They're living beings who feel pain, as well as joy, fear, jealousy, and even empathy. They are not meant to be a commodity we produce and discard so easily without a second thought. Every time you choose an animal product, you choose to support a system that is immoral, inhumane, and cruel.