Monday, March 28, 2016

Vegan eyes wide open concerning holiday traditions

Coloring Easter eggs costs many lives. Read on to find out why.

It goes deeper than you think. I'm talking about the enormity of the exploitation involved in holiday celebrations. Making the connection that holiday traditions of the past are cruel and inhumane can be hard. But inventing new traditions is uplifting!

When vegans think about holidays like Easter, they see things that others may not, due to their extensive education on issues that others may not even realize exist. Take those Easter eggs. Do you have any idea how many male baby chicks were ground alive or suffocated so you can have eggs to color. It's astounding!

If you eat lamb for Easter, do you ever think about this? That was a baby who died painfully to fill your plate when they just wanted to live. The same goes for Christmas ham, Thanksgiving turkey, corned beef for St. Patrick's day, etc. All “food” animals are killed well before maturity. They're all babies. Even the whipped cream on your pie or fruit salad and the marshmallows in your sweet potatoes cost many other baby animals their lives.

(And aside from that, I'm sorry, you guys. Really I am. More so than you can imagine. But there is also absolutely no such thing as humane slaughter or a humane farm. That's because taking the life of a being that wanted nothing more than to live their life peacefully can never be humane. And breeding/creating/raising another animal for the sole purpose of slaughter is far from humane as well, even if you use “humane” practices, because in the end, they are all going to die before their natural life is over. And that, my friends is what we would call murder if that animal were human.)

It really is sad how many holiday traditions involve the exploitation and/or consumption of other animals. It's hard to face that. It's hard to give up old rituals like coloring easter eggs, that perpetrate the continual use and abuse of other beings. But give them up we must. And that brings us to the good part.

Is there a good side of giving up years of tradition? Absolutely. It's making new, cruelty free traditions a part of your life. You can make your own traditions. Those traditions can be something to be proud of, rather than something to be ashamed of. They can be positive, rather than involving lost lives, slavery, imprisonment and abuse.

It really is possible to celebrate holidays with true joy and without harming other beings. Cruelty free traditions can make you feel so good about yourself! Even if you're not vegan, why not give kinder holiday celebrations a whirl? You might even find out you prefer them!

Avoiding meat and dairy temptations as a Vegan

This is your Butterball turkey. Visualization is a powerful tool for fighting cravings.

A few years back now, I started transitioning from Vegetarian to Vegan. Around the same time, my partner, Gary, decided to go from Omnivore to Vegetarian, leaning toward Vegan. It's been such an interesting journey for both of us. We're learning a whole new way of life. That being said, food temptations are a definite challenge. Here's how we tackle the cravings on a daily basis.

Who has a more difficult time with temptations?

I've been Vegetarian for around 40 years. I don't crave meat at all. It's not even a part of my life anymore after all these years. Still, as far as food cravings go, my partner and I are just about even. I was a real cheese-a-holic before. I put cheese on everything, not realizing that the dairy industry is even more cruel than the meat industry, or that they were completely interwoven. So, while Gary's addictions leaned toward meat, my cheese addictions are every bit as difficult to overcome.

Slipping up

We have slipped up and had small amounts of dairy here and there. Gary has never once gone back to eating meat. It seems his willpower is a bit stronger than mine, though far from perfect. Happily, we've gotten better with every slip up. We're now at the point where there will likely be very few slip ups. That's because the last one was a doozy. We ordered a spinach and artichoke dip, thinking it would mainly be healthy. As it turns out, what we got was a bread bowl full of nasty. The “dip” was spinach and artichokes mixed with mayonnaise and baked in a bread shell. If that's not enough to turn one Vegan, I don't know what is. Yuck!

The gross out factor

Even though the dip was disgusting and set us back for days, it taught us something. Slipping up isn't a treat. It just serves to make us feel downright disgusted with ourselves. It lets see our forbidden foods for exactly what they are, piles of globby, fatty nothing. We're both confident we'll face our temptations with a little more resolve after that experience. If we are tempted, though, despite the gross out factor, we have another little trick up our sleeves. It's not pleasant. It is very effective.


In my job as a writer, I do a lot of research. Like most writers, I write what I know and what I experience. Right now, I'm experiencing the Vegan lifestyle. I research Veganism on a daily basis. In the course of my work, I come across countless videos and articles on animal cruelty. Gary and I watch them together to reinforce our convictions. Watching them has turned out to be a valuable tool for fighting temptation.


Last night before bed, we watched a particularly graphic video of typically cruel slaughterhouse practices. It would not leave my head. It joined me in my dreams. Which brings me to my next point. The main way I avoid temptation is by keeping those images in my head. When I'm tempted to eat dairy, I think of baby calves being dragged from their mothers and eventually slaughtered so that we may have their milk. When I'm tempted to have eggs, I picture baby chicks being ground alive.

Think that's horrendous?

You're right. It is. That's the whole point. It's why, along with health reasons, we've made the choice to go Vegan. Therefore, we use the negativity to inspire us. We keep temptation away by recalling why we're doing this. So now, on the weekends, when we're tempted to have a cheese sub, a pizza or something else that's not on our diet, we think twice. We visualize. We remember why we're doing this. Guess what? Meat and dairy just aren't that tempting once you see them for what they really are.

Friday, March 25, 2016

My vegan journey is pulling into the station

Yes, I know. A lot of vegans think we should be able to snap our fingers and change decades of bad habits overnight, due to the horrors of animal exploitation and more. That would be great. Unfortunately, what I have found is that, personally, I am human and fallible. I have had times when I was all vegan for months. I have also had setbacks. Times when those old craving got the better of me. But now?

Well, now I am quite confident that I have attained my goal of transitioning from a vegetarian to an all vegan diet. In fact, I think I'm there now and will not be going back. What makes me so sure? Well, the thing is that I have come to the point where I can take or leave cheese, my greatest temptation. In fact, the thought of all that fatty gloppity-goo that I used to eat, well, it kind of turns my stomach.

I just don't need or want it any more. Last night, Gary had some cheese ravioli because it was still in the freezer from our mutual vegetarian days. He's not quite as far along in his journey as I am in mine. And you know what? I had absolutely no desire to eat it. That is HUGE for me. You have no idea!

So, I made a little angel hair pasta with herbs for myself and loved it. I didn't even top my creation with Parmesan, another bad habit of mine. Oh ya, I used to love Parmesan so much that I would put ¼ cup on my pasta every time. No Parmesan? That's a truly colossal triumph for me.

I also have a love of real butter. That's been a toughie for sure. We still have some in our fridge right now but I am also confident that I can buy some yummy coconut oil based “butter” next time and not ever go back to the “real” thing again. So, when that happens, I will be officially all vegan where my at home diet is concerned.

Now, about those restaurants. I know that there are a lot of places to dine out where it's not evident exactly what they put in their sauces, etc. However, I also feel that I have gotten to the point where I can and will request those changes and substitutes and where I can boycott any restaurant that does not have choices that are vegan or cannot be modified to be vegan.

I actually prefer vegan restaurants now. I will go to a non-vegan restaurant with non-vegan friends. But I will not eat non-vegan food at that restaurant. I will not backslide to being a vegetarian just because there are more of those choices than vegan choices. After all, it's just one night. I can live with eating the one vegan thing on the menu now without feeling deprived of options. And if there are no vegan options? Well, my friends will just have to choose a different restaurant.

And vacation this year? Road trips? There will be no more “lesser of two evils” or eating local favorites for the tradition or nostalgia of it. I'm determined. Even if it means bringing my own vegan cheese and/or telling them to make it without cheese. Whatever I have to do, I will do. And maybe, just maybe, doing so might spark something in others that starts them on their own journey or at least nudges them to accommodate vegans more than they already do.

Now, I know it's not just about diet. But diet is the most difficult thing to change so I started big with diet. I have also eliminated a lot of other non-vegan choices from my life. I gave my precious leather fringe jacket from the 60's away a long time ago. I'm on a budget so I've kept a few of my other non-vegan clothes. Plus, I figure it's more respectful to use and not waste them, since the animal has already died. But I don't buy leather any more. It's also not very environmentally conscious to toss/give away perfectly good clothing and buy more.

And of course, there are incidentals. There are things I know about, but cannot boycott, like that gas for the car is a latent animal product or that cars are made from animal products or that the artist paints I already have from before are not vegan. And there are, of course, products that exploit animals that I don't know about or couldn't possibly know about, that will likely and unfortunately, remain in my life until I do know about them and/or can find viable alternatives.

And how did I get to this awesome point where my diet is completely vegan with no turning back in sight?

Well, I believe that ironically, the reason I have gotten to this point is that I have allowed myself mistakes. Making mistakes is, of course, the best way to learn. I have undergone a very gradual, unforced process and accepted the fact that people are not perfect and I am no exception. I have said this before, but I am not good at those “Have to's” as I call them. I'm a rebel. And rebels need time in order for true change to stick.

For me, a vegan diet was not an overnight transition. But I am there now. I can, have and will just say no to buying and eating my greatest non-vegan nemesis, cheese now. I can and will just say no to buying and eating any more “real” butter too. Oh, I'll finish it off, so as not to waste it, but once it's gone, that is IT my friends. No more! It won't be easy. The power of well worn thought paths is strong but I'm stronger now. I know that I can do this.

I can now say that I am as cruelty free in my diet choices as I can be in this society. I can also say that I will eventually conquer the rest of what is in my power, sooner rather than later. It's been a long process because I'm a tough nut to crack, even when I'm the one doing the cracking. LOL But I am there. I am proud and I am vegan strong!

Friday, March 18, 2016

What? I can have french toast as a vegan?

Forgot to take a picture of the french toast but this is vegan too!

Ha ha ha.... Today my grand-daughter, who is not vegan by any stretch of the imagination woke up craving french toast. Alas, there were no eggs in her fridge. Grandma to the rescue, I guess. What did I do? I looked up a vegan french toast recipe. Because I know that anything you can do omnivore, you can do vegan. Gasp!

Who knew, right? Well, I did, of course. But having never tried vegan french toast, I wasn't sure how it would taste or how my grand-daughter would like it, being as how she's not vegan. As it turns out, vegan french toast, according to my grand-daughter, is actually better than “real” french toast. How cool is that?

Now, of course, before I continue making my point, I have to share the recipe. I tweaked it a little, so it's my recipe now. Here you go.


1 cup unsweetened coconut/almond milk. (I used Silk brand)
1/8 cup chia seeds
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Now, I blended this in my *Nutribullet RX to be sure all the seeds got chopped up finely enough. You could use a food processor or a blender, I guess. I'm just addicted to the *Nutribullet. LOL

After that, I just dipped the bread in it and made french toast in the usual way on my griddle.

Tip: It takes a bit longer to brown the vegan toast, but otherwise, there's really no difference.

Now, on with my point. I don't care what you're making, you can make it vegan. For instance, last night we scrambled some tofu, added some awesome spices like dill and dried chopped onions and made hash browns. Voila! Traditional breakfast for dinner. Sometimes we make *Smart bacon to go with it. We've even learned to make vegan mushroom gravy because Gary loves biscuits and gravy.

Granted, this type of thing isn't the healthiest fare. So we don't have it as often as we have raw green smoothies, green salads, veggie stir fry and other vegan favorites like bean and rice burritos or lentil soup. But it's nice to know that we don't have to give up any flavor or favorites in order to be cruelty free and the ultimate environmentalists.

Make the connection and you'll see that going vegan isn't about deprivation. It's a variety filled adventure in yummy eats!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Connecting with a Vegan conundrum

This article is addressed mainly to my fellow vegans. I'm wondering if other vegans have the same issue I do with acceptance of non-vegan eating habits. I'm normally a very accepting person. I believe firmly that people have every right to make their own choices. However, I've found myself teetering on the brink of “intolerance” since going vegan. The problem is that what other people eat impacts me personally. That makes it my business, right?

Research shows that a meat based diet has a huge impact on the environment when compared with other human behaviors. I know that I should accept other people's choices, and yet, those choices are not simply bad for them. They are bad for the entire planet, myself included. This is not a rumor, a strictly vegan viewpoint or a ploy to turn everyone vegan. It's a scientific fact. It's been proven many times over.

So, should we vegans be subjected to a depleted ozone, tainted water and toxic air just because someone can't give up hamburgers? It doesn't seem quite right when we're doing all we can to protect the earth.

On the other hand, I have no wish to offend or belittle my non-vegan friends and family.

So, do we vegans accept that our non-vegan friends have a right to their choices, even though their choices are having a negative impact on our own quality of life?

Do we speak up and refuse to accept the choices of our non-vegan friends, since their choices directly impact our own present and future?

Is it right to stand by and watch, while non-vegans ruin the planet over their food preferences? Would we be expected to remain idle while having knowledge of any other threat to the planet or our own well-being?

It's not always simple or even right to kindly and gently accept the choices of others. So, my fellow vegans, how do you solve this conundrum?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What is the root cause of animal abuse?

This morning, I saw several videos of dogs who were abused by their owners. They were absolutely horrendous. Did you know there are brothels where clients abuse and rape dogs? That got me to thinking. Why does this type of thing happen in the first place? What is the root cause of animal abuse? Where does it begin? While there are many answers to why each particular incident occurs, there is a common thread and it's surprisingly simple.

We think and speak of other animals as just plain animals, forgetting that we ourselves are animals too. Not only that, we have the audacity to think of ourselves as their owners. In fact, we've done it so long that we don't even think twice about it. We're not their owners, of course. They have lives, feelings and families that reach far beyond our relationships with them. That makes them beings of their own accord. But even if you don't believe that, here's the thing that cannot be denied....

We treat other animals as property, buying and selling them. We treat them like slaves for all intents and purposes. We use them for whatever need they fulfill for us, completely disregarding their right to exist on their own. We treat them as possessions, rather than fellow beings. We think of them as our property. We refer to them as “MY dog” “MY cat” “MY livestock” etc. We lock them up in zoos and use them in circuses to entertain us. And then, we have the nerve to say that we love them. That's a hell of a way to show our love, isn't it?

In the natural world, other animals run free until they are needed for food by carnivores. On the other hand, what we humans do to them is a bit like Hansel and Gretel. We lock them up until they are fattened up enough to eat. We also “cage” them in our homes as pets. Some people even “crate” their pets as discipline or to teach them certain behaviors.

Imagine our reaction if that were done to a human animal. Remember how you felt seeing humans corralled in the first “Planet of the Apes” movie? What we do to other animals is no different at all. But somehow, we have gotten this idea in our heads that we are superior to other animals and have a right to own them. We don't.

Nature never intended for us to own other animals. We are not superior to them. That's just an illusion we created to make us feel comfortable about using them. They have some skills that “top” ours and we have some that “top” theirs. But the truth is, those skills were never meant to compete with one another. They were meant to compliment each other.

We can't live without them. Nature is delicately balanced and by claiming ownership over other sentient beings, we are not just upsetting the balance, we are tipping the entire cart over and ensuring our own demise. But, now, back to that abuse....

If we did not look at other animals as our property.... In other words, if we treated them as the equals they are, the abuse would never happen. Because superiority, or the illusion of superiority is the main catalyst for all abuse, whether it's the abuse of other animals or of human animals. Having that right to lord it over someone is what makes us feel we have a right to use or abuse them as we please.

So, what is the root cause of animal abuse? It's our false sense of superiority, of course. We have obtained that sense through tradition, religion or simply observing it as common practice throughout our lives. But that doesn't make it right. So, isn't it time to address animal abuse at the root? Because as long as we keep treating other animals as inferior possessions, it's just going to keep happening.

Retraining the brain

Did you know that your brain transmits messages along preferred pathways? Those pathways are determined by past behavior. That's why it's so very hard to make diet and lifestyle changes by doing things like going Vegan or quitting smoking. Habitual brain patterns die hard! But that's not all.

When you are accustomed to a certain way of life or tradition, it's extremely difficult to get your brain to think outside of that pathway too. In fact, some people never do change their traditional ways for exactly that reason. It has become natural for their brain to think and act in a certain way.

Now, I have nothing against some traditions. But some can be a serious impediment to getting healthy or learning new things that might be of help to us all. That's when we have to take control of our brain waves and get them firing down different pathways.

But how in the world do we do that? Well, one way is to take the focus off all the things our new lifestyle will force us to give up and turn it to the benefits that will come from it. In the case of going vegan, we might also focus on all the new, yummy food we'll be trying for the first time.

Future vegans should also focus on the renewed energy and good health that is our goal. Why? Because that will get our neurons firing toward that goal, leading us down those new passageways. Because the more we use those pathways, the easier it becomes to travel them.

Retraining the brain is rough going. There will be days where your brain will slip back into autopilot. But if you keep at it, pretty soon those new pathways will become the habitual ones, thus replacing old bad habits with new good ones.

Monday, March 7, 2016

How is it considered a horse sanctuary if you still ride and train the horses?

Doesn't seem like much fun for the horse, does it?

Well, it's not a vegan horse sanctuary, that's for sure. Because being vegan means not using other animals for your own purposes. It's not just about diet. It's a whole way of life. It's about doing the best you can in this day and age to do the very least harm possible to people, other animals and the planet and ecosystem in general. Can you call yourself an animal lover/animal sanctuary and still ride horses? Do horses really enjoy the ride? But first, how did this post come about?

I'm not naming names but out on the beautiful Colorado plains is a self described horse sanctuary. One would think that would mean that the horses are rescued from places that use and/or abuse them, yes? And maybe they do this some of the time. Unfortunately, I have recently learned that wherever they obtain their rescues, they turn right around and train them to be ridden, which is really just another form of abuse.

What's so bad about riding horses? It seems a wholesome enough activity, yes? Seems? Yes. Is? No. Not at all. You see the methods used to train horses and the equipment they have to “get used to” are often painful and most definitely unnatural. To top it off, when we ride horses, we sit directly on their spine. You know, the same spine that holds the nerves that carry messages to the brain. It's not exactly a cruelty free practice. At least not if you look at it from the horses point of view.

Do they enjoy it? Well, if you ask the humans who are getting a free ride, they'll likely tell you that the horse enjoys the ride. I don't see how that could possibly be true. The bit hurts. The saddle hurts. They're carrying 100 - 200 extra pounds and to top it off, they are sometimes expected to run full speed at the insistence of spurs, whips and dug in heels. Their life spans are shortened. They often suffer from painfully deformed backs/spines. Doesn't sound like much fun to me.

Now, I don't doubt that horse “owners” have good intentions and love “their” horses. I also don't doubt that the horses are happy to see their “owners” pay attention to them. Everyone likes to be loved, yes? Brushing feels good. Eating regularly is a good thing. Being provided with water and blankets isn't bad. Treats are awesome, etc. There are many positive attentions that horse lovers give to “their” horses. But being ridden and being trained to serve? You just cannot tell me that is fun for the horse. Except for the occasional taste of freedom part, that is.

You know what I mean, right? Being taken out of the barn, pasture, paddock, corral or wherever they're imprisoned and being allowed to run is likely a great feeling. It might be even better if they were allowed to run free all the time like we are. But they have learned that this is the best they will get. And so they settle. They get happy when they know that at least for a brief period of time, they can do what they were meant to do. They can run. They can't exactly run free. But they can run. And that's better than nothing, I guess.

I also have to hazard a guess that if the horse has been mistreated severely in the past, a horse sanctuary that still uses the horses to serve humans but is kind to them (aside from painful common practices involved in training and riding) is an improvement. But wait. This is a wild horse sanctuary. That means the horses have been taken from the wild, where they were free and happy, then “rescued” in order to be trained to serve man. I fail to see how this is any different than any other horse ranch. How exactly is this a sanctuary? It's not.

So there you go. Make the connection, please. An animal sanctuary that uses animals is no sanctuary at all. Other animals are not ours to use. Even if they seem to enjoy what little freedom we give them.