Tag Archives: animal rights

Sunday Bunday!

Our little mini rex/Havana mix bunny knows she’s being naughty and doesn’t care.

Sometimes I drink almond milk out of the carton.

This is Christie, signing off!

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The Sentimentality of Becoming Vegan

I think we all needed a push to become vegan. That last straw about how farming animals is destroying our planet, our bodies and our relationship with fellow sentient creatures probably made us angry, frustrated, sad or scared.

For a long time I made excuses for why I couldn’t quit animal products. They were the worst kind of transparent excuses. The ones that I look back on and I cringe because I wasn’t trying to convince anyone but myself that what I was doing wasn’t wrong. I started to feel guilty for having leather shoes and bags. I had thoughtlessly used living things for something as trivial as fashion.  I knew I was a hypocrite for saying I cared about myself, my earth and my animal friends and it made me angry.

I’m a big fan of accountability. I like owning my behavior, even when it’s hard. I had to be accountable for my behavior. So I changed. I stopped using animals and their reproductive secretions.

I wish I could pinpoint what it was that made me change and bottle it. I suppose I’m a naturally thoughtful person. I suppose it had been building up for quite some time. I don’t think of myself as being sentimental, but I realize I am. I care about what happens to my body, I care about what happens to my planet and I care about animals. Most of all I care that my actions reflect my sentiments.

The most interesting thing about begin vegan is that it is not a diet as far as I’m concerned. Vegan is a philosophy. Veganism suggests that maybe the sentient creatures we share our planet with aren’t here just for us to use.

Not to say that the word “vegan” isn’t used as a marketing tool, but vegan as a philosophy isn’t trying to sell you anything. There’s no book you need to buy or consultant you have to hire. It doesn’t tell you there’s something wrong with you that only this seminar can fix. It tells you that there’s something strange about how people pet their dog with one hand and eat a lamb with the other. It tells you that leather isn’t a luxury for the cow. It tells you that wading through manure isn’t good for the animal or our planet.

I’m grateful for my friends who don’t give me a hard time about my choice and even the ones who do. I’m grateful for my online and real life community of vegans who I can commune with and talk about which vegan nail polish brands are resistant to chipping and peeling and which deodorants keep us fresh and weren’t tested on animals. I’m grateful for knowing what havoc dairy wrecks on my digestive tract. I’m grateful for the joy I get from our adopted companion animals. I’m grateful knowing I can do something to make the world a better place. Thanks to all of you who keep my vegan diet interesting, each with your own flare and specialties to inspire me to branch out and experiment. Thanks to all of you who preach to the coir; sometimes I need a little pep talk. This is what I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving. Thanks to you.

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Relating To Animals

Brent and I have been talking about adopting rabbits for a really long time. We are now the proud adoptive ‘parents’  of a pair of rabbits.

These two are Vlad, a Flemish Giant (the 15lb. buck) and Cassie, a Dutch mix (the 5lb grey and white doe). Rabbits bond for life, kind of like people. They don’t always bond with a member of the opposite gender or even another rabbit; they can also bond with cats or even people. These two met at the shelter where we adopted them. Vlad was found dumped at a construction site and Cassie was found hopping along the side of the road where she’d been abandoned. Vlad is likely the product of a local  breeder whose purchasers hadn’t appreciated that rabbits get aggressive when they enter puberty, not unlike human teenagers. There are 2 breeders in our area and it is also possible he was dumped because he’s small for a breed that’s valued for size. Cassie was probably the unwanted progeny of feckless rabbit owners who didn’t realize that when people say “multiplying like rabbits” they’re referring to a level of fecundity allowing rabbits to become pregnant within thirty minutes of giving birth. YIKES! What I’m getting at is that abandoned animals is a problem in a society where humans think animals exist as meat or entertainment and forget that they are more like us than we [like to] think.

They’re curious, remarkably intelligent, affectionate and wary of humans. I don’t blame them given their history. We’ve mostly earned their trust, but have a ways to go. They’ve become great additions to our family and the most adorable substitutes for garbage disposals EVER! They eat just about anything we would otherwise throw away including stems from broccoli, carrot tops, ends of beets and carrots (sparingly, rabbits are easily diabetic), stems from strawberries and apple skins among other things. We also learned that they love empty unbleached boxes, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, brown paper bags and other recyclables. We’re also composting their poo, hoping for some radtacular tomatoes! Rabbits aren’t for everyone but we’re happy campers. Vegan dog and cat foods are available if that’s more your speed and in your budget. Before you talk about ‘natural diets’ for cats and dogs (cats are obligate carnivores), read the ingredients on your average dry food. You’ll discover that there’s nothing natural about the grain based diets we give dogs and cats (among other animals). These foods are merely nutritionally adequate for your pet’s needs. Also know what “chicken by-product meal” and other unsavory ingredients are usually sweepings from factory slaughterhouse floors, male chicks that aren’t useful for laying eggs and are instead thrown into garbage bins to suffocate, feathers, feces and worse. Also, if you’ve got a dog or a cat, try giving them nutritional yeast. I haven’t met a cat or dog that wasn’t crazy about the stuff.

As far as being vegan and wanting pets goes, think about adopting animals instead of buying your favorite breed. You’re likely to find you favorite breed if you contact the right organization; purebred animals like Vlad are abandoned more often than you might think. Get them fixed. Know that you’re not contributing demand and encouraging people to breed animals  so that they can exploit them. If a breeder tells you they really care about their animals, ask why they’re selling them. This doesn’t have much to do with food but it has a lot to do with being vegan. Isn’t this why we stopped eating them, after all?

This is Christie, signing off.

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Snips and Snails and Sentience

It happens pretty often when I tell people I’m vegan that people dream up a scenario where I’d have to eat meat. “Would you eat meat if you were stranded in an Arctic wasteland?”

Yes, actually, I would. I would eat Brent if it meant one of us would survive (sorry, Brent). But that’s not what’s happening here. Being vegan is a choice that I make every day, every time I walk into a supermarket, a restaurant or a cafeteria.
I make that choice because it’s better for my body, it’s better for the planet and last but not least it’s better for the animals. Fortunately for those of us who find that thinking and learning feel good, life is full of grey areas.

There are things I don’t eat but not because of my primary reasons for being vegan. Things like honey. I don’t think that bees suffer when we steal their hard earned honey. I doubt their sentience… or at least that they can suffer the way a fish does when it suffocates or a cow does spending her life chained to he wall of a concrete barn as we steal her babies and milk. I simply prefer maple syrup. I’m from the Northeast, what can I say.

I don’t eat shrimp, I also doubt their sentience. I don’t eat them because shrimping destroys seahorse habitat and as a long time SCUBA diver I can assure you that seahorses rock. I guess that fits into my ‘environment’ category. Oh well…

I also don’t eat mussels or escargot but I can’t really justify it in the regard that I don’t think that they are sentient, I don’t believe harvesting them destroys the environment and I don’t think they’re bad for my body (though all molluscs contains cholesterol, so it might fit into my personal health category)

So you might be wondering why I’m going on about things that aren’t vegan that I don’t eat for random reasons. There are 2 things I wanted to throw out there to get an idea of how other vegans respond to these issues. Lab grown meat is a phenomenon that would produce cruelty-free meat. Would you eat it if it were commercially available? I know a lot of vegans who would love to eat bacon from time to time. How does this compare? Would the resources be better spent elsewhere?

The other question is something that comes up when I talk to people who are crazy about the paleo diet. Why does the paleo diet ignore insects, worms and other bugs? Eating bugs is a major component of many diets by domesticated and wild humans alike… except in Westernized cultures. Our closest living relatives (evolutionarily speaking) also eat a diet consisting largely of bugs and foraged fruits and vegetables. I’m talking about chimpanzees. They’re kind of amazing… like seahorses. As a vegan, would you eat bugs? Chocolate covered ants? Fried grasshoppers? Are they as capable of suffering as mice? They’re environmentally friendly and inexpensive to grow relative to meat. They can even be grown on lawn clippings, rotting wood and other things humans often consider to be waste. They’re also nutritious. Personally, I doubt their sentience but that remains up for debate. Thoughts? Recommended reading?

This is Christie, signing off.

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Antibiotics in Big Agribusiness

A recent comment reminded me about my major issue with farming animals. This is a system-wide problem and applies to meat, dairy, eggs as well as animals grown for fur or leather. The vast majority of animal products come from large factory farms where antibiotics (among other things) are routinely mixed into feed.

Naturally these drugs end up in meat, milk and eggs but more importantly they end up in manure. Not a lot reaches your body (though some research suggests otherwise) and our sanitary sewer systems have the potential to sterilize it in the case that it does. The manure that the animals depicted below are ankle deep in (or like the lagoon in the photo below, common at pork and poultry operations, is loaded with both microbes and everything that animals have excreted via their manure.

Microbes are great at adapting. They don’t have a lot of genetic baggage to lug around and can make a baby (for them it’s called fission) in as little as 30 minutes given lots of nutrients. What little genetic material they have can mutate rapidly. For creatures with as much genetic material and specific molecular processes and expansive tissue differentiation as humans, we think of mutation as being a bad thing but for bacteria it means being able to adapt quickly to harsh conditions. In this case, harsh conditions is the presence of huge quantities of several kinds of antibiotics.

Because bacteria can reproduce rapidly and mutate rapidly in the presence of copious nutrients (manure), the chance of making a mutant able to withstand all of those antibiotics is very high. The most famous resistant bacteria is methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA which has caused mayhem in hundreds of hospitals, schools, nursing homes and prisons around the world. This particular microbe is resistant to all antibiotics that are related to penicillin (called beta-lactam antibiotics) and those related to Keflex (called cephalospirins). Big agribusiness was quick to point the finger at hospitals where the resistant strains first appeared as the source of the resistant bacteria. Doctors who prescribed antibiotics were blamed for not being judicious about dispensing the life-saving drugs but the reality is that these deadly bacteria came from the hands of farm workers and evolved in the presence of agricultural antibiotics.

What makes this particular strain so dangerous is something called “horizontal gene transfer”. You and I pass our genes vertically, from parent to child. This is one of the drawbacks of having so many cells. Bacteria only have one cell and can actually exchange genes between members of their own species but also between other species, like if I lent you a book that teaches us both how to avoid bear traps. Now you know how to avoid bear traps too! Now imagine that this book can also be read by bears, cats, dogs and elephants. Bear traps would be useless on all these animals too. This is why antibiotic resistance is a big deal; microbes can share these genes so that antibiotics become universally useless.

So whether or not you’re vegan or vegetarian, the next time you think about buying leather or meat or anything that came from an animal, consider whether or not you’ll be able to enjoy it knowing you or someone you care about could die or be seriously injured by a drug resistant infection. Have no illusions about it, new threats arise every day from these practices.

The farm bill is up for discussion this year. It dictates whether or not these practices are acceptable. Big agribusiness lobbyists say animal products can’t be grown ‘efficiently’ without antibiotics, so let your representatives know how you feel about using antibiotics instead of practicing proper animal husbandry.

This is Christie, signing off!

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