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How to Plan a Vegan Wedding

I’m sorry for my incredible inactivity these past several months. Wow. I mean, I have been M.I.A.  But I have a somewhat reasonable excuse, you guys:  in September, I got engaged!   And since we didn’t want to have a long engagement, I’ve been plugging away at planning a wedding to take place in early May. 

The title of this post makes it sound like I actually have a clue as to how to plan a vegan wedding. But guess what? I don’t. It’s been kind of a disaster.  Even in a city the size of Minneapolis, it’s been difficult.  Having my wedding here, as opposed to in my small hometown of 130 people, was partially because of my strong desire to make sure my wedding was vegan. I figured if I had it out in the sticks, the chance of a caterer knowing how to prepare vegan food would be slim to none. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was that I might run into the same problems in Minneapolis.  I cannot TELL YOU how many negative responses I got from venues/caterers about having a vegan wedding.  It was enough to drive me bonkers. It was also why it took us almost 3 months to find a venue: I was not willing to settle for non-vegan food, and was not willing to settle for sub-par vegan food.

Several caterers “kindly” suggested that “making” everyone eat vegan food was impolite or selfish of me.  Some more tactfully suggested that I serve non-vegan food “as an option at least”.  Here is one of my favorite replies from a venue/caterer:

“Very few venues are accustomed to providing vegan cuisine. We may have a request for one or two entrées but it is still rare to provide the entire guest list with vegan or vegetarian as the only option. I have worked on several and found that some of the guests were dissatisfied.  It is your day after all but when inviting a guest list as vast as 130 I would encourage you to consider your guests needs as well. For you this may be a perfectly viable option but as a planner I feel the need to point out things that concern me.”

Thanks! I didn’t ask for your bleeping opinion!  And I did not realize that my guests NEED to eat meat.  That was news to me.

And from a bakery (after I requested information about vegan cakes ONLY):

We do suggest that you order a small vegan cake tier for vegan attendees to enjoy and have a non vegan option as well.

Oh really? I didn’t ask for any suggestions!

My fiance has repeatedly reminded me that not everyone is comfortable with veganism, and even more people view it as a personal preference, not a value system.  But when it comes down to it, I don’t see why I should spend $10,000 on meat, dairy & eggs  for one day for my guests when I am morally opposed to buying it for myself or having it in my house.  It’s like asking for pork at a Muslim wedding, or expecting a full bar at the wedding of someone who’s recently entered Alcoholics Anonymous or something.

And lest anyone think I’m being “selfish”, I just have this to say:  My wedding day should be one of the happiest days of my life.  I get really sad, though, when I think about animal suffering in the world. Like, really sad. And if at our reception I looked around and saw animal flesh on everyone’s plates, knowing that I had paid for it and condoned it, it would diminish the happiness I would feel on that day.  I want our wedding day to be a peaceful, love-filled day.   I don’t want death & suffering to be a part of the equation if I can at all help it. And it turns out I can!  We found a caterer who was happy to tweak some of their recipes for us to make them vegan, AND they are also using one of my recipes for one of the entrée choices.  I do not think our guests will be disappointed.

And if they are?  Well, we didn’t invite anyone to our wedding solely to have a free dinner. We invited them because they’ve been an important part of our lives and we want them there to witness our marriage.  If all they came for was the free food, then I guess we misjudged them.

So….this was supposed to be about how to plan a vegan wedding, wasn’t it? Well, here’s my advice, in closing:

1. Expect to encounter some resistance - from your parents, grandparents, guests, caterers, bakers, etc. SOMEONE will complain to you about it or have other “suggestions”.  Try to stay calm about it. (I was awful at this step, by the way. More than once I ended up in tears or on the verge of throwing a big ol’ hissy fit.)  But TRY.

2.  Keep your focus on the reason you want a vegan wedding. If, like me, it’s because animal suffering is unbearable to you, then STAND YOUR GROUND.  My parents offered me money, but then said they’d like me to have a non-vegan option (they were nice about it, but they suggested it). I told them very nicely that I would only accept their money if they would respect that it was extremely important to me to have an all vegan wedding. I said I totally respected their right to attach conditions to their money, but that I also had to be true to myself. And if that meant having a cheaper wedding, I was okay with that. In the end, they said it was up to me how to spend it.

3.  Have a calm, rational, 10 second speech ready to go for any nay-sayers.  Most people are disarmed with a simple, “having a vegan wedding is central to my value system, and it’s really important to me. I hope you can respect that.”  Or something like that.  Most vendors aren’t going to be pushy about it after that, but you might just have to say it. Otherwise I think sometimes caterers thought that I was vegan for health reasons – in which case it (to me at least) doesn’t make as much sense that I would be hell-bent on having a vegan wedding.

4.  Know that you can provide AWESOME food for your guests that isn’t full of animal products - you may just need to search a bit harder!  But it’ll be worth it. The animals will thank you! 

5.  Lastly, your guests aren’t there for the food.  They are there to support you and your future partner.  Anyone you think might complain: off the list! :-)

Why Do Animals Exist?

This weekend I got into a rather passionate debate with some friends of friends about animal rights. One of them was pretty educated about the evils of factory farming, and said that she didn’t eat much meat because she had to know where it came from. Her husband on the other hand, didn’t know much about factory farming at all, though he was curious about what I had to say and was a good, respectful listener.

After a lot of back and forth about how animals are treated, how ethical meat consumption is, and why I’m vegan, we ended up with them stating that animals wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for humans to eat them – as in, they were put on this earth specifically for us to use as we see fit.  I said that I think animals exist for their own purposes, not for ours.  They exist to be pigs and cows and chickens and zebras and elephants.  I asked them why lions exist, since we don’t eat them (okay, maybe some humans eat lions, but I don’t think many).

“To eat zebras”, they replied.

“Um, ok, why do dogs exist?”

“To be our companions and protectors.”

“So why do humans exist?”

“To eat animals.”

“Wait – so everything on this earth exists to either eat other animals or to be

Here's my l'il doggy, just being his doggy self!

eaten by them? Or apparently, in the case of dogs, to be our buddies?”

They didn’t really have an answer to that.

It is kind of weird to think that we’re all just here to eat each other, isn’t it?  I mean, to be fair, I don’t know why the hell we’re all here either, but I certainly do not think it’s to eat or be eaten.

They also tried to tell me that veganism is no better because of all the animals that are killed in the process of harvesting vegetables and grains.  UGH. I am so tired of hearing that one.  Let’s walk through this: yes, small animals and insects are killed in modern agriculture in the planting and harvesting of various crops.  Those crops are then largely fed to “food animals”, which are then slaughtered and fed to humans.  So, logically speaking, we could kill significantly fewer animals by simply harvesting those crops and eating them directly, could we not?    And isn’t that better from an animal rights perspective than the alternative?  Yes, yes it is.  Plus, I don’t claim to be perfect – I step on ants and insects all the time, I’m sure. I hit them with my car.  I live my life trying to do the least harm possible, but I can’t claim I’ve done no harm to animals.

It gets exhausting fielding these same questions again and again to people, and yet I have to remind myself that I once thought that way, and if no one had ever explained things to me, I’d still be eating the standard American diet – SAD!  Do I think this couple is going to be vegan now?  Heck no, but at least I tried to explain my perspective to them, to show them that not everyone thinks that animals are here just for our selfish human purposes. Maybe eventually it will sink in, maybe it won’t, but I did what I could!

So, friends, why do we humans exist anyway?

The much-hyped Kentucky Derby will be taking place this Saturday, May 1st.  It seems like every where I turn, I’m hearing or reading something about it: the contenders, the odds, the wagers, the jockeys, the hats, and so on and so forth. And yet very little is said about the cruelty of it all.

Horse racing is a brutal “sport”, and it starts with the breeding of these champion racers.  Modern race horses are  genetically engineered for speed instead of health and longevity.  Trainers begin running the horses at age 1 or 2 when their bones are still too brittle to handle their massive body weight.  They are so in-bred and over-trained that many of them suffer from broken bones, viral diseases and devastatingly painful conditions such as bleeding lungs and gastric ulcers.  Many of these beautiful animals are quite literally raced to death.  According to In Defense of Animals, roughly 800 race horses die from their injuries on race tracks each year in the US alone.  Another 3,500+ are so severely injured they cannot finish their races.  Thousands more are bred and discarded for not being fast or strong enough.

Kentucky Derby contender Eight Belles, moments before her tragic death

Race horses are often pumped full of drugs to make them run faster and to ignore their pain.  When they break a leg or fail to win (to create a “return” on their owners’ investment), they are discarded – often sent to slaughter, a  profitable end for the owner, but a brutal one for the animal.  When not racing, these horses spend up to 23 hours of their day stabled, deprived of the herd contact and freedom of movement that would ensure physical and mental health.  None of us would consider that to be acceptable treatment for our beloved pet cats and dogs, yet we look the other way when there’s profit or entertainment involved for us.

Horse racing is not a sport.  Sports are activities in which the individuals involved choose to participate.  Race horses have no choice.  Surely horses love to run when given the freedom to do so, but forcing them to run on artificial surfaces known to increase injuries to their already fragile legs is inhumane.  The whole industry from start to finish is inhumane, and this Saturday, millions of people will be watching the Derby, betting on it, and perpetuating the cruelty inherent in it.  Don’t be one of them.  The horse racing engine will keep speeding along until we humans stand up and demand that it stop.  The victims of this “sport” cannot speak for themselves. It is up to us to do it for them.

Veganism in the Workplace

After a 7 month hiatus from this blog, I wonder: is anyone still out there?  Anyone waiting for me to post?  I bet you are just beside yourself with curiosity about where I’ve been.  Answer: first I was trying to get a new job, then I got a new job, and now I’m BUSY as heck.  The truth of the matter is that while I was in the midst of my job search, I felt the need to make this blog private.  I didn’t want potential employers to be able to find it and not hire me on the basis of my ethics as they pertain to food.  And yes, I realize that sounds strange because you’d think any employer would appreciate someone with such strong ethics, but that’s not exactly how things always work in the conservative finance industry.  Sigh.

At any rate, I wanted to discuss veganism in the work place a bit.  I wish I were lucky enough to be able to work somewhere where being vegan was the norm.  Or at least where telling someone you were vegan didn’t result in very shocked stares and a million questions about how it is even possible to not eat animal products.  I had been at my last job for 7.5 years, during which I made the transition from meat-loving omnivore to vegetarian to vegan.  My bosses thought I was a little nutty, and one of them asked me every day if I was having tofu for lunch.  Because that’s all vegans eat, you know.

Coming to this new job, I am interacting with a much larger group of people.  Of the other 24 people in my department not one of them is even vegetarian, much less vegan.  This presents both an opportunity for education and sometimes awkwardness.  I’m probably not making the situation any better by having an 8×10 framed picture of a rooster in my office – this picture to be exact:

Roscoe the Rooster, Kindred Spirits Sanctuary

This was a Valentine’s Day gift from my boyfriend.  I took this picture when I was visiting Kindred Spirits Sanctuary and he thought it was so great he framed it and said I should bring it to work.  This is the largest picture I have in my office.  It prompts a fair number of questions and/or reactions.

One man said “you like chickens?”.  I said “yeah, I do.”  He replied, “oh you should have grown up on my farm then. We had 400 of them.  Slaughtered them ourselves!”  Um….not exactly what I meant when I said I like chickens.

Other than that, so far no one has really been insensitive.  They’ve mostly just been sort of curious or confused.  I’m okay with that. I don’t mind being the “weirdo”, and I figure as they get to know me, they maybe won’t think being vegan is so strange after all (that’s the goal anyway).  I don’t expect anyone to convert or anything, but it’s kind of nice to be able to show them that being vegan isn’t some big sacrifice or something.

I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s experiences in the work place.  Is your work place vegan friendly?  Are you the only vegan?  If so, how do you handle that?

Let’s Catch Up!

There have been SO many things I’ve wanted to write about lately, but I’ve let summer get the best of me and been a bad little blogger. In an effort to “catch up”, here are just a few of the things I’ve been thinking about the last couple months:

  • If you haven’t seen the documentary THE COVE yet, you need to.  It is a haunting, disturbing, thrilling, and often heartbreaking film about the dolphin trade and consequent slaughter in Japan.  While it will probably make you cry if you are anything like me, it will also inspire you to see how passionate the dolphin advocates are about this issue. They will stop at nothing to end this injustice, and that depth of passion just isn’t prevalent enough. The LA Times wrote up a good review of it if you want to read more.
  • Alec Baldwin wrote a great piece for the Huffington Post about the vilification of Michael Vick, and how in a lot of ways it’s hypocritical of a lot of people – specifically, if you are a meat eater, a leather-wearer, and an animal user.  Not that what Vick did can be in any way condoned, mind you, but that we all need to look at what we do day-to-day to contribute to animal suffering, and ask ourselves if it’s really worth it?  Are dogs any more special than pigs, cows, turkeys?  Should we condemn Michael Vick while letting ourselves off the hook just because we aren’t the ones directly torturing these animals?
  • This NYTimes.com article about the treatment of aging horses that have been used for racing is a great read.  It talks about the need for retirement homes, essentially, for these majestic animals.  About 3000 race horses are retired each year, and right now only about 1/3 of those animals find such homes. Most are abandoned or euthanized, or sometimes sold into slaughter.  Quite the “thank you” for years of making their owners mvdayposteroney, huh?
  • As for our human animal counterparts, one of the stories that really got my attention this summer was about the pervasiveness and brutality of rape in Congo.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Congo this summer is what first brought my attention to this matter, and I haven’t been able to stop reading about it.  It is devastating.  While women are the main victims of these crimes, Congolese men are increasingly being targeted.  One organization that is trying to help victims (primarily women) there is called VDay, a non profit established by Eve Ensler, who wrote The Vagina Monologues (a show I highly recommend).  Check out her site and see how you can help.

With that, I promise to post more regularly – enjoy the reading!  Oh, and check out my new food blog: Veg Out With Us!

What Matters to Animals…

sadpigThe weekend of June 13th and 14th I went to an animal rights conference in the Twin Cities called Their Lives, Our Voices.  Much like last year, it was awesome.  I took notes and hope to write a few entries on what I learned there.   For now, I’m going to start with the very last presentation (because I forgot my notebook so I don’t have notes, but it’s still fresh in my memory!) which was given by pattrice jones.  It was called “In Defense of Actual Animals”, and it was fantastic.  This post won’t do it justice, but I’ll try anyway!

As I sit here writing this, animals across the world are being slaughtered by the thousands every second.  Sometimes I think about that and feel completely overwhelmed. As I’m sitting here in my comfy chair, chickens and pigs and cows and so many other kinds of animals are being strung up by their legs and getting their throats cut.  Right now, someone is beating a dog, or torturing a cat or a horse.  Someone is doing an experiment on a chimp or a rabbit or a rat. And here I sit.

Pattrice’s speech made me even more cognizant of these things when she said that “what matters to animals is what actually happens to them”.  Being vegan is helping and is necessary if we’re going to save future animals, but right now animals are still dying by the billions – and me being vegan doesn’t matter one iota to those animals right now.  Being vegan is vital…but it’s not enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I never thought that when I went vegan I would be saving the world or saving all the world’s animals or anything. I know that animals will still be dying for food every day. Being vegan, though, allows me to feel at peace with my own conscience when I look in the mirror every day because I’m staying true to my values.  That feel-good deed, though, isn’t important to the chickens whose throats are being slit right now.  What matters to them is what’s actually happening to them RIGHT NOW.

How very simple!  And yet…I had become somewhat complacent in my activism. I thought that if I could at least get the word out about veganism, or encourage people to reduce their animal products intake, I would be doing enough.  But it’s not enough if you’re a cow awaiting imminent death in the slaughter line.  To her, my veganism doesn’t mean a thing. She will still die today, and someone will eat her flesh tomorrow.

We need to do more. We need to help the animals who are currently suffering in the system.  What matters to them is that our actions SAVE THEM.

Now THAT seems even more overwhelming, doesn’t it?  I mean, I’d LOVE to start up a sanctuary right now, and open it up to those suffering animals tomorrow.  But there’s no way I can do that. So, what can we do?

Pattrice offered up some suggestions, after noting that the reason Big Ag is so powerful is because they have so much money – raising and killing animals for food is profitable business. We need to make it unprofitable. Part of that is decreasing demand – something that hasn’t worked so far (on a pure numbers basis) despite all the vegan converts. Meat consumption just keeps going up and up because they’re finding new markets and getting their current customers to eat event more meat.   We do need to continue to get the word out to help decrease desad_dog_by_anapires2mand, but we also need to increase their costs of doing business.  Passing animal welfare legislation (like the recent victory in CA) is a start, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

We also need to use our individual strengths to help animals as much as we can now. Saving one dog or goat or chicken matters a lot to that one dog or goat or chicken, and that is kind of a powerful thought. We may not be able to save them all, but if you can take in one dog off the street and find her a new home, you’ve made a huge difference to that one dog.

Given my current living situation – a condo association that dictates how many animals I can keep in my home – I’m at capacity and can’t really take in a bunch of strays.   Until my situation changes, I’m brainstorming of ways that I could help animals directly now.  If anyone has a suggestion, I’d love to hear it!  And, if you currently have the capacity or ability to take in foster animals or save animals in some other way, please consider how much your efforts would mean to those animals!

This video nicely highlights the insanity in killing “racing” horses when they become injured.  I think my favorite parts are when Shawn’s mother says “it’s just so expensive to keep a lame gymnast”; and then when the host asks her if  Shawn was in a lot of pain at the end, and she replies, “oh no, no, no – there was no pain – just a quick shot to the back of the head.”

more about “Gymnast Shawn Johnson Put To Sleep Af…“, posted with vodpod

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