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Posts Tagged ‘Veganism’

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! 🙂

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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?

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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!

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Barnivore – This website can help you determine which beers/wines/alcohols are vegan and which aren’t.

The Recycled Retriever – Here you can find eco-friendly gear for your fur-kids.

The Discerning Brute – “food, fashion & etiquette for the ethically handsome man”; a website that shows men they can still be fashionable and vegan!

The Girlie Girl Army – “your guide to glamazon living”; a website featuring eco-friendly news, food & fashion for women.

A Scent of Scandal – Buy 100% soy wax candles.  There are a few scents for which part of proceeds even benefit Farm Sanctuary.

Sanctuary Tails – This is a blog written by some of the people who care for animals at Farm Sanctuary. They talk about animal cruelty issues, but also profile rescued animals – my favorite part.  There are some very touching stories, and it’s so nice to read about animals being well cared for when it seems like all you ever hear are horror stories.

I hope you enjoy these sites as much as I do!

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This is one of my favorite responses from omnivores when they find out that I would love it if the whole world stopped eating animals. “But what would we do with all the animals that are currently on farms? They’d have to die–we can’t possibly keep them all around if they’re going to serve no purpose.*  Is that what you want? You want all the farm animals to just die?”

Um…okay, really?  Yes, that is why I’m vegan – because I’d like all the farm animals to DIE!  Does that even make sense?

First of all, people aren’t going to go vegan over night – at least not the entire population. These kinds of things don’t just happen like that.  If they did, I guess I’d have to give some pretty serious thought to what would happen to the billions upon billions of animals that are currently suffering on farms everywhere.  Until that’s a real possibility, I’m not really going to stress too much about what we’d do with all the now “useless” animals.

Secondly, the fact of the matter is that many farmed animals could likely survive if they were left to their own devices.  Those that couldn’t – like “broiler” chickens – would only find it difficult because of human intervention in their breeding.  Chickens who are bred for meat grow so large so quickly that even with the best of care, they do not live long.  My sister lives in Tampa, FL and she sees wild chickens all the time.  They live like any other normal wild bird, and are happy and free. Many farmed animals would be able to do the same if given the opportunity.

The last thing I’d say on this issue is that sometimes people say that these animals wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t breed them and eat them, and isn’t it better to have existed just for a little while than to never be born at all?  To that I’d like to say a BIG FAT NO.  If an animal never existed, s/he would never know s/he never existed, but when an animal lives in pain and fear every day of his/her short life, and then is brutally slaughtered at the hands of humans, s/he knows it.  That’s no way to live.  So, do I want pigs, cows, and chickens to exist?  Of course I do – but I want their existences to be ones of joy and comfort. And I don’t want them to die just because humans like the way they taste!

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* Someone actually told me that animals would “serve no purpose” if humans didn’t use them for food, clothing, etc. I did not do a very good job of hiding my shock.

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polarSometimes being an animal rights advocate is emotionally exhausting.  Today is one of those days.

Last night I was watching Animal Planet, as I often do, and the show was about polar bears in the wild.  There was a  mama polar bear and her 2 cubs who were not yet full grown, but also not tiny. Due to lack of food, a big male polar bear was following the threesome in the hopes that he could eat one of the cubs (apparently they will eat their own kind if they can’t find other food).  The mama and her cubs walked for hours trying to get away from him, but finally one of the cubs collapsed from exhaustion and hunger.   The mama bear was trying to get him back up but she couldn’t and eventually she had to leave him so that she could protect her other cub and herself.  I had to turn the channel before the big male bear got to the dying cub.  And then I cried.  Yes, I cried at the cruelty of nature.

What immediately hit me after getting so emotional about this is how nature is kind in comparison to the horrible cruelties humans impose on non-human animals, especially “food” animals.  That cub probably lived just as long as any pig does on today’s factory farms…and he at least lived his short life FREE.  He knew the love of his mother, got to swim, play, and run around.  Chickens, turkeys, pigs and other farmed animals get nothing of the sort. They spend their lives cooped up in tiny cages, feeling pain and sorrow every day.

So then I got even sadder.  Then today I read a story about a man who broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house and put her 5 month old puppy in the oven and killed him, and I got EVEN SADDER.  I mean, how can a human being be so incredibly heartless? HOW?

Anyway, the thing about caring so much about animals is that it lends itself all too easily to sadness.  I still have not figured out how to completely combat this.  How do you find the energy sometimes to go about your every day life when you know how much suffering there is in the world around you – human and non-human?  And how do we ever know if we’re doing enough?  The truth is that I never feel like I’m doing enough.  I’m vegan, and I educate others about veganism; I write this blog; I volunteer for an animal rights organization doing office work and event planning; and I have a dog and a cat whom I love dearly….but none of it really feels like enough.  Will it ever?  Will I ever hear a story about animal cruelty and not feel like surely I’m NOT doing enough if things like that are still happening?  I don’t know.  Anyone have any thoughts/advice?

(Sorry this post is such a downer….I guess it’s just one of those days.)

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Vegan Betty Crocker

vegan-cheesecake-16 I never used to bake. Ever.  I think there were 2 main things that kept me from baking: 1) baked goods only lead me to eating more junk food, and 2) eggs.  Eggs gross me out – always have.  Every time I would eat them in my pre-vegan days, I’d feel sick afterward.  Of course I couldn’t taste them in a cake or anything, but I didn’t really like working with them anyway.  On top of it, I never really felt a need to “prove” myself as a baker – I just didn’t care.

Well, folks, times have changed. I LOVE baking now.  I can’t stop doing it.  My friends and family are shocked and my boyfriend has started calling me Vegan Betty Crocker.  It’s gotten sort of out of control.  I’ve made 2 cheesecakes, strawberry shortcakes with vegan whipped cream, (those recipes are divine!) and a chocolate cake with vegan cream cheese frosting in the last 2 weeks.  If I keep this up, I’ll be HUGE in no time.

But, back to the reason for this post: Lemon Cheesecake from the Joy of Vegan Baking.  YUM.  You see, cheesecake used to be my favorite dessert.  There is this trendy little cafe not far from where I went to undergrad, and sometimes I’d go down there, get a piece of cheesecake and a latte (how yuppy is that??) and study for a couple hours.  As a vegan, I’ve missed cheesecake, and was doubtful that I’d ever have really good cheesecake again.  All the recipes I’ve seen online are tofu-based, and that just didn’t appeal to me.  Then I found the recipe for Lemon cheesecake in the Joy of Vegan Baking. I tried it out this week and it’s getting great reviews from my omni family! You NEED to try it (I can’t find it online, so you might have to buy her book – but it’s a great investment).

There is nothing more satisfying that getting a bunch of omnivores to declare how delicious your VEGAN baking is….and yes, that might be part of the reason I bake now.  What can I say? I’m competitive as hell!

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