Remembering Donald Watson

Donald Watson was born in 1910. Today would have been his 104th birthday (He passed away in 2005, at the age of 95). Watson was a vegetarian for over 80 years and a vegan for 60!

Donald Watson

Donald Watson: September 2, 1910 – November 16, 2005

As a child, growing up in the UK, Watson would visit his uncle’s farm. At age 14, after hearing the screams of a pig being slaughtered (something I’ve also witnessed), he went vegetarian. As an adult, realizing that animal slaughter is a part of large-scale, commercial dairies and egg farms, Watson cut out animal byproducts and went vegan. He wasn’t the first to omit animal products from his life, but he (along with his wife Dorothy) was the first to coin the term vegan.

Watson invented the word vegan by taking the beginning and end of the word vegetarian and fusing them together.

vegan--cut out the crapIn 1944, Watson founded The Vegan Society, along with a handful of other non-dairy vegetarians. The Society, which has stuck with the vision of its founding members (working towards a world in which humans do not exploit other animals), is still going strong today. Watson ran the society, and created the first Vegan Society newsletter.

If you’d like to learn more about the father of modern veganism, check out the interviews and links below.

Resources:

Food for Life interview with Donald Watson

Veg News interview with Donald Watson

BBC obituary for Donald Watson

The Vegan Society website

When animal welfare groups fall short

Many different types of organizations are fighting for animals. Some focus on companion animals, others advocate for wildlife or animals in captivity, like zoos and circuses. Still others promote vegan living. And while many groups don’t always agree with each others methods and priorities, they usually have the same goal: saving animals.

However, the Humane Society of The United States (HSUS) fell short of that goal recently.

I learned that they were the main sponsor of Hoofin’ It, a farm-to-table culinary tour in Denver where, as the website says, “a different hoofed animal will be featured at all of the stops each evening.” That’s right. The Humane Society sponsored an event where people eat animals. Bison on the first night, sheep on the second, pigs on the third, and cows on the last.

hoofin' it webpage

The HSUS celebrates that these animals were raised in a “sustainable” way and weren’t part of the factory farm system. Unbelievable! This highlights the main difference between animal rights organizations and animal welfare groups.

I’m an abolitionist. I don’t believe any animal should be exploited, abused, or eaten. That said, I also recognize that the world won’t wake up vegan tomorrow. So I appreciate efforts to make the miserable lives of farmed animals slightly less hellish. Ban gestation crates for breeding sows. Ban battery cages for laying hens. Ban tail docking, dehorning, and castration without anesthesia. Sure. It helps the animals in the system, but it’s not the answer. It’s not the end goal.

It’s one thing to fight for better conditions for farmed animals. That’s not a stamp of approval. But sponsoring a meat-based event is incredibly irresponsible and near-sighted. The HSUS is condoning the commercial exploitation and killing of animals by being a sponsor. They’ve made strange bedfellows by praising farmers who practice free-range animal-rearing methods while criticizing factory farms.

Let’s pretend Hoofin’ It was about a dog-eating festival, right here in the good ol’ US of A. Would the HSUS be a sponsor? No! Because we love dogs and cats. Sponsoring a let’s-eat-farmed-animals event is speciesist. “Grass-fed” doesn’t change the fact that an animal’s life is cut short by a brutal killing (no, there is no such thing as humane slaughter). Free-range animals fight for their lives just as hard as factory-farmed animals. And the slogan of the festival is “respect your dinner.” What a disgrace!

respect
I don’t usually criticize other groups’ tactics. But in this case, I have to speak up. The HSUS is setting back the vegan movement by condoning meat-eating. Additionally, grass-fed, free-range meat is expensive, so they’re being elitist. Even if everyone in the world could afford this type of meat, there wouldn’t be enough grazing land in the entire world to support it. Obviously the people at HSUS haven’t seen Cowspiracy.

I’m never donating to the HSUS again and I’ve told them. There are a lot of great cat and dog rescue groups that I’ll give to instead: Soi Dog in Thailand rescues street dogs and is fighting the dog meat industry in Southeast Asia, Rudozem is working to save street dogs in Romania, Best Friends Animal Society is a no-kill shelter that works nationwide in the US, the Beagle Freedom Project rescues animals from labs, and Darwin Animal Doctors helps wild animals in the Galapagos by promoting a spay/neuter program for cats and dogs. I’m sure you know of smaller, local groups that are worth supporting.

Furthermore, I’m going to continue to support Vegan Outreach, a group that promotes veganism and doesn’t pander to special interest groups that exploit animals.

I suppose the HSUS is doing what it always has. They don’t rock the boat–and as a result they rake in big donor dollars. They advocate for “pets,” they push limited farmed animal welfare changes, and everyone goes to bed at night feeling good about themselves. Discovering the Hoofin’ It event was like discovering there’s no Santa Claus. It’s disappointing, but I kind of knew it all along.

My vegan tattoo

All my tattoos are vegan–in the sense that I checked with my tattoo artist to make sure the inks didn’t contain animal ingredients. But my latest tattoo is my real vegan tattoo because it’s an homage to three of the most abused animals on the planet: pigs, cows, and chickens.

tattoo detail

I had this done by Suzy Todd at Two Birds Tattoo. Suzy did my bee tattoo and my skull one. She’s a great artist and when I saw in her portfolio, a wonderful, painterly tattoo that spelled “vegan” I knew she’d bring my idea to life.

tattoo and dog

Is a tattoo a form of activism? Before I got this one, I might have said no. But at least once a week I have someone admire this tattoo. Yes, I got it for me, but every time someone asks me about it I have another chance to tell someone a bit of the story behind it.

Sometimes I say, “It’s my vegan tattoo.” Other times I say, “I’m vegan and these are some of the animals I don’t eat,” or “this is milk, meat and eggs in their happy state–the way they should be.” Just a little seed that I plant.

As is often the case with people who have tattoos, I have more ideas in mind and they’ll probably have animal or vegan themes too.

The Seed NYC

Today my parents and I visited The Seed NYC, a plant-based event featuring vegan food and wares, speakers, cooking demos, and more! Even before I arrived, I knew I was almost there. Mercer Street turned into Vegan Street.

vegan cars

The Cinnamon Snail was out front–what a great place to grab a bite. I’d heard excellent things about this award-winning food truck and never had the chance to try their dishes (until today).

Cinnamon Snail

I made a grand entrance:

the seed

Then, I looked at fantastic companies–from artichoke water (very refreshing) to chocolate truffles (deliciously decadent). I saw Upton’s Naturals–makers of my favorite vegan bacon–and Taft Foodmasters, a new-to-me company that makes great seitan for gyros.

Seed food collage

The Regal Vegan, a company that makes great dips and spreads, had a booth too. Their Faux Gras is fantastic!

regaln vegan

I jumped on the chance to buy a Gunas handbag for a fraction of the original price. I liked all their bags, especially this little cross-body bag. My mom liked a neat white purse with a combo-lock closure. I ended up with the yellow and cream number on the rack.

gunas

I said hi to Lois Eastlund, a fantastic NYC-based designer (and of course I bought one of her dresses–that makes four!). I saw Miakoda clothing too (I’ve been following them on Instagram for a while now). Michelle Leon Vegan had fantastic vegan belts made of recycled plastifc bottles. They were soft as suede and included a cool buckle. She carries a line of vegan jewelry too. Gorgeous!

seed clothing collage

There was message gear too, from a number of organizations. Animal advocacy groups I know well were there too: Sea Sheppard, Mercy for Animals, Evolve for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Woodstock Animal Sanctuary. Others, like Darwin Animal Doctors, I didn’t know before today, and I was glad to learn about the great work they do.

Darwin Animal Doctors

I got to hear Jenny Brown, cofounder of Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, speak about farmed animals and why veganism is the compassionate answer to the cruelty in our food system. Earlier this year, I reviewed her book, The Lucky Ones, on this blog, and it was an honor to meet her.

jenny brown

I even got to meet Tha Vegan Dread, who happened to be visiting NYC for his birthday. He said I was cute <blush>. Of course, I asked for a photo with him and his vegan bodybuilder friend.

Tha Vegan Dread

I always love meeting other vegans and learning about new products, sanctuaries, and organizations. If you’re in NYC this time next year, check out The Seed. For more about the experience, check out my mom’s account on her blog.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Last night I attended the Seattle premier of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. And wow, what an eye-opener. It’s the REAL Inconvenient Truth!

Trailer:

The show played to a sold-out crowd at a popular mainstream cinema and was followed by a Q&A with producers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn.

Cowspiracy is a documentary that follows Anderson as he tried to find out why mainstream environmental groups like Greenpeace and The Sierra Club aren’t talking about the main cause of destruction to the planet: animal agriculture.

Even government departments that promote energy savings such as low-flow shower heads and better lightbulbs avoid the issue. There was so much ignorance, denial, and greenwashing that you start to think everyone’s crazy–or maybe you are!

Unlike Meat Your Meat or Earthlings, with graphic scenes and animal rights as the main focus, Cowspiracy is an environmental film–but one that concludes animals suffer greatly in our current food production system and the environment cannot survive with the current state of animal agriculture. Adopting a plant-based diet is the only true way to make a difference and, quite literally, save the world.

Unfortunately, Big-Ag (corporations that run the animal agriculture industries) is a powerful force with gobs of money and loads of politicians and lobbyists on its side.

With fantastic interviews with the likes of Howard Lyman, Will Tuttle, and Michael Pollen (and head-scratching ones from people at Greenpeace, the Department of Water Resources, and The Sierra Club), you’ll follow the plot like a suspense movie.

For a few tidbits (to tie you over until the screening comes to your town), here’s the info about the environmental footprint of a single hamburger:

Here’s a fascinating short clip about how ranching is decimating wildlife:

And finally, a clip about the exploding human population and the farm animals raised for food:

There’s only one short clip in the film that shows overt animal cruelty, and you’ll know when it’s coming if you need to turn away. However, it’s followed by a happy animal scene that still brings joyous tears to my eyes.

This film shares the truth and we shouldn’t turn away from that. Despite the grim realities, there is hope in the message. The remedy is simple:

Go vegan!

cowspiracy cow

Tail docking and ear cropping

Heidi Montag reportedly had 10 cosmetic procedures done in a single day. Well, whatever you think of that (or her), at least she was a consenting adult.

Dogs are sometimes subjected to amputations when they’re just puppies. Two procedures affect dogs of one breed or another–and they’re both unnecessary and cruel.

Tail docking

Docking is the process of severing the end of a dog’s spinal cord at the dock (or rump). It’s done when puppies are just a few days old–usually without anesthetic! Historically, people docked the tails of ratters, fighters and bull baiters (less for an opponent to grab). But two wrongs don’t make a right! Sometimes docking is done to increase speed or prevent injuries “in the field.” Again, if you’re not racing dogs or hunting with them, this is a moot issue.

I got my dog from a rescue when he was five years old. He already had his tail removed. Even people who buy puppies from breeders (something I do not condone) generally buy their dogs at eight weeks of age–too late to save their tails. Docking inflicts unnecessary pain on dogs and can cause nerve problems. Several countries, such as Australia, Norway, and Turkey, ban it outright. Besides, dogs communicate by using their tails and need them to send messages. It’s hard for other dogs to read a docked dog’s body language. And tails help a dog balance–leave them on!

Frankie

Frankie is a rat terrier and has naturally upright ears (one was torn in an accident and doesn’t stand up anymore). His tail was cropped, however.

Ear cropping

Cropping is the amputation of part of the ear in an effort to make the ear erect. A vet performs the procedure while the dog is under local anesthesia (although unscrupulous people have been known to try DIY versions, which can lead to blood loss, infection, mutilation, and death).

Cropping was historically done on dogs used for fighting, with the thinking being the ear flaps are something for the opposing animal to sink his teeth into. That’s why you’ll see certain “tough” breeds with cropped ears–Doberman pinschers, boxers, and pit bulls come to mind. Today, though, it’s a cosmetic procedure.

boxer puppy

This sad-looking puppy has her ears taped while they heal from being cropped.

Cropping is usually done when puppies are between two and three months of age. Sadly, instead of learning to socialize and explore the world, these dogs are recuperating from surgery with splints on their ears. They are bandaged up for three weeks and need twice-daily wound cleanings. So instead of bonding with my dog and helping her learn new things, she gets to associate me with pain and fear. No thanks!

Several countries, including Belgium, Germany, and South Africa have banned ear cropping.

Some dogs, like rat terriers and German Shepherds have naturally erect ears. If you love the look of upright, pointy ears, consider adopting a dog with that style of ear already. If looks are more important to you than the well-being of an animal, may I suggest a classic car instead!

If you don’t like the idea of inflicting unnecessary pain on a dog, you probably aren’t a fan of cropping and docking. Spread the word and stop the cruelty!

The winner of the Farm Dog Naturals giveaway is…

…Anika from Seattle Vegan Score!

giveaway

Congratulations to Anika for winning the Farm Dog Naturals contest I held a couple of weeks ago. Anika tweeted about the giveaway, which got her name added to the draw.

Farm Dog Naturals is an all-natural, all-vegan line of herbal dog care products. You can learn more about them on their website and in my original post in this blog.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the giveaway. If you didn’t win, you can still try Farm Dog Naturals. They sell products on their site and have a list of retailers who carry their products.

Anika has a very special dog. When the products arrive at her place, she’ll use them to pamper Louise.

Louise

Three-year-old Louise knows how important it is to have safe and gentle products that aren’t tested on animals. You see, she is a former laboratory dog and knows first-hand how bad life can be.

I can’t think of a better winner for the contest. Louise will enjoy her calming remedy and soothing salves. Anika can use the sage smudge stick and odor remover.

Farm Dog products

Congratulations again Anika and Louise!

 

Veganniversary

I missed my vegan anniversary (veganniversary?). April marked 14 years that I’ve been vegan.

In my mind, that’s a good thing. Losing track means being vegan is no biggie; it’s a natural part of my life. I’m not trying hard to make it to the next milestone. It is part of who I am.

vegan cake

Of course it’s vegan! (I took this picture at Violet Sweet Shoppe–and then I added the 4)

I remember the date, only because April is the month I moved from Canada to the USA. I’d read John Robbins’ Diet for a New America in 1998 and immediately cut out milk. I stopped eating eggs (except the ones hidden in baked goods). Cheese was the one thing I hung onto.

But a big move, an empty fridge, new grocery stores, restaurants, friends, and habits. What a perfect time to draw a line in the sand, step over it, and go vegan.

I’ve never successfully reinvented myself (partly because I bring myself with me everywhere I move); however, I did use April 2000 as a time to reinvent my eating habits.

I was already a staunch animal advocate and long-time vegetarian. Moving and “starting over” was a great impetus for taking the big leap.

After I settled down in Seattle, I connected with the Northwest Animal Rights Network (NARN), met some terrific (smart, funny, passionate) animal rights people, and plugged into AR events around town.

That was it. It stuck. But it wasn’t a chore. It was–and is–an uplifting experience. Being vegan fills me with joy! I’m healthier for it, and I know I’m making a difference to animals who have no voice.

Sure, I’ve seen my share of unspeakable horrors in undercover videos and exposés. I’ve read about injustices and cruelty to animals that I never could have imagined in my worst nightmares. But I need to know the truth–and fight for those who can’t. Turning away doesn’t stop the cruelty.

I’ve also learned that it’s easy to burn out. So I make sure I lead a balanced life, complete with hobbies, interests, friends, and work. As important as it is to fight for animals, I know it’s also important to unwind, relax, recharge, and enjoy life.

I really believe we’re on the cusp of the next big social justice movement. I want to be on the right side of history. When generations from now, people ask why these evils happened, and who fought for the animals, I will know that I did. In some small way, I will have played a part in changing the world.

Grandiose? Perhaps. But hope and optimism fuel me. Well, that and delicious vegan food.

Maximizing your impact

I’m always trying to help animals. I adopted a dog and three cats. I give to animal organizations, and I don’t wear or eat animals or support companies that exploit them.

keys

It bothers me to see animals suffer; I even save worms if I see them struggling on the sidewalk. I haven’t gone to the gym in a while, but my keychain gym card makes a great worm scoop. I can’t walk away without doing something.

Still, I find myself thinking about how to do more. I write letters, fill out petitions, and I sometimes volunteer with NARN, a local animal rights organization, so I can tell others about a vegan life.

With ten billion animals killed for food in the USA every year, it’s easy to see why being vegan is the biggest way to make a difference. Well, that and getting others to go vegan!why vegan

That’s why I like to support Vegan Outreach. They’re a group that distributes booklets around the USA–and around the world. NARN gives out Vegan Outreach booklets at tabling events too. Leafleting makes a big difference and is changing hearts and minds. Here’s how:

People who get booklets often reduce their meat consumption, and sometimes go vegetarian or even vegan. For every two booklets handed out, about one animal is spared. And since each vegan doesn’t eat about 30 intensely confined animals a year, handing out 60 booklets gets results equivalent to one vegan.

With all the expenses of running the organization included, Vegan Outreach gets one booklet distributed per every 32 cents they receive. So based on the data that has come back so far, for about 64 cents, you can spare one animal from suffering. For less than $20, you can help get booklets in enough people’s hands to make the difference that one vegan makes. It’s safe to say leafleting is a great way to help a lot of animals.

If you’ve tried and tried to get your friends of family to go vegan, take a break, and hand out leaflets to strangers. They might be more receptive! Or, send a few dollars to Vegan Outreach so they can supply their awesome volunteers with booklets.

The future is vegan!

International Respect for Chickens Day

Today, Star Wars fan and punsters are repeating “May the Forth” be with you. I’ll add “May you go Forth with kindness for chickens.” For today is also International Respect for Chickens Day, a project launched by United Poultry Concerns.

chicken on the go at Pasado'sI’ve met many people who tell me they’ve cut back on red meat or switched from beef to chicken. Whether for health or ethics, this isn’t a good strategy. Chickens are one of the most abused animals on the planet–from the eggs we eat to the way their tiny bodies are stressed in the process of “raising” them for meat.

I’m against eating any animals, but what strikes me as odd about switching from beef to chicken is that because chickens are small, so many more lives are lost to harvest the same quantities of meat.

Here are some facts about chickens that show how wonderful they are and why they shouldn’t become a meal:

Hens are terrific mothers – Hens lay a clutch of eggs and care for them by keeping them warm under their bodies and carefully turning them over several times a day. When the checks hatch, hens protect their young and hide them under their wings when predators are around.

Roosters are great protectors – Roosters watch over their flocks, alert hens to danger, and will fight off predators. If roosters find food, they will call their families over to share the treat.a hen in Hawaii

Chickens are smart – They communicate, they can count, they express their feelings, they feel joy, pain and sorrow. They will help other animals, and if given the chance, are wonderful members of a family. They are as social and individual as any dog or cat.

I heard about a chicken who adopted a duck egg. She took care of the egg, just as she did with the other eggs she laid. When the duckling hatched, she walked him over to water, so he could swim. She loved and cared for that duck, and she knew he wasn’t a chick.

Nine billion chickens are killed for food every year in the US alone–and they are exempt from animal cruelty laws.

What to do?

  • Please don’t eat chickens or their eggs. There are so many alternatives like Beyond Chicken, Ener-G Egg Replacer. I wrote about egg substitutes earlier on this blog. And UPC has a wealth of chicken-free recipes too.
  • Contact your federal and state senators and urge them to ban debeaking and battery cages, and to include poultry under the Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Tell your friends and family about how wonderful chickens are and that they shouldn’t be eaten.

May is International Respect for Chickens Month, so let’s keep the momentum and spread the word about these wonderful animals who are so mistreated.