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

Dining at Café Flora

One of the auction items I won at the Hoot! chimpanzee fundraiser was a Café Flora gift card. So last Saturday, I went out with my husband to enjoy dinner at Flora, a great vegetarian restaurant in Seattle’s Madison Vally neighborhood. I’m not the only one who thinks that: They were voted best vegetarian restaurant in 2014 by Seattle Magazine. Travel + Leisure Magazine also lists them as one of the top vegetarian restaurants in the US.

The only way they could be better is if they were an all-vegan restaurant. Still, there were lots of vegan options and we had a great time.

We started with drinks–and they didn’t disappoint. Hubby stuck with his martini and I tried a refreshing springtime mule, a vodka-based cocktail with home-made ginger beer and raspberry bitters.

flora drinks

We gobbled up the paté platter so fast I didn’t get to take a picture. It centered around a lentil-pecan paté and included red onion confit, pickles, olives, red pepper and apples.

I suspected I might want dessert too, so I made a salad my main course. Vegan Caesar salads are few and far between so this was a real treat! Hubby loved his Italian black bean burger.

flora salad

Several vegan dessert options tempted me, but the chocolate brownie with mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate sauce was irresistible.

flora brownie

On the way out, I saw the Café Flora Cookbook on display, along with a fantastic vegan children’s book: That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. I bet the cookbook is fantastic, and I recommend the kids’ book for all the little animal lovers in your life. I’m glad Flora had a copy on display. It’s a great way to talk to kids about the ways animals are exploited and how to help.

flora books

If you’re in Seattle, check out Café Flora!

Another reason stop eating shrimp

I reviewed some vegan alternatives to seafood by Sophie’s Kitchen a few weeks ago. In addition to singing the praises of their products, I listed a few reasons why eating sealife isn’t a great idea:

  • Harvesting wild animals–like calamari, shrimp and some types of cod–is done with trawling, a process that basically rakes up all life forms the sea floor, killing everything, and creating dead zones.
  • For every pound of shrimp, 10 pounds of bycatch (species people weren’t trying to catch) are killed.
  • Farmed fish is usually raised in water treated with pesticides and antibiotics.
  • It takes two pounds of wild fish to feed one pound of farmed shrimp.

But I’ve learned something new that I can add to the list: eyestalk ablation.

Eyestalk ablation is as gross as it sounds. It’s the process of removing one or both eyestalks from female shrimps and prawns–and it’s done in almost every shrimp reproduction facility in the world! The goal of ablation is to stimulate the female shrimp to develop mature ovaries and spawn.

In the wild, shrimp sexually mature shrimp with eyes by Tomasz Sienickion their own, but captive conditions prevent them from developing mature ovaries. Even the types of shrimp that could develop ovaries and spawn in captivity have their eyestalks removed because it increases egg production. There’s detailed info online about the how and why behind the phenomenon.

The science behind ablation isn’t the interesting part. I’m saddened to learn of yet another way humans manipulate animals for profit. Apparently tiger prawns can regenerate their eyestalks, but that’s not the point.

We don’t need to eat shrimp or prawns. In fact, it’s better we don’t (as bottom feeders, they’re actually toxic). They’re another example of species that are exploited. They may not be cute or cuddly, but they don’t deserve to be mutilated and blinded–just so people can eat them at cocktail parties!

Knowing about this form of cruelty makes me say “bring on the vegan options!”

What’s wrong with dairy?

“I could never live without cheese.”

That’s what a lot of people tell me when they find out I’m vegan. I used to feel the same way. Today, cheese has a different connotation for me and I not only don’t miss it, I loathe it.

For 18 years I was a vegetarian. If people asked me if I ate cheese and drank milk I answered, “yes, because the cows don’t get killed.” I was ignorant and completely clueless to reality. I wish someone had told me the truth.

I don’t eat dairy now because cows DO suffer and die and also because it’s disgusting and unhealthy. Here’s what the dairy industry doesn’t want you to know:

Cows need to be pregnant before they lactate

Just like a human female, cows don’t “give milk” until after they have a baby. And the dairy corporation can’t have all those babies drinking their profits. That milk is for people! In order to keep milk in production, cows are kept pregnant.

Norman was rescued from the veal industry and lives at Farm Sanctuary

Norman was rescued from the veal industry and lives at Farm Sanctuary

Calves are stolen away from their mothers

Cows don’t give us their milk. We take it away from them. Just like we take away their babies. Normally a calf nurses for up to a year, but usually within a day, calves are either killed or auctioned off for veal (if they’re “useless” males), or separated into pens where they can grow up into milk producers to replace their mothers.

Dairy cows are sold for meat

After four or so years of constantly being pregnant and lactating, a cow’s milk production goes down. She isn’t profitable anymore. She is “spent.” Dairy cows are auctioned off and turned into cheap, ground beef. They’re normal lifespans are closer to 20 years.

dairy cow

Fanny, a “spent” milker, was rescued by Farm Sanctuary too

Milk doesn’t do a body good

Milk will turn a small calf into a 1000-pound cow. It does the job well, but I don’t want to grow that big. I don’t want to drink hormones and antibiotics. I don’t want to fuel disease. Milk has too much protein, and we excrete the excess–along with calcium from our bones! It taxes our kidneys, and increases our risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke. I get calcium just like cows do: from dark leafy greens. Milk doesn’t have fiber, but it is full of cholesterol and fat. Who needs it (well, besides cows)?

It doesn’t matter if milk comes from a small, organic dairy farm or a large corporation. These things remain constant:

  • Cows are kept constantly pregnant;
  • Calves are taken from their mothers, killed, sold for veal, or raised to be milkers;
  • “Spent” dairy cows end up as hamburgers.

I wouldn’t drink milk from a dog or a monkey so why drink milk from a cow? After infancy, no other animal even drinks milk at all–not even from their own species!

So next time you think about life without dairy, think about the animals who suffer for our taste buds.

Alternatives

With a plethora of dairy-free alternatives, you won’t miss milk. We have choices like dark chocolate, coconut yogurt, hemp, oat, soy, almond and rice milk, non-dairy creamer, sorbet and soy or coconut ice cream, and delicious vegan cheeses from companies like Daiya and Tofutti.

Daiya

Dump dairy and ditch cruelty!

Born to be vegan

At three years old, I first questioned the ethics of eating animals (in a way that a three-year-old can). By ten I went vegetarian.

For the next 15 years, I was happy about my choice and didn’t see the need to do anything else. It doesn’t hurt hens and cows to eat their eggs and milk (or so I thought), and leather is just a byproduct of the meat industry, so why not wear it?

I’d met a couple of vegans, but I thought they were extreme. I remember going on a picnic with friends, one of whom had a vegan girlfriend. I made a salad and put cheese on the side so she could eat the salad and others could add cheese later. How thoughtful of me!

the future is vegan

I’m happy she didn’t judge. She did, however, recommend a book that changed my life: Diet for a New America, by John Robbins. Robbins was next in line to run the Baskin-Robbins empire and walked away from it all to promote a plant-based diet.

He wasn’t the son of a cattle rancher. It was just ice cream! And I didn’t think cows minded if we used the milk they “gave” us. So I dove into the book to see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t expect to change my lifestyle.

The book opened my eyes to the horrors of factory farming, the cruelty chickens and dairy cows endure to produce eggs and milk. Then there was the environmental impact of eating meat, and the heath aspects of veganism.

I switched to soy milk that day, and dropped eggs from my diet. Cheese was harder to give up, and I indulged occasionally. I still wore leather and hung on to my “byproduct” story.

But when I moved to the US a couple of years later, I wiped the slate clean and started fresh–as a full-fledged vegan. Partly because it was a natural turning point and a chance to redefine myself. But I also chose the move as a time to switch because I’d been reading up on rBGH (bovine growth hormone). Canada hadn’t approved it but it was given to dairy cows in the States. So cheese was off the plate.

I also realized that leather is a big part of the meat industry. A big, money-making part. So I started shopping for leather-free shoes. Turns out, there’s no shortage of options! Until recently, I still bought leather shoes at thrift stores, but I’ve stopped that too.

sandwich

Being vegan is about knowing the truth, being aware, and making a difference. Every time I shop, I vote with my dollars. It truly is a journey. And it’s a joyful one! I absolutely love being vegan. It’s been 13 years now and I’ll never go back. I’m healthy and happy and I still smile every time I eat a delicious, colorful vegan meal.

It’s a peaceful, guilt-free way to live. I’ve never felt restricted. If anything, it’s a fun challenge. Good chefs will make special meals, no matter where I travel, I can find a bite to eat, and my kitchen is a fun place to be. I don’t buy fur, leather, wool, feather (including down) or silk, but I don’t miss a thing. For every one thing I’ve given up, I’ve found three amazing alternatives.

I’ve also connected with a lot of vegans (on Facebook, at work, and through groups like NARN). For people who know the cruel realities of the world, they’re an upbeat bunch. Smart, funny, and fun to be around–and they’re all making a difference in the world.

To quote the slogan on my new tote bag, The future is vegan! Care to join me?

Celebrating Seattle Vegfest

This past weekend I participated in Vegfest, a healthy food festival in the Seattle Center. The annual event is put on by Vegetarians of Washington. Instead of just attending, I worked a shift at the NARN table.

NARN table

The NARN booth had a great selection of pamphlets and flyers about topics such as how dairy and eggs are cruel and unhealthy, that humane meat is a myth, and why fishing is unsustainable and causes a lot of suffering. We had information for parents who have vegan kids, and a restaurant guide for people looking for vegan places to eat.

A brand new tote was for sale too. They’re made from recycled bottles and have my new favorite slogan printed on them: The future is vegan. I’m not the only one who liked them. People snapped them up! For $20, you can too.tote bag

Attendance was great and we talked to a lot of supportive people. Some were vegan, some were toying with the idea, and some weren’t even vegetarian. But there was something for everyone. No matter where people were on their compassionate journeys, we talked to them and had good conversations.

I was surprised that three people came up to me over the course of my shift to tell me that since becoming vegan they’ve gone off their cholesterol medication. One man was vegan for only three weeks before his doctor retested his blood and told him he no longer needed statins. Amazing!

I became vegan for the animals so I sometimes forget I’ve made a really healthy choice too.

The festival had cooking demos, cookbooks for sale, and tons of free food samples. I was really impressed with Dave’s Killer Bread, Daiya vegan cheese, and juices from Blue Print Cleanse.

Have you been to Vegfest or a similar festival? I highly recommend it. It’s a lot of fun to be around like-minded people and have a wide variety of foods to try.

Becoming vegetarian

I’m a vegan now, but I wasn’t always.

At age three I had an epiphany and made the connection between what I was eating and where it came from. But being young, I was easily fooled. Call it “chicken” and I wouldn’t eat it; call it “meat” and I would.

For me, meat was a frozen patty in a box in the freezer. I hadn’t really thought about the connection until I was ten. That’s when I moved from Toronto, a large metropolis where it’s easy to be removed from the origins of food, to a tiny, farming town in Germany.

Jean and AlineI was already shunning fish. Especially if I’d bite in and see a chunk of scaly skin. I started passing fish sticks under the table to my dog. But when I saw the local butcher kill a pig in the driveway of a neighbor’s house, my meat-eating days ended. I was in the back seat of the family car and we were driving away. To this day, I can picture the scene in slow motion. The blood, the cruel smiles on the kids’ faces as they participated in the event. Ugh. It was a nightmare. I’ve always loved animals and I didn’t want to be part of that.

Fortunately, my family was practically vegetarian. My mother has never liked meat and didn’t object to my change in eating habits. I still ate eggs and cheese and drank milk, but I was becoming a conscientious consumer. I started to learn about food and what we need to be healthy.

The next year, I moved back to Canada. I packed PB&J for lunch and blended in with the other kids. I didn’t make a big deal about my choices and neither did they.

Not everyone thought me being a vegetarian was a good idea. When I was 15, a boyfriend begged me to eat a burger. That’s the only time I’ve fallen for peer pressure. I ate the burger but told him I wouldn’t do that again. He relented. A few months later though, just to be polite, I had a chicken casserole at his mom’s house. I realized that I couldn’t keep “being nice” so I explained to her that I didn’t eat meat and I didn’t lapse again.

My grandmother’s husband said I’d be dead by twenty if I stuck with a vegetarian diet. I called him on my twentieth birthday to remind him that not only was I very much alive, but I’d grown nine inches and gained about 40 pounds since I was ten (gained in a good way–I was tall and slim and healthy). He forgot his warnings though, so I didn’t have the pleasure of gloating.

Being a vegetarian suited me fine. I’d met a couple of vegans when I in college but thought they were a bit extreme. I mean, what was wrong with dairy and eggs? Luckily, in my mid twenties, a friend handed me a copy of John Robbins, Diet for a New America. It’s a book that changed my life. It was absolutely eye-opening. It led me on my path to veganism.

But that’s a post for another day.