Have you ever looked into your dog’s eyes and realized, that he was not the fool you thought he was? It’s true, dogs think things, feel things (such as love), plan for the future and do things, such as rescuing humans from the different kinds of jams we get ourselves into.
Well, the same can be said for pigs, who, animal behaviorists say, are even smarter than dogs. Cows are smart too, as anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with them, knows. Even chickens who are commonly believed to be less intelligent than amoebas can recognize specific human faces. And turkeys who are also supposed to be dumb, like to have their heads petted. So be careful if you get a dog, you might start to realize…
The problem is, of course, animals can’t flush. OK, OK, some YouTube animals can, but your average chicken or your average cow cannot, even if you’re raising her in the back yard. The other problem is when an animal plops, it doesn’t just sit there waiting for Mom or Dad to somehow clean it up.
Poop and pee tend to go places – rivers, lakes, oceans and, yes, into our precious groundwater. There is nothing quite like nitrates to mess up an otherwise great cup of free trade coffee.
Oh hell, what’s a few nitrates? A few? No problemo. Thing is, our “food animals” just in the United States produce 89,000 pounds of excrement every second. EVERY SECOND. And that’s according to the UN’s 2008 report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow.”
We’ve got way more crap than can be used as fertilizer.
The EPA has come up with the troubling factoid that fully 1/3 of the underground wells in the South fall below EPA safe standard for drinking water in the South. (Nitrates are very concentrated in chicken manure.)
Glad you don’t live in the South? Well, nitrates from the California dairy industry have fucked up 100,000 miles of ground water, according to the EPA.
The moral to this story is don’t eat meat, eggs, fish or dairy. Not eating fish is becoming easier though. In a 2005 National Geographic article John Roach wrote, “Factory farm runoff causes algal blooms which deprives water of oxygen which create “dead zones” where fish can’t survive.” The writer explained that the largest is where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. That dead zone is now the size of New Jersey. It’s a big freaking dead zone.
Everybody talks about how vegans are thinner, how they don’t have to take statin drugs, how they don’t have heart attacks, how they’re racking up less bad karma, but the truth is, vegans are just a lot less messy.
For vegans and pre-vegans it’s never too early to start worrying about Thanksgiving. We’ve had about three and half months to recover from the last Thanksgiving, so now it’s time to start anticipating the next one and maybe even preparing for it.
It’s only natural to try and think of great zingers in response to stuff like this:
“Anyone who won’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving is a traitor to this country and this family.”
Then you want to say: If you eat animals and their secretions, you’re a traitor to the planet and a traitor to all future generations
“Your grandmother and I have been cooking since four this morning, the LEAST you could do, is eat turkey.”
Then you want to say: Four in the morning? I know; it takes a long time to cook a turkey corpse to make sure it’s not infected with e coli, campylobacter or salmonella. You don’t want to make anyone sick. Did you know salmonella can actually kill small children?
“I only put a little bit of milk and butter in the mashed potatoes – does that count?”
Then you want to say: Milk and butter OK? That depends on how much pus is in it – you see, most dairy cows have mastitis which is an infection of the udders. Pus oozes out along with the milk. I don’t think it’s a health threat, just unpleasant to think about.
“Did you consult with the doctor before you started doing this?”
Then you want to say: No, I didn’t consult a doctor. Why would I ask a drug dealer about health and nutrition?
“Depriving your unborn child of protein is criminal.”
Then you want to say: Giving animal flesh or secretions to anyone’s unborn or born child is criminal.
“What’s wrong with eggs?”
Then you want to say: How much time do you have?
“You always were a very picky eater.”
Then you want to say: How do you know that?
Where do you get your Omega 3’s?
Then you want to say: Where do you get your fiber?
“Is THIS what they’re teaching you in college?”
Then you want to say: I don’t go to college. I work for PETA.
As you’ve probably guessed, none of these so-called zingers work worth a damn. Well, they do work if you’re aiming to piss people off, embarrass them or cause them to thoroughly dislike both you and every other vegan they might meet. They also don’t work if you’re trying to end the factory farm system and help animals. They don’t work if you’re trying to help save the environment or if you’re trying to convince your loved ones to eat more healthily.
Can a vegan find actual food in a vegan restaurant? You live in Berkeley so it’s not that hard to go find out for yourself. The place looks a little like a Tiki bar, but the menu is beautiful and the raw dishes are marked with a capital R.
You tell your waitress, a young woman with blond dreadlocks and a nose ring, that you want the grilled polenta with the mushroom ragu.
She smiles and says, “You’re Warm-Hearted.” You look at her blankly. After about a minute of you staring at her, she repeats a little louder, “You are Warm-Hearted.” Oh you get it: the mushroom ragu dish is called “I Am Warm-Hearted.” And if that’s what you want to eat, you’re supposed to say to this total stranger, “I am warm-hearted,” even though that strikes you as sappy and New Age, i.e. imposing on your freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Politely, but firmly, you say, “I’d like the grilled polenta, PLEASE!”
The waitress says, “If you can’t say, ‘I am warm-hearted,’ what can you say?
“I CAN SAY I’D LIKE THE GRILLED POLENTA!”
This time no brawny Texas bouncers or soft-spoken managers show up. The girl with the dreads simply turns around and leaves. After about a half hour or so, she comes back with a barbecued tempeh sandwich, announcing, “You are inspired!”
“But I’m not inspired and I didn’t order this!” you say.
“You didn’t order anything – but I felt sorry for you and decided to bring you this,” she says, adding, “I have a question for you – What are you grateful for?”
So, vegans, here are some basic eating in restaurant rules of etiquette:
1) Don’t go into a steak house, certainly not to eat. If you supposedly have to go, just say you can’t.
2) Ask if there’s freaking cheese or eggs in the veggie burger BEFORE you order it.
3) Don’t yell in restaurants even when it’s important vegan information.
4) If you get arrested, remember you have a right to remain silent and you have a right to an attorney even if you can’t afford one.
5) There’s no shame in taking Prozac if you need it.
Nobody wants to get their ass kicked out of a restaurant. It’s important for vegans to know how to act if they want to get something to eat, even in California. And it’s quite possible they’ll have something without a mother or a face. Walk into practically any restaurant in the Golden State you will see veggie burgers on the menu alongside the quesadillas and the pulled pork sandwiches.
Your waiter is cool. So you politely, but loudly, say you’d like the VEGGIE BURGER. You give him the additional information that you’re a VEGAN and tell him about the HORRIBLE experience you had at a steak house in Texas. You fail to notice the blank expression on his face when you say the word “vegan.”
After a while, he comes back with your beautiful veggie burger and your side salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. You take a bite, mmmm, this IS good. You take another bite. This time you notice a whitish string of something going from the burger to your mouth. “IS THIS CHEESE?” you say, again turning up the volume.
You notice your dinner companions are now staring at you with wide eyes. One of them has put her hand gently on top of yours which doesn’t keep you from starting to yell, “Waiter! Waiter! WAITER! Is there cheese on this veggie burger? I TOLD you I was a VEGAN. Are you deaf?”
“No sir, no sir, not deaf,” mumbles the waiter.
“Well, could you make mine WITHOUT the cheese?” you say.
As the waiter scurries off, it gives you time to explain to your companions why you never eat cheese and how cheese is just as bad as meat, maybe worse. You go into the horrors of the veal industry and the distraught baby calves torn from their wailing mothers. You don’t forget to talk about the pus from the painfully diseased udders of dairy cows and how they disguise the bloodiest milk to make chocolate milk. You fail to notice one of your companions was eating the pasta alfredo, but now you see she’s set her fork down.
The waiter comes back with the information that the veggie burgers are made with cheese. “They come frozen that way,” he says.
“FROZEN?!” you yell at the now totally shaken serving person. You notice that the manager has suddenly appeared. In a soft voice he says, “How can we help you?”
You’re starting to understand that you might get your ass kicked out of this restaurant you once thought was mellow, well, mellow enough to put a veggie burger on the menu. You decide to try and play on the manager’s sympathy. “Dear sir, I’m really hungry and I came into your establishment hoping for some cruelty-free nourishment. You see, the smell of cooking animal flesh is so repellant to me, it makes me want to vomit. Cheese and milk make my skin crawl. Call me overly sensitive, but even the idea of eggs also causes the gag reflex for me. I think of all those crowded chickens, 12 chickens stuffed into a wire cage, the size of a file drawer. It’s so small they never even get to even spread their wings or take a step. It’s a nightmare!”At this point the tears are rolling down your face. Then the sobs come. You’ve lost it.
The manager suggests to your dinner mates that perhaps you need a doctor and whispers it’s probably for the best that you all leave, don’t worry about the check.
Damn! Kicked out of another place, in California no less! You never see your dinner mates again.
What if one evening, you happen to be ordering dinner at the Macho Cowboy Steakhouse (I made that name up), located in Texas? As you peruse the menu you become shocked, I say, shocked to learn there are no vegan selections. Even the salads are chock full of either chicken, cow or shrimp.
If that isn’t enough blood and guts for one measly salad, you find that they’ve also added bacon, cheese and/or hard-boiled egg to each and every one of them. And for dressing? What do you think about blue cheese or maybe thousand?
“Ah, garcon, there seem to be no vegan dishes on this menu,” you say, neglecting to realize you’re in Texas and not France. You’ve also assumed your particular waiter understands the word “vegan.” He actually doesn’t understand vegan, but guesses it might have something to do with either hippies from California or the Taliban.
“Vegan is someone who doesn’t consume animal flesh or animal secretions,” you instruct. And since you’d like to educate the entire planet on the importance of going vegan, you say it really loud, secretly hoping every one of these assholes in this godforsaken restaurant, hears it.
“Secretions?” your waiter verbalizes the question that’s now on everybody’s mind. “Yes, secretions, from the TEATS of cows or the VAGINAS of chickens!” you say.
As the waiter is trying to process the fact that you’ve just used the words “teats” and “vaginas” in the restaurant, other diners are now starting to turn around in their seats so that they can get a good look at you. As they fix their stares on you, you either flip them off or say, “What’s the matter – never seen someone concerned about food safety before?”
At this point you’d probably get your ass kicked out of that restaurant. Our best advice: Do not go into any steak house anywhere and expect to eat food or expect to convert anyone. If you’re “forced” to be there, try and act civilized. The world is watching us, vegans.
What is a “Vicious Vegan?” And who is a Vicious Vegan? And I’m sure you’re wondering, “Do I qualify?”
Here’s a little test to help you figure it out:
1) Have you ever suggested to someone just diagnosed with cancer or diabetes or someone who’s recently had a heart attack that you wish they had changed their diet like you told them to?
2) Have you ever suggested a vegan diet to an overweight person you know?
3) Have you ever tried to get someone to read a vegan book (instead of a booklet)?
4) Have you ever wanted to send hate mail to the Heifer Project or actually sent it?
5 Have you ever gone to a restaurant or to someone’s home and refused to sit in a leather chair?
6) Have you ever told someone they were “addicted” to animal foods?
7) Do you have a “Meat is Murder” bumper sticker or more than two animal rights bumper stickers on your car?
8) Have you ever gotten into a screaming match over animal food consumption at Thanksgiving or Christmas?
9) Have you ever gotten into a screaming match while handing out Vegan Outreach booklets?
10) Have you ever discussed factory farming at a meal while people were eating animal flesh or animal secretions?
11) Do you regularly use the phrases, “animal flesh” and “animal secretions?”
12) Do you snub vegetarians?
13) Do stay awake at night trying to figure out how you could get this one particular person to go vegan?
Even one “yes” can qualify you as a Vicious Vegan. It’s fine to be a Vicious Vegan, but it’s likely you could be a more effective Vicious Vegan, if you learned some vegan manners. Unfortunately for vegans like me it’s easy to forget vegan manners, which can result in some missed opportunities as well as some knock down, drag out fights.
There’s quite a bit of debate about how to best approach the animal eating issue. Should you be nice or should you be an asshole? I’m voting for “nice.”
If you listen to one of my favorite Vicious Vegans, Dr. John McDougall, the author of a lot of great vegan health books, what we vegan activists need to do is “get in their faces” and “tell the truth!” We need to buy a dozen copies of his newest book, “The Starch Solution,” and hand it out to friends and family. If I did that, there would be 12 books in the recycling bins the next day.
I have to say, “The Starch Solution” is a wonderful book. It really is. It’s probably the best vegan diet/health book I’ve ever read.
Another one of my favorite Vicious Vegans is the artist Sue Coe. Have you ever looked at Sue Coe’s work? I’m guessing no. Have you seen Dan Piraro’s art work? I’m guessing yes.
Piraro is also a Vicious Vegan, but he’s been tamed. He’s been schooled in vegan etiquette. Sue Coe is a freaking genius and a pioneer, but geeze, her books sat on my shelf for almost a year, before I could actually look at them.
This is important stuff, Vicious Vegans, we’ve got to stop alienating people with our viciousness. And we’ve especially got to stop alienating vegetarians. They’re almost with us. They’re the last people we want to insult! I think it’s our mistaken belief that they’re family and we can just let ‘er rip when we’re with them. Wrong.
Why do they hate us? It’s a question that has popped into every vegan’s mind at one time or another. Is it because we brag about our size 0 jeans? Is it because we call ourselves things like “ethical vegans?” Or is it because it because we tell proud Prius owners that they could have done a lot more for the environment if they’d just switched from burgers to rice and beans instead of spending nearly $30,000 on a new car? Or is it because we say things like, “How’s that corpse taste?” Or do they slaughter gluten?
When you’re trying to find out why you, Mr. or Ms. Vegan is so thoroughly disliked, it’s important to look at who’s doing the disliking. When it comes to dislikers, the list is long. Here are some of the usual suspects.
Your minister, your doctor, your spouse, other family members, your friends, your waitress or waiter, your dentist, your boss, your co-workers, your teachers, the mailman, the person standing behind you in the grocery store, random salespeople, your personal trainer, anyone on the road who can see your bumper stickers, anyone who invited you to their Thanksgiving turkey dinner, anyone who ever lived on a farm, anyone who’s into backyard or front yard chickens, anyone who does medical research, anyone who wears leather cowboy boots, anyone who gets all their information from television and/or Family Circle magazine, anyone who used to be a vegan, anyone who relies on Chinese medicine, anyone who owns or works in an ice cream store, a cheese store or a meat shoppe, anyone who’s a hunter or a gun-owner, anyone who’s proud to be a Texan and any animal eaters on your Facebook.
Chances are as soon as you step out your front door, turn on your computer or even as soon as you wake up you’re likely to meet someone who can’t stand you because you’re a vegan. Even other vegans have been known to dislike vegans!
So the basic question remains: Is it them, the carnists, i.e. the animal food lovers or is it you, the vegan?
Of course it’s them! But because “them” is probably not reading this post, we’ll focus on you. What have you done to help create this sorry situation? A situation that is not helping the environment; not helping anyone’s health, mental or physical; and not helping factory farmed animals.
There are SOOOOO many annoying and/or infuriating things we vegans do on a daily, if not hourly basis, it’s hard to know where to start.
This post is about acting nice. Vegans, please understand, it’s essential to stop arguing with anyone about eating animals.
I repeat: IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU LEARN HOW TO AVOID ARGUING WITH ANYONE ABOUT EATING ANIMALS.
You also don’t want to argue about wearing leather, wearing wool, deserted islands, going to circuses, going to rodeos, eating honey, eating animal “secretions,” medical research, hunting, fishing, global warming, bull fighting, “humane” meat, cosmetics, dolphins, soy products, polluted rivers, lakes and oceans, antibiotic use on factory farms, protein, what the cave men ate, barbecues, calcium, world hunger, heart disease, Marine World, family traditions, fast food places, cancer, tigers who kill, obesity, the meaning of Thanksgiving, essential fatty acids, what Jesus would do, Bill Clinton, what God said to Adam and Eve, olive oil, Michael Pollan, the Dalai Lama, the lives of indigenous peoples or PETA.
Each of these topics is booby-trapped. If you get hooked, both you and your adversary will dig deeper and deeper into your own side of the argument. You will actually help your debating opponent to become even more entrenched in his point of view. You might even find yourself at the family Christmas Eve dinner with another relative screaming at you: “Are you a doctor?”
Oddly, even if you ARE a doctor, they’ll still be screaming at you. Maybe it’ll be “Are you God?” or “I don’t recall you ever being MY doctor!”
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to the protest at Ringling Bros. or at KFC. I’m certainly not suggesting that you stop handing out Vegan Outreach booklets. It’s very important to go and do these things. It’s also important to smile. It’s important to listen. It’s important to be a happy vegan, even if you’re not feeling particularly happy. It’s important to laugh and it’s important to duck if someone throws a punch. It might even be important to go to jail, just leave the arguing to your lawyer.
Consider also leaving the arguing to Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society United States and Dr. John McDougall of the plant-based diet world and to the United Nations and its report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” These people are paid to argue, you are not! All of the arguers above have websites and books. Send your naysayers there if they want to yell at somebody.
OK, maybe you, Ms. Vegan agree: no arguing about animal foods. But what about a discussion? For the passionate among us, (And what vegan isn’t?) a discussion is usually like that first drink for the alcoholic. Please just one itty bitty reasonable talk and the next thing you know doors are slamming and tears are rolling. Again, send them to the internet if they want info. It’s 2014, most people know how to use the Google machine and the public library.