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Ahimsa

Practicing Non-Harming Toward Yourself and the World

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Lifestyle

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Review

This is a very belated post. I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life months ago, and I’ve been meaning to give a review.

The book is basically a memoir of Kingsolver and her family’s experience of living as very self-sufficient locavores over one year. They grew their own heirloom vegetables, baked their own bread, canned sauces and veggies, etc. For people who are passionate about knowing where their food originates and how it comes to their plate, this book would be an interesting read.

However, this wasn’t exactly a vegan-friendly read and it is hard for me to recommend it. The family raises their own poultry, and slaughters them in their backyard. Parts are relatively graphic. I do want to say one thing, however – I would much rather have people eating pasture-grazed meat than factory farmed. At the same time, though, it’s still completely unnecessary and cruel.

There is one major reason I don’t want to recommend this book too strongly: Kingsolver’s ridiculous rant on vegetarians and vegans. Up until page 220, I was very happy reading this book – after all, I worked at a farm market for six years and I love learning about how food is grown. But the few pages the author devotes to hating on vegetarians ruined the book for me. I wish I could reprint the whole section here, but here are a few excerpts:

Most of us, if we know even a little about where our food comes from, understand that every bite put into our mouths since infancy was formerly alive. The blunt biological truth is that we animals can only remain alive by eating other life. Plants are inherently more blameless, having been born with the talent of whipping up their own food… Strangely enough, it’s the animals to which we’ve assigned some rights, while the saintly plants we main and behead with moral impunity.

To believe we can live without taking life is delusional. Humans may only cultivate nonviolence in our diets by degree.

I’m unimpressed by arguments that condemn animal harvest while ignoring, wholesale, the animal killing that underwrites vegetal foods. Uncountable deaths by pesticide and habitat removal – the beetles and bunnies that die collaterally for our bread and veggie-burgers – are lives plumb wasted. … without it [animals for food] our gentle domestic beasts in their picturesque shapes, colors, and finely tuned purposes would never have had the distinction of existing. To envision a vegan version of civilization, start erasing from all time the Three Little Pigs, the boy who cried wolf, Charlotte’s Web, … Next, erase civilization, brought to you by the people who learned to domesticate animals.

Emphasis mine.

Those are just a few things Kingsolver says. Her argument is weak at best. She uses as ammunition a few points that anti-vegetarians have been saying for years: plants have feelings, there wouldn’t be pigs if it weren’t for people eating meat, blah blah blah. I don’t think I can express how disappointed I was in Barbara Kingsolver as I read those words. Like I said before, it ruined the book for me.

Plants do not have a central nervous system. Nor do they have a brain with which to process feelings. Therefore, they do not feel pain and are not sentient. The plant argument is tired and redundant and unfounded in science. I wish people would stop using it. It’s hard for me to take someone seriously who even brings it up.

Also, how were animals domesticated? Humans took them out of the wild and bred them. Without humans, there would still be animals, although they wouldn’t be quite what we have today. Another silly claim.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the book. I love food, and I love how it is grown. I just hope people don’t read it and believe the myths Kingsolver puts forward about veg*nism.

Unnecessary Mock Meat Products: A Rant

When I first stopped eating meat in the tenth grade, I had a tendency to rely heavily on fake “meaty” products like soy burgers/hot dogs/chicken nuggets, etc. Pretty much the same happened four years ago when I finally made the transition to veganism. Even raw foodists create meals based on cooked meats.

There is nothing wrong to veganizing favorite foods from our omnivorous days, but sometimes I think it’s completely unnecessary and silly. Like vegan haggis. Really? Do we really need a vegan version of animal lungs and stomach? I doubt it.  And then there’s the caviar and the product that inspired today’s rant, mock pork rinds.

While I enjoy a veggie burger as much as the next vegan, I was much more pleased with my vegan lifestyle after I greatly reduced the amount of fake meat products I consumed. A couple years ago I started running low on money, which meant less prepared foods and more meals based around what ingredients I could afford (mostly veggies – I worked at a farm market). Not only was it healthier, but I had more fun learning how to cook turnips and cabbage-based meals then I had when I was just heating up a boca patty and throwing it on a bun. It made me more creative and confident in the kitchen, helped me save money, and most importantly tasted better! Once you wean yourself off faux animal products, you start to notice things about veggies you might not of before – the meatiness of a Portobello mushroom or eggplant, or the delicate tastes of a simple green salad minus the bac-os and cheeze.

One of the most common complaints we hear from new veg*ns is that it’s so expensive. Well, if you buy $4-6 frozen meals and fake meat products, then yeah, it’s gonna cost you a fortune! Try making vegetables or grains the focus of your meals instead of the bbq tempeh (nothing against bbq tempeh – it’s fab!) and watch your costs sink.

That’s enough of my rant. For readers – what is the craziest faux-meat vegan product you’ve ever encountered?

Vegan Shopping

Over at environmental blog ecorazzi, the question of ethical vegan shopping has come up. Kathy Freston, author of the book Quantum Wellness, told Oprah that in order to support vegan products, she buys vegan items from non-vegan companies.

It’s just like restaurants. I almost prefer to go to mainstream places because I think it’s good that they get requests for vegetarian and vegan meals. The more they get positive feedback on that, the more items they’ll add to their menus. And I think it’s the same with fashion houses.

I agree completely. I know there are some vegans who refuse to buy a vegan product if it is made by a company they deem to be unethical. I totally respect their decision. However, when you buy a product, you are telling that company what you want. It might be a cliche, but money really is loud. A company is going to base it’s future products and decisions off what people are buying now, so if you want to see more vegan products on the market, start showing your support.

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