Thursday, November 29, 2012

Humanity vs. Bovinity

Humanity. This word has been perplexing me lately. The more I think on it, the more the word is losing its intended meaning. 

The other day, Ryan and I were driving into Boston and listening to NPR. A story came on about the crisis in eastern Congo. A man and his family had just buried his young daughter, who had been killed by rebels. After the rushed burial, they fled the city of Goma with thousands of other displaced people. My heart broke for them and I thought, not for the first time, "What is wrong with people? Why are we killing each other?" I imagined what that would feel like. Burying your daughter. Fleeing your home. Not having any safety net. Why I happened to be born here and not in eastern Congo. What that child's parents are thinking and feeling at this very moment.

Morbid thoughts, perhaps. But as much as I like lightness and fun -- and my life is full of both and, in my opinion, both are necessary in order to do good in this world -- I do think it's important that we reflect on these ideas at the very least.

The story of this family is just one of millions happening in the world right now. Human and non-human animals are slaughtered every day. (With animals, though, it is 10 billion per year. And that's just land animals. In the United States.) We humans are capable of awful things. And what scares me a little, as I continue to age, is realizing that these behaviors aren't that unusual. I'd always assumed that, while there might be the occasional person with cruelty in their heart, most people were good. And now I just don't know. I want to believe we're all good, but there just seems to be so much evidence to the contrary.

Humanity, according to my American Heritage Dictionary,  means, among other definitions, the following: "the quality of being humane; benevolence."

Humane, in turn, refers to someone or something "[c]haracterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion; marked by a motivation by a concern with the alleviation of suffering." 

I don't see many other animals killing their own kind regularly. Sure, it happens here and there. But we don't put those animals up on linguistic pedestals and say, "Here is our model of behavior!" When you think about it, it's pretty audacious to imply that we are models of mercy and compassion. We even refer to mass murderers as "animals," when in fact non-human animals don't typically engage in such self-destructive behavior. We humans seem to have the monopoly on that one, don't we?

Do I think the majority of humans would kill others if given the chance? Not at all. Am I a "people hater"? No. I see beautiful kindness emanating from people every day. People in my life and in the world at large astound me with their gifts and brilliance. My students never fail to give me incredible hope and fill me with pride every day.

But I wonder at people who proudly proclaim they support "humane meat," (or who just eat any old meat) but who are not willing to find out if the treatment of these animals matches the behavior they hope is occurring. I'll save you the suspense. It's not. This is from one who hoped desperately herself that her humane meat came from happy animals. I did the legwork on this one, and the treatment of these beings is not, in my opinion, kind, merciful, or compassionate.

Here's some of what goes on at humane farms, slaughterhouses, hatcheries, etc. Male chicks ground up alive, gassed, or bagged up alive like trash. Animals in slaughterhouses who are very much alive as they go through "processing." Baby calves and goats taken from their mothers, often with their umbilical cords still attached, brought to market terrified, and killed. (We can't have them taking our milk and cheese.) Animals debeaked, detoed, dehorned, branded and castrated without any anesthesia. (Think on that a moment. They have nerve endings like we do. Imagine what that would feel like.) Cows forced to provide milk (while pregnant with their next calf), having their production wane after 5 years, and then being killed for hamburger meat. If this is what "mercy, kindness [and] compassion" look like, then I'd rather not side with humanity.

I could go on and on. And if I sound angry, that's because I am. There's always a bit of truth to stereotypes, and the "angry vegan" is no exception. When you see how awful people are to feeling, breathing beings; when you see the actual joy in people's faces with they do unspeakable things to animals -- you get plenty angry. Sure my life is terrific. And I'm a pretty happy person most of the time. But you can't help but get angry when you see what is really going on. And you can't help but feel angry when people put down one's choice not to participate and then laughingly joke about bacon, veal, and lamb just to hurt you. (And yet those same people would be incensed if you made them watch footage of how pigs, calves, and lambs got to their plate.)

I've talked with people who have gone undercover at slaughterhouses, hatcheries, and dairy farms. First off, these people amaze me. I could not imagine doing such work for so many reasons. But what's most remarkable about their work is that the awful footage they document is not an anomaly. It's everyday stuff.  It doesn't matter when they go undercover or where. It's always there. Butterball has been exposed twice in the last year for incredible cruelty but in their press releases both times the company feigned shock and surprise that this was going on. Please. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice ...

I'm always hesitant to write such posts because I feel like I'll come off as thinking I've got it all figured out and that I'm lily-white perfect. If only. As Jo March beautifully stated in Little Women, "I'm hopelessly flawed."

But after seeing the things I've seen, I'm pulling the words "humane" and "humanity" out of my vocabulary for a while. At least until we shape up a bit. Or maybe I'll come up with another word to describe kindness and compassion. Maybe bovinity. You don't hear about cows massacring other cows, do you?

There seems to be an unwritten rule that eating meat is normal and to question it is socially awkward and a little rude. But if we're going to tout the word humanity, shouldn't we be willing to back it up with a good hard look at what we're supporting?

May the coming season of giving be filled with great bovinity for you and your loved ones. :) (Autocorrect is getting very antsy over that word.)

And may the word humanity ultimately reflect its definition.


If you want to learn more about "humane" meat, dairy, and eggs, listen to this podcast. It's very well done!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lucky Winners!

Update: A week has gone by and I did not hear from the winners below. (Bummer!) So the next two winners are LCSmolcha and Sara. Congratulations! Leave me your email (the one where you'd like the subscription sent) in the comments section below or, if you prefer, you can email me your email address at suburbansnowwhite at gmail dot com.

Short post.

I enjoyed two lovely weekend mornings full of laziness and then brisk, long walks. Then there was mowing endless leaves into mulch to fertilize the grass. Add to that one intense yoga session that reminded me what happens when you blow off yoga for too long. And the cherry on top: one estrogen-filled evening seeing the new Twilight flick with a dear friend.

Sergio, me, and Kaci enjoying morning sunshine. I am reading one of my Sookie Stackhouse books and loving every second.  I have a vampire thing, following the lead of almost every teenage girl in the United States. (I never said I was deep.)
I continue to work on my book. Mornings in my pj's with coffee seem to produce the most results. Kaci supervises to make sure I don't slack off.

But this isn't why you tuned in, is it?

It's time to announce our two winners, each of whom will receive one online subscription to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's 30-Day Vegan Challenge! Once again, I love having giveaways, but I despise not being able to give everyone the prize. I really get bummed out that not everyone wins.

Ryan did the honors of picking out two names (printed on paint sample papers) out of one of his funky hats.

He kind of has that John Edwards mystical look going (the medium, not the politician.)

And the winners are ...

Forgive me, Lessley. I missed the second "s" the first time around.

Congratulations Kara and Lessley! Please send me your email addresses to suburbansnowwhite at gmail dot com so I can forward it to Compassionate Cook. (Be sure to get back to me by next Sunday! If winners don't respond within one week, I'll open the subscription to the next guy/gal pulled out of the hat.)

Thanks to everyone for entering! And for a little while longer you can get a permanent online subscription to the 30-Day Vegan Challenge for $20. (It's going to go up $35 soon.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Giveaway! Subscription to 30-Day Vegan Challenge. (squeal!)

Update: See below in giveaway offer!

First off, I have been a very lame Snow White. I did not finish my Vegan Mofo by reaching my goal of 10 posts in one month. (sigh)

And yet, I don't feel too guilty. It's been a chaotic little autumn and one that Mr. Snow White and I were not looking forward to, due in great part to full-blown ninny-ness of forces that have wanted to do us harm. Hopefully this will resolve itself very shortly. (Sorry, can't go into it more than that.) But it's all been stuff that, in the big scheme, really doesn't matter. We have each other, everyone's healthy, Kaci does NOT have cancer, as our new vet suggested she might (the vet was thrilled as were we), we are both employed, we have a wonderful support system, and we both have good skin.

While going through this tumultuous time, though, I recalled some supportive words that had floated from the Facebook status of one Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. After having no luck retracing those pearls of wisdom, I wrote to Colleen, asking if she'd share them with me. Her husband had spoken them to her when they were facing similar ninny-like forces. Just seeing these words calms my heart (which has been beating much too quickly for my own good.)

"Keep breathing. Tell the truth. Be fearless. Choose love. Embrace mystery."

Beautiful, no? I feel so grateful to her and her husband David for sharing that calming mantra with the world. It's done wonders for my mindset.

And speaking of Ms. Colleen ...

She's got an incredible new online program called The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. I heard about it on her podcast and initially thought it wouldn't apply to me, since 1) I was a regular listener of the podcast, 2)  I had all her books, and 3) I had already been vegan for a while. How much new stuff could it offer someone like me?

A lot, it turns out.

The program only cost $20 and I originally decided to sign up so I could review it here for any folks here who wanted to try cutting meat, dairy, and eggs from their diet for just thirty days. I didn't anticipate how much I'd get from the experience.

The whole thing is designed to take you from day one, when you have no idea yet how you're going to pull this off, to the last day, when you realize how flippin' easy it is to eat without hurting anyone. You get one email per day, which opens up new parts of the program to you, step by step. I like this, because I tend to be an all-or-nothing gal who reads ahead, jumps in with both feet, and then often burns out. (Hello knitting.)  This way forces you to take it slow. The great part is that after that day's content becomes available, you keep it forever and can go back to it whenever you like. (Think of it as an online book you purchased. But a book with videos, podcasts, etc.)

The video section includes the following subjects: Stocking a Healthy Vegan Kitchen, Reading Labels, Getting to Know the  Grocery Store, Choosing the Proper Knife, Using the Proper Cutting Board, Tempeh Bacon Cooking Demonstration, Making the Time to Cook, Eating Out and Speaking Up, Rethinking Meat Cravings, Discovering That There is Life After Cheese, Kale Chips and Kale Salad, Plant-Based Milks, Better Baking without Eggs, Drop Biscuits, Green Smoothies, Finding Abundant Food Options While Traveling, Demystifying Tofu: It's Just a Bean, Eating by Color, Black Olive Bruschetta with Cashew Cream, Compassionate Fashion: It's Cool to be Kind, and A Vegan Thanksgiving. As a more seasoned vegan, I was amazed at how much these videos helped me, particularly the ones that addressed the interesting social issues that seem to arise.

There is a whole Audio Podcast section that is separate from her original podcasts on itunes. Like the videos, they cover a wide range of topics.

The Resource Section is a great go-to place for hardcore information, including Finding Vegan Food in Non-Vegan Restaurants, Restaurant and Travel Websites and Apps, and Tips for Making Travel Stress-Free and Fun. She delves into those often asked questions regarding protein, calcium, vitamins D and B12, and iron.

There are oodles of recipes, most of which I have not tried yet. (Did I mention it's been a stressful autumn?) But they sound delicious. Among them are the following: Coconut Red Lentil Dahl, Soba Verde Salad, Truffle Popcorn (!!), Lemon Artichoke Tapenade, and Mexican Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon. Yes. Yes to all of that.

And finally, there is a community aspect to the website as well. You can log on to ask questions to other folks. Or you can simply read the online discussions and learn from the expertise (and humor) of others.

Compassionate Cooks was kind enough to offer a free subscription to one lucky Suburban Snow White reader. This, my friends, is where you squeal. UPDATE: They have offered SSW not one, but TWO free subscriptions to The 30-Day Vegan Challenge.    Fainting.


If you've ever wondered if Ellen or Bill Clinton were on to something, but don't want to declare you're "going vegan," this is right up your alley. (And if you are totally on board, it's up your alley too.) If you merely want recipes on hand because you have a couple of vegan friends and always panic when they're coming over, wondering "What on earth do we make?" then this is a great chance to get some terrific ideas. Though truthfully, you'll end up wanting to hoard the food for yourself. Maybe you're just plain curious about veganism but have no intention to eat that way. You will learn a ton! So there's no pressure for the person who wins this to commit to an animal-free menu. I promise not to stalk you and peek into your windows to see what you're making. Unless, of course, you want to become my full-time chef.

Colleen is a super relaxed gal who explains things in a very common sense way. You don't feel preached at or guilted into anything. She just shares the information and lets you make up your own mind.  But I'm warning you -- you'll want her to be your new best friend. I'm JUST saying.

If you'd like to win this, simply write a comment below. You could explain why you'd like to win the subscription. Or share a tongue twister. Or send a message to Kaci telling her how pretty she is. Whatever. Be creative and have fun. Just be sure to leave an email address where I can reach you!

The Giveaway ends November 18, 2012 (Sunday night). Good luck! (I should mention that I'm not making a dime off of this. Just spreading the love.)