The cow’s milk of human greediness: Another vegan soy milk company bites the dust.

3 Jul

Silk has been on my shitlist a long time. While I used to think it rocked that they were owned by White Wave, an independent company that was considered a pillar in the organic industry, like all good things that show any bit of profitability, hungry corporate interests scooped up the company and quickly hollowed it of any meaningful business practices. Silk is now owned by Dean Foods, an $11 billion agrievilcorporation, who also happens to be the largest processor of cow’s milk in the United States. How large is large? They own over 50 labels, including Horizon Organic (Mmmm, happy milk!) As a result of this purchase, Silk no longer uses 100% organic soybeans. For me, being owned by a dairy is enough to opt out of Silk, but watching the David vs. Goliath battle between the Cornucopia Institute and Silk was the nail in the coffin for others. Owned by a dairy? Check. Constantly refusing to be transparent about organic standards and sourcing? Check. So long, Silk, and thanks for all the previously organic, guilt-free soy milk. 

And it pains me to say this, but, recently another one bit the dust: Earth’s Own. You know Earth’s Own. They own So Good, Almond Fresh, ryza, and So Nice

Everyone, meet Amoré

Yup, you read it right. Amoré is a morally (and physically!) repugnant blend of cow’s milk and almond milk. Because. Um. Well, when I asked them on their Facebook, this is what they said:

With the growth of almond beverages over the past couple of years, we’ve had requests from consumers for a product that combines almonds with dairy. The Amoré Almonds + Dairy product you are now seeing on the shelf is intended to meet the needs of these consumers. To avoid any confusion among our Almond Fresh users, we chose to launch this product under its own unique brand. Rest assured that our Almond Fresh beverages will continue to be dairy free and lactose free.”

First of all, can you point me in the direction of the supposed throngs of people who requested that their almond milk have some cow added to it? Face punches all around! Also, I’m going to go ahead and say I highly doubt people asked for it. What was the basis of their request? It’s too “pus free”, it’s too “low calorie”, “I don’t have enough phlegm in my throat”?

And secondly, thank you for so thoroughly failing to address my concerns about selling out. You seem to have missed the part about how your products have a huge base of support among ethical plant-eaters who choose you over Silk because we kind of want to throw up in our mouth when we imagine lining the pockets of a company that profits off forced impregnation, separation of mother and baby, and premature, violent death. Earth’s Own, you’re at every vegan-related event under the sun, how do you still not get it: vegans don’t just NOT eat animals, we want OTHER people to not eat animals too. And most vegans happily eschew a product that just happens to be vegan when the people running the show are contributing to oppression we are committed to ending. 

I know I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, last year Earth’s Own advertised at the Calgary Stampede, which for my non-Canadian readers, is the world’s largest congregation of unimaginative yokels competing for who doesn’t give the most fucks about farmed animals. But we were willing to give you another chance, Earth’s Own. And you blew it. 

But seriously, is it 1991? Since when does a plant-based company moonwalk backwards in time and introduce a ‘dairy option’? Did Earth’s Own really need to pander to an already over-serviced market?

Can some soy milk company just not suck horribly? Even EdenSoy (whose rhetoric and gentle colour palette implies they’d never even step on grass lest they crush a bug), is run by a religious windbag who filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration because he didn’t want to pay for contraception as part of his employee’s health benefits. The owner stated that contraception “almost always involves immoral and unnatural practices.” Not to mention unwanted pregnancies, but MOVING ON.

This is crappy news. If you need me, I’ll be standing over my sink, miserably squeezing my nut milk bag. Just kidding. Thankfully Natur-a doesn’t suck yet, so instead I’ll be drowning my sorrows in a gigantic, cold, uncorrupted glass of their strawberry flavoured deliciousness.

Pissed off? Go yell at Earth’s Own about it!

phone: 1-888-401-0019
email: consumer@earthsown.com
So Good (http://www.facebook.com/sogoodcanada
Almond Fresh (http://www.facebook.com/almondfresh )
ryza (http://www.facebook.com/ryza)
So Nice (www.facebook.com/soniceorganic)

One thing you should ask yourself before you share that graphic photo…

23 Apr

askbeforeyoushareOn Friday night as I was settling in for a Joss Whedon marathon (the obvious antidote to a super busy week), I happened to check my Facebook inbox and noticed a new private message. It was a photo of one of the most upsetting instances of animal cruelty I have ever seen. It had been pulled from a trapping website. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

It was a photo without any potential for recourse. This person was sending it to me because they were [legitimately] horror-struck,  and maybe to ‘share’ the grief. This person was actively seeking out these photos, and since this person knows I organize against the fur trade, decided I needed to see it.

I’m going to be blunt.

The last couple of months, I’ve been getting increasingly upset by the amount of graphic imagery being circulated by animal activist folks on the internet. I’m all for pictures speaking a thousand words, but should there not be consideration for who those words are directed at? For example, if 95% of the people on your FB are already vegan, you ought to ask yourself if your audience will benefit from seeing those images again and again and again.

I know some activists “bear witness”, and I believe it’s an approach that can be effective as a means of mobilizing and inspiring individuals to change behaviour. I also know that it does not work for everyone. I know this because I’m one of the people it doesn’t work for. Continually exposing myself to the relentless suffering does NOT mobilize me. It cripples. It breaks. It pauses me with paralyzing anger and sadness. It makes me a less effective activist. For me, I have learned (the hard way) that I need a hefty amount of insulation from that kind of imagery if I am to be as effective as I want to be. And I’m no part-time activist. I work in animal protection professionally as well as being an activist personally.

And it’s not like I don’t go out of my way to ‘hide’ the folks on Facebook who insist on posting photos of animals being murdered as though it warrants no warning. When you consider human and non-human animals alike as individuals, then what these photos depict is, literally, murder. Would you share a photo willy-nilly of a human having their skull blown to pieces? Probably not. And yet, so many people have no such hesitation sharing these same photos of non-human animals.

And I get it. I’ll even add a confession here: I have a few photos on hand that I will very occasionally post to remind my non-vegan pals that there are reasons  (billions upon billions of them actually) that I am vegan. I choose the images that tell the strongest story. And while you won’t see any blood in those photos, they are truly, undeniably heartbreaking. But I use them sparingly, and I do so when I have truly weighed the pros and cons of sharing the image, and decided it is worth it. And I even feel guilty every time because I recognize that I’ve risked triggering/traumatizing people. After all, these photos are likely wedged between a post about how shitty Pete from Mad Men is (so shitty, right?!), and about how so-and-so’s adorable daughter went for her first bike ride of the season.

What happened Friday was really triggering, but luckily I was able to talk with the person directly and explain that it was inappropriate to do that to someone with no warning. They wholeheartedly understood, and said “well you work on these issues all day, I thought you had seen it all”. And therein lies the problem: don’t assume for a second that because someone is an animal activist that they aren’t capable of being highly traumatized by violent imagery. Desensitization after continual exposure is not a inevitable. Some people never stop reacting to that imagery. I know because I’m one of them.

So here’s what I’m asking for, and it ain’t much. Can we, as kind, empathetic individuals tighten up our etiquette about sharing graphic, violent imagery on Facebook? Pretty please? Before you share a photo, whether on your newsfeed or directly with someone, ask yourself a question: Is this photo potentially triggering for activists (or non-activists, which I’ll get into in a second)? If so, either ask permission, don’t share it, or share it in a way that gives a person the option of not seeing it. Or, don’t think about it at all, but know that you may be hurting your comrades.

I know some of you will no doubt be shaking your heads, saying “Well, what about these images and all the non-vegans who see them?” You’re not going to like my answer. First, there’s a very, very good chance you’ve already been ‘hidden’ by your non-vegan pals if you post that sort of stuff regularly. Graphic images are very effective at jarring people, no doubt. And there is also no doubt that they can sometimes make people vegan. But any seasoned activist would be remiss not to consider the potential consequence of this approach: empathy avoidance. That’s a whole other post, but I’ll wrap up this up with a thought from Debra, an activist who runs These Glass Walls:

“…People really need to ask themselves what the purpose is before they click on “post” or “share.” If the only purpose is to share the horror, please don’t. Even if it’s sharing the horror of, say, factory farmed animals for the purpose of educating omnivores, STILL ask yourself if there might be a better way to get the info across. Sometimes there isn’t, but think about how you might be traumatizing others and whether that’s really effective or if it’s more likely to make them just not want to see your posts.”

Debra’s right. Sometimes there isn’t a better way. Sometimes you’ve got to share the image. But be sparing. Be precise. Choose carefully. Think of your audience.

The Super Bowl: No matter who wins, the chickens lose.

3 Feb The ladies at Snooters!
The ladies at Snooters!

The ladies at Snooters!

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. We all know what that means…

Actually, I don’t. I don’t have much of a tolerance for modern tribalism (let alone hyper-corporate modern tribalism). Nor do I care for football culture. I’ve never watched the Super Bowl. Does the winning team actually get a bowl? I couldn’t tell you much of anything.

Well, one thing I do know about the Super Bowl is that people become hyper gluttons over chicken wings. It’s all over the web, people hawking their ‘best’ chicken wing recipes, dishing on where the best deal is on wings (“per pound”). If you don’t believe me, just google “shortage of chicken wings” and sit back. Headlines said things like “US averts shortage of chicken wings”.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Isn’t “avert” a term we ought to reserve for like, really important things? Say, for example: averting an alien invasion! Or how about averting a global water crisis, or averting climate change?

While all talk of fetishizing animal products gives me the freaks, especially disturbing is the fact that unlike most kinds of meat, ‘chicken wings’ has avoided the almost inevitable dilution-through-euphemism transformation, where humans give a kind of  meat a new name to divorce it from the animal (or the part of the animal) it came from. This is the magical process whereby ‘ground meat, blood, fat and organs encased in intestine’ is transformed into the much less horrendous sounding, much more vague– ‘sausage’. But ‘chicken wings’ are just sort of out there, honestly talking about who they belonged to. And people just don’t seem to care.

And that is just wrong. Chickens are such incredible animals. I’ve yet to meet a chicken I didn’t like. The chickens I’ve met at sanctuaries always seem to be in a great mood, just out there genuinely happy to peck around with their sisters, cooing in that way that makes my whole body buzz with happiness. OK, I confess I really, really love chickens. I wrote a whole tribute to them. Here are my favourite things about chickens:

  • They experience REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which indicates that they dream, just like we do.
  • Even after periods of separation, chickens recognize each other as individuals, demonstrating their impressive memories. Upon reentry, a chicken who has been separated from her flock is treated like an old friend, not a new member.
  • Throughout history, hens have been notably celebrated for their ability (and willingness) to defend their young from predators, which makes it all the more surprising (and innaccurate) that the term ‘chicken’ describes someone who lacks bravery.

Years ago,  I was walking downtown on a Sunday morning, and I noticed a pile of chicken wing bones in front of the after-hours Chinese food place where all the drunk students go to get their post-bar binge on. Clearly someone had sat on the curb, ate to their content, and discarded the remnants. And in that moment, that little pile of half-eaten chicken’s wings so perfectly encapsulated what I myself was just beginning to see: that animals are truly seen as discardable, worthless, here to serve us; their body parts, our entitlement for being born human. I thought of how many lives were comprised of the bones in front of me, and it made me so sad and angry that I couldn’t think straight. I had stumbled upon a mass grave. Only it was a mass grave that people were walking past, with absolutely no consideration.

So when I think about the Superbowl, I think instantly about that day. I think about the poor chickens who didn’t make it out, and I think of the chickens who did. My favourite memory of chickens was the day I got to carry newly rescued hens out of the barn to their new outdoor enclosure on Snooters Farm Animal Sanctuary:

As rescued battery hens they had never before seen the outside, let alone sunlight! And yet, within 20 minutes two of them were exploring their new landscape. They were so afraid, but Susan and Brian had built them this new house, and the weather was finally perfect. Goodness me, it was a beautiful day. I dream of that day for all chickens!

Regardless of who wins tonight,  the chickens are the ones who lose.

Dad tries vegan!

28 Jan counterfullofgoods

I’m half-italian and most people can guess that. I’ve got dark eyes, a set of hands that are ever-moving while I’m talking, and I really, really like to feed people. I mean I really like to feed people. It’s a bit of a problem. But in my house growing up, that was how we showed love. My Mom explained that this was part of their ‘peasant ancestry’. Her family never had money, so food became the medium through which her family could express their love for one another.

DSC01849In case you missed the post, last week my Dad confirmed he has either had his eyes opened or his body snatched by aliens who have replaced him with Robo-Dad Version 1.0 (non-judgmental, curious about veganism, acknowledges a diet void of meat and dairy won’t cause you to wither and die). He asked me for a favour. He asked me to cook vegan food for him, for a week.

Always the obliging, obedient daughter (hah!) I accepted this task willingly. Thanks in large part to helpful meal suggestions by readers, my Dad will be chowing down on these dishes:

  • Smoky Split Pea Soup from Appetite for Reduction (I also sent him home with Field Roast frankfurters to sub out his childhood favourite: lentil soup which was unfortunately made with dairy and chicken, and German weiners.)
  • Rainbow Chili (I call it this because I can’t think of a single colour not represented in this. Used Sol Cuisine Veggie Crumbles for additional protein and to mimic that typical chili texture)
  • Sweet Potato Black-Bean Quesadillas with Daiya (I’ll post the recipe for this soon. Let’s just say this dish is my security blanket, I think I could make it with my eyes closed. It’s always a hit.)
  • Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (Cookies are a dish, right? They are in our house.)
  • Succulent Shepherd’s Pie courtesy of my dear friend Vanessa (He better eat this barefoot, because her pie will knock his socks off)

In addition to cooking and baking, I tried to give him some pantry basics, including: a single serving of Spiced Carrot Cake from Sweets From the Earth, 2 Ginger Snappers cookies from New Moon Kitchen, Tofurky Roast Beef Style slices, vegan margarine, Zen Chocolate Pudding, various Gardein products, vegan parmesan, Daiya, So Nice soy milk and strawberry soy milk from Natura.

In the midst of all this excitement, I noticed the dogs were jealous of all my kitchen activity, and how could I resist? I made up a batch of vegan doggy biscuits too!

sophandtreats

{Quick directions here: 1/4 cup dried fruit (not grapes or raisins as they are toxic to dogs!), 1/4 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour, 1/4 cup of oats. Preheat oven to 350F, and line sheet with parchment. Mix all ingredients together well. Roll into 1 inch balls about 2.5 inches apart, press down on tops to flatten. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool and refrigerate. Fight urge to not feed them all to your dog[s] at once. Feed within one week!}

Dad picked up his goodies tonight.  He is genuinely excited. No lamenting what he’s “giving up” and not a single comment about animal foods being “good for you”. He’s a stoic dude, so seeing him calmly accepting the kindness of another person (especially one of his children) was really touching. He was really adorable too, asking about what needs to be refrigerated, and what the Daiya can be used in (answer: ALL THE THINGS). He did not turn up his nose at the thought of meatless ‘chicken strips’ or vegan cheese.  This is a guy who a few months ago told me soy makes men grow boobs.

I’ll be sharing his progress throughout, and while I am guardedly optimistic (we do live in a non-vegan world), I think this is a huge step for Dad, for me, and for our relationship. I am so thankful that I get to do what my Nonna, my Mom and my Aunts all do to share their love: they feed each other. While what I feed my loved ones is different, I do it with every bit as much passion, excitement and humility. Aw, dang. Now I’ve got a hankering for my Mom’s tomato sauce…

My Dad may be a robot (and a note about my great uncle)

22 Jan

Last week something strange happened. My Dad asked me for help. This likely does not seem worth mentioning, but that’s only because you don’t know my father. Let me paint a picture: he’s a stoic, stubborn German dude who emigrated to Canada and brought along with him many of the stereotypical aphorisms about life being relentlessly hard, and thankless work being the cornerstone of any financially secure life. I love my Dad, even if we don’t agree on– well, almost anything.

Take for example, not eating animals. My father has in his arsenal at all times, unsolicited advice about: protein, calcium, how good meat is for you, eating like our ancestors, how meat staves off illness, etc. He’s not rude, it’s just that food, like all other subjects, happens to be something he has a strong opinion on (even/especially if that opinion is based on folk nutrition, overvaluing tradition, cognitive dissonance, etc).

So you can imagine my surprise when last week on the phone, out of the blue, he starts telling me about what stops him from eating vegan (or at least mainly vegan). Had I been sipping a beverage, I would have spit it out. Had I been chewing gum, I’d have bitten off my tongue. Had I been with him in person, I’d have been looking for visible signs of circuitry. Who was this honest, vulnerable robot imposter and what did he do with my generally pessimistic, dismissive father?

{As an aside, I have three main theories about what happened: 1) He finally watched the copy of ‘Forks Over Knives’ I gave him two Christmases ago; 2) One of the vegans he works with rubbed off on him or 3) Aliens. As it stands, I haven’t asked him, and I could care less.}

We talked for quite a while. I dropped all the usual sound bites: the inherent violence of slaughter, cholesterol and saturated fats, environmental problems, and all the great alternatives that now exist. He told me the single greatest barrier to him eating vegan is: he cannot picture what he’d eat.

He told me when we took him to Hogtown Vegan (an AMAZING vegan restaurant in Toronto) he was super happy seeing that so many of his favourite foods could be veganized. He wants to see more of it, and frankly, I can’t really blame him. I want him to see all the great alternatives that exist because although we’d eventually like to see people eating a wide array of whole plant foods, you can’t ask someone who goes from eating a burger and fries to chow down on a quinoa salad with tempeh. They’ll give up before they even start. That’s not human nature, and such a rapid shift is simply not going to jive with the powerful pull of the human palette.

So my Dad asked me {*drum roll please*} if I would prepare enough dishes for his lunch and dinner for the week for him, and he’d come pick them up. That’s right. The guy who once told me fish is practically a vegetable is asking me for my culinary charity. He said he’ll gladly pay for it all, he just wants to experience what eating vegan could really be like, because he “knows” it’s better. I’M AS SHOCKED AS YOU.

So here’s where I ask you folks to help me, help my Dad. Please offer up your most delicious recipes in the comments section focused on these 3 main criteria:

  1. Taste! Give me the salt, the fat, the sweet. I don’t mean give me excessive amounts of it, but no fat-phobic recipes allowed!
  2. Familiarity! This is for a man in his 60’s who thinks iceberg lettuce is a superfood.
  3. Ease! Nothing too complicated as I’ll ultimately be teaching him to replicate the recipes himself, and apart from some OJ and a few bananas, his kitchen looks like a movie set, and his soup cupboard looks like a disorganized Andy Warhol exhibit.

I thank you in advance for this, and encourage you to keep checking back! I’ll be charting my Dad’s progress, and what worked/didn’t work.

One last aside: several months ago, my Dad told me that his uncle bought some cattle for his farm out in the prairies. His intention was, like all other farmers, to make money (to feed the cows until they were big enough to slaughter). But something happened to him. My great uncle became very attached to the cows and couldn’t send them to slaughter. So he kept them. He kept them and let them live out their natural lives, despite being laughed at by the rest of his Mennonite community. My Dad told this story with a sparkle in his eye, a sparkle that was just barely discernible at the time. I’m not one to overvalue genes, but between you and me: I love knowing that the blood that ran through my uncle’s veins in that more oppressive time, is running through mine, and that my decision to love animals instead of eating them is the next logical step in the refusal to send them to their death. I realized today that the same blood is also running through my father’s veins. And this makes me hopeful. For him, and for us all, and ultimately for the animals.

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