Animal Rights Conference 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.40.54 AMLast weekend I attended AR2016, the largest and longest-running animal rights gathering. I wasn’t sure if I should attend, or what to expect. Since in addition to the horrible plight of animals, we cover a lot of environmental issues and incremental steps, I was worried that this might feel too extreme.

I was happily surprised to find a very wide and diverse group of people and organizations there. At times the fact that we all are very different in the way we are advocates and activists for the animals resulted in tension in the group. But never anything too harsh, in my opinion. In fact, even with the people I disagree with (as far as their methods), I was able to see their viewpoint and understand them better.

I came away from the conference feeling that although there is no way we are all going to form a completely united group, even with our common goals, everyone is doing what they can from their own angle and their focus. Whether it is freeing monkeys from laboratories, focusing on wild horses, or creating alternatives to meat from animals this is the most passionate group of people I have ever met. And every one is committed to their goal: speaking out for the animals.

I believe there are many reasons why anyone can change their lifestyle: from caring for animals, to health concerns, to lessening environmental impact. Once you are able to understand the idea that we do not need animal products to be healthy and happy, a greater awareness can grow from that. It then allows the connections to be made that the intelligence, personality and individual nature that our animal companions show, are not unique only to specific animals.

There is no way I can write about everything that happened in one post, so I will write several posts over the next week. In general, being an introverted person spending 4 packed days with 1,500 people took a lot of effort. Most people are very friendly and it was great to meet some online friends in person. I learned that no matter how good your message is, presentation is so important. Our movement needs those with professionalism and positive energy. I’m going to do highlight some of my favorite speakers in the other posts.

To end this overview: we are all working towards a huge, exciting revolution and social movement. The change is coming, we can see it. Don’t be afraid of a stereotype of being extreme. We are not all the same, even as we work towards the same goals. Animals have no voice. They are innocent victims to whatever human beings decide to do with them. My young daughter understood this at a very young age, and started me on a path to reevaluate my beliefs. Some people may choose to protest loudly in grocery stores, while others work on awareness and education through other channels. If everyone can do whatever they can, we will normalize this concept that animals exist on the earth alongside us, not for us. In the end, a less violent, and more compassionate world is a cause to proudly support.

 

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Vegan Everyday Stories

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Our local NW Veg organization is a great asset to the community. They have brought some amazing speakers to Portland, and host a very large Veg Fest every year. It was exciting to see them involved in creating this new documentary. Producers Eric Day (former President of NW Veg) and Wendy Day, Director Glenn Scott Lacey and Director of Photographer Ian Stout formed a very strong creative team for this movie.

Vegan: Everyday Stories is a feature-length documentary that explores the lives of four remarkably different people who share a common thread – they’re all vegan. The movie traces the personal journeys of an ultramarathon runner who has overcome addiction to compete in one hundred mile races, a cattle rancher’s wife who creates the first cattle ranch turned farmed animal sanctuary in Texas, a food truck owner cooking up knee-buckling plant-based foods, and an 8-year-old girl who convinces her family of six to go vegan.

There are a number of great movies focusing on why to go vegan or featuring people new to veganism, but this movie spotlights how everyday people and their families, each pursuing their own careers, hobbies, and passions live their lives while following a vegan lifestyle.

The movie follows ultrarunner Yassine Diboun as he journeys miles into the wilderness, running from a past that deeply affected his family and nearly cost him his life; and Renee King-Sonnen, who fell in love with the farmed animals on her husband’s ranch and was determined to do whatever she could to create a sanctuary; and Jerri Hastey owner of food truck Seed On The Go who wishes to share delicious eye-catching food with the masses; and young Genesis Butler who at the tender age of 3 asked her mom where her chicken nuggets came from and now she’s on a quest to protect all animals in the world.

The movie is not only about vegan folks living their everyday lives, it is being created and funded by the community! The movie is a project of Northwest VEG, a 501c(3) charity, so all donations are tax-deductible.

I took the kids to watch it at their opening in Portland. I thought it might be inspiring to see how even younger children can make changes in the world. I was very impressed with the quality of the film, how it was produced and edited. The stories were interesting and I liked how it could appeal to different people interested in different angles: athletes, doctors, musicians, animal lovers, foodies and more. From Ed Begley, Jr to Russell Simmons to David Carter, it was fun to see the many cameos throughout of celebrities in a wide variety of industries. I was a little confused by the lack of captions for these well-known people, but found out later that was intentional, and I believe meant to keep you focused on the aspect that these are everyday stories. At the end during the credits, everyone is credited, which was fun to see everyone who was involved.

There was once scene that was really hard, and made my daughter quite emotional. Not graphically violent, but a verbal description of one woman’s experience in a slaughterhouse.

The movie is available to watch for free! Watching it from a perspective of already being vegan, I would be very interested in hearing what a non-vegan thinks about it. I personally wondered if the title would narrow the appeal, but hopefully everyone can take a peek into very individual people’s lives and motivations. There is something for everyone, and they did a very professional and nice job on creating this.

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Ripple Milk: making a splash

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Ever since we read about Ripple Milk, we were intrigued! We sample a lot of non-dairy milk, but tend to stick to the 12 pack soy milks available from Costco just as that is easier, and we all like it. I personally find coconut milk a little slimy, and Jonathan objects to almond milk because of almond’s water intensive needs (although actually there is very little almond in store-bought milk).

Hemp is my second favorite, but is too expensive. I can’t stand rice milk- way too thin, and separates out in coffee (my main use). It is okay for cereal.

Ripple milk is made using pea protein, so it is great for those with allergies to soy, dairy and nuts. It has 20% fewer calories, less saturated fat and half the sugar of dairy. It has eight times the protein of almond milk. It also very healthy for you as it contains 32 mg of long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA (from microalgae), it has vitamins and minerals: 45% of the DV for calcium, 30% DV for vitamin D, and 13% for iron.

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I found it at Whole Foods and liked the fun packaging. It cost a bit initially more than the standard non-dairy milks at $4.99. However, you can find a coupon for $1 off  which makes it more comparable. I personally liked the taste. The kids and Jonathan were not as enamored. I found that we have really stopped drinking milk on it’s own- using it only in cereal, recipes and coffee. This created a slight problem of us not really using it quickly. Because it was a little more expensive, I was saving it for drinking rather than just adding it into whatever we normally do.

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I think for younger kids who like to drink plain milk and people looking for a healthy milk option, it would be worth trying. Especially as it comes down in price hopefully. I will check on the Target price and see if that makes it more affordable. Although they purposefully wanted to avoid doing tetra packs, and it emulates cow milk in some regards of look and taste, I like how we can store tetra packs of milk and have them on hand.

The milk could be followed by yogurts, creamers, cheeses and more- making it a big game-changer in the plant-based arena. Just don’t call it “pea milk” please…

 

 

 

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Capture every drop

a stainless steel kitchen sink drain detail
a stainless steel kitchen sink drain detail

As most of us are aware, water is a precious and dwindling resource. Although 70% of the earth is covered in water, less than 1% of all the water on earth is fresh water that we can actually use. Water is critical to our existence, and it’s lack makes all conditions worse for everyone. As our population grows, we require even more water to survive.

The purpose of this post is not to talk about all the efficient ways you can cut back on your water use, which is also important and everyone can take steps to reduce their personal use. Awhile ago, we transitioned our grass yard to mostly drought-resistant plants, reducing the need for a sprinkler system as well as avoiding a brown dried lawn in front of our home. Another bonus if that trees and plants help absorb carbon. Lately, we have added some plants that require watering- but also give us something in return: food. Grow food not lawns.

Neighbor's front yard is mostly full of fruit and vegetables. It looks amazing
Neighbor’s front yard is mostly full of fruit and vegetables. It looks amazing

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This post is just a very simple, easy step we all can take to not waste our clean, fresh water without changing how you use water, and very little effort.

A few months ago we started keeping a 2 gallon container near the kitchen sink, into which we toss all the half-drunk glasses of water that would normally go down the drain, we also save the water that we use while waiting for the kitchen tap to get hot. It is amazing how much water we simply toss out. Or, maybe not so amazing when you think of the similar food waste conditions.

Put a pitcher by your sink, capture that clean water- use it to water your plants. You can have one in the bathroom as well. It will keep you from using (and paying for) more water, and reduces the waste involved in the treatment required to clean waste water.

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This post was inspired by my climate-friendly gardening brother-in-law! Check out his PlantSync Facebook page for other gardening ideas to combat climate change. I’ve been enjoying his videos.

 

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Vegan Food & Beer Fest

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Last weekend was really busy with the Vegan Beer & Food Festival, and the Old McDonald’s Open House on Saturday, then brunch with friends on Sunday. It was very fun and I love having a lot going on. However, the morning before the festival as I went to the bank for $ for the festival, two stores for items needed for the Open House, picked up 30 pounds (total) of cherries and apples from a “fruit and veggie” guy from Eastern WA, and our local CSA for leafy greens- all before 10:30am, it seemed a bit energetic.

Vegan Beer Fest started in LA, and this is their second time coming to Portland. They have music, vegan booths selling items, many food and drink booths (some from LA, some local).

Last year I had been very interested in going to the Vegan Beer Fest, but didn’t end up going for a few reasons:

1) I couldn’t find anyone interested in going with me. I think because of the word “Vegan”. Really? It’s BEER- vegan or not, these are local great beers.

2) Tickets were $45-65 to get in, and that includes drinks but not food.

3) I don’t really like beer.

4) I don’t really like hipsters- and that seemed to be the majority of the crowd based on photos.

So, you can see why spending $45 to go alone but be surrounded with hipsters and drink mostly kombucha didn’t really appeal to me.

This year, I scored a half-price ticket early on, but then was invited by a printer friend who I work with to go as a VIP. Going early was really nice, since there weren’t lines at any of the food and drink booths. Except one: Herbivorous Butcher, a brother/sister team from Minneapolis was there. It was the one food booth I was really set on trying, and we decided to go there first. They have been wildly successful, based on the press I have read making their homemade vegan meats and cheeses. They had two items they were selling: one was a couple of deep-fried chicken pieces in mashed potatoes with gravy, inside a waffle cone ($11). I also ordered their Korean beef jerky ($5). The owners were there, and they were actually very cute, nice hipsters.

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My friend has been vegetarian for over 20 years, so she has actually forgotten what meat tastes like. I don’t think this seitan meat was exactly like meat, but it was delicious with the crispy, spicy breading and textures. We barely finished that, it was a lot of food. I saved the jerky for later.

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After that, well, I won’t go into each beer, cider and kombucha we tasted for now- mostly because I lost my list. Oregonic Tonic stood out for me in the kombucha. I tasted a lot of delicious beers and ciders. There were many fruity options, which worked well for me. And the fact that the glass was only 3 oz, was really nice. We were given 20 beer coupons to get in (the kombucha and coffees are free), apparently I only had 9 beers and ciders, so my  illustration is actually off by three drinks.

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As for food, we split everything which really helped us be able to try more things. You can see everything we tried in the illustration.

My only regret is not being physically able to eat more- especially missing dessert. We left after only 3 hours, if we stayed longer, we could have eaten a lot more. There is only so much one can eat and drink in a few hours!

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It was definitely worth going this year, especially being invited as a business vendor. And shout out to CCL Label, who does very high-quality digital labels at their local Oregon press. Otherwise, I still think I might go, but only with half-price tickets because of my small drinking capacity, and definitely with some friends to share the food.

 


The angry carnivore

Earlier this year I wrote about the angry vegan, a fairly well-known stereotype.

There are also angry “carnivores”. These are the people who have to make comments on vegan-friendly pages, just to provoke a reaction. They make jokes about vegans and mock them. And when I say mock, I don’t mean gently ribbing- I mean really horrible, awful comments with hashtags like:

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To me, the need to retaliate or provoke indicates that a nerve has been touched, and the reason they are angry is because deep down they feel guilty or ashamed. If they were completely fine with what they were doing, they would just ignore vegans. Those who eat meat already have things exactly as it suits them- they can eat anything they want, at any restaurant. It has been accepted by society to be “normal” and it is legal.

In a way, it is like when heterosexual people are up in arms over gay marriage. Does it affect them getting married? How does it really impact their lives?

They will claim it is a moral or religious issue, ignoring the fact that they are really saying that there are some humans that cannot have equal rights.

There are a wide variety of people within the vegan and plant-based communities. Vegans may have started their journey for health reasons, environmental issues or because of the abject cruelty for animals. There are some awful vegans, for sure, but that applies to any group and religions. Some people become angry once they realize how lobbyists, advertising and corporations are hiding truths from the public. It is pretty natural to want to build awareness, after all, most people weren’t aware from childhood. In addition to false and hidden information, we are fighting against ingrained historical and cultural systems. They may have at one time served their place, but we are facing uncharted territory, a world with billions more people and dwindling resources.

I don’t know any people personally (thank goodness) who do NOT believe that their pet cat or dog doesn’t have a personality, and can feel pain and fear. Vegans just extend that concept towards a wider variety of animals.

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I don’t feel angry about the little jokes, and won’t normally rise to take the bait of trolls. What the jokers don’t understand is that everyone has heard the joke about a million times, and it is pretty old. Post a photo of a cute piglet, cue these responses: “Mmm, bacon” “PETA: People eating tasty animals” “How do you know the vegan in the room? Don’t worry they’ll tell you”, “Plants have feelings too”, “If you love animals so much, why are you eating their food?” “Animals will go extinct if we don’t eat them”, “Animals will take over the world if we don’t eat them”.

(Those last two, cannot both be true obviously, and can sometimes be an actual question for people. As long as vegans can respectfully discuss this, an explanation on supply and demand breeding can occur.)

The backlash of the hard core meat lovers is real, it is big, and happening now. This article does a great job of going in-depth.

 Global Source:Harvesting the Biosphere: The Human Impact by Vaclav Smil http://bit.ly/1PAhMBJ

Global Source:Harvesting the Biosphere: The Human Impact by Vaclav Smil
http://bit.ly/1PAhMBJ

 

 

 

As for me, I will keep drawing and doing what I can. I plan to focus on helping people with recipes, ideas, and awareness. Remaining positive more than preachy. And, unfortunately for the haters, we won’t shut up and go away. Because the animals, future generations, the oceans, the rain forests aren’t able to speak. We have to.

 


Dairy crisis

Things are changing quickly and there are encouraging articles every day about the shift towards more plant-based options, eating less meat, and awareness of the effects of our diet on health, climate change and animals.

The dairy industry may be the first place we see the effects of these changes. In our city’s local grocery stores there are so many alternatives non-dairy milks offered. Soy, almond, coconut, rice, cashew, hemp, pistachio, all these new options are on the shelves as an option to cow’s milk. Part of the rise of these milks may be that there are many lactose-intolerant people, in addition to vegans. But, in general, more people are aware of some of the negative aspects of dairy on their health. And can it also be that people are caring more about the treatment of animals?

Milk tends to be a product that mostly children drink by the glassful. Adults use it in cereal, recipes or in their coffee, but rarely drink it on it’s own. I believe that makes it easier to be replaced than cheese.

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I’m a little embarrassed to admit this publicly, but I did not realize until about 4 years ago that cows had to be forcibly impregnated every year or two, and that their male calves were taken away from them and killed early on as veal or slaughtered for beef, while the females became dairy cows as well separated from their mothers. I don’t know that I ever even gave it any thought, or just imagined that cows could just keep producing milk indefinitely on their own. While I am not a country girl, I understand that there may be some exceptions and better treatment on some farms, but not for the large farms.

The dairy crisis is a complex situation of which I can only skim the surface, with China stockpiling milk from New Zealand adding to the situation. It is terrible for farmers and cows, with a 6 week waiting list for cows that are being sold for slaughter due to farms going bankrupt.

In Australia right now, there are protests taking place because the smaller dairy farmers are being undercut by cheaper factory farm milk. They are asking consumers to drink more milk and also pay the extra dollar to make up for the price slashing. While I think the factory farms are the larger issue in this case, it is time for the meat and dairy industry to prepare for changes in the market and not depend on consumer’s good will. I don’t see this situation improving for them.

In the midst of this personal and financial turmoil, Animal Rights protestors were also at the protest in Australia cradling dead calves, I felt a bit conflicted. How horrible to have dead animals as a spectacle at this event. But, when you think about how the dairy farmers are protesting against the government for undercutting their profits, the cow is viewed simply as a product. Now we are forced to view them as victims also.

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Then I thought about how it is awful to see these dead animals in public, yet we are okay with viewing cow’s bodies cut up without skin. How strange is that? We don’t want to view them as animals, we only want to see them as products.

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This catastrophe for dairy farmers is not likely to improve soon, this is the way of the future, and the writing is on the wall.

We have no option but to bear the economic consequences in order to fix our system. And that applies to the meat industry as well. There is no price that we cannot pay that is worse than our future resources if we don’t adapt. In order to sustain a growing population, the trend away from animal products will continue.


I can’t afford to buy _______!

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How many times do we hear and say that we can’t afford to buy organic, healthy, sustainable, or whatever food? You can buy large, cheap quantities of food usually for less money than their healthier counterparts.

I’d like to challenge that idea by looking at it in this way- you can buy the better, smaller, more delicious version of food that you want if you eat less of it, and don’t waste it.

It is ridiculous how much food is wasted in our homes, not to mention the almost 30% before it even gets to our grocery stores because it is not cosmetically perfect. We sometimes forget we even have it, or don’t use it in time and it gets tossed out. That money for the cheap stuff you throw out, could have been put towards that more expensive food you wanted. I am not even talking about the environmental and poverty aspects in this particular post, which are huge factors.

Most people in wealthier countries eat too much anyway. I’ll focus on USA for now, where more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.

I’m getting to a grassroots level of what we as consumers can do to change the world. We can vote with our money for the healthiest foods for ourselves, the animals and the environment.

Although I don’t eat meat, suppose you do. I think with the meat and dairy industries, all price savings come with a huge cost elsewhere. I know we all can agree this is not what we want to support.

There are costs to everything we consume, I’m just saying we can do A LOT better.

For our family, I have made it a personal challenge to see what creative way I can use what I have on hand in order to extend the time between grocery store visits. By having a lot of rice, beans, lentils, pasta, canned veg and non-perishables in the pantry, my vegetables can be used in all sorts of ways. Stir fry, roasted, soups, curries, and more.

Sometimes it looks like our refrigerator is very bare- and with two big kids with huge appetites, that is hard to avoid! However, if your refrigerator is so full that you cannot locate your leftovers, or even see what is in the back, you will end up wasting food.

I’m lucky enough to be able to go to the grocery store and replenish my supply easily, so I don’t feel like I need to stockpile perishable items.

The best way to use everything, is to follow a meal plan, so you know what you need exactly and you know how you will use it. I used MealMentor. Or, get really ambitious and plan for the whole month and freeze things.

If you aren’t into planning or like to be creative, try making it a game- play Top Chef: make it a culinary challenge to produce a meal from random ingredients. Hint: the key is having condiments and spices. If I have lemon and garlic, I can usually come up with something!

Just for fun, I took a photo of my refrigerator contents (shown above). It looked really bare with milk and some of the condiments on the side, so I added the bowl of fruit that usually sits on the table, and took the vegetables out of the drawers, a bit staged. I usually don’t have two loaves of fresh bread, but have one in the freezer.

It may not look like much for a family of four, but I can see what I have, and am going to make sure I use it all.

 

Please share your ideas, meal planning, or fridge photos! #wasteless


Animal Rights- what does that mean to you?

After hearing the Animal Rights Conference would be on the West Coast in July, I thought about going. Then, I thought about how I am vegan not only for the animals, but also for the environment and people. What would the sessions be like? I wasn’t sure if I fit the mold of activist that attends these types of things. I am way more concerned about big issues being addressed first, than every single smaller issue if that makes sense. I see the connection between how we think of animals in general as needing to shift, but worry that we lose people if we talk more about horseback riding than factory farming and ocean depletion. I asked a fellow pragmatic vegan advocate, and he told me it was not too radical. And, then met Seth Tibbott, Tofurky founder who encouraged me to go.

So, after missing the early bird deadline I bought my airline ticket and will be headed back to LA in July… even though I swore I’d never return to the vicinity after last year’s heat wave in October.

I don’t know what to expect yet, but I am excited to be meeting with people I’ve met online coming from Europe to attend, as well as all the other people committed to making sure animals have a voice.

Animal Rights is an interesting topic, definitely from a philosophical standpoint. I know most people agree we should not torture and abuse animals, even though we have designated some animals as being exempt from this. Is it based on cuteness, intelligence, endangered status or just cultural taste preferences? If you are interested in this topic, Melanie Joy has written an exceptional book, “Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows”  or you can watch her TED talk here.

It is a huge shift to actually rethink how we were taught by our society and culture to consider animals as our property and to use however we wish. But, we have had changes in history on how we’ve thought of slaves, women, Jewish people, and other groups. You may not consider this an equal comparison, but similar rationalizations have been used.

I am constantly listening to other perspectives from small dairy farmers to relatives, take a moment and think about if there is some truth to the idea of speciesism. If you love and care about an animal- a dog or cat perhaps… why are other animals not deserving of protection? I used to tell my child (and myself), that it was okay to eat animals because we bred them for that purpose. Why is that okay to breed them only to live a very short, miserable life? See lifespan.

And like the golden rule found in most religions, “do unto others as you would have done unto you”. What if the roles were reversed? Weird, right?

If these ideas are not something you want to consider, the environmental aspect still covers us all. The animals are linked to us, and keeping the Earth habitable for as long as possible is in all of our best interests.


Being a Veg Guest

I had been thinking about a trip to Arizona for over a year, as my grandmother is getting close to 90 and refuses to travel, and I have other relatives in the area who I really wanted to visit.

After finally booking a flight, I realized that I haven’t been in that particular situation with people outside my parents and sister, where I would be staying in someone’s home, but having special diet requirements. Do you say, “please don’t worry about accommodating my vegan lifestyle”– therefore implying that they possibly should be worried? Believe me, it is not enjoyable to feel like you are creating any type of difficulty for anyone.

My aunt said it would be no problem, and she was going to try out new recipes. I later found out she even tried being vegetarian for one week.

We arrived and found she had purchased Costco-sized vegan treats like hummus, pita chips, sweet potato fries, chocolate covered dried mango, dried nuts and fruit, and rice ramen. She also made me my own kale/white bean soup to take to my grandma’s the next day. So much for not being any extra work! She went out of her way to make sure I had delicious vegetable pastas and grilled vegetables to eat at every meal, and it was much appreciated.

I tried finding a vegan restaurant in the area for one meal we ate out, but there really weren’t many options in the retirement suburbs outside of Phoenix. There were veg-friendly options like Chipotle or ethnic restaurants, just not the plethora we have in Portland.

My grandmother lives in a retirement home and is quite content to eat just two meals a day at the restaurant in her building. Her refrigerator is stocked with some light beer, and her freezer with ice cream, and that is about it. She says she hates all vegetables, and doesn’t understand or want to know what veganism is about.

Besides grandma, I felt like there were some good open discussions with others. I left with a better understanding of what challenges people face who are considering making a change. Listening more than talking is really important. Finding common ground, and figuring out practical concerns are key. Most people who did have an interest in talking about it, actually are open to the idea.

They understand that there are environmental concerns and animals treated inhumanely. It just seems very difficult to switch up everything they know about cooking and planning meals. For example, that cooked vegetables are harder to freeze or keep as leftovers than meat. People struggle with trying to make food that their families will eat that is not too difficult, expensive and tastes good. It has to be a lot easier.

I’m pretty convinced we could reach a better place in the world if the vegans would really listen to what the omnivores are saying, and vice versa. Although it can be hard to go against the flow, we can’t make changes and have conversations unless we do stand for a big change.

Beyond the great learning experience for me, and hopefully planting positive seeds, I still don’t know what advice to offer in this type of situation. Have an awesome aunt who will cater to you? I’m just lucky in that area. What are your ideas on how to make that work? How to make sure people aren’t stressed in advance? Comment with ideas for your best meals to make in this situation.