It’s never “Happy Turkey Day”

TurkeysWe hear this expression used instead of Happy Thanksgiving often. The unfortunate turkey has been cast as the star of this annual feast of giving thanks, and gathering with friends and family.

Although I have only been eating a plant-based diet since March 2012, I have never made my own turkey, and now it looks like I never will. It always seemed like a scary thing involving frozen items thawing, innards, and long baking times. While it may seem impossible to imagine a holiday table without a big turkey carcass as the centerpiece, my favorite part of the meal has always been the side dishes, especially my mom’s stuffing that has nuts and dried fruit!

The main variety of turkey eaten in the US is a domesticated breed called the broad-breasted white. The average live weight of federally inspected turkeys has nearly doubled in the past 50 years, and the time it takes for a turkey to reach market weight has halved.

46 million birds will die just for Thanksgiving dinner. They are killed at only 18 weeks old, and are overly huge since the breast meat is preferred. In personality, turkeys are intelligent and sensitive animals that are highly social. They create lasting social bonds with each other and are very affectionate; rather similar to dogs.


Many of these animals suffer needlessly as a result of being super-sized by factory farming methods, as we buy excessively large animals to impress our guests. Americans throw away about 35 percent of edible turkey meat each year. So most people are buying turkeys 1/3 larger than they will even eat.

Considering this, you have several options besides just blindly following tradition.


1. My favorite: Make a true harvest dinner, like this delicious spread. Most of the traditional side dishes can be made without animal products, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth for example.

2. Buy a turkey substitute like a Tofurky or make your own!

3. Keep in mind the treatment of the animal by understanding labels. It is more expensive to worry about these things because the animal has been allowed to grow naturally, and it is cheaper to raise animals with unhealthy food and space.

For some reason, with turkeys, a single bird is eaten per family (rather than just sliced off portions of a whole animal), which makes it seem more personal. I vote for keeping guilt off the plate entirely.

Plan ahead for a happy and compassionate Thanksgiving for all!

Plant-powered for the planet

I’ve been a bit quiet here lately due to relaunching our design firm business, moving our office, getting ready for VegFest, and volunteer work. I have so many ideas about posts to write. There is so much to say, it can be a bit overwhelming. It makes me feel like I have definitely chosen the right path to follow to make a difference in the world. I will do everything I can personally to raise awareness of the biggest issue we face: climate change. It affects every aspect of our lives and is a unifying project that humanity must take on as quickly as possible.

It doesn’t matter if you eat more plants because you care about animals, because it is better for your health, or because you see the environmental devastation. I don’t even want to get involved in labels: It is not about being vegan or vegetarian or flexitarian. It is about awareness and doing everything you can do, as quickly as possible. I don’t want animal cruelty, but that is an equal and additional concern, which is separate from the environmental issue. I understand that to many it may seem very radical to stop using animal products. But you know what else is radical? Cities going underwater.

We’ve contributed so much to this problem, and it is up to us to solve it. But we have to act NOW, and my aim is to encourage action- even imperfect action. We all must do whatever we can, as well as we can. Every single day we get to be involved in creating a better world for our children, as well as the animals. Choose wisely.

If this is a war, we are all the losers.

I came across this story, and felt compelled to insert my own commentary (in bold, italic green). The most surprising part of the story for me was that the author has a very young child. A child who will inherit a future that is affected by our own choices, every day. We must take immediate action towards slowing down the devastating effects of climate change. I believe this takes precedence over our personal food preferences as well, but like smoking, it takes time to create awareness and convince people. Let’s break this down and discuss her arguments.

“Meat lovers rejoice, you’re winning the war”
by SE Cupp

Last week, the Obama administration did something uncharacteristically sensible: It declined to urge Americans to eat less meat.

Starts with a very slanted slam. Like the Obama administration hasn’t made any sensible decisions. Also, the headline is so aggressive- who declared war? 

Despite the recommendation of a top nutrition advisory panel to use federal agencies to set new dietary guidelines involving fewer cheeseburgers, barbecued ribs and filet mignon — all in an effort to merely save the planet — administration officials quietly announced that such new guidelines are not “the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability.”

Yes, not a joke…  this was the recommendation of a top nutrition advisory panel “all in an effort to merely save the planet

Liberal supporters of kudzu climate change legislation were furious that the president wouldn’t take the advice of Scientists-with-a-capital-S — who are, to the left, the only moral authorities that matter — and use his considerable bully pulpit to cut the bull, literally.

Wow, that’s confusing. She is saying scientists (excuse me Scientists) are making this a MORAL dilemma? 

“A meat-eater’s typical diet is responsible for almost twice as much global warming as your typical vegetarian’s and almost triple that of a vegan,” Josh Voorhees lamented at Slate after the news broke. “(An) Oxford University study suggested that cutting your meat intake in half could cut your carbon footprint by more than 35 percent.”

All of this may be true. But there are more than a few reasons why Americans will not — and should not — stop eating meat.

“All of this may be true.” So, she is not refuting this fact. But here is why we don’t care…

The first is that it will most certainly not save the planet. To have any meaningful impact on the global climate, a meat abstinence campaign would require worldwide cooperation and compliance. Try telling Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of beef and the second largest beef producer, to slow its roll, especially in light of its struggling economy. Also, cows have other intrinsic values than meat, such as milk (and sacrality, if you’re one of the world’s billion Hindus), that will likely assure their longtime survival.

To have any meaningful impact we need to act like leaders. We’re eating more meat than most countries, and Brazil can slow it’s roll if we decrease demand. Rainforests are actually more important than us all eating meat whenever we want it. Read about it. Or, do we just say let’s destroy the earth so Brazil’s economy will be ok?

Another reason the scheme won’t work is that humans prefer to eat meat. Evolutionarily and biologically — also Science-with-a-capital-S — we are meat eaters. It’s why we have digestive tracts specifically designed to process meat. It’s why our enzymes evolved to digest meat. It’s why with greater meat consumption we became more intelligent and social than other species. Denying ourselves meat would, both in the short term and over centuries, have a disastrous effect on human development. Ex-vegan Lierre Keith, author of the controversially militant anti-veganism book “The Vegetarian Myth,” says: “A vegetarian diet — and especially a vegan diet — does not provide for the long-term maintenance and repair of the human body. So vegetarians are on drawdown of their biological reserves.”

Yes, we physically can eat meat. Whatever intellectual or developmental gains we may or may not attribute to meat will be a moot point if we are all extinct, can we agree on that? And, we are using someone’s book as proof? I have read many books that say the opposite. Not impressed.

But meat hasn’t just fed our bodies. It’s fed human civilization’s soul. Vaclav Smil’s book “Should We Eat Meat?” connects meat and “cooperative hunting” to the “development of language and socialization.” The domestication of animals was a significant factor in evolving from Old World societies to modern ones. When a Third World country graduates to a developing nation, one of the first things it does is supply its citizens with more protein-rich meat.

Yes, but my point remains, if we are all extinct how will this matter? And look at China for an example of how our planet is not going to be able to sustain this larger population of meat eaters. Actually, this is precisely why we need to cut back.

But even if we did collectively decide to turn to a vegetarian or meat-light economy, if you like your vegetables you’d better be prepared for more hunting.

Hunting and animal population control is why you have readily available produce at your favorite grocery store. Agricultural producers experience 10 percent crop loss in wildlife damage from deer and other wildlife species annually, according to a University of Nebraska study. State governments regularly use taxpayer dollars to compensate farmers for their losses. If we’re going to feed our nation with veggie burgers, get ready for a deer explosion — and the car accidents that will accompany it.

I thought this was a joke, I’m sorry. Okay, we better just eat meat and not worry about climate change because deer are going to be out of control!

While the Obama administration made a political decision not to upset the influential livestock and agriculture industries when it ignored experts’ orders to lower meat consumption, it was also the right one. And as we’re learning, the government has a pretty lamentable record when it comes to telling us what we should and shouldn’t eat.

Yes, it was a political decision to ignore experts’ orders.

After long recommending that we avoid whole milk — it was in fact banned from school lunch programs — many nutritionists now say the opposite might be healthier, that consuming fat can lower incidence of heart disease.

Yes, and sometimes they say coffee or wine is good for you and then they say it is bad for you.  If you are basing your ideas on this point, here is an article stating the opposite.

As climate change adherents insist on the science that supports their cause and ignore the science that does not, while foisting selective, incomplete or flat-out wrong prescriptions upon average Americans who must continually adapt to new behavioral mandates, this week’s decision was a win for meat lovers everywhere. As if eating meat wasn’t already winning.

As meat lovers insist on articles that support their cause of loving to eat meat, and ignore the science that does not, we ALL lose.


Vegging out in California

Earlier this year, we won a raffle contest at my daughter’s school. It was so exciting to win a free trip. We had three choices of places to go, but the only one where our whole family could go, was the trip to California. It included airfare, hotel, a dinner at Medieval Times, Knotts Berry Farm tickets, and 2 day passes to Disneyland.

The kids and I had gone to Knotts and Disneyland 7 years ago with my mom. I remembered them riding Dumbo and all the little kid rides, this would be a very different experience with them so much older and tall enough to ride all the rides. My husband and I are not really into theme parks, and I have to admit, I just don’t understand the appeal. However, it was something we wanted to do for the kids to enjoy.


I had done a little research as to how we might be able to eat vegan, or even vegetarian at these places since I remembered people eating giant turkey legs last time we went. It appeared there would be some options. Since we were staying in a hotel and taking a shuttle bus to the park, we didn’t want to cart food around with us. But, after our experience, my advice to you is bring your own food.

I’m going to write about the veg aspect, and try to separate our experience from the fact that it was over 100 degrees in mid-October most of the time we were there! Record-breaking heat for them, and made everything a lot less enjoyable. Here is our best moment, cooling off at Splash Mountain. This photo makes me laugh every time at our reactions.



The best vegan experience we had was actually at the most surprising place- Medieval Times, a dinner show featuring knights jousting. It was surreal, especially as we had no idea what it would be like. You are given a paper crown to wear when you enter, and that is “your” knight for the evening. There were about a million ways to separate you from your money from the moment you enter this already expensive show—from a family photo with the king ($21), to a full gift shop. You are served your meal while watching the show and cheering your knight with optional $5 flags. I didn’t see anyone else order the vegetarian option, but it was quite good. It was comprised of a stew of potatoes, beans and rice served in a bucket; tomato soup; hummus, pita bread and vegetables. The apple pastry at the end was not vegan- it was supposed to come with a sorbet I think. As you can see in the photos, everyone is served a huge portion of chicken. The woman next to me ate practically none of it. It was depressing to see all those chicken legs, but I appreciated that they actually offer a delicious and much healthier substitute meal.


There may have been veg options at Knotts Berry, but we didn’t look past the chicken dinner restaurant and another place that only offered grilled cheese, instead opting to go to TGIF nearby. We got their black bean burger for $13.49, and I believe it was the only adult veg entrée available. It was the same Chipotle Bean Burger that we get from Costco for at most $1.50 each, which is a good burger but quite a big mark up!

For Disneyland, we found a portobello sandwich (that was delicious) in Tomorrowland. It had a full mushroom, large grilled red pepper and onions. It was not vegan, and it was already prepared with mayo (I think) and 1 slice of cheese. We ate that twice.

We tried to find other places, like Ariel’s Grotto, which was supposed to have a tofu scramble. Unfortunately, you have to make advance reservations to eat there. One night we ended up at Flo’s V8 diner in California land seeking out the veggie tater bake. After waiting in line for 20 minutes, we found out that they were sold out! As you can see all the other entrées were mostly meat. One could argue that you could eat a salad without the meat, but after being in the sun and walking all day, we were hungry! And our kids don’t eat salad, and how difficult is it really to offer veggie options? Especially if they sell out of them. Do I sound bitter? Here is a photo of our dinner comprised of sides. And no, not vegan.


One night we went to visit friends in the area, and stopped at a grocery store for some BBQ items, where I got to finally try the Beast Burger. They had delicious salad and fresh fruit, it was the best meal of our whole trip.

The last morning of our trip we went to Jamba Juice in Disney Town, and we all got large smoothies. I got to try their new Almond Milk smoothie with pumpkin, banana and cinnamon. It was delicious! Kudos to Jamba Juice for offering these new dairy free options.

So, while it is possible to eat veggie in Disneyland, it is much harder to eat vegan. And I don’t want to hear about frozen lemonade, french fries or an ear of corn as options. I want a real meal, just like everyone else.

Experiencing how difficult it is to eat vegan, and how predominant the meat culture is in America really shook me up a bit. I know I live in a bubble normally – Portland is one of the most veg-friendly cities in the world. I usually eat at home, or can easily choose where to eat. Until you stop eating meat (and especially eggs and dairy), you don’t realize how little choice that consumers have. We need to have those options so that people can choose them.

The economics of compassion towards animals


I just read this story about how lower income people are actually more concerned with animal welfare and factory farms, yet are less able to afford the higher prices of “humane-certified” meat. I found it surprising.

In some ways this is positive news since that means that no matter what the financial circumstances, that isn’t a barrier for concern about factory farming.

Removing ag-gag laws and forcing farms to treat animals even slightly decently (let them turn around and stretch their limbs!), comes with a price. And it should.

Photo: Shpernik088, via Wikimedia Commons

Does that mean only the wealthy will be able to afford meat? Or, does that mean the poorer individuals should eat the worst meat? The trend is going that way, and we need to really start expanding our views on what constitutes protein.

If I could compare eating meat to cars for a minute. I would say that just because a wealthy person could afford a gas-guzzling Hummer, that doesn’t mean that they would drive one. Maybe someday, what we choose to eat will reflect more on our values than our salaries. That eating a meat-heavy meal will make an environmental statement as well.

The most troubling part of the story to me is that this story neglects to even consider that eating less (or no) meat could be the affordable, equitable solution. It may not have been the intent of the article, but there is an alternative for those who are concerned about animals and factory farming no matter what their income bracket.


Future goals


In my bagel post, I brought up the idea of different levels of veganism. The V word can be a tough one to swallow for many who have stereotypes in mind as to what this lifestyle represents.

I’m not here to talk to vegans, so maybe it is best to stay out of the controversy altogether. Different people are reached in different ways, and there is a place for all of us who care about these issues. The goal I have set for this website, is to encourage as many people as possible to reduce their meat consumption, and just bring awareness.

I don’t think love for animals is enough to change people’s diets, sadly. I know too many people who would never hurt an animal themselves, but don’t think anything about eating it once someone else has killed it and prepared it. The connection just isn’t there, or it isn’t strong enough.

But, what if I told you your children will suffer the consequences of ignoring the factory farm issues? That because we didn’t act quickly enough or make drastic enough choices, they will live through very hard times. We can’t even imagine their world because of the chaotic and exponential factors involved in climate change.

I’ve had a really good life. I think abstaining from animal products is a very small price to help the future generations enjoy or extend that privilege.

I want my kids to know that I definitely tried.


Why I am so committed to talking about eating less meat.

I feel very humbled by the fact that just 4 years ago I was absolutely clueless about veganism, factory farms, and the torture to animals. It just never fully penetrated my consciousness. I had friends who were vegetarian, but I don’t think they ever tried to talk about it with me, or I wasn’t listening. I loved animals but didn’t really speculate too much on “how the sausage was made”.

Once I opened my eyes, it was like seeing the world in a completely different light. This reminds me of the Navajo proverb, “You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep”. I couldn’t believe all the atrocities I had ignored for my whole life. I started reading the articles, connecting the dots. Factory farming was causing cruelty, drought, climate change, antibiotic overuse, rainforest destruction, species extinction, heart disease, cancer, and on and on and on. And the only reason on the other side behind all of this tragedy was: “MMM, BACON”.

Yes, meat tasted good to me before I knew what I now knew. But, once I aligned my diet with the compassion that I actually felt in my heart, and which most people do, I did not miss it. My taste buds changed, and now I love vegetables and fruit and plant-based foods. Then I realized how lacking the choices were… how can people pick a veggie option when they are not even on the menu, or represented poorly?

But, the point of this post is to say that I am trying to make up for a lot of lost time. My children have been vegetarian for awhile, and won’t have the decades of eating animals behind them that I do. I didn’t make them vegetarian, they naturally went to this concept even before I did and I just never tried to talk them out of it. My husband and I are dedicating our livelihood to environmental causes and this is where my heart lies. I do need to talk about these issues just in case there are people out there like me, who needed to be reached at the right moment, who are ready to wake up.