Last night I went to Dr. Casey Taft’s lecture about “Motivational Methods for Animal Advocacy”. His background is focused on anti-domestic violence, and he is also a founder of Vegan Publishers. He started by saying that there isn’t actually a study which proves the best method for vegan advocacy. But, in his opinion that when we are advocating, we need to only ask people to go vegan rather than take incremental steps like Meatless Monday, Reduce meat, or go vegetarian first. He also solidly ties veganism to being solely about ethics and animals. Therefore in his opinion, to go plant-based for diet, or for environmental reasons isn’t a good option.
Obviously, I don’t agree with this approach. He did say a number of things I did agree with:
1. Be respectful and support positive changes
2. Have a listening mindset and avoid focus on winning arguments
3. Avoid aggressive advocacy and angry vegan stereotype.
4. There are stages of change (similar to smoking) that includes contemplation, preparation and action. Know when to open discussions.
There you go, we can always find a common ground with everyone.
Some interesting questions after his talk:
One person in the audience asked about his personal journey. He started doing a plant-based diet for health reasons. Then, at some point later on, a friend challenged him about ethics and he went vegan. So, for him it was an incremental change that did not start based on ethics about animals. Also, it is harder to make a decision based on animal ethics while you are actively involved in the behavior of eating animals.
I don’t think it is important for advocates to argue about the methods too much. If he can reach people solely based on animal ethics, that is great. But, what about the people who absolutely do not want to hear that message? If they are open to smaller changes, that definitely seems better than nothing at all. And vegetarians absolutely do make a difference to the lives of animals- at least to pigs, fish and some cows and chickens.
There were questions about hunters and pets that eat meat. I feel that these types of questions take us farther away from the largest issue we face. To me, this is like worrying about what we are going to wear to dinner on the Titanic. We need to deal with the iceberg first. By trying to be perfect in all things, it becomes too hard for some people to attempt.
If it was working to just ask people to go vegan, there should be more vegans in the last few decades. However, our environment is not even set up for that to happen. Most restaurants do not even offer a vegan option. We need to get a few delicious vegan options on the menu so that people can choose those. Non-dairy cheeses and plant-based meats are becoming more popular and available. We need to let people find their path, in their own way.
Towards that end, I’ve been working on several options for a new name instead of “eat less meat”. I’ve been writing this blog for awhile, and I am trying to see what is most effective and appealing to people who aren’t vegan. Keeping in mind, there are unavoidable truths that I try to bring awareness about through science and facts. If showing that the food and recipes are easy and delicious is more effective than showing articles about animal cruelty, I would like to know.
I’ve put a poll on my facebook page, and I just need 40 non-vegan people to tell me what matters to them. Thanks for any information you’d like to share, and let me know if there is some resource you’d like to see on the website going forward.
Last week, I went to see Dr. Michael Gregor speak in Portland about his newest book, “How Not to Die”. I was on the fence about attending. It was a particularly dark and rainy night, definitely a lot of traffic. But I had rsvp’d to this free event as part of the 22 day veg challenge, and thought it would make an interesting blog article if nothing else.
Not being particularly informed about the book, or interested in the health aspect, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was happily surprised to find Dr. Gregor a very knowledgeable, and entertaining speaker. He was able to take scientific facts and studies and make it understandable for an average non-medical person. I am linking to a video that was very similar to the one I attended in Portland. It is long, but worth watching, and you can avoid the rainy drive aspect).
I did not buy his book that night because I want to have it on my kindle to share with my parents and sister. The information presented was very surprising to me. Basically, most deaths in the U.S. are preventable and related to nutrition.
He went through the top 15 ways Americans die, went through each of them and explained how a plant-based diet can prevent or reverse so many different diseases. He presented peer-reviewed studies showing how the body can heal itself.
There were only a couple that a plant-based diet can’t help with: accidents and suicide.
Honestly, I haven’t thought about the health effects much lately. I have been so focused on the huge environmental impact that affects our future, and the plight of the animals. It made feel very good to think that in addition to those causes, a plant-based diet will help my family live a longer, healthier life. In fact, he told us that by age 10, kids can have start of fatty streaks on arteries leading to heart disease. By the 20’s the plaque is hardening.
His book is on the best seller’s list, and is completely backed up with multiple medical journals and resources. His website www.NutritionFacts.org provides all the resources and studies.
Why aren’t more doctors telling their patients that they can be helped with diet rather than just pills and surgery? Many doctors don’t believe their patients are willing to change their eating habits, even with the choice of surgery and expensive medications. I would recommend the movie Forks over Knives as further proof that a plant-based diet is an under-utilized cure for many diseases.
He ended his talk by showing the old cigarette ads. Incredibly, doctors endorsed smoking not that long ago as a healthy habit. If we wait for the government to tell us what is unhealthy or healthy (which means they need to avoid the huge bias of the animal agriculture industry), there will be so many millions of preventable deaths. There were scientists and doctors aware of the risks of smoking well before that was brought to the attention of the general public and it still took decades for that research to be mainstream.
Could we really prolong our lives by eating a plant-based diet? I felt very good about the evidence provided, and a little amazed that there are so many benefits not only to the planet, and animals, but also to the people. If you have doubts, watch his video, read his book, watch Forks over Knives. In the end, it could even be a matter of life and death.
Is there anyone who doesn’t love pizza? With all the different crusts and toppings, there is something for everyone. However, one of the main components is usually cheese.
Vegans, lactose-intolerant, and those who just want a lower-fat option finally have some great options.
In Portland we are lucky enough to have a vegan option in many of our traditional pizza places. Most of them use a soy-based cheese. I saw a neighborhood place just added this delicious sounding combo: Arugula/Pumpkin Seed pesto, Meyer Lemon, and Cashew “Ricotta”.
Since we were having guests over, I wanted to make a pizza that was delicious enough to make the missing cheese portion irrelevant.
Last week, I ordered pizza from Hot Lips Pizza, who has three different options. One of them had a squash base with vegetables and hazelnuts. It was quite good, and I thought I could try to make that myself.
Apparently, I am not the only fan. Minimalist Baker is also located in Portland, and has her own recipe based on the Hot Lips Pizza.
Just to cover my bases and have two options, I also made a recipe from Forks over Knives that looked tasty to me! It uses creamed spinach and tofu as a base.
I tried making my pizzas with both store-bought Boboli crust, and a fresh pizza dough (purchased from the store). The fresh pizza dough was actually the much better option- only about $3.25 and locally made, it was much better and cheaper.
Both pizzas were pretty easy to make. The butternut one required roasting the squash first, and cooking some of the veg.
For our omnivore guests, the spinach pizza was actually the favorite option. The kids were not a fan of the butternut pizza. I’m going to try making some different options, maybe with a nut-based cheese, and experimenting with toppings on these pizzas. You’ll have to trust me… my pizzas looked exactly like these photos. (-;
I made my own version an egg sandwich based on an egg benedict recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ Vegan Brunch cookbook.
Amy’s Egg-free Sandwich
1 pound firm tofu
1 tbsp Bragg’s amino (or soy sauce)
1/2 tsp mustard
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp salt (did not have black salt which would be preferable)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for cooking
1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Gently press some of the water out of the tofu. Lay the tofu on its narrow side and slice into three pieces lengthwise. So basically you will have three slices that are large, flat rectangles.
2. Marinate the tofu for about an hour or overnight
3. Preheat a cast-iron pan over medium heat, add a thin layer of olive oil (or margarine) and cook on each side till nicely browned, about 15 minutes.
For dinner, I made a whole roasted cauliflower and used this recipe. It smelled divine. I just didn’t care for the almond sauce which turned out way too garlicky. I might just roast a cauliflower another time, or try a different recipe.
Every once in a while I make seitan. My husband likes the taste, and it sounds vaguely demonic. My favorite recipe is this one that is baked and tastes like a pepperoni log. So easy to make and packed with protein from vital wheat gluten and B12 from nutritional yeast. It is especially good in a sandwich with all the fixings!
I finished off the last of the Earth Balance Coconut Peanut Butter. It is pretty delicious, but I want to research the palm oil in it. I really try to avoid products with palm oil as it is present in so many products and is a major cause of deforestation. Earth Balance is a leader in having higher standards for responsible, sustainable palm oil. I hope so, because I would hate to give up their delicious butter spread!
Are one of those people who love fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions? You may have wanted to kick off the new year with a healthy habit. Veganuary was created specifically for you! With support for the whole month, there has been great success with people taking this pledge.
I started my solo challenge in March 2012 using Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s book “30 Day Challenge” as a guide. Here is how I made my change to a vegan lifestyle almost 4 years ago, and still going strong.
Locally, your vegetarian organization may be a great resource. NW Veg launched a shorter 22 day challenge on January 9. I’ve been participating as a mentor, and it has actually been a lot of fun. It has given me some renewed enthusiasm for trying recipes, and we have some great speakers and events during the challenge including Grant Butler, Dr. Michael Greger, Howard Lyman and more. Also, I was fortunate to get a very cool person as my mentee. We had a great talk, and I hope we can hit up Next Level Burger together soon with our kids. She’s been vegetarian for years, and ready to see the health benefits of cutting out dairy and eggs.
If you are reading this mid-January and think you’ve missed the boat. I would try following Oregonian food and entertainment writer, Grant Butler’s example. He chose February since it is the shortest month to try it as an experiment. Almost 6 years later and he is stronger than ever. He shared with 60 of us (vegans and aspiring vegans) his story and his tips. I’ll summarize here:
Grant Butler’s tips for Veg Challenge
1. Don’t focus on the negative. It’s not what you are missing, it is about all that you are adding.
2. Try to keep it simple.
3. Don’t focus on protein. That is always an over-inflated concern, but not a problem in reality.
4. Seek out great recipes. Cooking is great, and also trying vegan restaurants so you don’t have to think about the ingredients.
5. Do the best that you can, it isn’t about perfection.
6. Keep a food diary. (I sketch my food diary to make it fun). You can see what you might need to add to your diet.
7. Get to know your grocery’s produce manager. This is one I did not know, but apparently they have recipes they can give you and tips on cooking new vegetables.
8. B12: Take a supplement, it is the only nutrient you can’t get from plants. Many vegan milks and products are fortified with B12.
9. Keep moving! Get exercise.
Grant ended his inspiring talk by making a personal guarantee. Although losing weight and being more healthy are bonuses that can happen, there are two things that will definitely happen when you change your lifestyle: You will lower your carbon footprint and take yourself out of the mess of the animal food system.
Think about that for a moment. The most devoted meat eater normally is still against animal cruelty or unnecessary torture. There is no way to fix this without voting with our dollars, without reducing demand. Meat and dairy are incredibly resource-intensive. We face issues of drought, deforestation and species extinction- wildlife and sea animals are incredibly affected by our choices of what we put on our plates.
I am so happy that Grant is writing at the Oregonian spreading the best vegan recipes, restaurants and using his wide outreach to show how approachable vegan food can be. He is also a great mentor and resource. Here are a few of his latest favorite recipes and cookbooks.
If you have never tried a vegan diet and want a mentor, let me know. There are resources to help no matter what time of year you decide to give it a shot. You literally have nothing to lose (except possibly weight), you can try it for 3-4 weeks, and there has never been a better time to start.
I have done a lot of thinking about the word “Vegan” and what it represents, and how it is presented. I purposefully don’t talk a lot about that on this blog because the purpose of this website is to encourage non-vegans who don’t think they can become vegan.
If the word is a charged one for me, and I accept and am part of this movement, I can understand how much more weight it carries for others. I do want to be part of normalizing the idea of veganism and making it seem like something the mainstream can embrace. For example, if a stereotype in some people’s minds would be of a young, angry, tattooed radical person- then a professional, middle-aged, mother might not match that image. And yes, there are a wide variety of people who are vegan for different reasons- health, animals, environment, and for combating world hunger. Diversity is a good thing.
Part of the reason I named this blog “eat less meat” originally (now eat4thefuture) was to keep this inclusive. It is counter-productive and frustrating to have the word “Vegan” cause the people you want to reach out to immediately shut down because of their past experiences or a stereotype.
I’ve had many conversations about this with a good friend. He eats a mostly vegan diet, but is not vegan. He claims he doesn’t like the religious aspect of veganism and he won’t join.
This is very interesting to me because although veganism is a philosophy I would say, and not a religion, it does bear some similarities.
The fundamental principle that is consistent throughout all religions is “Treat others as you would be treated”. For vegans, ALL animals are included in this. If veganism were a religion, than compassion would be the foundation. For there to be true compassion, that would extend to humans as well as animals. People will fall short of perfection. People will explore veganism for different reasons.
Part of the reason that I personally struggle with the V word is that I am not a joiner of groups. I don’t go to churches or connect with design communities even within my professional circles. This independent-thinking may be partly why I was able to reject the mainstream norm of meat-eating.
Too many people have been turned off by a few vegans, and the majority of much more friendly ones need to step up their efforts to counteract this. Some of these exchanges happen in real life, but most are online. Damage is done, and it is not helping any cause. Before we criticize other people’s attempts, think about whether that is effective. If we attack and ridicule omnivores and vegetarians, than we are only speaking to other vegans (who are already on board). I can’t tell you how many times I have seen what could have been an informative opportunity escalate. A joking comment, an uniformed question, or a defensive statement is met with a harsher backlash and both parties leave with their stereotypes even more firmly entrenched.
It is not just veganism where we need to think about our approach to others. If we hope to persuade someone that our ideas have merit, use respect. The more we divide from others through our politics and religions, the less change we can make. It is so easy to say Republicans are all like this, Democrats are all like that. All this does is draw the line even deeper in the sand.
We can ALL care about the environment and the animals regardless of our religion or party affiliation. Think about it next time you create an “us” vs. “them” statement. When someone makes a derogatory statement about liberals on Facebook for example, they have just lumped everyone who falls anywhere in that spectrum into a group and pushed them away. And this is not about political correctness- believe me. For example, climate change is not a liberal issue. We all have to eat, breathe, use water, hope our kids won’t have to deal with severe consequences.
I believe I can persuade more people that the ideas of veganism are for everyone by not making the criteria so narrow. In the end, veganism is the goal, but attacking a vegetarian for not being fully vegan will never help us reach it. Don’t take the troll bait in the comments.
If you are vegan and interested in a friendly and pragmatic approach to advocacy, check out The Vegan Strategist. I felt hopeful after stumbling upon his website that there was a place for my efforts.
Wow, a very long post to explain my position. I’m sick of labels that divide us into separate groups. Be respectful. Focus on the places where our values overlap, not where they differ.
Saturday was a big cooking day. I made vegan Shepherd’s pie and my first attempt at raw cheesecake for my husband’s birthday.
It was also the kick off day of NW Veg’s 22 day veg challenge! I am excited to be a mentor in the program and participate in the many events. Hopefully, it will help me keep the energy and creativity I have been having around trying new recipes too so I can share them! I really enjoyed Grant Butler’s talk. It is always interesting to hear how other people decided to transition their diet. I will write a post about his talk separately, and talk about the challenge.
I’m loving Minimalist Baker’s website: simple, delicious recipes that require 10 ingredients or less, one bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. The author, Dana is based in Portland, Oregon and focuses on vegan and gluten-free recipes. Her Shepherd’s Pie passed my picky eater’s test. It even has onions in it which were not remarked upon. We’ll be making this simple and delicious meal again!
For the dessert, I decided to try her Raw Vegan cheesecakes that come in individual servings as the base. I wanted to try two flavors: lime and chocolate and looked at some of her other raw recipes to find out how to adapt the main recipe. This was incredible, and quite easy. Cashew-based filling, and no tricky ingredients. I had looked at one that needed Cacao (not cocoa), dessicated coconut (?), and groats (?) but rejected it since those aren’t available at our local non-fancy store. It did not pass my picky eater’s test (she didn’t like the walnut/date crust), but that was okay because MORE FOR US! It built up my confidence to try another raw dessert soon.
We bought 40 pounds of honeycrisp apples. We eat several a day, they are so good, expect to see a lot of apple sketches.
My son made his dad’s birthday dinner. They had gone to Food Front Co-op, and bought Gardein’s Sweet and Sour Porkless bites. I have loved all of their plant-based meats. We try to make our meals mostly plant-based, but there is NOTHING wrong with incorporating some veggie meats into your diet. I don’t think this needs to be a controversial issue. No animals harmed. And if you want to try it, I highly recommend these. One of my New Year’s goals is to learn how to take better pictures with my fancy camera. Bear with me, this was a phone pic. Why didn’t I take a picture of the cakes? I guess I’ll need to make them again! They were quite lovely and actually resembled her beautiful photos on her website, you will have to settle for my drawing of them.
I’ve been faithfully drawing, except for a gap on January 7 where I think I forgot something I ate. I see a pattern developing over the last two days where I ate the same thing twice in one day. Partly I may have been being a little lazy, but mostly I just really liked what I made enough that I wanted it again. In our house, leftovers don’t stick around. If you don’t eat it within the day, it is usually not going to make it another day. Grand Central Bakery’s Como bread really makes everything so good. We polished a loaf off in two days. Maybe more than you needed to know…
I may talk a little later about the plant-based meat and cheese I used: Beyond Chicken and Follow Your Heart cheese. I also went to a local vegan bakery Back to Eden, that I will have to try out again and add to my list.