I wrote an earlier post this week about how difficult it is for people to switch to a vegan diet because they cannot give up milk. Here is another article that discusses the impact of cheese production on dairy cows.
This blog post makes a very eloquent argument for why one should not be afraid of wearing the “vegan extremist” label. The author says “I’m not suggesting that we act or speak in an “extreme” manner. Quite the contrary. I’m saying, “Keep your cool. Maintain your professional demeanor. Provide credible sources. But do not retreat from the ethical position that you know in your heart and in your mind to be right.” Like many, if not most, ethical vegans, I have faced my fair share of aggressive or even hostile responses from people who feel the need to mock my choices. As the post above suggests, this response is often the result of ignorance or fear of change, or possibly a guilty conscience. I like the reasoned tone he sets; all too often, ethical vegans are associated with the media-grabbing activities of organizations like PETA, which sometimes serve to draw attention to themselves than to the plight of the animals.
The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, supported by Compassion in World Farming and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, shows that many global food companies failing to adequately monitor farm animal welfare. The top offenders are Walmart, Auchan, Mars, and El Corte Ingles. Nestlé, Premier Foods, Starbucks and Carrefour also scored poorly. Farm animal welfare was found to be on the business agenda but there was limited evidence of implementation. The Co-operative Food (UK), Noble Foods and Unilever made it into the second tier of the ranking, where best practice was found to be integral to business strategy, while J Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer and McDonald’s, the burger chain, were among those in tier three. No companies made it to the top tier.
The study reports that “while some companies have reasonably well developed approaches to farm animal welfare management, it is clear that the majority have yet to effectively translate high level commitments on farm animal welfare into day-to-day operational practices. Furthermore, for the food sector as a whole, reporting on farm animal welfare performance is under-developed, especially when compared to other aspects of corporate responsibility reporting” (p.39).
The graphic below shows the tier six companies (lowest score):
Last week, the Nova Scotia SPCA announced that it would be suspending its animal cruelty investigations because of insufficient funding from the Nova Scotia government (it received only $3,000 from the Department of Agriculture in 2012). No meeting has taken place yet between the two sides. The Department has said that the SPCA took in $1 million last year and that cruelty investigations cost between $200,000-$270,000. The Department does not address all the other expenses that the SPCA must cover with this $1 million; the society says that it carries an operational deficit of $100,000, so clearly the two sides have a very different understanding of the financial status of the SPCA.
I wrote to Agriculture Minister John McDonnell last week to express my concern about the lack of funding to the SPCA to investigate animal cruelty. I very much doubt that regional police forces have the time or resources to investigate cases in lieu of the SPCA, and the main focus of the Department is to investigate the treatment of farm animals. I have yet to receive a response.
When I visit the Seaport Market every Saturday, I make a point of purchasing vegan food items from the following local businesses:
Fruition. Co-owners Jessie and Seth staff the booth and are always happy to talk about their products and to discuss new product ideas. I love their Pumpkin seed pate, their various cheesecakes, and their almond milk. None of their products contain soy.
The Kind Cookie. Amongst my favourites are the whoopie pies and the peanut butter balls.
Crowbar Real Foods. Delicious protein bars and the most amazing avocado fudge.
Some of the above treats form part of my Saturday morning routine, accompanied by locally-roasted and brewed coffee from one of the following businesses:
V for veg: Vegans don’t have to cut cheese discusses what is probably the most common response I hear from people about switching to a vegan diet: “Not the cheese. I couldn’t live without cheese.” I had a similar internal debate with myself for a while before I switched from being an ovo-lacto vegetarian to a full vegan. I gave up eggs and milk easily: I’ve always been severely lactose intolerant, so I didn’t miss milk, and as for eggs, the image of chickens crammed in those tiny cages was enough to put me off. I had bought free-range eggs, thinking that they were cruelty free, until I found out that there are no standards for what constitutes “free range,” and that many chickens under these conditions are allowed to run around for only a few minutes a day, and still within small pens. Cheese was much harder to give up, as I loved it so much, even if it didn’t love me back due to my lactose intolerance. The more I read about the conditions under which most dairy cattle live, however, I simply could not continue to indulge my love of cheese at the expense of the misery of these poor cows.
The growing variety of cheese substitutes makes it increasingly easy for people to explore a dairy-free lifestyle. The blog post above makes references to DIY cheese; I’ve used the Jo Stepaniak DIY recipes to good effect. There are so many good products on the market. My favourites are:
- wedge-style cheese
- Better than Cream Cheese
- vegan grated topping
- vegan shreds
Daiya is hands down my favourite product. I make my own grated topping, based on the Parma brand recipe (which I can’t get in Halifax), which is a combination of walnuts and nutritional yeast put through a blender. Rather than focus on whether they taste like real cheese, I prefer to appreciate the delicious flavour of these items in their own right.
During a recent flight to Seattle, I was very pleasantly surprised to find clearly-labelled vegan foods at Balducci’s, which is in Terminal C. There was a good variety of prepared dishes, including different noodle dishes, vegan wontons, and tofu salads. The food is pre-packaged and is in a clearly-marked section. Airport travel is challenging at the best of times, and even more so for vegans, especially if you’ve been up since 3:00 am and dealing with 12-hour flight itineraries.
I try to be a locavore whenever possible, and thus focus on eating seasonal fruits and vegetables. It can be a challenge to find good varieties of fruits and vegetables in winter when you live in Canada. I am a huge fan of farmers’ markets, and I visit the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market every Saturday whenever possible. The selection is admittedly smaller, but there is still a good variety of the following locally-grown products that I like:
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
- Sweet potatoes
- Assorted winter squashes
- Parsnips and beets (two vegetables I do not like, however).
Fruit varieties are less plentiful: Lots of apples and pears, but not much else. It is tempting to pick up the large variety of imported fruits available in the grocery stores, but I am trying very hard to resist, as when I think about the carbon footprint involved in transporting and importing these goods, they tend to lose their appeal. Fortunately (or not, health wise), I don’t eat that much fruit, as I much prefer vegetables. Here are some useful websites for Canadian locavores: