Posts tagged ‘veganism’

Word to your mother.

When I was little, my grandmother taught me not to kill bugs.  Of course I wanted to know why, and she explained to me that I could be killing somebody’s mom or dad.

I was horrified.  I imagined elaborate scenes of a worried mother and baby spiders around a kitchen table, waiting for Papa Spider to walk through the door at any minute, with his tie and tiny spider briefcase.  But Papa Spider wouldn’t make it home from work that day.  ‘Cause I offed him.

Needless to say, I stopped killing bugs.  But I think it was a couple of years before I began applying this principle to food.  I remember the exact restaurant, and the booth I was sitting in when I started wondering about the gender of the food on my plate.  This animal that I had never met died to keep me alive — I can’t think of a relationship more personal than that — and it seemed like something as basic as gender shouldn’t be kept a mystery.  If it was somebody’s mother, was her offspring still alive and now an orphan?

Back then, I was obviously too young to be familiar with the concept of the factory farm.  Now I know that the reality for mothers is far worse than I ever could have imagined as a child.

  • pigs. A mother pig is confined to a metal crate for all of her adult life, without enough space to turn around.  She is artificially inseminated, and confined to a gestation crate during her pregnancy.  Her muscles atrophy, and it is likely that she will develop open sores from lack of movement, and from laying in her own excrement.  After giving birth, she will be moved to a slightly larger farrowing crate, which allows just enough space for the piglets to nurse from outside the bars.  That is the only contact they will have with their mother.  For the mother pig, this is her life for 3 or 4 years, one litter after the next, until she is slaughtered.  Pigs are very intelligent and social animals, and experience severe mental distress under confinement.  With nothing to do, they compulsively chew the bars of their stall, and may go insane.  The horrible conditions of sow stalls have lead to their ban in the UK and Sweden.  In the past six years, they have also been banned in Florida, Arizona, and California.
  • chickens. Farmed chickens never meet their mothers.  In a natural setting, hens cluck to their eggs, and chicks can be heard chirping from inside their shells.  After hatching, chicks in the egg industry are sorted by sex using a conveyor belt system.  Male chicks are useless because they do not lay eggs, and are thrown live into a macerator.  Watch an undercover video of the world’s largest hatchery here.
  • cows. Mothers in the dairy industry are constantly kept pregnant, in order to keep producing milk.  Males are also useless in this industry, so the survival of male calves is not important.  Those who do survive are sold to veal farms, where they are kept in crates to limit their movement, deprived of their mother’s milk, and slaughtered after 4-6 months.  Female calves are also not allowed access to their mother’s milk — it’s on reserve for human consumption.  I don’t understand how more people don’t have a problem with this.  Taking milk away from a baby cow is like pushing down a little kid to take their ice cream cone.  Almost literally.

So now that I’ve used Mother’s Day as an excuse to bum people out, I’ll end with a video of Sonny and Casanova, two rescued veal calves, my brothers from another mother.  I can guarantee that the part when they meet for the first time will make you smile.


May 10, 2010 at 1:11 am 6 comments

Starting tomorrow, I will be feeding myself on $21 per week, and documenting it in this blog.

I’ve been thinking for a few days about the simplest way to explain why I’m doing this.  I’ve decided the best thing I can do is just scrap what I originally wrote, for now, and tell you about my day instead.

I spent a few hours today volunteering at Animal Acres, a farmed animal sanctuary in Acton, California.  The animals who live there were all destined to be food, but were rescued from the factory farming system, and brought to live out their days at Animal Acres.

We started our morning in the poultry barn, shoveling out the old hay and replacing it with new.  Most of the turkeys and chickens accepted this, but one little white chicken kept putting herself between our pitchforks and the dwindling hay piles, seemingly in protest.  She would jump onto pitchforks full of hay, and nest in the corners we hadn’t gotten to yet.  I wondered about this tiny, debeaked chicken’s past, and was proud of her — despite where she came from, she was now attempting to tell four humans what’s what.  You go, chicken.

When we were cleaning the pig area, we were warned to keep our trash cans up against the fence, because the pigs like to knock them over while we’re working.  The pigs were a little intimidating — they’re nearly waist-high, and as soon as I started, one came up and started pushing me around with her snout and trying to knock over my trash can.  She could have easily knocked me down if she wanted to, and I kept reassuring myself that if they bite, someone would’ve told us.  I was glad when she lost interest pretty quickly, and went to take a nap in the sun.  (We made up later with belly rubs.)  After we had been working for a while, I heard my trash can fall over — a different pig had come out of nowhere and was knocking into it with his snout.  I said, “Hey, quit it!”  When he saw me coming, he just snorted and ran back into the barn.

I was amused that I had been duped by a pig and thought, “Jerk.”

Then I thought: That’s something my cat would do.  (You know, if he weighed 600 pounds.)

On my way out today, I asked the guy who had been supervising us if he would take my picture with the goats.  I followed him into the pen and he said, “Sundance, c’mere,” and held out his hand.  I expected all of the goats and sheep to come over, interested in what was going on.  But the goat he asked for came to him.

“They respond to their names?” I asked.

He said, matter-of-factly: “Of course.”

I went vegan because I knew our animals are suffering to feed us.  And I knew it wasn’t necessary.  I have heard stories about how smart farm animals are, and how they’re affectionate and unique, just like a dog or a cat.  It made sense, kind of, but I don’t think I really got it until today.  Not until I met the bossy, debeaked chicken; the comedic, wiseguy pig; and the goat who comes when you call her.

I’m starting this blog to advocate a lifestyle that all animals, human and non-human, can be happy with.  I hope that my dollar menus will show that it is possible to be vegan on a budget, and most importantly:  nothing bad will happen to you. Growing up, I never thought I would go vegan.  I didn’t understand the point.  Now I don’t know how I didn’t make the change sooner.  Because, honestly?  It’s way too easy.

May 1, 2010 at 1:00 am 19 comments


To prove that I can feed myself tasty, ethical meals for cheaper than a fast food dollar menu.

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