On the giving of names

Beautifully stated and thought-provoking. Thank you.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

Firstly, my apologies for hitting the ‘publish’ button before this post was ready and for any confusion this may have caused.

1000764_546600108729933_625046711_nToday, yet again, social media resounds with vilification of an individual who quite unashamedly killed a fellow sentient individual named Cecil. There was a time when I could never even have imagined the howls of indignation and outrage, the cursing, the contempt that such an event would precipitate. I had no idea that there was so much hate in the world. But there is. And in a culture such as ours, underpinned by inflicting violence and death on the vulnerable and helpless while we delude ourselves that we’re kind and caring, I suppose it’s hardly surprising.

I’ll get something out of the way here. I despise what this individual did. But then I despise ALL killing of those of other species for pleasure, ALL unnecessary killing. Which means that I also…

View original post 723 more words

Nobody Says It Better Than Gary Francione

942693_154004144788099_2099880922_n

This morning I am stuck in my house because the air conditioning guy is here doing a check up on my system.  This ends up taking hours because we have three different oldish AC units, and it’s never really just a simple check up. You know how that goes.  In order to pass the time, I decided to watch a video of animal rights activist/abolistionist, Gary Francione debating about why animals have rights.  Once again I am blown away by his brilliance and uncompromising moral stance.

I became vegan after watching movies (Vegucated, Speciesism) and hearing Howard Lyman (The Mad Cowboy) speak here in Tucson.  Shortly thereafter I began immersing myself in many books on the subject of ethical veganism, and this strengthened my resolve to stop supporting animal exploitation in any way I could.  But no single person or book had quite the impact on me that Gary Francione’s “Eat Like You Care” had and continues to have.

While watching Gary debate (you can watch it here), I am reminded of the simple clarity that underlies Gary’s “veganism as a moral baseline” position.   In this debate, he suggests that if we believe that it is immoral to torture and/or kill animals for our pleasure then we ought not to be eating or otherwise using animals. Billions of animals are tortured and killed annually simply because we like the taste of animals.  We know now that it is not only possible to live healthfully without animal products, but there is ample evidence to suggest that eliminating animal products from our diets will do much to improve our health.

Gary Francione illustrates his position by talking often about Michael Vick, the NFL player who was convicted of running a dog-fighting operation.  The American public went wild around this issue, understandably vilifying Vick for torturing and killing animals for his pleasure.  The name Michael Vick became synonymous with dog-fighting and torture, and the public will probably never forgive him even though he paid his debt to society and expressed remorse.  I, and everyone I know, was sickened by the images that emerged from this story.  It was truly overwhelming that anyone could inflict this kind of torture on innocent animals for entertainment.

Yet isn’t this what happens when we eat meat, dairy and eggs?  There is at least as much suffering inflicted on farmed animals (factory-farmed or “happy”) as there was in Vick’s dog-fighting operation.  These are all sentient beings.  Any distinction we make between the dogs and the cows, chickens or pigs is speciesist and self-serving. And there’s no comparison when it comes to the scale of the torture and death.  Admittedly, when we eat animals we are usually paying other people to do the torturing and killing for us, but as we know from the law, there is no moral distinction between murdering someone and paying someone else to do it for us.  As Gary says, “we are all Michael Vick”.  In 2009 Gary wrote an Op-Ed entitled “We’re All Michael Vick” and you can read his compelling words here.

Gary Francione is a passionate, outspoken champion for the rights of animals yet he is often seen as a polarizing figure because he actively campaigns against single issue welfare campaigns (SICs).  His belief is that our time, energy and money are better spent educating people about veganism.  I happen to agree with this which is why I choose to take my advocacy in that same direction.  In addition, Gary is against any effort on the part of activists to promote “happy” animal products, because a) he doesn’t believe there is such a thing and b) he believes it enables people who might otherwise be vegan to continue to consume meat, dairy and eggs without feeling guilty.  I agree with him on this point as well.  To me, the term “humane slaughter” is a complete oxymoron.

As I continue to educate myself on all the issues pertaining to veganism (in order to be a more effective vegan coach), I often find myself mired in details surrounding nutrition facts and cooking techniques.  I anticipate that many people I work with will be going vegan “for health”, and being a resource for all of this information is certainly important.  I happen to believe that a plant-based whole foods diet is optimal for health, but it’s not difficult to find staunch proponents of other ways of eating to optimize health.  We can always find our own “expert” willing to tell us exactly what we want to hear, and at a certain point, when it comes to nutrition it’s all about who we choose to believe.

Yet this is not the case with ethics, and spending this morning online watching Gary Francione provided a much-needed and timely reminder that I do this for the animals.  If you are someone who cares about animals I strongly recommend that you read Gary’s work.  I believe it will change your life. You can get started by visiting his website here.

Thank you Gary, for speaking the words in the just the way I need to hear them.

Recipe of the Week

DSCN3038

Green Chili Rice with Black Beans!

I haven’t tried a new recipe in a while.  While we were away I mostly trotted out tried and true dishes to minimize time spent in the kitchen.  So it was nice to try something new tonight.  David and I saw Plant Pure Nation last night (more on that in my next post), and I had that on the brain when I went searching for a new recipe on the Forks Over Knives website.  For those of you who don’t know, these movies (made by the same team) focus on the health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet.  This health-promoting way of eating includes fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.  It does not include any processed food, meat, dairy, eggs, sugar, salt or oil.

I am now a vegan lifestyle coach and educator, and I assume that many of my future clients will be interested in going vegan in order to prevent or reverse diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  I typically use olive oil in my cooking, particularly when I’m sautéing vegetables, and I think it’s important that I’m comfortable cooking either with or without oil.  Plus, I think it’s better for my own health to limit how much oil I consume.  The Forks Over Knives website is full of oil-free recipes and you can link to this one here.

This dish may be missing the oil but not the flavor.  The first step is creating a poblano pepper, mild green chili, spinach and cilantro puree (plenty of flavor right there!).  The puree is added to vegetable broth and the rice is cooked in that.  While the rice is cooking, you sauté an onion.  In order to sauté without oil, you stir the diced onion over medium heat and add water (one tablespoon at a time) if the onion starts to stick.  Once the onion is translucent you add jalapeño pepper, black beans and cumin.  I added some salt at this point because that’s my preference, but you can easily skip it.  Once the rice is cooked you mix all the ingredients together, sprinkle with lime zest and serve it up.

Our dish came out much creamier than the original recipe.  I’m sure that’s a technique thing (me and rice!) but in the end, David and I both enjoyed the consistency which was rather risotto-like.  The poblanos and jalapeño added just the right amount of heat, and neither of us missed the oil.   So I learned something new today, and I will definitely consider using this oil-free approach in other dishes.

So guys, what do you think about oil?  Yea or nay?

The Most Beautiful Ridge Trail Ever

DSCN3006

It’s our last day in Montana, and for our final hike we decided to revisit Logan’s Pass and see if we could go all the way down to the lake.  Turns out, the trail down to the lake has been closed since we visited last week. Apparently, the mama grizzly and her cubs are still hanging out there.  We were disappointed by this but very grateful that we already had a chance to hike that trail.  We were treated to some spectacular wildflowers though: DSCN2989

Since last week, most of the snow has melted and instead there’s just a stunning profusion of flowers.  So all was not lost.   We went as far as we could at Logan’s (about 3 miles round trip) but we were up for something more. So, we decided to hit the Highline Trail,  a ridge trail that actually runs over 11 miles through Glacier.  We read that this trail had the most spectacular views so we decided to hike it until we ran out of gas (11 plus miles is not an option for me!).

My favorite types of trails to hike are ridge trails.  This is true anywhere I hike.  Canyon trails and forest trails can make me feel claustrophobic at times;  on ridge trails I can see not only where the trail is going but expansive vistas all around.  I love that feeling of being on top of the world with lots of big sky all around.  And I can say that the Highline Trail is a ridge trail on steroids.  So grand, so expansive, so stunning.  The photo up top gives you a little idea of what it was like to be up there.  This trail is also known for a short stretch of narrowish trails with a precipitous drop to one side.  Here’s a photo of David on that stretch of the trail.  That’s the Going To The Sun Road down below: DSCN2998

There’s a cable that hugs the mountain if you want to hang on, but it really wasn’t a big deal.  I’m so glad we didn’t skip out on this hike.  Check out these views: DSCN3005 DSCN2996

On a funny note, as we were hiking back toward the trailhead we met up with four very spunky goats: DSCN3011

Even though the trail is pretty narrow, at this point there was room for us to step aside and let them trot on by.  As we continued on our way we quickly came across a long line of at least 50 hikers;  apparently the goats had caused quite a traffic jam and the hikers couldn’t get by until they decided to move on down the trail.  It was pretty funny.

All in all, this beautiful hike was a fitting end to our two weeks in Montana.  We certainly got our fill of all that Glacier and the surrounding area had to offer.  Finally, on our way back to our condo we stopped for lunch at the Montana Coffee Traders where I had a delicious Tempeh Reuben.  You just never know where you will stumble on a great vegan meal!

I’m looking forward to our next two days on the road.  Great company, great scenery and a great audiobook…

The Hidden Lake Trail At Logan’s Pass

Last year when we visited Glacier National Park, we had to wait until our second week to reach Logan’s Pass.  A summer snow had blanketed the area, and crews were busy clearing the Going To The Sun Road, the east/west road that traverses the entire park. When the road finally opened up, we were treated to some of the most spectacular views the park has to offer.  Logan’s Pass, however, was covered in snow, and the Hidden Lake was frozen and pretty much inaccessible.  So we were particularly excited to revisit this area.  We were not disappointed.  While we still did some trudging up snow-covered areas, the hike was an absolute feast for the eyes.  Here’s a sampling of what we saw:

Wildflowers!  They were everywhere (where there wasn’t snow):

DSCN2867 2

DSCN2920

DSCN2860

Charming animals:

DSCN2874

DSCN2870

(There was a spotting of a grizzly bear and her cubs.  We steered clear so no photos of her!)

One of the most beautiful stretches of trail I have ever seen:

DSCN2908

(I think David was having an OMG moment– I so get it)

Then there was this:

DSCN2905

And this:

DSCN2912

The clouds rolled in just as we were heading back out:

DSCN2924

It was pretty perfect.