Tuesday, September 13, 2011


As a vegan, I am often told that I should "respect [someone's] decision to eat animals".  This can get problematic, because that is the antithesis of veganism as an ideal.  I will elaborate, but first, lets look at what the word "respect" really means, because I think that often it is misued in this context.  If the person truely understood what veganism was, and had a full understanding of the meaning of respect, then they might get whey the two can not be used together that way.

From Google's Dictionary:


verb /riˈspekt/

respected, past participle; respected, past tense; respecting, present participle; respects, 3rd person singular present

  • Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements
    • - she was respected by everyone she worked with
    • - a respected academic
  • Have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of
    • - I respected his views
  • Avoid harming or interfering with
    • - it is incumbent upon all boaters to respect the environment
  • Agree to recognize and abide by (a legal requirement)
    • - he urged all foreign nationals to respect the laws of their country of residence
  • As you can see, it is likely that when people use "respect" in the context that I first provided that they are using it to mean 2, 3 or 4.  But what they are failing to consider is that it also comes with the connotatin of admiration, and that is where it gets problematic with regards to something that vegans obviously consider as wrong.  After all, if we didn't think that using animals was wrong, we wouldn't have stopped doing it.  Even if someone has a legal right to continue doing something traditional, if it is immoral and you believe that it is immoral, you can never respect it.

    A better word for these situations, situations where you simply have to put aside your dislike of the other persons actions or beliefs, would be tolerance.

    Google describes "tolerate" as such:


    verb /ˈtäləˌrāt/
    tolerated, past participle; tolerated, past tense; tolerates, 3rd person singular present; tolerating, present participle

  • Allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference
    • - a regime unwilling to tolerate dissent
  • Accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance
    • - how was it that she could tolerate such noise?
  • Be capable of continued subjection to (a drug, toxin, or environmental condition) without adverse reaction
    • - lichens grow in conditions that no other plants tolerate
  • Tolerance may not have the same warm and fuzzy connotations that respect does, but it is at least honest.

    I do not respect someone's decision to enslave, assault and kill others.  But unfortunately, in this world I still have to tolerate it more often than not.

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Common Items That Are Not Suitable for Vegans (but that are often overlooked by non-vegans)

    In the past few months I have been far more social, particularly with new people, in large part because I have been going out with the kids.  I think that it is terrific that so many people have been willing to go out of their way to prepare animal-free foods for us.

    However, during that time, I have come across many a misconception, or at least, a general ignorance about some of the animal products that are in our food.  So, here is a quick run-down of foods that are available locallly that are simply not suitable for vegans.


    Not all sugars are a problem, but practically every refined white (and brown) sugar on the market in Quebec has been refined with animal bones to remove impurities.  The exceptions to this are raw sugar cane and most organic sugars, and beet sugar, most of which can be found in large box grocery stores like Loblaws, in local health food stores, or in West Indies grocers.

    Soy Milk

    Ok, obviously, not all soy milk is a problem, but believe it or not, there are a few brands that are.  Soy Sensational and Beatrice are both subsidiaries of Parmalat (and if that isn't ringing bells for you, you need to read more about Parmalat!), but aside from their corporate parent, both of their soy milks contain vitamin D3, which is made from sheep wool, instead of D2 which is made from fungi.

    Something to watch out for in some Montreal coffee shops as well, as Soy Sensational is often the milk that is used if you ask for a dairy-free milk.

    On the subject of corporate ownership, it should also be noted that WhiteWave Foods, who make Silk Soy products is a subsidiary of Dean Foods. While that doens't immediately disqualify them,it should at least make the ethical consumer pause and look at the alternatives.  

    My personal preference is So Nice which not only is suitable for vegans, but also "local", in the sense that they have production facilities and farms on both coasts, reducing the shipping footprint of their products from farm to factory to store.


    Margarine was never intended to be a non-animal product.  Early versions were made out of whale blubber, but that is not politically correct anymore, so now they tend to use a mixture of plant oils and dairy.  Up until recently it was quite difficult to get a margarine that was suitable for vegans in Quebec.  Now that we have done away with their law disallowing yellow coloured margarinea.  Up until that time, many people assumed that Fleichmann's was suitable for vegans.  Much like Soy Sensational, it is not simply because of the use of vitamin D3.

    There are now two brands that are labelled vegan on our shelves: Becel Vegan Margarine and Earth Balance.

    While it was nice to see Becel's introduction into the market, I am pretty sure that it is an attempt to jump onto the trend bandwagon.  Aside from the issues of buying products from a non-vegan company, Becel unfortunately includes palm oil sourced from unknown plantations. Since veganism, contrary to how it is portrayed by much of the media, is not about food, but rather about not-exploiting other animals, this palm oil can potentially be a real problem.  That being said, in a pinch, it will probably do.  I do not think, however, that vegans are actually the primary target of Becel, so much as people who prefer to avoid consuming dairy.

    Earth Balance does only slightly better, buying only from legal palm plantations that do not engage in slash & burn deforestation, and they also have a soy-free version which eliminates similar issues with soy oil going on in Brazil.

    That being said, oils, especially these kinds of oils, are pretty much luxury items.  They are not sustainable on a global scale, they are not healthy for us, and pretty much they just taste good.  If you can do without them, I would.  I use them almost exclusively when I am doing something special, such as baking a birthday cake.  Otherwise, I prefer to simply not use refined oils, or if I am, I use an organic raw coconut oil.


    This one should be obvious, but it is surprising how often it still pops up.  I have another post coming about the use of honey in "vegan" establishments, so keep your eyes posted.  If you still need more info on why honey isn't vegan, here is a good resource.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    From this history books: "No Animal Food" by Rupert H. Wheldon

    Note: As I assemble primary source material for the History section of the Federation of Abolitionist Vegans website, I will likely post some of the more salient pieces here.  They will not necessarily be in order, but they will hopefully be interesting!

    This cookbook, aptly titled "No Animal Food", was written by Rupert H. Wheldon and is amongst the first Western cookbooks to deal with the issue of veganism, predating, even, the term.  Written in 1910, Wheldon makes the claim that a diet consisting exclusively of plant material is not only very healthy for you, but because it can be done, and done well, that it is therefor immoral to slaughter animals for food (and make no mistake, even the lacto-vegetarians of the time knew, perhaps more than those today, that animals are always slaughtered in animal agriculture, even if they are being used for dairy and eggs).

    Here is an interesting quote from the first chapter:

    "Briefly, the pleas usually advanced on behalf of the vegetable regimen are as follows: It is claimed to be healthier than the customary flesh diet; it is claimed for various reasons to be more pleasant; it is claimed to be more economical; it is claimed to be less trouble; it is claimed to be more humane. Many hold the opinion that a frugivorous diet is more natural and better suited to the constitution of man, and that he was never intended to be carnivorous; that the slaughtering of animals for food, being entirely unnecessary is immoral; that in adding our share towards supplying a vocation for the butcher we are helping to nurture callousness, coarseness and brutality in those who are concerned in the butchering business; that anyone of true refinement and delicacy would find in the killing of highly-strung, nervous, sensitive creatures, a task repulsive and disgusting, and that it is scarcely fair, let alone Christian, to ask others to perform work which we consider unnecessary and loathsome, and which we should be ashamed to do ourselves."

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Food and exclusionism

    A few years ago I read in the Associated Press about a Catholic church in Nice, France which also happened to have ultra-nationalist leanings.  One of the ways that they expressed this was by only serving food out of their soup kitchen that contained pork.  The media immediately portrayed this as racism of the most heinous kind, after all, how could you let another human being go hungry when you had it within our powers to feed them?

    The parish priest however, initially side-stepped the allegations, claiming instead that pork was an important important traditional ingredient in French cuisine, and so why shouldn't it be included if they were making traditional foods? He even went so far as to argue that he would be more than happy to serve a Jew or Muslim who was in line.  It was only after a bit more prodding that he admitted that the "hungriest" and "most in need" were good French citizens, who of course could not be observant Jews or Muslims.

    There was never much of a followup to this story.  As far as I know, they may still be doing it.  There is, after all, nothing illegal about putting pork in your food.  At least, not in France.

    Not that long ago a friend of mine who at the time was training to become an ordained priest here in Quebec told me a story of one of the problems she encountered at a downtown church where she was working a temporary assignment.  The elders of the church had started charging for the food that was served after the weekend services.  The price was nominal and not nearly enough to help with the actual costs of food preparation.  After much digging, she finally discovered that it had been instituted in order to keep the homeless people of the neighbourhood from coming to the church for free food.  Not being actually in charge of the church, or there for very long, she did her best to try to re-iterate the teachings of Jesus, which clearly were not being followed in that case.  However, to my knowledge, the policy of charging for food may still be going on there today.

    Contrast this to a collective out of Concordia University that was just getting underway when I was doing my undergraduate studies there almost a decade ago.  The collective is The People's Potato, a Food Not Bombs group.  As a general rule, the food produced and served by Food Not Bombs organisations, wherever they might be found, is suitable for vegans.  There are a few reasons for this, but one of the main ones that was emphasised by the People's Potato was that such plant based foods are the most inclusive meals possible, generally being accepted by most religious and ethical positions, as well as being economically viable healthy options for those with limited financial means (part of the FNB program is to help educate people about healthy, inexpensive food preparation).

    In other words, by not including any animal products in their food, they are able to be as inclusive as possible.  They are still running strong today, serving over 2000 meals a week for free or by donation to the community in and around Concordia.  I should also add that while some vegans volunteer there, the last time that I checked the majority of the people working there were not vegan.

    As someone whose food choices are directly influenced by ethical considerations, I am particularly sensitive to situations like the above, both positive and negative.

    Food is such a powerful thing.  Breaking bread, the act of sitting down to a meal with someone, is a traditional and universal way for us to bond with and get to know others.  Like all animal populations, the availability of large amounts of food have lead to our population expanding, and historically, when those food sources have shrunk, the empires built in the time of plenty have came crumbling down.  The Spanish used the food choices of the Fijians as an excuse (along with religion) to massacre and enslave the people who lived there.  Dictators through time, and even now in places like Lybia and North Korea restrict food to try and keep their populations weak and subserviant.

    These days, I often use food offerings to guage the ethical and political waters of any group that I am interested in joining.  Drop in playgroup offers fresh fruits for the kids? Yay! Church* up the streat does regular turkey meals? Boo.  But even these initial judgments may not hold true past initial inspection.  The drop in playgroup that I mentioned has more than once confused Sam when the volunteer who runs it suggested that people should eat eggs, or when she tried to explain to him what the (fake) bacon was (Sam didn't believe her and wrote it off as "dog food", along with the plastic chicken drumstick).

    Obviously, the vegan community in Montreal needs to come together a bit more for the mutual support of vegan families. I hope that this is something that I can help address in the coming years, and we need to start doing some more serious outreach and bridge building with other socially conscious movements to try and further educate and bridge the gaps.

    *As a non-theist, I am not particularly interested in joining a church.  But I did run into a similar connondrum a few years ago when E was pregnant with Sam.  I was seriously considering joining the Unitarian Universalist church in Montreal as their open religious philosophy was somewhat appealing to me at the time.  One of the things that detracted me was that all of their community and social outreach projects that involved food, involved animal products.  Social justice is not social justice when it is performed at the expense of others.


    Thursday, March 24, 2011


    As part of my quest for "healthy" desserts for Sam, I have introduced several variations on the "brownie" theme, and in the process have learned quite a lot.  For one, if your recipe doesn't call for (and if you don't fix it!) melting the chocolate in with the liquids and sugars before adding it to the dry ingredients, you aren't really making a brownie, you are making a chocolate cake with chocolate chips.  That can be yummy, but it is not a brownie.

    I have also been reminded that applesauce, while good at providing moistness when replacing oil, is more likely to also leaven the final product rather than help keep it dense and chewy.  I am working on that, and thinking banana and soy yoghurt might be the way to go.

    But through all this experimenting, my partner and I got a serious hankering for "real" brownies.  Enter the following recipe, which turned into one of, if not the, best brownies that I have ever tasted.  They are made by a blogger who goes by the name "Elizabeth".  I am not going to link to her blog however becuase while she understands the dietary aspect of veganism well enough to put together this recipe, the vast majority of her recipes are not suitable for vegans, and she lacks a significant understanding of what exactly veganism is (ie: not just a way of eating!), so much so that her blog post about the brownie recipe made me slighly nauseous at what I am sure were attempts to be funny at the expense of nonhuman animals.

    So, on to the recipe (with my modifications mixed in).

    Ultimate Chewy Brownies

    1 cup organic coconut oil
    4 oz. (or 112 grams) organic bittersweet or dark chocolate.
    2 tsp vanilla
    1/2 cup of strong fair trade coffee
    2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup of organic raw sugar, 1/2 cup of oraganic brown sugar that was suitable for vegans and 1/2 cup of organic succanat)

    1 cup organic unbleached white flour
    1 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
    3/4 cup fair trade dutch process cocoa (I used Cocoa Camino's cocoa powder).
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp salt

    2 Tbsp flax seeds (ground)
    6 Tbsp hot water


    1. Preheat your oven to 350F and grease an 8"x8" pan.
    2. In a double boiler set over gently simmering water, melt down your chocolate and coconut oil.
    3. Mix the vanilla and coffee and combine thoroughly.
    4. Add the sugar, stir to combine and remove from the heat.
    5. While the ingredients are melting, mix the 2 tbsp of flax seeds with 6 tbsp or water and let sit for a few minutes while it congeals.
    6. In a large bowl, mix together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
    7. Combine the ingredients from the double-boiler into dry ingredients and mix until just moist.
    8. Gentrly stir in the flax mixture until combined.
    9. Spread the batter into the 8"x8" pan and smooth out until it is even.  Cook it on the middle rack of your pre-heated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until done.
    10. Remove from heat, and let it cool on a wire rack until it is COMPLETELY cool.  Yes, we are all tempted to taste it right out of the oven, but do not do it.  It is best cooled, and even better after a night of chilling.
    11. Share with friends because you don't want to eat the entire pan to yourself, and you will want to.

    Things to try:

    • Mixing in a grated beet.
    • Adding chopped nuts.


    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ice Cream

    And now for something completely different!

    My eldest son has a serious sweet tooth. At this stage, I prefer to just try and deal with it by offering him healthy, or at least healthier, alternatives to the commercial junk that is out there.

    Home made ice cream or sorbet is one such treat. This is a new one that I whipped up tonight that got rave reviews from the little one. Described as "the yummiest ice cream [he] ever yummed.", I present to you: Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. No refined sugars, and of course, animal product free.

    You don't absolutely need an ice cream maker for this, but stirring it by hand every few minutes does get tedious.

    Makes: About 1 quart.


    Blend the following ingredients in a strong blender until smooth. If you don't have a VitaMix or equivalent blender, blend the cashew and water for several minutes until smooth, then add the remaining ingredients one at a time blending between additions to ensure smoothness.

    Finally, chill your ice cream mixture in the fridge for several hours to overnight and then freeze as per your ice cream maker's instructions.


    1 cup of raw cashews or cashew pieces
    1 3/4 cups of water
    1 cup of pitted dates, covered in water and soaked (include the soaking water in this recipe!)
    2 tsp of vanilla extract
    1/4 tsp of almond extract
    1/2 cup of raw cocoa powder
    3/4 cups of smooth natural peanut butter
    Stevia to taste (I often use a dropper full of liquid stevia just to round out the sweetness from the dates)

    I will try to get a photo up tomorrow. :)

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Veganarchism - The Revolutionary Endeavor

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    This part six of an ongoing series of posts featuring essays written by Brian A. Dominick and published in a pamphlet called "Animal Liberation and Social Revolution: a vegan perspective on anarchism or an anarchist perpective on veganism" (with a preface by Joseph M. Smith). First published by Critical Mess Media in 1995.

    Previous posts in this series:

    Preface: "Sharpening the Tools of Revolution" by Joseph M. Smith
    Introduction: The Veganarchists
    What is Social Revolution?

    Radical Veganism
    Violence in Everday Life
    Alienation in Everday Life 

    The Revolutionary Endeavor 

    Understanding ourselves and our relationship to the world around us is but the first step towards revolution. We must then apply our understandings to a practical program of action. When I speak of action, I am not merely referring to weekly or monthly events when we, in collaboration with an organized group, state our beliefs at a demonstration, or when we execute a planned raid on a facility of oppression.

    Action is not so limited. It can be found in our daily lives, our routine and not-so-routine activities. When we assert our beliefs by speaking out in conversation, on the job, at the dinner table, we are acting. In fact, whether we realizing it or not, everything we do is an action or series of actions. Recognizing this allows us to transform our everyday lives from repressed and alienated to libratory and revolutionary.

    The role of the revolutionist is simple: make your life into a miniature model of the alternative, revolutionary society you envision. You are a microcosm of the world around you, and even the most basic among your actions affect the social context of which you are a part. Make those effects positive and radical in their nature.

    The revolution must become part of our lifestyle, guided by vision and fueled by compassion. Every thought we think, every word we speak, every action we make must be rooted in radical praxis. We must liberate our desires through constant critique of what we have been taught to think, and a persistent quest for what we truly want. Once our desires are known, we must act in their interest.

    After identifying how our society works, and deciding what we essentially want, we must commence to dismantle the present and assemble the future-and we must go about these tasks simultaneously. As we tear down the vestiges of oppression, we must also create, with both focus and spontaneity, new forms of social and environmental relationships, facilitated by fresh, new institutions.

    For instance, economically speaking, where there is private ownership today there must be social ownership tomorrow. Where production, consumption and resource allocation are now dictated by irrational market forces, in the future there must be a rational system for the acquisition and distribution of material goods and services, with a focus on equity, diversity, solidarity, autonomy, and/or whatever we deem to be the values which guide our visions.

    As visionary, the vegan sees a world free of animal exploitation. Further, she sees a truly peaceful and sane relationship between human society and its natural environment. The deep ecology movement has shown us that non-animal nature has value which cannot be quantified in economic terms, just as vegans have demonstrated the worth of non-human animals, a worth that cannot be calculated by economists, only measured by human compassion. That compassion, demonstrated for the proletariat by socialists, for women and queers by feminists, for people of color and marginalized ethnicities by intercommunalists, for the young and aged by youthists, and for those at the end of the state's gun barrel by libertarians, is the same compassion as that felt by vegans and radical environmentalists toward the non-human world. That each of us needs to become all of these "types" of radicals-and to incorporate their ideologies into one, holistic theory, vision, strategy and practice-is a truism we can no longer afford to ignore. Only a perspective and lifestyle based on true compassion can destroy the oppressive constructs of present society and begin anew in creating desirable relationships and realities. This, to me, is the essence of anarchy. No one who fails to embrace all struggles against oppression as her or his own fits my definition of an anarchist. That may seem like a lot to ask, but I will never stop asking it of every human being.