I love when my interests collide. I’ve followed the extraordinarily talented Peter Dinklage since I saw him in The Station Agent. Now he’s become a spokesperson for Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals, and I wish I could give him a hug.
If you like vintage BBC shows in which cue cards and glassy stares were de rigueur for presenters and guests alike, then these 70s clips on the new “Vegan Society” are for you. Forgiving fashion and hair and the lack of Monty Python members traipsing through the background, these individuals with unfortunate names (hello, “The Bland Family” and dear old Mrs. Batt) had something to say about living a kind, cruelty-free lifestyle. It’s really quite excellent.
Check it out, in three parts:
I’ve, embarrassingly, neglected this blog in the past few weeks, but, if anything could get me back into the “kind” spirit, it’s this video I just watched, via ecorazzi.com:
Hard to believe the exact opposite sort of behaviour goes on in other parts of the world. If you’ve seen the Oscar-winning documentary film The Cove, this video is a lovely reminder of the kind path humans can choose to take. Consider signing this petition to stop the dolphin slaughter in Japan, or keep up to date by checking in at the Cove Watch blog (I see they’ve just posted a link to this video, too!).
I just learned that, in the US, the incredibly moving anti-factory farming commercial for Chipotle restaurants aired during tonight’s Grammy Awards. If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch. Another reason to love Chipotle!
The Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” is available on iTunes. If you download it, portions of the proceeds will benefit the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. Info here: http://cultivatefoundation.org/get-involved/back-to-the-start.
(And, there’s a brand-new Chipotle within walking distance of my condo. Danger!)
I generally feel conflict about zoos, believing that, in a perfect world, animals belong in their natural environments, left to themselves. Sadly, we do not live in that perfect world and many species are moving toward extinction, often at the hands of humans. It seems that a last chance for some of these species might involve breeding and raising them in captivity. In fact, in some cases, wildlife conservancy efforts (including zoos and animal sanctuaries) have been successful at reintroducing species that have gone extinct or have declining populations in the wild.
That said, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper just announced China will be loaning Canada two of their endangered giant pandas for a ten year period: the first five years at the Toronto Zoo, and the remaining five at the Calgary Zoo. The touted focus of this effort is on breeding the animals, but it’s quite obvious this is part of Harper’s move to (in his words): “expand on our strategic partnership with China and…deepen the economic and trade ties between our two countries.” This will cost Canada $1 million a year for the ten year period, which does not include costs for habitat modifications, staff training, and veterinary support at the two zoos; plus the cost of obtaining bamboo (it comprises 99% of the giant panda’s diet), which has been estimated at $200,000 annually.
With my already conflicted views about zoos and my desire to believe captive breeding is beneficial to endangered species, I can’t help but feel this is nothing but political grandstanding, and that the last thing either government is considering is the welfare and preservation of these gentle animals.
When in doubt, I look to PETA for guidance and I found a 2008 news release on their Asia-Pacific site, which was published shortly after Japan lost their famous giant panda, Ling Ling. The release announces a plea to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs to halt the acquisition of two pandas for the Ueno Zoo (the zoo where Ling Ling died). It states:
Zoos have nothing to offer pandas or any other animals except deprivation and loneliness. Animals are relegated to a lifetime of boredom and abuse. Pandas in particular suffer in captivity. Although they are shy and shun human contact, captive pandas are besieged by a constant onslaught of visitors, and they are artificially and invasively bred. Most attempts to breed pandas in captivity have failed and have done little to propagate the species.
Although it was created to encourage habitat preservation, the panda diplomacy program has shifted its focus from protecting pandas in the wild to attracting paying customers in zoos. The program has come under intensified scrutiny as experts learn more about the detrimental effects that captivity has on pandas. In 2006, Taiwan declined an offer of two pandas, saying that the endangered animals are better left in their natural habitat. In addition, pandas have become political and profitable bartering tools. With loan terms of 100 million yen a year, trading pandas has become an extremely lucrative industry for China.
I kind of think that says it all. At the very least, if giant pandas are going to be kept (and bred) in captivity, it should be at a sanctuary in China, which preserves their natural habitat. In my mind, it’s lamentable that my prime minister has agreed on the spending of millions of Canadian dollars to “rent” two animals and place them in a stress-filled situation as a symbol of “strategic partnership”, which, at the end of the day, provides more immediate (financial) benefit to China than to Canada.
I grew up going to the Toronto Zoo, either with my family or on school trips, and I still believe that a generous amount of my understanding of, and my love and compassion for animals (of all species) was cultivated by those early visits. (It’s also the best zoo I’ve been to, with regard to size and quality of animal habitats.) I’m still a bit torn, as I do love to spend hours of time watching and learning about animals. But I think humans have evolved to the point where most of us recognize species decline is directly related to habitat destruction. If we are to preserve any species, we must first preserve the natural habitat, rather than attempt to create an artificial one. Plus, we’re living in an advanced age where access to rare and endangered animals is easier than it has been in the past. As PETA states in their article, “Zoos: Pitiful Prisons“:
With informative television programming, educational opportunities on the Internet, and the relative ease of international travel, learning about or viewing animals in their natural habitats can be as simple as a flick of a switch or a hike up a mountain. The idea of keeping animals confined behind cage bars is obsolete.
We are learning. But slowly. Last year the Toronto Zoo recommended an end to the elephant program and Toronto city council made the decision to move the elephants to the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) sanctuary in California, where they will live in a warm climate and have hundreds of acres of terrain to roam. This is an absolutely monumental decision and it made my heart soar for the three remaining elephants. (Read more about the Toronto Zoo elephants here.)
But why take one small step forward only to take a huge (elephantine) one backward by bringing Chinese giant pandas on-board? For my part, I will write the letters to the zoos and to my prime minister, urging them to retract this bad decision. It would be comforting to imagine a country-wide news story such as this might bring attention to the plight of endangered species worldwide, but, as I said above: we’re learning slowly.
What are your thoughts on the panda debate and zoos in general?
TVO (TV Ontario) is currently airing Last Chance to See, the marvelous BBC-produced television series in which Stephen Fry and zoologist Mark Carwardine travel about the world in hopes of catching a glimpse or two of some of the world’s most endangered species. Filmed in 2009, the series is actually a follow-up to the original Last Chance to See BBC radio series (and accompanying book) created in 1989 by Carwardine and writer Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).
Adams passed away in 2001, so Stephen Fry joins Carwardine on excursions back to the spots visited with Adams, to see what has changed in twenty years. The episodes are, at times, upsetting, as we see the devastation humankind has inflicted on a variety of species and their natural habitats; but they are also optimistic, introducing a number of conservation efforts and the dedicated teams of (kind) individuals behind them. All of this with Stephen Fry’s witty narration, Carwardine’s extensive knowledge and insight, and some oddball antics and banter, as evidenced in this preview:
I highly recommend tuning in to watch the final episodes airing on TVO (schedule here), if you are able. Otherwise, you might try your luck trekking about the Internet, though I found it impossible to view on the BBC site, which is a shame.
Whatever you do, don’t pee in the water!
Somewhere between January 1st and…well, this morning, my new year’s resolutions and I went off the rails. In fact, truth-be-told, I actually hi-jacked the train and ran it off the rails. (Is this analogy working?) Apart from the yummy lasagna I made the other night, I just haven’t been devoting the time and energy to planning and preparing vegan meals.
So, being an all-or-nothing sort of person when it comes to healthy choices, I made a pact with myself that today I would put on my engineer’s cap and go full-steam vegan. (Still with the train thing.) I figured the best way to initiate was with some invigorating exercise, so I dragged my sorry arse out of bed in the wee hours to bop along on one of the gym treadmills at 5 a.m.
So far today, I’ve had a vegan greens/protein shake (in those wee hours), some leftover lasagna (as mentioned too many times already), some mixed greens with an apple cider vinegar dressing, and some carrot/apple/celery juice that I made with the “super happy fun-time” juicer (subject for an upcoming post) I got for Christmas. I can’t promise I won’t consume chocolate before the day is over, but I suppose I can at least make that dairy-free. I’m pretty proud of myself, thus far.
And coffee is vegan. Isn’t it? In any regard, for now, coffee is fueling this vegan steam train thingamie. And I’m just happy it’s moving.
Tonight I tried “veganizing” my roast vegetable lasagna recipe and it turned out a spectacular success. The original lasagna was always amazing because I’d add heaps of smoked mozzarella between the layers. Since I decided to replace the cheese with Daiya, I was a bit torn as to how to replicate the smoky flavour. I thought about somehow using liquid smoke, but eventually decided on smoked tofu. I wasn’t sure how it would all come together, but this lasagna was as gooey, rich, and smoky as the original. In fact, I like this one better!
Here’s the recipe. If you try it, let me know what you think!
KAT’S SMOKY VEGAN LASAGNA
(Makes about 6 generous servings)
9 dry lasagna noodles, cooked and drained (I use whole wheat noodles)
6 cups eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 1 1/2 large eggplants)
4 cups chopped sweet red peppers (about 3 peppers)
3 cups chopped cremini mushrooms (1 pre-chopped package)
4 medium tomatoes, seeded & chopped
4-5 medium garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic!)
1-2 tbsp olive oil (I really just eyeball it)
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup Daiya mozzarella style shreds & 1 cup Daiya cheddar style shreds, mixed
1 package (210 g) smoked tofu (I used Soyganic), crumbled
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
I would love to own an electric car, but I was quite saddened about the prospect this morning, particularly because I live in a condo building. Driving to work (in my gas-guzzling Rabbit), I heard the story of the Ottawa man who is fighting his condominium board because he’s been charging his electric car in the condo’s parking garage. The board wants him to pay $3000 to install a meter, even though the car requires about the same amount of power as a block heater (which his condo rules allow the use of) or a small appliance.
I guess this news item hit a nerve with me because I’m a condo unit owner myself. Though I do believe living in a multi-unit building helps to reduce my ecological footprint and is environmentally responsible in general, I’m often disappointed in the lack of evidence of “pride of ownership” or ecological sensibility. Having been to a board/owners meeting or two, I can completely imagine this very issue igniting controversy and a “mine, mine, mine” sort of attitude amongst the residents. It seems, along with any community, there are people who can’t see the forest for the trees. Frustrating.
In any regard, I hope someone stops to think that maybe a guy who goes out of his way to run and care for an electric car, displaying some evidence that he cares about (or at least considers) eco-friendly options, likely isn’t watching three TVs, 24-7, and probably isn’t simultaneously running the dishwasher, doing the laundry and blow-drying his hair under a heat lamp whilst electric-shaving his nether regions.
Let’s show this guy a little kindness for caring.
A feature of the last two days has been me snatching pieces of “Lucky Chinese New Year Candy” (I don’t really know what it’s called, but my Chinese co-worker brings it in every year and it’s nutty and it’s sweet and it’s delicious) from the office communal “buffet” table. I have also been drinking quite a lot of coffee loaded with agave syrup (except, truth-be-told, I ran out of agave syrup last week and have been using office-supplied sugar this week) and almond milk (ran out of that, too, so, office-supplied cream…ahem). My Starbucks vanilla soy latte intake has been steadily increasing over the past couple of weeks (I even had a Venti yesterday), and yesterday I ate french fries for lunch. The fries induced me to grab a chocolate bar for afternoon snack (fries always do this to me: blame the fries!), and, when I got home last night, it wasn’t long before I found myself re-heating leftover pizza and washing it down with mint chocolate chip ice cream, when I wasn’t even hungry. Let’s just say that I’m not feeling too light on my feet today. And that I’m beating myself senseless with negative self-talk. Sigh.
Let’s not mention* that I still haven’t “recovered” from the cookie festival that was the holidays and I’m a good number of pounds above my “safety” weight zone. (*Oops: I mentioned it.) Double-sigh.
Anyway, I think I hit bottom at around 8:33 last night, as I set down the empty ice cream dish for my cat Griffin to lick (should I not be admitting this?). Not only did I chastise myself for eating dairy (which, even today, has my insides notifying me of their presence every three minutes), but I took note of how quickly I’d jumped into my “jammy pants” (hello elastic waistband) when I got home from work yesterday, and did a mental review of how sluggish and restless (yes, it seems I can be both at the same time) and unmotivated and disorganized and sleepy and ADD-ridden I’ve been for the past two weeks. I’m experiencing the same irritable skin-crawly feeling I get late at night when my body tells me I’ve gone past my bedtime. Except I’m feeling this way all. the. time.
It’s bad. I feel bad. And I blame sugar. Because I crave it and then I eat it and then I crave it and then I eat it and then I need it.
I’m not going to go into a whole bunch of junk about sugar addiction. You can Wikipedia it: there’s an entry. And I know sugar is bad: just Google “sugar health risks”. I’m just going to acknowledge that I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in my physical and emotional behaviour since I’ve “upped” my sugar intake. I’m craving and eating much more food in general (not just sweets) than I do when I’m “off” sugar. I’m making bad choices and I’m not getting myself out of bed in the mornings, which means I’m not doing my morning gym routine. In fact, there hasn’t been a routine for a while.
So, even though sugar isn’t technically off-limits when it comes to veganism (but there’s a very good article here on why many vegans decide to reduce or eliminate sugar from their diets), it’s a definite roadblock for me, and I must significantly reduce intake. I believe kicking the sugar addiction will go a long way toward motivating me to face the other challenges of going vegan. I may even bump cheese from the top of my “Vegan Humps” list and replace it with sugar.
Poking around a bit on the Web, I found a detox (oh, how we love to throw that word around: just goes to show how addictive so many foods are nowadays) on the Dr. Oz website. (Hey, I like Dr. Oz!) Sounds simple and logical enough. As Dr. Oz states:
It takes 28 days to detox from most addictive substances, and sugar – hidden in fast food, low-fat options and condiments – is certainly an addictive substance. On this plan, you’ll detox, eliminate hidden sugars and learn how to incorporate alternative sweeteners.
So here it is in a step-by-step four-week “action plan”: Sugar Free in 28 Days. 1) Detox, 2) Eliminate Hidden Sugars, 3) Use Alternative Sweeteners, 4) Trick Your Taste buds. I’ll probably end up combining/moving some of the tips from week-to-week, but it’s a good guide to follow. Let’s go! Week one starting in t-minus… now.