Subversion through Puppies: Resolution #2

High school was the only time I’ve ever cared about football.  And I only cared because I was in the marching band.  Yet, despite sitting in the stand for four yeas, the only thing I ever figured out about the game was that if the ball went across the line or through the big posts then I had to play the fight song.

Now I’m in college, my own academic lala-land, and football isn’t exactly on my radar (my college is tiny and our football team isn’t the greatest).  Yet, despite living under a rock when it comes to sports, I couldn’t escape the hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl.  As you may guess by my use of the word “hoopla”, I viewed all the commotion surrounding the big game with the soul of a grumpy old man who is real tired of all these youngsters and their shenanigans.

I’ve never had anything explicitly against football or all the fanfare that goes with it.  But for some reason, these past few weeks I’ve been hyper-aware of just how irksome I find the whole spectacle.  Specifically, I take issue with the pervasive violence in football culture.  From the actual violence of the game, to the animals who are violently killed to feed spectators,  the whole thing just became too much for me.

So, in my own way, I decided to resist the culture of violence, and had a celebration of my own on game day.  And, in my mind, logically cute puppies are the best way to show resistance to a game that celebrates violent masculinity.

Puppy Bowl Party

Yes, the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet was my chosen form of protest this past Sunday.  Instead of tuning in to watch people hitting each other and commercials celebrating the consumption of animal carcasses, I watched puppies frolic.  I disregarded all the articles and blog posts claiming that chicken wings are a must for a Super Bowl party, and instead made a Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Cheesecake (vegan or course), and served chips and hummus.  So,  while most of America was cheering on Beyonce (in her python and iguana skin outfit, I might add) my guests and I stuffed our faces while watching puppies being fowled for “excessive cuteness”.

This leads me to my second resolution of the year: participate in my existing communities, and create new communities.

Because, at the end of the day, events like the Super Bowl and the Puppy Bowl are about one thing: bringing people together.  So I resolve to participate more, so that I can enjoy all the wonderful, talented people around me and learn from them.

And also because when you get together with other people, they show you youtube videos of cute puppies that you’ve never seen before; and who doesn’t want that? ;)

 

 

Want to read more about the Puppy Bowl?  Here’s a great article about the making-of!

News

Hi all,

Sorry it’s been so long.

I’ve been reading a lot about vegan/food/animal/media things as I’m crafting my thesis.  I’ll be sharing some of that stuff as it comes together.

But until then, here’s some interesting things to ponder.

  • What’s my first instinct when a bird flies into my window?  Not to eat it that’s for sure; but that’s what this guy in Texas did.
  • Do you ever wish that you could marry food?  Well cookies and chai married each other in this new recipe from Post Punk Kitchen; I’ve probably made them four times now since the recipe was posted two weeks ago.  They’re pretty much the pinnacle of cookie perfection.
  • Ever wanted to get a text message from a cow’s vagina?  Nope.  Me neither.  But this farmer in Switzerland thought it would be a good idea.
  • None of my grandparents were vegetarian, or Buddhist for that matter, but this guy chose to honor his grandmother by being vegetarian for a month.
  • Ever wonder what sort of progress is being made in animal law?  Well the Humane Society wrote this handy little piece about the 10 most important state laws made for animals in 2012 so far.
  • Whether you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ve probably apologized to someone at some point for your diet, because it was either making them uncomfortable or because it was an inconvenience at a dinner party.  Well maybe it’s time we stopped apologizing for our compassion.

And if all this doesn’t satisfy your desire for veggie/animal/weird news, you can check out my Tumblr for more vegan musings, as well as nerd-tastic posts, and ubiquitous pictures of cute animals.

 

Golden Rule

I’ve just finished my first two months of being vegan.  And I’ve noticed that I’ve been living my life more consciously.  Not only have I become an expert ingredient reader, but I’m more conscious of how I live my life as a whole, how my actions affect others,  and how I treat myself.  So, I thought I would mark this anniversary by reflecting on the Golden Rule.

~

Treat others as you wish to be treated.  That’s the Golden Rule that has been instilled in us since we were very small.  It’s the basis of all major religions in the world.  It’s repeated so often that it’s joined the ranks of motivational poster sayings.

But most of us don’t really live the Golden Rule.

When you really think about it, we don’t treat ourselves very well.  If we treated other people like we treat ourselves…the world would be a really crappy place to live.  We reserve a lot of judgment, self-doubt, criticism, guilt, and name calling for ourselves.

What we need to recognize is that the Golden Rule isn’t just about treating others well.  It also reminds us that we need to learn how to treat ourselves with the same compassion we extend to others.

I am the first to admit that I’m a harsh critic of myself; but when others are genuinely compassionate and caring towards me, that little nagging voice of inner-judgment in my head gets smaller.  So lately I’ve been trying to direct some compassion inward.  This not only means being  mindful of my self-judgment, but also compassionate towards my physical body and the things I put in it.

I went vegan because I wanted to live the part of the Golden Rule that tells us to treat others well; for me this meant animals.  But now I’m also trying to live the part of the Rule that asks that we treat ourselves with kindness as well.

I don’t eat animals because I see it as an act of disrespect towards them and towards myself.  I do not condone the torture that is used in factory farms, and the suffering that animals have to go through for people to enjoy a meal.  I do not eat any animal products because I wish to treat all beings as I wish to be treated– with compassion.

But, in these past two months I’ve also recognized that being vegan is a way of caring about myself as well– emotionally and physically.  Since becoming vegan I have experienced first hand the health benefits of this compassionate diet.  I have more energy, I am less stressed (although stress never completely goes away, especially for college students), and I feel that I am living a fuller life.

I feel better that I am not forcing others to kill or torture animals so that I might enjoy a meal.  I feel better that I am not putting anything in my body that had to suffer or endure pain.  And I feel better because I’ve learned how to eat healthier and make new and exciting meals for myself!

In other words, now I’m truly living the Golden Rule; by treating myself just as compassionately as I treat others.  This doesn’t mean that I’ve eradicated that little nagging voice of self-judgment completely.  But now whenever it speaks up, I refuse to let it beat me down; and instead I act compassionately toward myself and others… by making myself a vegan cupcake :)

Inspiration

Here are some of my favorite quotations dealing with compassionate/veg living.  What people or sayings inspire you to live a compassionate life?

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’
Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’
Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’
But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’

“And there comes a point when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”  ~Jim Davis

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread” ~Mother Teresa

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony” ~Gandhi

“Who was the guy who first looked at a cow and said, ‘I think I’ll drink whatever comes out of these things when I squeeze ’em!’? ~Calvin & Hobbes

“I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” ~Leonardo Da Vinci

“It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.” ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.” ~Albert Einstein

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

“When non-vegetarians say that human problems come first, I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farmed animals.” ~Dr. Peter Singer

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~Mark Twain

How can you be vegan?

A dear friend of mine once told me that her parents found the idea of veganism harder to grasp than homosexuality, because: “homosexuality you’re born with, but vegan…well I don’t know where that comes from”.

I should say that my friend’s parents are Texas conservatives and highly religious, so I found their remark very funny.

For those that might find the choice to be vegan odd, especially if you live in the land of red meat, I have tried to explain myself here.

Being vegan for me is a continuation of social justice.  However, when compared with other pressing– and depressing– issues of the day, choosing lettuce over lamb sometimes seems insignificant.  With so many wars and conflicts, inequality and oppression, I sometimes find myself asking, what does it matter that I don’t eat meat?

It matters because I recognize that there is something in my life that I have the power to change.

We spend a lot of time wishing and hoping for things to change.  So when the opportunity presents itself to actually make the world a better place it’s important that we take it.  We cannot give up simply because we cannot change the big things.

Paraphrasing from something I’m sure I’ve seen embroidered on a pillow somewhere: If we fail to take the first step, we will never begin the journey.

Because, as I see it, being vegan, or vegetarian, is one of the easiest ways to live a compassionate life.  I’m not physically fighting against factory farms, I’m not petitioning congress, I am simply removing my support from an industry that produces a product I do not wish to consume.  What I’m trying to say, is that I’m no radical and that I think everyone can be vegan if they choose.  Because unlike trying to Free Tibet, or stop racism, or fight for gay rights, being vegan is an individual choice that doesn’t depend on a bureaucracy or government to make a change.  All it takes is you.  If everyone became vegan, there would be less suffering in the world.  If everyone asked the government to free Tibet….Tibet probably still wouldn’t be free.  That does not mean that we shouldn’t take on the big issues.  But nor should we ignore the small fights.

I accept that I am only one person.  But I am going to use my personal agency to the best of my ability.  And that includes signing petitions to Free Tibet as well as eating a plant-based diet.

This quote from Dominion, Matthew Scully’s book on the morals and ethics of how we treat animals, describes perfectly what I believe:  There is not a limited supply of compassion.  And there should be no hierarchy of who we extend our compassion to.

“And it is true that there will always be enough injustice and human suffering in the world to make the wrongs done to animals seems small and secondary.  The answer is that justice is not a finite commodity, nor are kindness and love.  Where we find wrongs done to animals, it is no excuse to say that more important wrongs are done to human beings, and let us concentrate on those.  A wrong is a wrong, and often the little ones, when they are shrugged off as nothing, spread and do the gravest harm to ourselves and others (Matthew Scully, Dominion).

I believe veganism is a concrete way to promote social justice in a world that has enough suffering.  People might dismiss it as trivial and think it will accomplish nothing.  And I say, no, I am not ending the suffering of animals.  But I know that I am ending the suffering of a few.  And that is not nothing.

I don’t think we should wait to extend the hand of kindness to animals until after we have solved all our human problems first.  Because that is never going to happen.

So let us offer our protection to the weak, and perhaps it will help us learn to be more compassionate to each other as well.  It can’t hurt.  Often times tackling the easy things first can create the momentum that pushes us through the harder things as well.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie, and today I saw it in theaters for the first time.  When it was released in 1991 I was too wee to take to the theater, so this was my first time seeing it on the big screen.  And, as often happens when we watch Disney movies after having spent some time growing up– I realized some things.

I guess it’s the liberal arts education sinking in, but I couldn’t help analyzing the film, especially the characters.  Gaston in particular has always been repulsive to me– probably because I identify strongly with Belle as an intellectual, bookish girl longing for ‘adventure in the great wide somewhere’.  However, seeing the film now, I realized that I also find Gaston disgusting for his lack of compassion.  The strong-jawed manly man that uses antlers in all of his decorating, and eats five dozen eggs, is definitely not a vegan.  He hunts, he fights, and he belittles those weaker than him.

Compassion is about recognizing the suffering of others, something Gaston definitely does not do.  In fact, he seeks to capitalize on it, and in turn becomes the villain of the story.  And because this is a Disney movie,  the villain is always defeated…or in this case he falls off a castle that was built right next to a conveniently placed gorge.  Because when you see a giant gorge, you automatically get the urge to build a castle, don’tcha?  (Sorry, there’s just so much more to laugh at in Disney movies when you’re all grown up and cynical).  However, in our cruel, sadly un-Disney-fied world, those that capitalize on the suffering of others are often rewarded for their actions instead of being stopped.

Further proof that a greater effort needs to be made into making the world more like a Disney movie.

But I suppose if real life were like a Disney movie, animals would talk and then there’d probably be a lot more veggie eaters in the world.

But I guess there’d also be more people like Gaston……hm.  It’s the philosophical question of the century :)

Vegan virgin

Yes, I am a vegan virgin.

~

I’d been a vegetarian for almost two years when one of my closest friends insisted I read “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer or she would unfriend me (and not just on Facebook).  Reading that book caused me to become truly conscious of my beliefs and actions.

In this blog I will chart my journey veganward– into the great nutritional-yeasty-unknown!  As an anthropology major I’m especially interested in not only vegan food but also vegan culture– and how abstaining from animal products brings people together to create awesome vegan communities, as well as how following a compassionate diet helps us to be more compassionate in other areas of life.

~

From beef to beets: The beginning

(ha! That section title makes me sounds freaking important– but, hey, it’s my blog, what’re you going to do about it?  It’s all about me!!  Mwahaha.)

I’ve always loved animals, but it took me 18 years to become a vegetarian.  The decision was relatively painless– I was helping my dad prepare dinner one night– calamari– when I suddenly realized I couldn’t do it any more.  I could not eat animals.  Of course, it wasn’t that quick, but it felt like it at the time.  I had been thinking about becoming vegetarian for a while; but it took the actual act of cutting into flesh to wake me up.  Before that night I had gone back and forth because I knew it would be difficult– living in Texas and being a vegetarian– being a poor college student and being a vegetarian– liking the taste of bacon and being vegetarian.  Yes, I admit, I like bacon!  Scandalous, I know for a vegetarian to admit.  But I didn’t become a vegetarian because I don’t like meat.  I became a vegetarian because my actions and my beliefs were not aligned.  The moral conviction underlying my decision– that eating animals is wrong– is what gave me the strength to give up meat cold turkey– pardon the pun.

But until recently that’s as far as my conviction went.  I was okay with eating eggs, dairy, and other animal products (except gelatin– that stuff’s just nasty).

It took me a few months after reading “Eating Animals” to become vegan, but once again I am making the leap into what I believe will be not only healthier, but happier way of life.

It’s a few weeks since I became vegan and I’m here to say– yes it is possible to be vegan in Texas!  (even outside Austin!  gasp!  But really, Austin isn’t part of Texas, I don’t know where it came from, it’s like a little village of hippy hipsterdom in the middle of the rest of this crap– it’s like a little nugget of tofu on the side of a big ol’ hunk o’ beef).

So, I guess I’m not a vegan virgin anymore.  But I’m not a vegan veteran yet….I guess I’m a vegan newborn….eating lots of mushy tofu and beans.  That is, until my winter break ends and I return to college in Tacoma, Washington.  Which is to Texas like Tofu is to Barbecue.  Okay, maybe Portland is tofu, but Tacoma/Seattle is definitely at least, like, edamame.

So enjoy the blog and my random, random ramblings!