Staying Healthy

Our friends at V-lish have an important section, Ask the Dietician, where Ginny Messina, the world’s leading V-licious Registered Dietician, answers readers’ questions. Her recent post is about meeting nutritional needs while following a compassionate diet:

If you’re leaning toward a more plant-based diet, you might feel a little uncertain about meeting your nutrient needs. Don’t worry – you can get everything you need from a V-licious diet. But if it’s new territory for you, these seven guidelines can help.

1. Eat at least three servings per day of legumes. This is a big food group that includes not just beans, but also peanuts and peanut butter, tofu, soymilk, and all types of veggie meats (including burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and chick’n nuggets). These foods will ensure that you get plenty of protein without any extra effort.

2. Eat at least eight servings per day of fruits and vegetables. Include dark green leafy vegetables and bright orange vegetables for vitamin A and plenty of vitamin C-rich choices such as oranges, strawberries, broccoli, peppers, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. When you’re in a hurry, use frozen or canned vegetables — they’re just as good for you.

3. Emphasize whole grains over refined ones, and if you like them, include some whole-grain bread and sprouted grains in meals. They are especially good sources of the minerals iron and zinc.

4. Include healthy fats in your diet. Nuts and seeds can help you meet needs for zinc while also lowering your risk for heart disease. Make sure you’re getting enough of the essential omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) by eating a small serving of ground flaxseeds, walnuts, or canola oil every day.

5. Meet calcium needs by choosing calcium-rich veggies (kale, collards, turnip greens, bok choy), calcium-set tofu, soy nuts, tempeh, fortified plant milks or yogurt, fortified juice, dried figs, almonds, or tahini.

6. Take appropriate supplements. As you move toward a mostly or completely V-licious diet, you’ll need 25 to 100 micrograms of vitamin B12 every day (choose the cyanocobalamin form of this vitamin). If you don’t get plenty of sun exposure (without sunscreen), take a vitamin D supplement. And if you don’t use a few shakes of iodized salt on your food every day, a supplement of iodine can be a good idea.

7. Keep the focus on whole plant foods, but leave room for convenience and treats. Some gently processed foods can help you meet nutrient needs and make your healthy, compassionate diet easier to stick with for the long term.

For more on meeting nutrient needs with ease, see my Plant Plate food guide.

Faith in Change

-Gene Baur

Throughout recorded history, religious institutions have grappled with major ethical matters while addressing fundamental questions about our place in the universe. Religious and spiritual leaders are seen as moral authorities and have been an influential force, sometimes defending the status quo and sometimes ushering in new understandings and change.

Members of the religious community are often at the center of highly charged debates when existing world views are challenged. Different religious leaders, each citing the divine, have taken opposing positions on contentious topics. Incendiary rhetoric can ensue, as was the case when slavery was debated in the U.S. Congress in the mid-1800s. In his book, Arguing About Slavery, William Lee Miller outlines how anti-slavery activists were demonized: “Who were these foul murderers, bloodhounds, incendiaries, agitators, instigators of midnight murder? These disturbers of our peace and enemies of our lives and liberties? These cold-hearted, base, malignant libelers and calumniators? These knowing accessories to murder, robbery, rape, and infanticide? In short, who were these fiends of hell? Churchwomen, mostly. Churchwomen and preachers, and Quakers, and a few teachers and lawyers and journalists – a powerless and marginal handful of practitioners of a new sort of reform.” (p. 65) These churchwomen and their cohorts took the side of the exploited against the powerful, and ultimately succeeded in changing people’s hearts and minds.

The positions and teachings of religious and faith-based organizations evolve over time and they reflect changes in our society which occur when injustice and cruelty are called out and challenged. For years, the factory farming industry has perpetrated various misdeeds, hidden from public view. It treats animals like inanimate commodities to be exploited, and most citizens have unwittingly supported this systemic abuse by purchasing meat, milk, and eggs. But with increasing awareness about factory farming, we are now in the midst of a burgeoning food movement. People oppose animal cruelty and they are seeking to make choices that are better aligned with their values.

As citizens wrestle with moral questions surrounding our food choices, the religious community will be engaged. If you are involved with a faith-based group, please consider raising these concerns for deeper discussion. Our relationship with other animals is an important moral issue, and it is time for the abomination of factory farming to become a thing of the past.

The Essence of Earth Day: Equitable Ethics vs. Easy Environmentalism

It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves.

It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own views, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among the beliefs and values we hold.
—Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

Many people express concern for the environment, and believe Earth Day is a good opportunity to draw attention to various issues. Sadly, yet not surprisingly, Earth Day has become largely a meaningless event, with just about everyone from the strictest vegan to the largest multinational corporation claiming to support “the Earth.”

But of course, the planet itself – the mass that circles the Sun – is in no danger. There is no way we can destroy a hunk of rock that weighs 13,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. (That’s 13 septillion pounds.)

Let me emphasize this point again, as it has generated about as much angry feedback as anything I’ve ever written: “How can you say the Earth is in no danger?? What about fisheries’ collapse/ atmospheric pollution/ rainforest destruction/ topsoil erosion???”

But none of these are “the Earth.”

The oceans could empty and the atmosphere blow away, and the planet would still exist.

Only the razor-thin biosphere matters, because it is where we and our fellow feeling beings reside.

This indicates what really matters. The bottom line is the lives of sentient beings.

This is not something most people want to face, though. To avoid considering all our fellow creatures – and the implications that would have for our personal lives – many simply proceed as if any and every environmental problem were equally pressing, and anything “green” equally commendable.

When you look at what has become of “environmentalism” in the U.S., the emphasis tends to be either on the feel-good-about-ourselves (“I recycled!” “I bought a hybrid!”), or on condemning the “other” (“British Petroleum is evil!” “The government must do something about global warming!”). The avoidance of an honest, meaningful analysis of the fundamental bottom line isn’t surprising. It is much simpler to parrot slogans, follow painless norms such as recycling, vilify faceless corporations, and demand that the government take action.

All of this makes it easy to continue the status quo and still feel smugly green and good.

Personal “environmentalism” is often nothing more than an expression of self-interest, just another laundry list of “we want.” We want to feel good about ourselves for doing relatively painless things. We want charismatic megafauna to entertain us. We want wild spaces for our use. We want clean air and water for our children.

But ethics aren’t a question of what “we want.” We can be truly thoughtful individuals and go beyond personal preferences, feel-good campaigns, and the vilification of faceless others. We can each recognize that sayings and slogans are superficial, intentions and ideology irrelevant.

What matters isn’t this rock we call Earth. What matters are the sentient beings who call this rock home. We can’t care about “the environment” as though it is somehow an ethically relevant entity in and of itself. Rather, what matters are the impacts our choices have for our fellow feeling beings.

In the end, all that matters are the consequences our actions have for all animals.

All creatures – not just wild or endangered animals – desire to live free from suffering and exploitation.

Cruelty is wrong, whether the victim is an eagle or a chicken, a wolf or a pig. The rest is just noise and obfuscation.

We simply can’t consider ourselves ethical if we make choices that lead to more suffering for these creatures. And the greatest amount of suffering on Earth is caused when we choose to eat animals instead of a cruelty-free alternative.

A compassionate diet is a statement against “we want.” It is the embodiment of a consistent, universal ethic. Choosing to live with compassion is a real choice with real consequences – a way to oppose and actively reduce violence, to make the world a truly better place for all. When we choose to live consistently and ethically, we can look in the mirror, knowing we are good people making choices that won’t lead to more suffering for our fellow feeling beings.

But we know that our food choices are only the beginning. There are many further opportunities to make the world a better place. Even if our food choices aren’t directly causing animals to be slaughtered, our other choices – optimizing our example, time, and resources to have the greatest impact – have consequences even more important than what we eat.

This is why we are so honored to work with all of you, who recognize that every day is a day to make a real difference.

-Matt Ball
Director of Engagement and Outreach

Is Being a Vegetarian Important?

Have you ever been in so much pain that you thought you were going to die?

Have you ever suffered so much that you wanted to die?

Every year, many unseen individuals in the U.S. do suffer to death. Slowly. Excruciatingly. Pigs, transported hundreds and hundreds of miles in open trucks without food or water, freeze to death. Chickens raised to be “meat,” genetically manipulated to grow unnaturally fast, have their legs break under their own weight, leaving them incapacitated and unable to get to food or water.

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It can be shocking to learn that, even before they have a chance to reach slaughter, modern agribusiness is so inherently brutal that it will cause countless individuals to die agonizing deaths. As Michael Pollan wrote in the New York Times:

More than any other institution, the American industrial animal farm offers a nightmarish glimpse of what capitalism can look like in the absence of moral or regulatory constraint. Here in these places life itself is redefined — as protein production — and with it suffering. That venerable word becomes “stress,” an economic problem in search of a cost-effective solution, like tail-docking or beak-clipping. Our own worst nightmare such a place may well be; it is also real life for the billions of animals unlucky enough to have been born beneath these grim steel roofs, into the brief, pitiless life of a “production unit.”

For a growing number of people, these facts compel them to stop eating chickens, pigs, ducks, cows, and turkeys. More and more people are making a daily, public statement against the breathtaking viciousness behind meat production.

For me, being a vegetarian is not the conclusion of an impartial set of utilitarian calculations, nor the endorsement of “animal rights.” Rather, being a vegetarian is a statement about the person I want to be. I could not live with myself if I were to be a part of such cruelty to thinking, feeling individuals.

But of course, not everyone makes this choice. With factory farms concealed, slaughterhouses hidden, and society structured around consuming faceless, disembodied, sanitized “meat,” we can easily ignore reality and just go along with the crowd. And if confronted with the hidden realities of modern agribusiness, we can seek out the “less bad” and call it good.

Michael Pollan, quoted earlier about the horrors of big ag, isn’t a vegetarian. In fact, he actively mocks the “moral certainty” of vegetarians. He fabricates fantastic fantasies to continue to justify eating animals. For example, he says that thinking in terms of individuals is human-centric, and that instead, we need to think in terms of species’ interests. Of course, this is exactly backwards. “Species” is a human construct, an abstraction that inherently can’t have interests. Only individuals have the capacity to experience pleasure or suffer pain and thus have interests. To argue that we should eat the flesh of our fellows to advance the “interests” of a species is so absurd, such a complete inversion of reality, it is truly stunning that a seemingly intelligent person would be willing to put forth such ludicrous nonsense. Pollan is the perfect example of Cleveland Amory’s observation that people have an infinite capacity to rationalize, especially when it comes to something they want to eat.

This may seem an unnecessarily harsh condemnation of a man who at least is willing to write about factory farms. But Pollan not only mocks vegetarians via laughable straw-man arguments, he even endorses the brutal act of force-feeding geese to create foie gras! This level of repulsive rationalization should be exposed for what it is. Pollan’s unwillingness to honestly consider vegetarianism, combined with his firsthand experience of “our own worst nightmare,” leads him to praise “happy meat” from “humane” farms. Having had the time and resources to investigate the various farms, the pinnacle of Pollan’s praise is Polyface Farm, where “animals can be animals,” living, according to Pollan, true to their nature.

So what is Polyface like? Rabbits are kept in small suspended wire cages. Chickens are crowded into mobile wire cages, confined without the ability to nest or the space needed to establish a pecking order. All year ‘round, pigs and cattle are shipped in open trucks to conventional slaughterhouses. Seventy-two hours before their slaughter, birds are crated with seven other birds. After three days without food, they are grabbed by their feet, upended, and, without any stunning, have their throats slit.

This is the system that Pollan proclaims praiseworthy. While mocking vegetarians, he argues that we should ethically and financially endorse Polyface’s treatment of these individuals.

But really, how can we expect better? In the end, Polyface’s view is the same as Tyson’s: These individual animals are, ultimately, simply meat to be sold for a profit. It is logically and emotionally impossible for there to be any real respect — any true, fundamental concern for the interests of these living, breathing, thinking, and feeling individuals — when they are being raised only to be butchered and sold for maximum profit. If we insist that we must consume actual animal flesh instead of a vegetarian alternative, it is naïve, at best, to believe that any system will truly take good care of the animals we pay it to slaughter.

image001See also: Humane Meat and the Arc of History

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If, in the end, you see an individual as meat, you will treat them as such.

Of course, I applaud anyone who looks honestly at “our worst nightmare” and begins to take steps toward more compassionate choices; most people find it easier to go along with the crowd.

Yet for those of us striving to live a truly moral life, it is important to avoid getting caught up in rationalizations. In the end, we have to address the most fundamental question: Do we respect individuals, or do we support slaughter? Details aside, the bottom line is that meat is the flesh of a unique individual — an individual who had thoughts and feelings, friends and fears, and who struggled and fought to stay alive.MattChicago2016

We can each recognize and respect these chickens, cows, ducks, pigs, and turkeys as the incredible individuals they are. We can recognize that rather than being food, if given the chance, they could each be a friend.

-Matt Ball

It’s Not What You Say, It’s What They Hear

wtwFrank Luntz is the conservative wordsmith behind some of the most successful Republican politicians and movements of the modern era. His book Words That Work (subtitled It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear) is an excellent lesson on how to shape language that actually influences people, while avoiding common traps that undermine our efforts at communication.

His top ten rules are:

  1. Simplicity: Use Small Words
  2. Brevity: Use Short Sentences
  3. Credibility Is as Important as Philosophy
  4. Consistency Matters
  5. Novelty: Offer Something New
  6. Sound and Texture Matter
  7. Speak Aspirationally
  8. Visualize
  9. Ask a Question
  10. Provide Context and Explain Relevance

 

This is in no way a perfect book (as examined here), but a very interesting one, replete with stories and examples. The book’s subtitle alone is one of the most important lessons that advocates can learn. Here is a fuller review, if you’d like a more extensive exploration of the ideas without (or before) reading the whole book.

 

Arkansas and New York Activists Stand Up for Farm Animals in Their States

Farm Sanctuary’s Compassionate Communities Campaign keeps our members up-to-date on issues where they live that pertain to farm animals.

For example, there is a new “ag-gag” bill in Arkansas – HB 1665 – that would make it illegal for anyone to expose brutal cruelty and food-safety issues on factory farms. Our Arkansas members have mobilized to pressure their state legislators to oppose this bill. Unfortunately, on Monday, the state House voted to approve it, but the fight to protect animals in the state continues. If you know any Arkansas residents, please forward this alert to them and urge them to contact their state Senators to voice their opposition to this dangerous bill.

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In more positive news, our New York members are pushing to get an anti-foie-gras bill through their state’s legislature. As many animal advocates are aware, the production of foie gras is incredibly cruel. Birds, like Matisse and Monet above, are force-fed, for weeks at a time, and this produces a deformed and diseased liver that is then sold as a so-called “delicacy.” State Senate Bill S1559 would prohibit the barbaric practice of force-feeding ducks and geese. If you know anyone in New York, please forward them this alert!

If you’re not yet part of the Compassionate Communities Campaign and want to receive updates like these on issues in your area that affect farm animals, please sign up here!

An Updated “How To Win Friends”

NeverSplitDale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People is a classic, and absolutely required reading for anyone who wants to make the world a better place.

A new book – Never Split the Difference, by Christopher Voss and Tahl Raz – picks up where Carnegie left off. Ostensibly a book about negotiation, it really is a book about dealing with others – how to read them, listen to them, and discern and understand their motivations.

While the entire book is interesting (also check out his organization’s blog), with lessons framed in the context of various negotiations, I found these excerpts to be particularly insightful for anyone who wants to open another person’s heart and mind to new ideas and possibilities:

[W]ithout a deep understanding of human psychology, without the acceptance that we are all crazy, irrational, impulsive, emotionally-driven animals, all the raw intelligence and mathematical logic in the world is little help in the fraught, shifting interplay of two people negotiating.

Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment, and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It’s bringing our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done.

It’s emotional intelligence on steroids.

[T]he Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM) … proposes five stages – active listening, empathy, rapport, influence, and behavioral change – that take any negotiator from listening to influencing behavior.

[A]s cardiologists know all too well, you more than likely haven’t gotten there yet if what you’re hearing is the word “yes” … the sweetest two words … are actually “That’s right.”

[W]hile innocent and understandable, thinking you’re normal is one of the most damaging assumptions in negotiations. With it, we unconsciously project our own style on the other side. [T]here’s a [big] chance your counterpart has a different style than yours. A different ”normal.”

[T]he Golden rule is wrong. The Black Swan rule is: don’t treat others the way you want to be treated; treat them the way they need to be treated.

 

Happy Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day!

One of the most common questions we receive here at Farm Sanctuary is whether or not it is ethical and safe to feed your dog a vegan diet. In honor of International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, we’ve consulted experts in the field of companion-animal health and have also compiled some personal stories from Farm Sanctuary staff members with vegan furry friends!

Here’s some information on the makings of a balanced dog diet, plus a plant-based dog biscuit recipe that your four-legged friend is sure to love.

FAQs

  • Is a vegan diet safe for dogs?
    • Experts in nutrition and veterinarians agree that a plant-based diet for dogs can be safe as long as it is complete, balanced, and includes all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that they need.
    • Quotes from the experts:
      • “[T]he complete and balanced pet foods are formulated to meet a pet’s complete nutritional needs. So the things that are missing, that would be present in animal foods, are added to these vegetarian diets. A lot of people feel very strongly that pets should not be fed vegetarian diets, but it is possible to have a pet food that meets nutritional requirements using only vegetarian ingredients and those products are on the market.”
        Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH
      • “The important thing is that you use a diet that has been shown to be nutritionally adequate for whatever stage of life you’re feeding, and it is absolutely possible to find a good quality commercial pet food that doesn’t have animal products in it.”
        Kathryn E. Michel, B.A. , D.V.M., M.S.
      • “Most dogs can benefit from a vegan diet. Thanks to ten thousand years of evolution alongside humankind, dogs are now physiologically omnivores. This means they can thrive on a nutritionally balanced plant-based food.”
        Lorelei Wakefield, VMD
      • So, what do I feed my newly plant-based dog?
        • There are many options for plant-based commercial dog food out there. Some popular brands are V-dog and Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula. You can also consider cooking homemade meals for your dogs, although it is highly recommended that you consult your dog’s veterinarian before making any dietary changes in order to ensure that all of his or her dietary needs are being met. You can also add supplements to ensure that your canine friend gets all of the essential nutrients he or she needs. Examples include Green Mush or adding ingredients like flax oil and chia seeds.
      • What foods should my dog avoid?
        • Some foods that are okay for humans can be toxic for dogs. These include (but are not limited to) onions, avocados, grapes and raisins, chocolate (or anything else containing caffeine), macadamia nuts, garlic, pits from peaches or plums, and human vitamin supplements containing iron. Please consult your vet and do research on other potentially hazardous foods, and if you are unsure, always ask a professional.

A look at Farm Sanctuary staff members and their (vegan!) furry friends:

“About two years ago, I started to question why I as a vegan was still buying meat for my dogs. They hated their kibble anyway; why not give vegan food a try? Not so surprisingly, they ate it (after I poured in some nutritional yeast and some vegan butter). And as a result, both dogs, one of whom who was called obese and the other who had begun to experience premature arthritis, are fitter and healthier than ever. Our vet didn’t bat an eyelash when I mentioned I’d begun to feed them vegan food. The proof was there in front of him. “ —Lindsay

“Goliath has been vegan for about seven years and Napoleon has been since I rescued him about five years ago. Since they’ve been vegan, they’ve been really healthy and active. Goliath has never had to go to the vet for anything other than her regular checkups. Both have had regular blood work and are in great nutritional health. They are super active and love going for walks and hikes. They’re just the most wonderful little dudes in the world” —Breezy

How to celebrate National Dog Biscuit Day with compassion

Animal advocate, author, and Farm Sanctuary Board Member Tracey Stewart features these Pumpkin Dog Biscuits in her wonderful book Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better.

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Also: these super-simple and healthy dog biscuits are made with only three wholesome ingredients. You can also add mint for fresh breath, flax oil for a shiny coat, and chia seeds for added protein! Pug-tested, dog-mom approved!

 

Ways to be Compassionate for Random Acts of Kindness Day

February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day! Celebrate this day (and every day!) by extending your kindness not only to the individuals around you, but also to actions that help keep the earth and all of its inhabitants healthy! Here are three ways we can celebrate and support farm animals:

  1. Share a #CompassionateMeal with a friend, neighbor, or coworker.

This day is the perfect opportunity to teach your friends, family, and community about why compassionate meals are important to you. Learn more here.

  1. Go veg for a meal … or a day!

Be kind to animals and the planet by cooking, baking, or exploring plant-based options in your area for one meal, or the whole day. You can find lots of easy, yet amazing recipes throughout the V-lish site, including the blog! Or use apps like Happy Cow to find cruelty-free restaurants in your area. Get creative, and be sure to share your creations and ideas with friends and family!

  1. Bring a compassionate meal to someone in need.

Pay it forward by sharing the meal you made above; taking someone in need out to dinner; or bringing warm, healthy, store-bought meals to someone in need.