Monday, November 30, 2009

Eating Animals: Hiding / Seeking - the fourth chapter of the new book by Jonathan Safran Foer

I'm wearing black in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. There are surgical booties around my disposable shoes and latex gloves on my shaking hands. I pat myself down, quintuple-checking that I have everything: red-filtered flashlight, picture ID, $40 cash, video camera, copy of California penal code 597e, bottle of water (not for me), silenced cell phone, blow horn. We kill the engine and roll the final thirty yards to the spot we scouted out earlier in the day on one of our half-dozen drive-bys. This isn't the scary part yet.
Thus begins the fourth chapter of Foer's book, the chapter entitled Hiding/Seeking. A lot happens in this chapter. As you may have gleaned, it begins with our hero pretty much breaking into a factory farming facility. He does so with a woman we call "C", who seems to do such things on a fairly regular basis. But she is not radical or extremist. We actually get to know how she feels about it, because it is in this chapter that Foer begins to use the device of personal narratives - that is, short segments actually written by various people he interacted with while writing the book (rather than just about them). Whereas his description of the event has the subheading, "I'm not the kind of person who finds himself on a stranger's farm in the middle of the night", her section, which immediately follows, is titled "I am the kind of person who finds herself on a stranger's farm in the middle of the night." {Emphasis added.} Get it?

Unlike the black bandanna-wearing members of the ALF that you sometimes see around NYC, chanting things like "We will drive the final nail!" (sorry guys, but what does that even mean?), C seems like a person you could comfortably take into your living room.
I am not a radical. In almost every way, I'm a middle-of-the-road person. I don't have any piercings. No weird haircut. I don't do drugs. Politically, I'm liberal on some issues and conservative on others. But see, factory farming is a middle-of-the-road issue - something most reasonable people would agree on if they had access to the truth...

It's crazy that the idea of animal rights seems crazy to anyone. We live in a world in which it's conventional to treat an animal like a hunk of wood and extreme to treat an animal like an animal.
Well said, C. (But, you know, it's so convenient to treat them like hunks of wood.)

Foer, somewhat needless to say, is moved by his experience of witnessing conditions at the factory of animals. But what disturbs him most is the difficulty they have finding a door to the animal sheds that isn't locked.
We spend several minutes like this, looking for an unlocked door. Another why: Why would a farmer lock the doors of his turkey farm? It can't be because he's afraid someone will steal his equipment or animals... A farmer doesn't lock his doors because he's afraid his animals will escape. (Turkeys can't turn doorknobs.)... So why? In the three years I will spend immersed in animal agriculture, nothing will unsettle me more than the locked doors. Nothing will better capture the whole sad business of factory farming. And nothing will more strongly convince me to write this book.
The next section, surprisingly enough, has the heading "I am a factory farmer." Reading this is sort of like talking to a rational republican. You think, Well, I see what you're saying, and clearly you've thought it through. But I think you may be missing some things... For example: "Sure, you could say that people should just eat less meat, but I've got news for you: people don't want to eat less meat." No, many people do not want to eat less meat. People also don't want to go to school, work eight hours a day, pay rent or a mortgage, follow driving laws, have their teeth cleaned, go visit grandma in the hospital, clean the house, take the trash out, or pay their taxes. There are plenty of things that people don't want to do. But in order for society to function, and for individuals to remain safe and healthy, they do them. It is part of being a responsible adult on the planet earth which has an ever-increasing population. What am I really saying here? Sorry folks, suck it up. Your 99 cent cheeseburger has just got to go.

The chapter goes on to say a good deal about chickens. Given that an estimated 99% of chickens come from factory farms, they become a good icon for this system of creating food animals. (I have seen this number cited in numerous places, but unfortunately I can't find you an unbiased reference for it.) "As described in industry journals from the 1960s onward, the egg-laying hen was to be considered 'only a very efficient converting machine', the pig was to be 'just like a machine in a factory', and the twenty-first century was to bring a new 'computer cookbook of recipes for custom-designed creatures.'" *shiver*

The last segment of this chapter is one called "I am the last poultry farmer." It is written by a man who raises turkeys, and loves them as if children. Except, of course, that he eventually kills them so that people can eat them, which most people will not do with their children. He is, however, the first of the contributors to give a name: Frank Reese. He doesn't support or want to have anything to do with factory farming methods.
Not a single turkey you can buy in a supermarket could walk normally, much less jump or fly. Did you know that? They can't even have sex. Not the antibiotic-free, or organic, or free-range, or anything. They all have the same foolish genetics, and their bodies won't allow for it anymore. Every turkey sold in every store and served in every restaurant was the product of artificial insemination. If it were only for efficiency, that would be one thing, but these animals literally can't reproduce naturally. Tell me what could be sustainable about that?... What the industry figured out - and this was the real revolution - is that you don't need healthy animals to make a profit.
As you may have guessed, he raises what are now referred to as "heritage birds", rather than the genetically adulterated birds generally raised for commercial uses these days (i.e. for the past maybe 50 years). His birds can fly, and jump... and have sex. Frank makes a statement in his diatribe that I strongly agree with: "If consumers don't want to pay the farmer to do it right, they shouldn't eat meat." There's that 99 cent cheeseburger again.
Just the other day, one of the local pediatricians was telling me he's seeing all kinds of illnesses that he never used to see... Everyone knows it's our food. We're messing with the genes of these animals and then feeding them growth hormones and all kinds of drugs that we really don't know enough about. And then we're eating them.
Couldn't have said it better myself, Frank.

And people still wonder why I'm vegan?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Interview-Vegan No Whey

Todays interview is with Jessi of VeganNoWhey

How did you choose the name of your shop and how long have you been a member of

I have only had a shop on etsy for a short time, but I am always helping Heather package her goodies, and cut fabric. The name just kind of came to me I guess
Eventually I would like to get a shop banner so it reads "Vegan? NO WHEY!"

What kinds of items do you sell in your shop and what inspired you to start
creating them?

I started selling my recipes for delicious foods that I wish I could sell right in my shop...someday..someday we will have a certified kitchen easily accessable to us!

Do you donate to any charities or do any volunteer work?
I give to different animal sanctuaries whenever I am able to. I am also involved in food not bombs in my area, which unfortunately has been pretty sparse lately.

What are some of your favorite things about etsy?
I love the variety, I love that anything I want can be bought handmade by someone on etsy. Walmart for a blanket HAH I dont think so, I can get it on etsy and it will be so much cooler.

Do you sell your items outside of etsy, either online or in retail shops?
Not currently, tho I would love to have an all vegan all organic catering service!

Have you been featured anywhere?
I guess I had my potato salad on the front page of etsy, which was pretty exciting...

Do you have any future plans for your shop?
Future plans would be adding more of my recipes, and hopefully someday being able to sell food...those delicious breakfast sandwiches from my kitchen to your tummy..until then I can only dream!

What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have?
I love riding bikes around the city we live in, drinking tea, going on adventures, hiking, going canoeing...spending time with our doggie friends!

Do you have any animal companions?
Yep 2 incredibly spoiled incredibly needy doggy friends
I also have a cat at grammas
a cat and a dog at my parents house!

Do you have any websites besides your shop that you would like to tell us

Check out Vegan Craft Sample bags, its pretty much all we have been thinking about lately since it took over our apartment! 100% profits go to animals at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

How long have you been vegan and what made you go vegan?
Vegan about 2 1/2 years now, I started hanging out with Heather and realized how easy it was to make the switch from veg to vegan. It happened almost instantly and I have never looked back!

Do you have any favorite vegan things, like books, websites, stores, etc.?
Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse, NY
they are all vegan, and awesome
Best milkshakes on Earth!

What are your favorite foods?
vegan breakfast sandwiches (not just because they are in my shop either hah)
prickly pears

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Peace to all Creatures 'zine

A wonderful vegan woman called Pippi and a friend of hers, Jessi, produce a quarterly 'zine called 'Peace to All Creatures'
For those not familiar with 'zines, they are a - in the words of Wikipedia -A zine (an abbreviation of the word fanzine, or magazine; pronounced /ˈziːn/ "zeen") is most commonly a small circulation publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published work of minority interest usually reproduced via photocopier on a variety of colored paper stock.

While not wholly about veganism, it has a mainly vegan slant, all of the articles are vegan friendly, and certainly this Fall 09 issue is 'the Vegan Issue' Couldn't get more vegan than that! This is the second issue of this zine that I have contributed to, the first being a written piece about Freeganism, and in the latest issue I sent in a drawing. I get a real kick out knowing my work is in a publication that anyone anywhere can see. How fab is that.
Aside from the self fulfillment contributing to the zine gives me, I must say it is also a fabulously good read. It's refreshing to find real articles from real people, about subjects that they have an interest in, instead of a mainstream magazine that is written by journalists, that do it for a living regardless of the subject. It seems like a much more personal read, and by the end of it, it makes one feel as though you've had a little insight into other people's ideas and interests. The articles are interesting and informative, also varied. The adverts are vegan friendly. The artwork is superb, right from the Front Cover, showing the two beautiful 'Kissing Cows' by Mvegan5, through to the Back Cover, which is a photograph of sweet cows, one looking right into the camera, by Ryan MacMichael -
The zine is well made, and is of good quality, both in print and paper. It includes articles such as 'Taking a Road trip with Your Dog', 'Marketing Veganism' and 'Aromatherapy'. And a lovely little surprise is that it arrives with some very pretty postcards and a pin badge.
The 'zine is available from UberDuperCreations Etsy Shop, is available as a hard copy or a digital download, and can be shipped Worldwide. Well worth buying and suitable for vegans, and non-vegans alike, eco friendly peeps and any peeps that want to look 'hip' - carry this super fab 'zine around!
The zine also helps raise money for animals.

Holistically Heather's Holiday Picks For Today

It's easy to find Vegan Etsy items on etsy, just search veganetsy team (yes spaced out just like that!) Here are some of my favorites for today!

These ornaments by Myzoetrope are so cute, think this ornament is cute? Check out the rest of the shop for cute cards, and basic cute combustion!

This cute mustache pin is from PandaWithCookieand I chose it for Jessi from Vegan? No Whey! because when people are rude to Jessi at the grocery instead of flipping the "bird".... she just puts her finger up like a mustache and says "mrrrrrrrrr" It confuses the jerk and they leave us alone, its hillarious!

As the last mustache story was still in my head I found these little mustached guys from Veganosaurus..all I have to say is "mrrrrrr" mustaches please!

Last but not least is a super cute polka dot and skulls bookmark from ArtYouDreamAbout, the perfect little gift for the reader on your list!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This Thanksgiving, remember...

Turkeys are beautiful!

They are interesting, intelligent creatures. Turkeys are our friends.

We should not make turkeys our dinner, lest we become like this crazed, sadistic muppet.

But... should you encounter the dreaded turkey-clam... run for your life!!

OK though, srsly ppl. Love your turkeys, don't eat them! This will be my fourth Thanksgiving turkey-free, and believe me when I tell you that my plate has been far from lacking these past four years! If anything, I've had much more interesting and satisfying meals, with the major added bonus that nothing on the table tugged at my conscience. This year Jonathan and I are whipping up quite a feast for some vegan and omni friends, and we're so excited about it. I'll post plenty of pictures and maybe some recipes too, sometime in the next week or two.

I'm also excited that this year, not only are Jonathan and I of course abstaining from eating any turkeys, but we're also contributing to the happy lives of a couple through Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-A-Turkey program! The certificates we received for sponsoring Bubbles and Rhonda will be proudly displayed on our feast table. Don't worry, it's never too late to contribute!

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone! Remember to be thankful for everything we do have, even though things might not be perfect - and for the fact that we can choose veg! :D

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eating Animals: Words / Meaning - the third chapter of the new book by Jonathan Safran Foer

As an author, Foer likes to play. In his first novel, Everything is Illuminated, he played with time and the sharing (or not sharing) of space. In Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud, he played with images - specifically, visual and cognitive perceptions of the world from unusual viewpoints (such as those of a nine year old boy struggling with incomprehensible loss). In his latest book, Eating Animals, Foer plays with language: both in the meaning and sound of words, as well as the physical presence of letters, words, and shapes printed on a page. This is present throughout the book in the chapter headings - pick up a copy and you'll see what I mean. But nowhere is it more expressed than in the third chapter of the book, "Words/Meaning."

This chapter reads as a highly editorialized series of unusual encyclopedia entries, which are indeed listed in alphabetical order. The device allows Foer to address a wide range of issues without leaving his central exploration of the food industry. At times the "definitions" reference each other; many flow brilliantly from one to the next (Bullshit -> Bycatch, for instance), though each stands on its own.

Michael Pollan, an author who has become one of the best known food journalists at least in western culture, takes his knocks in this book. This is unsurprising - many in the vegetarian / vegan community feel that Pollan has all of the information directly in front of him, and yet draws all of the wrong conclusions from it. For example, Pollan has taken the position that becoming veg is the wrong way to go about combating factory farming, and that it is in fact much better to buy meat and animal products from real family farms instead. In 'Discomfort Food', Foer makes the following fabulous point, more or less in direct response to Pollan's argument that vegetarianism is a barrier to 'table fellowship':
Imagine an acquaintance invites you to dinner. You could say, "I'd love to come. And just so you know, I'm a vegetarian." You could also say, "I'd love to come. But I only eat meat that is produced by family farmers." Then what do you do? You'll probably have to send the host a web link or list of local shops to even make the request intelligible, let alone manageable. This effort might be well-placed, but it is certainly more invasive than asking for vegetarian food.
(Is he trying to imply that pasta with marinara is easier than chicken from Joel Salatin? Pish posh.)

Foer's definition of "Free-Range" is priceless:
Applied to meat, eggs, dairy, and every now and then even fish (tuna on the range?), the free-range label is bullshit. It should provde no more peace of mind than "all natural," "fresh," or "magical."
Followed by "Fresh":
According to the USDA, "fresh" poultry has never had an internal temperature below 26 degrees or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Fresh chicken can be frozen (thus the oxymoron "fresh frozen"), and there is no time component to food freshness.
Food labeling conundrums are really Marion Nestle's ball of wax, but they're always good for a (terrified) laugh. Other definitions of interest include "KFC" "PETA," "Sentimentality,"

In this chapter, Foer briefly addresses the problems that have arisen in the kosher food industry due to the industrialization of the slaughter process. He asks this difficult question of his own Jewish community: "Has the very concept of kosher meat become a contradiction in terms?"

Living in New York City, I have made many friends and acquaintances who keep kosher. One of the things we have in common is our "restrictive" diets - we tend to understand each other on that level in a way that people who aren't so conscious of food do not. I've had many conversations in which the "two sets of pots and dishes" situation comes up, particularly among people who are dealing with roommates who do not share the same habits. And admittedly, more than once, I've brought up the idea that by going vegan those kosher friends would only need one set, ha.

While less of a story is woven here than in other chapters, it is no less compelling - in fact, given the variety and content of information presented, quite the opposite.

* * *

Read about Chapter 1 here.

Read about Chapter 2 here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Vegan Etsy Team Holiday Picks by Holistically Heather

Kenny Coop's awesome vegan candles are the best I have found to date! I might even cry the day our final candle burns out!

Awesome drawstring bag by Vegancraftastic...we all know I am a sucker for anything bicycle related!

A really pretty necklace from Pink Vegan Bubble

I heart this coffee mug from Vessels and Wares...this would be perfect for hot tea and snuggling with fur babies all winter!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's A Wonderful Life- Daiya Vegan Cheese, Strong Hearts Cafe, and Co-Op Grocery Finds!

The other day, last Friday to be exact, Jessi and I took a little adventure out to Syracuse, NY where we had planned to see a band play. Low and behold they were playing at a farm, and when I couldnt get an answer at the farm to find out what their definition of "farm" was we decided the chances of animals being there were what did we do instead?

We headed on over to the Syracuse Co-Op Grocery store, grabbed some organic portabellas and ran into a pal of mine who works there, she told us that they now have Daiya Vegan Cheese, in bulk! We walked right by it and would have never even noticed, I dont make a practive of looking in the cheese cooler hah! For the last couple of months we have heard nothing but rave reviews of Diaya Cheese, and were waiting and waiting to have enough money to try it. Thank you co-op for making it easily accessible.

We left the co-op arms full and wallets on E and headed over to Strong Hearts Cafe, it an all vegan cafe in Syracuse, NY and Friday night is pizza night! We saved up for this night for a long time and were very very eager to munch on some Vegan Chicun Wang Pizza, which consists of dough, hot sauce, seitan strips, sheese blue cheese (which is to die for and tastes a lot like bleu cheese), and smothered in the Daiya mozzarella cheeze.

By the time we sloshed down our vegan milkshakes, we each could only eat one slice of the AMAZING pizza!

So we boxed it up and brought it home, after a long hour drive it was time for a bit of a snack we each had one more slice and saved the rest for morning.

What did those crazy folks do with their bulk Daiya cheeze anyway? Well, glad you asked, we decided to make some of our famous spicy tofu subs and melt the daiya cheese on top! They turned out amazing and are super simple to make. Which makes for a cheap easy meal when you cant afford to eat organic raw veggies the entire winter in upstate NY (which sucks by the way, we are still trying tho!)

These were so simple to make, so heres the recipe!

You will need:
1 or 2 pounds of tofu, depending on how many meals you want to get out of them (we each got 2 meals out of our half of the big sub)
Your favorite hot sauce, we like red hot, it doesnt have corn syrup or sugar in it
Black Olives (if you dig them)
A roll or many rolls depending on what you prefer (we went big ahha real big) Make sure to check ingredients strange dairy crap loves to creep its way into breads
Daiya Cheese shreds (however much you want)
1 c. nutritional yeast

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
Drain the tofu, leave it a bit damp so it can be dipped! Dip each strip of tofu into the nutritional yeast (you can also mix in some garlic powder, if you love garlic)and place on a cookie sheet. Bake the tofu until it gets a bit crispy...the thinner you slice it the better it gets nice and crispy that way.
While the tofu is baking mix up your sauce, take a glob of vegenaise and add hot sauce until its the spiceyness that you prefer, set aside. Pull it out of the oven, dunk it in the hot sauce (or soak it, which I do sometimes) then spread the tofu slices on your roll. Cover with more sauce if you fancy, sprinkle with black olives, then smother with the daiya cheese. Put back in oven, just to melt the cheese....Yes thats right, daiya melts and stretches! Pull it out and munch! I wouldnt suggest eating this all the time, or atleat I wouldnt eat it all the time....but you could eat 3 and still be eating healthier than a meat/dairy have fun!

Posted by and recipe by Heather of Holistically Heather

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vegan Craft Samples Its All In The Bag Giveaway and Sales!

Ok, It's All In The Bag-Vegan Craft Samples the holiday edition have been selling like crazy, keeping me busy at every moment, now is the time to get yours if you havnt already. 100% profits from each bag will be given to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary in the forms of animal sponsorship and donation!

Each regular sized handmade reusable bag includes 17-20 samples and the small bags include 8-10 samples.

Some of you may have already seen the little interview with me in Veg News most recent magazine, also mentioning Vegan Etsy Team and other animal related etsy folks! I was so stoked when they contacted me, thinking it was because they got the sample bag I had sent them in August....but it was a bit odd to me as I hadnt seen it on the This Just In Veg News Blog...well low and behold that is not how they found Vegan Samples, because 3 months after I sent the package a tattered box returned to me. Apparently the USPS wasnt smart enough to figure out that I printed the postage at home, and sent it back undelivered months later, yippee....But no worries I sent in a new one, a holiday one, which was featured here, and Starrlight Jewelry was the staff pick!

Now its back to the drawing board, with only a few left to sell...its time to start planning the post-holiday bags, due out January 1st 2009!! Any interested shops are asked to sign up on our website. We would love to add new shops to our group, and find new friends as well! We have created a Ning community for past and present contributors to our bags, where you can come check out everyones latest sales, post photos, chat, post in the forums etc.

Now comes the latest with our bags, we are looking for the perfect logo design for our new handpainted/screened bags we will be releasing as soon as we find the perfect logo. I want to keep the aspect of handmade bags without working myself to death, it is just too many hours of cutting fabric and sewing to make every single bag by hand. So we will now be using premade 100% cotton bags,and printing our new logo on them! Where do you come in?
We are having a giveaway in our blog, you can win a holiday sample bag if you come up with the best logo design! Please check out the blog post for details, and let those creative juices flow!

Thank you to everyone who has contributed and made Vegan Craft Samples what it has become, all while helping animals! As far as bags go we have 3 international bags, a handful of regular sized bags and a couple hands full of small bags...they make great gifts, even for non vegans!

Posted by Heather of
Holistically Heather
Aunt Flos Pads
Vegan Samples

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eating Animals: All or Nothing or Something Else - the second chapter of the new book by Jonathan Safran Foer

In the second chapter of his book Eating Animals, Foer looks at a conundrum that was first brought to my attention in middle school French class. This was of course the revelation that the French eat horses. The room full of 13 and 14 year olds was naturally perfectly aghast. "Horses?! Surely you must be joking?!!!" To which our teacher, sensibly enough, responded, why is that so different than eating a cow? The best answer we could conjure up was that you can ride horses, and they're pretty. Of course we couldn't really come up with an answer, because there is no real answer.

We are talking, more broadly, about why different cultures choose different animals as OK or not OK to eat. Here in the US, for the most part, we accept cows, pigs, lambs, chickens and a few other birds, and a variety of sea life as perfectly normal food. But talk about eating goat or whale or monkey and we're kind of like, wha? And we pretty much freak out at the idea of eating horse, or, heaven forbid, dog or cat. Even just in the one country though, being the "melting pot" that it is, differences arise. Those of the Jewish culture who follow kosher dietary laws don't find pigs or shellfish to be acceptable food at all. I live in Queens, where many of my neighbors think nothing of eating goat - I know this because of the whole, skinned goats hanging up in butcher shop windows. Some people in some parts of some states are happy to eat wild animals like possums, pigeons, and snakes, or body parts such as cow tongues, chicken gizzards and necks, and pigs' feet and ears, that many so-called omnivorous city folk would lose their lunches over.

Go international, and things get much wilder. Plenty of countries do in fact eat dog. And really, why not? Because they're smart, and loyal, and know their names and do tricks? Any pig owner will tell you that this all holds true for The Other White Meat. And of course the Hindus think us downright blasphemous heathens for eating cows. Monkey brains are a delicacy in many parts of the world. Some find the meat of the orangutan to be quite tasty - so much so that poaching is a threat to the species. The birds that we choose to eat (chickens, turkeys, pheasants...) are no less intelligent or complex than the parrots and other birds we bring into our homes, name, love, and treat as family members - they just have a good amount more breast meat.

As Foer puts it,
The French, who love their dogs, sometimes eat their horses.
The Spanish, who love their horses, sometimes eat their cows.
The Indians, who love their cows, sometimes eat their dogs.
What does all of this tell us? That the decision of which animals we eat vs. which animals we love is essentially arbitrary.

Foer begins his second chapter by making an argument for eating stray dogs rather than letting them be euthanized, ground up, and fed to what we consider to be "proper" food animals. (Didn't know that's what happens? Well it is.) This is classic satire, a la "A Modest Proposal", except that it is infinitely more plausible as dogs, in many places, are eaten, whereas we've pretty much successfully killed off all of the human cultures that think it's alright to eat each other, even when it's just their way of mourning.
The inefficient use of dogs - conveniently already in areas of high human population (take note, local-food advocates) - should make any good ecologist blush.
Ha! Well if animals are here for our use, the man's got a point doesn't he? And if they're not... well you tell me.

Foer continues the chaper in comparing factory farming to war. The analogy is fairly apt, particulary when he draws it out with the example of fish. We could even use a much uglier, particular word: genocide. For the simpler term "war" indicates an enemy, someone fighting back. To an outside observer, it would indeed apperar that we are doing our damndest to simply rid the planet of, say, tuna. We go after these animals with a vicious, no-holds-barred methodology that leaves pure devistation in its wake. But they're just so darn tasty mixed up with some mayo and celery!

Many, many people want to believe that fish are somehow different, somehow special. (Or less special, maybe. For a very brief period I was one of them. Given my roots, I wanted to believe that the livelihood of so many from the place my family comes from could not have grown so tainted. Alas.) We often call these people pescatarians. Regarding this, I will quote two things.

Industrial fishing is not exactly factory farming, but it belongs in the same category and needs to be part of the same discussion - it is part of the same agricultural coup. This is most obvious for aquaculture (farms on which fish are confined to pens and "harvested") but is every bit as true for wild fishing, which shares the same spirit and intensive use of modern technology... Once the picture of industrial fishing is filled in - the 1.4 billion hooks deployed annualy on longlines; the 1,200 nets, each one 30 miles in length, used by only one fleet to catch only one species; the ability of a single vessel to haul in fifty tons of sea animals in a few minutes - it becomes easier to think of contemporary fishers as factory farmers rather than fishermen.
No reader of this book would tolerate someone swinging a pickax at a dog's face. Nothing could be more obvious or less in need of explanation. Is such concern morally out of place when applied to fish, or are we silly to have such unquestioning concern about dogs? Is the suffering of a drawn-out death something that is cruel to inflict on any animal that can experience it, or just some animals?
Food for thought, har har.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Welcome Sweet V Confections!

This week we have a new member to welcome: Sweet V Confections! Please take the time to check out their shop for delicious treats!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Who doesn't love cookies? Cookies just might be the perfect dessert, easy to share and addictive! Check out these cookie-tastic items from the Vegan Etsy Team!

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies from Sweet Fritsy (everything in her shop is delicious, one of my absolute favorite Etsy shops!)

Vegan Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies by Sweet V Confections:

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies from nubbycakes:

Incredible Agave Macaroons by Sugarplum Vegan:

-Kala (Vegancraftastic)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eating Animals: Storytelling - the first chapter of the new book by Jonathan Safran Foer

I started working in a bookstore in 2004, and immediately realized that not only do people almost always judge books by their covers, but that it's actually possible to do so with some accuracy. My fellow booksellers and I would run through the "New Releases" or "3 for 2 Paperbacks" tables playing this game, and then reading a few pages of given selections to determine the accuracies of our presuppositions. The plain fact is that publishing houses spend a good deal of time and effort creating book covers, and much can be gleaned by paying attention to the fonts, images, and colors used, as well as nuances such as the presence (or lack thereof) of review quotes on the front cover. While certainly not a perfect system, it can be a good beginning when you are faced with the millions of books to be found in the mega-books-r-us stores that now dot stripmalls across America and are simply looking for that bibliophile's holy grail: Something Good to Read.

It is in this way that I came across "Everything is Illuminated", the first novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. If you haven't seen the movie, or especially if you have, you should read the book. It is far more extraordinary. Don't read it if you're easily offended though, because things happen in it that you can't imagine. Anyway, neither here nor there. Next came "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", a snapshot of the life of a nine year old (vegan) boy who has lost his father in one of the great tragedies of this decade. Very moving, brilliantly written, and not nearly as depressing as it sounds. You should read this one too.

If you can't tell yet, Foer pretty much immediately made it to my list of favorite authors and has not fallen from it - a long list though it may be. And now he's gone and done something that surprised me greatly: he's gone and written a book about eating animals.

It is, in fact, called "Eating Animals", and you've probably heard about it. It has gotten a lot of press lately. Why? For a few reasons I think. First, the obvious one is that an acclaimed fiction writier has now burst forth with this non-fiction work - not about his Jewish ancestry which would have seemed to be a logical progression, but about the fairly hot topic of the ethics of food. What with the likes of Time Magazine and Oprah talking about this stuff now, it's something that mainstream western culture is actually beginning to take notice of.

But for another thing, I think it's simply that a book on this kind of subject is coming from such an unexpected source overall. We expect Michael Pollan, investigative food journalist, to come out with one of his best-selling foodie diatribes every few years. We expect Peter Singer and similar thinkers to talk to us about animals as sentient beings. We expect Marion Nestle to educate us all with her wisdom of moderation and nutritional knowledge. We expect the new "miracle diet" and "magic curing foods for every disease" books - out just in time for the holiday season! What we do not expect, though, is a thoughtful and balanced examination of whether or not we should be eating what we, as a culture, are eating, from an author who has previously just been around to entertain us... which seems to be precisely what we have on our hands.

Is it a vegan book? No. Does it rail against eating meat, and try to convince its readers to become vegetarian at once? I don't believe so. What it does do, though, is attempt to get its audience to think about the food they are putting in their mouths, and why, and how.

Is it worth reading? Well I certainly hope so. I was so hot to read it that I actually shelled out for the hardcover - something I never, ever do. Normally I'll wait a year or more for the paperback, thank you. But this book just struck me as too important not to read immediately. I need to know what he is telling people: whether I agree and applaud, or whether I must start a letter-writing campaign to his NYU office the moment I'm done reading. I have a feeling that this book will be powerful, that people will read it who normally don't think about these things, specifically because while they would never read Peter Singer they will read Jonathan Safran Foer.

I haven't read much yet, but there are two short passages that I would like to share with you. In this first one, Foer tells us about the beginning and end of his initial bout of vegetarianism:
Her intention might or might not have been to convert us to vegetarianism - just because conversations about meat tend to make people feel cornered, not all vegetarians are proselytizers - but being a teenager, she lacked whatever restraint it is that so often prevents a full telling of this particular story. Without drama or rhetoric, she shared what she knew.

My brother and I looked at each other, our mouths full of hurt chickens, and had simultaneous how in the world could I have never thought of that before and why on earth didn't someone tell me? moments. I put down my fork. Frank finished the meal and is probably eating a chicken as I type these words...

My vegetarianism, so bombastic and unyielding in the beginning, lasted a few years, sputtered, and quietly died. I never thought of a response to our babysitter's code [of not hurting things], but found ways to smudge, diminish, and forget it. Generally speaking, I didn't cause hurt. Generally speaking, I strove to do the right thing. Generally speaking, my conscience was clear enough. Pass the chicken, I'm starving.
In this second passage, Foer is discussing his life before he became a father, when his dedication to vegetarianism had still not quite firmed. It strikes me as so honest, so true, so much what so many of us struggled with on our journeys to becoming vegetarian and eventually vegan. I believe it's even more universally true than that, something that will be identified with in almost everyone who reads it, who is honest with himself:
"Of course our wedding wasn't vegetarian, because we persuaded ourselves that it was only fair to offer animal protein to our guests, some of whom had traveled great distances to share our joy. And we ate fish on our honeymoon, but we were in Japan, and when in Japan... And back in our new home, we did occasionally eat burgers and chicken soup and smoked salmon and tuna steaks. But only every now and then. Only whenever we felt like it.

And that, I thought, was that. And I thought that it was just fine. I assumed we'd maintained a diet of conscientious inconsistency. Why should eating be any different from any other ethical realms of our lives? We were honest people who occasionally told lies, careful friends who sometimes acted clumsily. We were vegetarians who from time to time ate meat."
Anything, or most anything, anyway, can be justified in our minds. Justified, and then ignored. Pushed to the corners, hidden in gray places. But those actions that we cannot look in the face when brought into the light of day deserve some re-analysis, don't they? Because left to their own devices, eventually they begin to gnaw - even from those far off, peripheral perches, whether we want to acknowledge them or not. What Foer seems to find is that his first son drags his lesser, hidden actions out into the bright sunlight, holds them up to his face, and asks, "why, daddy?" Daddy, in order to have better answers, wants to have better actions to begin with.

I've only read the first chapter. I'll post updates, let you know how it goes. Please have your pens ready for letters of protest... or of praise. It's entirely possible that I may tell you that you have to read this book too. Just think - that'd be three for three.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Member Interview-Miss Muffcake

Todays interview is with Miss Muffcake

How did you choose the name of your shop and how long have you been a member of Etsy?

I have used the name MissMuffcake for over 6 years and that came about when I was discussing muffins and cupcakes with my sister over the phone one day. Lost and Found was the name I was using at craft shows but then I noticed to many plays on the same name. I wanted to keep Lost and Found so I added the MissMuffcake part! I have been buying on Etsy forever however my shop is just staring out.

What kinds of items do you sell in your shop and what inspired you to start
creating them?

I sell things with a everyday purpose like jewelry boxes and hair bows but with a dark twist. I like using plastic skulls and plastic bugs in my work. My moto is "every day is like Halloween"...I have been crafting for years but went through some dark depression and did not create much for a period of time. I went to a craft show with my boyfriend one night four years ago and was inspired. As we rode the bus back home that night I thought of how I wanted to create again.

Do you donate to any charities or do any volunteer work?

Yes I do! I give to local charities that help feral cats most often. I give every week what I can, sometimes that can only be $2 however I believe that $2 can buy cat food and helps in a small way. Just think that if we all donate $1 or $2 a week in our community to help homeless cats and dogs what impact that could make! I also try to educate people about the dangers of drinking and driving. My sister was killed by a drunk driver six years ago. Drinking and driving is so pointless and I cannot understand while people still do it!

What are some of your favorite things about etsy?

The creativity that is floating around. There are so many creatively cool people on Etsy that I would love to meet. I have meet a few via craft shows and I get nervous approaching them!

Do you sell your items outside of etsy, either online or in retail shops?

I have done retail shops in the past, I am looking into that once again but as we all know the economy needs a big band aid right now! I do craft shows though. My favorite one to do (because it is right here in my town) is coming up in weeks so if you are in the Central Valley (CA)please stop by and say hi!

Have you been featured anywhere?

In the local paper and I am now writing for Creepy Queen Magazine. I have people wearing my stuff on You Tube and plan on trying to get my stuff in music videos!

Do you have any future plans for your shop?

Lots more stuff. I am constantly creating.

What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have?

I love crafting, I paint daily! I also love going to concerts and listening to music. I love baking and bake vegan goodies and sell them locally. I am a homebody and love hanging out at home with my cat and boyfriend. My boyfriend makes movies ( and I try and help him on set. I like going to Sacramento and San Francisco and shopping and eating at vegan friendly places. I read a lot too and have pen pals! I collect toys!

Do you have any animal companions?

My super awesome cat Mar!!! He is a cancer survivor, having undergone tail amputation a few months back. Mar is 12 and I have been with him since he was born. He has helped me deal with dark times. I am getting his face tattooed on my arm shortly!

Do you have any websites besides your shop that you would like to tell us

My You Tube, it is mostly random Mar videos but I hope to post some crafty stuff soon.

How long have you been vegan and what made you go vegan?

Vegan for 10 years and lacto ovo for 5 before that. I cut out dairy after seeing the horrors involved in the business. I went veg initially because I found eating meat was gross. At the time the internet was not widely available so I kinda had to find my own way around.

Do you have any favorite vegan things, like books, websites, stores, etc.?

I love vegan cook books and have a nice collection. I can spend a day in Whole Foods and make an hour trip to get to the closest one. I like discussing Gossip Girl on the PPK ( and posting food ideas on Craftster (

What are your favorite foods?

tofu (honest - really), pancakes, broccoli, Twilight vegan candy bars, a nice hearty soup, simple pasta sprinkled with Parma (vegan raw cheese), Asian dishes that are spicy, burritos with lots of guacamole. My favorite place to eat is Weird Fish in San Francisco.

Is there anything else you would like to add or share?

Thank you for choosing me! I am really honored!

Heather's been busy - this is fab!

Not only has she been putting together the wonderful Vegan Holiday Sample Bags but has been preparing the post-holiday bags too. Also making a cool, funky You Tube ad.
Well done Heather, Super Vegan!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Memoirs of a pumpkin seed...

If you read my other blogs, you may have gleaned that I grew up in a kind of weird house. But one of the things that we did right was food. And especially for the holidays, we went all out.

When it came to fall, there was this one giant orange squash, The Pumpkin, that dominated all for about a month. Each year we would buy a huge pumpkin a few days before Halloween. I remember when I first saw how pumpkins grow, on vines, and suddenly the phrase "pumpkin patch" had meaning. I had trouble imagining how something so huge and round could have grown on such a weak wiggly little vine, and I was fascinated.

We'd get the gourd home and cut around the top, like you do. All the scooping and scraping and cleaning out of the interior of the pumpkin happened through that small orifice, so as to keep the shell intact. When I was in kindergarten I learned about toasting pumpkin seeds, so from then on we always did. I called up my mom, because kindergarten being 26 years ago and all, I don't actually remember quite what we were taught. I know that you had to clean off all of the pumpkin guts really really well right after you scooped everything out of the pumpkin, and that you spread them on a cookie sheet in a single layer to bake them. I can still distinctly remember the smell of pumpkingut. But as far as the particulars... well it turns out that ma doesn't remember either. But this recipe seems pretty much on the money. Maybe that's too long a bake time? We didn't get a pumpkin this year, so if you try it out let me know how it goes!

So anyway, once the business of gut scraping was done, my dad usually did the honors of making the pumpkin look like some scary Halloween thing. He was pretty good at it. Some years turned out better than others, of course. But he's quite the creative type, and there were definitely some masterpieces.

My mom kept whatever chunks he cut out to make the jack-o-lantern face, and then the day after Halloween she hacked the pumpkin up and froze the lot (minus whatever had gotten charred or waxed from candles or any bits that were getting funky). Then, about a month later, this is the pumpkin that became our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. And if you want the truth, I've never liked any pumpkin pie but my mother's.

So that's my pumpkin story, the cycle of The Great Pumpkin in my childhood household. I think this year, beginning with this Thanksgiving, is when we - Jonathan and I - begin to claim these "family" holidays as our own. Holidays for the family that is me and him. And our friends of course: the built family. I'm excited about it, and hopeful. And excited and hopeful is a nice way to feel, when headed into this dark-and-dreary but chock full o' holidays season. ;)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

ON SALE NOW! Vegan Craft Sample Holiday Bags

100% profits to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary!

Due to a large response we are having 2 different sized bags this time, a regular and a large. The large contains 25+ samples and the regular contains the usual 17-20.

You can get your bag in the following places

There is an easy checkout cart in our artfire (for the large bags)
Click the order link on our website
Or finally, go to our Etsy where you can also buy either size!