Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"But we's so clever, Maw!", or: Please at least do us the courtesy of doing some research before attempting anti-vegan articles.

Lisa quite rightly highlights the idiocy of Michael Coulter’s article in the Sunday Age, 29 March, titled "Why are these vegans sent to plague us?". I think it was meant to be witty, but the lack of thorough research and well-reasoned argument was astonishing.

Michael trots out the old "But we’s so clever, Maw!" argument, and in light of that I invite him to visit a person who has a severe mental impairment and ask if it’s ok to kill and eat them. Distasteful? Logical, on Michael’s reasoning - but not on mine. We’re not "anti-people", Michael; in fact I’d say that you’re pretty pro-conceptual-ability-as-arbiter-of-worthiness-to-live, which makes you anti-intellectual disability, anti-dementia, anti-general age-related fuzziness, anti-people with low educational achievement, and presumably anti-child. Or did you mean the general intellectual standard of an entire species? In that case just say so and don’t get caught up in arguments about who deserves to live and die based on brainpower, cos when the super-aliens come you’ll be toast (literally) – that’s the logical conclusion to your argument.

Prompted by the excellent Miss Caitlin, founding member of Lawyers For Animals, I also responded via The Age, but in case it’s not printed (and I’ll be up bright and early on Sunday to eagerly snatch my copy of the paper), here is my letter to editor (Scoop! Miss T scoops herself!)

I'm disappointed that Michael Coulter's article ("Why are these vegans sent to plague us?”, Sunday 29 March) succumbed to nonsensical babble like "How would we live in a world where cows have equal rights with humans?". Michael, there are serious and well-researched ethical, environmental and health related reasons behind people's decisions to go vegan, none of which were canvassed in your article. We'd be happy to have an informed and sensible discussion with you if you're willing, and if you're not won over by our reasoned and rational arguments, I'm sure my vegan banana bread will do the trick.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Feeding to Fitzroyalty, or: Miss T goes live

I know you can't get enough of me. I can't get enough of me.

Fitzroyalty has kindly offered to stream some of my posts to hyperlocal pages, so vegan musings, eatering, shoppering and other ings are now also syndicated here:

http://indolentdandy.net/fitzroy/

http://indolentdandy.net/carlton/
http://indolentdandy.net/brunswick/
http://indolentdandy.net/collingwood/
http://indolentdandy.net/innernorth/

Or - you could just go straight to www.indolentdandy.net. Whatevs.

Step 1 of my plan to achieve total world domination is go.

PS the wonderful Cindy and Michael of Where's The Beef are also over there so it is most certainly a place of quality.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Perverse Reverse.

I saw a woman passing by
She turned the corner in her car and I saw her.

She was in
The skin which was out
Is now the skin that is in.
Her skin inside clothes
Her clothes inside skin.

She sat in her skin in her car in its skin
An exterior interior,
A perverse reverse.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A potluck of epic proportions, or: I go on a vegan sleepover

The gracious Emily is to be thanked for organising a lollapalooza of a potluck. Exceeding all previous attempts, the Hepburn Springs/Daylesford extravaganza shindig was an overnighter of epic proportions.

Emily rallied the troops, and Cindy, Michael, Kristy, Toby, Lidia, Craig, Bec, Ballarat Mike and I all answered the call (Lisa was far too busy and important being an authoress and had to decline. She was missed but the literary world will be the better for it). We travelled to Hepburn Springs to stay at Continental House, a vegan life sanctuary guest house run on the guiding principle of Ahimsa (look it up) by the lovely Zalan and specfically for a Saturday night banquet that I prepared for with an extra-horrendous gym session. That was definitely not ahimsa on my legs but I was prepared to sacrifice for the legend of the Conti House Vegan Banquet.


I'll indulge in a bit of judgmentally Judgy McJudging here: I was really glad that we missed the second and fourth Saturdays of the month when the banquet is all raw. Much as I think that my gizzards would benefit from an increase in raw, now was not the time. Definitely not. Under any circumstances. Nuh-uh. I'm done now.


Conti
House is adorned in op-shoppery that is clean and se
rviceable, although having to unplug the only light in the room I shared with roomie Lids so that I could use the only power point to charge my phone was a little bemusing. The rooms are small but sweet, with walls thin enough and curtains scanty enough that any thoughts guests may have of nocturnal naughtiness should be shelved (not me and Lidia! Just sayin' eh bro! And for the record poor Buzz was left in Melbourne by himself).

And to dinner. We all arrived early, champing at the bit and with very rumbly tummies (or mine anyway), and took advantage of the non-alcoholic sparkling ... actually I didn't. I prefer to leave space for real calories.


The soup was a pumpkin an orange creation accessorised with corn chips, whole tomatoes and in my case, a great big kaffir lime leaf, which took Kristy and I a while to discover as the source of the limey-ness. Being a person incapable of cooking any soup that doesn't bring to mind words such as 'hearty', 'steaming hot', 'chunky', 'farmhouse', 'full of lentils', 'very wintery' and 'really not soup but a dish with a bit extra juice', it was good to discover a delicate and well-balanced mix of unusual flavours with this one.


The main feast was served onto groaning tables, and in an outstanding show of constraint we all (except Craig) lined up formed a queue around the table that involved only minimal pinching, grabbing, swearing and under-breath mutterings.


My plate was bright and colourful, filled with a variety of food that was a credit to Zalan and the other Conti staff. I'll stick to my highlights for the sake of brevity, but there was not a single serve that wasn't excellent and enjoyable.


A creamy chickpea curry had a the soft mouth feel and gentle spices that you would expect from a gentle korma. A seriously fresh tabouleh made me want to purchase some burghul instantly - it had all the hallmarks of a home-made, well-seasoned salad. A squash and pumpkin bake was spicy and Italianesque, providing a great contrast in texture with its gratin-y top. Two dips - beetroot and a roasted capsicum that had us all guessing in a most embarrassing non-foodie way - encouraged me to use my fingers to lick up the residue and thereby, hopefully, avoid ever having the misfortune of winning Ladette To Lady. The best, however - it was raw. I suck it all back. The slices of thick, creamy, fresh avocado floated my boat and then tipped it over.

Didn't it leave lovely colours on the plate?




The desserts were fascinating. A banana soycream
with perhaps almond meal on top of stone fruit for me, and atop an avocado cream for Kristy - unfortunately Emily and Michael revealed their antipathy to bananas (losing my respect utterly in the process!) - were really cute and I happily put all of mine away. Avocado for dessert - now that's a chef!


Conti House was a blast. Retro to the maxest, a rocking banquet, and some have-to-be-seen-to-be-fathomed hedge at the entrance - gold.

One word though - the Sunday morning yoga goes for almost two hours. Not one, two. Before breakfast. It finished at 11am. Participators were hungry; non-participators were pawing at the floor.

The shenanigans of Sunday are to come.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Christy Robinson Jewelry again, or: I practice chesty activism in more ways than one.

Ah that Christy Robinson! She makes the most lovely jewellery. I bought her cute and subtle Vegan Star pendant a while ago, and now that I have forayed into chesty activism, I went one step further and bought this one too.


C-u-u-u-te! Less subtle, though not in-ya-face-mate, it's smaller than I expected but the better for it. It sits beautifully around the clavicle and a lovely side-effect is that if anyone is trying to sneak a look at your chesty area, they cop a serve of vegan activism instead.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Carb Addicts Anonymous and Talkie Toasters, or: I love the smell of Flute Baguette in the morning

Hello, my name is Miss T and I am a carb addict.

Protein does nothing for me; sugar does not sweeten my days. Fat makes me feel oily and fruit makes me feel empty and cheated. But straight-out down-low processed-refined-white-food carbs - that's me baby!

I've always been a starchy carbohydrate kind of a girl. Bread, cereal and pasta are my staples, and I just don't feel satiated if I don't get enough. A meal without carbs is a meal that I feel very, very resentful about.

And while for a quick mid-week dinner the home brand dried pasta is not, cent for cent, noticebly different from the higher end brands, anyone who's bitten into a slice of bread that collapses like air will know that good bread is, withouth any shadow of a doubt, the staff of life.

I've long been a fan of Laurent Bakeries' flute baguette - a teary chewy crust with soft but thick inside - flat enough to lay fillings on and long enough to last a few meals (or one afternoon on a bad day). Brilliant when dunked in soups, better with Nuttelex, perfect when stuffed with Tofutti Cream Cheese, avocado and cucumber (thanks for that one Lisa!).

Unfortunately, I had to go cold turkey, and let me assure you that there's no greater grumpy cranky Miss T than one denied her daily carbs. I'll let my letter of complaint below tell the story:

Hello,

I'm writing this email directly as twice I have tried to send it via the 'contact us' section of the Laurent website and both times I received 'message could not be sent' messages.

I wanted to let you know about a very disappointing event that occurred recently. Some time ago I enquired at a Laurent store about which breads contained dairy or egg products. As a vegan, I don't consume these and know that many breads contain milk solids or the like. The Laurent staff member who I asked checked the ingredient list and assured me that the Flute Baguette, which I was specifically enquiring about, was dairy and egg-free. I therefore continued to buy this item.

Recently I enquired again at the Ivanhoe store, just wanting to confirm. The staff member there told me that all Laurent breads contained dairy or egg- even the Flute Baguette. He was completely certain about this.

This was obviously very surprising and worrying. I had been buying baguettes on the assurance of another staff member that they were suitable for me to eat, and I'm sure that at the time I first enquired, the staff member even checked the product listing for me. To find out later that the product was definitely not vegan was very distressing.

May I suggest that review your product listings and update staff accordingly. Although distressing and aggravating to me, such a confusion could result in serious medical reactions in people with allergies.

Regards,

Rachel Templeman


What's a girl to do? Suffer without her favourite? Like Red Dwarf's Talkie Toaster, I had no raison d'etre. Luckily I had raisin toast.

Here's the edifying response I received today:

Hi Rachel,

Thank you for your email below in regards to the different information you have received when inquiring the ingredients of our bread products, I am very disappointed to see that the information you have been given was incorrect and can understand your frustration.

When we have any customers enquiring regarding ingredient listing all staff are trained to direct all enquires to the retail specification folder to ensure that any allergies and food intolerances are adhered by. In the instance of your first visit, the staff member was correct to do this and to advise you correctly. At the Ivanhoe store, this procedure was not followed and why your enquiry was misled.

I have checked the product manual myself and the only bread products that contain egg or milk powder are:

Brioche loaf

Pain de Mie

Raisin bread

All other laurent bread is free from these ingredients.

I have also forwarded a copy of your email to all our retail stores to make them aware of the importance of using this product folder for all enquires

I do apologise for the miss communication and I hope that you will continue to purchase our bread in the future.

Many thanks

Regards,

Renae Borger

Retail Operations Manager

Laurent Bakery Pty Ltd

ph: 0423 291 151

(I note that when a copy of my email was sent to all stores, it apparently included my name).

In any case, my jones is over and I will be inhaling carbo-loading shortly.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bunniness, or: Shoppering for Change

Ah well, they didn’t publish it, so here’s an email I sent to Madison magazine last month.

How exciting it was to read in the March issue that your Acting Beauty Editor Katrina Lawrence is vegan! It's always great to see veganism mentioned in a mainstream publication without some of the usual cliches and ill-informed hysteria. And how fantastic would it be if Madison took what I think would be an international lead, and featured vegan clothes, beauty products and cooking as a regular part of the magazine? Vegans choose to avoid eating, wearing or using animal products for many reasons - animal rights, animal welfare, environmental concerns and health - but we still want to see (animal-friendly) things to lust after in magazines like Madison!

Here's hoping that we can help promote an ethical, environmentally friendly and healthy lifestyle alongside a fabulous pair of heels - just make mine Natalie Portman for Te Casan please!


I would love to see a magazine like Madison take an active, public approach to identifying animal-friendly products. Believe me, I’m under no illusions that they’re going to stop advertising leather, but in the same way that fur now gets no gander, and some magazines deliberately and loudly feature models of a more usual body shape (goddamn if I call them plus-size!), I’d love to see a little hot pink bunny symbol there too, raising awareness and helping vegan clothes, accessories and cosmetics enter the mainstream. I call this bunniness.

Quite selfishly, bunniness would this make my own shoppering much, much easier and a whole lot more expensive. But it would also impact on the choices of mainstream consumers, for whom cochineal and beeswax just aren’t on the radar. It’s easy not to think about bunniness when it’s not a part of your everyday consciousness, and it’s unfair to expect that non-vegans would actively consider the bunniness of their makeup – that’s just not their thing (yet! Bwahahaha!) – but by simply identifying it, we make it an issue.

Perhaps hair products, handbags and eyeshadow aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they are mine, and I want to see products that I can use featured and identified; I want to see small vegan manufacturers get the page-time they need to take off; I want would-be vegans to know that I am not condemned to a lifetime of olive oil for moisturiser (although I hear that works quite well) and hemp clothes; I want people to start wondering and thinking about why some products don’t get the little bunny; and by default, I want them to know when they are choosing the not-animal-friendly product. I want choosing bunniness to clear, easy and celebrated; I want people to feel good about it, which means they have to know about it; and, like shoppering, I want it to be bloody fun.

So bring on mainstream inclusion, bring on shoppering for change, and bring on bunniness!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Grill'd is not nice, or: I no longer want cheezeburger.

Dear readers,

You might remember how nice it was to find out from Grill'd that their bread, except the gluten-free version, was vegan. This was especially nice because they offer vegan burgers. It was nice of them to offer me some vouchers. It was nice of me not to complain when they expired 12 months before I received them, but I still enjoyed their nice food and wrote some nice posts here and here because it was nice to find nice cheap vegan food and it was nice of them to write back to me.

It would have been nice of Grill'd to let me know that their chips contain beef tallow. They knew I was vegan, so a little bit of lateral thinking when I emailed them would have been nice. That would have been nice customer service.

Thankfully, Tuxecat was nice enough to post over at The PPK about the beef tallow. A quick search of the internets revealed that Harriet was all over this back in 2007.


Dear, nice readers - Grill'd is not nice. They are meaniepants. And I don't like them any more.

Lots of love,

Miss T

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jean-Paul Gaultier appears to have lost both his mind and his fashion sense.

Oh for heaven’s sake. Is Jean-Paul Gaultier feeling his fashion irrelevancy so much that he has to create pure idiocy on the catwalk? JPG's latest ready-to-wear collection for Hermes is tragic, in more ways than one.


Truly, Jean-Paul, you used to be pretty damn good. From Madge’s gold cone-bra to the ohh-la-la of your perfume bottles, you were doinok.


But what tripe did you present at Paris Fashion Week? These pictures make me seriously wonder about you. I know Hermes is a traditional leather house, but, Jean-Paul, this is horrid. Not only is it terrible, terrible fashion design, but it’s cruel and it’s environmentally schtoopid.


Firstly, let’s talk leather. It’s the most valuable part of an animal’s body, pound for pound, so let’s not pretend that it’s just a convenient by-product of the process that would otherwise go to waste. Let’s also mention the environmental damage caused though the tanning process. Oh, you thought it was all natural and lovely and far, far better than man-made materials? Then how come it doesn’t rot like any other skin that's removed from its owner? That requires some hardcore chemical treatment Jean-Paul.


So, leather. As a vegan, I can’t stand the stuff, but let’s accept for the moment that many people, some vegans included, are happy to wear it for various reasons. Perhaps on their feet. Perhaps as a belt. Perhaps as a wallet. Something that is at least useful. At least. On that premise, Jean-Paul, we'll continue.


As an aviator outfit? Oh my. Are we all going to take to the skies like those magnificent men in their flying machines? I’ll take my air travel commercial, thanks. This is just self-indulgent. And what are those hideous flying goggles? They make her look like a Tusken Raider.


I think this might be croc skin, Jean-Paul. I wouldn’t necessarily want to tangle with one myself (Australian I may be; Steve Irwin I am not), but neither do I want a croc or an alligator farmed and clubbed to death for me (and especially not for something as bloody stupid looking as this).


Now let’s address this one. Apart from the fact that she sure would have a chilly lil’ chest up there in the stratosphere with nothing underneath her flying jacket, is that karacul that I spy? Jean-Paul, karacul lambs are slaughtered at no more than three days old so that you can have their wavy wool pelts. Sometimes, to make their coats even more pristine, their mothers are slaughtered whilst the lamb is still in utero. HSUS presented a report in July 2000, reviewed in March 2001, about the increased use of karacul, and concluded that: “the slaughter of these farmed animals is every bit as cruel, grotesque, and inexcusable as that of any other fur-bearing animals”. Awesome, Jean-Paul! Did you hear that? Grotesque.




Must I go on? Jean-Paul, I don't even want to go into the ethics of this leather jumpsuit. It's ugly.


Jean-Paul Gaultier, please pull your socks up. The use of leather, crocodile skin and other animal pelts in these designs is profligate, cruel and unnecessary.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

And now for something completely different.

Right, I have totally icked myself with all the posting on offal and slaughterhouses and all the grumpypants snarling. So here, for your delight and edification, are some tee-hee pictures of a sign in restaurant in Chinatown. Vegan connection? None (except for my dinner). They're just awesomely passive-aggressive.



And, most importantly - Happy Tibetan Independence Day. Bhor Rangzen.



Undercover Investigators, or: Exposure

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1883742,00.html

Sometimes I just don't feel that I do enough. I wrote about the dislocating experience of thinking you're changing the world and then being re-confronted with all the atrocities that made you go vegan in the first place, that you'd conveniently subsumed in a food orgy of happy potlucks, here.

Reading articles like the one above causes a similar dislocation. I do nothing like what Pete, an undercover animal rights investigator, does. And the simple, stark truth is that I couldn't. There are so many things in life that I know I could face, and things that I know I have the resilience to cope with, but not this. I could not, even in the course of pretending to be a slaughterhouse worker, do what they do.

And if you think you could, then consider this: why do commercial slaughterhouses never let anyone inside? Why, when respected academics and authors Peter Singer and Jim Mason offered to undergo the same processes as employees do to avoid contamination, were they denied? Why, when they offered to observe through cameras, utterly uncontaminable, were they denied? Why do AR groups have to obtain illicit footage using undercover investigators to show the deliberate mistreatment and cruelty to animals both inherent in the slaughtering process and that which is tacitly permitted for 'fun'?

Because slaughterhouses don't want you to know what they do.
Because, like Miss Trunchbull in Roald Dahl's Matilda who was so horrible that no-one believed there was a Chokey because really, those sorts of things just don't happen in nice society and there are laws against it, without visual evidence you will choose to believe that stories of deliberate torture and animals being skinned and dismembered alive are the hysterical fantasies of AR extremists. Because that way you can pretend that your sausage was 'happy meat', or that it didn't know what was coming, or that it didn't feel a thing, or that it's part of the circle of life and a natural end, or that nothing we do to animals has any significance for our own humanity, or whatever it is that helps you eat your dinner.

And they don't want you to see what happens because if you see it happen, if you see it happen a lot, then you'll know it's not right. Because it's not.


Apologies for the truculence. Sometimes things remind you that you should be angry.

So a thousand credits to Pete. You do more than I could ever do and more good will come of it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ickiness or: is offal particularly awful?

I was at first revolted by this article in today's Age. Adrian Richardson, chef at La Luna in North Carlton, is offering offal in a special sitting called Adrian Cooks Offal (for any Adrian Mole fans like me, this is especially amusing).

The descriptions are, without doubt, a vegan's ickiness. "I do a pig's head brawn, using all the bits and pieces, skin and ears and eyeballs and tongues, cook them down and jelly them. said Mr Richardson. Eeee-ew.

But? Is it more confronting to hear about the uses of parts of an animal's body unusual to us? Is it any less icky than the flesh of a steak? Should it be?

Not to a vegan. Whether it's eyeballs or hooves or brains or a full head or tongue or kidneys or liver or heart or lungs or intestines or rump or chop or breast or thigh or kebab or mince or sausages or parma - it's all the same. None should be eaten and all should incite the same ickiness. That many people recoil from offal but don't think twice about their chicken wings is the product of a lifetime of suppression of the natural ickiness that eating flesh arouses, and the crushing cultural imperative of omnivorous eating.

Perhaps seeing eyes and tongue and ears as they are is the reminder we need that a body is a body is a body. It's not for eating.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Winering: Riding off into the sunset with Shadowfax

I have never really been a wine-drinker, and since veganism curtailed my winering even more so (but certainly not my whinering), I have become an incredible lightweight. However, sometimes a girl needs a glass and that glass must be filled with something red and wintery (I still can't really get into the whites; how could you possible go past beer, a cooling G&T or a refreshing vodka soda with fresh lime on a blistering day?).

I emailed Shadowfax Wines to ask if their wines were vegan-A-OK in preparation for a now-on-hold visit.

A very prompt, informative and friendly reply was received:

Hi Rachel,


Thanks for your enquiry. I have just checked with our winemaker and he says that the last time we used animal products was on one of our 2004 reds (which is no longer for sale). We have always been specific on our label if we have used animal derived products. All of our current release of wines would be fine. I hope this helps. Let me
know if you need any further information.

Regards

Stephen Bell
Cellar Door Manager
Shadowfax Wines
0397314420


Personally I find it very hard to remember which wines are drinkable - being more of a beer girl vintages and varieties tend to blur into one of two categories: red or white (I do remember YellowTail because it's readily available, quite cheap and all products are vegan). It's particularly handy for me and my sieve-like brain to remember entire brands - so hooray for Shadowfax!

Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival turns 9 (demands skateboard and pool party)

Veterans of various ecological/green/hippie events will know that sometimes good intentions are not backed up by organisational skills. Like me, you may have consequently spent many agonising hours in line waiting for one of two Port-a-Loos. Yee-ha.

What a (literal and figurative) relief to
discover that the Melbourne Sustainable Living Festival was organised by people who understand the importance of the essentials - bathrooms, food, seating, roaming guides and most importantly for the Australian audience, beer!

Held in central Melbourne at Federation Square and Birrarung Marr park, the Festival attracts both hardcore greenies and newbies just looking for a water-saving showerhead (and let's not knock consumerism here. If that's what gets bums on seats...). As the event attracted over 129,000 visits last year, this strategy is really reaching out to the community and creating change. Snaps!

Permaculture display around bike racks, with view over the Yarra to Melbourne landmark the Arts Centre Spire

A jaw-droppingly massive range of products and organisations were on show, from permaculture to RadPads to ethical investment to I
ndigenous media, and talks ranged from the joys of co-housing to consumerism and human trafficking. Impressive hey? Much-loved Ausssie greenie muso Paul Kelly and The Reverend Tim Costello, a religious leader who walks the walk, were standout participants.

Although only veg food was on offer (huzzah!) a
nd I ate enough vegan Fritz gelato to require a little lie down afterwards, only one talk out of 300 was about the environment and meat-eating. I mean, dudes. Dudes. You know better than that!I

t wasn't all crushingly earnest soul-searching though: the Smoothie Peddlers cycled away to blend up juices and smoothies on stationary bikes -


Smoothie Peddlers - brightly bewigged and a-dor-a-ble

....
and in true Aussie style, the Good Brew Company brought along their delivery service - yes, they will deliver kegs to your party by bicycle! Rock!

Beer on bikes - it gets no better.

And to top it off, a free bike valet service encouraged human-powered transport all the way.

Bike valet facing Flinders Street Station. So, so sweet.

The Sustainable Living Festival stands out for its professional organisation, its appeal to both hippie and yuppie alike, and the sheer breadth of information available. Kudos for an event that's informative, fun, well-organised and without the traditional overload of tie-dyed cheesecloth!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Not-the-reasons: reader edition

The post below was written on a slightly snarky Monday morning. It occurred to me that I have a treasure trove of putative reasons why people think I am vegan stored in my head, garnered from various omni comments, observable body language, and my super-psychic sneaky ESP abilities. Also, it makes a change to focus on why people think we are vegan, rather than on why they say they aren’t and why we think they should be (good heavens, the number of times I've heard “But I could never give up cheese!” or “But chickens have to lay eggs!” ... although I used to say it myself, usually as I gobbled a cheese platter or a swirled my buttery toast in a soft-boiled. Convenient position to take).

Comments I’ve received about why veganism is undesirable range from the good-natured but ill-informed – what about protein? – to the smart-arse –what about the bugs crushed when crops are harvested? Gotcha! or But it’s so tasty! Here, smell my steak! – to the just plain wrong –it’s impossible to eat in restaurants; you mustn’t like good food; – and to the outright offensive – I couldn’t care less what happens; I like my meat freshly slaughtered; mmm, I wonder how this cow died - I hope it was slow and painful.

It’s been an interesting exercise to recall and collate them, and although the list comes across as smart-arsey, be assured that I have heard each and every one of them in earnest (obviously I have exaggerated a bit to emphasise the ridiculousness of some comments. But they are all real).

What have you heard? What’s got up your nose most? What has opened the door to a genuine conversation? What will make you turn homicidal if you ever hear it again? What have been the positive and negative responses, successes and failures? (I personally list the day that Buzz requested a soy coffee in the morning even though there was dairy in the fridge as a massive, massive triumph).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not-the-reasons

Not-the-reasons I am vegan:
  1. because I am squeamish and lily-livered
  2. because I didn’t grow up on a farm; if I had I wouldn’t be afflicted y 1) and would be more realistic about life
  3. because I get all warm and fuzzy about cute little animals and ascribe them anthropomorphic qualities when in reality they are non-sentient, soulless automatons
  4. because I don’t understand the circle of life
  5. because if we didn't breed them to eat them, all the cows would become extinct
  6. because cows have to produce milk and otherwise it would get wasted; don't I know it's good for my bones?
  7. because I have canine teeth so I should use them
  8. because my paleo-ancestors did, and what was good 10,000 years ago is totally what I should be doing now
  9. because the Bible gave man dominion over the earth (an incidentally, didn't it give man dominion over woman too? I'd better become very submissive to Buzz immediately)
  10. because I am being silly and I’ll get bored of it soon. It's just a phase she's going through
  11. because I am a fussy eater
  12. (some incomprehensible reason)
  13. because I am part of the food chain and I am on top; I have no choice but to exert my dominance
  14. because I haven’t eaten meat in so long that I can’t remember how delicious it is, and having a sausage waved under my nose will make me really miss it and salivate a lot
  15. because I don’t like eating at all, really
  16. because I can’t appreciate good food
  17. because I don’t like cooking myself and don’t really know how
  18. because they'd eat us if they had the chance ... it's a jungle out there with those ferocious sheep
  19. because I am ignoring my cultural imperatives
  20. because I want to insult people and be a difficult guest
  21. because I am a craaaazy wackjob
  22. because there’s a social contract with animals whereby I get to eat and they get to be eaten
  23. because what if like there was a nuclear explosion and I had to hunt to survive?
  24. because chickens pop out eggs anyway and it doesn’t hurt them; no animals have been harmed in the making of this omelette
  25. because I just haven’t realised that it’s ok to eat organic, sustainable meat
  26. because I am a raving extremist who wants to firebomb your house every time you have chops for dinner
  27. because i love having to defend my eatering choices in public at every possible opportunity
  28. because I love being made fun of and deliberately baited and offended, and having to bite my tongue so I don't become 'that vegan'
  29. because I fail to recognise that people who grew up on a farm/hunt/fish/just like to eat meat actually know all about animals and meat-eating and the environment and the food chain and are in fact the real conservationists, and have done a lot of research on it, and I should just bow to their superior experience and understanding
  30. because I value animal life far, far above human life and you can really only care about one thing at a time
  31. because I am against human rights
  32. because I am really interested in discussing ridiculous, impossible and irrelevant hypotheticals with you, cos one day you might be stuck on a desert island with only a cow for company and if you can eat her for 'survival' in that ridiculous, impossible and irrelevant hypothetical, that totally ethically justifies the Big Mac you had yesterday and the chicken parma you've just ordered for dinner
  33. because I fail to recognise that if you can't eliminate every possibility that you will ever swallow a fly, have an insect hit your windshield, walk on asphalt which covered the homes of little bugs, or step on an ant, then you shouldn't bother trying to stop killing animals at all. Ditto using medicines
  34. because I don't realise that wool is natural and therefore the means of its production are irrelevant
  35. because I'm not interested in nice clothes or accessories
  36. because I don't want to eat any protein and I couldn't possible get any anywhere else
  37. because I don't care about my health
  38. because I haven't invested time in research and reading my position; this is a completely random and illogical position with no academic support
  39. because I am a hippie who doesn't wash
  40. because I care about animals, the environment and my health (Oh no wait! That one's true! Golly gosh!)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What is The Age thinking?


I hope to God this is a joke.

Apparently, game and feral animals are dangerous to the forests, so we need to shoot them to protect the forests. Game - ie: animals who live in the forest, and feral animals, ie: animals who live in the forest. So, just animals. You plan to shoot animals who live in the forest. Why bother trying to obfuscate what it is that you want to kill? Does it make it any better? Or did you expect that there might be domesticated animals in the forest? Poodles perhaps? Or did you think that cattle or horses or a tribe of moggies wouldn't affect the forests? All animals who live in a forest will be affecting it in some way or another - that's a symbiotic relationship. And for God's sake have the arse to say that you shoot and kill animals, not that you "remove" them.


And: "Hunters - First in Conservation"? Only if you manage to shoot each other and reduce the potential gene pool of jackasses.

FGY Art Gallery Temple takes a dive, or: Where is my laksa?

It is with a heart heavy with sorrow that I write these words. When a restaurant that I hold deep, warm affection and mushiness for makes schtoopid, schtoopid changes, I weep.

Dear old FGY Temple, your mock meat dishes were outshone only by the warm glow of your kumquat tea. Although previous visits left room for improvement, there was much to be encouraged about and I really did love your little bento boxes with their pumpkin cakes. On a later, unreported visit with Buzz, he had a very commendable laksa while I had mockporky noodles. You were doin’ ok, kid.

So why did you do it? Why did you take a scythe to your menu and remove
anything that didn’t fit the following algorithm:
Noodles (flat rice, Hokkien / otherwise unspecified) + vegetables (stewed veg / bean shoot / carrot and bean shoot) + [(mock pork) / (Tom Yum)] = total boredom.
To the unmathematical, this means that FGY now offers dishes that are Hokkien or flat rice noodle (or just noodle) – there is only one rice dish and no laksa or bento – and all the noodle dishes are stewed veg, or mock pork (no more the mock Haikkenese chicken) and beanshoots and carrot if you’re lucky.


Buzz and I, maddened by hunger, ordered the same noodle dish in the hope that it would be speedier. By the time our entrĂ©e arrived – a very creditable and fresh vegetable dumpling platter with a tasty light soy and sesame oil dipping sauce – we had already drawn all over the (tri-fold, paper – no longer vivid pictures on durable laminate) menu to distract ourselves.


By the time the mains arrived, thankfully on the larger side, we were so hungry that we didn’t even notice that they had brought us the wrong thing … or did they? So hard to tell with a menu of infinitesimal difference (we could tell though, because we ordered flat rice noodle and got plain round rice).


And then we were charged $5 more than what we ordered. $34.80 for two plates of noodles, one juice and one entree is absurd.

So here is the mystery. If you were going to reduce your menu as it was too large, would you reduce it to items that are statistically insignificant from each other? Would you remove all items that couldn’t be scooped out of a pre-prepared stockpot? And would you continue to run such a drastically reduced level of staffing that you had one floor waiter, one seating/bar waiter, and one order-taking waiter? During lunch rush hour? Or would you self-destruct in thirty seconds?

I love the idea of FGY. I love the art gallery, the spiritual space, the kumquat tea, the nuns, and I really loved the Lazy Susans. But until such time as they restore their menu to at least a semblance of something worth reading, I won’t be trekking up to Queen Street. Even for kumquat tea.

The Good Weekend Magazine - Extreme Eaters.

Miss T Junior rang me up last weekend to ask if I'd read an article in the The Age's Good Weekend Magazine which profiled 'extreme eaters'. You might note that this was last weekend and I'm only just getting around to writing about it, so a thousand apologies if you find yourself ferreting through the rubbish bin to retrieve it.

The article, by Fenella Souter and entitled "Guess who's coming to dinner", begins with 32 year old Scott Wheeler, a man who follows the Primal Diet. That's raw animal products. Exclusively. Meat, butter, eggs, bones - 100% raw and 100% of the time.

This is a vegan blog. I am vegan. It will come as no surprise that I find the idea of the Primal Diet 100% revolting. Ethically, environmentally and health-wise, I simply cannot accept that it's a good way to live.

However, in the interests of journalistic curiousity, I don't intend to run a "Vegans Rule!" line in writing about Mr Wheeler's dietary choices. Although I find the news that he eats about a kilo of raw beef a day deeply distressing and shocking, and can't help a little mental calculation going on about how many cows are killed for his diet a year, and how much water is used to produce it, what I really find most concerning about Mr Wheeler's diet is the way in which he approaches it.

Certainly, he puts more thought and planning into his diet than many people, and has done a significant amount of dietary and physiological research in coming to his conclusions. That's surely better than the oblivious and glazed-eyed habitual fried food eater. But he hasn't had his cholesterol checked, which seems reckless for a man with two small children, especially one who eats ten raw eggs a day and drinks a litre of raw milk in addition to the kilo of beef, and he goes on to make statements like:
"A ruminant, a cow say, with its four stomachs, does a great job of synthesising vegetation and converting it into flesh. Because I can't do that, it makes logical sense to me to eat the animal that does".
And does it make logical sense to eat the heart of your enemies to take on his powers? No. It doesn't work like that. And let me assure you that as a herbivore I have trouble converting vegetation into flesh, and you can just check how tight my favourite jeans are getting if you don't believe me.

Mr Wheeler's two children, six and four, and his wife also follow the Primal Diet (although unlike him they are "allowed" to mix foods - that means avocado with the raw meat). Now I can't say that I'm insensible to the issues surrounding vegan children here. A couple of high profile and very tragic cases where children have died from malnutrition have become characterised as death-by-veganism, rather than death-by-parents-who-didn't-feed-chid-enough-of-anything. The American Dietetic Association states that a vegan diet is appropriate for every stage of life, including infancy and lactation, which advice I am happy to accept. However, it seems to me that feeding very young children a pure raw animal product diet, with its risks not only only of direct health impacts as well as bacterial contamination, is not entirely responsible. Although again it seems that Mr Wheeler (and I presume the children's mother) put more thought and consideration into their children's diet than many Maccas-scoffing parents, I am still unnerved by the thought of small children eating this kind of diet.
Mr Wheeler does make the sensible point that there are commercial concerns behind many 'official' decisions made relating to the sale of food and the benefits proclaimed about them, as anyone who has read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation will know, but I still put quite a bit of faith in the ability of conventional science to detect salmonella.

Although I have to admire any person who actively thinks about and investigates food and its production, and alters their diet according to their knowledge, I just can't see on any level that the Primal Diet contributes to health, environmental sustainability, or any defendable ethical position.


The second person interviewed, 42 year old fruitarian Anne Osborne, has an ethical position more like one I can personally understand, but also makes a number of well-considered and self-aware statements that help assure readers that her ocassional stints of mono-diet are not quite as ... well, fruity ... as they may appear. I am well aware that my own prejudices are to regard fruitarians in much the same way as I expect that omnivores think of vegans, so I will try to refrain from dietary dismissiveness.

Fruitarians eat anything with seeds, and may extend to dried fruit and nuts or even green vegetables. Unlike raw vegans, they avoid other vegetables and grains. Ms Osborne chooses not to eat chocolate, tea, coffee and alcohol, and avoids greens for the most part. She also has frequent periods of mono-diet, where she will eat only one kind of fruit for a certain period of time. Apart from the brain-crushing, soul-disintegrating boredom of eating nothing but melon for six months, I have no qualms in saying that this seems almost as bizarre as eating nothing but raw meat to me.

However, Ms Osborne seems very self-aware and responsible in what is, by any standard, an extreme diet. She took precautionary B12 supplements during her pregnancies, although she never experienced any of the symptoms of B12 deficiency; had her older (fruitarian) son's B12 levels tested by a government nutritionist when he was six (he was compeletely fine but 30% down on recommended calcium intake; she notes that when calcium is consumed via dairy it is counter-productive so those levels might not be accurate for non-meat eaters. Incidentally both children have perfect teeth); and is fully aware that whilst sometimes low, her calorie intake is generally appropriate for someone of her height and weight.

It was in fact a pleasant surprise to read about Ms Osborne's food choices. I was initially dreading the presentation of another fruitloop (excuse the pun) vegan variant, chosen I thought to make us look as bizzarro as possible. It was a relief to read about a woman who seems very intersting indeed, who has approached her diet with intelligence and consideration, and who gives her teenage sons the respect of not questioning what they eat when they are out with friends. Perhaps her choices will still seem incomprehensible to many readers, but I think she did herself credit.

There are perhaps 200 people on frugivorous diets in Australia. I can't help but compare their net impact on the environment and the lives of animals to that of Mr Wheeler.

Desecration Decoration, or: The Carlton Hotel is despicable.

In the hallowed, insular state-of-being of Australian Rules Football, there are immutable precepts and sacrosanct laws. One of them is that everyone hates the Collingwood Magpies. In return, Collingwood's mortal enemies are the Essendon Bombers and the Carlton Blues. As a one-eyed 'Pie, I am bound by blood, duty and honour to loathe mine enemies and smite them (this causes some real problems with Buzz, as we are in fact a mixed marriage. Whilst I am a mongrel magpie, he is a bloody blue and I can't repeat the epithets I delivered to him when Carlton beat Collingwood twice last season).

And I now have another Carlton to loathe and despise. Last night we went to the Carlton Hotel and the contempt I hold for their decorating preferences outstrips by a millionfold even my antipathy towards the Blues.

The Carlton Hotel is festooned with the stuffed bodies of animals - peacocks, parrots, butterflies, an ostrich and the neck and head of a giraffe. A rhino head is a copy in flocking, but in the midst of the other 'exhibits' provides little relief.

I just can't fathom the decision to pay for the corpses of deliberately killed animals to adorn your walls. They are positioned, observing, around the bar; dumbly witnessing the evening and the subject of both pointing fingers and bland stares from eyes that slide over them as they would any other object.

Perhaps I am an animal sizeist, but it was the head, neck and part of the chest of the giraffe that made me the saddest. So large, so quartered, so anomalous in her journey from wherever she was killed to an upstairs bar on scummy Bourke Street on a drunken Saturday night. She raised her head over the goings-on, like a spire, with the body of a tiny bird perched on her ear in a parody of life.

Somehow no matter where I tried to stand, I was always facing her.

As the night wore on I noticed more, and what became apparent after closer observation of the animals made me angry, contemptuous and despairing.

The ostrich had pearls wrapped around her neck like a choker; the giraffe had been prettied up with glittery eyelashes and golden eyeliner.

It was meant to be amusing, quirky, perhaps a reflection of the clientele; but it was the ultimate assault on the dignity of death. Such a fate - slaughtered to become a still and silent 3D mannequin, only to be gussied up for decoration and display. It's not enough that a living, breathing, sentient animal's dead body is presented for decoration, but it must be made a mockery of, dressed up and dolled up like a grand dame.

I can't think that the Carlton Hotel is bringing itself any good karma. I can only despise a decision to display what they have. You should bury those bodies with the dignity they deserve.