Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do You Really Need a Recipe?



Even though there are endless  websites with vegan recipes (over five million links via Google!), and hundreds of vegan cookbooks (346,000 links!), many seem to consider "recipes" some kind of forbidden knowledge.

But there is no mystery to eating vegan. Or, rather, there is nothing magical about flesh, dairy, or eggs that keeps people from being able to cook something vegan without a shaman's knowledge and special incantations.

Indeed, it is entirely possible that many people are intimidated by the idea of veganism because of the mysticism about "vegan recipes," with obscure, bizarre-sounding ingredients, as well as the often tacked-on agendas (raw, local, fat-free, unprocessed, etc.).

Take back vegan cooking from the adzuki beans and Job's tears!


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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Enewsletter & Argument Feedback


Today's Enewsletter has some great links (including a number from Vegan.com) and feedback. Be sure to look for it in your inbox. Thanks!

In response to the Animals, Not Arguments post, YM writes:

I had been thinking I should get a better grip on statistics for potential arguments I may get.  Like the link you sent suggests, as satisfying as winning an argument would be, it's practically an impossibility.

But when you think about it, just the act of arguing in the first place puts you in opposition to the person you're trying to help. So definitely I'm right there with you on that one...  In the end I want to win more empathy and compassion in people, not points in an argument.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Why Does Vegan Outreach...?"


Link of the day: Interview with Fuente Vegana. Has some of my favorite quotes, including one from DR and one from BFF.

You can comment (is it boring? too long? etc.) on our Facebook page, or via our contact page.











And please consider promoting this post. Thanks!

-Matt

Monday, September 27, 2010

JSF Makes the Case


Max passes along this interview with Jonathan Safran Foer, where he talks about why to focus on college-age students, why not to make purity the message, etc.

Related to the last point (in his last answer), we received this leafleting report from Kris and Taylor:

At Fullerton College, several students wanted to get involved and signed up to leaflet or join the animals rights club-in-the-making! One student read through the leaflet and said to her friend, "I'm going vegetarian." Another student read through the leaflet and said, "This is so sad!" I saw him read it over a couple times and then share it with his friend. One guy stopped to say he liked meat too much. I said, "If you ate a little less you can help reduce the suffering of animals." He said, "You're right. God bless you for what you're doing."

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fish Are Friends ... Plus Feedback!


BFF BF passes along this research summary (pdf) showing that vegetarians' moods are fine even without consuming the fatty acids in fish flesh.

Be sure to see the Omega-3 and other fat sections at VeganHealth.org. And if you've never seen the "not food" clip, here it is. Note the voice of vegan Ellen Degeneres.

And two bits of feedback. From OL:

I am feeling very blessed to be getting into leafleting; I can see that it is a very important way to spread the message. Previously, I thought activism had to involve running around and shouting in peoples' faces that they are evil for eating meat. But the feedback I got was not very positive or productive (duh), and left me at home crying about my inability to help animals. With peaceful leafleting, I feel I can reach so many more individuals and have a much bigger impact, and so I am really glad that I discovered you guys.

CM:

I used to be a vegan years ago (for about 5 years), then I had children and it was difficult to get all the protein. [Not really -ed.] My daughter just began college this year and someone handed her a pamphlet and your website.  She now wants to become a vegan.  She actually was when she was very little.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Video: Another Blow to the Ego


Back in May, Jack pointed out that the only thing that really separates humans from other animals is that we are the only species that continually try to find things that separate us from other animals!

One "distinction" you'll still see is tool use. Some people know that chimps use tools, but this doesn't seem to matter. However, it isn't just the "higher" primates with this ability; crows have been shown to have this amazing ability:



Obviously, this is morally irrelevant,* but still quite interesting!

*The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
—Jeremy Bentham

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Target Audience of One


In yesterday's Enewsletter, we linked to a story about Bill Clinton's new diet (better post here). I was asked if this doesn't contradict Tuesday's blog post, and prove that "the health argument" works.

Consider President Clinton's situation. He is very rich and powerful, and can afford to have any chef prepare him anything he wants. He is very close to his outspoken daughter who has been vegan for many years. Yet it still took extremely serious health problems, his daughter's wedding, and a desire to live to see grandchildren to get him to finally eat a more plant-based diet (but still including fish).

So yes, it is clear that the health argument has an impact on rich, powerful men with vegan daughters, personal chefs, and nearly-fatal heart problems.

While it is, of course, really great to hear pseudo-veganism discussed positively (especially given the absurd attacks floating around), let's not read more into this than is really there. Land animals are in deep trouble if significant changes in diets are going to be limited to rich guys with personal chefs, vegan daughters, and severe health problems.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rationalizations vs. Facts


We've mentioned before that the quickest way to fame and fortune is to tell the public they simply have to eat meat.

The latest book-length rationalization* is The Vegetarian Myth, which, it seems, Ginny Messina can hardly read for all the contradictions, misinformation, and fabrications. Her relatively brief review (sticking primarily to Ginny's area of expertise) shows far more kindness and sympathy than I could. (Be sure to check out the other links in Ginny's review, as well.)

Ginny also links to Real Vegan Children, which proves, counter to anti-vegetarian claims, that it is possible to thrive as a vegan.

Not to brag,** but how can these people possibly explain just this one case? Anne was vegan before and during pregnancy, and Ellen has been vegan her entire life. Her IQ is over 140 (higher than either of ours), her average grade at the city's top high school has been an "A+" with a 4.3 GPA (highest possible given her classes to date). Last spring, she got a perfect 800 on the SAT Math 2 test, and a perfect 5 on her AP Euro test. In her first two years of high school, she's earned four varsity letters and has run at the state championships for cross-country, 4x800, and 3200.

Seriously -- doesn't just this one example give the anti-vegetarians even the slightest pause? Do they lack reason or shame (or both)?

-Matt



* "People have an infinite capacity to rationalize -- especially when it comes to something they want to eat!"
-Cleveland Amory

** OK, maybe a little bragging.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Animals, Not Arguments


Following up on the point made in the Myth or Reality:

Many activists think, "If one argument for vegetarianism is good, then ten are better, and 100 are even better!"

But this is actually the opposite of how human psychology works. An argument for significant change isn't strengthened by volume. Rather, any case for change is a chain – only as strong as its weakest link. Every additional argument offered to a non-vegetarian both dilutes and distracts from the strongest argument for making compassionate choices.

So instead of being left with the concrete, indisputable connection to cruelty, the case presented by many activists leaves meat-eaters thinking, "Yeah, maybe I should get a chicken sandwich instead of that burger;" "What I eat isn't really going to affect someone starving in Africa;" "What I eat isn't really going to affect global warming;" "This reminds me of that story explaining how chicken is so much more environmentally friendly than beef;" "Gawd, what a fanatic – like I'm gonna eat only unprocessed fruits and vegetables;" "They think animals are more important than people!"


I realize that it can be hard to be vegan in this society. For example, I recently heard one woman's story of being harassed at work by people deliberately eating meat right in front of her, sending crude anti-animal emails to her workgroup, etc. So I understand the desire to defend our personal veganism with an endless litany of arguments, so as to "win an argument with a meat-eater."

But again, defending ourselves / winning an argument is actually the opposite of how best to create real change for the animals in today's society. Any time we offer an argument that can be debated (caloric conversion ratios, water usage, mortality / disease rates, relative carbon footprints, etc.), the animals lose.


Whenever I argue that we must stay focused on the indisputable bottom line of cruelty to animals, some folks reply: "But my Uncle Bubba doesn't care about animals! I have to appeal to his self interest! Suzy at Meetup said she went veg for health reasons, so it obviously works!"

It is hard to accept, but in the best case scenario, Uncle Bubba is irrelevant to our current work for the animals – he will be long, long dead before he could possibly become the impediment to a vegetarian society.

But more likely, our insistence on searching for and promoting the "magic" argument that "appeals to everyone" will lead Uncle Bubba to eat many, many more animals, for "health" reasons (as well as reinforcing the idea that we should only do what we feel is in our best interest).


When I went veg, about five billion birds were killed in the US each year. Now it is almost ten billion – all because of "self interest." We advocates obsess over the fact that "the health argument" convinced raw foodist Suzy at Meetup, and we conveniently ignore our culpability for the near doubling of animals slaughtered for "healthy" food.


Let me emphasize again: I want to do whatever I can to reduce the number of animals suffering. I totally sympathize with the desire to find the perfect self-centered argument that will appeal to more people.

But in the end, I'm more interested in reality than my personal desires. How powerful an argument seems to me is irrelevant. Only by working in the real world and convincing more non-vegetarians to make positive change can we really help animals.


The facts are simple, stark, and indisputable:

1. At this time, there simply is no magic argument that will convince everyone – or even a majority – to go vegan;

2. The health argument, as it is actually interpreted and acted on in the real world by non-vegetarians, has killed many many more animals than it spared.

3. Every additional argument we present to meat-eaters gives them more distance between themselves and their real and immediate connection to the brutality on factory farms.


The question we must each ask is: Will we work for the animals in the world as it is, or live in the feel-good vegan echo chamber? Each of us can make a real, significant difference, if we don't make my past mistakes, if we focus on the animals instead of trying to win an argument.


-Matt

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shameless Book Promotion!



From EJ:

I just read The Animal Activist Handbook and attended a book discussion with Bruce in Baltimore. Thanks for being a resource to all of us trying to make a difference. You guys have taken the second-guessing out of being effective animal advocates!

From YM:

Just wanted to say thanks -- I've just finished reading The Animal Activist Handbook!  While I still have a lot to learn about being vegan (only just in my 3rd year now), I have a much bigger appreciation for your organization and it's approach to animal advocacy now that I've read that.

Most especially, I believe you guys are right on the mark the way you focus strongly on being positive, and also the way you've arrived at the highly effective tactics you use in order to make true grassroots change.  In Vegan Outreach, I feel as though I've found an organization with highly similar views towards advocacy as my own.  It's kinda weird, but I almost feel like it was a part of the reason I went vegan in the first place, so that someday I could approach people cleanly in order to try and get them to open their minds too.

The first outreach I tried this past weekend actually went really great, and now I want to try this type of activism further.  It's probably the type of thing where the more you do it, the better you get at it. With such great possibilities for making an impact this way, I want to give it a go and see what comes.

So thanks again, not just for the book, but also for VO's immeasurable contribution towards changing people's hearts and minds in their relationships towards animals.  I look forward to doing my part now to help out too...


More reviews at Amazon.

You can purchase the book for 1/3rd off cover price via our catalog!

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Protein Comic


Kristin passes along this classic:


"One farmer says to me, 'You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with,' and ... all the while he walks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle."
-Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Various Food Links


Look who is in the pocket of big Salmonella.


Over on our Facebook page, people are posting their favorite recipes / recipe links. C'mon by, see what's being said, and add your fav!



Here you go, Stephen! 

And here, Colbert references a letter promoting "delicious vegan food." He replies, "Which is it? Delicious food or vegan food? It can't be both." Worth keeping in mind when taking your next fat-free, whole-grain, kale dish to a family gathering. (And worth having a sense of humor about, too  :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Videos: Rodrigo y Gabriela Speak Out for the Animals


Check out their amazing playing (full size of this at YT page), and watch their interview about veganism.




PS -- Jack won't be at World VegFest in SF. On the plus side, he's updated his Vitamin D section!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quick and Easy Way to Help VO



VO's Enewsletter is our most important tool for communicating with all our members. You can help us keep it effective -- today's edition is currently being sent out. If you are subscribed, can you make sure you get it? If not, can you find out if your ISP or email client filtered it, and then mark it as legitimate mail?

As always, if you no longer want to receive it, there is a secure unsubscribe link in each one.

Also, over at our Facebook page, you can let us know your favorite link(s) in today's EN.

Thanks -- we really appreciate your help!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rejecting Attractive Assumptions


From Jon:


At the DC VegFest, I heard from five -- yes, five! -- individuals who are now veg as a result of receiving a Vegan Outreach booklet in the past. I got pictures of two: Charlotte (right), and Kathleen (below), who has now been vegan for 10 years.

It's so easy to give in to the attitude that we can't make a difference in this world. It's an attractive assumption, as it frees us from any responsibility to work for change. But we can't keep our eyes open for too long without running into individuals whose lives are profoundly different because of everyone doing this work. Let's keep our heads high and continue to fight the good fight!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Doing Our Best with the World as It Is


VO recently received email from someone with a chronic disease. All treatment attempts have failed (tried for four years), except for a medicine made with animal products. This individual wanted to know, "if I decide to take the medication, do I have the right to still call myself a vegan?  I know it's just a label, just a word, but it's a word that is important to me – a badge of honor that represents my commitment to saving lives and reducing suffering."

I replied:

Thanks so very much for writing, and for your commitment to making a real difference in the world.

Our mission at Vegan Outreach is to make as big a difference as possible, in whatever situation we find ourselves. Our choices are guided not by, "Is this vegan?," but "What can I do to reduce the amount of suffering in the world as much as possible?"

We need to be healthy to be maximally effective. The more work we are able to do for the animals, the sooner veganism will be more widespread, and, among other things, medicines will no longer be made from animals. 

In short, we need to do our best with the world as it currently is, and not be put off by wishing things were different, or worrying about a specific label. The world is vastly imperfect; we can't expect perfection of ourselves -- just our best. Again, the question is never, "Is this vegan / Am I vegan?" Rather, we ask, "Will this help reduce suffering as much as possible?"

-Matt

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mmmmm...Brains! Sunday Funnies, Sept. 12 (plus bonus feedback)




Found here.


Also, came across this feedback and thought it worth sharing:

My husband, a friend, and I went to dinner last night. They wanted to dispute veganism. For example they brought up how Jesus ate meat. But I remembered your bottom line; my response was, "I don't want to fight. I don't know about God's reason for allowing this; the reason I am doing this is because I want to reduce suffering." That was the end of the conversation. Your message/ focus is extremely effective 
-VN

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Indisputable Bottom Line


Looking through this year's selected feedback to choose some for our November print newsletter, I came across this from Dan Kuzma:

I talked to two Youngstown State English classes looking for topics for a paper. My talk was not what they expected. Essentially, my whole talk incorporated VO literature (Even If You Like Meat), which was very well received by the 50 students. I kept on track the whole time using the “indisputable bottom line” argument for changing their diet. Many said the argument – reducing animal suffering – had no holes or flaws in it, essentially leaving them with no questions about why one should not eat animals.

I was reminded of this when Jon Camp sent along this article about a former vegan renouncing their previous statistics-based contentions.

Keeping with the "countering the stereotype" theme of earlier this week, Dan's story concluded:

When I polled them before class, 2/3 said they had had a “bad vegetarian experience” – i.e. conflict with a difficult vegetarian. I feel safe to say that the talks were good vegetarian experiences for the students. Many of the students decided to write about the issue and are rethinking the way that they eat.

Related Friday video: although not the most "opening hearts and minds" message (and the video takes over a minute to get going), The Smiths (audio only) did keep it simple, and indisputable.


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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tasty Vegan Food in the News


In case you hadn't seen it, the New York Times had a good article about vegan cupcakes.

Always great to see positive coverage of vegan foods, but I don't know anyone who hasn't gone vegan because of a lack of good cupcakes (I note this comment: “I for one am really tired of the vegan cupcake being held up as the standard bearer. How about some adult dishes that are healthy, interesting and delicious?”).

But oddly, when Ellen was little, we heard, over and over, people criticizing the idea of raising her vegan with the same line: "What about birthday parties???" (said like this). It seems as though for a lot of people, eating birthday cake at parties was the only thing that made childhood worthwhile!

(Just fyi, all her friends' favorite party was when we did "decorate your own [vegan] cupcake.")


-Matt

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Warped Tour opened my eyes!"



Phil Letten came across this video, put together by a women who received a Vegan Outreach booklet at the Warped Tour this summer.
Even if you have limited time, be sure to watch at least the opening minute (the conclusion is great, too).
Congratulations to everyone out there, every day, reaching more and more people with this life-changing message!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Countering the Stereotype


From AML: Countering the Stereotype

Society’s stereotype of animal advocates and vegans is a significant roadblock to widespread change. “Vegan” no longer needs to be explained when referenced. But unfortunately, the word is often used as shorthand for someone young, fanatical, and antisocial. This caricature guarantees that veganism won’t be considered – let alone adopted – on a wide scale....

It is not enough to be a vegan, or even a dedicated vegan advocate. We must remember the bottom line – reducing suffering – and actively be the opposite of the vegan stereotype. Just as we need everyone to look beyond the short-term satisfaction of following habits and traditions, we need to move past our sorrow and anger to optimal advocacy. We must learn “how to win friends and influence people,” so that we leave everyone we meet with the impression of a joyful individual leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.

The importance of this is seen in this feedback VO received over the weekend:

Thank you! I have been hesitant to go the vegan because of the almost OCD / purity nature of many of the messages, and the preachiness of the practitioners. Your literature, which is so rational and emphasizes "reduction of suffering," is the answer I needed. It motivated me to go the vegan route, knowing that there are others who, like me, are not purists/ perfectionists (which is an empty term, anyway!), but who do just really care to lessen suffering. Please don't pay any mind to the fanatics who criticize your literature for being rational.    :-)

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Just in Time for Your Labor Day Party: Cashew Cheese Recipe


From Brianne:

*      2/3 cup cashews (raw is best, roasted is still great, and try flavored cashews too)
*      1/4-1/2 cup water (add this slowly and increase the amount if needed...if you add too much just put in more cashews)
*      1/4 cup red bell pepper (raw or roasted, you can use green pepper in a pinch)
*      1/4 small red onion (or more, you can use any kind of onion really)
*      1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
*      2 garlic cloves (or more!)
*      3 tbsp lemon juice
*      2 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos (on the health food isle everywhere, or use soy sauce)
*      1 tbsp sesame oil (or any oil on hand)
*      1 tsp sea salt (optional) if the cashews are unsalted
Put everything in a food processor and blend it until it's creamy. If it's too thick, add more water. If it's too watery, add more cashews. It should have a Cream of Wheat-like consistency, or just a bit thicker. It will also thicken with refrigeration.  
For a pizza, spread it thinly over pizza sauce (it's very rich, so a little bit goes a long way), top it off with your favorite vegetables, and pop it in the oven. If the cashew cheese becomes golden-brown more than a few minutes before the pizza crust is done, cover the top of the pizza with foil.  
This recipe is plenty for a medium-sized pizza. I like making larger batches and keeping leftovers in the fridge.
Cashew cheese is also great in quesadillas, nachos, toasted sandwiches, or just about any other dish that calls for cheese.  This recipe is flexible and adaptable.  If you're missing an ingredient, substitute!  Different consistencies make it good for different uses (thinner for nachos, thicker for spreads...)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Video, Sept. 3




Outspoken vegan Moby's Porcelain.
(Lots of different videos for this song.)



Even If You Like Meat appeals to both Freud's id and superego!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Links and More Feedback


Several links from yesterday's Enewsletter, in case you missed them:

Dr Greger on ABC, re: Eggs – Really amazing to see this footage on national T.V.

AnimalVisuals Graphic on Salmonella and Battery Cages


And I happened to see these nice words Jo posted on Facebook:

It was the encouraging, understanding voice I discovered on the VO website which helped me when I first transitioned to veganism 6 years ago. If it weren't for them, I'm not sure I would have arrived at the place I am today. When I first went vegan, I came across a few people online who struck me as very angry and condescending. I saw how they attacked other vegans for not being vegan "enough" (as they defined it) and was even afraid to self-identify as a vegan for fear of being judged and attacked by other vegans! VO reaches and encourages people to take the first step on the path to veganism and gives them the strength and confidence to continue to learn and embrace more "advanced" animal rights and liberation concepts as they are ready. I am very grateful for their work.
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Feedback Wednesday


Some thoughtful feedback in the current Facebook thread about this podcast. If you're not on FB, you might find this one useful:

This was particularly relevant for me because I am stuggling with going vegan. I go for several weeks vegan, but then break down and have meat (always grass fed, pastured, sustainable, local). This past weekend I encountered some confrontational vegans, understanding vegans, and a former 12 year vegetarian who is now a butcher/chef specializes in bacon. I was experiencing a catharsis while listening to each of them speak -- but the aggressive judgmental vegan shut me down and made me upset, shuting down the part of me that was willing and ready. 

Living as an example and being compassionate to the human animals you encounter who are unaware or struggling is the most effective way to change the world. Thanks for voicing this POV.

And this nice email from Australia:

The interview with Steve was great. The more I read your book (lives on my bedside table), and the more people I give it to (I bought several copies while back), the more certain I am that your approach is the most effective one, and the more meaningfully I modify my own outlook. Sooooo grateful to you.

Finally, be sure to look for today's Enewsletter -- some great links!