My Vegan Diary: Week 6

burden

I completed my first six weeks as a vegan! If I was in Vegucated, I would have completed the challenge, haha! 😀

This week, I moved into college! Eating vegan at the dining hall has been a bit annoying, but it could be worse. My dining hall has quite a few good vegan options. It just takes some searching. Every meal requires ten or more minutes of wandering around the dining hall looking for something to eat. I hope that once I become familiarized with my dining hall, I will be able to find food more quickly. Today, I had a less-than-optimal eating experience. I had an all-day event for Honors College, so breakfast and lunch were catered. Unfortunately, the vegan options were scant.

Being a vegan in an omnivore’s world is not easy. It takes extra effort and sacrifice. (I know you can’t sacrifice something that wasn’t yours in the first place, but do you get what I mean?) I never want being vegan to feel like a burden. I don’t want to feel annoyed by asking servers whether something is vegan or by reading signs and labels. I don’t want to feel left out when I can’t join people to eat something. Instead, I want to feel free and liberated from an existence that inflicted pain, suffering, and death upon innocent beings. I hope that I never become discouraged and disappointed about being vegan. Because the unimaginable suffering farm animals experience is not even comparable to my inconvenience in the dining hall. I am fighting for animal liberation. This should be responsibility I am proud to carry.

But soon, it will get easier. I recently joined my university’s Animal Respect Society. I can’t wait to begin meeting other vegans. I have so many ideas! I want to go leafleting, volunteer at a local farm animal sanctuary, and organize protests. Right now, I am alone among omnivores. But with the support from other vegans, I would feel stronger and gain confidence in my lifestyle. Because deep down, everyone knows that subjecting innocent, harmless, and helpless animals to a life of cruel torture and death is wrong. It’s just a matter of doing something about it instead of standing by.

Best,

Leila

Misconceptions about Veganism Part 2

This is a continuation of my “Misconceptions about Veganism” series in which I address some of the most popular questions and skeptical remarks about veganism. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Let’s continue!

What’s wrong with Eggs and Dairy? Obtaining these products doesn’t harm the animal.

These industries cause just as much pain and suffering as the meat industry, if not more. Cows are forcibly impregnated each year for their entire lives. Mother cows form an immediate and strong bond with their calves. But their babies are repeatedly stolen away from them so that humans can drink their milk. If the calf is female, she is destined to become a dairy cow like her mother. If he is male, he is locked in a small crate, fed a cheap formula made of slaughter byproducts, and is slaughtered for veal after a few miserable, lonely months of life. When the mother’s body becomes lame and exhausted from being constantly pregnant and producing 5 times as much milk as she naturally would, she is slaughtered for cheap, low-grade meat.

milkHens suffer in the egg industry, too. They are stuffed so tightly into wire cages that they have no space to spread their wings. Their beaks are seared off with a hot blade to prevent them from attacking each other due to the stress of this crowded environment. The skin on their feet grows into the wire cages they constantly stand upon. The environment is so unclean, that the birds’ waste falls onto the cages below. To add to this suffering, they are starved or left in the dark to begin a new laying cycle. Naturally, hens would produce 12 eggs per year. In factory farms, they produce over 300. This takes an enormous toll on their bodies. When their egg laying declines, they are sent to slaughter. In addition, male chicks are useless to the egg industry, as they cannot produce eggs or be raised for meat profitably. As a result, 6 million male chicks are ground up alive or suffocated annually.

As you can see, cows and hens are treated like slaves and are exploited for their reproductive systems. These animals’ jobs are not to produce milk and eggs for human consumption. They are individuals, not machines. The egg and milk industries are just as cruel as the meat industry.

What about Humane, Locally-Sourced, Free-Range, or Sustainable animal products?

There is no such thing as humane meat. Qualifying to be labeled as humane is not difficult. Free range chickens are crammed into dark, filthy chicken houses instead of battery cages. Outdoor access may be limited to a small, muddy pen. Even if the farmer opened a door and shut it before any chickens could leave, he could still sell his products as free range.  And these animals are bred to grow so large so quickly, that they cannot carry their bodies for more than a few steps anyways. All farm animals are subjected to painful mutilations such as tail docking, ear notching, branding, de-horning, and castration. No matter where they were raised, all of these animals’ lives face the same gruesome end. They are violently packed into crates and trucks and driven for hours through weather extremes to die in the same cruel slaughterhouses.

This article from “The Onion” clearly illustrates the nonsense of humane meat.

As far as sustainability goes, no food is as detrimental to the environment as meat. Cows that graze upon grass instead of being fed corn release more methane than factory farmed cows. Since free range animals move more, they burn more calories and therefore require more food. All animals raised for food require copious amounts of water, while their waste simultaneously pollutes our clean water sources. Cattle farming is the leading cause of deforestation. There is not enough land on earth for all meat to be raised free-range. As our air becomes more and more polluted, we cannot afford to lose trees. There is no way to make meat nearly as environmentally friendly as plant-based alternatives.

meat eating envornmentalist

But the bottom line is that using animals for food is exploitation, no matter how they are raised. Their bodies and lives are not yours to take. You should not obtain a meal at the expense of another’s life if you do not have to. And even if these animals lived the most comfortable lives, why should it be considered morally acceptable to end it midway through?

Plants are alive, too!

Right now, we see no reason to believe that plants feel pain. They do not possess the nervous system, brain, or pain-sensing chemicals present in animals. Evolutionarily speaking, there is no purpose for plants to evolve a sense of pain. They cannot move or run away if something begins to harm them.

Veganism isn’t about eliminating all suffering, though we try our best to do so. As long as there is life, there will be pain and suffering. Veganism is about reducing the suffering we are responsible for as much as we possibly can. So even if plants do experience pain, the best we can do right now is only eat plants. Less plants will be killed if we eat them directly rather than feeding them to animals and then eating the animals.

Resorting to the vegan cliche: Where would you rather take your kids, apple picking or to a slaughterhouse? Clearly, plants are the most compassionate food choice.

We have much more serious issues to resolve before animal rights. Vegans don’t care about people.

The vegan diet saves more than just animal lives. It saves the health of the people. The vegan diet is cholesterol free. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. It is estimated that if the nation switched to plant-based diets, health spending costs would be cut by 80%. So not only will the vegan diet improve people’s health, it will save them money.

Farming animals causes human disease. When human viruses or bacteria come in contact with strains from animals, they share genetic material to form a completely new strain that no one’s immune system recognizes. Many devastating epidemics, such as influenza and smallpox, come from farming animals in close proximity to humans.

Additionally, farm animals are fed antibiotics excessively, creating antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. These bacteria are present in the animals’ waste, and runoff from waste lagoons can contaminate water sources, transmitting these resistant bacteria to humans.

Growing plants to feed animals and then eating the animals is an inefficient use of resources. Without the animal industry, we could grow enough food to feed 2 billion additional people, eliminating hunger. Additionally, many starving nations farm grain, which farmers sell to American cattle farmers instead of their own people because the cattle farmers can pay more for it.

Issues of climate change are pressing these days. In the next hundred years, it is extrapolated that average temperature will rise by 11 degrees. The animal industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas release than the entire transportation industry combined. No other industry is more destructive to the environment. If you care about future generations inheriting a healthy, clean planet, you will go vegan.

carbon footprints

Compassionate eating can promote a more peaceful world. If we were raised to believe that gaining our nourishment from another animals’ pain and suffering  is wrong, we would be less likely to harm our fellow humans. When performing acts of violence against animals is commonplace, it becomes difficult to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable treatment of humans. A vegan world would be a much more compassionate and peaceful place. Clearly, the vegan diet is beneficial to more than just the animals you consume.

That’s all of the misconceptions I will be addressing today! Part 3 will be posted sometime next week.

Best,

Leila

Vegan Food Diary

After a long afternoon of driving, we made it to my college campus! We are staying overnight in a hotel, and tomorrow I move in. So as a last dinner with my family, we ate at a local vegan restaurant called Jazzy Veggie. I will admit that the super cute name drew me in! The atmosphere was relaxing and welcoming. If the weather had been drier, it would have been very pleasant to eat at the street side seating. Maybe next time! Best of all, the entire menu is vegan, which feels like a luxury!

My sister and I shared this bottle of delicious Pineapple Peach Limeade. It was sweet and tangy. The lime gave it a very flavorful twist.

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My family and I shared a plate of veggie pot stickers as an appetizer. They came covered with a sweet and spicy chili sauce, which was delicious! We ended up also eating the lettuce the pot stickers came on with this sauce like a salad!

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For my entree, I enjoyed a bowl of pasta with pesto, cashew cheese, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke. I ordered this dish because I was interested in trying cashew cheese. The sauce was very smooth, creamy, and flavorful. I had never tried artichoke before. It was rather tasteless with a soft texture. Overall an amazing pasta dish!

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While walking around town later during the evening, we spotted a frozen yogurt shop conveniently displaying this sign in the window.

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Need I say more?

The only vegan option they carried was coconut. It was very thick and creamy. Not at all watery! It also had a rich coconut flavor. I topped mine with strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, mango, and almonds. Yummy! 🙂

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That was my evening! Definitely a very delicious one!  It was nice spending some last moments with my family while unwinding from the long drive. Why am I going to college so far away? But I am in love with my college town. So many fun places to explore! And lots of food to eat, as you can see… 😛 Yum yum!

Best,

Leila

Got Milk?

The dairy industry has been on my mind a lot lately. I recently watched a very heart-wrenching video showing a calf being taken away from its mother shortly after birth. The calf was roughly pulled away by a man and shoved in the back of a van. As the van drove away, the mother chased after it, the calf looking out the window longingly.  I had never cried while watching the most graphic videos exposing the meat industry, though they were difficult to watch. But this simple video brought me to tears.

To me, The most saddening part is that many people consider dairy and eggs to be more compassionate than meat. I, however, disagree. A glass of milk has the same amount of suffering in it as a slab of steak, if not more. Meat comes from animals who have been slaughtered. Dairy and eggs come from animals who will be slaughtered. Even though the cows your dairy came from were not yet killed, there is still blood on your hands. A glass of milk marks a death sentence for both the mother it came from and the baby it was meant for. Singling out meat as unethical but allowing milk and eggs to remain is failing to acknowledge the lifetime of slavery and ultimate slaughter these animals must endure. You are either abusing and exploiting animals, or you’re not.  All animal products are equally cruel and inhumane.

The jugs of milk in our homes and grocery stores did not emerge from thin air. They came from lactating mother cows, whose babies were stolen away from them so humans could drink their milk.  I made this graphic to bridge the gap between the white liquid in your cup and the grieving mother it came from.

got milk

So let’s save the milk for those who truly need it: baby calves.

Best,

Leila

I am Straight Edge!

straight edg

In two days, I will be headed to college, and the Welcome Week festivities will commence…aka lots of alcohol, drugs, and partying. I know that not everyone will be engaging in these activities, but as I am attending a large state school, sports and partying are a huge part of the culture. Before I went vegan, the power of substance to transport me away from my stress and worries interested me. But once I stopped eating animal products, I felt a surge of power and control over my life. I am living freely and independently. My life and nourishment no longer depend upon the suffering and death of other individuals. Why would I want substance to take that power away from me? I always want to have full control over my body, mind, and actions.

Now, I have no interest in putting any chemicals into my body. I don’t need them to be feel free and happy. People fill their bodies with flesh tainted with pain and misery, and when they feel miserable, too, they try to heal their own pain by putting more noxious and vile chemicals inside of them. I recognize that chemicals don’t have the power to solve my problems. I never want to live for the next shot of alcohol to kill my pain or for the next joint to bring me monetary relief. I will not allow my body to become a puppet. I will NEVER be slave for substance.

Now that my body and spirit are filled with compassion, polluting it with chemicals would be slander. When I come to a difficult time in my life, I don’t want substance to ever be an option. So I have taken the promise to live purely and truly. I have decided to live Straight Edge. This means no alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or emotionless sex. I will also use caffeine and medical drugs sparingly so they cannot control me, either.

So next week when the Welcome Week parties are in full force, I will be elsewhere. I will still make friends, be social, and have a good time. But I will be awake, alert, and healthy while living life to its fullest.

straight edge

So with this X on my hand, I pledge to live a life of positivity, purity, and growth. To only feed my body with life-bearing substances, not those tainted with poison, suffering, and death. It will not be easy. But my well-being and future are worth it.

Best,

Leila

My Vegan Diary: Week 5

So far, my vegan diaries have not been very personal. So in this week’s entry, I’m going to detail more about my experience as a new vegan.

pig and lamb

Dreams

Since I went vegan, I have had a few weird dreams about animal products. Thankfully, none of them have been scary or nightmare-worthy. In these dreams, I found myself accidentally eating or purchasing an animal product. In all of them, I felt sickened and uncomfortable about obtaining the foods. For example, in a recent dream, I was eating pizza and was horrified to learn that it was covered in dairy cheese. I felt very saddened that I “was not a vegan anymore” and was relieved to wake up and find that the situation had never happened!

Dreams are useful for telling your true emotions because when you go to sleep, the conscious part of your mind that controls your thoughts, feelings, and actions is no longer present.  If I was consciously forcing myself to be vegan against my inmost nature, I would most likely have dreams manifesting my desire to eat animal products. However, I felt just as disgusted and uninterested in eating animal products in my dreams as I do in real life. So I can safely say that my true inmost self desires to live vegan.

Blackfish

This week, I finally watched the documentary Blackfish. If you have never heard if it, it is about the killer whale, Tilikum, who was taken from the wild as a baby to be trained to perform in Sea World shows. What was most upsetting to me was that even after Tilikum killed a trainer, they still continued to perform with him. Sea World even hid the fact that Tilikum was responsible for these deaths, leading to the deaths of future trainers. It is upsetting that Sea World values its profit above the welfare of its trainers and animals. Clearly, keeping killer whales in captivity and forcing them to perform is dangerous for both the whales and the humans involved.

Angora

Angora belongs

This week, I have been very busy packing for college. While going through my fall sweaters, I was horrified to find that two of them contained Angora rabbit fur! I had seen the pictures of the screaming rabbits tied down, having their fur ripped out by the fist full. I could not believe that I had contributed to this!  One sweater was purchased from H&M, who stopped making its products from Angora last November.  The other was from Urban Outfitters, who still carries Angora products. I suppose I must live and learn. In the future, I will carefully read material labels before I buy anything so I know what I am supporting.

Ten reasons to never buy Angora.

Supplements

vegan multivitamin

I have decided to begin supplementing my diet with a daily vegan multivitamin from Deva. I do not see any signs of deficiency yet, but I feel safest supplementing B-12 and iron before symptoms appear. And it should be noted that a vitamin supplement is not an alternative for a well-planned, varied diet, whether you are vegan or not.

That has been my fifth week as a vegan! Living vegan is a journey, and with each day, I am striving to live a more compassionate life.

Best,

Leila

Garnished Pita Bread

IMG_1416As our summer days begin to dwindle, it is time to savor our last warm evenings before fall sneaks in. This garnished pita bread is the perfect dinner to enjoy on a summer night. It is crispy, flavorful, and vegan, of course! Best of all, it is extremely easy to prepare, and way healthier than delivery or frozen pizzas!

Ingredients:

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1. Pita bread

2. Vegan butter spread (I am using coconut spread). Feel free to substitute a sauce, such as marinara.

3. Vegetables of choice (I am using broccoli, green pepper, onion, and corn)

4. Vegan cheese shreds

5. Faux sausage

6. Spices of choice (I am using pepper, onion powder, and parsley flakes)

Steps:

From here, it is very easy to assemble your delicious pita bread.

1. Spread vegan butter alternative (or sauce) all over pita.

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2. Chop up vegetables and faux sausage to desired size.

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3. Garnish with faux meat and vegetables. Sprinkle cheese shreds and spices on top.

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4. Bake at 430 degrees Fahrenheit until crispy.

5. Cut into quarters and serve.

???????????????????????????????That’s it! These garnished pita breads are seriously so delicious. My whole family loves them! Feel free to experiment with different sauces and vegetables. And if you give this recipe a try, I would love to know how it turns out!

Best,

Leila