Why this Australian Male decided to be vegan.

Rosie
Rosie resident at EVER sanctuary

Exactly three years ago, my wife Reem and I independently decided to go vegan.  Prior to that I was a vegetarian for 7 years which means I have now been meat free for10 years. I thought this was an appropriate time to reflect on a roller coaster ride.

While I did a lot of work and thinking prior, I still look back at the day I went vegan as the day I got serious about trying to make a difference in the world. Leading up to this decision I had done a lot of soul searching and work on myself, which looking back on it, made the decision inevitable.

I explored the idea of selfishness and how it was such a powerful driver of my choices.  I understood it is an essential part of us all but also that it drives the behaviours that are so profoundly destructive.  I came to realize that I could never be satisfied without deep and serious consideration to the harm my choices cause.

Looking back many years, it was learning about climate change that probably got me started. At the time I was a meat eating Aussie, living the dream.   I learned enough to be seriously concerned about the future and to be overwhelmed with a helpless guilty feeling.  The guilt came from knowing the implications that out of all the species on earth and all the humans, and all the countries, my contribution was huge. Seeing that some others around me were worse than me was not comforting.  I decided being an apathetic bystander was a scenario I could not live with.  The natural response was to at very least try my best to be an example and act responsibly.  This led me to the idea of considering the impact of my choices on the earth and the suffering caused. For the first time I had a powerful desire to control my desires for short term gratification if there were negative implications for others.

At this stage I was already vegetarian and then I was given an education on animal agriculture. We were at a fundraiser for an animal sanctuary and they showed a few videos of practices in a range of animal exploitation industries, including dairy and eggs.  There was also information shared about environmental effects and some nutritional facts.   I immediately decided that veganism, and hopefully beyond veganism, was an essential path for me.

Since then, I have spent a lot of time educating myself and looking at all the arguments put to me against veganism. While many of these arguments are wishful thinking some have validity on the surface.  One point often made is that veganism cannot claim to cause zero harm.  Any serious reader in the area knows this is true. Zero harm towards other humans, animals and the wider environment is not a realistic goal. This is particularly true of those of us living in western countries.   Simply building a house, or driving a car is harmful.  The argument gets off the rails when this fact is used to justify very harmful activities.

One example we often hear is that growing food crops causes harm in many ways. This is true.  The question is what does this mean for veganism?  Turns out it actually reinforces veganism as the right and least harmful choice. Exploited animals must be fed, and this requires much more crops than if we live directly on crops, as vegans do. This is an unavoidable fact of nature which is explained in detail on our website (earth tab).   So, first we must accept that perfection is impossible and then commit to the realistic goal of harm minimization.

So after three years of reading, learning and living vegan, I am convinced I thrive on a vegan diet (as expected according to the leading nutritional bodies around the world), and short of  obscure impractical ideas like dumpster diving, there appears to be nothing that comes close to veganism on the harm minimization scale.

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Rick and Salsa
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Salsa, Bobbie, Rosie

50 % of all cafeterias in German universities now offer vegetarian or vegan food

What a breakthrough! If you are a student at a German university and you are vegan or vegetarian there are some great news: 50 % of all cafeterias at German universities offer now vegan or vegetarian food.

This breakthrough has been kicked-off by a German NGO (Albert Schweitzer Stiftung) which has promoted since 2009 vegan food in cafeterias across Germany, in close collaboration with the student unions. At the start it was only an offer to provide vegan cooking training to cafeteria managers at German universities (by the German vegan chef Björn Moschinski). The idea expanded to other university cafeterias and as we can see today, half of all cafeterias in Germany provide vegetarian or vegan food.

As we know from surveys, the majority of vegetarians and vegans are female, young (up to 29 years old) and highly educated. Thus, you might find many of them at universities and consequently, there is a need for vegan food in university cafeterias. Another outcome of this project was a guideline* for cafeteria kitchens that want to cook vegan food on a large-scale. I am so pleased to see this development and hope that more universities realise the increasing need to offer vegan options in their cafeterias.

Tanja, EVER

vegan food

©Einfach-schnell-und-gesund

 

*The guideline is currently available in German. But you might get some more information about it if you get in touch with the Albert Schweitzer Stiftung


Horse abuse or hot flushes – why should females suffer?

For most females, menopause is a difficult transition in life, both emotionally and physically.

When a woman suffering from the symptoms of menopause visits the GP, he/she will only be too happy to prescribe an oestrogen pill or patch to replace the hormone a female’s body should be making. A very commonly prescribed Hormone Replacement drug is called Premarin. This is an oestrogen drug prepared by the pharmaceutical giants Wyeth/Pfizer. It is sometimes referred to as a “natural” drug for women.

Premarin (Pregnant mares + urine) is a horse oestrogen made on specific US and Canadian farms for Pfizer and Wyeth. It is “natural” to female horses (Mares).

Mares are firstly impregnated. When they reach the 4th month of pregnancy and right through to the 11th month, the mares are confined to tiny spaces between metal bars so that they cannot turn around or lie down comfortably. Most stand the entire length of their 6-7 months confinement. Their urine is collected in “pee-bags” which are urine collection devices harnessed to them and which cause infections and painful chafing of their legs. The mares are fed and watered on a time controlled basis. The deprivation of water is so that estrogen is concentrated in their urine.
When the mares give birth, the foals (babies) are removed from their mothers and sent to the slaughterhouse or they are used as replacement for the mothers. After giving birth, the mares are re-impregnated for a cycle of twelve years. After the 12 years, their lives are cut short and they are killed.

 

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Premarin collection device
Mares incarceration for 7 months for Premarin prodcution
Mares incarceration for 7 months for Premarin prodcution

So why should females suffer?

For the sake of relieving one female’s hot flushes or menopausal symptoms, should another female be exploited?

And why shouldn’t cruelty free alternatives be discussed instead?

We invite your comments.
For more information on menopause and cruelty free alternatives:
read what the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have to say about menopause and natural cures.
For more information about Premarin visit the HorseFund.


Are vegans misanthropic?

A recent survey in Germany made me wonder. The question of the survey was: Are Vegans misanthropic?* and it was undertaken with 707 vegans in Germany (445 women, 257 men and 5 transsexuals) between 16 and 84 years old.

Not to my surprise, the results showed that the misanthropic vegan is a cliché and that vegans actually care a lot about their fellow human beings. More than 90% of vegans mentioned that they care about social justice, equality for handicapped and sick people, equality for gay and bisexuals, care about overcoming racism and anti-Semitism, care about gender equality and environmental conservation and are against the exploitation of third world countries. Nearly 90 % mentioned that it is critical to provide support to refugees. Although there was no control group with non-vegans to understand if vegans are more philanthropic than non-vegans, the survey still tells us a story: vegans care a lot about their fellow human beings.

Maggie and Ted. Farm Sanctuary, New York, USA, 2015. Credited to Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

After reading the results of this survey, I wondered, where does this cliché come from? I certainly love my fellow human beings and would consider myself a philanthropic. However, as vegans we might often hear the criticism that we think that we are morally superior to meat-eating people or that we are ‚too complicated‘ when it comes to shared meals in family or friends gatherings. As we question the norm in our world where consuming animal products are taken for granted, can this be a defense mechanism of non-vegans to judge us as misanthropic?

What do you think where this cliché comes from? And do you think it would help the vegan movement to disprove this cliché? I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts about this topic.

*The survey was done by www.vegan.eu and www.gleichklang.de.


Bunnies 101- The beginning – her name was Butters

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The ‘Bunny 101’ blogs are intended to be an educational resource for people who have adopted a rabbit as a companion animal. Rabbits are very sociable animals, yet fragile. With the ‘Bunny 101’ blogs, we will take you through the basics of do’s and dont’s of bunny feeding, care and bonding along with other important aspects of living with a house rabbit.

As I start writing the ‘Bunny 101’ blogs sharing my experience about house rabbits, it only seems fit to start off with a dedication to that one bunny that started it all. Her name was Butters, she was and always will be such a special soul, and here is her story.

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In 2006, while walking back home to the eastern suburbs from a city job, we spotted a little white rabbit on a nature strip on Anzac Parade in Sydney. The strip was between bus lanes and speeding cars. It was a miracle that this little rabbit was alive. She had been abandoned with no where safe to go. The walk home became a sprint home to get a cat carrier followed by a high speed drive back to try and catch that poor soul. Not knowing much about rabbits, but being a fan of bugs bunny cartoons, all I could think of is to lure her towards me with a carrot.  The rabbit was so hungry, she came out sniffing the carrot. I knew I only had one chance to catch her, so with a full rush of adrenaline, I leapt forwards grabbing what I could of her. That was the start of our journey together.

We tried to find her family, we even phoned around trying to place her, but nobody wanted her. We had two cats at home, and we thought ‘well surely a cat will eat or harm a rabbit!’.  The cats were indeed interested, but not in a harmful manner (we later found out that domesticated cats are indeed known to become good friends with rabbits). Our cats, Benny and Champ, had never seen or encountered another specie with such long ears, so we watched closely as she came out of the cage like a champion, sniffed the cats and made herself right at home.

That night I knew I could never let her go and I knew somewhere inside me that she and I will be bonded at a very deep level. That little rabbit became known as Butters. Little did we know that she would be the building block behind our transformation and animal advocacy in years to follow.

Butters lived with us for 7 years. She took us through a roller coaster of emotions, and taught us so much about rabbits. She became very bonded with one of our cats, Champ, who mothered her.

Its only through this bond that we discovered that rabbits are happiest bonding to another. In this case she bonded to Champ. She became one of the family, she greeted us every evening, when she heard the keys in the door, at the bottom of the stairs alongside the cats.

When we moved from Sydney to Berry, she adopted the guest room, and slept on the bed every night, mostly with Champ.

She knew when treat time was due; she knew the sound of a chopping apple and she knew we were too soft to say no. She made it clear to the cats that the prime spot in the kitchen was hers at treat time.

Waiting in the kitchen for dinner and treats
Waiting in the kitchen for dinner and treats

When we came home with our groceries, she would pick the greens she wanted – (well she attempted to anyway).

Her favourite treat was mango peel, she never shied away from grabbing it from us.

She had so many special traits, I kept wondering how people could keep rabbits in enclosures outside, and how misunderstood those beautiful souls were. If only people realised that rabbits are just like a cat or a dog. They are sociable companion animals. We learnt so much by observing Butters. She adopted us as her family (we were possibly the ugly looking bunnies) and we knew she was happy.

Butters also taught us how fragile rabbits are. In 2012, I took a year’s sabbatical from work. Within a few weeks of my time off, Butters fell sick to an extreme case of head tilt that lasted 9 months. I nursed her 24/7 and we became so bonded. I took her to my chiropractor to help adjust her spine and neck, I massaged her neck everyday, and she leaned on me when we went to the garden for walks. There was no advice I turned my nose at, I tried everything and our exotics vet in Sydney was always supportive of our journey together. Head tilt is so common in rabbits, most rabbits get better, but it wasn’t to be with Butters. Whatever the disease was that caused the head tilt spread to her kidneys after 9 months and within 2 days the kidneys failed and we had to take the worse and most difficult decision for her. The hardest decision in my life.

Her legacy now lives on in a sanctuary, and in particular the 13 house bunnies we adopted and rescued since she passed on, and who share their lives with us. Her legacy also lives on in us becoming vegan from a series of events that her life and death lead us to.

Vale Butters 2006-2012
vale Butters  (2006-2012)

A day in the life

Ahhh, it’s the weekend and after the morning feeding and sorting out of all the sanctuary residents, it was time to take a break and head out for lunch at the local veg café.  It feels right to align our lives with respect for all our fellow animals, but today more than usual this interrupted our plans a little.

We headed off down the road, and a few minutes in to the trip, we both spotted a tiny yellow thornbill sitting on the busy road. What to do?  Hazard lights on and Reem sprints back up the road and flags down the next speeding car before picking up the injured bird. Shortly after, a large convoy of motorbikes screamed past. This was looking like a very lucky bird, maybe!   We found a spot to pull off the road so we could check her out.

She appeared to be in one piece and we were immediately hopeful there was no serious injury.  We put her on the ground in front of us and unfortunately she was looking quite disoriented and a little bent out of shape. So I put my finger in front of her and she climbed on it.

Yellow thorbill recovering

I stood in the brilliant sunshine and she just perched there and checked me out for about five minutes, looking pretty relaxed and alert. I showed her a tree branch but she did not seem to want that.  Then in the blink of eye, she darted off with speed and intent, into the woods. We both felt relief and elation that this had ended so perfectly.

This little morning event was just another reminder to us that all animals have their lives to live, and this deserves our respect and consideration.  We find that when we follow these principles, the rewards to our spirit and self-respect are massive.  The feeling of knowing this bird would certainly be dead now if not for our action, and instead is now doing what birds do, is what life is about.  The moments we had, looking at the bird with a sense she knew we genuinely cared about her wellbeing, will stay with us.  The vegan falafel wrap for lunch tasted even better than usual.

As is the case, these days, my partner in crime, was able to capture some of the memories using the smart phone camera.  Hope you enjoy these.


Germany – a great place to be a vegan

There are nearly 1 Million vegans in Germany and their numbers are growing. No wonder that the variety of vegan products in the supermarkets, number of vegan restaurants, vegan festivals, vegan chefs and vegan cook books are also increasing.

A legally binding definition of the term “vegan” was suggested in April 2016 in Germany. Vegan products should not involve any hidden animal product at any stage of the production or processing. This involves also that no ingredients (including additives, carriers, flavourings and enzymes) or processing aids are allowed to be of animal origin (source: VEBU Germany).

This definition can be already found in the “vegan” label of the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) in Germany. As soon as a product is now labelled with this logo “vegan” in Germany (Fig. 1 – logo on the left) it is truly 100 % vegan! This is supposed to make the life of many vegans who live in or travel to Germany much easier given that some vegan labels (especially if food producers use their own vegan labels) could still “hide” some animal product. Whether in the production, processing or product itself.

 

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Fig 1:  vegan and vegetarian logos_Germany

 

Figure 1: The logo on the left means 100 % vegan; the logo on the right means vegetarian (ingredients such as milk, egg and honey are allowed).

The “vegan” label should not be mistaken with the label “vegetarisch” (englisch: vegetarian) on the right (Fig. 1) given that products with this label can include ingredients such as milk, egg and honey.

Another exciting item of news from Germany is that, commencing in October 2016, a 3 year long Bachelor degree in Vegan Food management will be launched. This 3-4 years long course provides expert knowledge and skills in veganism, economy, management as well as communication strategies and is a preparation to work as a manager or specialist in the vegan food business (http://www.fh-mittelstand.de/vegan/)
There are definitely exciting times ahead for vegans in Germany!

Tanja, EVER


Orchard

Garden fresh veggies are great but fresh organic fruit at your door step is even better.  If your a boomer like me, you can probably remember when bought fruit actually tasted great.  Well, that’s the best reason to grow your own as it tastes just like that and it is an environmentally friendly hobby.  The taste is not only amazing it is also very nostalgic.  We now get 3 types of apples and pears in the autumn, oranges, grapefuit, mandarin and other citrus in the winter, apricots, plumcots, nectarines and peaches in the summer.

As with the veggies, plenty of advice is available but we found you can’t beat your own experience. The key is to find an area that gets plenty of sun, not subject to flooding, and if possible some protection from high winds.  The trees need plenty of water when producing fruit so a good water supply is essential.  We are lucky here in Berry as we tend to get plenty of rain.  We do get high wind from the north in the winter but this has not been a big issue as most of the trees are  basically leafless and bare in that time which allows the wind to just blow through. When choosing what to plant consider the climate, temperatures in winter, and note that many fruits need a second tree to allow for cross pollination.  The local nursery was able to help us with these requirements.

Fertilization of the trees is important about 4 times per year.  At times we have resorted to chicken manure based products, which are unfortunately a by product of the egg or chicken industry. We are continuing to explore the best ways to completely avoid even by -products of animal exploitation. Options have been to use our own mulch, mushroom compost and other specialty products from the nursery.  Also as we have rescued chickens most of their manure is collected and placed in the compost to boost its value.   In the meantime, with the prevalence of animal exploitation, we will still consider using the chicken manure based products which would otherwise be simply a waste product.

Another lesson we learned the hard way was that birds love fruit as much as we do.  The first year we had apples on our tree, we watched them ripen and just as we thought about starting to eat them, the birds ate every single one.  To fix this we purchased netting that wraps around the tree.  We chose a fine mesh designed so that birds will not get tangled in it.  The down side of the fine mesh is that they can only go on after pollination as the netting prevents the bees getting to the flowers for pollination. It is best to prune trees well each year so they don’t grow too large. This ensures you don’t need a crane to get the fruit and also makes protecting with the netting much more practical.


Building a vegetable patch – our hits and misses

With a bit of spare land any self respecting green warrior must have at least a semi serious vegetable garden and orchard. Nothing beats the feeling of drinking a smoothie made from freshly picked organic fruit and greens from the garden.

We obtained advice from many sources but we quickly learned that trial and error is the best teacher. We opted for raised garden beds as they are easier on the back and protect the crop from hungry wombats.  We also discovered in the off season, they are a good place for recycling/composting rabbit litter (when the compost area overflows).

As of today, we have 9 raised vegetable beds, and more than 15 fruit trees, (various apples, a range of citrus, apricot, plumcot, macadamia and a pear tree).

The first golden rule was to choose a location with as much sun exposure all year round as possible. We installed the fruit trees along the driveway and the  garden beds as shown below on the sloping area, facing north, outside the kitchen window.

Raised beds need to be filled up and we chose straw hay bales along with other organic matter, cardboard, and rabbit litter.  This is all topped off with our own compost or mushroom compost from the local nursery. We are able to minimize the amount of compost purchased by composting and using large amounts of waste from our many rescued animals.  One thing to be aware of is that rabbit bedding/hay/droppings etc, eventually breaks down to make good compost but it needs time.

The following pictures show the process as it evolved over several years.