This blog is moving to a new home

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Please join me at my new online home – Renaissance Vegan

Why Renaissance Vegan?

I first heard the phrase Renaissance Vegan used by Victoria Moran on the Main Street Vegan podcast to describe Dr. Richard Oppenlander, activist and author of Consciously Unaware and Food Choice and Sustainability. His books are helping to raise awareness about the impacts of meat, dairy and eggs on the health and well being of ourselves and our planet.

I don’t presume to be as well known or educated as Dr. Oppenlander, but consider myself knowledgeable about a wide variety of issues and topics. Hence, the name of this blog.

This site is where I hope to raise awareness about the issues of veganism, the impact of animal agriculture, the climate crisis, social justice and others.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Vegan in Dallas – Who Knew?

Spiral in Dallas

It’s early Saturday morning in Dallas, TX and it’s raining again. Cue Stevie Ray Vaughn – “It’s flooding down in Texas, all the telephone lines are down.”

I came here for a conference for work and we’ve had storms three days out of the four that I’ve been here. We’ve had some great lightning and thunderstorms. We don’t get those in CA – or rain for that matter.

But that’s not why you’re reading this, you want to hear about vegan food in Big D – Dallas. I found two great restaurants.

SykamoreThe first one I found – thanks to Happy Cow and Yelp! – was Sykamore Vegan House. It’s located close to downtown, near the Baylor University Medical Center. Their menu includes asian dishes with vegan beef, chicken and fish; smoothies and juices.

I had a Thai basil chicken dish made without oil and fresh rolls. The food was excellent.

Sykamore Thai basil chicken  Sykamore fresh rolls

Last night I visited Spiral Diner. It is located near the Bishop Arts District in southwest Dallas, across the river from downtown. The Dallas area transit system – DART – has a free bus called D-Link that takes you from downtown to the Arts District. It was a quick and easy way to get there and see some of the surrounding neighborhoods. I was pleasantly surprised by how much public transit there is in this city and how easy it is to get around.

The Spiral has an extensive menu – breakfast, wraps, sandwiches, hot plates and homemade deserts. They also have a small vegan market. I had one of the quesadilla specials – Sweet Potato and Soyrizo Dilla – with sweet potato, chirizo and amazing melty cheese. Yummy, followed by a piece of peach-ginger pie.

Spiral dinner  Spiral books

They have books for sale and some on a shelf for you to read while eating. I found copies of books by Carol Adams and Marinite Patti Breitman.

One place I didn’t have time to check out, since I’m heading back to CA today, is Glazed Donut Works. It is just east of downtown in a neighborhood called Deep Ellum. Happy Cow says they offer one vegan option everyday. They have interesting hours – on Fridays they are open 7am–12noon and then again from 10:30pm–2am.

If I have the opportunity to visit Dallas again I’ll give them and other vegan options a try.

Another Timeless Brunch

Timeless_coffee

Yesterday, my daughter and I went to Timeless Coffee for brunch. If you are in the Bay Area on a Sunday morning, this is the place to be – but get there by or before 9:30 when they start serving brunch. We got there about 9:25 and the place was mostly empty. By the time we finished ordering brunch (and one of their yummy vegan cinnamon rolls) the place was packed. Note to self: order a coffee refill when you order brunch so you don’t have to wait in line to order a second cup.

Here was yesterday’s brunch selection

Waffle Bowl

and how it looked on the plate.

Timeless

It was delicious.

Walmart to Meat Producers – Act Nicer to Animals, Please

walmartThe headline at Huffington Post read – Walmart Asks Meat Producers To Treat Their Animals Better. Is this, in the words of Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States:

Walmart’s animal welfare announcement is game-changing progress and signals to agribusiness that the era of confining farm animals is ending

Or is it just another marketing gimmick?

Walmart’s Position on Farm Animal Welfare focuses on sustainability and states:

There is growing public interest in how food is produced and consumers have questions about whether current practices match their values and expectations about the well-being of farm animals.

Values? Gene Baur of the Farm Sanctuary asks people to eat in harmony with their values. What’s humane about slaughtering animals?

Expectations? Do consumers understand that marketing words like – Humanely-raised, Natural, Free-range, Cage-free and Sustainability – are meaningless?

The guidelines Walmart announced are not mandatory and there are no timelines for compliance. This is what Walmart is ASKING the meat, dairy and egg producers to do.

  • Report to authorities and take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action in any cases of animal abuse.
  • Adopt and implement the principles of the Five Freedoms in their own operations and industry producer programs, and publish a corporate policy on animal welfare.
  • Find and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns including, but not limited to:
    • Housing systems that lack sufficient space, enrichment or socialization (for example, sow gestation crates, hen battery cages and veal crates);
    • Painful procedures where avoidable or without pain management (for example, tail docking, de-horning and castration);
    • Euthanasia or slaughter without rendering an animal insensible to pain.
  • Promote transparency by providing an animal welfare report to Walmart and publicly reporting against their animal welfare policy on an annual basis.

To keep this post from getting any longer than it’s going to be, you can read the Five Freedoms in the Position paper or at, where else, Wikipedia. These Freedoms were originally developed 50 years ago in the UK. What impact have they had on the industrial agriculture system in the US? Not much that I can tell. A Google search found one reference to it in relation to animal agriculture.

It’s probably too early to tell how the animal agriculture industry will respond, but I did find one article written by JoAnn Alumbaugh, Editor and Brand Champion at PorkNetwork. She believes the first point above – related to animal welfare – was:

directed more toward activists than producers/suppliers. The undercover videos that activist groups stage in livestock facilities are edited and modified to expose alleged abuse over several months.

Yes, those nasty activists. If only they would mind their own business and let us get on with making money raising economic units animals. (PorkNetwork provides business information to stakeholders in the pork food system while enhancing the industry’s profitability, viability and tradition.)

Painful procedures? Here is what JoAnn has to say:

at the present time, no approved products are available for certain management practices, but the producers, veterinarians and animal health companies continue to work toward development and approval of products that can assist in pain management.

In other words – we know how to run our business and we know this is just a game we are all playing.

rather than dictating a timeline and requiring immediate changes based on the input of activist sources, it (Walmart) respects the knowledge and experience of its suppliers, and is moving forward to meet the needs of both consumers and suppliers.

In one of the many articles I read related to the Walmart announcement, it mentioned how Walmart’s push for sustainable practices led companies to reduce packaging or develop concentrated detergents. These changes were good for the environment, but even better, they were good for the bottom line of these companies. Reduce packaging costs, but don’t reduce prices. Win-Win for them.

The changes Walmart is asking of the animal agriculture business will cost them money – lots of money and will impact their “profitability, viability and tradition.” They will not make these changes willingly without pressure from consumers.

And, Walmart is asking for these changes in order to enhance their bottom line – to make consumers feel better about shopping there.

But these consumers need to wake up to the lies and distortions fed them by industry, academia and government. There is no humane meat when animals are raised as inexpensively as possible for one purpose – to be slaughtered.

No amount of “freedoms” will change that.

The Chocolate App – Eat Your Ethics

Chocolate ListSlavery free chocolate – there’s an app for that.

The Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) is a small non-profit here in the Bay Area that ascribes to the old adage – Think Globally, Act Locally. Their goal:

create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. We encourage choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, the unavailability of healthy foods in communities of color and low-income areas, and the importance of not purchasing chocolate that comes from the worst forms of child labor.

Locally they work with farm workers to improve their working and living conditions (including a yearly school supply drive for the children of these workers), and raising awareness about the food deserts in the Bay Area and working to get more fresh food into these areas.

Globally one of their primary projects is the issue of child labor and slavery in the chocolate industry.

Chocolate is a product of the cacao bean (commonly referred to as cocoa), which grows primarily in the tropical climates of Western Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Western African countries, mostly Ghana and the Ivory Coast, supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa. The cocoa they grow and harvest is sold to a majority of chocolate companies, including the largest in the world.

In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Since then, the industry has become increasingly secretive, making it difficult for reporters to not only access farms where human rights violations still occur, but to then disseminate this information to the public. … The farms of Western Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé—revealing the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery.

In order to help consumers buy chocolate sourced from areas free from slavery, F.E.P. created the Chocolate List and an app for iPhones and Android phones. The list looks at companies that sell vegan chocolate and is quite extensive. It is broken down into several categories – recommend, cannot recommend (and a subset of those working on the problem), and those companies that wouldn’t disclose suppliers or didn’t respond.

Please visit F.E.P.’s website, download the app and learn more about how the issues of social and economic justice are tied into the food we eat.

Farmers’ Market in Springtime

Tomatero Organic Farm

We are so lucky to live here in Marin County where the Farmers’ Market is year round. It can look a bit sparse during the winter months, not all the vendors come year round, but there is always fresh greens of some kind.

Now, though, I’m seeing more variety. Here are some images from last week’s Market.

The picture above is the stall for Tomatero Organic Farm. They have one of the largest stalls and there is usually a long line of people checking out. They are known here for the different varieties of strawberries they sell. All are wonderfully juicy and tasty.

The other large vendor that always has a large and beautifully arranged booth is Capay Organic Farm.

Capay Organic

Capay Organic

Last week was the first time I saw cherries and blueberries. Yum

Cherries

Blueberries

Still lots of other fruit available. Soon we’ll have stone fruits – peaches, plums, nectarines.

Oranges

It’s planting season for tomatoes. Lots of starter plants available.

Tomato plants

Finally, some beautiful flowering plants for sale.

Roses

Flowers

Is America Ready for Bernie Sanders?

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders, Independent Senator from my old home state of Vermont, is running for President in the Democratic primaries. This is a picture from the press conference he held today (April 30) on the lawn of the Capitol to talk about why he is running and take a few questions.

It was classic Bernie – no backdrop, no flash, he said up front that he didn’t have a lot of time (the whole press conference lasted less than 15 minutes).

What are the most pressing issues he sees that need to be addressed?

  • Income inequality – stopping the decline of the middle class
  • Repealing Citizen’s United
  • Raising taxes on the richest Americans and making sure corporations pay their fare share
  • Creating millions of new, decent paying jobs
  • Addressing climate change
  • Invest in infrastructure
  • Universal healthcare – implementing a Medicare for all system
  • Providing free college tuition

I lived in Vermont for 10 years. Bernie is one of the most accessible politicians I have ever met – and I met him several times, including in Burlington’s food co-op.

Contrary to popular belief, Vermonters are not all liberals. Most of the time we lived in Vermont, there was a Republican governor. One year when the governor and Bernie were running for reelection for different offices, I would see lawns with yard signs for both men. How could that be? I would hear more conservative Vermonters say that they didn’t agree with Bernie on every issue, but you always knew where he stood. The list of issues above are the same ones Bernie has been talking about for years.

He always ran his campaigns like he was running for the first time – even when he would regularly get 65+% of the vote. He would hold town hall meetings across the state, usually provide a meal, give a short speech and then take questions.

Will this scale for a nationwide campaign? I don’t know, but I hope he finds a way to reach the millions of people in this country who believe their vote and their voices don’t count. Bernie can give them a reason to believe he is on their side.

I do know that I am pleased to see him in this race – and hear him say over and over that he is in it to win.

As Rolling Stone’s Matt Tiabbi put it in his latest article – Give ’em hell, Bernie.

The Next System Project

Next System Project

If you believe, as I do, that there is a way out of the mess we’re confronted with in our country and our world, then take a look at this new initiative – The Next System Project.

The challenging realities of growing inequality, political stalemate, and climate disruption prompt an important insight. When the old ways no longer produce the outcomes we are looking for, something deeper is occurring.

It is time to explore genuine alternatives and new models—“the next system.” It is time to debate what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.

The stakes are too high, the time to get involved is now!

Defensive Omnivore Bingo

Defensive Omnivore BingoAll the greatest hits from your meat-eating friends and family are here. If the comments you get aren’t here, check out Defensive Omnivore Bingo II. This has been on the Internet for some time, but I thought it was worth sharing.

If you are having a hard time reading the image, here is a table version of the Bingo card.

Game On!

DEFENSIVE OMNIVORE BINGO
“If God didn’t want us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?” Begins to wax sentimental over some variety of meat that they could never give up. Asks where you get your protein. Brings up PETA. “I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to eat plants.”
Explains how they tried vegetarianism once and it didn’t work out. Argues that humans are different than other animals, and therefore eating them is morally justified. Argues that humans are no different than other animals, and therefore eating them…Lions eat zebras, right? Asks what would happen to the cows if we didn’t eat them. Feigns concern. Expresses concern for plant suffering.
Preaches to you about how preachy vegans are. Wonders how we’d grow enough food to feed us all if everyone went vegetarian overnight. Bingo! Asks why you care more about animals than human beings. Describes some highly unlikely hypothetical scenario in which you’d be forced to eat meat to survive.
Points out that some object you own contains some infinitesimal amount of animal product. “Do you eat fish?” Tells you all about the vegan somewhere who once did something wrong. Concludes all vegans are hypocrites. Mentions canine teeth. “Vegetarian: Indian word for ‘bad hunter’”
Describes the happy farm animal they once saw somewhere. Expresses a completely unrelated concern for starving children somewhere. Something irrelevant about cavemen. Wonders why you don’t make better use of all that time you waste not eating animals. Describes a vegan they once knew who suffered from some random ailment. Concludes it was caused by lack of meat.

 

Make Your Voice Heard – Dietary Guidelines – Updated

USDA-HHS logosFollowing up on my previous post about the Dietary Guidelines, I wanted to give you more information about submitting comments.

I created this one-page sheet (Update – submission period has been extended to May 8) with information about the new Guidelines and why it is so important to submit comments.

I heard author and nutritionist Marion Nestle interviewed on KPFA (Up Front, Feb. 25) last week. She talked about how critical it is that the public weigh in on these guidelines. Ms. Nestle blogs at Food Politics, her latest post is not very reassuring:

Yesterday’s Hagstrom Report (daily ag newsletter) quotes USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s comments to the Commodity Classic on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee:

The “folks who put those reports together … have freedom. They are like my 3-year-old granddaughter. She does not have to color inside the lines.”

His 5-year-old grandson, he said, “is learning about coloring within the lines.”

“I am going to color inside the lines,” Vilsack said.

Sounds like the USDA has no intention of doing what the DGAC recommends.

For those of you who don’t want to follow the link to find out about the Commodity Classic, I did, so you don’t have to.

Commodity Classic is where America’s farmers meet with success. Commodity Classic is open to all friends of corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum—from growers to member associations to agribusiness to farm media.  It’s a one-of-a-kind convention and trade show—farmer-focused and farmer-led.

I also found this quote from a Republican Senator from North Dakota in an article titled What’s the beef with meat? in the Dickinson (ND) Press.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in response to the USDA’s guidance that the committee should focus less on environmental impacts and solely on nutritional value of meals.

“The USDA should only focus on nutrition here. No extraneous factors should be taken into consideration,” Hoeven said. “We all want to have a healthy diet, especially for our children. That’s the main point. That’s what we need to be focusing on here.”

Please distribute the information about submitting comments widely. Big Ag, the ranchers and their congressional pawns are not going to give up without a fight.


I also wanted to point you to an online form created by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) related to another part of the Guidelines and recommendations about cholesterol. PCRM is headed by Dr. Neal Barnard, author of many books including Power Foods for the Brain.

The report has also reversed decades of warnings against cholesterol. Decades of science have conclusively linked dietary cholesterol to cardiovascular disease, which kills nearly 2,200 Americans daily. The Physicians Committee is urging the USDA and DHHS to exercise its authority to reiterate prior federal recommendations that Americans limit their cholesterol intake.

In a petition filed today to the USDA and DHHS, the doctors group asks that the DGAC’s findings stating that “[c]holesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” be disregarded because the DGAC deferred entirely to a 2013 report by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology and one meta-analysis of egg consumption. The reliance on the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology report does not comply with the spirit of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets standards for bias among federal advisory committees.

Please take the time to fill out their online form.