Buckwheat Granola

k.png
I found this recipe on Pintrest a few years ago and have loved it ever since. It’s so nice and satisfying in summer or winter. Buckwheat is neither a grain nor related to wheat, buckwheat is a seed. Therefore it is naturally gluten-free and hence safe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. Buckwheat has too many nutrients to list, but in combination with sunflower seeds, you can be sure that your nutritional needs can be well and truly met by this amazing granola.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1 and ½ cup of dates or sultanas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cocao powder
 INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 (180 degrees celsius) and line a pan with baking paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients  in a food processor and pulse until it all sticks together.
  3. Pour the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Take out of the oven and let cool completely.
  6. Break down into pieces and transfer to an airtight jar or container. Enjoy with soy or nut milk, topped with fruit.

Enjoy,

Meg x

Living By Your Values

One of the greatest opportunities to live our values – or betray them – lies in the food we put on our plates” ― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

m

What does it mean to live by your values? What is most important to you?  How do you feel when your behaviour is not in line with your own personal values?

Values play an important role in our emotional wellbeing. We feel authentic when our behaviour is aligned with our deepest values, numb when we’re indifferent to them or guilt and shame when we violate them. My line of work involves trying to convince people that they still have values and even more importantly deserve to have their values. People entrapped by addictions can be at the extreme end of this, were they often feel they have lost touch with their values completely and as a result experience feelings of utter meaninglessness. Your core values may be meaningful relationships, humanity, spirituality, creativity, nature – the list is endless. For me health and wellness is a core value. I think this originates from growing up in a family with heart, thyroid, weight and alcohol issues. The desire to be free of this has been present in me for as long as I can remember. Caring for the environmental has also been a core value of mine from a young age, which started when my grade three teacher taught us about greenhouse gases. And of course, I have always felt a closeness to pets and other animals that have come into my life – as I think everyone has. However, I ate animals up to the age of 20. Until then I was still not close enough to the animals that ended up on my plate. Back then I did not realise that identifying as an animal lover and eating meat was an oxymoron, that saying that I care about justice or equality and eating/wearing animal products was hypocritical. When I stopping eating animals I realised my previous thoughtless choices were in fact betrayals of my own personal values and that more thoughtful choices were in themselves joyful.

“To live an ethical life is not self-sacrifice, but self-fulfilment” – Peter Singer

Is it possible that vegans at times don’t live by their values? At a recent vegan activism workshop Professor Melanie Joy highlighted something so obvious yet so profound about personal values; people that are interested in social justice movements (women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights and animal rights etc) tend to be people or great integrity, or in other words, people that highly value personal integrity. Integrity tends to be associated with moral or ethical uprightness. The assumed moral superiority of vegans tends to get non-vegans on the defensive and into shaming arguments. These sorts of interactions are likely to going against many vegan’s values around empathy and compassion. As a result vegans may also experience feeling less aligned with personal integrity and more so with the opposite – hypocrisy.

“Most people would agree that practicing integrity precludes shaming. Integrity is the integration of values (such as compassion and justice) and practices, and when we shame others, we violate such values. So, shaming others — vegans and non-vegans alike — is simply unethical” – Melanie Joy

If you don’t know what your personal values are, explore them, align with them and its like magic. Simply making more thoughtful food choices was transformative not only in health and wellness but in my sense of self and the world around me. When I learnt of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in my first year of university I wondered how one could possibly reach self-actualisation.

589e80de61b254acbfedeaa4140a0311

But when I transitioned to veganism the following year I felt the exact characteristics that Maslow had described as self-actualisation, that I had studied so closely; achievement of one’s full potential through creativity, independence and a grasp of the real world. I don’t think this experience is unique to me or that I’m special. I think this experience of self-fulfillment is accessible to everyone who is brave enough to take their alignment from carnistic cultural values to their own personal values.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

Values Exploration worksheet: http://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/values-self-exploration.pdf

 

Effective Vegan Advocacy Workshop (Part 2)

Part 2: Sunday, 5th of March

Admittedly, I was a little late to the first Sunday session – Tobias’ presentation about Making Compassion Easier. But when I got settled, Tobias was discussing how people are more likely to do something if you don’t ask to much of them and the birth of the reducatarian movement. You may have heard of flexitarian (plant-based with occasional inclusion of meat), pescetarians (people who consider themselves vegetarian but eat fish that grows on tress) but reducatarians? I’d never heard of it. This is a definition of the movement from a reducatarian website:

“It is composed of individuals who are committed to eating less meat – red meat, poultry, and seafood – as well as less dairy and fewer eggs, regardless of the degree or motivation. This concept is appealing because not everyone is willing to follow an “all-or-nothing” diet. However, reducatarianism is still inclusive of vegans, vegetarians, and anyone else who reduces the amount of animal products in their diet.”

Cool, sounds legit. Tobias explained that we owe reducatarians a lot more credit. They have raised the demand for our animal-free products more than we ever could have alone. This phenomena Tobias likened to the gluten-free movement. Although on the one hand people with Celiac disease must be annoyed when people use the term “gluten-free” loosely because they have adverse reactions to even slight traces of gluten. On the other hand, the health-conscious-gluten-intolerant-or-avoidant people are to be thanked for giving people with Celiac disease an enormous increase in the amount of gluten-free products and menu items available to them.

2017-03-05 10.33.17

What does an increase in nut mylks, alternative meats and vegan menu items mean? It means that there is one less obstacle in place for people to transition to veganism – if they wish. Therefore, reducers make it easier for everyone to go vegan. Don’t diss the reducatarian, encourage them every chance you get! The reason this is an effective vegan advocacy strategy was counter-intuitive to me. We learn it psychology, to change behaviour you must change the thoughts, feelings, beliefs or attitudes from which the behaviours have manifest. I had always understood this as universal law. Tobias explained that actually, when it comes to veganism, it could actually be considered more effective to do the opposite, to get people to change their behaviour (try/enjoy vegan foods) and let their attitudes about veganism evolve as a symptom of that behaviour change.

Okay, next question, why might this be the case? Tobias shared that there was an interesting scientific study conducted in which people, the following is the abstract:

“People enjoy eating meat but disapprove of harming animals. One resolution to this conflict is to withdraw moral concern from animals and deny their capacity to suffer. To test this possibility, we asked participants to eat dried beef or dried nuts and then indicate their moral concern for animals and judge the moral status and mental states of a cow. Eating meat reduced the perceived obligation to show moral concern for animals in general and the perceived moral status of the cow. It also indirectly reduced the ascription of mental states necessary to experience suffering. People may escape the conflict between enjoying meat and concern for animal welfare by perceiving animals as unworthy and unfeeling.”

Tobias explained that it is easier to condemn something you are not participating in rather than something you are complicit in. Hence, shaming people who eat meat by telling them that they are doing a bad/cruel/inhumane/immoral thing (apparently, especially whilst they are in the act of this) is not only likely to start an argument/damage a relationship/perpetuate the angry vegan stereotype/lead to more denial, but it ineffective in advocating for animals.

This gets us to look at the big picture.

Tobias spoke about the different modalities of vegan advocacy. Of course traditionally, the only vegans were self-realised people who were working from a moral framework that eating animals is wrong (of which many vegans and non-vegans may agree). They might have picked some other “low hanging fruit” through their active or passive advocacy who also came to the realisation that it was/is wrong to eat animals. Although I can’t imagine the hit rate was not very high – obviously not, as people identifying as vegan a decade ago, were a scarce minority. Tobias explained that in the last decade there has been a new cog in the vegan machine – the health and environmental factors. I’m happy to share that this was the part were myself and some of my friends found our membership in the club, and we were in good company with thousands of people around the world (thanks to Forks over Knives and Cowspiracy!) Most recently and perhaps most significantly, we have entered the age of vegan businesses – the best way to get critical masses of people trying and enjoying vegan food and hence changing minds about veganism. Once critical masses of people are vegan or vegan-ish then it will be easier to get law reformed around animals killed for food.

“There is no moral obligation to present veganism as a moral obligation. Celebrate all the reasons people go more vegan” – Tobias Leenaert

2017-03-05 12.14.42

After a break Tobias run his second session about Effective Vegan Outreach. He gave about 10 noteworthy advocacy strategies including:

  1. Adapt your ask. Given everything covered above, really welcoming and encouraging people who are open to the idea of reducing is very effective. Even suggesting someone reduce their meat and dairy consumption is a lot less confronting and harder to deny than asking someone to change their ideology.
  2. Adapt your arguments. Your personal truth will not always resonate for others. I think I have been effective with almost passive vegan advocacy in the early days because I almost left animals out of the equation, telling people my story – of which the short version is that it was a health choice (if you are interested in my story in is the first blog post on my website). I think there is a perception that being vegan for the animals is a selfless act and being vegan for health is selfish, which may be true. However I am of the belief that over time the emotional, cognitive, spiritual and political aspects of the vegan voyage align and that you eventually end up as vegan for “all the reasons”. Be mindful not to ask people to run before they can walk.

“Any reduction is okay and any reason to reduce is okay” – Tobias Leenaert

  1. Put yourself in their shoes – you are not your audience. They have their reasons for eating meat, primarily they are likely to believe that it is normal, natural, necessary and/or nice. This may be infuriating to you as a vegan but remember back to a time when you were likely to share their same carnistic beliefs. Tobias used the term “vegan amnesia” – almost every adult vegan today is unlikely to have been vegan their whole life. Remembering your own justifications for meat eating helps us to be humble and show empathy to others.
  2. Apply basic psychology and communication skills. Sea Shepard is a wonderful organisation and they have a huge following from vegans and non-vegans alike. Why is this? Because people don’t eat whales in our culture! Even meat eaters in Australia aren’t complicit in the killing of whales. Also, Tobias spoke about how as vegans we feel we have so much to say and no reason to listen as we have heard it all before. Unfortunately this is to the detriment of the movement and the animals. Listen.
  3. Think about the impact will be over speaking your truth or winning an argument. Impact is doing or saying stuff that opens people to our cause. If it’s not going to opens a person’s heart or mind to veganism, is it still worth saying?

“What goes into your mouth is less important than what comes out of it” – Tobias Leenaert

  1. Forget purity and perfection. Hallelujah. I actually believe anyone with the boldness to call themselves vegan is wholly committed to avoiding animal products wherever possible, but sometimes mistakes are made and sometimes people get misunderstood and sometimes you don’t know what that additive on the label even is and sometimes you buy shoes thinking they are vegan then on closer inspection you find they have leather in the sole or whatever – I could go on. But these things don’t matter! It was so refreshing to be told this. That good enough is good enough. I already have pathological perfectionism, I don’t need to be giving myself a bad time about the occasional vegan blunder. When it comes to doing your research about how vegan goods and services are Tobias made an important distinction about public and private behaviour. And if there is that one person that demands of you, “did you check to see if that wine you’re drinking is vegan, I don’t think it is,” don’t take the bait. Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to be perfect and this doesn’t even make you a hypocrite! It makes you a person trying to do the least harm, the best way you know how. You can explain this to them and that when you’re eating out, you drink non-vegan wine if there is no vegan one available because that is you ethical bottom line – I like wine. The book I’m reading at the moment Living Among Meat Eaters suggests then asking an interrogator politely, “So, what is your ethical bottom line?”
  2. Use food. You can give people theoretical and practical information, a feeling when you speak to them but even better than any of those you can give them a taste experience. That is what they will remember.

“Food comes first, then morals” – Bertolt Brecht

  1. Be patient. It’s not up to you to turn the world vegan. Veganism is a young movement, around 95% of people aren’t on board, yet. Celebrate small changes.
  2. Advocate in a way you can sustain, keep yourself healthy as well as a healthy belief in people.
  3. Practice slow opinion by leaving dogma at the door. Be modest and understand that showing some self-doubt can be effective.

Tobias made several other interesting points during his presentation and his post-presentation discussion:

  • Let people have their exceptions if they want them, like “vegan except for cheese”
  • Reducing to chicken and fish is not a solution. The idea of starting by reducing red meat does not ethically stand up as less animals are killed in the production of “red meat” than “white meat” (my concern with this is the environmental impact of red meat)
  • Women may often be vegetarian/vegan as they identify with oppressed groups
  • The difference between meat eating and domestic violence etc is that one is condoned even celebrated, whereas the other is condemned.

Then we had this awesome lunch!

2017-03-05 13.04.53.jpg

The final session of the whole workshop was Melanie Joy’s presentation on Sustainable Activism. Melanie defined sustainability as the intake being greater or equal to the physical, emotional, social output. In regards to activism Melanie suggested that resilience must be greater than or equal to the stress response on our “psychosocial immune system”. As well as the slight hypocrisy of asking justice and compassion of others when we don’t practice the same for ourselves or others. Melanie suggested:

  1. Prioritise sustainability in your activism. You should aim to be here for a good time and a long time! Priorities are beliefs that are acted upon. This means, if you -like me – are planning on prioritising leisure and self-care, find practical ways to make this a reality. This might include time blocking (that is, clearing your schedule) for half an hour in the morning or night for meditation, or planning leisure with strictly no activism on the weekends.
  2. Get informed about Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder (STSD): often present in people who witness violence to others. More on this in a second, but similarly to PTSD there are triggers and symptoms. Get to know your own triggers and symptoms. For me a prominent one if watching artificial insemination procedures, the symptom of which is repulsion and a feeling of personal violation and helplessness. An awareness of these triggers and symptoms can help you avoid this imagery and hence reduce the stress associated.
  3. Become aware of your own physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual needs in a culture were self-neglect is the norm. When others don’t meet our needs we feel deprived and unattended too but the same is true for ourselves albeit more subtle.
  4. Then take care of your needs, they are normal, natural and necessary!

Melanie then elaborated on STSD including some of the common symptoms is traumatic framing or traumatic slitting in which a complex situation is framed by the individual as having a victim, perpetrator and hero. Melanie explains that she has observed this play out as animals being the victims, an individual’s significant meat eating others as the perpetrators and themselves – the vegan – being the hero. Traumatic framing is rigid thinking and can be associated with perfectionism. Another symptom of STSD Melanie described with was very close to home for me was that of survivors guilt. For those that don’t know, this is guilt after surviving (or not having had to survive) a terribly traumatic event or life. I have literally said to myself and to other vegan friends that I watch graphic factory farming footage through a feeling of obligation because I have such a good life by comparison; “the least I can do is watch.” But in fact you don’t have to over-witness – it induce a stress response and that stress response can have an accumulative affect. If someone asks you to watch you could say “I’m at my maximum capacity for traumatic material.” If you wish to show people traumatic material, such as factory farming footage, it’s important to get their consent. Some other STSD symptoms include:

  • A sense that you can never do enough
  • Minimising the suffering of others (by comparison to animals)
  • Avoiding and feeling overwhelmed by others
  • Disassociative moments (feeling disconnected from the self/world)
  • Guilt, helplessness and/or hopelessness
  • Increased anger
  • Cynicism and/or loss of faith in humanity
  • Grandiosity
  • Intrusive thoughts or images
  • Sleep disturbances

STSD is both the cause and consequence of self-neglect. Learn how to meet your own needs, so you can advocate for the animals for as long as possible.

It was a privilege and a joy to learn so much from two incredibly humble activists. I could never thank them enough for coming to Melbourne, it was an experience I will never forget.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

Tobias’s presentations including some of the ones included in this workshop: http://veganstrategist.org/vegan-strategy/

For more on reducatarianism: https://reducetarian.org/

A website and book Melanie Joy recommended: http://traumastewardship.com/

Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows – Melanie Joy

Living among meat eaters – Carol J Adams

Melanie Joy’s website: https://www.carnism.org/

Tobias’s blog: http://veganstrategist.org/

Effective Vegan Advocacy Workshop (Part 1)

2017-03-04 10.06.57

Part 1: Saturday, 4th of March

This post has been a long time coming – it was over a week ago since I attended but the sheer volume of things that I learnt meant there was a lot to process. The first day of the workshop was held at the Victoria State Library. The first session was named Making a Difference for Animals and was presented by Tobias, also known as, the Vegan Strategist. Tobias spoke from an effective altruism point of reference (I’m going to be blogging about this shortly also) in deciding how to best make a difference from animals, for example, by means of “spare time” advocacy like volunteering for Animals Australia, Internet advocacy  like what I’m doing right now or advocating for animals though your choice of career. Tobias discussed the choice between not for profit vs profit in careers in animal advocacy – profit is not a dirty word, especially if you’re creating alternative products for mainstream consumption and hence taking animals out of the food chain. Moreover, making handsome money and donating 10% (or more) to effective animal organizations (the bedrock of effective altruism) is a great way to make a difference for animals. Of all money donated to charity 99% is donated to “people” based charities and of the 1% is donated to animal based charities, only a measly 0.015% is donated to farmed animals. More on this issue in future posts.

2017-03-04 10.55.19

After a break, my role model Dr Melanie Joy did a presentation on Effective Communication. This is obviously hugely important not only in vegan advocacy but in daily life. Melanie discussed effective communication to be a method and set of skills including the following:

  1. Integrity – Melanie discussed how people passionate about social justice movements tend to be people of high integrity as they care about demonstrating their values though their behaviours. This can be true in most areas of life, but sometimes forgotten in communication. She discussed how it is important to remain empathic and consider what you look like through the others eyes, no matter how passionate you are about an issue.
  2. Process over content – Content is the “what” of communication, process is the “how”. Melanie discussed how regardless of how convincing or well-rehearsed your vegan speech is, people remember how you made them feel in a communication. Did an interaction leave the other feeling shamed or sustained? Ultimately, an unhealthy communication process is shaming and shamed people do one of two things – withdraw or attack. At its core, Melanie proposed the profoundly insightful concept that shaming another (for anything) is fundamentally unethical.

“The best way to get someone to do the opposite of what you want them to do is to shame them for their behaviour” – Dr. Melanie Joy

  1. The Four C’s of Communication:

Curiosity – “open mindedness” this is art of being curious about other people’s thoughts and beliefs even if you’re heard it before and/or disagree. Try to foster a genuine, interested, curiosity in what others are proposing or asking of you. If someone tells you they love animals, telling them they don’t because they eat them is “defining another’s reality” – in their reality they can and do love some and eat others. Telling them they don’t is then a shaming experience and people with either withdraw or attack, either of which renders the situation a lost cause in the way of effective vegan advocacy. Instead, by remaining curious about another’s love of animals (“what is it you love about animals?”, “tell me more about how much you love your dog”) people feel heard and will be more likely to want to hear us in return.

Compassion – “open heartedness” in effective communication is about not seeking perfectionism in others and being kind and encouraging with where others are right now, not where you’d prefer them to be. If you find yourself loosing compassion in a communication and it goes past the point of no return, do yourself a favor and stop the conversation.

Clarity – this is a skill that is often referred to in counselling as paraphrasing, and basically refers to repeating back (obviously not parroting) what you’ve interpreted the other to be saying. This is validating for people in that they can feel heard, or it can give them the opportunity to correct you. When done well, clarifying can also be a good opportunity to challenge carnistic defenses you detect in conversation such as “I hear you have felt really connected to animals but at some point in your life you made a distinction about which animals are edible and which are not, would that be fair to say or have I misinterpreted what you said?” It should go without saying, you can only challenge carnistic defenses you actually hear, don’t set out to challenge a particular carnistic defense from the outset of the conversation.

Courage – it takes courage to make oneself vulnerable in conversation with another. If someone is courageous enough to make themselves vulnerable to you about the shallowness of their justification for meat eating, honor that vulnerability. I like to tell people about my own transition, the grief associated with the loss of an easy, convenient life following the path of least resistance. I like to tell them about the dreams I initially had about sausage rolls and sadness experienced when you feel misunderstood and shamed by your family and significant others, but that even despite that hardship it is still the most fulfilling and empowering decision I have made about my life.

  1. Don’t equate difference with others with deficiency. In the book I’m currently reading there is also a real emphasis on this concept, that differences don’t equate to incompatibility. We are different from others, from meat eater and from other vegans alike. Conflict is normal and the way that we manage conflict is important.
  2. Don’t become a lazy communicator. Word choice is so trivial in conversation, yet so important in how our message is received by other. For example, saying “good work but…” is almost always received by another as criticism which can be shaming, whereas “good work and…” can be effective in encouraging change.
  3. Become self-observing of your thoughts, feelings and needs otherwise they may be “acted out”. Becoming vegan comes a whole new paradigm of looking at the world, whilst it is full of joy, there can often be a feeling of living among great global injustice and suffering. Developing the ability to observe and express one’s thoughts, feelings and needs safely and constructively, rather than say, yelling at someone eating McDonalds, is an important part of impulse control, personal development and self-care.
  4. Have a healthy agenda. Do you enter particular conversations with an agenda? An agenda to convince the other to go vegan or an agenda to be right? This is not an effective communication strategy as it is difficult to cultivate the four C’s when you have a hidden, or not so hidden agenda. It is also import to recognise that some people will try to engage you about veganism but have an agenda themselves not to listen and want to argue for arguments sake. In this way, one learns to only invest energy and time into people referred to as the “low hanging fruit”. These are the people that need only perhaps to feel supported in their transition into the brave new world. These are people who are likely to value personal integrity and justice, who are genuinely interested in speaking to you to change from their current meat eating paradigm, who are already highly empathic and perhaps contemplating change. They are ripe for the picking!
  5. Don’t define others reality. Allow others to be the expert of their own experience, even if you have a psychology degree – you are not a mind reader. We have our realities defined by our parents as children, “you can’t be hungry, you just ate”, “you were embarrassed in class? Oh, it wasn’t that bad”. Even with the best of intensions, defining others reality is experienced by the other as shaming. But we live in a shaming culture! You have had it done to you and you have done it to others, we are all guilty of doing it – vegans do this often by telling meat eaters they don’t love animals because they eat them. We can disagree with others without defining others reality, in many empathic ways. So, how do we get out of the mess that is defining others reality in the first instance? Firstly, don’t assume you understand others reality, use the four C’s to foster connection and understanding and watch the magic happen.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Steven Covey

2017-03-04 13.05.53 (1)

Above was the free lunch provided – thanks Animals Australia!

Effective Communication continued: Listening. Easier say than done, right? Melanie spoke about judging being the mental counterpart to shame. Therefore, fostering non-judgement through the use of four C’s facilitates the other to feel accepted and understood. Giving non-verbal cues and feedback is important in effective listening to maintain not only acceptance and understanding but also power and control. If you withhold non-verbal and verbal feedback, the other will usually feel manipulated, as though they shared more than was safe to tell you. Also, there will be times were you are actually not up to listening, for me this around 5.30PM, were I can hardly string a sentence, let alone actively listen. In identifying blocks of time were it is difficult you for to listen, you do yourself and the other a great service by postponing an important conversation to a more appropriate time.

Melanie expressed an effective way to effectively express yourself… A strategy called whole messages derived from a non-violent communication approach. It is a strategy that can be integrated into everyday communications but is particularly effective in communicating sensitive matters, such as your vegan values to your loved ones.

Observation – what have you observed objectively, an eye roll, huffing and puffing, a specific put down?

Thought or perception – what was your subjective experience of this observation, what did you think?

Emotion What emotion did it evoke in you? 

Need What do you need or what would you prefer they do instead in future? See example used in workshop below.

2017-03-04 15.29.09

Melanie touched on something really validating to me; that people want to be in our lives have an obligation to make an effort to understand our inner world – what veganism means to us. This of course applies to everything, not just veganism. You don’t have to be a football fanatic to love a footballer but you are obliged to gain an understand of what football means to them, educating yourself about the rules of the game can be helpful and spectating and supporting even it times of loss or hardship fosters reliability and trust. I think veganism can be pushed outside this realm of mutual relationship obligations as it is often politically charged and culturally taboo, however, when it comes to relationships with others, it is no different to football. Once people get over the shock and horror, they realise that veganism isn’t really that strange after all and that vegan food actually tastes alright!

During a communications emotions can be high. Melanie recommended the following:

  1. Try to catch yourself before you’re too triggered
  2. Notice when your emotions start to intensify
  3. Share your emotions (e.g. “a part of me is really angered by what you just said”, “I’m having a strong reaction to what you just said”)
  4. Manage your emotions, stop a conversation if you need too
  5. Attend to others emotions if appropriate and assure them

The final session of the day was on vegan advocacy skills.

Melanie proposed three key obstacles to effective vegan advocacy:

  1. Not knowing ones audience, know when to advocate and when not to
  2. Underdeveloped advocacy skills, particularly communication skills
  3. Emotional reactivity and secondary traumatic stress disorder, advocating even though it is compromising you own well being

Melanie spoke about how the facts don’t sell the ideology. People are suspicious of “facts”, so reeling off facts is not an effective way to engage someone in a conversation about veganism. Another ineffective means of advocacy is “taking the moral high ground”. Melanie explained that even if you don’t explicitly claim to be “more moral” than a meat eater, we’re seem as moralist as we are siding with a victim, even though we are not the direct victim of oppression and violence. Melanie explained that it is easier to leave morality out of discussions about veganism, as you can believe meat eating is immoral and still engage in the behaviour, as most philosophers do. Melanie stated that she does not believe vegans to be more moral than non-vegans, as this is a very one dimensional view of a person. This segment was followed by question time in which one person shared that he does feel he has greater morality than meat-eaters. Melanie explained that even if vegans are “more moral” than meat-eaters, taking the moral high ground does not serve vegans or the movement, as it is ultimately shaming of others, which is ineffective in advocating for animals.

Who is more moral; a humanitarian who eats meat or a vegan that bullies people? – Melanie Joy

Instead of getting caught up in issues of morality, Melanie advised the following:

  • If someone asks you if you’re vegan, a personable response is “I am today but for much of my life I wasn’t”. I think this highlights that there is no moral high ground, and that changing food choices is just a behaviour change, of which anyone is capable
  • When someone asks you why you are vegan, don’t reel facts, instead share your story, the shorter and sweeter the better.
  • Through your story illuminate carnistic defences if possible, such as “I wasn’t seeing the meat that I was eating as a sentient being/individual”, “I thought I needed to eat meat to survive” etc
  • Remember your own carnism and the lens though which you used to see the world, think back to the language you used to use and incorporate your bilingualism into the conversation
  • Avoid “allergen words”. Even though as vegans we know dairy to be rape and meat to be murder, these words are of course disgust-invoking and taboo to speak about in our culture. You can communicate your message without shaming people with allergen words.
  • Keep it positive, put an emphasis on why it has been a great decision for you, for your health, wellbeing and spirituality.

“Effective vegan advocacy is communicating in a way that increases the chances the other will allow themselves to be influenced. It is not “changing” hearts and minds, but rather “opening” hearts and minds”

Next post: Part 2: Sunday, 5th of March

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows – Melanie Joy

Living among meat eaters – Carol J Adams

Melanie Joy’s website: https://www.carnism.org/

Tobias’s blog: http://veganstrategist.org/

But How Do You Even Know its All True? And the Different Approaches to Veganism

“The question is not: “Can they reason?” Nor: “Can they talk?” But: “Can they suffer?”  – Jeremy Bentham

13221486_875601432565670_2134885855561463844_n

When I started to university – for what felt like the first time ever – I was around people with absolutely polar values to my own. I remember being astounded that there were people that I really liked and respected, who wanted to vote in a far-right conservative Prime Minister! Initially I was offended and deeply saddened to learn that there were people in this world who did not share my vision of investment in health and education in Australia, of improving social and financial equality for women and for increasing foreign aid and committing lower carbon emissions targets and other green initiatives. There is a level of maturity and wisdom required to not just listen to, but to try to understand views which oppose you own – something that took me a long time to acquire. Obviously, given the almost 30 previous posts regarding the health benefits, significantly lower environmental footprint and elimination of animal exploitation – veganism is the best ethical approach for me to live a life most aligned with my values.

“The most ethical diet just so happens to be the most environmentally sound diet and just so happens to be the healthiest” ― Dr. Michael Greger

However, I have been questioned about how true Cowspiracy could be and told that its propaganda – though these are fun to discuss at the end of the day, the discussion is with people who don’t understand the relationship between animal agriculture and climate change. The simple fact is: the science is in, so now we turn to philosophy.

Ethics is a branch of moral philosophy that guides people about the basic human conduct, or social guidelines based on principles. Ethics differ from law in that laws are rules and regulations that have specific penalties when violated. As veganism is purely a foundation of ethical guidelines, it is only natural that there are a few different approaches to ethical veganism.

The Utilitarian Approach

Peter Singer is often referred to as the Father of the Animal Rights movement having published his bestselling book Animal Liberation (sometimes referred to as the Bible of the Animal Rights Movement and often cited by animal studies scholars) in 1975. Peter Singer is a contemporary utilitarian philosopher and considered one of the most influential living philosophers. Classical utilitarianism is a philosophical theory that suggests an action is morally right if it benefits the largest number of beings with the greatest good. Jeremy Bentham’s is considered the founder of modern utilitarian philosophy (you may have recognised his quote above). In Animal Liberation Peter Signer argues that everyone is equal (at least from the reference point of the Universe), regardless of age, sex, race or species. He therefore goes on to argue that we ought to consider the needs and interests of others, which is equally inclusive of animals – who in fact have just as much capacity to experience pain and suffering as well as enjoyment and happiness as humans do. Peter is a negative utilitarian so his arguments are usually based on not so much wanting to maximise the pleasure or happiness of animals, so much as minimising their pain and suffering. Peter doesn’t eat or wear animal products, but has said that he may if he is travelling or eating at someone else’s house. He has apparently sat in a cage to draw attention to the plight of battery hens and he has been arrested for attempting to photograph confined sows on a pig farm partly owned by former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, he has also stood as a Green candidate for the Australian Senate. Peter Signer and has been physically assaulted and condemned by disabled rights protesters angered by his comparisons between the capacities of intellectually disabled humans and nonhuman animals and received hate mail for his advocacy of voluntary euthanasia and infanticide. Criticisms of Peter’s work and the utilitarian approach to animal rights includes Peter’s notion that being a “conscientious omnivore” is a “defensible ethical position” as not everyone will want to go vegan but they can reduce the harms their food choices inflict. Singer equates the abolitionist approach (discussed shortly) as “purist” or “fanatical” because abolitionists maintain that we cannot justify any animal use. Gary Francione has particularly criticised Peter Singer about his notion that one can be justified eating animal products which would otherwise be wasted (from products found dumpster diving to eating cheese if the pasta you order without the cheese comes out with it sprinkled on it) as this can be observed by others as veganism not being a moral issue.

“If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering – insofar as rough comparisons can be made – of any other being” ― Peter Singer, Animal Liberation

The Reformist/Welfarist/Protectionist Approach

As far as I can tell, there is a school of thought which is called various names including reformist, welfarist and protectionist approach. These people seek incremental reform in how animals are treated, with a mission to ending animal use entirely, or almost entirely. Peter Singer could be included in this school of thought, based on his underlying philosophical standpoint on various other issues. Some vegan groups also advocate for incremental change to both farming practices but also for people to make incremental changes to diet in the transition to veganism. The RSPCA, PETA and Vegan Outreach all have a missions to serve the interests of animals, primary the interest not be in pain or suffering, with different ideas about how this can be achieved. The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme, Meat-free Monday, Veganuary (going vegan in January) are all animal welfare campaigns which raise awareness of the plight of animals and encourage a reduction in the harms and/or consumption of animals. There are various single-issue campaigns also, perhaps the most notorious being the anti-fur campaign. Are these effective? I have a pretty unique perspective on this given than my day job involves drug and alcohol rehabilitation. As most people know, this sector is underpinned by two schools of thought: harm reduction, which involves needle and syringe programs etc and abstinence-based programs such as Alcoholic or Narcotics Anonymous. The Day Program I facilitate groups within is funded as an abstinence-based program, however we understand that people just won’t go from heavy, chronic use to abstinence overnight just because we tell them too, so we embed harm reduction strategies throughout the six week program. I believe that our culture is quite literally addicted to animal products in the same way that some of the people with the culture are addicted to drugs. If you tell someone to abstain from drugs or animal products, even if you tell them all the reason why they ought to, more often than not – you lose them. Encouraging them to reduce their use in the early stages, then to try new things whether that be an art group for an addict or an alternative cheese product for an aspiring vegan – people respond. If someone abstained from drugs or animal products for the month of January and realised how amazing they felt, you have albeit facilitated the change which that person has made in their own life, which they own. It is for this reason that I personally feel there is room in the vegan movement for reformist, welfarist, protectionist, whatever you wanna call it, approaches – which may just be the entry point into lifelong veganism for some people. And ultimately, people don’t realise how good veganism is until they are vegan.

The Abolitionist Approach

The term abolitionist is a relatively knew one for me, but there are concepts from it that I have believed to be true since I first started learning about the issues for animals but also others which I never considered. The main man behind the movement is Professor Gary J Francione, who believes veganism is a moral imperative. Gary has outlined six principles of the abolitionist approach to animal rights:

  1. Abolitionists maintain that all sentient beings, human or nonhuman, have one right – the basic right not to be treated as the property of others.
  2. Abolitionists maintain that our recognition of this one basic right means that we must abolish, and not merely regulate, institutionalised animal exploitation, and that abolitionists should not support welfare reform campaigns or single-issue campaigns
  3. Abolitionists maintain that veganism is a moral baseline and that creative, nonviolent vegan education must be the cornerstone of rational animal rights advocacy.
  4. The Abolitionist Approach links the moral status of nonhumans with sentience alone and not with any other cognitive characteristic; all sentient beings are equal for the purpose of not being used exclusively as a resource.
  5. Abolitionists reject all forms of human discrimination, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, and classism—just as they reject speciesism, it uses a morally irrelevant criterion (species) to discount and devalue the interests of sentient beings.
  6. Abolitionists recognize the principle of nonviolence as a core principle of the animal rights movement.

The criticisms of Gary Fracione and the abolitionist approach is the “pie in the sky thinking” and creating divisiveness within people within the animal rights movement whom are not “vegan enough”. I am a fan of Gary Francione’s Facebook videos on various “Thoughts of the Day” but several times he has discussed issues that make me fearful I am not vegan enough, such as eating chips that aren’t cooked in lard but are liekly to have have been cooked in oil animals products have been cooked in – ek.  Though animal exploitation is currently the status quo, the evolution to animal rights is the primary interest of everyone in the animal rights community and abolishing the use of all animals for human’s means should remain the utopian goal in the revolution against speciesism. During this process, in the words of Martin Luther King, our means must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have the upmost respect for the careers of both Peter Singer and Gary Francione.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

Animal Liberation – Peter Singer

Eat Like You Care – Gary Francione

For all things related to the abolitionist approach: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/

Interesting article about a reformed abolitionist: http://veganstrategist.org/2015/10/03/confessions-of-an-abolitionist/

Jacobs Creek Food and Wine Master Class (Barossa Valley)

img_6600

I have been wanting to go to the Barossa Valley and surrounding vineyards since I acquired a taste for red wine (admittedly when I was only just of legal drinking age!) So when Pat and I decided to have a long weekend in Adelaide I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit. I knew I wanted to learn more about wine but was apprehensive about whether I would be able to be catered for, given the cheese and steak culture surrounding particularly red wine. Pat did the booking over the phone and reassured me that they could cater for me.

We meet Annie our tour guide (I prefer Wine Teacher) and I then realised this Master Class was based around food pairing, which I hadn’t realised prior to arriving! Annie informed me that I was the first vegan to book into a tour at Jacobs Creek! Aside from feeling as though I had probably put them out a little, I was pretty chummy about that title. To add to that excitement, she also explained that they are looking to offer a greater selection of vegan food and alternative wines in both their tours and restaurant. Bliss. Annie explained that the tour would be run as it normally does for Pat and the other couple and that Annie would guide me in a similar way, although I had different wines and different dishes – the principles of wine and food pairing are the same.

img_6595

The wines I had the pleasure of tasting were from left: 2014 Jacobs Creek Earth, Vine, Grape Shiraz Cabernet, 2012 Biodynamic Jacobs Creek Shiraz (2012 was a particularly good vintage for Jacobs Creek) and 2014 Jacobs Creek Organic Shiraz. Rest assured there wasn’t a drop left of any by the end of the tour. Biodynamic? Organic? Yes, wine is derived from grapes and so as with any fruit it can be grown conventionally with pesticides or organically without. Biodynamics is a philosophy comprising sustainable soil fertility, the connection between plant growth and the “rhythms of the cosmos”. I purchased the Biodynamic Shiraz as I have never tasted anything like it. The grapes were hand picked from vines that were more than one hundred years old in McLaren Vale (a neighbouring region to the South which we also visited), on a fruit day (full moon).

We learned about how to swirl the wine in the glass to get a stronger smell (by adding oxygen); how to describe the scent and the taste in terms of the unique grape DNA, that may be fruity, woody etc and the tannins of wine. Tannins is a new term for me and its a bit complicated but in very basic terms it is a chemical compound found in plant matter – also found in tea and coffee – which is to describe the character and the quality of red wine. Tannins is an important term in wine tasting as it basically describes the “mouth feel” or “bitter” taste, a nice red may simply just be described a “tannic”. The darker the wine the “longer” the tannis and hence the more “drying” or “longer” the mouth feel. Interesting, Dr Paul Smith, a chemist at the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI, in Adelaide) suggests wine tannins are considered more complex than grape tannins due to the various chemical reactions that occur during wine making and storage.

img_6596-2

Annie informed me that her and the chef, Shaun, had spent the last few days creating and testing these dishes to check which wine they paired with and if the balance was right – they did a mighty fine job! The first dish was grilled zucchini and green herb sauce (a light sort of vinaigrette) which was paired with the Cabernet Shiraz. The two together radically changed due to the acidity of both, in significantly shortening the tannis and hence enhancing subtle fruity flavours in the wine. The second dish the oyster mushroom risotto was a similar love story albeit a little less dramatic. Moving on to the third and fourth dish was a step up of tannic proportions. Paired with my favourite of the three wines, the eggplant and red capsicum crumb and the salt and pepper tofu with loganberry and sage relish was a highlight for me. The sweetness of the loganberry with the truly unique tannic taste of the Biodynamic Shiraz almost bought a tear to my eye.  The fifth dish was a real dark horse; the kale fried in olive oil and salt then baked in the oven with the potato was perfectly complimentary with the organic Shiraz. Any more salt would have thrown out the balance and using oil increased the fat content to make it a match made it heaven. Finally, the beetroot, olive salsa and tarragon was the vegan equivalent of steak and red. The earthy flavour of the beetroot, the fat from the olive salsa, the freshness of the tarragon and the tannis of the Shiraz made for a party in my mouth.

Here is a quick rule of thumb for wine and food pairing I found on Wine Folly:

  1. Acidity in wine pairs well with fatty and sweet foods (acid + acid)
  2. Fatty foods need either an acidic or high alcohol wine (think Shiraz or port), otherwise the wine will taste flabby.
  3. Bitter (or Tannic) wine can be balanced with a sweet food or fatty food
  4. Salty shouldn’t compete with acidity in wine. Use sparingly as necessary to keep sharpness in the meal (salty + sweet)
  5. Sweet food/wine benefits from a little acidity.
  6. Alcohol can be used to cut through fatty foods or balance a sweet dish.

This was one of the most incredible experiences and I shared it with someone I love so much (who is actually a non-drinker) but there is an elephant in the room. The wine might be organic and biodynamic but is it vegan? Traditionally, the most commonly used fining agents are casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein) which are used to clarify the wine. They are not additives to the wine, but animal products are used nonetheless. You might be okay with this, you might not. I’m not sure if the wine I had was vegan friendly though we could probably assume that it wasn’t. The traditional wine-making process is not going to change over night but there is a vegan friendly wine revolution starting. If you have the option to purchase a wine which is vegan friendly of course there is all the better reason to indulge. If a traditionally cheese and steak winery is prepared to accommodate food and wine pairing for a wine loving vegan – I’m going to sing their praises, it was an extraordinary experience.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

To read more about the wine making process: http://www.jacobscreek.com/au/winemaking/shiraz

To read more about food and wine pairing: http://winefolly.com/tutorial/food-and-wine-pairing/

To read more about differing wine strengths: http://winefolly.com/tutorial/the-lightest-to-the-strongest-wine/

To read more about Tannis in wine: http://www.wineanorak.com/tannins.htm

What makes wine vegan? Plus link to purchase vegan wine: https://www.organicwine.com.au/what-makes-a-wine-vegan

The Ethics of Australia Day

Veganism encompasses social justice for people and for animals. Only during my university education did I learn what I consider to be the shocking truth about Australia Day. Perhaps the Anglo-Saxon population (of which I have membership) look at the colonisation of Australia on the 26th of January in 1977 as a victory, but for the people that were here for around 60,000 years before it was the most devastating event in their history – which just so happens to be the world’s oldest culture.

My ancestry is convicts from England shipped over to Sydney and Tasmania (correct me if I’m wrong here Nan). I have never identified with this ancestry and am not a fan of the monarchy. Though I confess I also did not learn much about Aboriginal history or culture provided in the curriculum in Grade 9, I feel sure that it was a taught from the British perspective (that is, a British victory and land “gifted” to us white people opposed to “stolen”). A few years ago I heard of Australia Day referred to as Invasion Day and I was genuinely ignorant as to why that was. In my first year of university I learnt that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s life expectancy is 17 years less than that of non-indigenous people. There are many reasons associated with this including the introduction of alcohol from Britain of which Aboriginal people do not have the gut enzyme to metabolise and the devastating spiritual fracture inflicted on them when their land and children were stolen. Since I had my consciousness raised about this issue, it has disgusted me at we celebrate Australia Day on the 26th of January. On this day last year my house mates at the time and I had our housewarming. I asked one of my housemates if we could do an acknowledgement of country before lunch, of which he responded “why would we do that?” The disrespect that is demonstrated to indigenous Australian’s over the last 200 odd years is quite profound:

  • Genocide, violence and rape
  • A generation of children stolen from their parents
  • Dispossession and denial of land 
  • Black slavery (as well as people of Asian ethnicity) in Australian sugar and pearling industries
  • Putting the Union Jack (England’s flag) on the Australian flag (I grew up listening to We Must Have A Flag of Our Own by John Williamson – thanks Dad)
  • Overt and covert discrimination and racism
  • Overwhelmingly larger population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples incarcerated compared to white Australians
  • Housing crisis, inaccessible health care and other forms of social poverty, exacerbated by a lack of government funding
  • John Howard refusing to say sorry
  • Celebrating our national day on the anniversary of the date that the Australian Aboriginal genocide started

To change the date of the national day to any of the other 364 days of the year that aren’t the anniversary of Aboriginal invasion would be a remarkable symbol of respect and a great step in our reconciliation with the traditional custodians of Australia. I want a date where the national day can be celebrated by everyone, which doesn’t ask of Aboriginal people to “stomp of the graves of their ancestors”. Thinking we can keep the date and just be more sympathetic to our national history on the same day is an example of wishful thinking at best, and white privilege at worst. Changing the date is a matter of social justice.

The other things that makes me not overtly enthusiastic about celebrating Australia Day is the carnistic association of meat eating with being Australian. Vegetarian and comedian Dave Hugh’s did a marketing campaign for The Alt Meat Co about the not needing to eat Animals to be Australia’s. Just days before, the annual Australia Day Lamb ad romantisied the colonisation of Australia making out as though captain Phillip got of his ship and shook hands with the Aboriginal people. Building on their vegan bashing efforts of last years campaign, the 2017 ad depicted what could only be described as hippies walking along the shore, the main actor thenasking the actor beside him “should I make a vegan joke?” “Nahhh” was the response however the ostracism of vegans is clear and so was the covert message that meat eating is part of Australian culture. However, eating baby sheep on Australia Day is not cultural, it is cruel.

This notion of culture and tradition begs an interesting question; should aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people be vegan? My opinion – no. The aboriginal people have a strong spiritual connection to their land and food. They do not traditionally farm animals or own them, they hunt and they gather their food. Farm animals, alcohol, sugar and other processed foods were introduced to them after British settlement – to their detriment. Aboriginals in Arnham Land don’t buy farmed animals neatly packaged from the fridge at Coles. We on the other hand have a choice about what food we buy to eat – it can be an uninformed and cruel choice or an informed and kind choice. You decided.

So what can you do?

  • Do an acknowledgement of country, regardless of who that makes uncomfortable around you
  • Talk about this important issue with the people that are important to you to raise consciousness.
  • Celebrate the beauty of our country in nature
  • Learn what you can do to help to Close the Gap
  • To learn about the issues watch SBS series First Contact
  • Advocate to change the day so we can celebrate our beautiful country with all Australians, suggestions have been for Federation Day (January 1st since it occurred in 1901) or Mabo Day (June 3rd since Eddie Mabo in 1992, a Torres Strait Islander, won after a 10 year fight to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands connection to their land acknowledged by law, both before and after British colonisation. Eddie died 5 months before the High Court recognised this right by law) or May 8, mmm8888888 because “it may be cold in May but not as cold as ignoring genocide”
  • Be kind in your acknowledgement of both what this national day means to other Australians and put vegetables on the BBQ, not baby animals.

For me today is going to include drinking beer and watching Australia beat Pakistan in the last game of the One Day International cricket series in Adelaide. More importantly, I have been reflecting deeply on what it means to be Australian, and how or if, as a country we can reconsile the pain and suffering inflicted on the traditional custodians of the land. And as being born human is the most invisible yet prominant form of privilege there is, I also reflect on if we can ever reconcile with all the animals domesticated in this country after British settlement; born to be enslaved, stolen from their parents and born to die – killed for a thing we call culture.

I am sorry.

We would like to Acknowledge that the land we meet on today is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and that we respect their spiritual relationship with their Country. We also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today – Reconciliation South Australia

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

To read more about the colonisation of Australia: http://australianstogether.org.au/stories/detail/colonisation

To watch and read the criticism about how the annual Australia Day Lamb ad romanticises genocide (and puts down vegans): http://www.mamamia.com.au/lamb-ad-2017-criticism/

Close the Gap: https://www.oxfam.org.au/what-we-do/indigenous-australia/close-the-gap/

To read more about Mabo Day: https://www.reconciliation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/NRW2014_3-June-Mabo_FactS.pdf

What is Privilege? https://www.buzzfeed.com/nicolaharvey/what-is-privilege?utm_term=.ecgEWx8ovo#.hm0Byq9303

Take the pledge to Love Lambs this Australia Day: http://www.animalsaustralia.org/australia-day?ua_s=facebook

Dave Hughs addresses Australia for The Alt Meat Co: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnSYeojvPOM