A vegan journey

A vegan journey

A vegan journey

By Lori Lovely

 

It was a lovely spring day many years ago when a teenager was riding in the passenger seat of a racecar hauler that was being driven through rural Iowa on its way to a race. Gazing serenely upon the passing view, she observed pastoral scenes of cows, young calves in tow, grazing tranquilly on fresh green grass.

It was a familiar sight: the backdrop of her life in small-town Midwest America. But suddenly it struck her. Although not familiar with the unbearably gruesome details of the slaughterhouse, she intuitively understood the future that lay ahead of these gentle creatures. The connection between those rest stop burgers and these mothers with their babies, once made, could never be undone. She never ate meat again.

That teenager was me. That was my moment of clarity.

Giving up meat was easy for me—much easier than enduring the questions, jokes, taunts and sneers slung at me due to my choice. Because of the ridicule hurled my way, I was low-key about it, quietly trying to eat vegetarian options without notice or fanfare. I got so tired of answering questions about what I did and didn’t eat and why I did or didn’t eat it. (No, I don’t eat fish. Yes, they are animals.)

Back then I didn’t proselytize. The choice I made was right for me, but I didn’t push my values on anyone else. I just wanted to eat in peace.

It took about ten more years for the next moment of clarity: The animals just wanted to live in peace. At that point I gave up leather. I also began donating to animal rights organizations, adopting pets from shelters and rescues and respectfully talking to friends about eating meat, hunting, fishing and countless other activities that hurt animals.

As my voice became stronger, my use of animal products diminished even further. And then, one day about five years ago, my husband and I decided to go vegan. Overnight. Done. It seemed the natural progression for me: the next step. I thought it would be much easier for me than for my husband, who wasn’t even vegetarian. I had a lot to learn.

The first person I turned to was Ingrid Newkirk, who had become a close friend. She immediately sent us several books by Dr. Neal Barnard, another good friend. They were a tremendous aid—a sort of instruction manual. While they contained some recipes, their value was more in the instructional guidance they offered.

We followed the steps proscribed in one of Neal’s books. First, we cleared the refrigerator and cupboards of everything that wasn’t vegan. Anything unopened was donated, the rest either fed to the dogs or tossed out.

Next, we went to the supermarket to restock the shelves. It took us ages to shop that day because we had to carefully scrutinize the labels on every single item. We were astonished to see how many items were made with milk. We could hardly find a loaf of bread at our regular supermarket. We felt defeated before we’d even begun. This wasn’t going to be as easy as we’d thought.

We persevered. My husband sampled a few brands of faux meat, but after 30 years of a vegetarian diet, that didn’t interest me. We looked through vegan cookbooks for interesting dishes. There were hits and misses. We struggled with the transition for a while.

One night, just as we were finishing chores on the farm, a vegan friend and neighbor who likes to cook brought us a couple servings of the black bean lasagna and Thai salad she had just made. That turned the tide for us. So there were delicious vegan entrees, after all! Modifying her recipe a bit, we’ve made the dish many times, especially when we have guests for dinner. Everyone loves it, whether they’re vegan or not. That led, in turn, to other recipes, more experimentation and additional sharing.

There were setbacks as we learned the vegan lingo that led to us eliminating additional items from our shopping list. I already knew that gelatin and marshmallows are made with beef tallow (although the nutritional label won’t tell you so), but we discovered that casein, a dairy product, is a common ingredient in many foods and some lecithin comes from meat, dairy or eggs. Label reading became trickier.

Vegan items are often stocked in the organic section at the supermarket, but organic doesn’t mean meat- and dairy-free. Nor does vegetarian. Few products carry a vegan label (although I wish the FDA would insist that they did; it would be so much simpler!)

We had to remain vigilant to avoid items with meat and dairy. We became detectives, investigating the food we considered putting in our mouths for hidden animal products. We began eliminating foods when their labels read “may contain milk.” If the producer couldn’t be sure, neither could we.

It’s easy enough to prepare vegan meals at home. However, it’s been tougher on my husband when he travels with the race team, often stuck at a race track until late at night, or stranded at some hotel in a foreign city—or country—with limited options and no transportation. Then there are the countless late nights at the race shop, when they order pizza that he can’t eat. I’m proud of him for sticking to it, taking his lunch to the shop, stashing granola bars in his backpack to nosh while the rest of the team is dining on take-out.

Despite some bumps and detours, the road has become easier with time as new habits develop. We’ve made new vegan friends and found out that a few we already had are now vegan too. Everyone has a favorite dish or recipe or restaurant they’re eager to share. Ingrid sends us vegan care packages every year with new yummies to tempt us and teach us that eating a plant-based diet is healthy, tasty and completely doable. As my neighbor said, it can be a fun challenge to figure out how to “veganize” a recipe.

It’s certainly easier—and more acceptable—to be vegan these days than it was when I first gave up meat 35 years ago. I no longer have to hide my dinner plate or feel like an imposition at the company Christmas party. I’m no longer embarrassed to inquire about the ingredients, or to politely decline if they include animal products.

Now I’m more apt to ask others why they eat meat when there is so much documentation of its adverse health effects and the devastating impact of animal agriculture on our environment … and, of course, for me perhaps the most important aspect of it all: the suffering it causes animals.

Reading labels has become second nature. Neal was right about retraining taste buds. I don’t miss Parmesan cheese. (Yes, we eat pizza without cheese and we like it.) I know I’m healthier since I gave up candy. I also know I feel better about us because we are not contributing to animal cruelty or global warming. There is no cruelty on our plates.

I ask everyone to join us—for your own health, for the future of our planet and for the innocent animals whose lives are so unjustly stolen in the name of cuisine.

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US Ratification of Port State Measures Agreement Far-Reaching Tool to Curb Illegal Fishing

US Ratification of Port State Measures Agreement Far-Reaching Tool to Curb Illegal Fishing

In response to the United States’ completion of ratification of the Port States Measures Agreement (PSMA), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued the following statement from Michele Kuruc, vice president of oceans policy:

“The Port State Measures Agreement provides the United States a strong tool in the fight to end illegal fishing. Today’s finalization of ratification demonstrates our nation’s desire to keep illegally caught fish and seafood out of US markets.

“The President’s action on this treaty has been a long time in the making, but the global cooperation it will unleash has the ability to turn the tide against the crime syndicates and other illegal actors who profit from stealing seafood from our seas.

“While our commitment to the PSMA is good for US consumers and fishing communities, it’s also a momentum builder for other nations still looking to ratify the agreement. The US now must engage other countries to achieve real results by shutting down illegal fishers quickly and permanently.”

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Global Experts Illustrate Climate Change’s Destabilizing Impacts on Food Security

Global Experts Illustrate Climate Change’s Destabilizing Impacts on Food Security

Food Chain Reaction crisis simulation exposes critical gaps in the world’s readiness to respond. Now, public-private partners recommend policy action.

As the impacts of climate change deepen across the globe, public- and private-sector leaders must come together to proactively address critical gaps in knowledge, productivity and collaboration that threaten the future stability of the global food system, according to findings from a new report released today by Cargill, the Center for American Progress (CAP), Mars and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The report, Climate, Conflict and Global Food Systems, summarizes Food Chain Reaction, a two-day exercise involving 65 international leaders charged with responding to a simulated – but realistic – food crisis caused by population growth, rapid urbanization, extreme weather and political crises. Led by experts in global food production, security, political science and climate change, participants assumed the roles of governments, institutions and businesses as they confronted a burgeoning crisis from 2020 to 2030.

Food Chain Reaction exposed three critical gaps in the global food system. To create a more resilient and food-secure future, organizers recommend several policy priorities to narrow these gaps:

  • The Knowledge Gap: Public- and private-sector leaders should build on successful early warning systems to develop a real-time global food security dashboard that allows decision-makers to detect and address disruptions to the global food system before they occur.
  • The Productivity Gap: Public, private and multilateral actors must invest to increase agricultural productivity in low-income countries in a sustainable manner, while minimizing its impact on the environment.
  • The Collaboration Gap: Global leaders need to create specialized forums to enable better decision-making in times of crisis, introduce long-term measures, and engage cross-sector decision-makers on global food security issues.

“This exercise shed light on areas in which collaboration can catalyze cooperation to help head off food shortages before they occur,” said exercise mentor Senator Tom Daschle, CAP Chairman and Founder and CEO of The Daschle Group. “Climate change will certainly stress our global food system, but we are now better armed with a deeper understanding of how decision-makers may act as shortages escalate into crises.”

“In the beginning stages of the simulation, leaders were apprehensive to act and collaborate. But, as inaction led to increased volatility and instability, they worked together to find solutions,” said David McLaughlin, senior vice president for sustainable food at WWF. “They found that no one nation, organization or business could successfully address global food security, yet the actions of any one entity could create negative impacts globally.”

“Food Chain Reaction demonstrated that the global food system can withstand the pressures of climate and political instability,” said Joe Stone, vice president for animal nutrition at Cargill. “But a new approach focused on breaking down barriers and public-private action is required.”

“Governments, civil society and businesses are grappling with how to work together to provide safe, affordable and nutritious food for a growing population threatened by climate change,” said Dave Crean, vice president for corporate research and development at Mars, Incorporated. “Food Chain Reaction gives us all clear evidence that collaboration and innovative public-private partnerships are essential to building a more secure food system for the future.”

A full set of findings, recommendations and participants are available at www.foodchainreaction.org.

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About Food Chain Reaction

Food Chain Reaction was held in Washington, D.C. November 9-10, 2015. The event was produced by World Wildlife Fund and the Center for American Progress, with game design from CNA. Funding and technical support for Food Chain Reaction was provided by Cargill with major support from Mars, Inc. Additional funding was provided by DuPont, Louis Dreyfus Group, Sealed Air Corporation and Thomson Reuters.

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WWF Statement on the Supreme Court’s Clean Power Plan Decision

WWF Statement on the Supreme Court’s Clean Power Plan Decision

In response to today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to temporarily stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the following statement from Lou Leonard, vice president, climate change:

“While the Supreme Court’s decision may have temporarily hit the pause button on the Clean Power Plan, it has not curbed our nation’s move to switch to renewable energy and fight climate change. Americans of all stripes – businesses, local governments, and everyday citizens – continue to support and deliver on climate action.

“Today’s decision does not address the legal foundation of the Clean Power Plan. When it has its full day in court, this key component of the President’s climate action plan will be upheld and will continue to accelerate the clean energy transition that is already underway.

“Our nation’s transition to a renewable energy economy cannot be stopped. Over the past two years, more than half of our nation’s new electric generating capacity has come from renewable energy. With Congress’ recent renewal of renewable energy tax credits and leading companies continuing to make the switch to renewable energy, the U.S. will continue to move closer to the zero-carbon future people and our planet deserve.”

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