Saturday, April 6, 2013

Answer the Door




Many people who no longer consume dairy products from cows, still consume dairy from sheep or goat’s milk.  Many assume this is a more humane process because they also assume that it is more small-scale and humane.  They picture pastoral scenes of happy sheep grazing on green hills under the sun. 

I am in the Middle East.  The area where I am staying is famous for it’s sheep’s milk and sheep’s milk yogurt.  I was taking a walk today and saw the same event I see each day.  Young boys with sticks guiding the sheep from rocky pasture to rocky pasture.  They whip the sticks at the sheep to get them to stay together in a flock.

Today, I witnessed a mother sheep who had only moments earlier given birth while they were moving along next to me.  Blood was still coming out of her and her back legs were soaked with blood.  A little boy was ordered to take the little lamb, who could not even stand up yet.  He picked up the lamb and started toward home, dropping the lamb many times along the way.  While this was going on, the mother was trying to leave the flock and get to her baby.  She cried loudly and the baby cried for her, but the boys whipped her to keep her from leaving the flock.  Her udders were tightly swollen with dripping milk.  While forced to join the flock, she never took her eyes off the lamb, until the boy and lamb were out of sight.  She cried constantly.  A man on the small dirt road translated and told me that the shepherd boys said she would be with her lamb in an hour when they finished grazing and returned to the farm.  I wasn’t comforted by this.  I wanted to be relieved, but I wasn’t.  That hour would be a long hour for a mother separated from her new born and for this tiny lamb just born, looking for comfort. 

Later in the day, I was walking and saw the mother again.  She was separated from the lamb by two fenced areas.  All night I could hear the mother crying for the baby and the baby crying for the mother.  Their voices got weaker and weaker.  By 5 am the baby’s voice sounded like a whisper and the mother’s pain was not only in her voice, but in my heart.

There are times I wonder why I come here.  I ask myself what the point is.  Why travel to a place and plant seeds of compassion in a society that embraces violence as a righteous part of its heritage?   My answer to myself is that while I am on earth, I will make every effort to not turn away from an open door.  If there is a door, wide open in front of me, inviting me in and beyond that door is some form of suffering asking to be addresses, why would I not walk thru that door?

Yesterday, the security cameras on the streets of East Jerusalem filmed a group of very young boys dragging a medium sized white dog on a rope and beating the her with sticks as they dragged and kicked her.  She tried to hide under a car and they dragged her out and continued to beat her.  An older boy appeared and grabbed the rope and swung it and the dog was flung over a concrete wall.  The rest of the saga for this dog was not caught on camera.  Eyewitnesses reported that the severely wounded dog crawled to a concrete pipe and hid inside.  Then the boys stuff material in the end of the pipe and set the pipe on fire to kill the dog.  Adults and families walked by and did nothing.  The door was open and they chose to look the other way.  These doors open around us all the time.  What we witness in our days is presented to us as an opportunity.  How we respond is our work while on the planet. 

We are not powerless to make a difference in the world unless we choose to be powerless.  We are all leaders when we choose to be.  There is no reason to walk by that open door.  Turn and face it and walk right in.  You have nothing to lose and potentially a full meaningful life to gain.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Sun is Cooking Our Meals!

I have been "warming up" to our solar cooker.  We have had it for years and I just never got friendly with it.  Then, this week, with every day in the 90's and 100's, it was time to develop a relationship with that thing.  Now I am completely in love!
We have made lentils, brown basmati rice, yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, and more.....today: organic beets that became the food of the gods with very little time in the sun cooker!  Why have I waited this long to get the solar cooking bug?
We are moving toward eating more and more raw foods....which were made by the sun in their own way.  But, when we get a hankering for something cooked, nothing is better than sun cooking!

Brown Basmati Cooking in the Sun

SOME HOLIDAYS MUST BE 365 DAYS EACH YEAR!











 
 
 
I am not really big on celebrating holidays. The word HOLIDAY comes from holy day.  One of the most sacred holidays for me is Earth Day.  The only change I would make to the date of the celebration is to make it 365 days of the year.  I also love Mother’s Day, but for me it is also every day of the year and it focuses on non-human and human mothers who routinely have their young taken away.  This callous separation of close-knit families is always done for greed/profit.  Whether it is a human child sold as a slave to pay a family debt, a calf torn away from his or her mother so that humans can steal her milk, a young elephant stolen so he or she can be trained to do unnatural acts for human entertainment, an adult chimp killed and her baby stolen for invasive experimentation and a life of imprisonment or a puppy sold by a puppy mill while still at an age where he should be with his mother….all cause intense emotional pain for both mother and child.
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Most holidays have completely lost their meaning.  Very few people know that most holidays mean more than an extra day or two off work.  We are trained from early on in our lives that it is OK to have major inconsistencies in what we say we care about and how we actually choose to live our lives.  When the Be Kind To Animals Week banner is stretched across the same wall at the school where the hamburgers are listed on the school lunch menu or we hear “peace on earth” repeatedly for a holiday that consists of buying a bunch of stuff and eating animals, we learn that holidays are not about their original intention.
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I tabled at three large events for Earth Day week.  Our table had outreach material for compassionate environmentally responsible and healthy food choices.  We were the vegan table.  Two of the events included people selling or displaying baby goats, piglets and young chicks.  The food sold at these two events was 95% animal products.  The smell of grilling flesh permeated the air for both full days.  One person came up to our booth and said, “You may have the only booth that is appropriate for Earthday.”  I actually found a few other booths that sold appropriate items like organic local seedlings and solar cookers and some trying to preserve wild lands and care for animals.  But, for the most part, the events were just parties and most people attending were not giving earth-friendly choices much attention.
My third tabling was at a local college.  Most people zoomed by the table not wanting to know about anything that may change their consumer habits.  One man was wearing a t-shirt that had the word PRIVILEGE with the red cross-out over it.  He was telling his friend that he would never even consider being vegetarian.  I piped in that he may not want to wear that shirt while saying that.  He was very quiet from that point on.
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An older woman came by the table and quietly watched the Farm to Fridge film I had running continuously throughout the day.  This incredible Mercy for Animals compilation includes a look at the violent realities of food animal industries.  This woman said to me, “We would never do it this way.  This is terrible.  We do it the traditional way, the kind way.”  I asked her what the kind way was.  “We just shoot them in the head,” she responded proudly.  Then she continued, “They send the women into the house and then shoot them in the head.  It is very quick.”  I asked her, “If it is a kind way, why do they send the women into the house?”  She got a distant look and then just kept repeating, “This is awful, we do it the kind way….this is awful, we do it the kind way.”  I told her that in my family we decided that the kind way was to not unnecessarily kill any living being. She grabbed a little literature and then wandered off, still saying “We do it the kind way, we do it the kind way.”
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I would love to see Earth Day not only celebrated everyday, but to see it celebrated with some actual mindfulness about how our personal choices affect the earth and all her inhabitants.  We can all work to make our local Earth Day celebrations retain some of the integrity they were meant to have.  Go ahead and get your face painted, dance to some good music, celebrate with friends, and make sure that every booth, product and message is consistent with caring for the Earth.
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Tabling is not my favorite form of outreach, but on my most sacred of holidays, Earth Day, I am more than willing to give my time and energy to at least trying to preserve a little bit of the original intention of the day and be a voice for the voiceless.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"We Send Them Off"

 
Rescued goats at Sasha Farm Sanctuary

The local food movement folks often think they have a very different philosophy from the compassionate vegan folks.  The reality is that our intentions are very much the same.  We want to do the right thing.
The problem is that everyone I know who claims to just eat locally, doesn’t.  They often buy non-local products and eat out at restaurants that use non-local ingredients.  I have also found that most of the people who are trying so hard to eat locally, haven’t done their homework about the real affects of their choices. 

When judging the carbon footprint of a particular food, it is important to take into account the water and energy required to produce the product, not just the transportation of the item.  It turns out that transportation is a very small part of the ecological impact of our food.  A study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology found that switching just two meals a week from meat and dairy products to vegan choices reduces more greenhouse gasses than buying all local food. 

The local food trend is very popular in the USA.  As a part of this local food movement, many people are buying chickens and goats and plopping them in their backyards to produce their own meat, eggs and dairy.  Most of the people doing this do not have a clue how to really meet all the needs of the animals they are raising.  Craigslist here is full of listings from people who did not know what they were getting into and now have animals they will give away free to anyone. 

I recently led a compassionate living program at a week-long camp for teens.  I arrived at the camp just as the program before mine was in full swing.  A local woman who has goats in her yard was letting the campers milk her four goats. I sat in on the session. Many of the campers would not taste the milk because they saw the source and it grossed them out.  I asked them if they would drink it if it was in the store in a plastic jug.  They all said they probably would.   The goat woman was talking about her spiritual connection with the goats. I asked her if she keeps the goats pregnant so they will keep producing milk. I wanted the campers to have the full story of the reality of dairy.  When she shared that she does keep them pregnant, I asked her what happens if a male kid is born?  She said, “We send them off. We cannot keep them around because they have a strong smell and it affects the milk.”  When I asked her where she sends them off to, she slid away from the question.  The director of the camp was also in the session.  He said, “Well, it is all part of the cycle of life, isn’t it?  They are learning about the cycle of life..”  “Yes,” I replied, “they are learning about the cycle of life and the cycle of unnecessary premature death.”

Possibly the best part of the local food movement is that people have a bit more of a connection to where their food comes from.  The worst part is that, when animals are involved, the glossy wholesome image that goes along with it covers up what it really means for the individual animals and the environment.  Mothers and babies torn apart so we can steal their milk, males sent to slaughter and mothers who are no longer producing large quantities of milk also sent to slaughter, buying baby chicks shipped from hatcheries who kill off the males in often barbaric ways, chickens kept in small boxes in backyards (common in our community), non-local feed often fed to the animals on farms marketing products as “local”, trucking and non-local slaughter of many of the animals whose flesh is sold as “local”, and the use of large quantities of water for each animal (in many areas, water is a very scarce commodity). 
 The cost of buying chicks at a hatchery or feed store that gets them from a hatchery-dead and dying male chicks in dumpster behind hatchery.

I know that death is part of life.  I also know that we can make choices that support our own health, the environment and all beings and thrive on compassionate vegan choices.  We cannot live a life that does no harm, but we can make choices that cause the least harm. 

I am all for eating locally and growing our own food whenever possible.  Imagine the double positive of choosing local and plant-based foods!  So, when you are looking at what to do with that backyard of yours, plant fruits and veggies. Health, compassion and environmental responsibility can all be part of your local food plan!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blogs Everywhere!

I just found out that I can continue to post the blogs I write for Happy Cow here .....after they have been on Happy Cow for a bit.  So they will start popping up here again.  Coming Next: The Sacred Heart of T. Colin Campbell or Campbell Saves....Repent.  Stay tuned for that one.....

Bending Toward Justice


(Photo: Public Domain-National Archives)

“The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice”
Martin Luther King Jr.


The education process is never ending. We are continuously taking in new information that can change our view of the world. Everything we say, wear and do is letting those around us know what we believe in…and may challenge what they see as the “norm”.
My friend Carrie is exceptional when it comes to living her values.  She is a perfect example of walking your talk.  Her carbon footprint is a tiptoe compared to most humans.  Her compassion for all beings has no boundaries. Some years ago, Carrie rescued a blind hen.  She named her 2Blindy, 2B for short, because this bird is the second blind bird she has shared her life with.
A few weeks ago, it seemed that 2B was on deaths doorstep and Carrie’s world turned upside down.  She took time off work and drove 2B around on her lap in a blanket for hours trying to find a veterinarian who could help her.
The love between Carrie and 2B is obvious to anyone who has visited their home.  2B has run of the house, comes when called, eats organic food and most of the time only wants to be held, pet and loved.  She is a needy kid and Carrie doesn’t mind meeting her needs.  Carrie even fashioned a sling so she could keep 2B close and still get some work done.
I had the pleasure of chicken sitting for 2B for a few days and was woken up each day at about 6 am by a very demanding bird.  There was no discussion.  I had no choice.  If I were to translate Hen-speak to English, it would have gone like this, “Good morning Rae, please get up and hold me….UM, RAE, CAN YOU HEAR ME? I NEED YOU TO WAKE UP….PLEASE GET UP AND HOLD ME!….GET UP AND HOLD ME RIGHT NOW!” as her escalating demands forced me out of bed.  I picked her up and the shouts turned into contented purrs. Sweetness, total sweetness.
With 2B’s illness, they experienced many veterinary waiting rooms.  Now, the loving bond between them, usually only witnessed by those who visit their home, was seen by the staff and everyone at each vet’s offices.
It can take time for people to realize that the living beings whom they think are food, actually have desires, personalities and are deserving of our care and love.  Most people do not realize we can have a deep relationship with a chicken.  In fact, many people would laugh at the idea. We are used to seeing people caring for a dog, cat, rabbit or ferret in the vet’s office, but Carrie and 2B were living ambassadors for chickens and the love that can exist between a person and their bird companion.
As Carrie sat crying and holding 2B in one office, a man in the waiting room boomed, “I’m hungry!”.  He grabbed one of the bags of dog food on the shelf and then looked right at Carrie and said, “Hmmm, first ingredient, CHICKEN!”  Carrie ignored him and continued to focus on 2B. When she came out of the examination room, this man had obviously changed his tune.  He held the door for Carrie and 2B and helped them get arranged in the car.  These are the little seeds that get planted and change the world.
Human culture has a long way to go in its evolution toward understanding each other and all species.  One would hope that a veterinarian would be further along on the spectrum of understanding.  But, one vet that Carrie saw said to her, “We could give her antibiotics, but are you going to eat her?”  For those of us who have loved and cared for many species, and choose not to eat animals, this comment is the same as saying this to someone who is holding their dog or their human child.  It sounds so absurd to be asked if we would eat our closest companion.
We are slowly evolving as we live somewhere on that arc of the moral universe.  There will be a day when we will be shocked that we, as humans, could not look in the eyes of a chicken, sheep, cow or pig and see an individual deserving of a life of freedom and choice.
“200 years ago, Americans would have thought you were absurd if you advocated for the end of slavery. 150 years ago, they would have laughed at you for suggesting that women should have the right to vote. 75 years ago, they would have loudly objected to the idea of African Americans receiving equal rights under the law. They laugh at us now for suggesting that animal slavery be ended. Someday they won’t be laughing.”  - Gary Smith

To “V” or Not to “V”

























There has been a lot of discussion, buzz, arguing about whether or not we should use the word “vegan” or the word “vegetarian” in our outreach and discussions.  Some folks say that using the “V” word (vegan) turns people off and we should just say “vegetarian” because it is seen as less “extreme”.  While cooking at the meditation center I go to, I was told I could not label things vegan, even if they were vegan, because that word is too “political”.
Last night we had two “couch surfers” stay at our house.  Neither one was vegan or vegetarian, but they shared their perspectives.  One of our guests said that the only vegans she ever met, before us, ate junk all the time and were very unhealthy.  I told her that they certainly did not represent all vegans and in fact were the worst “poster children” for veganism.  It only reinforced for me how important it is to be a healthy representative of our community.  While I was having the discussion with her, our other guest said she thought it was better to say “plant-based” than vegan.  The problem with saying plant-based is that this term only addresses what we eat.  Choosing to practice veganism is about so much more than what we eat.  As a vegan we use our compassionate yard stick to decide which clothing, cosmetics, household products, entertainment and food we will support as consumers.  It goes so far beyond our food choices.

The discussions around using the V word or not, reminded me of a childhood experience.  I grew up in a Jewish family in a very non-Jewish community.  In our little community, our family was the poster family for Jews everywhere.  The preconceived ideas about Jews that existed in the community before we even arrived there made this a very tough job.  Without even meeting us, there were homes, yards and some business who banned us from stepping on their property.  I spent many years trying to hide the fact that my family was Jewish.  I wanted to enjoy the ease of just being places without the judgments.   When people did know that I was from a Jewish family, I felt it was my job to personally dispel all the myths about Jews.  This is a big job for a kid.  At some point, I decided that my unwillingness to readily admit that I came from a Jewish family only reflected that I had the same judgments as those around me.  I was giving in to the myths and prejudices.  Everyone wants to be seen as an individual and not be judged based on prejudices and cultural stories.  I do not want people to assume they know all about me because I am a woman, over 50, Caucasian, etc.  If it is true that most myths are based on the truth of a particular group, then surely there are exceptions to these myths.  There are individuals who blow these stereotypes out of the water.  Every group is made up of unique individuals.

If we feel good about our compassionate vegan path, then it is very important to be honest with people about who we are.  We vegans come in all shapes, ages, colors, and education and economic levels.  Some of us are very healthy and some of us are not.  Some of us exercise and eat pure foods and some of us sit on our butts and eat junk.  None of that changes the fact that we are all choosing a practice that is alleviating some suffering in the world.  Honestly, there are times when I have met people who are vegan, but are, in my opinion, not the best representatives of our community.  They might be physically unhealthy or mean-spirited or self-righteous.  Because we are such a small percentage of the population, you may be the first vegan or the only vegan that someone meets personally.
You can think of this as a two-step process.  First, think of yourself as the poster child for veganism.  If not for yourself, than for the animals who will be saved when people meet you and say “Whatever you are doing, I want to do it!”  They meet an energetic, healthy, loving person and want to be part of their community.  You can be that invitation.  Do all that you can to care for yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually and you will be like a flower to the bees.
 
Photo credit: Zoltán Futó via BigStock
Second, be willing to use the “V” word when you feel like you are a positive representative of the community.  It may be you who dispels the myths that this person is carrying around.  It may be you who opens them up to the possibility that someone practicing veganism can be healthy and loving.  Your choice to walk the vegan path is about compassion for all beings, including yourself and all those you connect with in life.  Take this job seriously.  It is an honor to be chosen for this role.  You are the ambassador who is speaking up for all life.  So, care for yourself and go out into the world unapologetically, letting your vegan light shine.  The animals and the earth and all people will be better off for your efforts and honesty.
 
Photo credit: meepoohfoto‘s

Need some encouragement in your practice?  Watch these short, inspiring films:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE
AND:
http://www.nonviolenceunited.org/veganvideo.html