Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A short lesson in ethical living for the new year



Certain ethical points that should be pretty obvious:

We shouldn't exploit children just because they are weaker than us, or people with mental disabilities just because they're less intelligent;

We can't simply go up to someone and have sex with them just because we find them attractive;

We can't go and live in a stranger's house just because we think it's nicer than ours;

We can't take someone's coat off their back and start wearing it just because we like how it looks/feels;

We shouldn't physically hurt someone just because we find them annoying;

We shouldn't eat the meat of animals, just because we like the taste, or wear their fur/skin because we like how it looks/feels.

While the first five points are fairly obvious to most of us, many of us still have no problem with eating meat, even though the latter is arguably even worse than some of the other points since it involves taking innocent lives. This is because we see animals as lesser beings that are meant to serve us, and to give up their lives for our benefit whenever we want. While not as advanced as humans, the animals with whom we share the planet are sentient beings, meaning they feel pain, fear, and many other emotions, just like we do. They are often very intelligent creatures. In most parts of the world, there are more and more healthy alternatives to eating meat. If you haven't done so already, today could be the day when you say "enough", and advance to a higher level of consciousness by saying no to meat. Today is the day when you can become part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

My favorite movies of 2014

Here are 10 movies that I found inspiring and/or moving in one way or another. This is not a "best of" list, it is a personal list of movies that I enjoyed in the previous year, one in which I saw somewhere around 200 movies (not all new of course). I haven't seen every critically acclaimed movie (Interstellar, Birdman come to mind, among others). I enjoyed a couple of blockbusters (Edge of Tomorrow & the last X-men, for instance), though the list of my personal favs is mostly blockbuster free. Some movies I thought were really good (Nightcrawler & Locke, for example), but they didn't inspire me beyond a feeling of respect for them. Others, such as Frank and The Grand Budapest Hotel, I suppose I'm just not enough of a stereotypical hipster to enjoy. Anyhow, without further ado, and in no particular order...

1. Comet - one of my top three for 2014

2. These Final Hours - Australian end of days/ coming to terms with one's conscience type movie

3. Boyhood

4. Her - yeah, it came out in the last week of 2013, so it still counts

5. White Bird in a Blizzard - possibly Araki's best, good retro feel

6. Fury

7. Blue Ruin

8. Under the Skin - a sad poem with violent undertones

9. Noah - anyone who knows my position on animal rights will not be surprised to see this on here ;)

10. '71

...and I'm sure I've forgotten a couple. :) Anyway, if you agree with some of these, what can I say...

Friday, December 12, 2014

EFFAISM: Stay strong when talking about animal rights

Franz Marc, The Fate of the Animals (1913)
There are many people out there who have a problem with those of us who don't eat meat for ethical reasons. Some think we're preachy. Others think we're misguided (for a variety of reasons). A quick look at any popular social media post related to not eating meat will reveal a multitude of opinions relating to just how ridiculous and plain wrong not eating meat is, according to these people. I've already discussed why we shouldn't eat meat many times, so I'm not going to go into this again. I would, however, like to remind my fellow vegetarians and vegans who avoid meat for ethical reasons, to stay strong, and to not be misguided into taking a soft stance on what you believe in.

When people who eat meat accuse you of being closed-minded, remind them that it is your mind that is open to ending the suffering of all animals, while their mind is the selective one, only caring about humans. Your adoption of a meat-free diet shows that you have a mind that is open to diminishing violence in the world. If they believe that it is alright to kill animals such as cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, fish, etc., then their minds are not open to eliminating violence, no matter what they claim. They claim that some animal rights activists (most of whom are vegan) are violent, and this is true. But much of the violence that is carried out by animal rights activists is done out of frustration of dealing with closed-minded individuals who think it's alright to continue to torture and kill animals, whether it be for food, clothing, entertainment, etc. The only reason that people get outraged at animal rights "violence" is that they still see these animals as less important, as creatures that are somehow born to suffer and/or serve us. When people call you extreme, ask them this: Which is more extreme, wanting to save the lives of animals or condemning them to death by either being an apologist for meat or being indifferent and not taking a stand against it? Is it more extreme to want to end violence than to make excuses for it? All things considered, it is much crazier to eat meat than to not eat it. When people say that it is OK to kill animals as long as we treat them humanely beforehand, remember that, while better, this is not the ultimate solution. The most basic right that we all have is the right to live. When people call your ideas a pipe dream, remind them of the countless other pipe dreams throughout history that led to a better life for both humans and other animals. Speaking up against inequality is the first step on the road to obliterating that inequality.

When they say that we don't have the moral right to preach, tell them that indeed we do. Yes, lots of us are shamed into being apologetic about what is sometimes perceived as "preachiness", but in actuality we have every right to speak out against violence and to protect animals. We are the voice of the voiceless, and, as such, we are the ones that truly "get it". If the things that are being done to animals were done to humans, there would be no discussion. Everyone would get on board and agree that change was needed. We should be proud that we have understood a very important truth, that all sentient life is important. When it comes to our interaction with other animals, we are the ethical elite, and we have the responsibility to try to elevate others to the same level of understanding.

Image: Franz Marc, The Fate of the Animals (1913)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mowisz Masz (Warsaw, Poland) | VEGAN AND VEGAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD

Mowisz Masz is a relative newcomer to the Warsaw, Poland vegetarian/vegan cafe/restaurant scene. It is a cozy (read:small) cafe with a nice, comfortable interior that offers a tasty, varied vegan buffet brunch on weekends (all you can eat, 25zl). The only thing that's unfortunate about the place is the service, sometimes. They have a good selection of coffee and other drinks, and you can even buy some of the furniture. Located on trendy Mokotowska Street between Plac Zbawiciela and Plac Trzech Krzyzy, it is proof of the growing appeal of veganism in Poland's capital.

Mówisz Masz
Mokotowska 48
Warszawa, Poland
+48 664 301 118
https://www.facebook.com/mowiszmaszcafe

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ethical e-cards for Christmas and the rest of the holiday season

EFFANOW.COM has added 12 new free e-cards for the holidays. Download them, share them, post them. Spread the word that we can all do our part to make this a cruelty-free holiday season.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

VEGAN AND VEGAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD: Seed (New Orleans, LA)

New Orleans is a great city for food, and Seed, located on Prytania Street on the edges of the Garden District, does the city proud with its varied and very tasty vegan food. From vegan versions of Louisiana classics (po' boys, gumbo, etc.), to less traditional items, you can tell that a lot of care and attention is put into preparing these dishes. Top that off with great personal service and reasonable prices, and you have a place worth visiting, whether you eat meat or not.

1330 Prytania St
New Orleans, Louisiana
+1 504-302-2599
https://www.facebook.com/seednola

Thursday, November 13, 2014

FREE Thanksgiving e-cards that promote vegetarianism and the good treatment of animals

American Thanksgiving is coming up soon, and animal lovers will be pleased to know that EFFA has a pretty cool collection of free e-cards that you can download and post/send to let people know that a compassionate Thanksgiving is indeed possible. Spread the cards, spread the word!

Monday, October 13, 2014

EFFAISM: Empathy 101 (How to help stray animals when you travel)

A couple of years ago, I wrote about my experiences with feeding stray dogs in Mexico. As I wrote back then, after seeing the sad state that these animals were in, I felt compelled to do something to help them. It upset me how few tourists (and even expats) actually did anything to help these animals, opting instead to take photos of them, or dismissing their plight as “local culture”. If you consider yourself an animal lover traveling in areas with large numbers of strays, don’t neglect their plight. I’d like to share a couple of things that I do when I travel, to give you an idea of just how easy it is to help.

First, I go on feeding walks. I usually go out and buy dog food (or cat food, if that’s the case) and some plastic (or styrofoam) plates, and walk around leaving food (and/or water) for stray animals. This is not hard to do, nor is it time-consuming. Once I have the food and the plates, it takes me no more than 1 hour to leave a couple of pounds of food for about a dozen (or sometimes more) dogs. Now, it is true that one meal will not make a big difference in a dog or cat’s life, but there are other things to consider. In many countries, strays aren’t even noticed by people anymore, or are simply considered a nuisance. By publicly feeding them, we remind people that these animals are living sentient beings, ones that suffer and go hungry much like we do. We can show people that we can and should help these animals. People forget that many of these dogs weren’t born this way, that they were most likely abandoned by irresponsible owners, let down and left to suffer and die on what are often very uncaring streets. By teaching by example that compassion is the key, we can hopefully get others to start doing the same. During my feeding walks, I have often been approached by people who are curious about what I’m doing, many of whom have been very supportive. Apart from reminding others about the benefits of helping, feeding walks serve to remind ourselves just how easy it is to help.

Second, while feeding walks are good, a long term solution would be to stop the trend of animals being dumped on the street, and to stop these animals from reproducing by spaying and neutering them. Of course we, as tourists, can’t really do this, but we can easily show our support for local organizations that are trying to solve this problem, whether by providing a no-kill shelter for these animals, by organizing spay and neutering events, etc. When I travel, I like to donate a bit of money to local organizations, and I encourage you to do the same. A little research will go a long way to finding an organization that helps animals in the area where you’ll be traveling, and most organizations will be happy to get any money you choose to donate to them. As hard as it is for such organizations in the US, Canada, England, etc. to get by, it’s even harder in poorer countries, where there is neither government nor private funding for the good work that they do. It’s really not that hard to donate (a quick Paypal donation takes a couple of minutes), and it’s very rewarding.

Stray animals have it tough.There is really nothing to romanticize about an existence that is full of hunger, fear, and suffering. Furthermore, although one does tend to see more stray animals in poorer societies, we shouldn’t just dismiss this as being “par for the course”. In my travels, I’ve met quite a few people who, despite their limited means, try to help animals as much as they can. Next time you travel to paradise, don’t forget about the creatures for whom life there is often nothing but. If you do indeed love animals, please do one (or both) of the above mentioned things to help improve the lives of strays, and to help those who help these animals on a daily basis.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

WARSAW VEGETARIAN & VEGAN RESTAURANTS: a list (September, 2014)

Warsaw has seen quite a few vegetarian and vegan restaurants open up in the last couple of years. In fact, these days, there are as many options here for those on a plant-based diet (like myself) as there are in most any other European metropolis. Here's a fairly extensive, updated (September 2014) list of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the Polish capital.


Jamniczek
Ul. Marszalkowska 68/70
00-546 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/dolceandvegan
All vegan hot-dog place in the center of the city, a block south of Krowarzywa (see below). Good selection of tasty home-made hot-dogs, drinks (licensed as well), fries, and more.

Dolce & Vegan
ul. Finlandzka 12a
03-903 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/dolceandvegan
A decent all-vegan restaurant that used to be located near the Ratusz Arsenal metro station, but has recently moved across the river to trendy Saska Kepa. A good selection of dishes and drinks, great vegan desserts, and, as is the case with most hip places in the capital, somewhat lackadaisical service.

Fit and Green
Noakowskiego 10
00-666 Warsaw, Poland
Krakowskie Przedmieście 5
00-068 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/FITandGREEN
New chain with two locations in Warsaw, one near Metro Politechnica, and the other on Krakowskie Przedmieście. Vegetarian burgers, pierogies, soups, and more; Vegan options available.

Govinda
ul. Nowogrodzka 15
00-511 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/Govinda.veg
Little place centrally located on Nowogrodzka, near Krucza. Generous portions of good though bland-ish Indian food (as is par for the course for most Hare Krishna restaurants I find), and good service. Recently became all vegan.

Green Bar
Szpitalna 6
00-031 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Green-Bar/503984459622629
Located in the very center of Warsaw, on Szpitalna, this place has a fairly varied menu of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Krowarzywa
Hoza 42
00-516 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/Krowarzywa
Probably the most popular of Warsaw's vegan places (thanks to the popularity of burger joints in general), this hip, centrally located establishment attracts even carnivores with its very tasty, filling, and relatively affordable vegan burgers. They also have vegan ice cream (in the summer), smoothies, and edible plates (not tasty, i've tried one). Cross your fingers before you go there, as they sometimes have waiting times upwards of 30 minutes.

Kubek I Olówek
Kredytowa 8
00-062 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/KUBEKiOLOWEK
A fairly new place (2014) centrally located on Kredytowa street, halfway between Marszalkowska and Krakowskie Przedmieście. Small-ish, affordable, a bit haphazard, and with some decent lunch specials (one per day).

Lokal Margines
ul.Krucza 23/31
00-525 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/lokalmargines
New, centrally-located vegan bistro.

Loving Hut
MURANOW: al. Jana Pawla II 41A lok.8
01-001 Warsaw, Poland
METRO POLITECHNIKA: ul. Warynskiego 3
00-645 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/LovingHutWarsaw
Part of the international Loving Hut chain, these affordable restaurants specialize in Asian fusion dishes, many of which use faux-meat that comes incredibly close to tasting like the real deal. The two Warsaw locations have about four or five Vietnamese dishes (including a really good Pho) that, although vegan, are much more authentic than the fake and unhealthy Vietnamese food you'll find in the Asian fast food places. The original location is on Jana Pawla II street, in Warsaw's Muranow district, and the newer location is right next to the Politechnika metro station.

Marrakesh Cafe
al. Jerozolimskie 123A
02-017 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/MarrakeshC
A restaurant specializing in Moroccan food, run by the same folks as Tel Aviv (below). Located a couple of blocks west of the central train station.

Mówisz Masz
Mokotowska 48
00-543 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/mowiszmaszcafe
Hip new place on semi-posh Mokotowska street for breakfast, brunch, coffee, drinks, vegan pastries, and more.

Mezze hummus + falafel
ul. Różana 1
02-548 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/MEZZE.hummusifalafel
Located on the corner of a small park in Warsaw's Mokotow district, this small place specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Ósma Kolonia
Słowackiego 15/19
01-592 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/osmakolonia
A new place in Warsaw's Zoliborz district, close to the Plac Wilsona metro station. Vegetarian and vegan food.

Tel Aviv
Poznanska 11
00-680 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/tel.aviv.cafe
Specializing in Israeli/Middle-Eastern cuisine, Tel Aviv is located on Poznanska street, which is becoming a bit of a hub for trendy eateries. The place used to be vegetarian, but is now completely vegan (as far as I know). Their Sunday Israeli brunch is quite popular. I've eaten here and it was pretty tasty, though a tad bland, and I've heard some doubts about the authenticity of the cuisine.

Vega (Bar Vega)
Al. Jana Pawła II 36c
00-141 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/BarVegaWarszawa
A veteran of Warsaw's vegetarian restaurant scene, Vega Bar is tucked away behind a typical 50s building on Jana Pawla II (in the Muranow district), and specializes in Indian food. Hit and miss judging from reviews, but some do like this place quite a bit.

Vege Miasto
Solidarności 60a
00-240 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/vegemiasto
Another hip, new place a couple of blocks east of the Ratusz Arsenal metro station.

Vegan Pizza
Corner of Poznanska and Wilcza
00-670 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/veganpizzapl
Good concept, mediocre execution. I've had much better vegan pizza in my day, but if you absolutely have to have it, and don't want to make it yourself, the option is there.

W Gruncie Rzeczy
Hoża 62
00-682 Warsaw, Poland
https://www.facebook.com/WGruncieRzeczy
Opened in November, 2013, this is another in the line of newish cafe/bistros in the center of the city.Located on Hoża, a block west of Marszalkowska, this basement restaurant has an all-vegan menu, with diverse breakfast, lunch, and dessert options, and good service.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

VEGAN AND VEGAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD: Dolce & Vegan (Warsaw, Poland)

Address: ul. Finlandzka 12a (near Rondo Waszyngtona)
03-903 Warsaw, Poland
Phone: +48 605 324 174
Website (FB): https://www.facebook.com/dolceandvegan

A decent vegan place that has daily lunch specials and lots of baked goods. Slow service at times, but that's par for the course for hipsteresque places in Poland's capital. The restaurant is moving from its current location near metro Ratusz Arsenal, and will reopen in its new location in Warsaw's trendy Saska Kepa neighborhood (address above) on Sep. 14, 2014; a good move, since the last place was outdoors, so the comfort level really depended on the weather.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

VEGAN AND VEGAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD: B 13 Bar + Restaurante (Madrid, Spain)

Address: Calle de la Ballesta 13, Madrid, Spain 28004
Website: www.b13bar.com

Up the hill on Calle de la Ballesta, in Madrid's trendy Malasaña neighborhood, B 13 is a good no-nonsense type vegan restaurant (and bar) that seems to draw a diverse crowd. The food that I ordered was fairly unsophisticated (which is true for most items on the menu), a fried seitan slab along with fries and a salad, but it was tasty, and, for the price (around 7 euros for the lunch special), a really good deal. Warning: This place, like many others in Madrid, shuts down for about a month in the late Summer. Check their website for details.

Asteroid # 4 - Let it go

Sunday, August 31, 2014

VEGAN AND VEGAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD: Vegan Point (Alicante, Spain)

Address: Garzìa Morato 36, Alicante, Spain
Phone: (+34) 608 098244
Website (Facebook): https://es-es.facebook.com/pages/Vegan-Point/202162539983870

A nice and cozy (fairly new) little tapas bar located in central Alicante, possibly the only all-vegan place in the city. The lunch special sampler plate I got included a couple of very tasty tarts, a pasta salad, and marinaded tofu (or seitan, can't remember) for under 10 euros. Some of the tastiest food that I had in Spain.

EFFAISM: The rise of meat consumption in China and India

I recently came across an article about how more people in India are starting to eat meat. The article attributed this trend to a general growing financial prosperity in that country. This came as a surprise to a lot of people since, as many of you already know, India is one of the world's bastions for vegetarianism, with an estimated 40% or more of its population being vegetarian. Still, while the phenomenon is an unfortunate one, it is understandable.

In many parts of Asia, meat consumption was relatively low because it was expensive. It was reserved for special occasions. In places like China, where many are benefiting from economic prosperity, meat consumption is up, because many people can now afford it. This phenomenon has very little to do with ethics, and much more to do with economics. Let's take my example: as a person who has attained a higher level of empathy for other animals, I'm not going to start eating meat no matter how much more money I'd make. A person who normally would eat meat anyway, but simply didn't have the means to do this on a regular basis, will benefit from his new-found wealth to consume more meat. It's important, then, from an Effaist perspective, to actively teach (and remind) people in the countries where meat consumption is on the rise, that the lives of sentient beings like the pigs, cows, chickens, fish, and other creatures whose flesh they consume, should be respected. An increase in wealth does not have to mean an increase in violence towards other species. This is especially true in countries which already have a strong tradition of tasty and healthy vegetarian alternatives. It's great that some people can enjoy life more, but it's important that other animals should be given an opportunity to enjoy their lives as well.

So what about the increase in meat consumption in a country like India, a country with such a strong tradition of vegetarianism? First, the fact that 40% of India is vegetarian obviously means that about 60% of its citizens are not vegetarian, which means that quite a lot of people do eat meat. Second, a lot of the vegetarianism in India is based on religion, primarily Hinduism, but also Jainism and (some schools of) Buddhism. Like anywhere else in the world, people are often born into a religion, and follow it because of family tradition, etc. In this case, they are born into vegetarianism. While I think this is very positive, it doesn't automatically guarantee a deep empathy (or even respect) for animals. Some will develop this, and some won't. As I've written before, anyone who hasn't attained a higher lever of empathy for other animals, can quite easily fall (back) into eating meat. In order to fully understand the reality of how we should treat other animals, one has to attain this deeper empathy, what we Effaists call "Animal Empathy Enlightenment". Once you get to the state where you realize that all sentient life must be respected, it's pretty hard to go back to a less enlightened way of treating other animals, including eating them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

EFFAISM: Stray dog attacks - who's to blame?

I just read a report about a stray dog that attacked a family in Mexico. As is often the case in these types of situations, the dog was later found and killed. In some countries with high populations of homeless dogs (Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania come to mind), attacks such as this one have led to calls to quickly solve the problem by any means necessary. Unfortunately, at least in the countries mentioned above, this "quick fix" often involves anger-motivated revenge killings of strays, sometimes en masse.

The way a society treats its animals says a lot about how advanced that society is. Before blaming stray animals, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: First and foremost, we are responsible for the problem of stray animals, and we, collectively, have to deal with this problem in a humane way. There are two main factors that contribute to the high number of strays. The first reason is the abandonment of dogs that are no longer wanted. Many societies where stray dogs (or cats) are a problem are the same ones where people often just dump their pets after they stop being cute, or they get sick of them, etc. As long as people are not taught from an early age to see pets as sentient beings, and to care for them like they would a family member, homeless animals will be a problem. The second reason involves the lack of spay and neutering programs involving strays. Most people who have dealt with homeless pets around the world would agree that a good spay and neuter (or treat and release) program is an effective way to lower the numbers of stray animals.

So, education and spaying and neutering are the way to go. We can do this in our own families, by educating our children to respect and to help homeless pets, and we can demand the creation of government programs that do this on a larger scale. Culling (killing) strays en masse is a poor solution for several reasons. First, it is just plain wrong to kill innocent sentient beings. Second, most strays are not dangerous, and it is only a minority that become overly aggressive. The majority live a sad, lonely life on the streets of cities whose citizens are desensitized to their suffering, and do nothing to help them. I don't think I have to tell you how punishing the majority for the actions of a small minority is a horrible idea. Third, without the long term solutions I've outlined above, any mass killing will only solve the problem temporarily. Until people are taught to respect the lives of their pets, and to be responsible for them (including spaying and neutering them), the problem will resurface over and over again. Government officials often state that there is no money for programs such as this, but this is only because they fail to see the importance of this and to make it a priority.

So, again, do not blame the strays. Blame the heartless individuals that have created the problem by failing to take responsibility they had for these animals. Blame the government for failing to create spay and neuter programs that have been shown to reduce the number of strays, for failing to set up humane animal shelters that try to find homes for the ones that can be rehabilitated, and for failing to create and enforce laws that punish animal abandoners and abusers.

These are modern, ethical solutions for a modern state. We call on all responsible heads of government to implement these to help create a better world for both stray animals and the humans around them.

Monday, August 18, 2014

VEGAN AND VEGAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD: Birosta (Zaragoza, Spain)

Address: Barrio de la Magdalena, Calle de la Universidad, 3, 50001 Zaragoza, Spain
Phone: (+34) 976205333
Website: http://www.birosta.com/

A funky, fairly spacious place with a good variety of vegan and vegetarian food and good, friendly service, located in the Magdalena neighborhood in central Zaragoza. Can't remember how much the menu of the day was, but it was definitely on the cheap side, something around 8 euros for a salad, a main course and a desert. They also have a good selection of beer and other alcoholic beverages, and a lot of books to browse through.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Humane meat - ultimately not that humane

I recently stumbled upon an article that discusses whether or not animal rights activists should get involved in the promotion of "humane meat”. First and foremost, once you reach a certain level of empathy, there is no such thing as "humane meat". All sentient beings want to live. All sentient life is precious, and the right to life of these animals should be respected. In a way, I kind of find the whole idea of "humane meat" a little twisted. One can almost understand the lack of empathy in the world of factory farms. Animals are treated as mere commodities, and the whole death machine is set up to kill as many of them as possible as quickly (though often not painlessly) as possible. On farms where animals are raised "ethically", the animals are theoretically happier than their factory farm counterparts, and there is often much more contact with the animals, thus providing an opportunity to really appreciate the personalities of these animals and to get to know them better. One would think that this would create even more awareness and more empathy for these animals.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, or even if it is, it is overshadowed by the "it's sad but necessary" myth. This is what puzzles me, with so many people in the world embracing and thriving on vegetarian and vegan diets, and with so much proof that animals are both sentient and intelligent creatures, how can we view "ethical meat" as the ultimate solution? Is this truly a fair way to treat other animals?

The answer is no, but it is more fair than factory farms. In my humble opinion, and in the opinion of many people who care about animal rights, activists should adopt a two-thronged approach to this topic. On one hand, we should fight to end factory farming, as the horrors and injustices inherent in that system are something that most people in the world would agree have to stop. On the other hand, we should continue educating people that while small farms where animals are treated "well" before they are killed are more ethical than factory farms, they are ultimately not "ethical" per se.

In order to truly end the violence towards other animals, and to understand this second part of the equation, we have to leave the above-mentioned "it's sad but necessary" myth behind. In the above-mentioned article, there were responses in the comments sections that were typical of meat apologists. One stated that due to the "differences in our constitutions", not everyone can become a vegan/vegetarian, and that we should just accept that some can and some can't. I have a simple response to this: where there's a will there's a way. I've already written about common myths that meat eaters use to justify their diet. Breaking free from a lifetime of habits is not easy, but those who truly respect other animals' right to live will find a way to make their new diet work. It is possible, and pretty much anyone can be happy and healthy without meat, if they are truly committed to this.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Helping vs. selfishness

Many people claim that they love animals, but the millions of animals in the world that need our help will not survive on kind words and good intentions alone. While the factors that prevent people from helping other animals are plentiful, I will forget about the most obvious ones, such as lack of compassion, and focus instead on one that is a little more ambiguous - seeing helping as a burden, one that either financially, emotionally, or physically complicates one's life.

A good example of this desire to not complicate one's life too much is the hesitation when faced with the prospect of adopting a pet. It really saddens me that so many people basically have to be convinced to do this, when the presence of a cat, dog, or other animal in the household can bring so much happiness to all parties involved. Still, people have their routines, which they feel will be compromised by having to walk a dog, by making it harder to travel, by having to spend more money on cat food, litter, vets, etc. While I can understand all of these reasons, I still have to remind you that life is about stepping outside your comfort zone in order to help those that need it; and a cat or dog living a relatively lonely life in a shelter would definitely qualify as someone who needs help. Personal well-being is important, and there's nothing wrong with ensuring this well-being, but the reasons that most people give for not committing to a stray animal are not very convincing. Any changes in your lifestyle will be outweighed by the benefits of the noble act of rescuing an animal. I myself have adopted or rescued several animals. The first cat that I rescued initially seemed like a burden, because at that point I had never taken care of another animal, but over time she became an inseparable part of our family, and to this day I love her very much.

Another example of choosing the easy way out, the path of least resistance, if you will, is the reluctance of many animal lovers to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Again, even with all the new information about the benefits of a plant-based diet, as well as more and more meat-free options readily available, many "animal lovers" still can't completely cross over to a lifestyle that says no to violence towards animals. Sometimes this is because of uncertainty about missing out on essential nutrients or the fear of having to take supplements. I often wonder why the same people don't realize the simple truth that any diet has to be well-balanced to work, and that more meat-eaters take supplements for one reason or another than vegetarians or vegans do. Others say things like “animal proteins are more complete”, and that they don't want to have to work hard to mix and match plant-based foods to ensure they get the same protein. Once again, the comfort zone. "I don't want to have to do anything that will make my life any more difficult". I, and many others like me, will gladly mix and match veggie proteins if it means not partaking in the violence and death of the meat and dairy industries. For any truly compassionate individual who can see the big picture, this is a no-brainer. There are also quite a few people who simply state that they love the taste of meat and can't live without it. Whether overtly or not, what they are saying is that they don't give a damn if animals are killed, as long as they get to have that pleasure of eating meat. Hopefully someday these people will wake up to a more compassionate way of life, for their own sake and for the sake of all the innocent animals in the meat industry.

It's a lot easier to help with helping is easy. Unfortunately, helping is sometimes not easy. Even in our world, where instant gratification has become more and more commonplace, not everything can be arranged at the push of a button. Difficult ethical choices sometimes have to be made, ones that challenge the way we live. Acting to help animals is a very important part of life. We should all ask ourselves if we're doing enough to help, or if, like most people, we're too stuck in our comfort zone to really make a difference.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why it's important to spay/neuter your pet/La importancia de esterilizar/castrar a tu mascota

(abajo en español)

Instead of simply listing reasons to spay and neuter your pets, I would like to respond to common arguments used by people who are, for one reason or another, against this.

1. Spaying and neutering is unnatural. I have no right to play God.
When we speak about wild animals that are a part of a natural ecosystem, then yes, spaying and neutering is, for the most part, unnatural and unnecessary. Our pets, on the other hand, live in a world that we created, so we are responsible for their well-being. Most veterinarians will tell you that spaying and neutering is part of this well-being and is actually beneficial for your pet's mental and physical health. In the case of homeless pets, this becomes almost mandatory, as population levels can get out of hand very quickly. Playing God? It's important to know the difference between interfering with nature and helping animals. In the urban context, we have to help, since not interfering leads to the suffering of millions of innocent dogs and cats due to overpopulation, including serious health concerns for both people and other animals living in regions with high stray populations.

2. My cat/dog never goes outside. There's no need to spay/neuter him/her.
Spaying and neutering makes your animal more calm. If you're ever seen a dog/cat in heat, you know that they can do some pretty crazy things in this state. By eliminating the need to reproduce, you're creating a more balanced animal. Do a quick search, and you'll see that spaying and neutering your pet is actually good for his physical and mental health. Also, keep in mind that your dog/cat does need much time to get pregnant (or to get another animal pregnant). By letting your non-neutered cat out even for a little bit, you might be contributing to the pet overpopulation problem more than you realize.

3. I want my pet to be able to reproduce.
In an ideal world, this would make sense, but our reality is pretty far from being ideal. Did you know that there are millions of animals killed in shelters in the US every year because of space and time limitations? This is the result of not spaying and neutering. While reproduction can be a beautiful thing, please keep in mind that even one litter (5 puppies) can be pretty challenging (in some cases impossible) to find homes for. You'd think that it would be easy to find homes for cute little puppies or kittens, but unfortunately this is not the case. Furthermore, what if none of the five puppies/kittens was neutered? Think of all the future litters!

4. My dog/cat is of a specific breed.
As far as I see it, all dogs and cats are beautiful. There is no difference between the love and affection you can get from a pure-breed animal and that of a mongrel. If, however, you are a fan of a particular breed, please consider the following: 1) Chances are, this breed is not going extinct. There are plenty of other breeders that will ensure that this remains true. 2) Your animal will actually be happier and healthier when you spay/neuter him or her. 3) There are millions of homeless pets that need homes. By focusing on reproducing one breed, you are making it harder for all of these homeless pets to find homes, which, in effect, is often a death sentence. Once again, we live in desperate times for many dogs and cats. If we truly love our pets, we will remember that there are millions of others just like them looking for homes, and we should do our best to ensure that their numbers don't grow. Instead of getting our animals to reproduce, let's do something selfless and help some of these other pets find good homes.

5. My dog/cat won't be the same if he/she is spayed or neutered.
Most veterinarians agree that a pet becomes healthier once he or she is spayed or neutered. As for changes in personality, these are generally for the better. What usually happens is that a pet basically remains the same, personality-wise, but simply loses some of the traits (such as aggression and wanting to roam outside the house) that can be harmful to both him/herself or others.


En vez de simplemente hacer una lista de razones para esterilizar o castrar a tu mascota, quisiera responder a algunos argumentos comunes contra la esterilización/castración.

1. La esterilización/castración es poco natural. No tengo derecho de jugar a ser Dios.
Cuando hablamos de los animales salvajes que forman parte de un ecosistema natural, es cierto que la esterilización/castración es poco natural y (con algunas excepciones) innecesaria. Nuestras mascotas, por otro lado, viven en un mundo que nosotros hemos creado, así que somos responsables por su bienestar. La mayoría de los veterinarios consideran la esterilización/castración de mascotas como parte integral de este bienestar, y lo ven como algo beneficial para la salud mental y física del animal. En el caso de los perros o gatos callejeros, esto se hace casi obligatorio, ya que el número de esos animales puede irse de las manos muy rápido. Jugar a ser Dios? Es importante de saber la diferencia entre interferir con la naturaleza y ayudar a los animales. En el contexto urbano, tenemos que ayudar, ya que no interferir lleva al sufrimiento de millones de perros y gatos debido a la sobrepoblación.

2. Mi gato/ perro nunca sale a la calle. No hace falta esterilizar/castrarlo.
La esterilización/castración calma a tu mascota. Si alguna vez has visto un gato/perro en cela, ya sabes que los animales suelen hacer cosas bastante raras en este estado. Eliminando la necesidad de reproducir, estás creando un animal mas balanceado. Haz una búsqueda en línea, y verás que esterilizando/castrando a tu mascota es bueno para su salud mental i física. También toma en cuenta que tu gato/perro no necesita mucho tiempo para embarazarse (o para embarazar a otro animal). Dejando salir a tu gato, aún por poco tiempo, arriesgas contribuir al problema de la sobrepoblación de mascotas más de lo que te das cuenta.

3. No quiero quitarle a mi mascota la oportunidad de parir.
En un mundo ideal, eso sí tendría sentido, pero aquel mundo está muy lejos de la realidad en que vivimos. Sabías que en los Estados Unidos, por ejemplo, cada año se mata a millones de animales en los albergues solo por falta de espacio y limitaciones de tiempo? Esto es el resultado de no esterilizar a nuestras mascotas. Aunque el parto suele ser algo maravilloso, toma en cuenta que es muy difícil (y a veces hasta imposible) de encontrar hogar para todos los cachorros/gatitos de una camada. Se pensaría que encontrar hogar para animalitos tan "chulos" sería fácil, pero desafortunadamente no lo es. Se complica la cosa aun mas cuando uno piensa de todas las camadas futuras de estos mismos perros/gatos, si también no se les esteriliza!

4. Mi gato/perro es de raza (pura).
Según yo, todos los perros y gatos son bellos. Fíjate que no hay diferencia entre el amor y el cariño que te da una mascota sin raza y lo de una mascota de raza. Sin embargo, si eres muy fan de alguna raza particular, toma esto en cuenta: 1) Lo más probable es que esta raza no se va a acabar. Hay muchos otros criadores que asegurarán que eso no pase. 2) Tu mascota será más feliz y más sana después de ser esterilizada. 3) Hay millones de animales que necesitan un hogar. En fijándote demasiado en una sola raza, lo haces más difícil para ellos de encontrar este hogar, lo que, en muchos casos, es igual a una condena de muerte. Te recuerdo otra vez que vivimos en tiempos desesperados para muchos perros y gatos. Si realmente amamos a nuestras mascotas, recodaremos que hay millones otros, iguales a ellas, buscando una casa, y deberíamos hacer lo posible para asegurar que su número no crezca. En vez de reproducir nuestras mascotas, hagamos algo desinteresado para ayudar algunos de aquellos animalitos a encontrar un buen hogar.

5. Mi perro/gato no será lo mismo después de la operación.
La mayoría de los veterinarios concuerdan que una mascota será más sana después de ser esterilizada. Cuanto a los cambios de personalidad, son generalmente para mejor. Lo que suele pasar es el animal no cambia de personalidad, solo pierda algunos rasgos (como la agresión o el deseo de salir al exterior) que pueden hacer daño a sí mismo o a otros.

Monday, June 23, 2014

VEGAN + VEGAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD: CatBar (Barcelona, Spain)

Address: Boria 17 (Laietana, Metro Jaume 1)
Phone: (+34) 932956815
Website: http://catbar.es/

CatBar, located in the Old Town in Barcelona, is a handy option for vegans traveling to that city. The language of choice here is English, so even if you speak no Spanish or Catalan whatsoever, you'll be fine. Its cat-themed interior is very hip, and they've got a really good selection of regional microbrews. They have a fairly basic but decent selection of food. The burger that I ordered was alright, though not spectacular. I've had much better. It seemed like the type of veggie burger that you'd get way back when veggie burgers first appeared. The salad was quite tasty. The meal set me back about 10 Euro, reasonable for Barcelona, but a bit more expensive than you'd pay in other parts of Spain. Note of caution: as is the case with many restaurants in Spain, the kitchen only opens around 6 or 7 pm, so plan accordingly.




Monday, June 16, 2014

The importance of posting about animal rights

As someone who cares about animals, I am deeply affected by how unfairly we treat the animals with whom we share our world. Sometimes I come off a little strong, but this is only because I believe this to be a very serious issue, and with so many lives being lost to this unfairness, an empathetic individual can't help but want to get involved.

First, as a disclaimer, I realize that it is easy to go overboard and post story after story after story of animal cruelty. Posting something to show people how cruel people can be has been, for the most part, done to death (even by me), and I try to avoid doing it. Most people are aware of much of the cruelty that is out there, but not everyone is aware of the steps needed to be taken to help end the cruelty. This is why positive posts which encourage people to take the steps needed to change our relationship with the rest of the animal world for the better are much more effective.

I recently caught myself wondering about the opposite end of the spectrum, about vegetarians/vegans who post nothing at all about animal-related issues. I suppose many would say that their diet is their personal choice, and they don't want to be all preachy about it. It all depends on one's perspective. Of course not eating meat or other animal products is a personal choice, but it is a personal choice that is linked to diminishing levels of violence in the world, to lowering the number of innocent animals killed. This is a very important goal, ane even if you want to avoid being preachy, you can still post something, anything, that helps others get on a path that minimizes violence. I guess I just wanted to remind my fellow vegetarians and vegans that we are the voice of the animals of the world. We are the ones who should use our empathy, if we do indeed have it, to try to save lives. If we don't speak for the animals, who will? Some would argue that no matter what you say, you won't change someone's opinion unless that person is willing to change anyway. I would argue that by sharing helpful information, you are helping to create the possibility of that happening. Sitting by passively will change something in your world, but it will do little to change the system. While this might sound unrealistic at first, think of all the social change that has occurred in the world in the past century or so in the areas of women's rights, workers' rights, even animal rights. How much of this would have occurred if people just stood by passively, or only complained about how awful the world was without taking concrete steps to change it?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On vegetarians/vegans who date meat eaters

Is it alright for vegetarians/vegans to date (or marry) someone who eats meat? Can a relationship made up of someone who eats meat and someone who doesn't last?

It all depends on how serious someone is about their vegetariansm/veganism and how connected he or she is to the reality of animal suffering. I personally would never date someone who eats meat. Why? Because I believe that eating meat is ethically wrong. This belief is not something superficial for me. It permeates my whole being. A lot of my time is spent on helping other animals and improving our relationship with them. The last thing I'd want is to share my life with someone who engages in something that for me and many other true animal lovers, is simply not acceptable. This would be like the parent of a molested child going out with a child molester, or an anti-abortion crusader going out with an abortion doctor.

"But relationships are all about respecting the choices that your partner makes." Now I realize that not all vegetarians/vegans choose their diet for ethical reasons, and not all of them feel as strongly or deeply as I do about animal rights. Anyone who does feel this strongly would never use the "choice" argument. If I like the color green, but my girlfriend likes red, that's her choice, and I can respect that. If she likes Paris, but I prefer Madrid, I can respect that too. I like tattoos, she doesn't - we can work something out. If, however, she believes that murdering animals for food is alright, or "necessary", then we’d have a problem. Those like me feel that killing animals (and condoning this killing by consuming their meat) is closer, on an ethical scale, to killing other people, than it is to choosing the color of a dress, a travel destination, etc.

A vegetarian friend of mine once said that she was OK with dating an "open minded omnivore". Being open-minded is great, but this should not be used to justify causing suffering or killing, whatever species we're talking about. Hypothetically, someone like this would accept that his partner is a vegetarian, but would still continue to be part of the whole death-cycle of the meat industry. No thanks. People like me, those with a deep-seated empathy for other animals look for someone who is willing to say no to violence, to stop taking part in the death cycle of eating meat; someone who actively looks for a better way to interact with the rest of the animal world.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Is it OK to eat cats and dogs?

Generally speaking, articles about eating dogs or cats get people from "Western" countries pretty upset. People in countries like Great Britain, the USA, or Germany are accustomed to thinking of these animals as "pets" and, as such, they are often loved and considered part of the family. The fact that someone would eat these animals is seen as barbaric and disgusting. To counter these accusations, supporters of eating these animals state that this is a "cultural difference", one that should be accepted even if we don't agree with it.

So who's right? Is it OK to eat cats and dogs, or is it indeed barbaric?

First of all, "cultural differences" simply doesn't cut it as an argument. Violence and murder should be seen for what they are, no matter where they happen in the world. In the same way that we wouldn't support forced female circumcision, or sex with minors just because they happen to be part of some "culture", we should not turn a blind eye to violence when it comes to our interaction with the rest of the animal world, no matter where it happens. Some things should transcend borders and cultures. I believe that it is not OK to eat any animal, - cat, dog, pig, cow, chicken, fish, or whatever. It is true, however, that many of the people who are appalled by the fact that some Asians eat dog meat are the same ones who think it's OK to eat pigs, cows, etc., despite the fact that there is growing evidence that the animals that we farm for food are no less intelligent than many of our pets, and that they can build equally meaningful relationships with us. So, does this mean that we should just dismiss "selective" carnivores?

Not really.

While we should strive to keep hypocrisy at a minimum, we should remember that any step that eliminates violence and suffering is a good step. I am personally very thankful that I live in a society that values the life of many kinds of animals, including dogs and cats. The best way to improve our relationship with other animals is by developing a personal bond with them. This is what has happened in our culture with our relationship with dogs and cats (as well as other animals we consider pets). These animals fill many of our lives with joy, and help alleviate loneliness and other negative emotions. They motivate us to become more compassionate, more empathetic. Many of us use our love for our pets as a springboard to start respecting (and possibly loving) other animals as well, including ones our society considers "food". This is a very important phenomenon, and we believe that the more love we show for selected animals, the bigger the chance of an awakening to the suffering of other animals in general, and to the unfair way our world treats them.

Whenever we see the animals that are (or are not) eaten around the world, we should learn from this, - and the lesson here is not that "all animals are fair game", but that it is indeed possible to start with respecting the life of one species, and then, hopefully, expanding that respect to include others.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Do vegetarians and vegans feed their pets meat?

Most people would agree that cats are carnivores, and need meat to survive. Dogs are omnivores. They can survive on a carefully planned, nutritious plant-based diet, though many vegetarians still feed their dogs at least some meat or meat-based dog food. Not that this matters much, but dog food generally has much less meat as a percentage than cat food does. (PS: If you have a dog, and would and would like to find out more about a vegetarian diet for dogs, check out this article, or this one.)

So isn't it hypocritical for someone to not eat meat, while still feeding meat to their pet(s)? This is a dilemma many vegetarians and vegans continue to struggle with, and understandably so. The question itself seems to require a "black or white" answer, but reality can be a lot more gray. I have four cats, and, like I stated above, cats are carnivores, so I do feed them meat-based cat food. I don't like doing this, but it was a choice that I made when I decided to take them in. All of my cats were either saved from shelters, or found sick on the streets. Was it wrong to save the lives of these animals knowing that they would need to consume meat? I personally don't think so. As I have written many times before, I’m not a big fan of the "saint or sinner", "black or white" approach to these issues, but like to see the big picture, - how one lives, what one eats, what one wears, etc. Let's take a couple who eats meat, eats dairy, wears leather, and feeds their dog meat. If they eliminate the first three things from the list, and only feed their dog meat, they will have eliminated 75% of the harm that they do, from the perspective of interacting with other animals. 75% is not 100%, but it's a lot closer to 100% than it is to 0%. At times like this, it's important to be supportive and praise someone for the progress they have made, than to mire them in guilt and call them a hypocrite for what they haven't.

An important thing to remember here is that humans (at least most of us) have a choice when it comes to eating meat or not eating meat. Animals don't have this choice. While we should respect the lives of all sentient beings, we should not mimic the behavior of these animals, such as the carnivorous diet of cats for example. I believe that were given freedom of choice so as to be able to choose a compassionate path, and that, for humans, vegetarianism and especially veganism represent progress. That said, helping carnivorous animals survive is not a bad thing. Look at the organizations that work so hard to preserve species of birds and wild animals around the world. More often than not, the animals in these refuges require fresh meat for survival. On a more local level, like many people, I care about our shelter pets. I have done what I can to help encourage people to adopt, and to spay and neuter their dogs and cats. Encouraging the spaying and neutering of pets is something that I believe everyone who cares about farm animals should get involved in, since humanely cutting down on the population of unwanted pets will go a long way to minimize the amount of meat that is used to feed these animals, thereby saving many lives.

When all's said and done, it all boils down to how comfortable you are with having a pet that requires meat to survive. Like I said, for people who truly empathize with the plight of all animals, it's often a very hard choice to make. Some vegetarians/vegans will not have pets for this reason alone, and I can respect that. I also respect and understand the other side of the argument, one that recognizes that carnivorous animals sometimes also need to be saved.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Zoos, revisited

I was going to write a short entry about the killing of Marius the giraffe at the Copenhagen zoo last week, but I came a great article by Karen Dawn that pretty much sums up my position on this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karen-dawn/they-shoot-giraffes-dont-_b_4763335.html

As the article points out, what happened to Marius is fairly widespread, though most of the cases aren't as public. It's time we took a long hard look at zoos. The model is outdated, and, contrary to popular belief, there is a lot of animal suffering that goes on there.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

EFFAISM: The archaic belief that not eating meat is unhealthy

(En español abajo)

A couple of days ago, I posted a funny image about never hearing a valid argument against vegetarianism. One of my Facebook friends, who is a psychiatrist, took this to heart, and decided to prove to me that vegetarianism is, in fact, dangerous to one's health.

Now, this type of reaction is not that uncommon. People have long used the "vegetarianism is unhealthy" argument. This belief generally stems back to a long time ago, when many people still didn't think much about the unethical aspects of eating meat, so they didn't really look into alternatives to meat as much as they do now. The medical world did not really delve too deeply into vegetarianism or veganism, so a lot of the textbooks were pretty conservative in this respect. Even now, some doctors around the world are still taught somewhat archaic nutritional information, so they unfortunately still end up thinking that eating meat is the only way to go. This is the case with my psychiatrist friend. Many modern doctors have thankfully come to the realization that it is indeed possible to be healthy getting one's protein, iron, and other elements from a plant-based diet (Here's one of them). Some have even published their findings in order to encourage others to cast aside outdated information.

People get upset for various reasons when their deep-rooted dietary habits are challenged. They take this personally. Now, before you go saying that vegetarians can be closed-minded too (true), let me say that I've always maintained that whether you're a carnivore, a vegetarian, or a vegan, a well-balanced diet is key, and that it is, indeed, possible to eat healthy, even if one consumes meat. My psychiatrist friend, however, is one of those people that has a hard time opening his mind to different beliefs, so he proceeded to post about six articles about the dangers of a plant-based diet, some of which were as inconsequential as individual case studies which were too specific to prove anything. I assume that he fails to acknowledge the obvious truth that both vegetarians and carnivores can have vitamin and mineral deficiencies, sometimes due to bad diet, genetics, etc., but that (once again) a well-balanced diet in both cases can ensure that we remain healthy. It always makes me smile when someone posts articles from the medical world, since, of course, two can play at that game, and I can easily post other articles such as this one or this one (from a "biased" source, but quoting several third party sources), which site studies that prove the exact opposite.

If someone argues that vegetarianism is unhealthy, they are, in fact, saying that eating meat is healthy. This, in itself, is a very dangerous assumption, especially with the growing evidence that eating meat can, in fact, lead to all kinds of problems. A simple Google search reveals many articles such as this one which conclude that the consumption of meat can in fact bad for one's health. But, again, getting into an "article war" isn't the point. Detractors of vegetarianism will always find proof, no matter how unconvincing, to make them feel better about their beliefs, as will its supporters. So, as is often the case in life, it comes down to a choice. Which do you prefer, the compassionate path that seeks to save the lives of animals and prevent their suffering, or the status quo, which leads to the slaughter and suffering of millions of these animals? For me, the choice is pretty clear.

A final point, and one that's possibly most important, is that there are millions of vegetarians and vegans (like myself) out there that are prove that it's possible to live a healthy life without meat. Many, like myself, live active lives, go to the gym, play sports, etc., as well as any meat eater. We are living proof that vegetarianism/veganism is healthy, and living proof is pretty hard to argue against.

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La creencia anticuada de que hay que comer carne para ser saludable

Hace unos días, posteé una imagen graciosa en Facebook sobre la falta de buenos argumentos en contra del vegetarianismo. Uno de mis amigos, un tal psiquiatra, se lo tomó a pecho, y decidió de comprobarme que el vegetarianismo es, de hecho, peligroso para la salud.

Esta reacción es bastante común. La gente desde hace mucho tiempo usa el argumento que "el vegetarianismo es poco saludable". Esta creencia se remonta desde hace muchos años, cuando todavía no pensábamos mucho en el aspecto inmoral de comer carne, y por lo tanto, no buscábamos alternativas como lo hacemos actualmente. Ya que en aquellos tiempos el mundo médico no investigó mucho el vegetarianismo/veganismo, muchos de sus libros de texto eran muy conservadores en este respeto. Hasta hoy en algunos países a los doctores se les enseña un enfoque nutricional anticuado, y por lo tanto muchos doctores desafortunadamente todavía creen que comer carne es absolutamente necesario. Tal es el caso de mi amigo el psiquiatra. Por suerte, muchos doctores modernos ya han llegado a la realización de que sí es posible ser saludable sin comer carne, y obtener su proteína, hierro, y otros elementos de una dieta vegetal. (Aquí es uno de ellos). Algunos de esos doctores modernos hasta conducen estudios y publican sus conclusiones para animar a los demás compañeros de desechar la información anticuada.

Mucha gente suele enojarse cuando sus costumbres alimentarias son cuestionados. Se lo toman personal. Reconozco que los vegetarianos igual pueden ser de mente estrecha, aunque yo, personalmente, siempre he creído que sin importar si eres vegetariano, vegano, carnívoro, etc., lo que importa es que tu dieta sea balanceada, y que uno puede comer relativamente sano, incluso comiendo carne. El amigo psiquiatra es una persona a quien le cuesta trabajo abrir la mente y aceptar otras creencias, así que empezó a postear varios artículos, - estudios médicos, casos prácticos, etc. sobre lo "peligrosa" que es la dieta vegetariana. Primero, los casos prácticos eran demasiados específicos para comprobar cualquier cosa. Segundo, posteando cosas así, él olvida una verdad bastante obvia - que los carnívoros tanto como los vegetarianos pueden tener deficiencias de vitaminas o minerales debido a una dieta poco balanceada, la genética, etc., pero (lo repito otra vez) con una dieta balanceada, uno suele evitar estas problemas y ser saludable (en ambos casos). Siempre me hace sonreír cuando alguien saca artículos del mundo médico, porque, obviamente, puedo pagar con la misma moneda, posteando artículos como éste o éste (de un fuente "parcial", pero con varias referencias a estudios independientes) que comprueban lo opuesto.

Si alguien argumenta que el vegetarianismo es poco saludable, de hecho está diciendo que comer carne sí lo es. Esto en si es una suposición bastante peligrosa, tomando en cuenta que actualmente hay cada vez más pruebas de que comer carne puede llevar a varios problemas de salud. Una simple búsqueda en Google nos devolverá muchos artículos como éste que concluyen que comer carne es de hecho malo para la salud. Pero, como ya he dicho, una "guerra de artículos" no es el punto. Los críticos del vegetarianismo siempre encontrarán pruebas, sin importar lo poco creíble que sean, igual que sus partidarios. Entonces, como suele pasar en la vida, es esencialmente cuestión de elección - si prefieres elegir un camino de compasión, en el cual buscas salvar vidas de animales y parar su sufrimiento, o el statu quo, que lleva a la matanza y sufrimiento de millones de estos animales. Para mi la elección es muy fácil.

Un punto final que quiero mencionar, y posiblemente el punto más importante, es que la existencia de millones de vegetarianos y veganos como yo, en si comprueba que es posible vivir una vida sana sin comer carne. Muchos llevamos una vida activa - vamos al gimnasio, hacemos deporte, etc., igual que cualquier persona que come carne. Somos la prueba viviente de que el vegetarianismo y el veganismo son saludables, y es bastante difícil argumentar contra la prueba viviente.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Biking for Animals, in hindsight

Yesterday was the official end of my Biking for Animals fundraising campaign. For those of you who aren't familiar with this campaign, it was a cross-USA bike tour that I did in 2013 to raise awareness about the estimated four million homeless pets that are killed every year in shelters across the United States, and to raise money and awareness for no-kill animal shelters (ones that don't euthanize because of time and space limitations) as well as other animal rescue organizations. The concept was to do one long bike ride in each of the 48 continental states (except for Alaska). Unfortunately, while my intentions were good, the pressure of organizing and doing everything myself eventually began to affect me physically and psychologically, and I had to end the tour in California, almost a whole month before I had planned to.

So what did I learn from this? I learned that there are a lot of good people out there who devote their whole lives to helping the animals that many of us prefer not to think about. I learned that lack of money is the biggest obstacle to allowing these people to do even more to help these animals (which is why it's so important to donate!). I learned that it's not easy to raise money! (I ended up raising very little, although I did try my best.) Some organizations on my list supported my fundraising efforts, others ignored me completely, but I hold no grudges, as all of them do great work to save the lives of innocent animals. On a personal note, I learned about my own limitations and that while it's important to help as much as we can, we have to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us, - that it's important to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, while we help. I wish everyone a very happy New Year, and hope that my words and my actions will inspire you to help animals this year, in any way you can.

(PHOTO: Me and Michelle at Philly PAWS)