Sunday, August 31, 2014

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

Address: Garz├Ča 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.

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 meat 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. I, for example, have attained a higher level of empathy for other animals, so I'm not going to start eating meat no matter how much more money I'd make. On the other hand, a person who normally would eat meat anyway, but simply didn't have the means to do this on a regular basis, would benefit from his new-found wealth to consume more meat. It becomes important, then, in societies where meat consumption is on the rise, to actively teach (and remind) people that the lives of sentient beings like pigs, cows, chickens, fish, etc., should be respected. An increase in wealth does not have to mean an increase in violence towards other species. Theoretically, this should strike a chord 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 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 level of empathy for animals, can quite easily fall (back) into eating meat. 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

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 that 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 who 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, and all responsible heads of government should 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.