Why I Left Social Media Behind

This is not a vegan-related post, but we thought it was relevant to share on this blog, since some of you follow us on social media, and Michael runs half of it, which will definitely affect our presence there. Also, it might give you some pause to consider your own social media consumption, which does tie in to health and wellness–things we vegans tend to care about!

This is from Michael’s blog, The Thought Full Leader:

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I am dropping off Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, and most other social media platforms.

I know many people will not only relate to my reasons, but they might even applaud my decision (if only silently). I hope this experiment gives you some thought to the impact of social media and what value it brings to your life.

I am calling out Facebook here because it is easier than listing every platform, and it is the one I use most, as well as the biggest, easiest target. Think of “Facebook” as any social media service, though. I am talking about all of them.

Around 2005, I left cable television (hold on–this relates to the social media thing, I promise).

Watching TV stole months from my life. Time slipped away while I sat and watched it go each day. TV became my way of turning my brain off instead of engaging with the world. I found myself sitting to watch a show, and then channel surfing between shows, and then, before I knew it, half a day was gone. I didn’t even watch anything all the way through. That time was wasted. I learned nothing. I thought nothing. I did nothing. I might as well have been nothing, invisible to the world for the time spent staring mindlessly at a screen.

Dropping cable in favor of curated content from the internet or no content at all was a great decision. When I watch TV now, it is only when I actively choose to do so and I am engaged in the content. TV is no longer background noise to all my conversations. Instead, I listen to the person speaking rather than divide my attention between the person and commercials designed to steal my attention.

Facebook has slowly filled the gap cable television left. It has become the thing I do to avoid thinking when I am bored, scrolling mindlessly through my feed.

There are 5 real reasons I use Facebook and other social media and, except for one, they are all reasons I should reconsider…

1. Distribute my blog. This is the main reason I am on social media. Most of my readers find this blog and A Couple Vegans (which I write with Nicole) through Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Moving away from social media means damaging my audience size and reach. That is scary. I have built this blog over roughly 10 years to amass around 4,000 subscribers. Admittedly, not much compared to bigger brands or names, but I never chased an audience or marketed this blog. Still, only about 200 readers consistently visit MichaelSalamey.com (maybe the rest are subscribed via email but–how many email subscriptions do you actually read each week?). A Couple Vegans is only a few months old and only has a handful of subscribers itself (about a hundred so far–also with no marketing other than word of mouth).

So… for you 300 or so people consistently visiting my blog(s), you might be the only people I am writing to in the future. Thanks for subscribing, by the way, and for sharing the posts you like. You are my only advertising.

2. I use social media to have meaningless relationships with people I do not want to have actual contact with in real life. That sounds bad but it is not a bad thing. Facebook allows me to exist on the periphery of the lives of people I almost care about… but not enough to actually engage with face-to-face. For someone like me, this is of great benefit.

As a slightly sociopathic but high-functioning ambivert, I am friendly to everybody… but, to be honest, I do not relate to most people. I am not even sure I like most people. In fact, only one or two people have open access to my time. Other than Nicole, nobody hangs out with me regularly.

Socially speaking, maybe that is pathetic. It is not you, though. It’s me.

At the risk of sounding (more) egotistical, perhaps I am that rare thing everyone believes themselves to be, but almost no one is… a man who thinks for himself.

My values, philosophy, beliefs, moral code, and system of ethics rarely integrate with those of others. Actually… never, so far. But I suspect that is why people read my blog–you can expect a unique view of things. In my personal life, I have been told no one can live up to my standards. So maybe it is not that I do not like most people. Maybe it is that I have yet to meet people who are more like me.

Living a life where the common ground I have with most people amounts to polite tolerance of each other, honestly, is lonely for me. I wish I could be dumber or smarter, instead of in this middle ground between average and almost-greatness… floating in some purgatory, unable to feel part of either mass popularity or eccentric genius.

Woe is me. First World problems. The point is, Facebook is a great way for some people to feel involved in the world without actually having to BE involved in the world. That is a mostly good thing but it is something I can use less of.

3. I stalk people and popular news stories. The same curiosity that drives people to the zoo drives me to keep up on news and social circles. We visit the zoo expecting to see elephants in their natural habitat, but instead see morbidly depressed animals slowly pacing or pooping. Part of us yearns to hear the elephant’s trumpet or watch a lion charge across the plains. Similarly, Facebook delivers less on its promise and more on the mundanity of our lives.

Social media updates are about what someone ate, aspirational quotes the posters have never incorporated into their lives, open displays of the obscure relationship some people have with their faith and binge-drinking. People check-in from whenever they are standing in line, or spout the bizarrely irrational political or dogmatic views they have. Some people insist on sharing their ignorance with the world. It’s confounding, but I am also probably one of them.

Still, I am too often disappointed when I see someone’s Facebook feed. I liked them before knowing their goofball endorsements of products or illogical values. It was better when I could assume they were, on most levels, rational.

4. To learn about local events. Social media is helpful for this. Nicole and I do a lot of cool things because of events posted on Facebook. Another plus of leaving it behind, though, is I might save money by not knowing about most events.

5. I use social media to pass time and avoid human interaction. It is easier–preferable, even–to avoid engaging strangers while standing in line or waiting for food. Instead, I can pretend that scanning short, mostly irrelevant articles or updates is extraordinarily important right at that moment. While waiting to have my groceries scanned, I stare at my phone like I am reading my secret agent mission dossier or studying up on quantum physics. I’m actually just looking at Caturday memes.

We like to think that “catching up on Facebook” is the same as “catching up with friends” but it is not the same. I must have an investment in someone’s life to “catch up” on their life. People share superficial thoughts, vague requests for prayers about problems I don’t understand for people I do not know (I love the term for this: “Vaguebooking”). We share memes and sensationalized news stories. That is not catching up with friends. That is walking through conversations at a dinner party… except without dinner or a party, or anywhere to go.

What will I do when I am bored now?

Those 5 things are not contributing enough to me, so I am leaving social media behind. My phrasing is important, by the way. I did not say “I am leaving social media”. I am saying, “I am leaving social media behind.” I am moving on, not away. I am going to find something better. However, I do not know what that is yet, exactly.

I guess I will write, think, speak to people, and read more books. Maybe I will just be present, observing and appreciating the world around me. Maybe I will engage my creative side and take time to daydream. Whatever I do to fill the time Facebook sucked away, I doubt I will look back and think, “I wish I spent less time enjoying the breeze on my face and more time staring at my phone, scrolling through dumb articles and avoiding my life.”

That being said, this is still an experiment. I am not deleting my accounts. I might change my mind on all of this, or I might want to try again with a different approach. What I plan to do is log out of my accounts and uninstall the apps from my phone.

That means my blog will still post on my social media streams for now, but nothing else will, and I won’t be sharing my posts on my personal Facebook feed, where most people see them.

Some people actually might miss me on social media. Well, at least I like to think that, but I suspect most people will never know I left. It’s like quietly slipping away from a party. Maybe one or two people will notice they have not seen me in a while, but they will move on in a few minutes.

The fact is, I am not as important as I like to think I am.

If you want to know what I am up to or how I am doing, though, then you will have to do something scary. You will have to choose if you want me in your life, how much time you would like me to spend there, and then connect with me directly. I might reject you. You might reject me. Or we might build a real, legitimate friendship in the real world. I know. Scary, right?

There are some apps I am keeping, at least for now. I will stay on WhatsApp because I can create specific social circles with people I care about (like my brothers and parents) where we can have conversations in small groups that matter, where every word counts. I am keeping Hangouts for texting–again, direct one-to-one conversations, and I plan to stay on other direct message platforms like GroupMe and Slack.

Of course, you will be able to text me, instant message me on Hangouts, email me (MichaelSalamey@gmail.com) or reach me through one of my blogs.

Honestly, you probably won’t know I’m gone, but if you miss me, don’t be a stranger… or at least no stranger than me. Hopefully, not seeing me on Facebook will help you wonder what I am up to, and what you could be up to if you were not on Facebook.

Good luck either way. Maybe I’ll see you later… in the real world!

How Do I Go Vegan?

“I think the only thing that’s keeping me from being vegan is not knowing how!” Somebody said this to me (Michael) recently and I am sure I said something like that when I first committed myself to an animal-free lifestyle and diet.

After being vegan for nearly two decades now, I can offer five simple tips to help you get started (or help you help someone else get started), and make it stick. Here are five things that worked for me…

 

     1.  You do not have to go vegan all at once. It’s not an all or nothing game when you start. Just replace one thing at a time. For example, olive oil can replace butter, no matter how you use it—even on toast (it’s actually better-tasting!). So one night, put olive oil on your corn cob instead of butter. You’ll find you can totally survive it. When it’s time to replace one pair of your shoes, choose a new pair with no leather uppers. Baby steps.

 

     2. EVERY meal is already vegan—if you just take out one or two things. The irony of being vegan is that people think vegans eat nothing but salad. “I could never go vegan!” they exclaim, but they are already vegan. Everybody already eats what vegans eat (we would of malnutrition if we didn’t eat vegan foods). Vegans eat salad, sure, but it is more appropriate to say vegans eat an extra helping of salad–not “just” salad. If your dinner is steak with a side of green beans and a side salad, all you have to do is have an extra helping of salad or green beans instead of the steak. Congratulations, you’re vegan.

 

     3. Find the stuff you don’t have to give up that is already “accidentally” vegan. Oreo cookies, Fritos chips, Cracker Jack, Pepsi, Spaghetti Marinara, Black Bean Soup, most bagels, and a bunch of other stuff is vegan by default so you don’t have to give it up! Being vegan does not mean “never eating anything you love”. It means finding new things you love to eat on top of the vegan things you already eat!

 

     4. Don’t beat yourself up. I tried to go vegan three times before it finally stuck. The best advice I heard when that helped me finally break through my meat and cheese coma was this: “It’s okay to miss the food you love.” I felt so much guilt when I would drive by an Outback Steak House and secretly enjoy the smell. I would hate myself for wanting a hot dog at a family cookout, trying to admonish thoughts of enjoying the smell or taste of charred animal flesh. When I realized, “It’s okay to miss the food you love,” I also realized my helpful vegan friend used the present tense: “love”, not “loved”. It hit me, then, that it’s okay to pine after the smell of barbecue or pizza. But sometimes you have to give up food you love even if you are not vegan. Diabetics, for example, have to give up certain things, but we don’t even have to go to medical choices. Sometimes you don’t have room for dessert or you don’t want your breath to stink before a date so you pass on your mom’s lasagna. Being vegan is similar. You don’t have to feel guilty about everything you are missing—and it’s okay to miss it. After all, being vegan is simply a choice you make at each meal.

 

     5. It’s your choice. The real trick to how I have stayed vegan for 20 years is simple. I don’t look at it like something I have doomed myself to for the rest of my life. It is just a decision I make when I eat. “I think I’m going to skip the cheesecake this time,” is probably something I say to myself at least once a week! Being vegan is not a prison sentence. It is just a decision you get to make at every meal. Maybe one day in the future I will decide not to be vegan, but so far, it is a decision that feels pretty good, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Plus, if it did, we would have to change the name of our blog!

 

 

If you are struggling with being (or becoming) vegan, hope those five tips help. If you are a long-time pro vegan and you have a tip or two to add to first-timers, let us know in the comments. If you find value in our little blog, be sure to share it. Thanks!

 

ALL INCLUSIVE VACATION MADE VEGAN

Earlier this month, Michael and I had the opportunity to go on vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun with non-vegans.  This was my first all-inclusive vacation and I did not know what to expect.

Of course, I was worried about the food options. I wanted to share my experience and some of the lessons I learned on how to get good vegan food at an all-inclusive. I am not promoting the resort we visited or saying the options were great… just how we navigated them. With this being my first experience, I don’t know if this is normal or if it will work at most all-inclusive resorts.

I understand different resorts offer different things, but this resort had a breakfast buffet, one restaurant open for lunch, and four restaurants to choose from for dinner. The breakfast buffet was surprisingly easy and had great options.  In the buffet, there was an omelet station. We asked the chef to saute just the veggies for us.  There was some cross-contamination but we did not expect perfection. This was tasty even without seasoning. There was also fresh fruits and veggies.  They usually had a potato option like roasted potatoes with olive oil or hash browns that were good. They had cereal and soy milk by the smoothie/juice bar. On some mornings, they had other vegan options, like roasted tomato, zucchini, and eggplant stack, or strawberry tamales.

Lunch was the hardest meal with the fewest options. They only had one restaurant regularly open for lunch and it only had one small salad and one sandwich option. This got boring. There was one day that another restaurant was opened.  It was Italian themed.  We had a horrible time getting this one right, but the server was very kind. First, we ordered the Arrabbiata and were going to share it.  Well, it was presented with grated parmesan cheese, so it got sent back. Then it was too spicy for me.  Michael got to enjoy it all to himself and I ordered a marinara dish. Glad that we weren’t paying for each plate.

Dinners  were easier than I expected.  They asked if anyone in our dining party had food allergies. I took this as an opportunity to tell them we were vegan. Sometimes we had to explain what that meant and sometimes the language barrier was a little challenging, but in the end, the food was great and, we have to assume, vegan.

All of the staff were more than willing to assist and go out of their way to help us (and we tipped them graciously to show our appreciation).

If you go on vacation in Mexico, be patient if their English is not the best. Remember, this is their second language and it isn’t like we learned the local language before visiting, so we could converse with them.

Do you have any all-inclusive tips that you found worked? If so, we would love to hear them in the comments!

Stop People Abuse!

Vegans hate animal cruelty. Like, really hate it. It is probably the number one reason most vegans become vegan–because they watched an internet video, or saw a documentary, or read a book detailing the many follies of factory farming.

In protest of animal cruelty and protection of animal rights, some of us begin the very difficult journey of abstaining from eating or wearing anything that is, or comes from, any animal. Some vegans even begin treating animals better than humans. They become militant. These vegans take up the war cry for animal rights and putting an end to cruelty. They begin shaming their friends and posting general rants on social media extolling the virtues of their life decision while pointing out the worst in human behavior.

For me, that is a problem (this is Michael, by the way). I think it is not only ineffective for helping animals but it is also not a good way to invite other people to become curious about veganism.

Militant vegans, though filled with good intentions, hurt the movement. 

It is certainly frustrating to see story after story about animal suffering and I sometimes feel a swell of anger at the world for not understanding basic cause and effect relationships. Nonetheless, I remind myself to share the anger with my closest friends if I need to, but keep the conversation going with those who are not aligned with the values of their better angels yet.

I can’t say I have found the secret formula or perfect argument to make every person I meet become vegan, but I know what worked for me… and what didn’t. I also know by following three simple principles, I have been able to grow curiosity about veganism in more non-vegans than I ever would have thought possible. People tentatively approach the subject when they meet me but then use me as a resource as they take one step at a time closer to an animal-friendly world.

Maybe it’s slow (probably no slower than any other approach), but it works… and no one gets hurt. I hope some of my militant vegan friends will adopt the same easy principles in their conversations and postings, and maybe… just maybe… we can add a few more vegans to the roster instead of pushing some people away altogether.

Here are my three guidelines:

1.  Do not judge non-vegans. Everyone has a choice to make and I was well into my twenties when I decided to live a more peaceful life with respect to my fellow creatures. There are probably many other bad decisions I need to correct, as well–most of which I am probably unaware of. That is why I do not judge others for their bad choices… or at least I keep my judgments to myself, unless invited to share my opinion.

I didn’t know I should be vegan until I did the homework myself. More importantly, people like me (and probably you) are the exception. Most people do not do much research into factory farming, animal cruelty, or ethical health choices. It’s not on their radar. It isn’t taught in school. There are no commercials for going vegan. They do not know what you might know. You were them just a little while ago and if somebody gave you the “Don’t you know how veal is made and where milk comes from?!?” rant, you would likely not be swayed. In fact, the first time you heard that rant, you probably did not believe it or were not that concerned about it. Eventually, you looked into it.

2.  Avoid blaming and shaming. This is probably the worst thing I see well-meaning, passionate vegans do. If your post or rant starts with “You”, “You people”, or “Why don’t people just…”, start over. It’s not Us versus Them. The people you are trying to reach are just as human as you are. If they are having a bad day already, the last thing they need to see in their social media feed is their judgy-vegan friend going off on them about their life choices. Instead of venting your anger vaguely at the people you supposedly love, try sharing about YOUR journey. Rather than, “When will people start understanding the suffering of animals? I can’t believe it’s 2016 and we still eat meat!”, try “I remember the moment when I understood why I could not eat meat anymore. It was when…”. Tell YOUR story rather than try to change everyone else’s.

3.  If no one asked your opinion, don’t assume they want it. I do not tell people I am vegan unless it comes up naturally in conversation. For me, it is not a bragging right. It is a life-choice. I don’t tell people I am a non-smoker, either. It’s just part of who I am. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your commitment to non-cruelty but most of the rest of the world just don’t care about your choices or opinions. If you want an audience, start a blog. If you want people to listen to you, create a podcast and find people who care enough to tune in. But your non-vegan mother, cousin, or work mate really doesn’t care to hear about baby seals being bludgeoned or seeing videos of how hamburgers are made. Only PETA does, and they probably don’t care what your opinion is on it, either, because–like your mother–they already made their choice. Pointing out how wrong or right it is doesn’t matter to them.

 

As a long time vegan advocate, I can tell you the biggest trap I see passionate vegans fall into is this: they believe in stopping cruelty and animal suffering… but they forget humans are animals, too.

 

If you like what I said here, I would like to recommend this article from Kolene Allen as well, one of our friends at VeganGR. It’s excellent.

Support Local, but also Support National

Don’t buy your vegan products from Target because you can find better quality products for just a couple dollars more at your local market or store.

Don’t support big chains like Starbucks or Chipotle because there are local farmers and restaurants offering great vegan food right here in town!

Except when there isn’t. Except when you are traveling to another town. Except when you want convenience or just to save a couple dollars once in a while.

There is such a huge push to support local businesses now that we often forget why we like big chains in the first place. Before you barrage us with emails, comments, or FaceBook posts, we know big corporations are evil, tax breaks, Starbucks is the devil, etc.  Really, we do. We read Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston and we saw The Corporation.

All things being equal, we always favor local and ethically run businesses. We also go on vacation and travel once in a while. Knowing we can find a Starbucks and grab a soy latte without doing a half-hour of research, visiting websites, calling for hours, looking up menus, and reading reviews helps our vacation remain a vacation instead of a research project. It is great finding local niche restaurants (it is actually one of our favorite things to do) but just grabbing some tasty Sofritas at Chipotle and moving on is pretty good, too.

In a foreign land, having the dependability of quality and a menu you know can be a comfort in itself for some people.

Supporting local does not have to mean condemning national. Big box retailers certainly should change for the better but they still have a place in the world. Maybe just not as big a one.

Why not favor local, but support both?

My Name Is Prince

 

Prince, Rave

Prince was more than a musician, a rare gem in the world of celebrity who truly earned the right to become a “legend”.

Aside from being arguably one of the greatest musicians and performers of all time, he leveraged his talents to do more than sing. As he matured, he used his voice to advocate for veganism, animal rights, monogamy, feminism, independent artistry, and more.

He was not the reason I became vegan but I first learned the word through his speaking out on the subject, which, in turn, nudged me to dig further and eventually become vegan myself.

In short, Prince took advantage of his skills to do more than make money and have fun. He used his platform to make a difference in as many ways as he could. There are few celebrities who die with such an outpouring of respect from their counterparts, and story after story of what an authentic human being they are.

Prince could easily have gone the route of so many famous people who died and were mourned for nothing more than being famous. After all, he came to his fame in the hey day of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, yet he changed the lives of nearly every musician, and every person, he touched. He made, for the better, the lives of many humans and non-humans who never got to shake his hand or thank him.

The point is this… you have a voice. You have your social media accounts, or your blog, or your relationships with the people around you. Whether you know it, who you are–and who you present to the world–affects more people than you will ever meet, know, or even hear about.

A word of caution: be sure you know what you are talking about when you do speak. Your voice is also your reputation. It is the last thing anyone will hear from you.

Use your voice, like Prince did, to do more than sing.

rave lamb prince

 

Is Your Dog Vegan?

Our puppy, Oliver, is 8 months old and our cat, Rainee, is about 15 years old (this post was written in April of 2016). Nicole and I are both long-time vegans so it stands to reason our pets would be vegan, too. Many vegans, because of their personal philosophical choice, anthropomorphize their values on their pets. We are not those types of vegans.

I like to think of myself (perhaps a bit narcissistically) as an “intellectual” vegan. I made my choice based on my personal moral values and a lot of learning about food, nutrition, and the science of being healthy. After I went vegan, I started to wonder if pet food was roughly equivalent in nutrition and chemical adulteration as highly processed human food. Turns out it is. I make conscious choices about what my pets eat now, too. The difference is, that I do not make philosophical choices for my pets. I do not think it is right to assume the values of my pets inherently reflect my own. Oliver and Rainee are (and I’m not trying to be insulting here) simply too dumb to understand the complicated choices we make on their behalf. Oliver, for example, happily eats carpet and has no problem licking the butt of any dog he just met. I am just saying maybe he is not the brightest star in the sky when it comes to complex decision-making.

Obviously, some important decisions about Oliver’s well-being and safety in a world dominated by the human species is best left to humans (because we know how to read labels and use can openers, for example). Outside of practical decisions, though, I would no more try to impose my philosophy of living on Oliver than I would try to teach a two-year old human baby the virtues of Capitalism. It is outside their scope of knowledge.

 

Some words in this post you might not be familiar with, loosely defined:

Carnivore: must eat meat to have proper nutrition (a tiger, for example).

Herbivore: must eat fruits and vegetables for proper nutrition (an elephant, for example).

Omnivore: can eat either meat or vegetables, or both, and be nutritionally sound (a human, for example).

Vegan: someone who chooses NOT to consume or wear anything that is, or comes from, an animal.

Narcissist: someone who is in love with himself or herself, to a fault.

Anthropomorphize: projecting human thoughts and feelings onto another animal (like Bugs Bunny or your dog).

Adulteration: adding bad stuff (like chemicals) to good stuff (like fruit) to make something unfit for consumption (like Froot Loops, which are delicious, nonetheless).

 

A dog can certainly survive on a vegan diet, but should your dog be vegan because you are?

This is a debatable topic in the vegan community but I am not sure why. On the surface, it is debatable if dogs are omnivores at all, though many veg-friendly sites claim dogs are omnivores “by nature”. There is conflicting evidence about that, but there is no debate that most species within the dog family (Canis Familiaris and their wolf ancestors, Canis Lupus) subsist mostly through hunting and eating other animals. Personally, I think there is a clear, obvious, and striking difference between most omnivores or herbivores and dogs–look at their teeth and eating patterns. Dogs eat competitively and in packs, suggesting the hunting and bringing home of prey rather than individually scavenging for fruits and vegetables.

There is no legitimate scientific debate around cats, as far as I can tell. They are considered strictly carnivores and scientists generally agree cats are unable to thrive without meat in their diet, despite weak anecdotal support from some pet owners.

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So, I will dismiss Rainee from the debate altogether. Regardless if Oliver can survive on a vegan diet (again, debatable), let alone thrive on one (also debatable but certainly possible with strict attention to dietary supplements and fortified foods), I need do no more than look at his teeth to see it is a bad choice to make him vegan.

Canine teeth are clearly designed for ripping, tearing, shredding, and gnashing (like a tiger, wolf, or vampire from Fright Night). Human teeth, by contrast, are flatter and better suited for grinding and chewing (like a cow or horse). Even if dogs are technically omnivores, they have clearly evolved mostly as carnivores, unlike humans, and if left to their own choices, dogs will not deviate from a carnivorous diet (Oliver, for example, will not pass an opportunity to slurp up a lizard if he catches one, much to Nicole’s dismay). In other words, there might be a debate among humans whether dogs are, or should be, considered strictly carnivores, but there is certainly no ambiguity among dogs–if given the opportunity, they will not hesitate to eat meat.

To me, it is a minor act of cruelty to make your pets vegan. As far as we humans can tell, it is not what dogs want or need, and it very likely robs them of key nutrients unless you are a vegan supernerd food scientist who knows vegan dog nutrition inside and out. I don’t even know human food and nutrition inside and out, let alone the nutritional requirements of another species. Forcing my dog to be vegan would likely, and unnecessarily, shorten his lifespan in the name of my moral ignorance.

All that being said, Nicole is grossed out by pet food and treats and will avoid touching it if possible. That leaves the dirty business of feeding them to me. I won’t lie. As a vegan, it is tough some days to smell and handle canned meat, or dog bones, or treats, or to clean up Rainee’s salmon-laced hairballs. It is a moral conundrum, as well, because of course, I don’t like buying meat or having non-vegan items in the house. I understand why vegans make ill choices for their pets, but my primary responsibility to the pet, as I see it, is to the pet’s health and well-being before my own personal politics come into play.

When it comes to choosing vegan for your dog, consider two things…

  1. Maybe you shouldn’t have a dog. Borrow your friend’s dog, or volunteer at a shelter to fill that need, or get a rabbit.
  2. Does the dog want to be vegan? Is it the best choice for the dog or just the best choice to satisfy your conscience?

Nothing about pet ownership is easy and our responsibility does not stop at rescuing or purchasing an animal companion. I am glad the debate over ethical choices for pets is happening (including the debate over pet ownership itself), but when it comes to diet, I think the right thing to do for my dog is not necessarily always the thing that leaves the best taste in my mouth.

 

Feel differently? Agree wholeheartedly? Have questions? Let us know in the comments below!

Our Ancestors Ate Animals? Gross!

Being vegan is increasingly mainstream. It is easier than ever (in major cities), to find vegan options at most restaurants. Vegan clothes are easy to find and order. Vegan niche stores and cafes are popping up. Even Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has vegan options now!

It is a good time to be vegan or veg-curious. When I decided to go vegan almost two decades ago (this is Michael, by the way), the options were nothing like they are now.

It got me thinking (and others are thinking, too)… as a modern society, we look at some choices from–say, just 50 years ago–as relatively unconscionable, if not barbaric. Segregation, for example, or gender stereotyping, or spousal abuse.

What are the things we will look at 50 years from now and find nearly unbelievable that we accepted, as a society?

Will your grandchildren grow up saying, “Can you believe people used to actually carry around a hand-held computer all day and type out messages to each other? It must have taken them forever to get anything done that way!”

“Our ancestors used to kill animals to eat them for food? That’s horrible! Why couldn’t they just use molecular generators to grow meat instead of live like cavemen?”

Maybe it is a pipe dream but I think we are heading that way, and faster than ever. We are growing more environmentally conscious, ecologically conscious, and ethically conscious.

Factory farming, industrialized heavily processed food, and captive animal cruelty are all things receiving greater attention (and outrage) today than they were just a few years ago, let alone half a century ago. Factory farming, I think, will be as senseless and brutal sounding in the near future as ancient gladiator matches seem now.

I don’t know about you… but I hope two or three generations from now, I am seen as a pioneer instead of an embarrassing relic of some family’s history.

What do you want the future say about you?

 

But I Only Murder Humanely

I reflect on each day to figure out what lesson life has taught me and then I share it on this blog. Here is what I thought about today…

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A local burger joint, Square 1, has a new billboard with a picture of a bespectacled smirking cow and the phrase, “humanely raised” plastered on it. This is a phrase I see often at burger bars, restaurants, and grocery stores (ironically, Square 1 offers a pretty delectable vegan patty, too).

Let’s be clear about something. There is no way to humanely raise anything with intent to murder. Being nice to someone before you kill them is not a justification for killing them. The phrase itself – “humanely raised” – is a contradiction in terms. To be “humane” requires, as a prerequisite, being “human”. Being human means being the only living being on the planet with both a conscience and the distinction of choice. We are not only the rulers of the entire Animal Kingdom but also we are the only species able to choose whether to live by murder, or thrive another way.

I do not grand-stand on my vegan soapbox often but the phrase “humanely raised” or “humanely farmed” or “humanely…” anything irks me in the worst way. If we choose not to live within a strong moral or ethical framework, that is our choice (as are the consequences of that choice), but at least let us not try to hide behind a blatantly hypocritical justification for living as a matter of our convenience.

If your character is so weak you simply can not keep yourself from murdering and eating burned animal skin and flesh, that’s your own weird problem. As an alternative, though, I recommend this: have a little self-respect. Our species can be better than a life of apologetically murdering for convenience.

Skipping a burger tonight won’t kill you.. or the cow. And that is actually being humane.

 

(And, hey, I know many people – including some of my family and friends – are going to make a crass joke here, “If God didn’t want us to eat burgers, then He wouldn’t have made them taste so good…” or some other juvenile justification, but it is not funny to me. I’ll laugh with you because I am polite and I am in the minority, but I really don’t see the humor.

Also, this is not a shot across the bow toward non-vegans. The shot across the bow was when people hypocritically started using “humanity” as an excuse for being anything but human, and directed that at vegans. Apologies for my directness. I don’t usually like to take a superior tone because I am not a perfect vegan, or a perfect person either. But I couldn’t stand by idly on this one. Rant over.)

Why Did You Go Vegan?

It is curious what people are curious about.

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Being vegan, although becoming more and more mainstream, is still seen as weird or odd by some people.

Vegans are used to fielding inquiries and navigating polite (but usually insincere) conversations about their life choices. It is something to talk about at a party. We get it.

One question that has a tendency to rub me the wrong way, though, is the one that is asked the most: “Why did you go vegan in the first place?”

It is a legitimate question if you are close friends with a vegan and genuinely interested. I would like you to consider, however, that for most everyone else, I think it might be impolite prying.

Choosing a vegan lifestyle is almost always a moral, ethical, spiritual, or personal health choice. Morality, ethics, spirituality, and personal health are typically not topics we broach with strangers or acquaintances.

You probably do not ask people, “Why did you become Christian in the first place?” Or, “Why do you love your children?” Or, “So, why are you a Jew?” Or, “Why are you fat?”

Like nearly all vegans I know, I am happy to talk about being vegan with people who are genuinely interested or considering a lifestyle change for themselves. For people just trying to keep a conversation going or filling dead space with idle chatter… maybe just ask what kind of music I like or where I am from.

Remember, your vegan friends are still people. Being vegan is a fundamentally life-changing moral and ethical choice, not a fashion statement. If you would not want someone prying into your personal choices, consider not prying into theirs. After all, I do not know many vegans who are bold enough to start a conversation with, “So, why did you choose to murder and then eat the dead flesh of animals and wear their skin as clothes?”